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Monday, February 24, 2020

What's going on in the World Today 200224



HCSW Becomes First Casualty Of DOD Hypersonic Push

Steve Trimble February 11, 2020

SINGAPORE—A Lockheed Martin program has become the first casualty in the U.S. Defense Department’s race to deploy a diverse portfolio of hypersonic missiles as soon as possible.

The Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) program will be concluded after the delayed completion of a critical design review in spring 2020. The milestone event was originally scheduled for the third quarter of 2019.

As the DOD rolled out the fiscal 2021 budget request, the U.S. Air Force issued a termination for convenience notice to Lockheed’s Space division on Feb. 10.

Designed to be launched from a B-52, the Aerojet Rocketdyne-boosted HCSW was the first of five hypersonic missile prototype projects that have entered development since 2018. It features a “front end” derived from the Common Hypersonic Glide Body, which is the basis for boost-glide vehicles in development for the Army’s Long Range Hypersonic Weapon and the Navy’s Intermediate Range Conventional Prompt Strike programs.

The Army and Navy proposed to accelerate development for the land- and sea-launched versions of the common glide body, a comparatively low lift-over-drag, axisymmetric shape that itself traces its origins to the successful Sandia Winged Energetic Re-entry Vehicle Experiment.

Despite the cancelation, the Air Force praised the HCSW program staff for maturing technologies that can be leveraged in the Army, Navy and Missile Defense Agency programs...

U.S. Navy’s Aircraft Launch Rail Gun Revealed

Guy Norris February 11, 2020

Details of the U.S. Navy’s new generation, electrically powered aircraft launch and recovery system, currently under test for the first time on the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) carrier, are visible in a large-scale model at the Singapore Airshow.

The Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS) is in development to replace the traditional steam piston catapult launch system on current carriers. The new configuration also includes the electrically powered Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG), which replaces the hydraulic arresting gear in use on the Navy’s 10 Nimitz-class aircraft carriers.

The EMALS catapult, which is powered by a linear induction motor, is designed to accelerate aircraft more gradually than the steam system and put less stress on the aircraft. The system is also lighter and more flexible than the current design and is capable of launching a wider range of aircraft weights. The AAG is also designed for a broader range of aircraft, including UAVs...

Legacy U.S. Air Force Fighters, Bombers Are on the Chopping Block

The Pentagon will propose retiring many of its older aircraft as new capabilities come online, but the cuts aren’t as steep as initially planned.

Lara SeligmanFebruary 3, 2020

The U.S. Department of Defense plans to propose retiring hundreds of the Air Force’s aging fighter jets and bomber aircraft over the next five years to shift resources toward building new capabilities to counter China and Russia, sources tell Foreign Policy.

On the chopping block are a significant chunk of the older F-15s and F-16s, 17 of roughly 60 nonnuclear B-1 bombers, along with 21 of the service’s unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk drones. The proposed cuts over what is called the “five-year defense plan” will be included in the White House’s annual budget submission for fiscal year 2021, which is set to be released on Feb. 10. Congress must approve the plan before it goes into effect.

As the legacy aircraft retire, the Air Force will bring on new capabilities: Boeing’s new F-15EX, Lockheed Martin’s F-35, and Northrop Grumman’s B-21 stealth bomber.

But despite Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s push to tighten the Pentagon’s belt, his office, along with the military combatant commanders, actually rejected a series of even deeper cuts proposed by the Air Force—including its armed MQ-9 Predator drones—according to four sources with knowledge of the discussions...

Here’s how much money the Pentagon found through internal savings — and where it’s going: The Missile Defense Agency is one office whose priorities will be shifting.

WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense has identified $5.7 billion in funding that will be reallocated from current offices towards new priorities such as hypersonic weapons and artificial intelligence, department officials revealed Wednesday.

The money, colloquially referred to as “savings” found through efficiencies, is part of an internal review process of the department’s so-called fourth-estate offices, which include all the defense agencies not associated with either a service or a combatant command.

As part of that reallocation, expect a “significant” change in the Missile Defense Agency’s R&D investments and changes to an agency monitoring nuclear programs around the world, officials told reporters.

The review process was launched by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper after he took office last summer as part of several attempts to focus the department’s energy and dollars on the National Defense Strategy. This effort is largely independent of the review looking at force posture in the combatant commands...

Pentagon’s $705 Billion Budget Boosts Nuclear Weapons Funding
By Anthony Capaccio February 7, 2020

The Pentagon’s $705.4 billion budget proposal for the next fiscal year would boost funding for nuclear weapons systems including intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and F-35 jets as well as providing more money for emerging technology research and the Space Force.

The budget proposal for the fiscal year starting Oct. 1, to be submitted to Congress on Monday, is mostly flat compared with the $712.6 billion plan approved for this year. But it shifts that funding in ways that signal President Donald Trump’s evolving priorities.

The budget details are part of the Pentagon Comptroller’s 134-page overview obtained by Bloomberg News in advance of its formal release.

The budget plan, which forms a base for discussions with Congress, includes a $15.3 billion “transitional budget,” transferred from the Air Force to the new Space Force, that “includes space-related weapons systems and operations,” sustainment, support and civilian support costs. That’s up from $40 million this fiscal year...

While US Worries About China, Europe Stays Focused on Russia

BRUSSELS (AP) — China and its increasingly sophisticated and far-flung military sit atop U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s list of international security worries, but in Europe a bigger concern is closer to home: Russia.

The Trump administration has been trying since 2018 to reorient its defense strategy toward China, with reduced focus, when possible, on Russia and the years-long insurgency wars in the greater Middle East. Russia remains a U.S. worry, but Esper and other administration officials want the allies to see China as Washington does – as a far more capable adversary.

China was not on the formal agenda when Esper met with allies at NATO headquarters Wednesday and Thursday, but he made a point of publicly expressing American concerns.

“I’ve raised it every time I’ve been here, about the ‘great power’ competition with China and Russia — but China in particular,” he told reporters...




Taiwan’s Military Is a Hollow Shell
The end of conscription has left the army critically undermanned.
As threats of military aggression from China grow, the island nation of Taiwan needs a credible military deterrent more than ever. But Taiwan’s military is in a crisis it can barely admit exists.

Even as the military refits itself with flashy U.S. arms purchases, such as M1 Abrams tanks and F-16V fighter jets, its front-line units are hollowed out, and the entire reserve system is so dysfunctional that few experts or serving military personnel believe it can make a real military contribution in the event of a war. These problems are well documented but continue to be downplayed, if not outright ignored, by Taiwan’s political leadership—and there is no clear plan to solve the crisis.

On paper, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) has 215,000 budgeted positions among all branches, of which 188,000 are soldiers and the rest civilian employees. Only 153,000 of those positions were filled in 2018—just 81 percent of the personnel the military should have. But even that number doesn’t tell the complete story.Only 153,000 of those positions were filled in 2018—just 81 percent of the personnel the military should have. But even that number doesn’t tell the complete story.

According to a Taiwanese army lieutenant colonel in active service, who asked for only his last name, Lin, to be used, all the army’s front-line combat units he knows of—including armor, mechanized infantry, and artillery troops—currently have effective manpower levels of between 60 and 80 percent. This figure is consistent with Taiwanese media reports, which cite MND figures provided to Taiwan’s parliament, the Legislative Yuan, acknowledging that few front-line units have more than 80 percent of their positions filled...


Germany busts 'terrorist organization' that planned attacks on Muslims, refugees

German police detained 12 men on Friday suspected of setting up a far-right organization with the goal of carrying out attacks against politicians, asylum seekers and Muslims, the Federal Prosecutor’s Office (GBA) said. Prosecutors said four of the suspects had set up a “terrorist organization” in September 2019 and regularly met and contacted each other by phone and in online chart forums and chat groups. They had no immediate plan to carry out an attack. The other eight men were detained on suspicion of supporting the organization with money and weapons, the GBA said.

New British immigration rules. Boris Johnson’s government has announced new U.K. immigration rules which would drastically reduce the number of unskilled workers from non-English speaking countries. The government claims that its overhaul of the immigration process along the lines of Australia’s points system will fulfill a key pledge of the Brexit campaign—to “take back control” of the nation’s borders and put an end to cheap labor from EU citizens in factories, on farms, and in the service sector. Business leaders branded the move “an assault on the economy,” according to the Guardian and warned of “disastrous” consequences, job losses, and shop and factory closures while union leaders said it could lead to chaos in the health care sector.

French police shoot barracks intruder following attack warning

Police shot and wounded a man armed with a knife after he attacked officers inside a police barracks in eastern France on Monday. Shortly before the knifeman struck the police facility in Dieuze, near Metz, the local police operations centre received warning that an atrocity was to be committed in the name of Islamic State... Several hours after the attack, there had been no claims of responsibility.

Germany Urged To Reconsider F-35 To Replace Tornado

A German think tank is calling on Germany’s defense ministry to reconsider Lockheed Martin’s F-35 as a successor for the country’s Panavia Tornado fleet.

It has been one year since the F-35 was eliminated from the shortlist of combat aircraft being considered for the Tornado replacement, which left only the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet and the Eurofighter Typhoon as options. But neither aircraft is qualified to carry the B61 nuclear weapon that equips the Tornado under a dual-key arrangement with the U.S.

Now the influential German Society for Foreign Policy, DGAP, argues that to meet the nuclear mission requirements, Berlin should “revise” its original decision to consider only the F/A-18 and the Eurofighter, with authors Heinrich Brauss and Christian Molling calling for the F-35 to be “included in the comparative analysis and evaluation,” in a new report published Feb. 3.

The authors argue that in light of the deteriorating security situation in Europe, given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the deployment of new Russian cruise missiles that ultimately ended the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Germany needs to make “an appropriate and reliable contribution” to NATO’s conventional and nuclear components by providing a “suitable successor for the Tornado in good time...”


Tracking Mexico's Cartels in 2020

Scott Stewart VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor
Feb 4, 2020

Since Stratfor produced our first annual Mexican cartel report in October 2006, we have carefully monitored the developments of drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. This report contains a four-part recap of developments in 2019 and an outlook for the year to come....

Since 2006, Stratfor has produced an annual cartel report that chronicles the dynamics shaping the complex mosaic of organized crime in Mexico and that forecasts where those forces are headed in the coming year. When we began producing these forecasts, the landscape was much simpler, with only a handful of major cartel groups. As we noted in 2013, the long process of Balkanization — or splintering — of the groups made it difficult to analyze them the way we used to. Indeed, many of the cartels we had been tracking, such as the Gulf cartel, had imploded and fragmented into several smaller, often competing factions.

Because of this, we began to look at the cartels by focusing on the clusters of smaller groups that emanate from three distinct geographic areas: Tamaulipas state, Sinaloa state and the Tierra Caliente region (Guerrero and Michoacan). When viewed individually, the daily flow of reports of cartel-related murders and firefights can be overwhelming and often appears senseless. But the violence is not senseless when viewed through the lens of the dynamics driving it. Our intent here is to provide the framework for understanding those forces.

This year's report will begin with a general overview of the past year and then examine and provide an update and a forecast for each of those three areas of organized crime. For a detailed historical account of the dynamics that brought the major cartel groupings to where they are today, please read our 2017 report...


Is Afghan Intelligence Building a Regime of Terror With the CIA’s Help?

As dissidents are attacked and murdered, critics liken the National Directorate of Security to the brutal intelligence service of the Afghan communists in the 1980s.

Emran FerozFebruary 6, 2020

KABUL—When Nazar Mohammad Motmaeen talks about the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan intelligence service with close ties to the CIA, he becomes nervous. “They are dangerous, and they do not make any compromises,” he said in a recent interview. Motmaeen, a freelance political analyst from Kabul who often appears on TV, says he knows what he is talking about. A few months ago, he says, he was attacked by gunmen in the middle of Kabul. Though he escaped, he later claimed that they belonged to the NDS, which allegedly wanted to silence him because of his political dissent. Motmaeen is a regular critic of America’s military occupation of Afghanistan, and he supports a peace deal with the Taliban.

Motmaeen is hardly alone in telling such tales. A few weeks after the alleged attempt on Motmaeen’s life, Mohammad Hassan Haqyar, another political dissident who regularly criticized the Kabul government, was attacked and injured by unknown gunmen. And on Nov. 20, 2019, Waheed Mozhdah, a senior political analyst and writer, was assassinated in Kabul’s Dar-ul-Aman area after leaving his local mosque. Until today, Mozhdah’s killers remain at large. But he, too, was known for his critical views toward both Kabul and Washington.

Many observers linked pro-government forces to these “chain attacks,” as they have been described by some local Afghan news outlets. “It’s obvious that the government did this or it let it happen,” said Mawlavi Baharuddin Jowzjani, a religious cleric and government critic, on Tolo News, Afghanistan’s biggest news channel. According to family members, Mozhdah was killed by a high-tech pistol. Afghanistan’s whole political landscape reacted to his killing. While government officials claimed that they would investigate the case, the Taliban issued a statement calling the killing an “intelligence operation...”

Afghanistan: Premature bomb explosion leaves five Taliban terrorists killed

Kabul: A premature bomb explosion in north Afghanistan left at least five Taliban terrorists killed, media reports said. The deceased people included a key sharp-shooter of the terror group. According to a statement released by Special Operations Corps, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) went off prematurely among Taliban militants in northern Sar-e-Pul province which killed 5 Taliban militants....The Taliban group did not comment on the issue.

Afghans Fear Yet Another Civil War
The U.S.-Taliban truce raises some hope—but not while the Afghan government remains a stranger to the talks.

Emran Feroz February 17, 2020

Last week, the anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal was commemorated in Afghanistan: Thirty-one years ago, the last Soviet soldier left the country through the Amu Darya River. But Afghans know that was only the beginning of a new nightmare—the start of civil war—and many people in this war-haunted land fear something similar could happen after the withdrawal of all NATO troops.

Yet they know withdrawal must—and will—happen. “The Americans have to leave. We Afghans just don’t like foreign invaders,” said Mohammad Naseem, who was a mujahideen commander in the 1980s in the eastern province of Logar, where he fought the communist government and its Soviet backers...




Concerns About Iran's Falling Nuclear Breakout Time Are Set to Grow

Greg Priddy Director, Global Energy and Middle East, Stratfor Feb 21, 2020


- While Iran has avoided making any immediately alarming moves with its nuclear program, its accumulation of low-enriched uranium is proceeding at a rate that will sharply reduce its breakout time for a bomb, approaching enrichment levels by this summer that the
United States and Israel could find unacceptable.

- Iran's progress on advanced centrifuges is the key signpost to watch next week when the International Atomic Energy Agency issues its latest report on Iran's nuclear activities because the potential for a rapid expansion of processing capacity could sharply and suddenly reduce Iran's breakout time.

- This trajectory is building toward a contentious debate about where the red lines should be for the White House and Israel as the United States heads toward November's presidential election.

Iran is following a strategy of gradually ramping up pressure on the United States as it seeks sanctions relief, rather than trying to force the issue to a resolution by triggering an acute crisis, but this should not lead to complacency about the risks of such a crisis coming about. Iran is refraining from taking any action on the nuclear front that would be cause for immediate alarm ahead of the release next week of the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on its nuclear activities. This is despite having announced on Jan. 5 that it would no longer observe any of the operational limits on its nuclear enrichment program imposed by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), without formally withdrawing from the nuclear deal and still maintaining full monitoring access and cooperation with the IAEA. Iran is likely to unveil additional measures over time, and even the current rate of low-enriched uranium (LEU) accumulation will lead to concerns about Iran's nuclear breakout time by this summer. If combined with progress on the development and production of advanced centrifuges, that could lead to the perception in the United States and Israel that Iran is approaching a decision point...

What’s Driving Iran to Build a Better Missile

Feb 18, 2020


- Iran's perceptions of the threats it faces combined with its weakness in other military areas will continue to drive its desire to develop ballistic and cruise missiles.

- Iranian missile research and development efforts have increasingly focused on improving the reliability, accuracy and effectiveness of its missile systems to give them more tactical utility.

- Attacks over the past two years show that while Iranian missiles have become more accurate, improvements in accuracy remain a work in progress.

Greater attention will be given to Iran's missile and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) programs from now on. The September drone attacks on the Abqaiq and Khurais oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and the January missile attack on two military bases in Iraq that left 109 U.S. military members diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries highlighted Iran's increased willingness to use its missile and UAV arsenal for tactical and strategic objectives.

Iran's missile program is an integral component, if not the crown jewel, of its armed forces, and Tehran considers the program essential to national security. The United States, however, wants to significantly constrain Iranian missile development in future negotiations that would also cover Iran's nuclear program and its support for regional militias. But to reach a deal, the United States will have to narrow its conditions. This will limit the prospects of an agreement under U.S. President Donald Trump's maximalist demands...
Iran’s Shifting Afghan Alliances Don’t Fit Easy Narratives

Tehran’s goals are pragmatic—and may be in line with Washington’s.

Mohammed Harun ArsalaiFebruary 18, 2020, 5:39 PM

Afghan returnees after arriving from Iran in Herat, Afghanistan, on Jan. 1, 2019. Hoshang Hashimi/AFP via Getty Images
The assassination last month of Qassem Suleimani, the leader of the elite Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has set off a wave of debates in the United States about Iranian foreign policy. Tehran’s opportunistic and pragmatic foreign policy does not always fit neatly into contemporary left- or right-wing narratives—especially when it comes to Afghanistan, where Suleimani played a critical role.

Left and progressive commentators in the United States position Iran as an “anti-imperialist” state resisting American influence in the Middle East, as has been echoed by various supposed anti-war groups demonstrating across the West. They claim Suleimani was creating regional stability by combating the Islamic State and protecting Shiite communities. But being opposed to the Islamic State is a low bar—opposition to the militant organization has unified all armed actors in the region from the U.S.-led coalition to the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish Peshmerga, Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian Arab Armed Forces, the Iranian military, and even some hard-line Islamist groups such as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham...

What Iran's Next Vote Means for Policy and the Presidency

Emily Hawthorne Middle East and North Africa Analyst, Stratfor Feb 19, 2020

- Iran's economic struggles and intensifying tensions with the United States have helped clear the path to victory for conservative candidates in the country's upcoming parliamentary elections.
- The selection of the next parliament speaker will help indicate whether policy debates in the new legislature will take a more hard-line or traditionalist stance.
- Regardless of the election outcome, Iranians' mounting disillusionment with their government could ultimately undermine the next parliament's legitimacy, as well as the electoral prospects of moderate presidential candidates in 2021.

On Feb. 21, Iran will hold the first round of parliamentary elections that could usher in the return of a more conservative legislature. With moderates and reformists taking a back seat, such an outcome would nudge Tehran toward more hard-line and hawkish foreign policies, leaving less room for negotiation with the West amid soaring U.S.-Iran tensions. Regardless of its next ideological make-up, however, Iran's incoming parliament will struggle more than ever to answer the economic and social demands of an increasingly desperate and cash-strapped electorate — a reality that could have dire consequences for Tehran's political stability ahead of the country's crucial 2021 presidential election...

Iran to execute alleged spy who gave nuclear secrets to CIA

Iran said Tuesday that its top court confirmed a death sentence for an Iranian man convicted of spying for the CIA, with state media alleging that he had shared details of the Islamic Republic's nuclear program with the American spy agency.... Esmaili said two other alleged spies for the CIA each received 15-year prison sentences — 10 years for spying and five years for acting against national security.

Iran And North Korea Are Building New, Better Submarines To Counter Enemies At Sea

Iran and North Korea are updating their aging fleets and building new and more advanced submarines in order to counter their adversaries in open waters. Iranian navy commander Admiral Hossein Khanzadi touted his country's underwater military capabilities during a speech Thursday in the northeastern province of Razavi Khorasan. He stated that "the most complex pieces equipment in the world are those found in the military and among the military equipment, the most complex are those found in the navy, especially submarines," ... "But today, thanks to the efforts of the youth of this land," he added, "the country has made significant progress in this area."




IDF attacks Islamic Jihad snipers who shot at Israeli soldiers

Palestinian media reported that a Palestinian was lightly to moderately wounded by IDF soldiers in the southern Gaza Strip. It is unclear if the injured Palestinian was one of the terrorists. The IDF attacked a group of snipers from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist group in the southern Gaza Strip near Khan Younis, after the terrorists fired at Israeli soldiers in Israeli territory on Wednesday, according to an IDF spokesperson. Palestinian snipers managed to hit an IDF surveillance camera near the area....

The Big Missing Piece of the Kushner Plan: Water
One reason the Palestinians swiftly rejected the flawed U.S. peace plan was that it does nothing to address their claims for water rights.
Keith Johnson February 4, 2020

Among many other problematic aspects of the Trump administration’s peace plan for the Middle East, one glaring fault is its lack of any serious attention to the contentious question of how to divide up precious water resources between the Israelis and Palestinians.

One of the many reasons that the Palestinian leadership dismissed the proposal out of hand was that it included a demand for Palestinians to cede the water-rich West Bank and the entire Jordan Valley to Israel...

Israel, Palestinian Territories: Hamas Offers to Stop Cross-Border Attacks

What Happened: According to an Israeli defense official, Hamas has offered to stop conducting rocket and incendiary balloon attacks on Israel, Haaretz reported Feb. 13. Should Hamas uphold its promise, Israel has reportedly agreed to expand the tightly controlled fishing zone off the coast of the Gaza Strip, as well as issue 500 suspended work permits to Gazan residents.

Why It Matters: If Hamas and Israel both uphold their promises, it would be a testament to the strength of the Egyptian hand in helping mitigate tensions between them, as Egypt recently resumed its role in negotiating de-escalation talks between the two rival forces. Whether cross-border attacks continue over the coming days will serve as a crucial test of the viability of the exchange.

Background: Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since the political and militant group rose to power in 2006. A de-escalation with Hamas could enable the Israeli government to better control persistent instability in the south.


Wonsan-Kalma Airfield Air Forces Flight Activity – The New Normal?

A 38 North exclusive with analysis by Peter Makowsky February 6, 2020

Evidence of continued North Korean Air Forces flight activity, observed on commercial satellite imagery taken on January 31 and February 3, 2020, suggests a new normal for the Wonsan-Kalma Airfield.


Commercial satellite imagery from January 17 and 21, 2020, had shown military aircraft flight preparations at North Korea’s Wonsan-Kalma International airport. This was the first flight activity observed at this location since the Combat Flight Contest in mid-November 2019. Wonsan-Kalma is a dual-use airfield, originally serving as an airbase for MiG-17 and -21 fighter aircraft until 2013, when construction began to convert the airfield to serve as both a military airbase and an international commercial airport with the latter intended to serve the adjacent, newly-constructed, Wonsan Beach Resort.

Recent Activity

Imagery of January 31, 2020 and subsequent coverage on February 4, showed a shuffled movement of aircraft since mid-January, and the presence of an additional eight MiG-21 fighter aircraft. The eight additional fighters are parked in pairs in front of four of the aircraft shelters located at the southern end of the west runway. (Figure 1) Given their location, it is likely that they were removed from under the shelters. Assuming they had not been placed one-to-a-shelter, they likely would have been parked inside in a staggered, tandem arrangement, as it does not appear that they would fit placed side-by-side, given the width of the aircraft wingspans...

North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Center: Rail Activity at the Radioisotope Production and Uranium Enrichment Plants

A 38 North exclusive with analysis by Peter Makowsky, Frank V. Pabian and Jack Liu
February 14, 2020

Recent commercial satellite imagery reveals minor activity within North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center complex with no indications of operations at the 5 MWe reactor or Experimental Light Water Reactor. There are four railroad flatcars present, each configured to carry four-to-five cylindrical containers. Their location and the lack of indicators at the Radiochemical Laboratory suggests that the railcars are carrying nonradioactive materials, likely chemicals related to uranium conversion operations at the Radioisotope Production Plant.

The Radioisotope Production Plant and Uranium Enrichment Plant Area

Satellite imagery from February 10 and 11 reveals the presence of four railroad flatcars specially configured to carry cylindrical containers in two separate locations. A group of three were observed to the north of the Uranium Enrichment Plant, on the rail line servicing the area. The first railcar (northern-most on Figure 2) has four canisters laid sideways or perpendicular to the length of the car. The cargo on the second is less clear but appears to have two donut-shaped objects laying at either end of the car. The third car has four cylindrical canisters laid sideways, with a probable fifth canister separating them, but aligned parallel to the length of the car. A similar set of three railcars has been observed in this area in the past, at least once on the rail spur located between and servicing both the Radioisotope Production and the Uranium Enrichment Plants, and most recently on November 14, 2019, at the Yongbyon Railyard.

A fourth flatcar carrying five canisters positioned sideways (the center one appearing smaller) is located east of the Uranium Enrichment Plant on the rail spur adjacent to the Radioisotope Production Plant...

Figure 1. Specialized flatcars present near the Radioisotope Production Plant and Uranium Enrichment Plant, February 10, 2020.

How a North Korean Nuclear-Armed Submarine Could Make It Even Harder to Strike a Deal

Kim Jong Un has spent much of his time as North Korea’s leader developing bigger and more advanced nuclear weapons. This year, he may try to make them harder to find by putting them under the sea. Recent North Korean reports touting a new submarine and its test of a ballistic missile designed to be launched from one have fueled speculation that a sub may be the “new strategic weapon” Kim promised to unveil this year. While such a vessel would probably be noisy and unable to stray far from the coast without being tracked, it may be enough to serve Kim’s needs. Even one submarine lurking off the Korean Peninsula, beyond the gaze of spy satellites, would give U.S. military planners a dangerous new threat to consider in the event of any conflict. And for Kim, anything that makes it harder for the U.S. to imagine an actual war, brings him closer to a goal that alluded his father: international recognition as a nuclear state.


Russian intelligence agents reportedly went to Ireland to inspect undersea cables....

Russian intelligence agents have been sent to Ireland to make the precise locations of undersea cables connecting Europe to North America, raising fears that they plan to tap or even cut them.... Irish security services believe that the agents were sent by Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, the GRU, and are checking the fiber-optic cables for weak points ... citing police and military sources. They were also seen monitoring Dublin Port, which prompted the country to ramp up security at a number of landing sites along the Irish coast.... The vast network of transatlantic cables that run under the world’s oceans power the internet, texts, calls, and global financial transactions. About 97% of all intercontinental data is transferred through these cables....


Devices found in missiles, Yemen drones link Iran to attacks

A small instrument inside the drones that targeted the heart of Saudi Arabia's oil industry and those in the arsenal of Yemen's Houthi rebels match components recovered in downed Iranian drones in Afghanistan and Iraq, two reports say. These gyroscopes have only been found inside drones manufactured by Iran, Conflict Armament Research said in a report released on Wednesday. That follows a recently released report from the United Nations saying its experts saw a similar gyroscope from an Iranian drone obtained by the U.S. military in Afghanistan, as well as inweaponsshipmentsseized in the Arabian Sea bound for Yemen.


Report Finds Cybersecurity Issues with US 2020 Census

A report looking into the US 2020 Decennial Census has flagged concerns over cybersecurity and questioned whether the personal data collected during the study can be kept private. The US Census Bureau kicked off the 2020 Census count of the population with the enumeration of Alaska in January. However, a report into the ongoing operation by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the bureau faces "significant cybersecurity challenges in securing its systems and data." ... Specifically, the Bureau continues to face challenges related to addressing cybersecurity weaknesses, tracking and resolving cybersecurity recommendations, and addressing numerous other cybersecurity concerns."

U.S. Government Issues Powerful Cyberattack Warning As Gas Pipeline ... Two Day Shut Down
A major cyberattack has hit a gas compression facility, forcing it to shut it down for two days as it struggled to recover, according to an alert from the U.S. government. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA) said it had responded to the ransomware attack on a natural gas facility, but it did not reveal when the incident took place, or the identity of the victim organization. The attack happened because the adversary was able to hop from the gas compression facility’s IT network onto the operational technology (OT) network when an employee mistakenly clicked on a malicious email link. Once in, the attacker deployed the data-encrypting malware, ransomware, on both networks.

Flaw in Philips Smart Light Bulbs Exposes Your WiFi Network to Hackers

... Check Point experts today revealed a new high-severity vulnerability affecting Philips Hue Smart Light Bulbs that can be exploited over-the-air from over 100 meters away to gain entry into a targeted WiFi network. The underlying high-severity vulnerability, tracked as CVE- 2020-6007, resides in the way Philips implemented the Zigbee communication protocol in its smart light bulb, leading to a heap-based buffer overflow issue. ZigBee is a widely used wireless technology designed to let each device communicate with any other device on the network. The protocol has been built into tens of millions of devices worldwide, including Amazon Echo, Samsung SmartThings, Belkin Emo and more. "Through this exploitation, a threat actor can infiltrate a home or office's computer network over-the-air, spreading ransomware or spyware, by using nothing but a laptop and an antenna from over 100 meters," the Check Point researchers told The Hacker News.

Iran-linked APT34 group is targeting US federal workers

Security experts from Intezer observed targeted attacks on a US-based research company that provides services to businesses and government organizations. “Our researchers Paul Litvak and Michael Kajilolti have discovered a new campaign conducted by APT34 employing an updated toolset. Based on uncovered phishing documents, we believe this Iranian actor is targeting Westat employees, or United States organizations hiring Westat services”....


Man arrested after allegedly tracking U.S. government source for Russia

A Mexican man residing in Singapore was arrested in the U.S. on Tuesday, after he allegedly tracked a U.S. government source for Russia in order to obtain the source's license plate number. Hector Alejandro Cabrera Fuentes has been charged with acting in the U.S. on behalf of a foreign government without notifying the attorney general, and conspiracy to do the same. Court documents allege that a Russian government official recruited Fuentes in 2019 and tasked him with renting a specific property in Miami-Dade County, Florida....

FBI Document Reveals Local & State Police Are Collecting Intelligence ... Terrorism Watch List

Despite a federal judge’s ruling last September that the U.S. government’s terror watch list violates constitutional rights, an FBI report obtained by Yahoo News shows local and state law enforcement agencies are being used to gather intelligence on individuals to collect information about those already in the database. Law enforcement “encounters of watchlisted individuals almost certainly yield increased opportunities for intelligence collection,” says the FBI document, dated more than a month after the federal court ruling. The FBI says such encounters could include traffic stops or domestic disputes, which gives law enforcement “the opportunity to acquire additional biographic identifiers, fraudulent identification documents, financial information and associates of watchlisted individuals,” which might assist in thwarting terrorist acts. The Terrorism Screening Database, widely known as the watch list, was created in 2003 and consists of names of people suspected of being involved with terrorism. Over the years, the list has grown to include the names of 1.1 million people, raising concerns that many of those on the list have no involvement in terrorism but have little or no legal resources with which to challenge the designation. People can be put on the watch list for “reasonable suspicion,” a loosely defined category that allows anyone related to a suspected terrorist or considered somehow to be an “associate” to end up on the list, even if the government has no evidence of the individual’s involvement in terrorist activity, according to a copy of the guidelines published in 2014 by the Intercept...

Raytheon engineer arrested for taking US missile defense secrets to China

... Sun, a Chinese-born American citizen, had been working at Raytheon, the fourth-largest US defense contractor, for a decade. He held a secret-level security clearance and worked on highly sensitive missile programs used by the US military. Since Sun’s computer contained large amounts of restricted data, Raytheon officials told him that taking it abroad would not only be a violation of company policy, but a serious violation of federal law, as well. Sun didn’t listen, according to US prosecutors. While he was out of the country, Sun connected to Raytheon’s internal network on the laptop. He sent an email suddenly announcing he was quitting his job after 10 years in order to study and work overseas. When Sun returned to the United States a week later, he told Raytheon security officials that he had only visited Singapore and the Philippines during his travels. But ... Sun to confess that he traveled to China with the laptop.

Spy school: Chinese military officer busted for posing as Boston University student

A female Chinese military officer was charged with spying while posing as a student at Boston University, but was able to flee the country after FBI agents interviewed her about her links to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). PLA Lt. Ye Yanqing was indicted in a separate criminal case involving Dr. Charles Lieber, chairman of Harvard’s chemistry department, who was arrested on Tuesday and charged with lying about receiving tens of thousands of dollars from the Wuhan University of Technology and lying to the Pentagon about the foreign money.

Justice Department Secures Denaturalization of Convicted Terrorist ...

On Feb. 3, Judge Staci M. Yandle of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois entered an order revoking the naturalized U.S. citizenship of convicted terrorist, Iyman Faris. Faris, a native of Pakistan, was convicted in 2003 of providing material support to al Qaeda and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Among other actions in support of al Qaeda, in 2002, Faris evaluated the practicality of a plot to collapse the Brooklyn Bridge in New York using gas cutters, communicating his assessment to al Qaeda via coded messages. In its order revoking his U.S. citizenship, the court found that Faris was ineligible for naturalization and unlawfully procured his citizenship through willful misrepresentation of material facts.

Three Al-Qaeda Terrorists Caught Trying To Enter Us With Colombian Passports

Three members of the al-Qaeda terrorist group were stopped and apprehended trying to fly into Dallas while using passports from Colombia. The three entered Colombia via Venezuela. The three al-Qaeda members who are from Syria, entered Colombia in La Guajira, in northeast Colombia. The three men were able to obtain actual passports as they had documentation experts located in the country.


Could Take Years, Consultant Says

With the aerospace manufacturing sector expecting Boeing to restart 737 MAX production as early as next month or April, one widely followed industry consultant said it will take up to two years to clear out the stored inventory of narrowbody aircraft and fuselages.

Kevin Michaels, MD of AeroDynamic Advisory told the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance this month that it will take 18-24 months to push out the roughly 400 undelivered MAXs stockpiled by Boeing, in addition to the 387 grounded MAXs at customers, along with the almost 100 fuselages that aerostructures supplier Spirit AeroSystems has parked in Wichita...

Why Protective Intelligence Is the Crux of Corporate Security

Scott Stewart VP of Tactical Analysis, Stratfor Feb 11, 2020

By identifying threats before they ever occur, protective intelligence teams help all other facets of a corporate security program transition from reactive to preemptive....

In the U.S. military, "staying left of the boom" refers to disarming malicious actors before they can build, plant and ultimately detonate a bomb. And while defusing physical bombs may not be as much of imminent concern to companies, metaphorical bombs in the form of espionage, terrorism, thefts and workplace violence can still result in severe physical, psychological, financial and reputational damage. Just as soldiers are prepared to attend to the aftermath of a physical attack, corporate personnel must still be well-trained to quickly and efficiently respond to a security incident. But it is always better to avoid or prevent a threat altogether, which is exactly where protective intelligence teams and programs step in by giving life to the proactive security measures needed to help companies and organizations stay out of harm's way...

Police Warning: Cyber Criminals Are Using Cleaners to Hack Your Business

Criminal gangs are planting “sleepers” in cleaning companies so that they can physically access IT infrastructure, a senior police officer with responsibility for cyber crime has warned, urging businesses to bolster their physical security processes in the face of the growing threat. Shelton Newsham, who manages the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Cyber Crime Team, told an audience at the SINET security event that he was seeing a “much larger increase in physical breaches” as cyber crime groups diversify how they attack and move laterally inside institutions. (Recent reports suggest that cybercrime will cost firms $6 trillion annually by 2021 – making it more profitable than the global drugs trade.)

Longest-ever smuggling tunnel found on Southwest border

U.S. authorities this week announced the discovery of the longest smuggling tunnel ever found on the Southwest border, stretching more than three-quarters of a mile from an industrial site in Tijuana, Mexico, to the San Diego area. The tunnel featured an extensive rail cart system, forced air ventilation, high voltage electrical cables and panels, an elevator at the tunnel entrance and a drainage system. While there were no arrests, no drugs found at the site and no confirmed exit point in the U.S., the length — more than 14 football fields — stunned authorities.

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