Police Work, Politics and World Affairs, Football and the ongoing search for great Scotch Whiskey!

Monday, July 13, 2020

What's going on in the World Today 200713



West Virginia woman convicted in plot to offer top-secret NSA info to Russia

A West Virginia woman who worked on assignments with the National Security Agency while serving in the Air Force planned to give the Russian government top-secret information from the agency, prosecutors said on Monday.
Elizabeth Jo Shirley, 46, pleaded guilty to one count each of willful retention of national defense information and international parental kidnapping, the U.S. Justice Department said in a news release...

U.S. Naval Update Map: July 9, 2020

U.S. Air Force Launches Three-Year Fielding Plan For Skyborg Weapons

The next combat aircraft to enter the U.S. Air Force inventory will not be a manned sixth-generation fighter or even the Northrop Grumman B-21.

By fiscal 2023, the Air Force expects to deliver the first operational versions of a new unmanned aircraft system (UAS) called Skyborg, a provocative portmanteau blending the medium of flight with the contraction for a cybernetic organism.

The Skyborg family of aircraft is expected to fill an emerging “attritable” category for combat aircraft that blurs the line between a reusable UAS and a single-use cruise missile.

As the aircraft are developed, Skyborg also will serve as the test case of a radical change in acquisition philosophy, with ecosystems of collaborative software coders and aircraft manufacturers replacing the traditional approach with a supply chain defined by a single prime contractor.

The Air Force also plans to manage the Skyborg aircraft differently than other UAS. Although Air Combat Command (ACC) is considering the Skyborg family as a replacement for pre-Block F-16s after 2025 and MQ-9s after 2030, the aircraft is not likely to fit neatly into an existing force structure with dedicated Skyborg squadrons...




Turkey Is Deploying Lots Of Air Defense Systems In Syria And Libya

Turkey Is Deploying Lots Of Air Defense Systems In Syria And Libya

In recent months, Turkey has deployed an array of air defense missile systems in both Syria and Libya to deter and defend against air and drone attacks mounted by its rivals in these war zones.

On February 27, airstrikes killed 34 Turkish soldiers deployed in Syria’s northwest province of Idlib during clashes between the Turkish military and pro-regime forces there. It was the largest single loss of Turkish troops in a single incident in years.

Turkey responded ferociously, launching Operation Spring Shield. It used its formidable armed drones to devastate Syrian ground forces and armor. Turkish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighters shot down three Syrian warplanes with long-range AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles without having to leave Turkish airspace...

Vietnam protests Chinese military exercises in East Sea

Vietnam has sent a diplomatic note to protest China illegally performing military exercises near Paracel Islands, urging non-repetition of the incident. "China performing military exercises at Paracel Islands has violated Vietnam’s sovereignty, complicating negotiations for a Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (COC) between China and ASEAN, as well as affecting peace," spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a press meet Thursday. Vietnam has been in contact with and sent a diplomatic note to China, requesting it to not repeat such actions in future, said Hang...


Denmark: Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Construction Expedited

What Happened: The Danish Energy Agency approved Nord Stream 2's request to use vessels without a Dynamic Positioning System to complete the construction of the pipeline in Danish waters, Izvestia reported July 6.

Why It Matters: The ruling allows Gazprom to accelerate the pipeline project. Construction can resume Aug. 3, assuming pending U.S. sanctions are not enacted.

Strategic Context: Construction on the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline has been suspended since the end of 2019, when U.S. sanctions caused Swiss-based Allseas to withdraw its pipe-laying vessels. Since then, the project has sought to engage Russian vessels instead, but only one of these vessels satisfied Danish environmental requirements.

China Is NATO’s New Problem
The alliance has been so focused on Moscow that it has missed Beijing’s growing clout across Europe.

Over the past decade, Chinese companies have invested billions of dollars throughout Europe—buying up critical infrastructure and increasing Beijing’s political clout across the continent. As Chinese firms, often with strong ties to the state and Chinese Communist Party (CCP), acquire parts of sensitive ports, pipelines, and telecommunication networks, China’s incursions into Europe’s security umbrella are drawing serious concern.

But NATO, long worried about Russia, has largely been silent on China. Now, that is changing. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg recently called on the alliance to stand up to Beijing’s “bullying and coercion,” underscoring how China’s rise is fundamentally shifting the global balance of power. It’s apparent that NATO can no longer ignore the threat. If the alliance hopes to remain competitive, it will need to develop a new strategy for dealing with Beijing...

Italian police seize over $1 billion of 'ISIS-made' Captagon amphetamines

Police in Italy have confiscated a huge shipment of 14 metric tonnes (15.4 US tons) of amphetamines which they say was produced by ISIS in Syria. Officers tracked three suspect containers to the port of Salerno in southwest Italy and found 84 million pills with a market value of €1 billion ($1.12 billion) inside paper cylinders for industrial use, the Guardia di Finanza financial police said in a statement Wednesday. Investigators said the bust is the largest drug haul in the world in terms of both value and quantity...

China, Serbia: Beijing Completes First Sale of Armed Drones in Europe

What Happened: Serbia has acquired nine Chinese-made CH-92A armed reconnaissance drones, along with 18 FT-8C air-to-ground missiles, marking the first export of Chinese “military-use aviation equipment” to Europe, China’s Global Times reported July 6.

Why It Matters: The overseas sale marks an important win for China’s arms industry, which has sought to expand beyond Asia, the Middle East and Africa. With a focus on small arms and increasingly unmanned systems, China has expanded its role as a key global supplier of weapons, touting its arms sales as lower cost and without the political restrictions of its U.S. and European competitors. While still lagging behind the United States and Russia in advanced aviation sales, China has also emerged as an important supplier to traditional clients of both of those countries.

Background: A separate report released by Serbia’s Ministry of Defense noted that the recent arms purchase also came with a technology transfer deal, which would assist Serbia’s own indigenous military technology development.






Credit: bulgarianmilitary.com
Serbia Reveals Chinese Armed UAV Fleet

LONDON—The Serbian government has lifted the lid on its new armed unmanned air systems sourced from China, the first nation in the Balkans to acquire such a capability.

The Serbian military showed off three China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) CH-92As during a presentation for Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on July 4.

Few details are known about the CH-92A. The distinctive fixed-wing unmanned air system uses a twin-boom pusher propeller configuration, analogous to the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 tactical unmanned air system.

Previous references to the CH-92, including on CASC’s own website, refers to a platform with a V-tail configuration.

The UAVs can be armed with a pair of laser-guided FT-8 missiles, which according to the Serbian ministry of defense have a range of 9 km. The range of the UAVs is up to 250 km, operating at altitudes of 16,000 ft. (5,000 m)...

China's Hong Kong Security Law Leaves Tech Companies in the Line of Fire

China's new national security law is forcing tech companies to pick a side in Hong Kong's political crisis and decide whether to comply or resist authorities in some way, or leave the city altogether — all of which carry the risk of retaliation from either Beijing or the United States and its allies. On July 6, Hong Kong's newly established Committee for Safeguarding National Security moved to implement seven, new enabling regulations for the national security law. The regulations — which include police powers to order internet companies to remove content or to seize their equipment with threats of fines or prison — have since prompted a spate of social media platforms and internet firms operating in the city to pause their cooperation with Hong Kong authorities.

From July 6-7, U.S.-based Twitter, Google, Facebook and WhatsApp, as well as U.K.-based Telegram, all announced they would pause their compliance with user data requests from Hong Kong authorities in order to assess the implications of the new national security law. These companies do not rely on business in mainland China, and would thus be less vulnerable to retaliation from Beijing. However, they must still tread carefully given that several still use Hong Kong as a way to net ad revenue from Chinese companies.

- On July 7, Chinese appmaker ByteDance announced that it will remove TikTok from the Hong Kong market in the coming days, alluding to the risks of being caught up in the new national security law. The Chinese version of the app, Douyin, will remain operable in the city but must first be downloaded in the mainland. Although China-based, TikTok is in a particularly fraught business position. India recently banned the app from its massive market in response to the June 15 border clash between Indian and Chinese forces. TikTok's ties to mainland China also raises the risk of U.S. and Australian bans, especially if the company gets publicly wrapped up in the Hong Kong controversy.

- On July 7, U.S.-based company Zoom also suspended its compliance with Hong Kong requests to share user data. Like TikTok, Zoom has a global market as well as a large Chinese presence, which has already put it under suspicion by U.S. authorities.
Microsoft, Apple and LinkedIn have also followed their U.S. peers in pausing compliance with Hong Kong authorities' requests for information. This is particularly challenging for these tech companies, given all three rely on sales into the Chinese market. Apple, in particular, is also reliant on Chinese supply chains for manufacturing...


This photo released Thursday, July 2, 2020, by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, shows a building after it was damaged by a fire, at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility some 200 miles (322 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran. 

Iran declines to disclose cause of mysterious nuke site fire

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — An online video and messages purportedly claiming responsibility for a fire that analysts say damaged a centrifuge assembly plant at Iran’s underground Natanz nuclear site deepened the mystery Friday around the incident — even as Tehran insisted it knew the cause but would not make it public due to “security reasons.”

The multiple, different claims by a self-described group called the “Cheetahs of the Homeland” included language used by several exiled Iranian opposition organizations. They also focused almost entirely on Iran’s nuclear program, viewed by Israel as a danger to its very existence.

The disparate messages, as well as the fact that Iran experts have never heard of the group before, raised questions about whether Natanz again had faced sabotage by a foreign nation as it had during the Stuxnet computer virus outbreak believed to have been engineered by the U.S. and Israel. Tehran’s reaction so far shows Iranian officials are increasingly taking the possibility seriously...

Gunmen kill prominent Iraqi analyst and advisor: officials

Gunmen in Baghdad shot dead a well-known former government advisor and political analyst near his home on Monday in a rare high-profile killing in the Iraqi capital, government officials, police sources and medics said. The government officials described the killing of Hisham al-Hashemi, who had written about politics, Islamic State and the role of Iran-backed militias in Iraq, as a targeted killing but did not point the finger at any particular group. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Hashemi’s killing...

Iran-backed armed group denies Iraq rocket attack on US interests

Two rockets targeted American diplomatic and military installations overnight, Iraq's security forces said on Sunday, as a powerful Iran-backed armed group denied responsibility for a series of such attacks.... In the first move of its kind, elite Iraqi troops in late June arrested more than a dozen Tehran-backed fighters who were allegedly planning a new attack on Baghdad's Green Zone, home to the United States and other foreign embassies...

Iran says fire at nuclear facility resulted in 'significant' damage

A fire at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility site resulted in "significant" damage, impacting both the construction and development of the country's advanced nuclear program, officials confirmed Sunday, contradicting previous claims that the impact from last week's blaze had been "limited." It remains unclear what exactly started the fire at the complex, considered Iran's largest uranium enrichment facility and located about 250 kilometers (150 miles) south of the capital Tehran. Analysts believe the site is used to develop and assemble centrifuges for uranium enrichment, key technology that turns uranium into nuclear fuel...

Factory blast near Iran's capital kills two in latest explosion

Two people were killed in an explosion at a factory south of Tehran on Tuesday, the latest in a series of fires and explosions, some of which have hit sensitive sites. State news agency IRNA reported "human error" was the cause of the blast.... "The explosion that was caused by some workers' negligent handling of oxygen tanks ... was so powerful that the walls of a factory nearby were also totally destroyed," Babai was quoted as saying...

Iran: Second Mysterious Explosion at Sensitive Site

What Happened: The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said July 2 that a fire had broken out at the Natanz fuel enrichment facility in an "industrial shed." Satellite imagery and photos released by Iran, however, suggest that an explosion occurred at a building involved in the assembly of centrifuges. BBC Persian reported that a previously unknown group calling itself the "Cheetahs of the Homeland" had sent it a message claiming responsibility. BBC Persian also said that the messages were sent to journalists before the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran announced that an incident had occurred.

Why It Matters: This is the second mysterious incident in the last week at a critical Iranian facility. Either one could in fact have been the result of a domestic group acting with or without foreign support, or the result of a U.S. or Israeli cyberattack. A Middle Eastern intelligence official speaking to The New York Times claimed that the incident at Natanz was caused by an explosive device triggered at the site. If there is a campaign by the United States, Israel and/or local groups in Iran underway, then Iran is likely to eventually respond in kind, potentially against Western targets in the Persian Gulf.

Context: On June 26, an explosion occurred at the Khojir missile facility outside of Tehran that could be seen from miles away. Iran initially said that the incident happened at a different facility, the Parchin military complex. Initial information suggests that both the incidents at Khojir and Natanz started out with an explosion at either a gas or diesel storage tank.



Israel spy satellite launches as an eye on Iran

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the Ofek16 will help “our ability to act against Israel’s enemies.”

JERUSALEM — Israel said it successfully launched a new spy satellite into space Monday as its leaders hinted it was behind a massive fire at an Iranian nuclear site last week — potentially ratcheting up a long-running covert war.

If Israel was responsible for the fire at the heavily fortified Natanz facility, it would mark another in a series of daring strikes against Iran’s nuclear program attributed to Israel, while also risking Iranian retaliation on either Israeli or Western targets...

Israel targets Hamas post in new air raids on Gaza Strip

Israel has said it carried out fresh air raids on the Gaza Strip in response to three alleged rockets fired from the besieged Palestinian enclave. No casualties were reported in the attacks late on Sunday that took place amid heightened tensions over Israel's widely criticised plan to illegally annex parts of the occupied West Bank...

Explosions in Iran Point to a Possible Israeli Sabotage Campaign

Israel was likely behind a July 2 explosion and fire at Iran's Natanz nuclear facility, and potentially some of the other similar incidents that have occurred near Tehran over the past two weeks, including a June 26 explosion at the Khojir missile complex. Although Tel Aviv doesn't typically claim its covert actions against Iran, motive and past history make Israel the most likely actor to conduct such sabotage operations against Iranian infrastructure and assets.

- On July 5, an unnamed intelligence official told The New York Times that Israel was responsible for placing the "powerful bomb" that was detonated in a new centrifuge assembly facility at Natanz. The Washington Post and other media outlets have also pointed to a plausible Israeli operation behind the July 2 explosion.

- When asked about the Natanz incident on July 5, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said Israel wasn't necessarily behind every attack on Iran, but he also did not explicitly deny the country's involvement...


North Korea’s Chemical and Coal Liquefaction Industries: The Difficult Path Ahead to Self-Reliance

The North Korean government is gearing up for prolonged conditions of economic autarky, as reflected in its renewed commitment to boost fertilizer manufacturing and coal gasification efforts. Over the past few weeks, North Korean officials and state media have increasingly focused on the chemical industry in particular. Any progress North Korea makes in this area, however, will offer only a partial solution to one of its main economic challenges.

The Chemical Industry Drive

The chemical industry has emerged as a state priority over the past few months, with a particular emphasis on fertilizer production and the key role of the chemical industry for the economy as a whole. When Kim Jong Un returned to public view in early May after a prolonged absence, he visited a fertilizer plant under construction. On June 7, he told a Politburo meeting that the “chemical industry is the foundation of industry” as a whole...






National Security Agency warns that VPNs could be vulnerable to cyberattacks

The National Security Agency issued a new cybersecurity advisory on Thursday, warning that virtual private networks, or VPNs, could be vulnerable to attacks if not properly secured. The agency's warning comes amid a surge in telework as organizations adapt to coronavirus- related office closures and other constraints.... A senior NSA official who briefed reporters Wednesday said the increase in remote work had attracted the attention of potentially malicious cyber actors. ... VPN gateways in particular are "prone to network scanning, brute force attacks, and zero-day vulnerabilities," the NSA's advisory said. "[N]etwork administrators should implement strict traffic filtering rules to limit the ports, protocols, and IP addresses of network traffic to VPN devices..."

North Korean hackers linked to credit card stealing attacks on US stores

Hackers from North Korea have been stealing payment card information from customers of large retailers in the U.S. and Europe for at least a year, reveals new research released today. The fraudulent activity, which researchers attribute to the Lazarus (Hidden Cobra) group of nation-state hackers, used legitimate websites to exfiltrate the stolen credit card data and camouflage the operation. Stealing credit card information from customers of online stores has become a growing threat over the past years. These are known as MageCart attacks and threat actors rely on malicious scripts (web skimmers) that copy the sensitive information from the checkout page...

Electromagnetic Pulses Are A Perfect Sneak Attack. Pentagon Developing Ways To Detect One.

A tank commander on the front line radios in a report during an international crisis…and there is no response. Has a stealthy electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack destroyed the radio electronics in the opening a shot of a new war? Has it hit just the platoon or the whole division? Or is the problem just a broken radio antenna?

Start a Homeland Security degree at American Military University.

EMP is the perfect sneak attack. The invisible, silent radio pulse is only apparent when electronics stop working. At present there is no way of telling when an EMP attack has occurred, or what it has affected, so the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency is working on sensors to detect and analyze EMP sensors under its Conventional Nuclear Integration/Battlefield Nuclear Warfare program.

Military analysts have long warned about the threat of electromagnetic pulse, a blast of radio waves burning out electronics devices. The most extreme version is [a] nuclear EMP from a high-altitude explosion, which might disable power systems across the continental U.S. in a ‘Pearl Harbor’ surprise attack. Tactical EMP warheads (‘E-bombs’) are more likely, conventional weapons which can knock out electronics in an area hundreds of meters across, like the fictional one in Ocean’s 11. Beam weapons to hit individual targets are also on the way; last week Russia announced the successful test of an EMP cannon which can disable aircraft and ground vehicles at ranges up to six miles.

China has also been working on EMP weapons to counter American superiority in aircraft carriers and other high-tech weapons. Defenders need a way to sense such attacks, determine their likely effects and where they are coming from...




"Death to America," Love for North Korea and Hate for Israel at Brooklyn Rally [NY]

A chant of "death to Israel" and "death to America" triggered an enthusiastic response Wednesday during an anti-Israel protest in Brooklyn. Similar rallies were held throughout the country, ostensibly to oppose a possible Israeli annexation of some West Bank settlements. But the speeches and chants made it abundantly clear that the participants oppose Israel's very existence.... The rallies also witnessed the ever expanding spectrum of "intersectionalism," in which organizations and movements—supporting everything from North Korea to the Seattle COVID Mutual Aid Group – which are entirely unrelated to the Middle East joined in common cause in the only issue they seem to have in common: the destruction of the State of Israel...



No comments:

Post a Comment