Today’s compendium of security woes open with two stories about America’s nuclear arsenal and the folks charged with its oversight.
First up, via the Associated Press, merely the latest instance of a phenomenon all too common these days, given that earlier this year similar cheats were exposed amongst Air Force officers overseeing nuclear missiles:
Navy kicks out 34 for nuke cheating
At least 34 sailors are being kicked out of the Navy for their roles in a cheating ring that operated undetected for at least seven years at a nuclear power training site, and 10 others are under criminal investigation, the admiral in charge of the Navy’s nuclear reactors program told The Associated Press.
The number of accused and the duration of cheating are greater than was known when the Navy announced in February that it had discovered cheating on qualification exams by an estimated 20 to 30 sailors seeking to be certified as instructors at the nuclear training unit at Charleston, South Carolina. Students there are trained in nuclear reactor operations to prepare for service on any of the Navy’s 83 nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers.
Neither the instructors nor the students are involved in handling nuclear weapons.
After further investigation the Navy determined that 78 enlisted sailors were implicated. Although the cheating is believed to have been confined to a single unit at Charleston and apparently was not known to commanding officers, the misconduct had been happening since at least 2007, according to Adm. John M. Richardson, director of naval reactors. The exact start of the cheating was not pinpointed.
From the Associated Press again, nuclear spooks:
Former lab worker sentenced in nuke secrets plot
A former Los Alamos National Laboratory contractor has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for conspiring with her physicist husband to sell nuclear secrets.
The Justice Department on Wednesday announced the sentencing of 71-year-old Marjorie Roxby Mascheroni, who pleaded guilty to charges accusing the couple of plotting to communicate classified nuclear weapons data to an undercover agent who they thought was a Venezuelan government official.
Her husband, 79-year-old Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, has also pleaded guilty in the case and is in federal custody pending his sentencing. He was a scientist at the lab from 1979 to 1988. She did technical writing and editing from 1981 to 2010. Prosecutors say both held security clearances that allowed them access to certain classified information and restricted data.
Defense One covers up:
Yet Again, CIA is Concealing Information Americans Should See
Once again, the CIA is concealing information that Americans have a right to know, and once again President Obama should ensure its release.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is set to release a landmark report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program. But Obama allowed the CIA to oversee redactions, and it predictably went to town with the black marker. According to committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the redactions “eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusions.”
From The Intercept, seriously surreal:
U.S. Military Bans The Intercept
The U.S. military is banning and blocking employees from visiting The Intercept in an apparent effort to censor news reports that contain leaked government secrets.
According to multiple military sources, a notice has been circulated to units within the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps warning staff that they are prohibited from reading stories published by The Intercept on the grounds that they may contain classified information. The ban appears to apply to all employees—including those with top-secret security clearance—and is aimed at preventing classified information from being viewed on unclassified computer networks, even if it is freely available on the internet. Similar military-wide bans have been directed against news outlets in the past after leaks of classified information.
A directive issued to military staff at one location last week, obtained by The Intercept, threatens that any employees caught viewing classified material in the public domain will face “long term security issues.” It suggests that the call to prohibit employees from viewing the website was made by senior officials over concerns about a “potential new leaker” of secret documents.
From the Guardian, does that include begonias?:
US police given billions from Homeland Security for ‘tactical’ equipment
With little oversight, federal agency awarded billions to local police for spending on drones, drugs, vehicles and ‘animals and plants’, among eligible purchases
Billions of federal dollars have been spent since September 11 on purchasing modern and often military-grade equipment for state and local police. But there is little that limits the use of that hardware to counter-terrorism purposes, and oversight of the spending is difficult, according to federal sources and documents reviewed by the Guardian.
In the wake of the Ferguson protests, much attention has gone to the Department of Defense’s program to supply surplus military equipment to police. But that program is eclipsed in size and scope by grant money from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which enables purchases of similar “tactical” equipment.
Under existing federal requirements, police departments and state law enforcement agencies do not need to spend much of that money on preventing terrorism or preparing for disaster relief.
The Wire covers a benching:
ACLU: Officer Who Threatened to ‘F*cking Kill’ Ferguson Protesters Taken Off Duty
A Ferguson Police officer who threatened to kill protesters has been taken off duty after a complaint from the Missouri ACLU, the organization announced Wednesday.
The organization tweeted, “SUCCESS! In response to our letter, officer who threatened to kill #Ferguson protesters has been removed from duty,” soon after posting a copy of a letter addressed to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. The ACLU’s Vanita Gupta tweeted “Highway patrol called. They identified the cop. He will no longer be in ferguson.”
In a letter sent Wednesday, the ACLU called on the Missouri Highway Patrol to “identify and remove” an officer featured in the video below. In the video, the officer points a gun protesters and says he’ll “fucking kill” one man. When asked what his name is, he replies “Go fuck yourself.” While Ferguson protests have had “tense moments,” the ACLU argues that the officer’s behavior was “from start to finish wholly unacceptable.”
From the Christian Science Monitor, another containment effort:
After Foley murder, an effort to stamp out jihadi Twitter accounts
The jihad group IS videotaped its murder of American journalist James Foley as a propaganda exercise, fueling a debate over when and how often such groups should be censored on social media sites.
The gruesome murder of American journalist James Foley yesterday was an opportunity for the self-styled Islamic State (IS) to put on a propaganda show. The jihadi group uploaded video of the killing to YouTube and Vimeo and its social media team bombarded Twitter – including targeting journalists and others who closely follow the war in Syria and Iraq – with the links.
Within minutes YouTube deleted the original post and Twitter was not far behind, announcing it would suspend accounts spreading the distressing video. But by that time the clip had multiplied. Users posted slightly different versions to evade detection – YouTube has an algorithm that prevents re-uploads. By Tuesday evening, dozens of copies of the footage could be found with just a simple web search.
As social media sites fought to shut them down, the online followers of IS reveled in the butchery of a hostage and called for more, part of the point of the exercise for the group. Social media has become an important fund-raising and recruitment tool for them. While to most people the murder was nihilistic and repugnant, for would-be internet mujahideen it was a moment of celebration.
PandoDaily catches a contradiction:
Twitter suspends users that share graphic James Foley images — Unless you’re a New York tabloid
Twitter CEO Dick Costolo announced a new policy, tweeting, “We have been and are actively suspending accounts as we discover them related to this graphic imagery.” But far from setting this controversy to rest, Costolo’s announcement has only sparked a greater debate over a social network’s responsibility when it comes to policing graphic imagery posted by users.
For example, Costolo’s tweet seems clear enough — post images of Foley’s beheading and you will be suspended. And yet accounts belonging to the New York Post and the New York Daily News, which both tweeted out today’s front pages depicting what by any standards is “graphic imagery” of Foley, are still chugging along.
A Twitter spokesperson told Business Insider that these accounts would not be suspended, arguing that, depending on a user’s media settings, at least one of the tweets included a warning in place of the photo. But not all users saw that warning, and in any case, letting these accounts off the hook because (presumably — Twitter would not comment on this) they belong to major media organizations, directly contradicts Costolo’s tweet, which didn’t leave much room for interpretation. Making matters even worse, Twitter even suggested the Post’s tweet to one user who didn’t even follow the New York tabloid.
From the Toronto Globe and Mail, numbers to the north:
Spy agency intercepted, kept communications of 66 Canadians
Canada’s electronic security agency intercepted and retained the communications of 66 citizens during its spying on foreigners last year in actions that were taken without a judicial warrant or a court order.
That level of detail on the activities of Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), disclosed in a report issued on Wednesday by its watchdog commissioner, had never before released by the Canadian government.
Nor has such information been divulged by other allied intelligence agencies, observers say.
“All of the activities of CSEC reviewed in 2013-2014 complied with the law,” Commissioner Jean-Pierre Plouffe wrote in his annual report.
Via SecurityWeek, Se habla español:
‘Machete’ Cyber Espionage Attacks Target Spanish-Speaking Countries
Researchers have identified a cyber-espionage campaign focused on Spanish-speaking countries.
Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have dubbed the attack ‘Machete.’ It is believed the attack campaign started in 2010 and was renewed in 2012 with an improved infrastructure.
“Some time ago, a Kaspersky Lab customer in Latin America contacted us to say he had visited China and suspected his machine was infected with an unknown, undetected malware,” Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research and Analysis Team explained in a blog post. “While assisting the customer, we found a very interesting file in the system that is completely unrelated to China and contained no Chinese coding traces. At first look, it pretends to be a Java related application but after a quick analysis, it was obvious this was something more than just a simple Java file. It was a targeted attack we are calling “Machete”.”
The malware at the center of attacks is capable of a number of actions, including logging keystrokes, capturing audio and screenshots, taking photos from the victim’s webcam and capturing geo-location data. The malware can also copy files to a USB device if inserted, and can also copy files to a remote server. In addition, it can hijack the clipboard and capture information from the target machine.
From TheLocal.se, is should come as no surprise:
Top ministers count cost of ‘less secure world’
Foreign and Finance Ministers Carl Bildt and Anders Borg held a press conference on Wednesday to discuss how Sweden was being affected by a “less secure” world, and how it would foot the bill for a growing influx of refugees.
“Things are changing and we’re heading towards a much less secure world,” Bildt told reporters at Stockholm’s government offices on Wednesday.
“We have a lot more of Sweden in the world today, and a lot more of the world in Sweden.”
From Wired threat level, does it make you feel more secure?:
Researchers Easily Slipped Weapons Past TSA’s X-Ray Body Scanners
Two years ago, a blogger named Jonathan Corbett published a YouTube video that seemed to show a facepalm-worthy vulnerability in the TSA’s Rapiscan full-body X-ray scanners: Because metal detected by the scanners appeared black in the images they created, he claimed that any passenger could hide a weapon on the side of his or her body to render it invisible against the scans’ black background. The TSA dismissed Corbett’s findings, and even called reporters to caution them not to cover his video.
Now a team of security researchers from the University of California at San Diego, the University of Michigan, and Johns Hopkins plans to reveal their own results from months of testing that same model of scanner. And not only did they find that Corbett’s weapon-hiding tactic worked; they also found that they could pull off a disturbing list of other possible tricks, such as using teflon tape to conceal weapons against someone’s spine, installing malware on the scanner’s console that spoofed scans, or simply molding plastic explosives around a person’s body to make it nearly indistinguishable from flesh in the machine’s images.
From the London Telegraph, ditto:
Innocent couple branded shoplifters in CCTV release
Police in Devon apologise for airing a ‘caught on camera’ CCTV photograph which told the public to report any sightings of a couple who had done nothing wrong
An innocent young couple found themselves wrongly accused of shoplifting after bungling police issued a CCTV ‘wanted’ photograph of the pair to the public.
CCTV shots of Charlotte and James Cozens shopping in their local Boots with their three-year-old son were sent to the media as part of a “caught on camera” appeal.
They were accompanied by a description of the pair and details of how they stashed stolen goods in their toddler’s pushchair.
After the jumps, the latest from the Asian Games of Zones, including Afghan anxieties, escalating Pakistani tensions, Thai coup consolidation, trouble in Thibet, trash talk in Pyongyang, lecturing Tokyo, and Japanese eyes in the sky. . .
From the Independent, fruits of the Bush Doctrine:
Afghanistan presidential elections: Nervous citizens fear return to violence amid ballot deadlock
With a crucial deadline for he inauguration of a new president approaching, and an election ballot recount at a critical stage, fears are growing that Afghanistan’s fragile transition process could collapse into violence.
The quickening pace of the protracted election audit and a flurry of meetings between aides to the two rival candidates this week have raised faint hopes that the country may have a new leader in office within two weeks, just in time to attend a Nato summit crucial to future foreign aid for Afghanistan.
But Afghan and international observers warn that the process could easily fall apart, with disputes persisting over the fairness of the ballot recount and the two candidates unable to agree on a division of power after a winner is declared. Under US pressure, they agreed to form a national unity government with a president as well as a chief executive, but they differ strongly on the details.
From Deutsche Welle, the first of our headlines on political tensions in a next door neighbor:
Opposition leaders summoned to court in Pakistan
The two leaders of the ongoing march on Islamabad have been asked to appear in court. They have called on supporters to blockade the parliament building and ‘let no one out.’
Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday summoned opposition leaders Imran Khan and Tahir ul-Qadri to appear in court on Thursday over protests to call for the prime minister’s resignation.
After five days of protesting in the capital of Islamabad, thousands of demonstrators blockaded the parliament building on Wednesday. Qadri had called on supporters to not let anyone out of the building.
Police did not intervene, despite the thousands of demonstrators penetrating the heavily fortified “Red Zone” around the parliament building and setting up camp there. A number of them are said to be carrying gas masks and batons.
More from the Express Tribune:
Parliament reposes faith in Nawaz Sharif as Imran, Qadri up the ante
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday was extended a lifeline from the National Assembly not to resign from his office on the demands of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).
The prime minister, who arrived at the parliament building while surrounded by workers of PAT on the instructions of their leader Dr Tahirul Qadri, was greeted with overwhelming support from members of the treasury as well as the Opposition.
Lawmakers asked the prime minister to publicly announce that he would not resign from premiership.
People’s Daily issues a plea:
China calls on Pakistan to resolve disputes in peaceful way
China on Wednesday called on all relevant parties in Pakistan to resolve disputes in a peaceful way as the country’s political crisis grows.
“China has paid high attention to the current situation in Pakistan,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang in a press release.
“As a good neighbor, China sincerely hopes that all parties concerned in Pakistan will proceed from the fundamental interests of the country and the people and to resolve the crisis in a peaceful way so as to jointly safeguard the stability of the country,” said Qin.
Coup consolidation from Channel NewsAsia Singapore:
Thai junta chief Prayuth tipped to become PM
Thailand’s coup leader is expected to be picked as prime minister by the kingdom’s new army-dominated national assembly, junta sources said Wednesday (Aug 20), cementing the military’s hold on power in the politically turbulent nation. Army Chief Prayuth Chan-ocha is likely to be the sole candidate for the premiership when the 197-strong appointed assembly convenes on Thursday to select a new leader for the Southeast Asian country, the sources told AFP.
“It was difficult to find people to become prime minister other than General Prayuth. If it’s not him, who else should it be?” one junta official said on condition of anonymity. “He staged a coup. He has to be responsible for solving all the problems by himself. By becoming prime minister, he will have full power,” the person added.
Another member of the junta, formally known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), said Prayuth was set to be chosen because he is “suitable for the job”. “According to polls, he enjoys public popularity and people also admire the NCPO’s work,” said the source, who also asked not to be named.
Reuters covers tension in China:
Three more Tibetans die from shooting by Chinese police: rights group
Three protesters shot last week by police in a Tibetan region of China have died of their injuries, taking to five the number of people killed in the incident, a rights group said on Wednesday.
The protest erupted over the detention of a respected village leader in the Ganzi prefecture of southwestern Sichuan province, rights groups say, a flashpoint for Tibetan protests against Chinese rule.
Tsewang Gonpo, 60; Yeshe, 42; and Jinpa Tharchin, 18 died in detention in Ganzi after being denied medical treatment for their injuries, the U.K.-based Free Tibet group said in a statement.
From JapanToday, sticks and stones and all that:
North Korea insults John Kerry over his looks
In its latest personal attack on a prominent official, North Korea has called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a wild dog with a “hideous lantern jaw.”
Wednesday’s slur from the National Defense Commission, the North’s top governing body, is the latest in a slew of crude insults against U.S. and South Korean leaders. The North’s state media has called President Barack Obama a monkey and South Korean President Park Geun-hye a prostitute.
An unidentified commission official describes Kerry as a “wolf donning the mask of sheep” who plays a role in U.S. plans to invade North Korea.
China Daily takes umbrage:
Japan’s view of history still rankles
Just moments after Dennis Blair, former commander of the US Pacific Command and former director US National Intelligence, expressed his puzzlement over why China and South Korea would still have historical issues with Japan, he got a quick explanation.
One Japanese journalist rose from the back of the audience, saying that Japanese studies show that the Japanese military had not systematically recruited and coerced comfort women during the WWII.
An American woman sitting in the front clearly could not let the comment pass. “That’s not true!” she shouted.
The setting was a seminar exploring the future of progress in Northeast Asia held on Tuesday at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank based in Washington on Tuesday.
Ahn Ho-Young, South Korea’s ambassador to the US and a former vice minister of foreign affairs, also pushed back, citing studies that show convincing evidence of coercion involving the comfort women issue. He cited the 1993 Kono Statement by Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono which concluded that the Japanese Imperial Army had forced comfort women to work in military-run brothels during WWII.
Want China Times diagnoses spy espioanxiety:
Foreign spy hoodoo aims to chill internet discussion in China
A number of “espionage” activities have been reported in China recently, including a Canadian missionary couple who were investigated by the bureau of state security in Dandong in Liaoning province on the border with North Korea; a college graduate in Harbin in Heilongjiang province investigated for collecting confidential information for “offshore intelligence operatives,” and a Guangdong citizen surnamed Li who was given 10 years in prison for having college students collect confidential military information in return for rewards ranging from several hundred to thousands of yuan per item, before passing the information to foreign intelligence units.
The high-profile publicity these cases has been granted is almost unprecedented, according to local media. Unnamed sources said the internet has facilitated intelligence gathering by foreign spies, who constantly search local websites for useful information.
The reports appear to be a pretext for a further chilling of online discussion, especially where the country’s military capabilities are concerned.
And an insular arms buildup, via Want China Times:
Taiwan still hopes to buy F-35 fighters from US: defense official
Taiwan continues to hope for jet fighters with stealth, short take-off and vertical landing capabilities, a senior defense official said Tuesday, noting that the US-made F-35 is one option that fits the bill.
There is “a need” for higher performance combat airplanes, said Major General Chang Wen-shuo, deputy director-general of the Defense Ministry’s Department of Strategic Planning, at a regular ministry press conference.
Both the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning, both made by Lockheed Martin, are on the purchase list, Chang said, explaining that “necessity” is the top consideration.
And for our final item, eyes in the shy from NHK WORLD:
Panel urges maritime surveillance by satellites
A council of advisers to a government panel has made initial security suggestions. It says Japan should use satellites to boost maritime surveillance in light of growing tension in the Asia-Pacific region.
The council to an advisory panel of the Japanese prime minister on space policy examined the issue.
The proposal calls for a review of the Japanese government’s space policy in coordination with security policy, saying tension in the region is heightened.
It attributes the heightened tension to such factors as China’s military buildup and its attempts to change the status quo by force. It also points to rising provocative actions by North Korea.