21 February 2016

How Facebook Lost Face in India

How Facebook Lost Face in India 
Feb 15, 2016 

When Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited India late last year, he made the mandatory trip to the Taj Mahal in Agra. Almost every foreign visitor to the subcontinent does so; the late Princess Diana had posed alone before the mausoleum when the British royal couple came to India in 1992. A few months later, she and Prince Charles separated.

Zuckerberg also had himself photographed alone at the Taj. He posted the photograph on his Facebook page, accompanied by the comment: “It is even more stunning than I expected.”

Today, a few months later, Zuckerberg finds himself estranged from his Indian constituency. His Free Basics initiative has been banned by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). Zuckerberg’s dream of being a pivotal part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India program has received a severe setback. And his target of “the next one billion” Facebook users – the first one billion was reached on August 24, 2015 – may have been postponed by months, if not years. (The first one billion is the number of people who logged on to Facebook on that day. It is different from the usually quoted monthly active users, which stood at 1.59 billion on December 31, 2015.)

Chinese Missiles in South China Sea Underscore a Growing Conflict Risk

FEB. 17, 2016
Satellite images show a part of Woody Island in the Paracel chain in the South China Sea on Feb. 3, left, and on Sunday, right. CreditImageSat International

WASHINGTON — China’s deployment of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island in the South China Sea, at the very moment that President Obama is trying to buttress American influence in the region, underscores the growing risk of conflict among the Chinese, their neighbors and the United States.

A day after Mr. Obama gathered 10 leaders from Southeast Asian countries for a summit meeting in California, a United States official said the Pentagon had evidence that China had placed missile batteries on an island that is part of an archipelago claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, as well as by China.

At the meeting, Mr. Obama sent a warning to China, declaring that the United States would “continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows” and that “we will support the right of all countries to do the same.” He said he had discussed with the leaders the need to halt further reclamation and militarization of islands in the South China Sea.

With Surface-to-Air Missiles, China Militarizes the South China Sea


Beijing’s provocative move to put sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles on little Woody Island breaks previous promises and invites retaliation.

China deployed its advanced HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island in the South China Sea sometime in the first half of this month, Pentagon officials have revealed. Images of the missiles were released yesterday by various news organizations, and Taiwan’s defense ministry confirmed the reports.

The Chinese deployment breaks a series of pledges Beijing made to the United States and the international community, one as recently as last month by Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Secretary of State John Kerry during Kerry’s trip to Beijing.

The missile deployments will destabilize the already troubled South China Sea, and the situation there could deteriorate fast as various nations, including the United States, introduce military assets in response to Beijing’s rapid build-up.

Briefing on Chinese HQ-9 Surface-to-Air Missiles Deployed in South China Sea

Thomas Gibbons-Neff
February 18, 2016

These are the surface-to-air missiles China apparently just deployed into the South China Sea
Military vehicles carrying HQ-9 third-generation surface-to-air defense missiles drive past Tiananmen Gate during a military parade on September 3, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/via Getty Images)

China has apparently deployed an advanced surface-to-air missile system onto a disputed island in the South China Sea, according to U.S. and Taiwanese officials.

The deployment was first reported by Fox News after Fox obtained satellite imagery detailing the equipment on the eastern part of Woody Island in the Paracel Island chain. In late January, a U.S. guided missile destroyer passed within 12 miles of Triton Island in the same chain, in what is known as a freedom of navigation patrol. The exercise drew condemnation from China at the time. According to the imagery, the missiles were emplaced sometime between Feb. 3 and Feb. 14.

According to a U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence issues, he believes the images are accurate and that the systems are HQ-9s.

Both Taiwan and Vietnam have claimed Woody Island as their own.

UN Tribunal: China’s South China Sea Climbdown Opportunity? – Analysis

FEBRUARY 18, 2016

China says it won’t accept any South China Sea UN Tribunal decision it doesn’t like. But an adverse decision could lead to a climb down with Chinese characteristics.

Why? Because the success of China’s newly-opened Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) could hinge upon it. That’s a higher Chinese political priority — at least over the short- to medium term.

The AIIB is China’s first foray into big time global economic diplomacy. Its success hinges upon the confidence of borrowers.

That confidence will revolve around borrowers’ estimations of Chinese intentions.

As early as May, a UN Tribunal may rule on the merits of China’s ‘Nine Dotted Line” territorial claim to virtually the entire South China Sea.

That’s about the same time the AIIB aims to announce its first loan.

For China, this creates both crisis and opportunity.

Elements of Iraqi 15th Infantry Division Moves Into Iraqi Kurdistan to Pre for Attack on Mosul

Thomas Gibbons-Neff
February 18, 2016

Pentagon: Iraqi units move into Kurdistan in prep for battle of Mosul

Parts of the Iraqi Army’s 15th division, a unit of around 1,000 soldiers, have moved into Iraqi Kurdistan in recent days, according to a senior U.S. military official.

Army Col. Steve Warren, the Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, confirmed to reporters that the unit’s headquarters element had arrived at the Kurdish frontline position in Mahkmour. The move was first reported late last week by the AFP.

The unit, Warren said, “will kind of begin the process of generating the combat power that’s necessary to…progress this campaign with an eventual goal of Mosul.”

Warren added that the retaking of Mosul—an Iraqi city that fell to the Islamic State in June 2014—is still a long way off. The arrival of the Iraqi units in Mahkmour, a small town roughly 65 miles southeast of Mosul, is but a small part of the campaign to expel the Islamic State from the country. Currently, Iraqi units are finishing clearing the city of Ramadi in Anbar province to the south and it is unclear where they will focus their efforts next. The city of Fallujah and its surrounding towns are still held by the extremist group, while there is international pressure to clear out Mosul, one of the Islamic State’s largest strongholds.

Mahkmour is a Kurdish base and is home to a small contingent of U.S. advisers who help coordinate airstrikes and train Kurdish units there. It is one of the larger bases that is relatively close to Mosul and is just one part of a network of outposts that litternorthern Iraq and help form a defensive line along the Tigris and Great Zab rivers.

The U.S. government thought it had killed this legendary militant. Now it’s not so sure.

Missy Ryan
February 18, 2016

The U.S. government thought it had killed this legendary militant. Now it’s not so sure.

Officials at Joint Special Operations Command had found the uncatchable man — they were sure of it.

Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the legendary Algerian militant, had eluded capture across North Africa and the Sahel for a dozen years, defying reports of his death to continue his campaign of kidnappings and guerrilla attacks. The United States and its allies had missed him before.

But in June of last year, JSOC, the secretive military outfit tasked with hunting al-Qaeda, believed they had Belmokhtar in its sights as he made his way to a dusty farm outside of Ajdabiya, in eastern Libya, where a group of militants assembled for a meeting.

American officials had been on high alert for several days. Belmokhtar and his associates were famously disciplined in avoiding electronic communications and cloaking their movements, but someone had slipped up. When two American F-15 jets screamed across the sky and unleashed several 500-pound bombs, they demolished the farmhouse, killing at least five militants. 

Kenya Claims That It Killed Intel Chief of Al-Shabaab Terror Organization in Somalia

February 18, 2016

Kenya says it killed head of intelligence for Somalia’s Islamist insurgency

Kenya has killed the commander of an elite unit within Somalia’s al Shabaab Islamist insurgency, a man blamed for masterminding a deadly attack on a Kenyan military camp in southern Somalia last month, the Kenyan military said on Thursday.

Kenyan troops, working under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), killed Mohamed Karatey, al Shabaab’s deputy commander and head of intelligence, at a graduation ceremony for insurgent fighters on Feb. 8, the Kenya Defense Forces said in a statement.

“It is believed Karatey played a major role in the recent attack on KDF troops in El Adde by the deployment of his suicide bombers,” KDF said in a statement.

“His killing now adds to that of the killing of Abdi Dek, the operation commander of the Abu Zubeyr Brigade that carried out the attack in El Adde.”

The statement gave no further details on killing of Karatey but said the Kenyan military had also killed 42 al Shabaab recruits and 10 other mid-level al Shabaab commanders during the raid. It was not possible to independently verify the killings.

Saudi Foreign Policy Is in a State of Flux

17 February 2016

Saudi Foreign Policy Is in a State of Flux 

Jane Kinninmont Deputy Head and Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme

In the new Middle East, even being a conservative power sometimes means being an agent of change.

Portraits of King Salman, Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman on the wall of a restaurant on 7 December 2015 in Riyadh. Photo by Getty Images.

The accession of King Salman a year ago and the decision to lead a military intervention in Yemen mark a new phase for Saudi foreign policy. That does not mean that there is a new foreign policy doctrine or strategy. Rather, the new generation that is taking the lead in foreign policy is seeking new ways to respond to a highly uncertain environment. It is demonstrating a newfound willingness to use military force, but is also witnessing its limits. With the outcome of the Yemen war still far from clear, the direction and the tools of Saudi foreign policy under King Salman are still being tested.

Start Preparing for the Collapse of the Saudi Kingdom

FEBRUARY 16, 2016

Saudi Arabia is no state at all. It's an unstable business so corrupt to resemble a criminal organization and the U.S. should get ready for the day after.

For half a century, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been the linchpin of U.S. Mideast policy. A guaranteed supply of oil has bought a guaranteed supply of security. Ignoring autocratic practices and the export of Wahhabi extremism, Washington stubbornly dubs its ally “moderate.” So tight is the trust that U.S.special operators dip into Saudi petrodollars as a counterterrorismslush fund without a second thought. In a sea of chaos, goes the refrain, the kingdom is one state that’s stable.

Sarah Chayes is senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law and South Asia Programs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She is the author of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. She previously was special adviser to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ...Full Bio

Alex de Waal is executive director of the World Peace Foundation and a research professor at The Fletcher School. Considered one of the foremost experts on Sudan and the Horn of Africa, his scholarship and practice has also probed humanitarian crisis and response, human rights, HIV/AIDS and ...Full Bio

But is it?

Iraq War: Not A Mistake, But A Holocaustic Crime – OpEd

FEBRUARY 18, 2016

Either our minds have softened in the United States, or our hearts have hardened way beyond the callous stage. Or, likely both.

Just 13 years past his criminal decision to invade Iraq, George W. Bush is campaigning in South Carolina to get his younger brother, Jeb, in the White House. A fitting payback by an illegitimate and unworthy former president to return Jeb’s intercession as Florida’s governor in America’s mishandling, comical if it hadn’t been for the eventual very tragic consequences, of the 2000 presidential election. It might be worthwhile to remember that it was the US Supreme Court that basically decided to put George Bush, and not Al Gore, in the White House in a 5-4 decision eloquently, but incorrectly, authored by the just-deceased and widely admired justice, Antonin Scalia.

Time and time again we, Americans, keep referring to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 as a mistake; almost in unanimity: Democrats and Republicans. But it was not a mistake, not by a long shot! It was a calculated, belligerent act by a government clique of elitist war-hawks, Bush-Junior and Dick Cheney at the top of the criminal heap. Fortunately for these American leaders, and unfortunately for the rest of us, only leaders from nations vanquished are indicted and go to trial. If the Axis had prevailed in World War II, and we were living in Hitler’s Millennium, there would not have been those Nuremberg Trials (1945-9), or the subsequent enactment of important, critical international law, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), or the Geneva Convention (1949). No, no gallows for Bush and Cheney… only admiration from fools!

Why Bombings Don't Change Strategy

Reality Check
A daily explanation of what matters and what doesn't in the world of geopolitics.
Feb. 18, 2016
By Kamran Bokhari
If it bleeds, it leads – but does it matter?
On Feb. 17, a bomb exploded in Turkey’s capital, killing 28 people and wounding 61 others. This, by itself, is not a geopolitically significant development. Whether or not this attack turns out to be the handiwork of Kurdish rebels, events like these do not matter in the larger scheme of things. The more significant issue is how Turkey will manage the various challenges (in particular the Islamic State) that await it in Syria and limit the fighting’s spillover into Turkish territory. 

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack that targeted a convoy of military buses near the headquarters of the Turkish Armed Forces, parliament and other key government buildings. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said that authorities were investigating the matter but suspicion has fallen on Kurdish separatist group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK and other groups, like the Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (TAK), have attacked Turkish military buses before. In the wake of the bombing, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan cancelled his trip to Azerbaijan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu canceled his visit to Brussels. 

Most terrorist attacks attract a great deal of media attention, but very few of them – such as those on the scale of 9/11 – really have an impact on how global events unfold. Take for example the recent IS attacks in Paris. As terrible as they were in terms of casualties, they did not alter much. Europe was already tampering with the Schengen zone and the French were already carrying out airstrikes in Syria. 

Russia Has Built SIGINT Variant of Its Latest Surveillance Drone

Nikolai Novichkov
February 18, 2016

Russia creates SIGINT payloads for Granat-4 UAV

The Russian Granat-4 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Source: Nikolai Novichkov

Russia has designed new payloads for its Granat-4 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to allow it to act as a signals intelligence (SIGINT) platform.

Currently the tactical UAV is used for photo reconnaissance and artillery spotting/targeting. The new payloads allow the Granat-4 to conduct SIGINT roles such as radio monitoring, signals collection, and signal direction, as well as the ability to act as a radio relay for friendly forces.

A Granat-4 unmanned air system (UAS) comprises two UAVs, a set of replaceable payload modules, a starter, a charging and refuelling station for the UAVs, a ground control post on the basis of the KAMAZ-4350 truck with the 4350D-11 van-type body, two transportation containers, and a demountable catapult.

The Granat-4 UAV has a maximum take-off weight of 30 kg, a maximum payload weight of 3 kg, a length of 2.4 m, a wing span of 3.2 m, a cruising speed of 90 km/h, a maximum speed of 145 km/h, an operational range of up to 70 km, and a maximum flight altitude of 11,500 ft.

Apple v. FBI in New Encryption Battle Has Massive Privacy Implications for Americans

February 18, 2016

Privacy vs security at heart of Apple phone decrypt order

A court order demanding that Apple Inc help the U.S. government unlock the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters is shaping up as a crucial test case of how far the government can go in forcing technology companies to help security and intelligence investigations.

Law enforcement agencies have for years faced off against tech firms and privacy advocates over their ability to monitor digital communications, and the government to date has largely lost the battle.

But the specific circumstances of the San Bernardino case, a young married couple who sympathized with Islamic State militants and killed 14 people and wounded 22 others in a shooting rampage at a holiday party, could give government officials the legal precedent they need to reverse the tide.

A federal judge in Los Angeles on Tuesday ordered Apple to provide “reasonable technical assistance” to investigators seeking to read the data on an iPhone 5C that had been used by Rizwan Farook, who along with his wife, Tashfeen Malik, carried out the shootings.

The government argues that the iPhone is a crucial piece of evidence. But civil liberties groups warn that forcing companies to crack their own encryption endangers the technical integrity of the Internet and threatens not just the privacy of customers but potentially that of citizens of any country.


FEBRUARY 16, 2016

Facts on the ground change so quickly in Syria that one could be forgiven for suffering whiplash. Still in December of last year we were reading headlines that depicted a lackluster Russian military campaign, unable to change much on the ground for the fledgling Syrian Arab Army. Not long after the winter holidays, the opposite appears to be true. Moscow seems to be making strategic gains and has seized the momentum on the ground. Just a few months ago, in early October 2015, President Obama stated, “An attempt by Russia to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work.” As Syrian forces surround Aleppo, backed by the Russian military on the ground and in the air, it is hard to square the situation in Syria with those predictions. Thus far, the Russian quagmire in Syria has not materialized.

Big data: Getting a better read on performance

By Jacques Bughin

The benefits match those of earlier technology cycles, but companies must scale up their data-analytics skills to reap the gains. 

Over the past several years, many companies have avidly pursued the promised benefits of big data and advanced analytics. In a recent McKinsey survey of executives in this field, nearly all of them said that their organizations had made significant investments, from data warehouses to analytics programs.1But practitioners have raised questions about the magnitude and timing of the returns on such investments. In 2014, for example, we conducted a poll of senior executives and found that they had seen only modest revenue and cost improvements from them in the previous year.2

Our latest research investigated the returns on big data investments for a random sample of 714 companies around the world, encompassing a mix of industries and company sizes typical of most advanced economies.3Our findings paint a more nuanced picture of data analytics. When we evaluated its profitability and value-added productivity benefits, we found that they appear to be substantial—similar, in fact, to those experienced during earlier periods of intense IT investment. Our results indicated that to produce these significant returns, companies need to invest substantially in data-analytics talent and in big data IT capabilities.4

Yet we also found that while data-analytics investments significantly increased value-added or operating profits, the simple revenue impact for consumer companies was considerably lower. This finding, mirrored among B2B companies on the cost side, appears to confirm the intuition of executives struggling to uncover simple performance correlations. The time frame of the analysis also seems to be important, since broader performance improvements from large-scale investments in data-analytics talent often don’t appear right away. 
Analyzing data analytics 

Obama in Havana: Turn Back to Human Rights

February 18, 2016

Earlier this week, President Obama announced plans to visit Cuba in March. Logically—and more importantly—strategically, the visit makes no sense.

Mr. Obama and General Raul Castro have already met. Their famous handshake occurred last year, at the Summit of the Americas.

Today, a little over year after the president’s radical shift in Cuba policy, conditions have not improved for the Cuban people. The government has not loosened its grip on the economy. Octogenarian generals are still the titans of Cuban industry. Human rights activists face heightened levels of repression. As for the political system, Raul Castro has vowed that Cuba will remain a communist nation.

Proponents of the president’s policy shift have praised his decision to visit the island. What they fail to acknowledge, though, is that this decision reveals the true intent of his Cuba policy: the legitimization of the Castro regime.

Will Iran Continue Its Nuclear Program Abroad?

February 19, 2016

Debate surrounding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) tends to focus on the deal itself, its strengths, weaknesses and the prospects for successful implementation. Experts have discussed whether the deal—even if upheld—means that Iran will be prevented from developing a nuclear weapon forever, or whether it merely delays Iran on its path to a workable nuclear capability. While the P5+1 insist the deal stops Iran forever, serious doubts have been raised regarding the political will of these powers to hold Iran to its commitments, especially given their apparent hesitation to arouse Iran’s ire, thus endangering the deal.

But one issue has been sorely missing from the discussion: the prospect that Iran might continue important work on a nuclear weapons capability beyond the bounds of the agreement, and even beyond the borders of Iran itself. Indeed, there is a strong possibility that Iran will continue to benefit from North Korea's nuclear advances, and some of Iran's nuclear activities might take place in North Korea itself, using the hermit state as a convenient backyard.

Spin City: America's President-Making Machine

February 18, 2016

SPIN. This sibilant, hissing little word slithered its way into the national lexicon during the 1988 presidential campaign, David Greenberg tells us in his splendid and important new book on the public relations of American politics. Minions and factotums dashed out the vomitoria of the debate arenas to assert victory to the cameras and microphones on behalf of their respective clients, George H.W. Bush or Michael Dukakis. Thus was born “Spin Alley.”

The next election cycle gave us Bill Clinton and the era of “it depends what your definition of ‘is’ is.” (Clinton was a product of a good Jesuit education at Georgetown, we sometimes forget.) Then we had the testosterone-flavored spin of George W. and “Mission Accomplished,” followed by Barack Obama and the Zen-like “spin of no spin.” (Whatever that means.) Those ur-spinners of 1988 triggered a butterfly effect: a quarter century on, the fluttering of their lips has created a hurricane of spin. No one seems able to decide for sure if there really were thousands of Muslims in New Jersey on 9/11, cheering and jeering as the towers came down. Maybe it doesn’t really matter. Donald Trump insists he saw those bastards cheering. On TV! Even if no one else did. And if you don’t agree with him, he doesn’t give a damn. Let the hurricane blow. Hold onto your hats with one hand, and with the other, turn the pages of Greenberg’s book to find out how on earth we got here.

Ten Reasons Putin System May Not Be As ‘Sustainable’ As Many Now Think – OpEd

FEBRUARY 18, 2016

In an interview with Tomsk television, Mariya Snegovaya points to ten reasons why in her view the Putin system may not be nearly as “sustainable” as many now think given that the fall in oil prices has not led to an immediate effort to over throw the Kremlin leader.

But oil prices have not been low for very long, the Russian scholar who now works at Columbia University in New York says; and consequently one should not dismiss the impact the declines in income are having on various Russian groups and hence on the strength of the regime 

In the course of her interview taken by Yuliya Muchnik, Snegovaya offers the following ten reasons for thinking that the regime is ever less sustainable in its current form:

Protest attitudes are growing and Russians are not nearly as distracted as they were by foreign policy victories “’on all fronts.’” Instead, they are focusing on their personal situations and are upset by the decline in their standard of living and opportunities.

Polls show that the share of Russians approving Putin and other parts of the Russian government is falling, admittedly not be a large number yet but the trend is clear.

The huge, hidden upside to low oil prices

February 18, 2016 

A Malawian subsistence farmer in her corn fields. Southern Africa is facing a historically bad harvest. 

Oil prices just keep falling and crashing into things on their way down. It seems like every day another country gets a bill for damages: Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Russia, the UK. While the global economy’s biggest players are reeling, there is a less visible group of people who stand to benefit tremendously: those without enough to eat.

The security of the world’s poor is inseparable from the price they pay for food, especially the grains that constitute most of their diet. Oil prices are a significant factor in determining the price of other commodities, including food. Tractors and other farm machinery require fuel, as does the manufacture of fertilizer. Once crops are harvested, oil prices dictate the transportation costs to get them to market, whether that’s down a highway or over an ocean.

For the last decade volatility in food prices has made food security more complex than ever. Price spikes in 2007 and 2008 led to civil unrest in many developing countries. In 2011, that volatility led Oxfam to describe the global food system as “broken.”

Global grain prices have returned to levels from before the price shocks, and some believe they are beginning to stabilize. (Futures prices are also way down.) Steve Wiggins, a research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), says that three changes are acting to moderate prices: 

Hackers Offering Corporate Insiders Money In Return for Confidential Login and Password Information

Scott Stewart
February 18, 2016

When Cyber Security Is an Inside Threat

According to a recent article by Business Insider, hackers in Ireland, stymied by Apple’s information systems security, are taking another approach to gain access to the corporation’s data. They are offering Apple employees up to 20,000 euros for valid login credentials. While not all approaches to insiders are so overt, this case nevertheless serves as a great reminder that malicious actors are actively recruiting insiders to exploit their status.

Beyond that, it demonstrates that the insider threat is not just confined to an Edward Snowden type who steals a mass of data in one swoop before leaving the company. Insiders can pose a far more subtle and enduring threat. Because of this, we should think beyond Snowden when considering how insider threats can manifest.
Thinking About Insider Threats

It’s important when considering insider cyber threats to not let the cyber element distract from the basic problem; hacking is still fundamentally theft of information. In fact, I would encourage security managers to think about these insider threats much as they would any other sort of corporate or government espionage.

Why the Silence by Silicon Valley Corporate Giants to Apple’s Refusal to Help FBI Break iPhone Encryption

Nick Wingfield and Mike Isaac
February 18, 2016

Apple Letter on iPhone Security Draws Muted Tech Industry Response

After a federal court ordered Apple to help unlock an iPhone used by an attacker in a December mass shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., the company’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, penned a passionate letter warning of far-reaching implications beyond the case.

The response from other technology companies? A mix of carefully calibrated support and crickets.

Late on Wednesday, Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google, said on Twitterthat law enforcement demands to hack customer devices and data “could be a troubling precedent.” Not long afterward, Reform Government Surveillance, a coalition formed by Apple, Google, Microsoft and Facebook, released a broad statement that did not mention the Apple case or Mr. Cook’s letter but said technology companies should not be required to put “back doors” — the equivalent of a tech entryway — into their products.

Asked about Apple’s opposition to the court order, representatives of Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook declined to comment. A spokesman for Amazon, which is not in the coalition, also declined to comment.

The range of reactions highlights the complicated set of factors influencing tech companies’ responses to government demands for customer data in the era after revelations by Edward J. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor, of widespread government surveillance. Some companies may be keeping their heads low to avoid becoming targets during the raucous presidential campaign, while others may fear that being too vocal will jeopardize government sales and relationships with law enforcement, privacy experts said.

Intel Agencies: Iran Expected t Conduct First Space Launch This Month

Bill Gertz
February 18, 2016

Pending Iranian Space Launch Contrary to U.N. Nuclear Resolution

Iran is expected to conduct a rocket test this month in violation of the recent UN resolution on the Iranian nuclear deal that bans long-range missile tests, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Intelligence agencies are closely watching preparations in Iran to test a Simorgh space launch vehicle that U.S. officials say is the base for Tehran’s covert program to develop long-range nuclear missiles.

The large liquid-fueled rocket was developed with North Korean technology and was observed on a launch pad at the Semnan satellite launch center, located about 125 miles east of Tehran.

UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which outlines implementation of the recent Iranian nuclear agreement, prohibits Iran from conducting nuclear ballistic missile tests for the next eight years.

The resolution, passed in July, states in Annex B that Iran will not “undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”

Karl Rove's Gilded Age

February 19, 2016

THESE ARE trying times for Karl Rove, and for the “big-government” Republicanism he did so much to create and promote. In November it will be ten years since his first major political defeat, the 2006 midterm disaster that gave the Democrats majorities in both the Senate and the House, halting the “rolling realignment” Rove had predicted two years before after the narrow reelection of his boss, George W. Bush. In August 2007, with the house of cards collapsing, Rove, its “architect,” slipped out the side exit, just ahead of Senate investigators looking at his part in the mass firing of U.S. Attorneys in what Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said were “apparent attempts to manipulate elections and push out prosecutors citing bogus claims of voter fraud.” The freshman senator Barack Obama, asked to comment on Rove’s legacy, suggested that he had, after all, been a master builder—of “a political strategy that has left the country more divided, the special interests more powerful and the American people more shut out from their government than any time in memory.”

Papal Bull: Why Is Francis Trying to Smackdown Trump?

February 18, 2016

With Pope Francis essentially condemning Donald Trump as unchristian, the U.S. presidential race has taken another bizarre turn. The Pope had already held a Mass at the border between Mexico and America. Next, while flying back to Rome, he goaded Trump further. He said that the true gospel is that “building walls” is “not in the gospel.” He added, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

That’s true enough, I suppose, for Israelis whose wall has effectively stanched terrorism emanating from West Bank. But the truth is that when it comes to the American election, this is nothing but papal bull. Since when does the Vatican get to determine how Americans should vote?

Of course Francis says that a smackdown of Trump isn’t really his aim and that he’ll “give him the benefit of the doubt” (not that Trump seems to be asking for it). “As far as what you said about whether I would advise to vote or not to vote, I am not going to get involved in that,” Francis said.

Tighe: Navy making progress on executing cyber plans

Amber Corrin,
February 18, 2016 

A year after the head of Navy cyber operations rolled out key goals for operating in cyberspace, the service has made encouraging progress. But many challenges remain ahead as the service works to operate the network as a war fighting platform, shrink the attack surface and provide defense in depth.

Vice Adm. Jan Tighe listed a number of Navy Fleet Cyber's top priorities, including understanding the environment, necessary tools and capabilities; partnering and sharing key information with the right people; building cyber situational awareness; and propelling the cyber workforce.

“Cyberspace, the electromagnetic spectrum and even space…is a very chaotic and disruptive place on a daily basis. How do we prevent ourselves from simply reacting?" Tighe said Feb. 17 at the West 2016 conference in San Diego, California. “Beyond the bounds of Fleet Cyber Command — for us to look internally at ourselves and only be focused on our performance, accomplishments [and] progress is not sufficient to deal with that chaotic and evolving world. So we need to talk about how we form partnerships and partner with each other in a way that’s productive.”

David Ignatius: The menace in the war machine

February 17, 2016

Data security could be a problem going forward


MUNICH — The Munich Security Conference is an annual catalog of horrors. But the most ominous discussion last weekend wasn’t about Islamic State terrorism but a new generation of weapons — such as killer robots and malignly programmed “smart” appliances that could be deployed in a future conflict.

Behind the main events at the annual discussion of foreign and defense policy here was a topic described in one late-night session as “The Future of Warfare: Race with the Machines.” The premise was that we are at the dawn of a new era of conflict in which all wars will be, to some extent, cyber wars, and new weapons will combine radical advances in hardware, software and even biology.

Espen Barth Eide, the former foreign minister of Norway, imagined a future weapon that fuses GPS guidance, facial-recognition technology and artificial intelligence and can be programmed like an electronic hit man. Kenneth Roth, the head of Human Rights Watch, noted the advantages of such “killer robots” for military planners: They don’t get tired, they wouldn’t get scared, and they would exercise consistent, if merciless, judgment.

Operation NITRO ZEUS: US' Cyber War Plan to Destroy All of Iran's Infrastructure

Feb 17, 2016 

Stuxnet was only a small virus, the US had bigger weapons

Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney will be premiering today his latest documentary at the Berlin film festival. The documentary is called "Zero Days" and is an investigation into a top-secret US plan dubbed NITRO ZEUS.

A copy of the documentary has been provided to BuzzFeed, along with other US-based media agencies, who report that things go much deeper than the Stuxnet attack against Iran's nuclear facilities.

According to Mr. Gibney, Stuxnet was initially developed by US cyber-intelligence agencies as a way to infiltrate multiple industrial control systems. It was a generic threat that could target far more than just nuclear facilities.

It all started with Stuxnet 

The Stuxnet worm was shared with Israel's intelligence agencies, who modified it on their own and in 2009 deployed it against Iranian targets without the US' consent.

The worm was carried inside Iranian nuclear power plants via a USB stick and ended up sabotaging 20% of the centrifuges used for separating nuclear material in the country.