Meet the New Authoritarian Masters of the Internet

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Getty Images

Breitbart, by John Hayward, Sept. 29, 2016:

President Barack Obama’s drive to hand off control of Internet domains to a foreign multi-national operation will give some very unpleasant regimes equal say over the future of online speech and commerce.

In fact, they are likely to have much more influence than America, because they will collectively push hard for a more tightly controlled Internet, and they are known for aggressively using political and economic pressure to get what they want.

Here’s a look at some of the regimes that will begin shaping the future of the Internet in just a few days, if President Obama gets his way.

China

China wrote the book on authoritarian control of online speech. The legendary “Great Firewall of China” prevents citizens of the communist state from accessing global content the Politburo disapproves of. Chinese technology companies are required by law to provide the regime with backdoor access to just about everything.

The Chinese government outright banned online news reporting in July, granting the government even tighter control over the spread of information. Websites are only permitted to post news from official government sources. Chinese online news wasn’t exactly a bastion of freedom before that, of course, but at least the government censors had to track down news stories they disliked and demand the site administrators take them down.

Unsurprisingly, the Chinese Communists aren’t big fans of independent news analysis or blogging, either. Bloggers who criticize the government are liable to be charged with “inciting subversion,” even when the writer in question is a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Chinese citizens know better than to get cheeky on social media accounts, as well. Before online news websites were totally banned, they were forbidden from reporting news gathered from social media, without government approval. Spreading anything the government decides is “fake news” is a crime.

In a report labeling China one of the worst countries for Internet freedom in the world, Freedom House noted they’ve already been playing games with Internet registration and security verification:

The China Internet Network Information Center was found to be issuing false digital security certificates for a number of websites, including Google, exposing the sites’ users to “man in the middle” attacks.

The government strengthened its real-name registration laws for blogs, instant-messaging services, discussion forums, and comment sections of websites.

A key feature of China’s online censorship is that frightened citizens are not entirely certain what the rules are. Huge ministries work tirelessly to pump out content regulations and punish infractions. Not all of the rules are actually written down. As Foreign Policy explained:

Before posting, a Chinese web user is likely to consider basic questions about how likely a post is to travel, whether it runs counter to government priorities, and whether it calls for action or is likely to engender it. Those answers help determine whether a post can be published without incident — as it is somewhere around 84 percent or 87 percent of the time — or is instead likely to lead to a spectrum of negative consequences varying from censorship, to the deletion of a user’s account, to his or her detention, even arrest and conviction.

This was accompanied by a flowchart demonstrating “what gets you censored on the Chinese Internet.” It is not a simple flowchart.

Beijing is not even slightly self-conscious about its authoritarian control of the Internet. On the contrary, their censorship policies are trumpeted as “Internet sovereignty,” and they aggressively believe the entire world should follow their model, as the Washington Post reported in a May 2016 article entitled “China’s Scary Lesson to the World: Censoring the Internet Works.”

China already has a quarter of the planet’s Internet users locked up behind the Great Firewall. How can anyone doubt they won’t use the opportunity Obama is giving them, to pursue their openly stated desire to lock down the rest of the world?

Russia

Russia and China are already working together for a more heavily-censored Internet.Foreign Policy reported one of Russia’s main goals at an April forum was to “harness Chinese expertise in Internet management to gain further control over Russia’s internet, including foreign sites accessible there.”

Russia’s “top cop,” Alexander Bastrykin, explicitly stated Russia needs to stop “playing false democracy” and abandon “pseudo-liberal values” by following China’s lead on Internet censorship, instead of emulating the U.S. example. Like China’s censors, Russian authoritarians think “Internet freedom” is just coded language for the West imposing “cultural hegemony” on the rest of the world.

Just think what Russia and China will be able to do about troublesome foreign websites, once Obama surrenders American control of Internet domains!

Russian President Vladimir Putin has “chipped away at Internet freedom in Russia since he returned to the Kremlin in 2012,” as International Business Times put it in a 2014 article.

One of Putin’s new laws requires bloggers with over 3,000 readers to register with the government, providing their names and home addresses. As with China, Russia punishes online writers for “spreading false information,” and once the charge is leveled, it’s basically guilty-until-proven-innocent. For example, one of the “crimes” that can get a blogger prosecuted in Russia is alleging the corruption of a public official, without ironclad proof.

Human-rights group Agora estimates that Russian Internet censorship grew by 900% in 2015 alone, including both court orders and edicts from government agencies that don’t require court approval. Censorship was expected to intensify even further throughout 2016. Penalties include prison time, even for the crime of liking or sharing banned content on social media.

Putin, incidentally, has described the entire Internet as a CIA plot designed to subvert regimes like his. There will be quite a few people involved in the new multi-national Internet control agency who think purging the Web of American influence is a top priority.

The Russian government has prevailed upon Internet Service Providers to block opposition websites during times of political unrest, in addition to thousands of bans ostensibly issued for security, crime-fighting, and anti-pornography purposes.

Many governments follow the lead of Russia and China in asserting the right to shut down “extremist” or “subversive” websites. In the United States, we worry about law enforcement abusing its authority while battling outright terrorism online, arguing that privacy and freedom of speech must always be measured against security, no matter how dire the threat. In Russia, a rough majority of the population has no problem with the notion of censoring the Internet in the name of political stability, and will countenance absolutely draconian controls against perceived national security threats. This is a distressingly common view in other nations as well: stability justifies censorship and monitoring, not just physical security.

Turkey

Turkey’s crackdown on the Internet was alarming even before the aborted July coup attempt against authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey has banned social media sites, including temporary bans against even giants like Facebook and YouTube, for political reasons. Turkish dissidents are accustomed to such bans coming down on the eve of elections. The Turkish telecom authority can impose such bans without a court order, or a warning to offending websites.

Turkey is often seen as the world leader in blocking Twitter accounts, in addition to occasionally shutting the social media service down completely, and has over a 100,000 websites blacklisted. Criticizing the government online can result in anything from lost employment to criminal charges. And if you think social-media harassment from loyal supporters of the government in power can get pretty bad in the U.S., Turks sometimes discover that hassles from pro-regime trolls online are followed by visits from the police.

Turkish law infamously makes it a crime to insult the president, a law Erdogan has already attempted to impose beyond Turkey’s borders. One offender found himself hauled into court for creating a viral meme – the sort of thing manufactured by the thousands every hour in America – that noted Erdogan bore a certain resemblance to Gollum from Lord of the Rings. The judge in his case ordered expert testimony on whether Gollum was evil to conclusively determine whether the meme was an illegal insult to the president.

The Turkish example introduces another idea common to far too many of the countries Obama wants to give equal say over the future of the Internet: intimidation is a valid purpose for law enforcement. Many of Turkey’s censorship laws are understood to be mechanisms for intimidating dissidents, raising the cost of free speech enough to make people watch their words very carefully. “Think twice before you Tweet” might be good advice for some users, but regimes like Erdogan’s seek to impose that philosophy on everyone. This runs strongly contrary to the American understanding of the Internet as a powerful instrument that lowers the cost of speech to near-zero, the biggest quantum leap for free expression in human history. Zero-cost speech is seen as a big problem by many of the governments that will now place strong hands upon the global Internet rudder.

Turkey is very worried about “back doors” that allow citizens to circumvent official censorship, a concern they will likely bring to Internet control, along with like-minded authoritarian regimes. These governments will make the case that a free and open Internet is a direct threat to their “sovereign right” to control what their citizens read. As long as any part of the Internet remains completely free, no sector can be completely controlled.

Saudi Arabia

The Saudis aren’t too far behind China in the Internet rankings by Freedom House. Dissident online activity can bring jail sentences, plus the occasional public flogging.

This is particularly lamentable because Saudi Arabia is keenly interested in modernization, and sees the Internet as a valuable economic resource, along with a thriving social media presence. Freedom House notes the Internet “remains the least repressive space for expression in the country,” but “it is by no means free.”

“While the state focuses on combatting violent extremism and disrupting terrorist networks, it has clamped down on nonviolent liberal activists and human rights defenders with the same zeal, branding them a threat to the national order and prosecuting them in special terrorism tribunals,” Freedom House notes.

USA Today noted that as of 2014, Saudi Arabia had about 400,000 websites blocked, “including any that discuss political, social or religious topics incompatible with the Islamic beliefs of the monarchy.”

At one point the blacklist included the Huffington Post, which was banned for having the temerity to run an article suggesting the Saudi system might “implode” because of oil dependency and political repression. The best response to criticism that your government is too repressive is a blacklist!

The Saudis have a penchant for blocking messaging apps and voice-over-IP services, like Skype and Facetime. App blocking got so bad that Saudi users have been known to ask, “What’s the point of having the Internet?”

While some Saudis grumble about censorship, many others are active, enthusiastic participants in enforcement, filing hundreds of requests each day to have websites blocked. Religious figures supply many of these requests, and the government defends much of its censorship as the defense of Islamic values.

As with other censorious regimes, the Saudi monarchy worries about citizens using web services beyond its control to evade censorship, a concern that will surely be expressed loudly once America surrenders its command of Internet domains.

For the record, the Saudis’ rivals in Iran are heavy Internet censors too, with Stratfor listing them as one of the countries seeking Chinese assistance for “solutions on how best to monitor the Iranian population.”

North Korea

You can’t make a list of authoritarian nightmares without including the psychotic regime in Pyongyang, the most secretive government in the world.

North Korea is so repressive the BBC justly puts the word “Internet” in scare quotes, to describe the online environment. It doesn’t really interconnect with anything, except government propaganda and surveillance. Computers in the lone Internet cafe in Pyongyang actually boot up to a customized Linux operating system called “Red Star,” instead of Windows or Mac OS. The calendar software in Red Star measures the date from the birth of Communist founder Kim Il-sung, rather than the birth of Christ.

The “Internet” itself is a closed system called Kwangmyong, and citizens can only access it through a single state-run provider, with the exception of a few dozen privileged families that can punch into the real Internet.

Kwangmyong is often compared to the closed “intranet” system in a corporate office, with perhaps 5,000 websites available at most. Unsurprisingly, the content is mostly State-monitored messaging and State-supplied media. Contributors to these online services have reportedly been sent to re-education camps for typos. The North Koreans are so worried about outside contamination of their closed network that they banned wi-fi hotspots at foreign embassies, having noticed information-starved North Korean citizens clustering within range of those beautiful, uncensored wireless networks.

This doesn’t stop South Koreans from attempting cultural penetration of their squalid neighbor’s dismal little online network. Lately they’ve been doing it by loading banned information onto cheap memory sticks, tying them to balloons, and floating them across the border.

Sure, North Korea is the ultimate totalitarian nightmare, and since they have less than two thousand IP addresses registered in the entire country, the outlaw regime won’t be a big influence on Obama’s multi-national Internet authority, right?

Not so fast. As North Korea expert Scott Thomas Bruce told the BBC, authoritarian governments who are “looking at what is happening in the Middle East” see North Korea as a model to be emulated.

“They’re saying rather than let in Facebook, and rather than let in Twitter, what if the government created a Facebook that we could monitor and control?” Bruce explained.

Also, North Korea has expressed some interest in using the Internet as a tool for economic development, which means there would be more penetration of the actual global network into their society. They’ll be very interested in censoring and controlling that access, and they’ll need a lot more registered domains and IP addresses… the very resource Obama wants America to surrender control over.

Bottom line: contrary to left-wing cant, there is such a thing as American exceptionalism – areas in which the United States is demonstrably superior to every other nation, a leader to which the entire world should look for examples. Sadly, our society is losing its fervor for free expression, and growing more comfortable with suppressing “unacceptable” speech, but we’re still far better than anyone else in this regard.

The rest of the world, taken in total, is very interested in suppressing various forms of expression, for reasons ranging from security to political stability and religion. Those governments will never be comfortable, so long as parts of the Internet remain outside of their control. They have censorship demands they consider very reasonable, and absolutely vital. The website you are reading right now violates every single one of them, on a regular basis.

There may come a day we can safely remand control of Internet domains to an international body, but that day is most certainly not October 1, 2016.

***

Technology CEOs Shamefully Lubricate Internet’s Surrender by Frank Gaffney

Congress has just showed why so many Americans are sick of their politicians and ready to throw the bums out. The Senate and House leadership have agreed to President Obama’s surrender of your Internet to freedom’s enemies.

The deed was done yesterday when Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pushed through the Senate a funding bill without a prohibition on the Internet give-away.  The House is expected to rubber stamp it today.

Political cover came from something called the Technology CEO Council.  This group of interested parties, whose lobbyists give generously to politicians’ campaigns, blithely assured Congress: “Placing stewardship of these technical but important functions beyond the control of any one government or group of governments will best secure the principles of Internet freedom and de-politicization of technology.”

Shame on the CEOs for disseminating such transnational rubbish – and the Congress for swallowing it.

***

How America Will Be Attacked: Irregular Warfare, the Islamic State, Russia, and China

mr-article2bThe Gorka Briefing, by Dr. Sebastian Gorka, Aug. 26, 2016:

An article I wrote that was published in the latest issue of Military Review: The Professional Journal of the US Army. The articles is a primer on the roots of unconventional war theories behind the current Islamic insurgency being conducted by the Islamic State, Russia’s current approach to warfare, and the progress of Chinese unrestricted warfare.

HOW AMERICA WILL BE ATTACKED: IRREGULAR WARFARE, THE ISLAMIC STATE, RUSSIA, AND CHINA

“[The Future Operating Environment] “will feature the erosion of sovereignty, weakened developing states, the empowerment of small groups or individuals, and an increasingly contested narrative environment favoring agile nonstate actors and state actors demonstrating persistent proficiency in the irregular domain.” —ARSOF Operating Concept: Future Operating Environment, U.S. Army Special Operations Command

“You may not be interested in War but War is interested in you.”—Apocryphally attributed to Leon Trotsky

As this paper is being written, the U.S. national security establishment is under significant internal and external pressures: internally from the consequences of prosecuting the longest war in the Republic’s history, which has seen unprecedented post-Cold War operational tempos, matched by constant downsizing of our forces and sustainment budgets; externally from the events occurring in the Middle East, North Africa, Asia, and Africa, which has included the rise the Islamic State (IS), the most powerful jihadist organization of the modern age, and the concurrent displacement of more than sixty-five million refugees, a historic world record surpassing even World War II. These pressures are not going to abate, which will most probably lead to the reality of our armed forces having to accomplish more missions with less resources.

At the same time, both nonstate and nation-state adversaries of the United States who have become supremely adept at exploiting irregular warfare (IW) and unconventional modes of attack will exploit these forces. This article is an introduction to three of the most important enemies we face today and who we will also face in the future, and how these actors use IW and unconventional warfare (UW) against our interests: the Islamic State, China, and Russia. . . . (read the article)

Listen to John Batchelor interview with Dr. Sebastian Gorka:

isis-beheading

ISIS & Mao: Institutionalizing Savagery.

“Phase One: The Vexation Phase (IS four years

ago). In the initial stage the jihadist organization will

apply IW to execute dramatic terror attacks against

the infidel and his regional partners. The goal here is to

attrit and weaken the infidel and apostate governments

and prepare the battlespace for Phase Two….”

http://thegorkabriefing.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/militaryreview_20161031_sg.pdf

https://www.joomag.com/magazine/military-review-english-edition-september-october-2016/0635488001471895116?page=42

About Obama’s Receding Tide of War…

obama-work-here-is-done-610x400PJ MEDIA, BY CLAUDIA ROSETT,  APRIL 19, 2016:

Years ago, looking out at the Pacific surf from a beach in Chile, a friend — alert to the ways of tsunamis — gave me some advice about what to do if suddenly the water all went away. “Run. Run for your life. Because it’s all coming back.”

That advice has come to mind all too often since President Obama made his 2012 reelection campaign proclamations about the receding tide of war. Not that the tide of war has receded anywhere except perhaps in the fantasies of Obama and his followers. But after more than seven years of U.S. policy predicated on such propaganda, it’s getting ever harder to read the daily headlines without the sense that there’s a deluge coming our way.

Just a modest sampling of some of the latest warning signs:

— Russian warplanes have been demonstrating that they can with impunity buzz our military aircraft and ships. Which is by now no surprise, because Russian President Vladimir Putin has already learned — in the flexible era of the Obama “reset” — that the U.S. is no serious obstacle to such stunts as Russia swiping the entire territory of Crimea from Ukraine, moving back into the Middle East, propping up Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and offering fugitive Edward Snowden a home after the grand hack of the National Security Agency.

— China, while brushing off U.S. protests, keeps pushing its power plays and territorial grabs in East Asia — and has just landed a military jet on an island it has built, complete with runway, in the South China Sea.

— Iran, having pocketed the Obama-legacy rotten nuclear deal, has continued testing ballistic missiles, with Iran’s Fars News Agency advertising that two of the missiles launched just last month were emblazoned in Hebrew with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out.” Presumably these missiles are being developed just in case Iran feels a need to propel toward a target some highly unpeaceful products of its “exclusively peaceful” nuclear program? Meantime, Iran is wielding the nuclear agreement itself as a threat. Just this past week, we had the head of Iran’s Central Bank in Washington threatening that Iran will walk away from Obama’s cherished nuclear deal unless the Obama administration provides yet more concessions — in this instance, a U.S. welcome mat for Iran’s banking transactions, so Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, can avail itself of easy access to dollars.

— Saudi authorities have been threatening that if Congress passes a bill allowing the Saudi government to be held responsible for any part in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, they will dump hundreds of billions worth of U.S. assets. (What’s most arresting here is less the prospect of a self-defeating Saudi fire sale on U.S. assets than the reality that the Saudis — beset by everything from relatively low oil prices to regional tumult, including an aggressively expansionist Iran — feel free to try to bully the U.S.).

— And oh, by the way, North Korea, has been visibly preparing for a fifth nuclear test. If they carry it out during the grand window of opportunity provided by Obama’s final nine months in office, this would be the fourth North Korean nuclear test on Obama’s watch. That’s not a good trend, especially given North Korea’s history of marketing its weapons and nuclear know-how to places such as the Middle East.

That’s before we even get to the carnage and refugee flows spilling out of such places as Syria and Libya; such terrorist outfits and networks as ISIS, the Taliban, Hezbollah, al Qaeda…and the mix-and-match extent to which various states not entirely friendly to the U.S. tend to officially deplore terrorism while also sponsoring or abetting it, as convenient.

Obama likes to lecture us that all these things are transient problems, speed bumps on the road to wherever that utopian arc of history finally bends toward some great big pot of justice at the end of the rainbow. In his view, as he told NBC’s Matt Lauer this past January, “there are no existential threats” confronting the U.S. today. Thus, as Fox News reported earlier this month in a superb documentary on “Rising Threats, Shrinking Military,” Obama is both gutting the U.S. military and reshaping it, the priorities here being not to win wars, but to be, above all, eco-aware and gender malleable.

In a televised inteview April 10, with Fox News host Chris Wallace, Obama opinedthat if you just step back and look at the big picture, there’s not much to worry about: “America’s got the best cards. We are the envy of the world. We have the most powerful military on earth, by a mile.”

That’s true, but it’s not a product of Obama’s brand of leadership, and it’s not enough to have the best cards if your leaders are busy throwing them away. America’s greatness is the incredible legacy of many generations of work and sacrifice under a system of capitalism and freedom, and of leaders willing at crucial moments to stand up for this country. It takes a lot of effort to run that down, but this is what Obama has been doing, with the apology tours, the terrible deals, the fading red lines, the hollow speeches, the inert declarations about standing “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the “international community,” the insults to America’s allies and the come-hither courting of America’s enemies.

None of the nations now defying, threatening or bullying America is likely, individually, to win a war with the United States. But collectively, they keep pushing the envelope, and finding no serious resistance. There is every sign that they are learning from each other, emboldening each other, and in some disturbing matters willing to work together. This is how wars start.

On April 17, novelist and political writer Mark Helprin published an important op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, under the headline “The Candidates Ignore Rising Military Dangers,” with the subhed: “Obama is weakening U.S. defenses and credibility, but there’s little debate about the growing risk of war.” The entire article is worth reading. But if you want a quick summary of what’s out there, it’s in the caption to a photo than ran with the piece: “War games last year in southern Russia involved troops from countries including Russia, China, Pakistan and Venezuela.” You can bet, whatever they are preparing for, it is not a receding tide of war.

Frank Gaffney: Erdogan Transformed Turkey into an ‘Islamist Police State’ That Is No Longer a ‘Reliable NATO Ally’

AFP

AFP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, April 15, 2016:

Center for Security Policy founder and Sen. Ted Cruz foreign-policy adviser Frank Gaffney joined host Stephen K. Bannon on Breitbart News Daily Friday morning to talk about the recent proclamation of “Islamic unity” from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose country will now assume the chairmanship of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for two years.

Gaffney argued that Erdogan’s statement was actually an example of taqqiya, the Muslim practice of lying for the greater good of the faith, and Erdogan’s true agenda was Islamic supremacism.

“I think what he’s trying to tell us is different from what he’s trying to tell his own people,” Gaffney said of Erdogan’s proclamation.  “He’s telling us that he’s all about solidarity, and tolerance, and ecumenicalism, and we all need to pull together, and so on.”

“But the main message he’s been sending to his own people, for something like 13 years now, is Islamic supremacism,” Gaffney continued.  “It has nothing to do with [singing] ‘Kumbaya’ with infidels.  It is about forcing them to submit, in the classic tradition ofsharia.

He described Erdogan as “Muslim Brotherhood old Islamist who believes, at the end of the day, that he is going to be the new Caliph.”

“He is going to create a neo-Ottoman Empire.  And anything that is communicated to the West – in various international fora, or through proclamations, or through other means – is what is known, in the traditions of sharia, as taqqiya – that is, essentially, lying for the Faith.  And I think this should be discounted as such,” said Gaffney.

Gaffney explained that it’s not just permitted, but “obligatory,” for followers of the Islamic supremacist doctrine to “dissemble, to deceive the unbeliever, and to use deception as Mohammed did – the perfect Muslim – to triumph over the infidel, and to successfully create conditions under which they will be effectively enslaved, or reduced to a dhimmistatus.”

He thought the Turkish president’s carefully crafted message would play well to Western media and government, which are suffused with the endless hope that “there’s a degree of moderation on the part of people like Erdogan, or others in the Muslim Brotherhood movement – the global jihad movement, for that matter.”

“It just ain’t so,” Gaffney argued.  “This is a guy who has transformed his country, let’s be clear, from a secular democratic nation – a Muslim one to be sure, but definitely in the secular tradition of Ataturk – into what is now an Islamist police state.”

“Particularly people in the press, who are trying to portray this in the most rose-colored glass mode, should understand what he’s doing to the press in Turkey,” Gaffney stressed.  “He’s crushing it, unless it bends to his will.”

He noted that Erdogan is famous for having said “Democracy is like a bus – you take it to your destination, and then you get off.”

“He’s long since gotten off, internally,” Gaffney warned.  “We should be under no illusion: he is not aligned with us.  He is aligned with the Islamists around the world – with Iran, with China, with Hamas of course.  This is a guy who is no longer, in his country, a reliable NATO ally.  And that’s the unvarnished and unhappy truth.”

Breitbart News Daily airs on SiriusXM Patriot 125 weekdays from 6:00AM to 9:00AM EST.

You can listen to the full interview with Frank Gaffney below:

Also see:

Top Intel Officials: U.S. Faces Highest Terror Threat Level Since 9/11

James Clapper / AP

James Clapper / AP

Iran, N. Korea enhancing ties, ISIS more powerful than al Qaeda, terrorists pouring out of Syria

Washington Free Beacon, by Adam Kredo, Feb. 25, 2016:

Top intelligence community officials warned Thursday that the United States faces the highest terrorist threat level since the 9/11 terror attacks, citing a record-breaking increase in the flow of foreign fighters to Syria and Iraq, as well as joint Iranian-North Korean plans to boost “attack capabilities” and other efforts by leading terror groups to increase their offensive capabilities.

As Iran “continues to be the foremost sponsor of terror” across the globe, ISIS has emerged as the “preeminent global terrorist threat,” with its combined strength now exceeding al Qaeda’s, according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who warned lawmakers on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence that “unpredictable instability has become the new normal.”

The United States has never dealt with this type of threat landscape and struggles to ensure it can continue gathering intelligence on these terror groups, which have shown unprecedented proficiency at obfuscating their actions.

Violent extremists now operate in 40 countries, Clapper said. Another seven countries have collapsing governments, and 14 are in danger of falling due to violent instability. An additional 59 countries have been marked as facing “significant risk of instability through 2016,” Clapper said.

Instability in these countries could enable them to become terrorist safe havens, as has been the case in Syria, Clapper said.

“There are now more Sunni [Muslim] violent extremist groups, members of safe havens, than any time in history,” Clapper said, noting that the rate of foreign fighters now traveling to Syria and Iraq is “without precedent.”

At least 38,200 foreign fighters, including 6,900 from Western countries, have made their way to Syria from about 120 different countries since the Syrian conflict began in 2012.

“Returning foreign fighters [to Europe and elsewhere], with first-hand battlefield experience, poses a dangerous operational threat,” Clapper said, citing last year’s massive terrorist attack in Paris.

Meanwhile, threats from global pandemics such as the Zika virus also threaten the U.S. homeland. The U.S. intelligence community expects up to 4 million Zika virus cases in just in the Western hemisphere, Clapper said.

Officials said that as the United States and other countries implement the Iran nuclear agreement, the Islamic Republic strengthens its alliance with terrorist groups and rogue nations such as North Korea.

“Iran continues to be the foremost state sponsor of terror and exert its influence in regional crises in the Mid-East through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, its terrorist partner Lebanese Hezbollah, and proxy groups,” Clapper said. “Iran and Hezbollah remain a continuing terrorist threat to U.S. interests and partners worldwide.”

Intelligence sources have predicted that Iran’s hatred for America will not abate despite the nuclear deal championed by the Obama administration.

“Iran’s supreme leader continues to view the U.S. as a major threat and we assess his views will not change despite the implementation of the [nuclear] deal, the exchange of detainees, and the release of the 10 sailors,” Clapper said.

Technology challenges remain for the U.S. as it seeks to disrupt cyber attacks and infiltrate online terror networks.

Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea continue to collect sensitive data from hacking American networks, Clapper said.

“Targeting collection of the U.S. political, military, economic, and technical information by foreign intelligence services continues unabated,” he said. “Russia and China post the greatest threat, followed by Iran and Cuba on a lesser scale.”

Terrorist groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda have demonstrated an ability to hide their online operations.

“The increased use by violent extremists of encrypted and secure Internet and mobile-based tech has enabled terrorist actors to go dark and serves to undercut intelligence and law enforcement efforts,” Clapper said.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R., Calif.), the intelligence committee’s chairman, expressed concern over the government’s ability to address all of these threats.

“The U.S. faces the highest threat level since the 9/11 attacks,” he said. “The intelligence community is being stretched thin and is overwhelmed by a complex threat matrix.”

Nunes also highlighted several instances of waste, fraud, and abuse in the U.S. defense network.

Whistleblowers have informed Congress that officials at U.S. Central Command have deleted “both files and emails” to hide them from lawmakers.

Additionally, sources have identified billions of dollars in waste and excess spending for programs, including “documentation showing the Department of Defense has provided false information to Congress.”

Several congressional committees are currently investigating this behavior.

***

Worldwide Threat Assessment Conclusion: US Not Safe

2578901768Center for Security Policy, Feb. 12, 2016:

With Claudia Rosett, Fred Fleitz, Dr. Keith Payne, Bill Gertz

CLAUDIA ROSETT, foreign affairs columnist/blogger at Forbes.com and PJ Media: Play in new window | Download

  • Hermit Kingdom developing nuclear missiles that can reach the US
  • Obama Administration and the UN only lobbing words at the Kim Regime
  • South Korea deploying missile defenses and shutting down an industrial park at its Northern border
  • Build up of an axis of nations and groups hostile to the US

FRED FLEITZ, CSP VP for Policy and Programs, former CIA analyst: Podcast (podcast2): Play in new window | Download

  • Intelligence community presenting Congress with its annual Worldwide Threat Assessment
  • James Clapper doesn’t know whether Iran will pursue nuclear weapons or not
  • John Kerry’s diplomacy at it again in Syria’s “suspension of hostilities”
  • Has the Obama Administration deliberately destroyed data on Islamic terrorism inside the US?

Dr. KEITH PAYNE, President and co-founder of the National Institute for Public Policy: Podcast (podcast3): Play in new window | Download

  • New Russian national security strategy
  • The Kremlin’s nuclear weapon “first use” policy
  • Moscow’s long history of violating arms control agreements
  • Putin’s goals of creating the most advanced weaponry man has ever seen

(PART TWO): Podcast (podcast4): Play in new window | Download

  • NATO’s Flexible Response Doctrine compared to Russia’s “escalate to deescalate” doctrine
  • Status of the current US deterrent posture
  • Urgent need to reinvest in the US defense infrastructure

BILL GERTZ, senior editor at the Washington Free Beacon: Podcast (podcast5): Play in new window | Download

  • Congressional threat briefing on Chinese continued cyber espionage
  • Mike Rogers’ Senate testimony on the security of US critical infrastructure
  • Threat of North Korea detonating an EMP device in the atmosphere, rendering the US electric grid useless
  • Intelligence on China upgrading its long range ballistic missiles from one to three warheads
  • US downgrading its Multiple Independently Targetable Missile capacity

Intelligence Director: Al-Qaeda ‘Positioned to Make Gains in 2016’

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper looks at his notes during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about worldwide threats on Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper looks at his notes during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing about worldwide threats on Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

PJ MEDIA, BY BRIDGET JOHNSON, FEBRUARY 9, 2016

The director of national intelligence warned Congress this morning that “unpredictable instabilities have become the new normal, and this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.”

In a briefing of worldwide threats referred to as his “litany of doom,” James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee that “violent extremists” are “operationally active in about 40 countries.”

“Seven countries are experiencing a collapse of central government authority, 14 others face regime-threatening or violent instability or both. Another 59 countries face a significant risk of instability through 2016,” he said.

Russia and China “continue to have the most sophisticated cyber programs” and China continues cyber espionage against the United States.

“Whether China’s commitment of last September moderates its economic espionage” — a vow touted by President Obama — “remains to be seen,” Clapper noted. “Iran and North Korea continue to conduct cyber espionage as they enhance their attack capabilities.”

ISIS, he said, “displays unprecedented online proficiency”and “at least 38,200 foreign fighters, including at least 6,900 from western countries, have traveled to Syria from at least 120 countries since the beginning of the conflict in 2012.”

From 2014 to 2015, the number of ISIS supporters arrested by the FBI increased fivefold.

And despite repeated administration insistence that the “core” of al-Qaeda has been decimated, Clapper said they’ve bounced back just fine, with a network of affiliates “proven resilient despite counterterrorism pressure.”

“Al-Qaeda’s affiliates are positioned to make gains in 2016,” the director said, citing al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the al-Nusra front in Syria as “the two most capable al-Qaeda branches.”

Iran, Clapper noted, “continues to be the foremost state sponsor of terrorism and exert its influence and regional crisis in the Mid East.”

“Through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, its terrorist partner, Lebanese, Hezbollah and proxy groups,” he said. “Iran and Hezbollah remain a continuing terrorist threat to U.S. interest and partners worldwide.”

On the nuclear deal, “Iran probably views the JCPOA as a means to remove sanctions, while preserving nuclear capabilities. Iran’s perception of how the JCPOA helps it to achieve its overall strategic goals will dictate the level of adherence to the agreement over time.”

North Korea “continues to produce fissile material and develop a submarine launched ballistic missile” and is “also committed to developing a long-range nuclear armed missile that’s capable of posing a direct threat to the United States, although the system has not been flight tested,” Clapper continued.

Russia, meanwhile, “continues to have the largest and most capable foreign nuclear-armed ballistic missile force” and China “continues to modernize its nuclear missile force and is striving for a secure, second-strike capability.” Russia and China are also the greatest threats to the U.S. in terms of foreign intelligence, he said.

And despite the Obama administration lauding its deal with the Assad regime after it crossed the “red line” of using chemical weapons as a triumph of democracy that depleted the dictator’s stockpile, “chemical weapons continue to pose a threat to Syria and Iraq.”

“Damascus has used chemicals against the opposition on multiple occasions since Syria joined the Chemical Weapons Convention,” Clapper said. “ISIL has also used toxic chemicals in Iraq and Syria, including the blister agent sulfur mustard, the first time an extremist group has produced and used a chemical warfare agent in an attack since Aum Shinrikyo used sarin in Japan in 1995.”

Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart warned that ISIS “will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe, and attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016.”

In Russia, Stewart noted, “military activity has continued at a historical high.”

“Moscow continues to pursue aggressive foreign and defense policies, including conducting operations in Syria, sustaining involvement in Ukraine and expanding military capabilities in the Arctic. Last year, the Russian military continued its robust exercise schedule and aggressively and occasionally provocative out of area deployments,” he said. “We anticipate similar high levels of military activity in 2016.”

Russian and Chinese cyberattacks “target DOD personnel, networks, supply chain, research and development, and critical structural information in cyber domain.”

Stewart said during questioning from the committee that he does not see Mosul being recaptured from ISIS this year.

“I’m less optimistic in the near-term about Mosul. I think there’s lots of work to be done yet out in the western part. I don’t believe that Ramadi is completely secure, so they have to secure Ramadi. They have to secure the Hit-Haditha corridor in order to have some opportunity to fully encircle and bring all the forces against Mosul,” the DIA director said.

“Mosul will be a complex operation, and so I’m not as optimistic. As you say, it’s a large city. I’m not as optimistic that we’ll be able to turn that in the near-term, in my view, certainly not this year. We may be able to begin the campaign, do some isolation operations around Mosul. But securing or taking Mosul is an extensive operation and not something I see in the next year or so.”

Also see:

General Mattis Critical Of Obama Administration’s Treatment Of US Allies

8bd3121c-ddf3-433f-acc9-58cadfb7d8cenews.ap.org_r620x349Daily Caller, by Kerry Picket, May 14, 2015:

WASHINGTON — Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis told attendees at The Heritage Foundation Wednesday he is concerned the United States is not firmly standing by her global allies.

Mattis replaced General David Petraeus as commander of U.S. Central Command in August 2010 and retired from the Marine Corps in 2013 after 41 years of military service.

Gen. Mattis recalled a meeting he had with the King Abdullah II of Jordan, when the French and British were planning to leave Afghanistan and Mattis confirmed their departure to the king.

“I said, ‘Yeah, that’s right your majesty.’ And he said, ‘Well, let me make sure you understand that our Jordanian troops will be there with you until the last American soldier comes home.’”

Mattis paused for a moment and explained, “You cannot buy allies like that. The way you get allies like that is if you want a friend when you’re in trouble, you need to be a friend when they’re in trouble, and we are not sending that message.”

He went further saying, “I was getting asked the same question in Cairo and Riad as I was being asked in Tel Aviv, and that’s darn near impossible to align them. How much have we aligned them? I had a foreign minister of an Arab country make a point to me when I started wearing this, instead of a uniform.”

“He said, ‘We, today, have more in common with Israel’s foreign policy than we have with America’s.’ That is not a good situation for stability and anyone who wants peace and prosperity and [to] turn over a better world to our children, that is not something we can be proud of,” the retired general noted.

Mattis believes the way the United States is handling global affairs is “not the way the greatest generation dealt with the world around them, and it’s one that we’re going to have to learn to adapt to, or we’re going to end up in a situation where we’re ashamed of what we’re turning over.”

“But leaving allies adrift and having to accommodate less pleasing allies, this is not something that is in America’s best interest,” he said.

When asked by The Daily Caller about his thoughts on the Obama administration’s handling of the Islamic State, he responded, “The president came out and said we didn’t have a strategy on this. I would only endorse what he said. Honesty is honesty. I think the president’s recognized the failing there, and I think if we do not do something to humiliate them and cause havoc, their recruiting and their fundraising will continue apace, so you’ve got to hit them with a shockwave.”

Mattis added, “That’s not just military, and it’s not just covert. It’s a whole lot of things. But again, it goes back to — you’ve got to ask the strategic questions. Is political Islam in our best interests? Let me define it. It’s political Islam as practiced by the mullahs in Tehran for the past 30 years. That’s on the Shia side. It’s political Islam as practiced by the Muslim Brothers, the brothers in Cairo for a year. And if it’s not in our best interest, what are we going to do to come up with that coherent strategy?”

***

Gen. Mattis speaks at about 13 min. into the video. Well worth your time to listen:

DIA: Islamic State Spreading Beyond Syria and Iraq

AP

AP

By Bill Gertz:

The ultra-violent Islamic State terrorist group is expanding beyond Syria and Iraq and is establishing a foothold in Libya, which is becoming a safe haven for terrorists, the nation’s top military intelligence official told Congress Tuesday.

China, meanwhile, is deploying its aircraft carrier-killing DF-21D missile, and Russia is significantly expanding its strategic nuclear forces with new missiles, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart said in testimony to House Armed Services Committee on global threats.

Stewart presented a dire picture of growing threats in Iraq and Afghanistan—where national forces remain unable to defend their countries without foreign assistance, despite billions of U.S. dollars in support and training.

The growing threats posed by China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea are being made more difficult to deal with because of cuts in U.S. defense spending, Stewart said in a prepared statement, noting that recent events, when “taken in aggregate, have created security challenges more diverse and complex than those we have experienced in our lifetimes.”

“Our challenges range from highly capable, near-peer competitors to empowered individuals and the concomitant reduction in our own capacity will make those challenges all the more stressing on our defense and intelligence establishments,” he said.

“This strategic environment will be with us for some time, and the threat’s increasing scope, volatility, and complexity will be the ‘new normal.’”

Said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R., Texas): “I have certainly been struck by the consensus of opinion from our most respected and practiced statesmen that our country faces a strategic environment today more complex, more diverse and in many ways more dangerous than we’ve ever faced before.”

Stewart, who was recently installed as Defense Intelligence Agency director, made the comments in a prepared threat briefing statement along with Mark Chandler, acting Joint Staff director for intelligence and Army Lt. Gen. William Mayville, Joint Staff director for operations.

Topping the list of U.S. security challenges are Iraq and Afghanistan.

The success of the al Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), in seizing territory and foreign military equipment in Iraq gave the Islamist terror group new power to attract militants, both regionally and from the West.

The Islamic State is spreading throughout the Middle East and North Africa, where it is setting up affiliates to rival the traditional al Qaeda terrorist group that also remains capable of conducting attacks, including airline bombings, the DIA chief said.

“Particularly concerning has been the spread of ISIL beyond Syria and Iraq,” Stewart said. “With affiliates in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, the group is beginning to assemble a growing international footprint that includes ungoverned and under governed areas.”

Foreign fighters from the West, many aligned with the Islamic State, continue to flow into and out of Syria and Iraq, which is a worry and the problem is growing, he said.

“In 2015, we expect ISIL to continue its outreach to other elements of the global extremist movement, and to continue benefitting from a robust foreign terrorist fighter flow,” Stewart said.

Stewart said allied airstrikes against IS killed “a number” of its leaders and frustrated the group’s ability to operate openly in Iraq and Syria.

However, the three-star general warned that “we expect ISIL to continue entrenching itself and consolidating gains in Sunni areas of Iraq and Syria while also fighting for territory outside those areas.”

Read more at Washington Free Beacon

How to Lose Friends and Empower Radicals: The Peace Prize President’s More Dangerous World

obama-binoculars-AP-640x480

 

Breitbart, by Sebastian Gorka, Jan. 29, 2015:

Since 2008, the world has become a significantly more dangerous place. In every region, new threats have emerged or old ones have reasserted them. The scorecard is clear: the bad guys are winning and America’s interests are being undermined daily.

As a nation, America has yet to recover from the experience of September 11th, 2001. Public opinion on our national response to the attacks against the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 is today divided. On one side we have the “Bush lied, People Died!” crowd who portray President George W. Bush’s response in terms of a conspiracy, despite the fact that we now know Saddam Hussein indeed possessed thousands of WMD warheads (and had used them in the past).

On the other, we have conservatives who are themselves split between the unsophisticated isolationists/non-interventionists who believe that an American withdrawal from the world will make us safe, and the quietly resurgent neoconservatives who see in the rise of ISIS/The Islamic State a justification for more foreign engagements.

For a moment, let us put Operations Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan), and Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF), to one side. Instead, let us take an unemotional snap-shot of the global geostrategic situation to see whether the administration whose head was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize during his first year in office has indeed make the world a safer and more peaceful place.

Europe: During most of the last century, American security was tied directly to the continent of Europe. Whether it was the generational genocide of World War One, the racial genocide of WWII, or the class-based totalitarianism of the Cold War, Europe was the source of strategic, and at times existential, threats to America.

During the first Obama Administration, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton declared a “Pivot to Asia” which would deemphasize Europe’s importance and see Washington focus more on our Pacific partners than on old Atlantic Allies.

Since that announcement, an emboldened Vladimir Putin has seen fit to break an almost 70-year-old international taboo by using force to redraw national borders with his annexation of Crimea. This includes, incredibly, the shooting down of a civilian jet-liner by forces armed by Moscow.

At the same time, we have seen the European Union become evermore centralizing and undemocratic as untenable economic and fiscal policies are propped up by a Brussels bureaucracy in the name of “broader and deeper union.” This has naturally led to two types of responses: the unprecedented success of a paleo-conservative backlash, best typified by the insurgent victories of UKIP in Great Britain, as well the reverse: Utopian socialist populists such as the victorious Syriza party of Greece.

Then there are Europe’s ties to the Global Jihadist Movement. The recent slaughter in Paris, the beheading of a British serviceman on the streets of the UK, and Spanish and Belgian terror-related arrests all attest to the failure of the current international campaign against Islamist terrorism.

The flawed immigration policies of many EU nations have also facilitated the establishment of literally hundreds of ethnic and religious enclaves across the continent where integration is seen as a bad thing and where radical talentspotters for groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS/IS identify, indoctrinate and recruit murderers such as the Charlie Hebdo killers, as well as thousands of fighters for The Islamic State.

This has led to a grass-roots response from Europeans afraid of the future survival of their countries embodied in the ever-broadening PEGIDA movement that Breitbart London has covered in great detail. The failure of multiculturalist immigration policies has not only encouraged the enclave phenomenon, but is also clearly linked to the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism on the continent which has led to unprecedented numbers of European jews deciding to leave the nations of their birth for good.

If we include Turkey in our European snapshot, the situation is even worse, as we have seen the one viable example of a secular Muslim state slip even deeper into the corruption-ridden maelstrom of Islamic fundamentalism under the Erdogan government which is either incapable or unwilling to prevent Turkey becoming a pre-deployment site for jihadist fighters traveling into Syria and Iraq. All this from a formal NATO ally of the US.

Asia: The much-vaunted Pivot to Asia has clearly not worked. China has, over the last several years, openly challenged the post-Cold War peace in the region with a commitment to its own military build-up coupled with a concerted campaign of intimidation against its smaller and weaker neighbors.

While challenging and intimidating our regional partners, China has continued to grow economically at such a rate that the nation which was once universally ridiculed as the maker of plastic toys for McDonalds Happy Meals has now surpassed the US economy in terms of gross output.  At the same time, China is waging a covert war against America in the cyber domain, stealing not only state secrets for use in developing its new weapons systems, but also billions of dollars worth of intellectual property and commercial secrets from American businesses. See the remarkable report from Mandiant on scale of the threat.

North Korea has also used the internet to assault American interests as the Sony hacking attack attests, while Washington has proven totally ineffective in undermining the world’s last truly fully-fledged Stalinist regime, or its regionally destabilizing nuclear weapons capabilities.

Africa: A giant continent, with threats as bad as they were in 2008, or in several cases much worse. The Global Jihadist Movement continues to consolidate its control in Nigeria through the horrific attacks of Boko Haram, the group made famous for the kidnapping of the girls from Chibok, an attack which is just one part of a vast campaign targeting Christians and anyone who does not want to live under a theocratically run system based upon sharia and 7th century interpretation of the Koran.

In addition to the insurgent-like threat of Boko Haram, we have also witnessed horrific hit and run terrorist tactics used by other African jihadists, as in the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi by Al Shabaab. At the same time, China proceeds to build its vast network of economic interests in the continent in ways that far outstrip American geostrategic investment in Africa.

Australasia: Of course, the Pivot to Asia should have pleased our Antipodean allies. But the concrete consequences of the declarations and speeches by Secretary Clinton and the White House have amounted to little more than the deployment of a handful of US Marines from Camp Pendleton to Australia. Instead of the security situation improving, Australia faced its own Jihadist attack just before Christmas last year as a self-styled imam took hostages and brought the violent jihad so familiar to New York, London, Madrid, and Paris, to the streets of Sydney.

The Americas: Canada likewise became a direct victim of the Global Jihadist Movement after a spate of attacks against its armed forces and even its parliament which was only stopped when a brave sergeant-at-arms applied deadly force in the face of a rampaging jihadi.

Those who like illicit quality cigars may be celebrating the White House’s “normalization” of relations with Communist Cuba, but if statements by the Castro regime are to be credited as expressing Havana’s true intentions, then the deal was good for the dictatorship and bad for America. And despite the US government’s historic decision, conditions inside Cuba have remained the same, or in many case deteriorated, with last year seeing record-breaking numbers of political arrests on the island nation. And Cuba’s anti-democratic influence is a problem for the region, not just its wretched population, with Raul Castro’s secret police providing aid and expertise in the oppression of dissidentsto the government of Venezuela.

The Middle East and North Africa: Leaving the worst for last we have, of course, the Middle East, and North Africa. The highs hopes for the Arab Spring turned very rapidly into a “Christian Winter” and a victory for the fundamentalist and anti-Democratic forces of the Muslim Brotherhood. One after another, one-man authoritarian regimes fell to Islamist MB governments, or collapsed into deadly civil wars which are still being fought in places like Syria and Libya. Throughout the region, proto-democrats and vulnerable minorities, especially ancient Christian communities, have been targeted for death or persecution, or have been forced to flee.

The one ray of hope, the people’s revolt in Egypt against the Brotherhood government of Mohammad Morsi, which led to his being ousted by a secular military, was rejected by the US administration as a coup, despite the fact that General, now President, Sisi, has been fighting his own war against Jihadi fundamentalists since he was the Chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces.

And now Yemen, which was lauded just a few months ago by President Obama as the poster-child of his successful counterterrorism strategy, has collapsed under insurgent attacks and the resignation of the government in Sanaa.

Then there is Iran, which, much like Cuba, has squeezed concession after concession out of the administration without either stopping its acquisition of nuclear weapons capability, or curtailing its support of Shiite terrorist fighters in either Iraq or Syria.

I said I would leave Afghanistan and Iraq of our the equation, but nevertheless, it is important to recognize that this is a new jihadist threat that is even more dangerous than Al Qaeda. ISIS, the Islamic State, is today a full-fledged insurgency, one that in four dimensions is much more of a threat that Al Qaeda ever was.

The Islamic State is more than a terrorist group, it now functions as a quasi-state and controls territory equivalent to the size of the UK. It is the richest non-state threat group in human history. It has an incredibly sophisticated understanding of information warfare and how to use social media as a propaganda platform, and lastly – and relatedly – it has recruited ten of thousands of young Muslim men from around the world, including Europe and the US, to fight for the new Caliphate of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. Bin Laden dreamt of being this powerful. The Islamic State has turned his dream into a horrific reality.

There is not one area of the world of import to America in which we have either not lost friends, or failed to help our allies to defend themselves against the common enemies that threaten us all. Whatever your politics, or whomever you favor for the next Commander-in-Chief of the United States, one thing is certain: without resolute American leadership the world can become, and now is, a much more dangerous place.

Sebastian Gorka PhD. is the Major General Matthew C. Horner Distinguished Chair of Military Theory at the Marine Corps University and Associate Fellow at the Joint Special Operations University, USSOCOM. Follow him at @SebGorka.

Evidence in Sony hack attack suggests possible involvement by Iran, China or Russia, intel source says

cyyber attackFox News, By Catherine Herridge, December 18, 2014

The U.S. investigation into the recent hacking attack at Sony Pictures Entertainment has turned up evidence that does not point to North Korea as the “sole entity” in the case, but rather, raises the possibility that Iran, China or Russia may have been involved, an intelligence source told Fox News on Thursday.

Earlier Thursday, Fox News confirmed that the FBI is pointing a digital finger at North Korea for the attack.

The source pointed to the sophistication of malware “modules or packets” that destroyed the Sony systems — on a level that has not been seen from North Korea in the past — but has been seen from Iran, China and Russia.

There is no evidence of a forced entry into the Sony systems, pointing to an insider threat or stolen credentials. And the first emails sent to Sony, described as blackmail or extortion, included demands unrelated to the movie.

The malware had two destructive threads, the source said: it overwrites data and it interrupts execution processes, such as a computer’s start-up functions. After the initial attack, the FBI warned the industry that the malware can be so destructive that the data is not recoverable or it is too costly a process to retrieve. The intelligence source added that the forensic evidence suggests that the final stage of the attack was launched outside North Korea’s borders — creating some plausible deniability.

“Given the destructive efforts or effects of this attack, we’re treating this as a national security matter, and as such, members of the president’s national security team have been in regular meetings regarding this attack,” State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Also, Fox News has learned that U.S. security firms were first notified Monday by the U.S. government that they planned to publicly blame North Korea, which is inconsistent with past practice, as the U.S. government often has chosen to work behind the scenes in similar instances.

The White House declined earlier Thursday to directly blame North Korea for the attack, though Press Secretary Josh Earnest referred to the incident as a “serious national security matter.”

The case is “being treated as seriously as you’d expect,” Earnest told reporters at an afternoon briefing. He added that the White House would allow the investigation to move forward before speculating about a response.

“There is evidence to indicate that we have seen destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor,” Earnest said. “And it is being treated by those investigative agencies both at the FBI and the Department of Justice as seriously as you would expect.”

The North Korean link came shortly after Sony canceled plans for its Dec. 25 release of “The Interview,” a comedy about the fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.  Getting Sony to pull the release of the movie had been one of the hackers’ public demands.

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the attack originated outside North Korea, but believe the individuals behind it were acting on orders from the North Korean government.

While the U.S. government is unlikely to issue formal charges against North Korea or its leadership, a formal announcement of North Korea’s involvement is likely to come Thursday.

The Sony hack attack is “deeply worrying” to the intelligence community because it is believed to be the first time destructive malware has targeted a U.S. firm, according to the Fox News source, who added that the cyber assault is seen as “retribution” for “The Interview.”

Fox News is told that the malware used in the Sony hack attack has two destructive threads: it overwrites data and it interrupts execution processes, such as a computer’s start-up functions. The FBI warns that the malware can be so destructive that the data is not recoverable or it is too costly a process to retrieve.

It is not clear how long the malware needs to be in the system before it brings on an almost complete paralysis. In the case of Sony, support functions — including emails –were knocked off-line, seen as a distraction while the more destructive attack was launching.

This week North Korea’s state-run media KCNA endorsed the Sony hacking, saying it was done by “sympathizers.” Andrei Lankov, an expert on North Korea who writes a column for The Korea Times, says this is as close to an endorsement as possible.

Another expert noted “ambiguity of attribution and guerilla-warfare approach” are the tactics of North Korea. The expert concluded it will be seen that America is vulnerable to blackmail and North Korea will try it again.

Fox News has also been told, however, there was “zero” chance there would have been any actual attacks on theaters.”

“Sony was stupid to make a movie about killing Kim Jung-un,” Lankov said, “but it was even more stupid to cave in to pressure.”

A Steve Carell “paranoid” thriller “that was to be set in North Korea” also has been scrapped, sources say. The project from director Gore Verbinski and writer Steve Conrad wasn’t yet titled, though industry outlets said the working title was “Pyongyang,” which is the North Korean capital.

“Sad day for creative expression,” Carell tweeted Wednesday evening, adding “#fear eats the soul” as a hashtag.

In an interview with ABC News aired Wednesday, President Obama encouraged Americans to go to the movies.

The Sony hacking saga took a sinister turn on Tuesday when hackers sent a message threatening to target theaters showing “The Interview” in a 9/11-type attack.

Sony then told theaters they will not be penalized should they choose not to show it.

A representative for the FBI Los Angeles Field Office told FOX411 that the bureau is “aware of the recent threats and continues to work collaboratively with our partners to investigate.”

Security experts told Fox that in the wake of the Sydney siege and the release of the CIA enhanced interrogation report last week, it was crucial the threat be taken seriously by authorities.

“This threatening statement obviously has some foundation and may be linked to current global hostilities toward the West and predominantly the U.S.,” said Lee Oughton, global security and risk management expert. “We are still unaware how deep the hackers were able to penetrate into the Sony systems. Only time will tell how much information they were able to ascertain and what price Sony will pay in the international market.”

Actors James Franco and Seth Rogen already canceled all media appearances promoting their film.

Fox News’ Greg Palkot, Lucas Tomlinson, Hollie McKay and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Catherine Herridge is an award-winning Chief Intelligence correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC) based in Washington, D.C. She covers intelligence, the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Herridge joined FNC in 1996 as a London-based correspondent.

Also see:

 

Islamists Suspected in China’s Deadliest Terror Attack

China troopsBY RYAN MAURO:

McClatchy reports a “new, bloodier phase” of the conflict in China’s Muslim-majority Xinjiang Province has begun with bombings that killed at least 31 people and injured 94. The East Turkestan Islamic Movement is suspected of responsibility for what one expert says is “the single most lethal terrorist attack that China has suffered.”

The blasts took place in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. Over 10 million Turkic Muslims live in the province and identify themselves as Uighurs. Two cars drove through people at a market tossingexplosives. Some reports say the two cars collided and blew up, while others say only one car exploded. The attack happened one day after President Xi Jinping pledged to “make terrorists like rats scurrying across a street.”

The East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) sometimes goes by the name of the Turkestan Islamic Party. It killed three last month in an attack involving both explosives and knives at a train station. Prior to that, it killed 29 in a knife rampage at a train station. The escalation began in October when it killed two people by hitting them with a car in Beijing’s famous Tiananmen Square.

In February, ETIM released a video where it pledged to behead Chinese Buddhists and to “cut you piece by piece.” The cleric in it even made derogatory racial remarks, insulting the Chinese for their “small eyes, flat noses.” The group stated that it believes its attacks on China would help usher in the fulfillment of Islamic prophecy.

Judgment day will not come, until we attacked them. Judgment day will not come, until we slaughter them. Judgment day will not come, until our war with them and attacking them,” a translation reads.

ETIM is an Al-Qaeda affiliate largely based in Pakistan that is fighting for the independence of Xinjiang Province as it had from 1644-1991 and 1944-1949. It desires the creation of a new state called East Turkestan.

The Uighur population is hostile to the Chinese authorities, but ETIM has little support among them and is said to have only about 200 members. The Council on Foreign Relations says, “Although the ETIM seeks to establish an independent Islamic regime, the majority of Uighurs do not support an Islamic state.” China expert Gordon Chang says Uighur protests have not been about Sharia and few of them are terrorists.

Read more at Clarion Project

Two Terror Groups Suspects In Malaysian Airplane Crash

China terror attackBy Ryan Mauro:

The sudden mid-flight disintegration of a Malaysian Airlines flight to Beijing appears increasingly likely to have been an act of terrorism. No group has claimed responsibility, but there are two chief suspects: The East Turkestan Islamic Movement and/or Jamaat e-Islami. Both have Al-Qaeda links.

All 239 passengers are thought to have perished in the disappearance of the Boeing 777. Although no firm conclusion has been reached, the most probable cause is an intentional explosion.

There was no distress signal from the pilots, as would happen in the event of a weather emergency, mechanical failure or hijacking. It isbelieved that the plane exploded at around 35,000 feet in the air. There are no signs of poor weather in the area. Malaysian Airlines has a good reputation and the specific flight was recently examined and cleared of any problems.

The suspected culprits are two passengers who got on board using European passports that were stolen in Thailand up to two years ago. Their tickets were purchased together, $625 apiece in Thai currency. Interpol says it is looking at other “suspect passports,” but the Malaysian Transportation Minister said reports that there were two more suspects are false.

After the passports were reported stolen in 2012 and 2013, Interpol logged them into its international database. It stated that no country accessed its database to check on those specific passports since then, which is how the two passengers were able to enter the aircraft.

If the disappearance was indeed a terrorist attack, it was most likely aimed at China. It was a flight headed towards Beijing, so the operatives understood that the majority of the passengers would be of that nationality. The list of passengers shows that 154 were Chinese or Taiwanese. There were also three Americans, but it is improbable that the perpetrators knew the nationalities of all those onboard.

Read more at Clarion Project

See also:

China Decries Recent Terror Attack But Still Helps Hamas

China

‘Beijing supports Iran to the hilt, so it supports those organizations that Iran wants it to support,’ says China expert Gordon Chang.

BY RYAN MAURO:

On October 28, an Islamist suicide bomber struck Tiananmen Square in Beijing and killed two tourists. The Chinese government says that Islamist terrorists are its greatest threat, but Israeli intelligence found that Hamas has found China to be friendly territory.

China says that the bombing was carried out by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) that is based in China’s Muslim-majority Xinjiang Province. It is populated by Uighurs, a minority that does not identify as Chinese and speak Turkic. The ETIM says it is fighting for independence.

The U.S. says it considers ETIM to be a threat because of its affiliations with Al-Qaeda. Two of its top leaders, including its founder, were killed in Pakistan in 2003 and 2010 by Pakistani soldiers. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, hundreds of Uighurs were hosted by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and 22 were captured by U.S. forces.

The United Nations says it has been led by a member of Al-Qaeda’s Shura Council and that ETIM has targeted U.S. interests in the past, including the embassy in Kyrgyzstan. The U.N. estimates its strength to be only around 200 members.

China expert Gordon Chang, however, told the Clarion Project to be skeptical of Chinese claims about the group.

“Except for spontaneous street fights between Han and Uighurs, mostly Uighur act of violence in Xinjiang has been directed against the Chinese authorities and not civilians,” he said in an interview prior to the suicide bombing.

Read more at Clarion Project

Traitor

trait-450x300 By Arnold Ahlert:

Edward Snowden, 29, a former CIA technical assistant and current employee of military contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, went to the Guardian and the Washington Post newspapers and spilled national security secrets that he had promised not to divulge. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton puts that effort in the proper perspective:

Number one, this man is a liar. He took an oath to keep the secrets that were shared with him so he could do his job. He said said he would not disclose them, and he lied. Number two, he lied because he thinks he’s smarter and has a higher morality than the rest of us. This guy thinks he has a higher morality, that he can see clearer than other 299-million 999-thousand 999 of us, and therefore he can do what he wants. I say that is the worst form of treason.

Those who consider Snowden a “hero” might want to consider two other realities as well. First, he clearly violated the Espionage Act. If he isn’t punished for doing so, then the act is utterly toothless. Second, contrast his behavior with that of Benghazi witness Gregory Hicks. Hicks endured the crucible of appearing before Congress and giving testimony about possible State Department improprieties that could ruin him. He didn’t run to a newspaper, then run to Hong Kong and then vanish.

Or possibly defect.

Former CIA case officer Bob Baer told CNN that intelligence officials were speculating that Snowden may be part of a Chinese espionage case. “On the face of it, it looks like [Hong Kong] is under some sort of Chinese control, especially with the president meeting the premier today,” Baer said. “You have to ask what’s going on. China is not a friendly country and every aspect of that country is controlled. So why Hong Kong? Why didn’t he go to Sweden? Or, if he really wanted to make a statement, he should have done it on Capitol Hill.”

Baer also noted the convenient timing of Snowden’s revelation. It followed a weekend summit between Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which the issue of cyber security remained unresolved. “It almost seems to me that this was a pointed affront to the United States on the day the president is meeting the Chinese leader,” Baer speculated, “telling us, listen, quit complaining about espionage and getting on the Internet and our hacking. You are doing the same thing.”

Unfortunately, in the wake of this obviously egregious security breach and possible Chinese meddling, a number of Republicans are more interested in bringing the hammer down on Obama than on Snowden. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has been on the fore of this wrongheaded approach. ”I’m going to be asking all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies: ask your customers to join me in a class action lawsuit,” he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “If we get ten million Americans saying we don’t want our phone records looked at, then maybe someone will wake up and something will change in Washington.”

Other Republicans are equally misguided. They have joined Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), signing a letter to the FBI and NSA impugning the programs. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), who has adopted the libertarian outlook of former Rep. Ron Paul, explained their rationale. “You’ll find a lot of names [on the letter] of people who were recently elected,” Amash said. “We’re not tied to the Bush administration’s policies, which were also wrong.”

In reality, the controversy surrounding the NSA necessitates a serious discussion, apart from both the media-driven hysteria and the partisan politics that inform much of it. There is little question our nation still faces the kind of threat manifested on 9/11. There is no question one of the federal government’s primary functions is to provide for the national defense. Yet as Andrew McCarthy explained at National Review Online, there are two “inseparable issues” that must be reconciled in the process: the government’s seemingly limitless ability to gather information — and how much trust Americans should place in government officials to do it within the confines of the rule of law.

As revealed respectively by the Guardian and the Washington Post via Snowden, the government has been collecting “metadata” from phone companies and Internet servers in order to detect patterns that may reveal burgeoning threats against the nation, which might otherwise go unnoticed. This metadata does not include content, and thus, it does not fall under the auspices of Fourth Amendment protection.

Read more at Front Page