Meet the New Authoritarian Masters of the Internet

Getty Images

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.

***

John Bolton on Obama’s Internet Handover: ‘Within Ten Years, the Internet as We Know It Will End’

icann-tim-halesassociated-press-640x480Breitbart, by John Hayward, Sept 22, 2016:

On Thursday’s Breitbart News Daily on SiriusXM, former U.N. ambassador John Bolton predicted that the impending transfer of Internet domain control from American supervision to an international body will mean the end of the Internet “as we know it.”

Speaking to Breitbart Editor-in-Chief and SiriusXM host Alex Marlow, Bolton explained that we should be “very concerned” about the transfer from “a national-security perspective.”

“What we’ve gotten out of the Internet, under the shelter of a private American organization that contracts with the Commerce Department, [is] one of the few cases that I can think of in our history where we’ve had that kind of government involvement without regulation and interference,” said Bolton.

He continued:

But because it’s entirely a U.S. government proposition with U.S. people involved, the Internet has been free and open. If, as the Administration wants to do, it’s transferred to an international body, I will predict right here: within 10 years it will come under the control of the United Nations, and the Internet as we know it will end because there are governments around the world that are already doing everything they can to prevent a free and open Internet in their countries, and it will extend to ours in due course.

Bolton called the Internet handover “a mistake of such colossal proportions that you would have thought we’d have a huge debate about it in this country.”

LISTEN:

“Ted Cruz has been leading the charge in the Senate to prevent this from happening,” he said. “There may be legislation passed in these last days of this Congress, as they try and wrap the budget up. But really, people need to wake up to this. This is something from Obama I have feared for eight years, his tendencies toward global governance. I’ve been surprised to have to say he hasn’t done more, but in his last days in office, we may see the full flowering of it, and this transfer of control of the Internet is perhaps the worst example right at the moment.”

Bolton elaborated on what he meant by the Internet as we know it dying within 10 years:

What they’re talking about is succumbing to the demands of foreign governments and foreign interests who say, in what is effectively a global means of communication, it’s just wrong to have the United States in charge of it.

But the fact is, under American control, it’s had remarkable growth. It’s been kept free. It’s been able to withstand a lot of pressure to try and set rules that favor one side or another. And in an international environment, I can tell you from my own experience, when you get all kinds of governments from all over the world setting standards and making decisions, it will be far less free than it is now.

And I don’t think the particular kind of transfer we’re talking about now is the end of the game. This is a black-and-white, binary choice: it’s either under American control, or it’s not. And once we let go of it, we are never getting it back.

Marlow turned the conversation to Barack Obama’s final speech to the U.N. General Assembly, describing it as a “toned-down Obama” with a few condescending lines, but not as much “fiery rhetoric” as he anticipated.

“I think he wanted this to be his swan song,” said Bolton. “It was a very pedestrian speech, so I think he certainly failed in that effort. A lot of was just domestic American politics, which personally I think is unseemly in a speech to the U.N. or an international forum. I think the President, especially a lame duck President, should be above that.”

“I think it shows that, really, Barack Obama is not a statesman. He is a political hack, when it comes right down to it,” Bolton judged. “He was unsparing in his criticism of many countries — criticism I agree with, in the case of Russia, North Korea, and so on — but he couldn’t withstand the temptation to criticize America. Thank God he’s the smartest man in the country, and he can tell us what we’re doing wrong.”

Bolton said he was “utterly struck” by “the reaction in the hall — which was essentially no reaction.” He noted there was “very perfunctory applause by the international community, after years where they’ve repeatedly interrupted him.”

“My sense was, they understand he’s a lame duck now. Maybe they’re just as tired as many Americans of being lectured by this morally superior being, and they’re happy to see the back of him.”

Marlow asked for Bolton’s take on the state of the United Nations and if there was still anything productive emerging from its meetings. Bolton replied that “things are happening, but not because it’s the U.N.”

He explained:

This week in September is just a very convenient point, where a lot of leaders come to New York. You can do a lot of business in a short period of time without having to travel all over the world, although traffic in New York makes it feel like it takes forever to get from one place to another. But it’s less about the U.N. than it is about other forms of diplomatic business.

That said, I believe that if Hillary Clinton wins, she will do what I expected Obama to do, which is try to transfer more and more American sovereignty into international organizations across the range of issues — whether it’s climate change or the conduct of international affairs. I think Obama didn’t do as much as I expected in that vein because he really just doesn’t care about international affairs as much as he cares about ‘fundamentally transforming’ our country.

I think Hillary does have even grander ambitions, and so that’s why what we started off, the end of ICANN or the effective control of ICANN over the Internet, is an excellent example of global governance replacing American sovereignty in effect. And I think she’ll be much more on that. I hope that’s something Trump emphasizes in the upcoming debate.

Turning to last weekend’s terrorist attacks, Bolton said they were “evidence that the terrorist threat continues to increase, as senior intelligence officials of the Obama Administration itself have testified in an open session of Congress.”

“It’s a demonstration of the diversity of the sources of terrorism and the kinds of terrorism that we see,” he continued, referencing the Chelsea bomber’s evident affinity for al-Qaeda, rather than ISIS, and the Somali origins of the Minnesota mall stabber. “It doesn’t all come from Syria or Iraq in the Middle East. It comes from as far away as Somali or Afghanistan.”

“And I think it’s also a measure of the kind of terrorism, that some people want to call it ‘lone wolf’ terrorism because they’re trying to downplay its significance. But it’s not lone wolf terrorism,” Bolton argued. “We’re seeing increasingly the networks, the connections of these two terrorists. ISIS has claimed credit for the one in Minnesota. We see how the terrorist arrested in New Jersey was in communication with terrorists in Afghanistan.”

“Terrorism doesn’t look like a corporate organization chart. That doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, or any easier to prevent,” he warned. “I think it’s one reason what that issue is so important in the 2016 campaign, and it should be.”

Marlow brought up the nuclear threat from North Korea, saying that “half the time, I feel like this is a joke, and half the time I feel like this is one of the scariest things happening on Planet Earth.”

“Unfortunately, it’s the latter,” Bolton said, explaining that the Communist dictatorship in Pyongyang presents a real danger to the United States and its allies:

The regime has always struck most Americans as a joke. Who can believe these people who talk and look the way the Kim family dictatorship has over the years?

But serious military officials, both American and South Korea, have repeatedly ramped up their judgment of what the North is capable of, and they’ve been saying for some time now that it’s only a very short period of time before North Korea is able to take their nuclear devices — and they’ve now tested five — and miniaturize them, and put them under the nose cone of their increasingly sophisticated ballistic missiles, and hit targets on the U.S. West Coast.

So the need for missile defense, at an absolute minimum — national missile defense for the United States, a program the Obama Administration gutted when they came into office, with the full support of Hillary Clinton. Dealing more effectively with North Korea, and I think trying to get more intelligence on whether and to what extent there is a connection between the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea — because these may seem like very different threats, but we know that for 20 years, if not more, they’ve cooperated on their missile programs, and I personally think there’s every reason to believe they’re cooperating on the nuclear programs as well.

We just don’t have enough information, and people don’t take this threat of the ‘Axis of Evil’ seriously enough. But if either or both of them get the capability to deliver nuclear by ballistic missile, we’ll take it seriously then.

Bolton concluded with his thoughts on the situation in Syria, where he sees the Russians and Iranians as having a “very distinct interest,” namely keeping Bashar Assad in power, while Obama’s goals and strategies remain vague and ineffective:

The ISIS threat is something that could have been dealt with a year, year and a half ago, if the Obama Administration had had a coherent foreign policy, but it doesn’t. And I think now we’re seeing continued chaos in Syria. ISIS may have lost some territory, but it’s still there, still recruiting terrorists. The Assad regime is still in place. Russian influence has increased, Iranian has increased, American influence has decreased. Really, how could it get much worse?

Frank Gaffney: Obama Seeks to ‘Shred What Is Left of the Constitution’ by Nullifying Senate’s Role in Treaty-Making

AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Breitbart, by John Hayward, Sept. 14, 2016:

“I think we are at a turning point nationally, where a choice is going to be made to reject the course that we’ve been on,” said Frank Gaffney, president of the Center for Security Policy, on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily.

“It’s not entirely clear to me that we know what the other choice is going to be,” he said, continuing:

But we’re going to see, I think, the American people saying, “You know, another Obama term – or perhaps more, and worse, than what we’ve been served up over the past eight years – is unacceptable to us. We can’t, perhaps, even survive it, as a nation.”

Gaffney said this gave him hope, and made him “feel better than I have about our country for some time, in that the public seems to be getting that choice, and it seems to me – this is maybe anecdotal or just entirely subjective – but I think they’re beginning to say, ‘Enough; we don’t want more of the same.’”

SiriusXM host Alex Marlow built on Gaffney’s comment about how Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy could be even worse than Obama’s, saying the Clintons think about “what the Clintons want, and not what’s best for the American people.”

“Again, you have an agenda, of which the Clintons have been a part for a long time, whether it’s a sort of trans-nationalism, whether it’s leftism,” said Gaffney. He added:

As you know, I’ve been particularly concerned about, with respect to Hillary most especially, has been her deep sympathy for Islamic supremacism. I don’t know how else to describe it. What we’ve seen her do, reflexively, throughout her time as secretary of state and in the period since, has been to espouse, and embrace, and empower, to fund, and in some cases, even to arm people who seek to impose this doctrine they call sharia on the rest of us.

“This is the sort of thing I think the American people are going to choose to say, ‘No more. We can’t afford that. We don’t want any part of it,’” he predicted, drawing further encouragement from news Marlow broke during the show about Donald Trump gaining five points in two days on the L.A. Times tracking poll. Gaffney called that “a trend in the right direction for our country.”

Marlow asked Gaffney about reports that President Obama would veto the bill allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia for damages – a bill which passed the House unanimously last week.

Gaffney replied:

The argument is being made, of course, is that you’ve got considerations that will extend beyond the immediate question of whether the Saudis deserve to be sued, for what, I think, is unmistakably the participation of, not just their nationals in actually causing the attacks of 9/11, but in helping arrange those attacks. By the way, the Iranians are also implicated in a similar way, and should be subject to a similar suit.

But you’ve got people making the argument, “Oh, my gosh, we’re going to be ending up opening a true Pandora’s box to Americans being sued for a host of other reasons.” I come down on taking the Saudis to court, myself. I have to tell you, and I think the American people are there, and that’s why you see this overwhelming, probably veto-overriding, majority in the Congress.

He noted President Obama’s stated reason for vetoing the bill is that “we’re going to be subjecting our own people, our government, our personnel, to similar kinds of actions by other governments.”

However, Gaffney thought “at some level, at least, this is about protecting the Saudis.”

“Successive presidents, let’s be honest, Republican as well as Democrats, have been doing it for decades,” he pointed out. Elaborating, he said:

And it has enabled the double game that is – well, unfortunately, really, 9/11 is a prime example of it. They were able to lend, at the level of the Saudi ambassador to the United States – a deep personal friend of the George W. and George H.W. families – to engage in active material support for terrorism, as did his wife. And on and on. These are the sorts of things that, I think, would out, if there were a proper litigation that held them accountable.

“I think they should be held accountable, but I think the U.S. government doesn’t want to go there, quite apart from this other pretext that they’re concerned about being sued ourselves,” Gaffney said.

Marlow also asked for Gaffney’s take on the situation in North Korea, which just conducted its fifth illegal nuclear bomb test. Gaffney said there were “two critically important points” to be made:

One is that the North Koreans are a threat to the United States not just to our friends, and allies, and forces in their immediate area, but now increasingly to the continental United States itself. And that’s because they have been allowed, in part, enabled by a deal that Bill Clinton signed with them, back in 1994 – which was a fraud, not as great a fraud as the one Obama signed with the Iranians, but basically of a piece with it, and it set the stage for what we’re seeing now.

Nuclear weapons? Yes. Miniaturizing of those nuclear weapons? Yes. And placing them on longer and longer-range ballistic missiles, including, it appears, quite possibly, on missiles that are now sending into orbit satellites – which are circling, among other places, the United States, and could be platforms for delivering those nuclear weapons.

And perhaps the most dangerous so far imaginable, and that is an electro-magnetic pulse attack. These weapons seem to be optimized for that purpose. We’ve learned that they have a super EMP design that they got from old Soviet Union.

So these are very serious problems. That’s Point One. Point Two is, Alex, as you know, the President of the United States is in his last days, and determined to shred what is left of the Constitution of the United States. In the foreign policy area, where that is manifesting itself is in connection with doing things that eliminate, essentially, one of the most important checks and balances in our government, and that is the role that the United States Senate plays as a quality-control mechanism on treaty-making arrangements that the Executive Branch might engage in.

We’ve seen this flouted with the Iran deal, we’ve seen it flouted most recently with this so-called Paris climate change accord. Next up is a treaty the Comprehensive Test Ban treaty, that the president would like to get the United Nations Security Council to do some kind of blessing of, that would then supplant the rejection of that treaty by an actual majority of the United States Senate, back in 1999.

Gaffney concluded:

The reason all this matters is that you’ve got the North Koreans testing nuclear weapons at will. I believe the Russians and Chinese are doing the same, albeit in a less obvious way. Everybody on the planet, in other words, that threatens us is using this kind of capability to modernize the threat they pose to us. And it’s real, and it’s growing. And the President of the United States is hoping to bind his successor never to be able to modernize – or, I’m afraid, even maintain our nuclear deterrent.

LISTEN:

Iran’s nuclear timetable … right now!

iran-nuclear-missileWND, by Jerome R. Corsi, Sept. 5, 2016:

NEW YORK – Amid the disclosure this week that the Obama administration has allowed Iran to continue secret efforts to enrich uranium and stockpile the heavy water needed to produce a plutonium nuclear weapon, a leading expert on the Iranian nuclear program remains concerned that Tehran could build a deliverable atomic bomb now.

“I believe Iran already has a nuclear weapons capability,” Clare Lopez, a former CIA career operations officer who serves as the vice president for research and analysis at the Washington-based Center for Security Policy and a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research, told WND.

Lopez noted that five years ago the International Atomic Energy Agency published a report on Iran’s nuclear program that listed the various technical components in a nuclear weapon that Iran had under development.

“We know for a fact that Iran already has the nuclear-capable missiles, including nose cones configured to carry nuclear weapons,” she said. “We also know that the IAEA years ago reported that Iran was working on forming the hemispheres of a bomb, as well as experiments testing the explosive charges required to set off a nuclear reaction implosion sequence.”

On Tuesday, Iranian officials announced the country is preparing to launch into space three new satellites, prompting U.S. defense experts to speculate the Iranian satellite program is a cover for pursuing illicit intercontinental ballistic missile technology the Islamic Republic could use to deliver a nuclear weapon over long distances.

Help from North Korea

Lopez pointed out that Iran could easily obtain nuclear weapons technology from North Korea.

“We have documented evidence Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officials have attended North Korean ballistic missile and nuclear tests,” she stressed. “Further, North Korea has offered for sale virtually any technology the country has ever developed.”

On March 10, 2016, retired Admiral William E. Gortney, former commander, United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, testified about North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“North Korea’s recent hostile cyberspace activity, nuclear testing, and continued ballistic missile development represent a dangerous threat to our national security,” Gortney told the committee in his prepared remarks. “North Korea’s recent nuclear test and satellite launch demonstrate Kim Jong Un’s commitment to developing strategic capabilities, as well as his disregard for United Nations Security Council resolutions.

He said the North Korean communist regime’s “efforts to develop and deploy the road-mobile KN08 ICBM have profound implications for homeland missile defense, primarily because the missile obviates most of the pre-launch indicators on which we have traditionally relied to posture our defenses.”

“While the KN08 remains untested, modeling suggests it could deliver a nuclear payload to much of the continental United States,” Gortney continued.

The Washington Free Beacon reported in March 2015 Iran is believed to be hiding the development of nuclear weapons technology at a mountain military base in North Korea near the Chinese border as part of a technical cooperation pact signed by Iran and North Korea in September 2012.

Iran ICBM capable by 2020

Gortney also testified that he remained concerned about Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

“Iran poses multiple significant security concerns to the United States, and I remain wary of its strategic trajectory. Last year’s conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was a welcome development, but, Iran’s continuing pursuit of long-range missile capabilities and ballistic missile and space launch programs, in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, remains a serious concern,” Gortney said.

“Iran has successfully orbited satellites using a first- generation space launch vehicle and announced plans to orbit a larger satellite using its ICBM- class booster as early as this year,” he continued. “In light of these advances, we assess Iran may be able to deploy an operational ICBM by 2020 if the regime chooses to do so.”

Lopez also explained she was concerned that North Korea might share with Iran the technology necessary to launch successfully an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) attack against the U.S., even before Iran had an ICBM capable of hitting the continental United States.

On April 24, WND reported that North Korea now has two satellites orbiting over the United States capable of performing a surprise EMP attack at an altitude and trajectory that evade U.S. National Missile Defenses.

An EMP could be triggered by a nuclear weapon detonated at high altitude. The pulse could knock out the U.S. national electrical grid system and all life-sustaining critical infrastructures, including the Internet.

The miniaturization myth

North Korea Satellite Technology Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

North Korea Satellite Technology Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times

 April 24, 2016

On March 9, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, a paranoid psychopath, displayed a nuclear missile warhead he threatens to launch against the United States and its allies.

The public is being misled by the White House, some so-called “experts” and mainstream media casting doubt on whether the Great Leader’s threat is real. They claim North Korea has not demonstrated sufficient “miniaturization” of a nuclear weapon to be delivered by a missile.

However, defense and intelligence community officials warn North Korea probably already has nuclear armed missiles. The Defense Department’s 2016 report “Military and Security Developments Involving the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea” warns that, in addition to medium-range missiles, they have six KN-08 mobile nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that can strike the U.S. mainland.

Recently, the Pentagon warned North Korea rolled out a new longer-range ICBM, the KN-14, that can probably deliver a nuclear warhead to Chicago.

So the notion that we don’t have to worry about North Korean nuclear missiles because they cannot “miniaturize” warheads is a myth. Adm. William Gortney, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is correct to presume that is the case and to prepare to defend against that threat, as he said last October.

Technologically, “miniaturizing” a nuclear warhead is much easier than developing an atomic bomb or a multi-stage missile for orbiting satellites — as North Korea has already done. Ever since the USSR orbited Sputnik in 1957, analysts have rightly credited any nation that has tested nuclear weapons and orbited satellites with the capability to make a nuclear missile warhead.

Miniaturization was no huge obstacle to the United States.

According to the “Nuclear Weapon Archive” just a few years after destroying Hiroshima with an A-Bomb weighing 9,700 pounds, the U.S. Army had the T-1, a man-carried atomic landmine weighing 150 pounds.

In 1958, the United States developed its first ICBM warhead, the W49 for the Atlas, in about one year. Development could have been faster without USAF stalling because it preferred bombers, according to Edmund Beard’s book “Developing the ICBM.”

A major problem with warhead miniaturization was the bulky, heavy vacuum tube electronics of the 1950s. Microelectronics resulted in part from programs to miniaturize nuclear weapons.

The microelectronics revolution solved most technological challenges of warhead miniaturization long ago for North Korea and for all nuclear missile aspirants.

A nuclear missile warhead also needs shock absorbers to soften forces of acceleration during launching and deceleration when re-entering the atmosphere. A heat shield to penetrate the atmosphere, in order to blast a city, is also necessary — these are technologically simple and within North Korea’s capability.

Indeed, in 2013, a publicity photo by state media of North Korea’s KSM-3 satellite interior shows a shock absorber cage, allegedly for an earth observation camera but suitable for a small nuclear weapon. North Korea recently conducted another illegal missile test demonstrating a re-entry vehicle and heat shield.

The president and the press is missing, or ignoring, the biggest threat from North Korea — their satellites. On February 7, North Korea orbited a second satellite, the KSM-4, to join their KSM-3 satellite launched in December 2012.

Both satellites now are in south polar orbits, evading many U.S. missile defense radars and flying over the United States from the south, where our defenses are limited. Both satellites — if nuclear armed — could make an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that could blackout the U.S. electric grid for months or years, thereby killing millions.

Technologically, such an EMP attack is easy — since the weapon detonates at high-altitude, in space, no shock absorbers, heat shield, or vehicle for atmospheric re-entry is necessary. Since the radius of the EMP is enormous, thousands of kilometers, accuracy matters little. Almost any nuclear weapon will do.

Moreover, North Korea probably has nuclear weapons specially designed, not to make a big explosion, but to emit lots of gamma rays to generate high-frequency EMP. Senior Russian generals warned EMP Commissioners in 2004 that their EMP nuclear warhead design leaked “accidentally” to North Korea, and unemployed Russian scientists found work in North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The 2004 EMP Commission report warns: “Certain types of relatively low-yield nuclear weapons can be employed to generate potentially catastrophic EMP effects over wide geographic areas, and designs for variants of such weapons may have been illicitly trafficked for a quarter-century.”

Such an EMP nuclear warhead could resemble an Enhanced Radiation Warhead (ERW, also called a Neutron Bomb), a technology dating to the 1950s, deployed by the U.S. in the 1980s as the W48 ERW artillery shell, weighing less than 100 pounds.

Are EMP warheads on those North Korean satellites?

The immediate focus should be on Senate passage of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act to protect the U.S. electric grid — not on the miniaturization problem myth.

R. James Woolsey was director of the Central Intelligence Agency and is chairman of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security.

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.

Belgium Revelations Add Troubling Twist to Nuclear Security Summit

shutterstock_277314425.sized-770x415xtPJ Media, by Bridget Johnson, March 31, 2016:

White House officials acknowledged that concerns about nuclear surveillance by terrorists linked to the Belgium and Paris attacks will be on the agenda at this week’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, but only because ISIS was on the agenda before last week’s bombings.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters on a Tuesday conference call previewing the summit that they know “terrorist organizations have the desire to get access to these raw materials and their desire to have a nuclear device.”

“That was certainly the case with al-Qaeda, and that is certainly the case with ISIL as well. And given the ongoing concern about chemical weapons in Iraq and Syria, we have seen ample proof that terrorist organizations like ISIL have no regard for innocent human life or international norms, and that only redoubles the need for us to have effective international nuclear security approaches,” Rhodes said.

“As the president said back in Prague, a terrorist attack with an improvised nuclear device would cost an enormous amount in terms of human life, and could also have profound political and economic and environmental effects on global security as well. And so, therefore, this is a challenge that demands the type of international cooperation that we are promoting through the Nuclear Security Summit process.”

The summit begins Thursday as President Obama holds a meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts about North Korea, followed by a bilateral with Chinese President Xi Jinping. All leaders in town for the summit will join Obama at a working dinner to “share perspectives on the evolving nuclear terrorism threat,” Rhodes said.

Obama’s Friday schedule is largely dedicated to “mark the progress that has been made in implementing the Iran deal.”

Laura Holgate, senior director for WMD and terrorism at the National Security Council, was asked if the Belgium attacks impacted the conference agenda — specifically, reports that Belgian bombers Ibrahim and Khalid el-Bakraoui were involved in video monitoring of a Belgian nuclear official who had access to sites harboring a range of materials that could be used in weapons. That video was reportedly given to Mohammed Bakkali, a planner of the Paris attacks now in custody.

Concerns over the terrorists’ interest in nuclear officials and sites range from ISIS cells constructing their own dirty bombs to sabotaging a country’s nuclear infrastructure.

Holgate said “having a portion of the discussion that focuses on counter-ISIL is a judgment that was made in January, but it turns out that it’s obviously very timely, unfortunately.”

“We have seen those reports about targeting nuclear facilities as part of a broader-level — broader plot. And certainly the video footage is of concern and suggests that there is at least some interest by ISIL. But we don’t have any indications that it was part of a broader planning to acquire nuclear materials, and we don’t have any information that a broader plot exists,” she said.

Holgate added “we’ve been working closely with Belgium over the years on nuclear security issues.”

“We’ve worked with them to reduce the amount of highly enriched uranium at that particular site where that manager worked. And there’s extensive cooperation between our regulatory bodies that includes discussions of nuclear security and related issues,” she said. “And we stand ready to help the Belgians in any way should they require or wish to cooperate more deeply with us on these issues.”

Rhodes added that the working meetings can look “at denying access to the most dangerous materials and going on offense against ISIL broadly.”

“We’ve seen over the years different terrorist organizations have ambitions related to acquiring nuclear materials. We’ve seen that in their public statements. We’ve seen that in different cases in terms of their monitoring of nuclear facilities. And that’s why the summit process is so important,” he said. “Because different countries have different levels of security at their facilities or in terms of how they are handling nuclear materials. Belgium has advanced nuclear security protocols in place, but we have a variance among different countries.”

Asked if the administration is more concerned about terrorists constructing a dirty bomb or obtaining fissile material or a nuclear weapon, Holgate replied it’s “hard to handicap” the scenarios.

“They’re both ones that we’re working hard to prevent and avoid. Certainly there is much more extensive radiologically material out there in the world than there is highly enriched uranium or plutonium that you need to make an actual nuclear weapon. You find radiological material in industrial, medical, academic and other communities, and there is a code of conduct that identifies best practices on how to secure that,” Holgate said.

“…That having been said, there are abandoned sources, orphan sources that concern us. And the potential for that kind of a device certainly exists. At this point, we don’t have explicit indications that ISIL is looking to achieve either type of a nuclear or a radiological capability, but we’re keeping a close eye on that.”

***

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

Underestimating Nuclear Missile Threats from North Korea and Iran

Korea

Naïve reliance on their transparent disavowals could end up costing millions of American lives.

National Review, By R. James Woolsey, William R. Graham, Henry F. Cooper, Fritz Ermarth & Peter Vincent Pry — February 12, 2016

North Korea launched its second satellite on Saturday, yet the national press continues to ignore this existential threat. The White House has not recognized that a nuclear-armed North Korea has demonstrated an ability to kill most Americans with an electromagnetic-pulse (EMP) attack. And White House spokesmen and the media have misled the public with unjustified assurances that North Korea has not yet miniaturized nuclear warheads for missile or satellite delivery.

We, who have spent our professional lifetimes analyzing and defending against nuclear-missile threats, warned years ago that North Korea’s Unha-3 space launch vehicle could carry a small nuclear warhead and detonate it a hundred or so miles over the United States to create an EMP, leading to a protracted nationwide blackout. The resulting societal chaos could kill millions.

Indeed, the trajectory and altitude of North Korea’s last satellite orbited three years ago, the KSM-3, could have evaded detection by U.S. missile-tracking radars in its initial orbit and evaded interception by our National Missile Defense, exposing the 48 contiguous United States to an existential EMP attack.

Last year, Admiral William Gortney, commander of North American Aerospace Defense (NORAD), acknowledged the nuclear-missile threat from North Korea:

On April 7, 2015, he warned that North Korea has mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) called KN-08, armed with nuclear warheads, that can strike the U.S. mainland.  He revealed that critical assets hardened against EMP are moving back into an underground command post inside Cheyenne Mountain at a cost of $700 million.

On October 8, 2015, he warned the Atlantic Council:

I agree with the intelligence community that we assess that they [the North Koreans] have the ability, they have the weapons, and they have the ability to miniaturize those weapons, and they have the ability to put them on a rocket that can range the [U.S.] homeland.

Iran is also being underestimated as a nuclear-missile threat. The press accepts Obama-administration assertions that its recent nuclear deal will keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons for a decade. The administration and the press both celebrate Iran’s shipping of enriched uranium to Russia and its filling the core of the Arak plutonium reactor with cement. We are supposed to believe that these acts signify Iran’s good faith, and that the nuclear deal is working. We do not.

Apparently forgotten are North Korea’s equally dramatic gestures to deceive President Bill Clinton while cheating on his “nuclear deal” called the Agreed Framework. North Korea stopped its Yongbyon plutonium reactor, allowed the United Nations to install cameras and seals to monitor nuclear activities, and acceded to virtual occupation of Yongbyon by U.N. inspectors. All the while, North Korea’s clandestine underground nuclear-weapons program continued unimpeded — indeed, its nuclear weapons existed before the Agreed Framework was signed.

The Congressional North Korea Advisory Group saw through this deception and warned that the Agreed Framework was not working. But while North Korea developed long-range missiles and nuclear weapons, President Clinton and the press preferred to believe otherwise.

Iran is following North Korea’s example — as a strategic partner allied by treaty and pledged to share scientific and military technology. Iran sacrificed its overt civilian nuclear program to deceive the Obama administration, to lift international sanctions, to prevent Western military action, while a clandestine military nuclear program no doubt continues underground. That is why Iran, under the nuclear deal, will not allow inspection of its military facilities and prohibits interviewing scientists — it is concealing the dimensions and status of Iran’s nuclear-weapons program.

We assess, from U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency reports and other sources, that Iran probably already has nuclear weapons. Over 13 years ago, prior to 2003, Iran was manufacturing nuclear-weapon components, like bridge-wire detonators and neutron initiators, performing non-fissile explosive experiments of an implosion nuclear device, and working on the design of a nuclear warhead for the Shahab-III missile.

Thirteen years ago Iran was already a threshold nuclear-missile state. It is implausible that Iran suspended its program for over a decade for a nuclear deal with President Obama.

Iran probably has nuclear warheads for the Shahab-III medium-range missile, which they tested for making EMP attacks. Two recent tests violate UN agreements, demonstrating that Iran is brazenly developing its nuclear-capable missiles. Iran already has the largest medium-range ballistic-missile force in the Middle East.

Iran could be building a nuclear-capable missile force, partly hidden in tunnels, as suggested by its dramatic revelation of a vast underground missile-basing system last year. Iran is building toward a large, deployable, survivable, war-fighting missile force — to which nuclear weapons can be swiftly added as they are manufactured.

And at a time of its choosing, Iran could launch a surprise EMP attack against the United States by satellite, as they have apparently practiced with help from North Korea.

We live in a very dangerous time, and we urge that the Senate immediately pass the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (already passed by the House) to safeguard U.S. life-sustaining critical infrastructures against EMP attack. We also recommend that a Congressional Iran Advisory Group be formed to objectively assess the Iran deal.

— Ambassador R. James Woolsey, former director of central intelligence, is the chancellor of the Institute of World Politics and the chairman of the Leadership Council of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; William R. Graham was President Reagan’s science adviser, and acting administrator of NASA, and is the chairman of the Congressional EMP Commission; Ambassador Henry Cooper was the director of the Strategic Defense Initiative and chief negotiator at the Defense and Space Talks with the USSR; Fritz Ermarth was chairman of the National Intelligence Council; Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the EMP Task Force on National and Homeland Security and served in the Congressional Strategic Posture Commission, the House Armed Services Committee, and the CIA.

North Korea’s Nuclear Advance–With Or Without The Hydrogen Bomb

960x0 (1)Forbes, by Claudia Rosett, Jan. 6, 2016:

President Obama waited, under the rubric of “strategic patience.” Now we get to see. North Korea says it has just tested a hydrogen bomb.

If true, this means a big jump in the destructive power of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. An H-bomb, also known as a thermonuclear device, can pack far more explosive force than the atomic bombs North Korea has previously tested.

Pyongyang’s claim that it has mastered the H-bomb has yet to be confirmed. But coincident with North Korea’s announcement, the U.S. Geological Survey did record a significant seismic event near North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site. This suggests that whether or not it was an H-bomb, North Korea probably did carry out some kind of underground nuclear test.

Let’s be clear on what this means: For America and its allies this is not just a setback. It is a debacle. This goes beyond even the highly unpleasant prospect of North Korea becoming ever more capable of directly threatening South Korea and the U.S. with nuclear strikes. In an increasingly tumultuous 21st century, North Korea is demonstrating to the entire world — notably the terror-spawning and blood-soaked Middle East — that it is quite possible for a state to ignore the rules, and illicitly acquire and brazenly test nuclear weapons. There were abundant signs of a looming nuclear arms race in the Middle East before North Korea announced this test. Now, brace for the deluge.

What are the great powers of the world doing about it? The answer these days (now that the Israelis are enjoined not to fly to the rescue) is that they wait and see.

This is North Korea’s fourth nuclear test since 2006. North Korea has carried out three of those tests on President Obama’s watch, in 2009, 2013 and now 2016 — the last two of those tests conducted under the rule of current hereditary tyrant Kim Jong Un. For young Kim, nuclear weapons are clearly central to his reign. North Korean television, which exists to sustain and glorify his rule, showed him personally signing the order for this latest test, which was carried out on Wednesday morning, Jan. 6, local time.

North Korea has also been toiling away at missile systems to deliver the bombs. Along with beefing up its Sohae launch site, North Korea’s Kim regime has paraded road-mobile missile launchers, and advertised its interest in developing the ability to launch missiles from submarines. Last year, a number of senior U.S. military officials warned that North Korea has acquired the ability — as yet untested — to miniaturize a nuclear warhead, mount it on a ballistic missile and target the United States.

Read more

Did North Korea Really Test an H-Bomb?

783680434Center for Security Policy, by Fred Fleitz, Jan. 6, 2016:

After reports of a small, magnitude 5.1 seismic event in the vicinity of North Korea’s Punggye-ri nuclear test site on Tuesday, the state-controlled North Korean news service announced a successful test of a miniaturized hydrogen bomb — which it called a “hydrogen bomb for justice.” A North Korean television anchor said the test elevated North Korea’s “nuclear might to the next level.”

It is very unlikely that this was a test of a true H-bomb, a thermonuclear device in which a primary fission reaction ignites a much larger secondary fusion/fission reaction. The technical challenges of constructing a true H-bomb, which could be over 1000 times more powerful than North Korea’s previous three nuclear tests, are far beyond North Korean capabilities. The real meaning of this nuclear test, regardless of its type, may be an attempt by North Korea to get a nuclear deal similar to Iran’s before President Obama leaves office.

It is possible this was a test of a “boosted-fission” nuclear weapon. In such a device, a small fusion reaction of two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, is initiated in the core. This reaction releases a flood of high-energy neutrons that causes a more efficient fission reaction by the weapon’s enriched uranium or plutonium fuel resulting in an explosive yield several times higher. Boosted fission enables states to construct smaller and lighter nuclear weapons and to make more efficient use of scarce nuclear fuel.

North Korea has been claiming for several years that it was engaged in nuclear-fusion research. In 2010, North Korean officials even said that their nation had mastered nuclear fusion. In January 2013, the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reported that a “new higher level nuclear device” that North Korea was threatening to test might be a boosted-fission nuclear device. Last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un said his country had developed a hydrogen bomb.

Although most experts dismissed North Korea’s nuclear fusion claims as bravado, a boosted-fission nuclear test would be the next step in the development of a North Korean nuclear-weapons program. Building such a device would be technically challenging. India, which has a more advanced nuclear-weapons program than North Korea, reportedly conducted a failed test of a booted-fission nuclear device in 1998.

Determining what type of nuclear device this was will be difficult. The United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will try to analyze air samples for evidence of xenon gas, a by-product of nuclear explosions. This will help determine whether the explosion was nuclear and possibly whether enriched uranium or plutonium fuel was used. It probably will not determine whether North Korea detonated a boosted-fission device.

The small 5.1 magnitude of Tuesday’s seismic event suggests either this was not a boosted-fission device or that the boosted-fission reaction failed. 5.1 was the same magnitude of the seismic event that accompanied North Korea’s February 12, 2013 nuclear test and North Korea’s 2009 and 2006 nuclear tests caused seismic events measuring 4.3 and 4.7, respectively.

North Korea’s nuclear tests appear to represent a pattern of trying to get the world’s attention in order to force a resumption of multilateral talks that can be used to extract concessions from the United States and regional states. This could be the case with the North’s latest nuclear test. The North Korean regime knows President Obama entered office hoping to get nuclear agreements with both North Korea and Iran. The North Korean government probably views the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran as a great victory for Tehran and is hoping this test will lure the Obama administration into resuming nuclear talks so it can get a similar deal.

Regardless of North Korea’s motivations for Tuesday’s nuclear test and whether it was a test of a boosted-fission nuclear device, this is still a very dangerous development. Every time North Korea conducts a nuclear test, it gains more experience and data for its effort to construct nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles. North Korea has made major strides in its missile program over the last ten years, including the December 2012 launch of a rocket to place a satellite in orbit, which most experts believe was actually a test of an ICBM capable of hitting the United States.

I believe there is a strong possibility that North Korea and Iran are collaborating on their nuclear-weapon programs and that Tehran will benefit from any knowledge gained from this nuclear test. Iranian observers reportedly were present at previous North Korean nuclear and long-range missile tests. Determining Iran’s possible role in the recent North Korean nuclear test will be a priority for U.S. intelligence agencies.

Former CIA director James Woolsey and former CIA analyst Peter Pry believe North Korea and Iran may be developing small nuclear warheads to use as electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons to target the U.S. electrical grid. I agree with these concerns since EMP weapons are a way that rogue states with small nuclear-weapons programs could actually attack states with far superior military capabilities by greatly amplifying the destructive power of these weapons. Ted Koppel recently wrote about how devastating an EMP attack on the United States would be in his new book, Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath.

Making this situation worse is the absence of American global leadership under President Obama. “Leading from behind,” the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran, the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the president’s dismissal of the global threat from ISIS, and numerous red lines drawn — and later ignored — have severely undermined America’s credibility on the world stage. The North Korean regime knows this. Its latest nuclear test may be an attempt to take advantage of Mr. Obama’s weakness before he leaves office.

***

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

Christian Persecution Worldwide Has Become A Metastasizing Cancer

Religious Freedom Coalition, By Andrew E. Harrod, PhD, Jan. 24, 2015

The “cancer of Christian persecution is metastasizing” in an “epidemic” that is “spreading at an unprecedented rate in modern times,” stated Open Doors USA president David Curry at a January 7 briefing in Washington, DC’s National Press Club.  Curry’s presentation before an audience of about 30 of Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List (WWL) depressingly reviewed ongoing Christian martyrdom, often at the hands of Marxists and Muslims.

The WWL, an Open Doors press release noted, is a unique annual survey of the persecuted church worldwide, praised by Curry as the most dependable study of its kind.  Open Doors research is “meticulous,” concurred at the briefing religious freedom scholarNina Shea from the Hudson Institute.  The WWL “ranks the top 50 countries where it is most dangerous and difficult to be a Christian,” the press release explained.  An accompanying map displayed at the briefing and available online with the report showed these countries coded by color according to persecution severity.

“Approximately 100 million Christians are persecuted worldwide, making them one of the most persecuted religious groups in the world,” the press release observed.  “This year, the threshold was higher for a country to make the list, indicating that worldwide levels of persecution have increased.”  Curry noted that the number of Christians dying for their faith has more than doubled since last year’s WWL.  “While the year 2014 will go down in history for having the highest level of global persecution of Christians in the modern era,” the press release elaborated, “current conditions suggest the worst is yet to come.”

Church destroyed in Aleppo, Syria by Sunni rebels associated with the Free Syrian Army

Church destroyed in Aleppo, Syria by Sunni rebels associated with the Free Syrian Army

North Korea, with an estimated 70,000 Christians imprisoned according to the press release, headed the list for the 13th consecutive year and appeared blood red (“Extreme Persecution”) on the map.  No other regime is so “militantly atheistic” as North Korea’s “Stalinist brand,” Shea observed, where the regime suppresses any competition to what Curry described as a “cult worship.”  North Korea exemplifies in Shea’s words how “remnant Communist” countries like China (list place 29, colored green for “Moderate Persecution”) are one significant source of Christian persecution.  Another threat came from “nationalist regimes,” Shea noted, such as the “Hindu fundamentalism” cited by the press release in India.

Shea’s third “Islamist” category,” however, was the largest threat in the WWL.  “Islamic extremism is the main source of persecution in 40 of the 50 countries,” the press release noted, including India, where both Islam and Hinduism endangered Christianity from various quarters.  “This relatively small but virulent strain of ideology,” Curry assessed, “has made the Middle East the most perilous region of the world for Christians.”  “More than 70 percent of Christians have fled Iraq since 2003,” the press release calculated, “and more than 700,000 Christians have left Syria since the civil war began in 2011.”  Bright red accordingly marked majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East and beyond on the WWL map, including Afghanistan and Iraq, two lands where the United States attempted with much blood and treasure to create stable, free societies.

For Shea, “intensifying persecution” of Christians in Muslim countries makes the word “so inadequate” that Shea prefers “religious cleansing” to describe a campaign of “total Islamization” eliminating non-Muslims.  Under the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a “completion of religious cleansing” of Christians as well as Yazidis has occurred in western Iraq, Shea stated.  Absent effective remedies, a “2,000 year-old church will be completely gone,” part of an “attack on the entire Christian presence in the region.”

Iraqi Christians have fled to Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region, where Kurds have “put out a welcome mat” and demonstrated that not all Muslims are hostile.  Unlike half a million Muslims who have fled ISIS there as well, though, the Christians lack regional allies and often avoid United Nations camps where international aid deliveries and refugee registration occur.  Accordingly, Iraqi Christians are suffering a “humanitarian crisis so dire” that it is an “existential threat,” Shea warned.

Referencing Sudan and Iran’s Islamic republics, Shea worried about “extremist influences being mainstreamed” in society and government beyond jihadist groups like ISIS.  The Iraqi government in the past, for example, marginalized Christians, who were therefore “dealt out of the deck” in the distribution of American aid.  Governments in Muslim countries likewise often turn a “blind eye and deaf ear” to persecution of Christians by private actors.

In particular, Saudi Arabia, a “towering figure within Islam” with oil resources, regional Gulf predominance, and control over Islam’s holy sites, has been “very counterproductive” by “spreading an ideology of hatred.”  Thus Saudi textbooks demonize non-Muslims and advocate “violent jihad” in Islam’s name.  As a result, “Saudi Arabia did create its own monster” in ISIS, a group Saudi Arabia has now attacked with air strikes, Shea observed.

Shea identified five “red flags” that characterize the “crime against humanity” of “religious cleansing,” elements taken together that are “greater than the sum of their parts.”  “Forcible conversion,” for example, presented Christians with Islamic law’s traditional trinity of choosing between death, conversion to Islam, or acceptance of “medieval dictates” in a “second-class citizenship.”  Nigeria’s Boko Haram “ruthlessly…applied” these alternatives during door to door searches of villages.  Laws also punished blasphemy and apostasy in Muslim countries such as Pakistan, whose “strictest black letter law” in this matter gave a “license to kill” to Muslim vigilantes.  Targeted assassination of Christian leaders, abductions, and targeted attacks on churches completed Shea’s list.

Like Curry, though, Shea assured that “prominent Muslim voices” and the “majority of Muslims” oppose religious persecution.  Shea asserted that Middle Eastern Christians “have long coexisted with the Muslim majority” in the region.  By contrast, Shea described as “extremists” the perpetrators of the Paris Charlie Hebdo jihad attacks on the very day of her remarks.

Yet the widespread, often state-based Muslim persecution of Christians noted by Shea and the WWL seemed to belie Shea’s confidence and suggest problems larger than a radical minority.  Various Middle Eastern Christians, meanwhile, have consistently contradicted Shea in discussions with this reporter (see here, here, and here).  In their experience, faith-based Islamic repression of Christians has marked the region since its eighth century Arab-Muslim conquest.

Queried about Muslim religious tolerance advocates, Shea cited interfaith activist Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal from Jordan and Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.  The latter, Shea noted, has “not encouraged any kind of eradication of Christianity” in his country and has “condemned the attacks on the churches.”  Shea, however, professed ignorance when this reporter mentioned past criticism of Sistani as a “false moderate.”  Sistani, for example, has supported sharia in Iraq, has advocated executing homosexuals, and has expressed anti-Semitic, anti-Christian sentiments against these non-Muslims and their “impurity.”

Similarly asked about moderate Muslims, Curry responded that “I don’t have any names off the top of my head.”  “We have not yet seen a major movement of moderate Muslims to condemn the teachings and ideologies” of groups like ISIS, Curry stated, his professions of a “relatively small” Islamic extremism notwithstanding.  Moderate Muslims “themselves will become a target” of jihadists by advocating for Christians and other persecution victims.

Shea bemoaned Christian persecution as an “ignored human rights crisis” in America among policymakers while “even our religious leaders are far too quiet” on the matter.  “The world still does not get it,” Curry concurred, and called the WWL a “wakeup call” for Christians to notice a “genocide going on.”  No country on the WWL has improved in recent years, Curry stated in an interview, “it’s only gotten worse.”

Shea criticized that secularized American leaders struggle to comprehend a “strong religious belief” in an “extremist version of Islam.”  Voice of America reporter Jerome Socolovsky, previously criticized for obligingly benign views on Islam, similarly seemed to exhibit at the event such incomprehension.  Socolovsky asked Shea whether American domestic respect for Islam, shown by opposition to mosque vandalism or interfaith events like the National Cathedral’s Muslim prayer service, could influence Muslims worldwide.  Shea countered that “there is no comparison” between Muslims protected by American law and often brutal Christian persecution abroad.  “Gestures” like those at the National Cathedral would also not “make a difference whatsoever” among ISIS jihadists and others.

The Nigerian Damaris Atsen gave personal witness at the briefing to the trials and tribulations of modern persecuted Christian faith.  Boko Haram terrorists in March 2010 seized her husband riding home from work and stomped him to death by the road, leaving Atsen widowed with four children, “gifts from the Lord.”  Romans 8:35 (“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?”) “always encourages me” that the “spirit of the Lord is there” during her times of mourning, she said.  “I have to forgive,” she added while discussing her husband’s murderers.  “If I do not forgive, the Lord will not forgive me.”  “Pray for Nigeria,” she concluded.

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.

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Stories From The Battlefield: Hamas Tunnels Used To Target Israel’s Kindergartens

Gaza21-e1406466928121By Mordechai Ben-Menachem

Multiple media outlets report that Hamas’s offensive tunnel network – now known to have been composed of over forty attack tunnels dug underneath Israel’s border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip – was set to be activated during the Jewish High Holidays (September 24th) as a mass terror attack.

The attack was meant to generate as many as ten thousand casualties, men, women and particularly children and hundreds of captives.  Explosives were particularly placed underneath kindergartens to make certain that these “institutions” would be the first struck, even before any thing else.

The IDF recently published the below map showing that tunnels were created in pairs, to empty out on both sides of nearby communities.  The known cost of the infrastructure – each tunnel costs upward of some $1 million – clearly shows that Hamas was planning a coordinated mega-attack.  It must be understood that use of even one tunnel would inevitably trigger Israeli retaliation against the entire network.

A map of a small portion of the tunnels meant to be used 9 weeks from now.

A map of a small portion of the tunnels meant to be used 9 weeks from now.

Revelations regarding the planned tunnel attack magnitude played a decisive role in the Israeli government’s rejection of a ceasefire proposed late Friday by Secretary of State John Kerry.

Unbelievably, Kerry actually proposed in his latest “cease-fire proposal” – none of which have been honored by Hamas so far – that Israel refrains from degrading remaining attack tunnels.  This mind-boggling concept would necessarily be rejected by any sane government, of any country.

Israeli security sources, citing information acquired in interrogations of captured brigands, described a scenario under which hundreds of heavily armed Hamas fighters would have spilled out into Israel in the dead of night and within 10 minutes been positioned to infiltrate essentially all Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip.  Waiting then in hiding until schools and kindergartens were occupied, the terrorists would then attempt to kill the children first, and then kill and kidnap as many Israelis as possible.  The plot was set to take place during Jewish New Year, on September 24.

“It’s like the Underground, the Metro or the Subway,” Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said. “These tunnels are all connected. I would describe it as Lower Gaza.”

Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said, “A whole city of terror tunnels has been found.  Without the ground operation, we would have woken up one day to an Israeli 9/11.”

Except, the actual objective was to be five times 9/11.

Read more at Daily Caller

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