The German government unveiled a fresh disaster-response plan, giving the quaint Cold-War first-aid tool known as the “civil defense concept” an overdue face-lift for an era of digital threats and ubiquitous terror.
U.S. fighter planes will conduct patrols with the Bulgarian air force next month, U.S. and Bulgarian officials said, operations aimed at opening a new front in the NATO alliance’s efforts to deter Russian military aggression.
As Colombia’s government and leftist rebels in Havana put the final touches on a historic peace deal, The Associated Press explains how the conflict began and developed over the decades, eventually culminating in a plan to end the half-century guerrilla conflict.
The takeover deprives the Islamic State of a crucial foothold on the Turkish border, used for funneling foreign fighters and supplies, and is expected to help accelerate the militants’ demise elsewher...
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- A ballistic missile fired from a North Korean submarine on Wednesday flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles), the longest distance achieved by the North for such a weapon, Seoul officials said, putting all of South Korea, and possibly parts of Japan, within its striking distance....
NORRISTOWN, Pa. (AP) - A family has filed the first lawsuit against the Navy alleging their drinking water has been tainted by firefighting foams once used at two former bases in suburban Philadelphia.
A Navy spokesman didn't immediately respond when notified of the lawsuit filed Tuesday by the Giovanni family ...
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called on Turkish authorities to be patient with the U.S. legal system as Turkey seeks the return of a cleric accused of masterminding last month's failed military coup.
Biden, who met with Turkish officials in Ankara on Wednesday, said that the ...
Multiple witnesses in Kabul said Wednesday the American University of Afghanistan is under attack.
Gunshots and a blast rang out Wednesday as the siege started. Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photographer Massoud Hossaini was trapped inside one of the buildings where professors and students are trapped.
Before the start of business, Just Securityprovides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
IRAQ and SYRIA
Turkey launched an operation against both the Islamic State and Kurdish fighters in the Islamic State-held Jarablus area at dawn this morning. A dozen Turkish tanks have crossed the border into Syria following heavy cross-border shelling of the area, and the entry into the area by Turkish special forces. [AP; BBC] The bombing is believed to be the first airstrikes by Turkey inside Syria since November 2015, when pilots shot down a Russian warplane that had strayed into Turkish airspace, report Dion Nissenbaum and Thomas Grove at the Wall Street Journal.
Turkey expects to swiftly eliminate the Islamic State from the area, Interior Minister Efkan Ala said today. Residents of the Turkish border town of Karkamiş and six other villages nearby have been evacuated as a precaution. [Reuters] Karkamiş was hit by mortar rounds fired from Jarablus yesterday, in response to which Turkey fired around 60 artillery shells on positions in the area, Martin Chulov reports at the Guardian.
The US is providing air cover for Turkey’s operation, a senior US official saying that Washington is “in synch” with its NATO ally’s plans. [Reuters]
Kurdish militias signed a ceasefire with the Syrian government over the northeast province of Hasaka yesterday, a major step toward full control of the region, which will be the third to be lost by President Bashar al-Assad to the Kurds. [New York Times’ Anne Barnard]
Over 65,000 people have fled Hasaka, according to the UN, which has urged government and Kurdish forces there to facilitate “permanent and unhindered” access for the delivery of humanitarian aid. [AP]
Jabhat Fath al-Sham – previously the Nusra Front – may seek to absorb other rebel factions involved in the successful offensive in east Aleppo in preparation for a push to retake the entire city, according to Hassan Hassan at the Washington-based think-tank the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. Such a plan could potentially backfire, however, by making it easier for the US to justify targeting other Syrian opposition groups such as Ahrar al-Sham. Murtaza Hussain reports for The Intercept.
Traces of deadly nerve agents found in laboratories in Syria prompt questions over whether Damascus has kept to its commitments to destroy its chemical weapons, according to a new report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. President Assad has insisted that chemical weapons have been largely eliminated from Syria, Colum Lynch and David Kenner report for Foreign Policy.
Turkey has formally requested the extradition of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, the State Department said yesterday, spokesperson Mark Toner saying, however, that he “wouldn’t characterize the request as relating to the coup attempt.”
The “demand” will be repeated by Turkey’s President in his meeting with Vice President Biden in Ankara today, he said today. [AP]
Turkish and American officials met to discuss the extradition of Gulen yesterday, ahead of Vice President Biden’s trip to Ankara, during which he will also discuss the extradition request and other matters. [AP]
A total of 586 colonels have been retired from the Turkish army following a meeting of Turkey’s Supreme Military Council yesterday. [Hürriyet Daily News]
The failed coup has united Turkey’s main political groups for the first time in decades, albeit over a single issue: Gulenists are responsible for orchestrating the putsch, Mustafa Akyol writes at the New York Times. Islamists, secularists, nationalists and Kurds all agree that “the state should be cleansed of the people who backed the coup attempt.” This “rare period of unity” was demonstrated at an anti-coup rally this month, reports Ceylan Yeginsu at the New York Times.
RUSSIA and UKRAINE
Russian, German and French leaders have agreed to meet at the G20 summit In China next month to address the situation in Ukraine, reports Andrey Ostroukh at the Wall Street Journal.
Putin is exploiting Western apathy to escalate the conflict in Ukraine, says the Wall Street Journal editorial board. Despite Russian rhetoric resonant of that employed before its 2008 invasion of Georgia, President Obama has refused to provide Ukraine with defensive arms to deter the Russians. Meanwhile, Vice President Biden has urged both Russia and Ukraine to show restraint – “as if Kiev is guilty of any provocation except self-defense.”
Ukraine put on a show of its military strength during independence day celebrations today, President Petro Poroshenko saying the country had to rely on its own military capabilities rather than international guarantees. [Reuters]
Secretary of State John Kerry warned Nigeria’s army not to commit human rights abuses in its fight against Boko Haram yesterday. There is evidence that the Nigerian army has killed civilians, tortured prisoners, and detained those it liberated from capture by Boko Haram, Chris Stein and Dionne Searcey report at the New York Times.
Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau was wounded in airstrikes by the Nigerian Military on Friday, not killed, according to spokesperson Col. Sani Usman. Dionne Searcey reports for the New York Times.
CYBERSECURITY, PRIVACY and TECHNOLOGY
The FBI is investigating whether Russian government hackers have breached the New York Times, a US official confirmed yesterday. The cyberattacks are thought to have targeted individual reporters, rather than the newspaper’s entire network. [AP]
WikiLeaks has published the sensitive personal data of hundreds of ordinary people, an investigation by the AP has revealed, a move at odds with the organization’s claim that it champions privacy even as it lays bare the workings of international statecraft, Raphael Satter and Maggie Michael report.
North Korea fired a submarine-launched missile today, which traveled around 300 miles to land in Japan’s air defense identification zone, much further than previous similar tests, Alastair Gale reports at the Wall Street Journal.
Japan, China and South Korea were united in sharply criticizing the test, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida saying that it was a “provocation that simply cannot be tolerated.” [AP]
CIA-tortured Guantánamo Bay detainee Abu Zubaydah appeared at a long-postponed hearing yesterday to argue that he poses no threat and should be released, via a statement read by a uniformed soldier. No member of the public other than his lawyers had seen Zubayhdah since his March 2002 capture in Pakistan. The review panel will announce its decision as to whether he should be released in a month’s time, reports Scott Shane at the New York Times.
The death of a US service member and wounding of another while on an advisory mission in Afghanistan yesterdayshows it is still a “dangerous place,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said yesterday. Six Afghan troops were also reportedly wounded when a roadside bomb exploded. [The Hill’s Kristina Wong]
Secretary of State John Kerry is set to visit the Saudi city of Jeddah today and tomorrow with the goal of getting the peace process for Yemen back on track, reports Nahal Toosi at POLITICO. Kerry has reportedly been “seized” with the issue of Yemen, and is hoping – along with other US officials – for a rare diplomatic success in the Middle East.
A British woman was stabbed to death in a backpackers’ hostel in Australia, and several others were injured, by a man who reportedly shouted “Allahu akbar” during the attack. Police have said they are investigating a number of possible motivations, including drugs misuse, mental health issues, and extremism, the BBC reports.
A 70-page plan detailing what should happen in the case of a terrorist attack was approved by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet today. The “Hamsterkaeufe” plan involves citizens stocking up on water and food and the possibility of reintroducing conscription, reports Reuters.
The Philippine’s territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea has not affected its diplomatic ties with either the US or China, Foreign Minister Perfecto Yasay said today. [Reuters]
Woods, Chris (2015). SuddenJustice: America’s Secret Drone Wars, New York, NY: Oxford University Press
UG1242.D7 W66 2015
Date Posted: August 24, 2016
View to a kill : armed drones on the battlefield — Birth of a predator : the origins of lethal drones — The rise of targeted killing : Yemen and Palestine — The cauldron : Iraq 2003-2011 — The occasional assassin : Bush in Pakistan — The enemy without : Western citizens killed by drones — Obama’s obsession : “AfPak” — Game face on : the intimacy of remote killing — An absence of transparency : Yemen and Somalia — The long road home : Afghanistan and Pakistan — The inconstant value of a civilian life — Countermeasures and critiques — Appendix: Reports of Westerners killed in US targeted strikes, September 2001 to December 2014.
Egyptian President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi met with Jordanian King Abdullah at the presidential palace in Cairo on Wednesday. They discussed bilateral ties as well as regional and international matters. Abdullah arrived in the city earlier in the day for a visit to Egypt.
US Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday during a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in Ankara that Syrian Kurdish forces will lose US support if they don't withdraw to the east bank of the Euphrates. "We have made it absolutely clear...that they must go back across the river. They cannot, will not and under no circumstances get American support if they do not keep that commitment. Period," he said. DEBKAfile: Biden's statement shows that the US has accepted all of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's terms regarding the Kurds and exposed them to a Turkish military attack if they fail to withdraw. Just last week, the US did not respond to a similar Turkish demand immediately after the capture of the northern Syrian city of Manbij from ISIS by a joint force made up of Kurdish fighters and US officers from special forces units. Washington has now changed its position.
Will China Help Clinch A Presidential Victory For Clinton? Forbes The U.S. economy has been rocky over the past few months, to say the least. We saw minuscule GDP growth in Q1 and a not much better performance in Q2, weak employment numbers in May, which led to much speculation as to the direction of the economy ...
Игорь Клямкин и Виталий Портников: что сделано за 25 существования независимой Украины. - "Врагу не удалось реализовать ни одной стратегической задачи, и он не смог поставить Украину на колени", - заявил сегодня президент Украины Петр Порошенко, выступая в Киеве по случаю Дня независимости.
- "Международное давление на агрессора должно сохраняться до тех пор, пока Россия не имплементирует минские договоренности, не заберет оккупационные силы, не передаст нам под контроль границу, не уберется из Крыма", - сказал Порошенко на встрече с дипломатами:
- Кремль сознательно игнорирует минские договоренности, которые являются ключом для урегулирования ситуации в Донбассе, международно-признанным алгоритмом возобновления украинского суверенитета", - добавил Порошенко и отметил возможность эскалации конфликта: "Сейчас враг сосредотачивает войска и строит новые военные базы". Глава государства сообщил: в Донбассе погибли более 2500 украинских военных...
Чего Украина добилась за 25 лет независимости ? - обсудят вице-президент фонда "Либеральная миссия" Игорь Клямкин, обозреватель Радио Свобода Виталий Портников, корреспондент РС в Киеве Андрей Трухан.
Детское порно – идеальный инструмент компрометации. Кому понадобилось опорочить Владимира Буковского? В программе Александра Подрабинека «Дежавю» адвокат Вадим Клювгант, журналист Антон Носик, юрист Павел Строилов.
Russia’s search for greater international influence and respect continued its downward spiral this summer. Its Olympic experience was spoiled by charges of doping. Accusations of hacking dragged it into the U.S. presidential campaign, and military tensions over Ukraine and Syria showed no sign of abetting.
Staunton, August 24 – Many Russian nationalists have comforted themselves with the notion that Belarus is “’more Russia than Russia itself,’” Vladimir Zotov says; but recent events and particularly the readiness of Belarusians to fight against Russia in Ukraine show that Russia’s western neighbor is rapidly becoming the next Ukraine, anti-Russian in the extreme.
Indeed, he argues, “the complete absence of Russia in the humanitarian, cultural and media spheres of Belarus, with which it officially is in a political union is logically leading to the adoption by the locally politicized youth of an openly anti-Russian identity on the Ukrainian model” (apn.ru/index.php?newsid=35373).
And as a result, he continues, “even bearers of Russian first names, last names and genes [among the young in Belarus] not simply accept this: they are ready to kill for it.Very soon, representatives of this age category will form the majority in the Belarusian powers that be. And that we will hear the next ‘never will we be brothers’” from a new direction.
After that, of course, “the machine guns will begin to sound.”
With the passing of the older generation and the rise of the new, Zotov says, Belarusians are changing their identities even though “the overwhelming majority of them speak and think in Russian.”That has meant a growth in Russophobia among the politicized part of the population, something “the official authorities at a minimum haven’t blocked.”
Zotov draws these conclusions on the basis of his analysis of the fact that Belarusians are fighting on both sides in Ukraine and Minsk so far has treated them the same rather than viewing those who are fighting for Russia as acting in accord with the requirements of the union state and those who are fighting for Ukraine as acting against it.
“Many Belarusians who are in the units of the LNR and DNR,” he says, “wear Russian (but not Belarusian) flags on their uniforms, while their opponents [on the Ukrainian side] always use the standard Belarusian nationalist symbols, the white-red-white flag and the Horseman shield.”
Those Belarusians fighting for Ukraine are “all supporters of radical nationalism and are ready to lay down their lives in the struggle against the Russian world. One of the most widespread motivations,” Zotov says, is the desire “to stop Russia in Ukraine so that it won’t seize Belarus, since, in the opinion of Belarusian radicals, the Kremlin dreams only about this.”
“’I did not go to fight for the freedom of Ukraine,’” Zotov quotes one of their number as saying.“’I did so for the freedom of Belarus’” because “if the Horde isn’t hit in the face here in the Donbass, it will go further – and Belarus, I am absolutely convinced will be swallowed up like Crimea in a couple of days.’”
What is striking about this, the Russian commentator says, is that “the majority of the personages have normal Russian last names and think in Russia. More than that, until recently, the basic mass of Belarusian ultra-rightists and fanatics stood in the main on all-Russian positions. However, lately, the situation has changed.”
In short, although Zotov does not say this, anti-Russian attitudes in Belarus have spread from the liberal intelligentsia, the normal object of attack by Moscow writers, to the right-wing nationalists, an indication of the growing power of Belarusian nationalism and thus a threat to Russia’s position there
According to the Russian commentator, Alyaksandr Lukashenka is of two minds about the Belarusians who are fighting in Ukraine. One the one hand, it is clear, he values his relations with Kyiv. But on the other, he equally clearly feels threatened by the return to Belarus of combat veterans of either side.
That explains why Minsk officials routinely talk about arresting such people without being specific as to which side they were fighting, a situation that has led those on each side to think their supporters are being victimized more than the other and thus have become heroes for one position or the other.
As a result, some Belarusians who have fought for Ukraine are taking Ukrainian citizenship and remaining there, Zotov says. And it is likely the case, although he doesn’t mention it, that some Belarusians who have fought for the Russian side are taking Russian citizenship andheading to that country.
Staunton, August 24 – Throughout the 1990s, Russian liberals and their Western backers feared that the communist party would destroy democracy and completely failed to see that the real threat was emerging from a very different direction: those officers of the security services who fought democracy in Soviet times and wanted to do so again, Fedor Krasheninnikov says.
In a commentary in today’s “Vedomosti,” the Yekaterinburg political analyst points out that “the ‘liberal’ establishment” of the first decade of post-Soviet Russia focused on the communists and other marginal figures as the greatest threat to democracy in Russia (vedomosti.ru/opinion/columns/2016/08/24/654237-mest-pobezhdennih).
“Who would then have believed,” Krasheninnikov asks, “that the true restorers of everything bad that was in the Soviet political and economic system would come to power not from below, from some kind of ‘left-wing’ party or movement but from behind the scenes of the ‘democratic’ powers that be themselves?”
KPRF Gennady Zyuganov, “who proudly carried the banner of Soviet revanchism in the years of almost official anti-Sovietism, quickly demonstrated his hopelessness and the lack of prospects of this movement, time and again losing elections to Yeltsin and to his successor,” the Yekaterinburg commentator says.
In fact, Kraasheninnikov continues, it was not the communists but others who were the creators of the new-old ideology that dominates Russia today. The communists and those who shared their views thus have remained “on the sidelines of public policy” and have been forced to adopt the “revanchist” slogans of the ruling party.
If one examines the top leaders of Russia today, “it is impossible not to note that one is speaking about an extremely narrow circle of people. And these are not former party workers nor Soviet bureaucrats without work as instructors” of communist ideology.” Indeed, they are “not bearers of Marxism-Leninism or any other ideology.”
Instead, Krasheninnikov points out, the leaders of Russia today are “the former officers of the Soviet secret policy,” those who helped erect the Potemkin village of Soviet democracy, knew the arts of manipulation and information war, and had experience in the suppression of democratic movements.
Few in Russia or the West wanted to talk about the need for lustration in 1991 and even fewer do today, forgetting that it is “hardly a synonym for extra-judicial repression and revenge.” Instead, it is “a limitation of the right to occupy specific political positions for persons immediately connected with the criminal activity of the past regime.”
Consequently, there was no lustration and no restrictions on the serving personnel of Soviet totalitarianism.From this vantage point it is clear that even if such a policy had been adopted and applied in an extremely restricted way, “the history of Russia in the 21st century would have developed in a completely different direction.”
And that underlines “the truth that not communist ideology delivered a blow to the back of Russian democracy but rather Soviet administrative practice and specifically those who were occupied with it directly and at a low level.”Such people, it turns out, “simply didn’t know how to act differently” and when they could “did everything for the return” of the familiar system.
“It is difficult to understand the logic,” he says, “by which the way was opened to the leading posts in post-Soviet Russia for those who for several years before the destruction of the USSR were occupied with the struggle against private initiative and methodically trampled the most elementary human rights while working in the Soviet punitive organs.”
Nevertheless, Krasheninnikov says, “precisely that is what happened: the former guards of Soviet totalitarianism got the chance to make dizzying careers in the new order.” They far more than the communists have been responsible for the turning away from democracy and toward the Soviet past.
The Yazidi girl had been in the safety of a refugee camp in Iraq for two weeks when she imagined she heard the voices of Islamic State fighters outside her tent. Petrified by the thought of again facing rape and abuse at their hands, 17-year-old Yasmin vowed to make herself undesirable. So she doused herself in gasoline and lit a match. The flames burned her hair and face, peeling away her nose, lips and ears. That was her state when German doctor Jan Ilhan Kizilhan found her in a refugee camp in northern Iraq last year, physically disfigured and mentally so scarred that she had falsely thought her former captors were coming for her. Now 18, Yasmin is one of 1,100 women, mainly of the Yazidi religious minority, who have escaped IS captivity and are in Germany for psychological treatment. The pioneering program that Kizilhan helps run, which has attracted international attention, tries to address a basic problem: Long after the women are rescued, the trauma remains. Recalling her ordeal today, Yasmin hunches over in her chair, grips her gnarled hands together and looks down at the floor. But she straightens up and her face brightens as she remembers when Kizilhan first entered her tent in the refugee camp and told her and her mother, in their own language, how he could help in Germany. "I said, of course I want to go there and be safe, and be the old Yasmin again,'' she recounts. She asks that her last name not be used out of ongoing fear of possible reprisal from Islamic State sympathizers. It was on Aug. 3, 2014, that IS fighters swept into the Sinjar region of northern Iraq, home to the majority of the world's Yazidis. They rounded up the Yazidis into three groups: Young boys who were made to fight for IS, older males who were killed if they didn't convert to Islam, and women and girls sold into slavery, like Yasmin. Tens of thousands of Yazidis fled to the mountains, where the militants surrounded them in the scorching summer heat. The U.S., Iraq, Britain, France and Australia flew in water and other supplies, but many Yazidis died before they could be rescued. Following the IS assault, "no free Yazidis remained in the Sinjar region,'' a United Nations expert panel wrote. "The 400,000-strong community had all been displaced, captured or killed.'' An estimated 3,200 are still in IS captivity in Syria, where they were taken after being captured. As the attack unfolded, members of the estimated 100,000-strong Yazidi community in Germany approached politicians in Berlin for help. Winfried Kretschmann, the governor of the prosperous western state of Baden Wuerttemberg, was moved and decided to act. "He asked us, 'what can we do?' We're a state, we don't have an army,'' recalls Michael Blume, the state's expert on minority issues. "We looked into it and said, no state's ever done it, but we could bring a special quota here.'' The state parliament committed 95 million euros ($107 million) over three years to bring women abused by IS, mostly Yazidis but also Christians and Shiite Muslims, to Germany. Blume reached out to Kizilhan, a psychologist specializing in trauma and also a university professor and Mideast expert. Kizilhan, who is of Kurdish background, was born in Turkey and speaks Kurdish, including the Yazidi dialect, German, Turkish, Farsi, English and even some Arabic. From February 2015 to January 2016, small teams of experts, including Blume and Kizilhan, went to refugee camps in northern Iraq. Kizilhan made 14 trips and personally interviewed the women and girls, trying to determine who would benefit best from the limited program. "It was an evil that I had never seen in my life,'' he says. "I'm experienced in trauma, I had already worked with patients from Rwanda, from Bosnia, but this was very different. If you have an 8-year-old girl in front of you and she's saying she was sold eight times by IS and raped 100 times during 10 months, how can humankind be so evil?'' In the end, he decided upon 1,100 women and girls ranging in age today from 4 to 56. Kizilhan and others then met with the head religious leader of the Yazidis, the Baba Sheikh, at the holy site of Lalish. He agreed not to ostracize the victims, despite the perceived affront to honor in their culture. "The Baba Sheikh talked with each one of them, kissed them on the head and said, `You belong to our society, you are still Yazidis and we are very proud of you, that you could come through this kind of horror and torture back to our society,''' Kizilhan says. "Most of the women cried, very shocked but happy to be accepted by the highest priest.'' The women are primarily treated in more than 20 clinics in Baden-Wuerttemberg, though 70 have been sent to Lower Saxony and another 30 to Schleswig Holstein. They are kept at undisclosed locations with extra security out of fears that IS sympathizers may try to target them even in Germany. The last chartered plane with the victims arrived in January. The program is being closely watched, with many queries from other states and countries, Blume said. Kizilhan is also working on establishing a trauma institute in northern Iraq to provide similar services for those not fortunate enough to be brought to Germany. Kizilhan noted that even in refugee camps in Iraq, some 60 Yazidi women have committed suicide. About half the victims now in Germany need help just to stabilize. This means introducing them to the basics like going shopping, visiting doctors, and for children, going to school. Among them is a woman whose 4-year-old daughter was taken away by an IS fighter besotted with her blonde hair and blue eyes, who told her he would "marry'' her when she was 9. The mother escaped, but the daughter, now 6, remains in the clutches of the extremists. The woman cries every time she sees a blonde-haired and blue-eyed girl on the street, Kizilhan says. Another was taken by IS at age 16 with her family and watched as her father and two brothers were killed. She was sold as a sex slave to a fighter from Tunisia, and then re-sold another dozen times or so over the next year. Finally escaping, she walked barefoot and without food east across Syria to the Iraqi border. "In the view of the Islamic State ideology, these people are not human beings,'' Kizilhan says. "We experienced that also in the Nazi regime in Germany, they did the same with the Jews.'' All of the women and girls have permission to remain in Germany for two years. Kizilhan notes that after what they have gone through, they could probably get asylum permanently if they want. For Yasmin, there's no reason to go back. Yasmin was 16 when she and her sister were separated from their family as they fled into the mountains, and spent seven days in IS captivity. Men were killed, and women and children taken, she says. After they escaped, she was still terrified and always crying. She falters when trying to describe what led her to set fire to herself, talking vaguely rather than reliving the memory. "Their voice was in my ears,'' she says. "I could hear their voice, I was so scared.'' Then she heard what she thought was a shell exploding nearby. "I couldn't take it anymore,'' she says. "And this is what happened to me.'' Today she shares a modest single-family home with her parents, sister and two brothers. Her sister, a year older, won't talk about what happened to her, and nor will most of the other women in the program. But for Yasmin, the desire for people to know outweighs her hesitance to dredge up horrific memories. "It is very important to tell our stories because the world should know what happened to us, so that it doesn't happen again,'' she says. Yasmin wears loose-fitting clothing to protect her sensitive skin, and a machine at her bedside helps her breathe because of her damaged nose and airways. She hopes to eventually go to school, improve her German, learn English, and get a job involving computers. Yet she still fears the Islamic State, especially after two recent attacks in Germany claimed by the group. She has somewhere between five and 15 surgeries ahead of her, Kizilhan says. She dreams of going out in public again without turning heads, without children looking at her and crying. "I want to be through the surgeries and be healthy again,'' she says. "My family is here and I want to start a new life.''
Norway is putting up a steel fence at a remote Arctic border post with Russia after an influx of migrants last year, sparking an outcry from refugees' rights groups and fears that cross- border ties with the former Cold War adversary will be harmed. The government says a new gate and a fence, about 200 meters (660 feet) long and 3.5 meters high stretching from the Storskog border point, is needed to tighten security at a northern outpost of Europe's passport-free Schengen zone. For decades, the Nordics have enjoyed the image of being a reliable haven for asylum seekers. But the erection of the fence, at a spot where 5,500 migrants mainly from Syria crossed into Norway last year, reflects a wider shift in public attitudes against refugees. This is seen too in Sweden, Norway's neighbor, which was once touted as a "humanitarian superpower", but is setting up border controls this year and has toughened asylum rules. Refugee groups and some opposition politicians say Norway's fence will deter people fleeing persecution and is an unwelcome echo of the Cold War in a region where relations have generally flourished since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. The fence will be erected in the coming weeks, before winter frosts set in, to make it harder to slip into Norway via a forest. Workers have so far done some preparatory work, clearing away old wooden barriers put up to control reindeer herds. "The gate and the fence are responsible measures," Deputy Justice Minister Ove Vanebo told Reuters, defending the move. Both Moscow and Oslo have cracked down on the Arctic route, one that a few refugees found less risky than crossing the Mediterranean by boat, since last year's inflow of migrants. So far this year, no one has sought asylum via the northern frontier, according to the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration. "I can't see a need for a fence. There are too many fences going up in Europe today," said Rune Rafaelsen, the mayor of the Soer-Varanger region which includes the border, told Reuters, pointing to barbed wire in nations such as Hungary. Russia still maintains a fence the length of the 196 km frontier with NATO member Norway, sometimes several kilometers back from the dividing line. It has not complained about the Norwegian plans to build a fence. But Rafaelsen, of the opposition Labor Party, said the region had made great progress in improving civilian ties since an Iron Curtain divided Norway from the Soviet Union and he, and others, saw the plans for a fence as a backward step. "We've an obligation to be a country people can flee to," said Linn Landro, of the Refugees Welcome group in Norway. "The fence sends a very negative signal, including to Russia because it says that 'we don't trust you'. "Norwegians and Russians in the region can visit visa-free for short trips. About 250,000 people crossed the border last year, a decline from recent years but to be compared with just 5,000 a year in the Cold War. Norway's border Commissioner Roger Jakobsen said a weak ruble has made Norway more costly for Russians, road repairs have made crossings harder and ties have cooled after Norway and other Western nations imposed sanctions after Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014. He doubted the fence would be a new deterrent and said there had been no complaints from Russia. "We shouldn't make a storm in a teacup out of it," he said.
Russia's confinement of a Tatar activist to a psychiatric clinic in Crimea is raising fears that Moscow is reviving a Soviet-era practice to intimidate opponents of the peninsula's annexation into silence.
A tycoon and power broker with close ties to Vladimir Putin, Viktor Medvedchuk has influenced policy for two tumultuous decades in Ukraine. As a peace deal he helped push through in a conflict with Russia-backed separatists threatens to unravel, the outsize role of a man critics call the "Prince of Darkness" is in the spotlight again.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says Washington puts "paramount importance" on its relations with Turkey and is offering "unwavering support" for democracy in the country after the failed July military coup there.
Boris L. Milgram, who was fired as minister of culture in Perm, Russia. “We realized that we had this unique chance to make Perm into a place where people would want to live,” he said, “but there is always this fear in Russia that creative freedom makes people too difficult to control.”
The Pentagon has warned the Syrian regime to not deploy Syrian air force in areas in northern Syria where U.S. forces are also operating. Peter Cook, a Defense Department spokesman, said, “we’re going to defend our forces where they are. We advise them to steer clear of where we’re operating.” The U.S. message was relayed to the Syrian regime via Russia. Last week, the U.S. scrambled two F-22s after Syrian air forces dropped bombs in Hasaka, where U.S. special operations forces are operating with Kurdish YPG fighters against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It was the first time Syrian jets have bombed an area where American troops are present, despite the United States' past warnings. The Hill has more.
U.S.-backed Kurdish forces now have militias aligned with Syrian President Bashar al Assad under siege in the city of Hasakah. The battle over Hasakah has raised the possibility that the United States may be drawn into a direct clash with Syrian regime troops. The Daily Beastreports that the Kurds may be unwilling to relinquish oil-rich Hasakah, instead aiming to incorporate the city into a politically autonomous Kurdish region after the end of the civil war.
The Wall Street Journal writes that the Syrian regime has come to view the Kurds as a serious threat, targeting Kurdish forces more aggressively and echoing the Turkish government’s anti-PKK rhetoric. While the regime’s shift comes on the heels of a rapprochement between its Russian backers and Turkey, it is also a reaction to the Kurds’ growing military capabilities and the fight for Hasakah Turkey views Kurdish successes in northern Syria as a threat to its own territorial integrity, and cooperation between Turkey and Syria in quashing Kurdish territorial ambitions could further complicate Syria’s already convoluted war.
The Associated Press tells us that Turkish artillery has attacked a U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish militia from across the border. The Turkish army also hit Islamic State positions as well. The attacks targeted positions north of the town of Manbij, which Kurdish-led forces recently captured from the Islamic State. Turkish state media also reported that Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters are preparing to attack Jarablus, an ISIS-held town near the Turkish-Syrian border. The BBC has more.
Stephen O’Brien, the top aid official at the United Nations, proffered a gloomy assessment of the Syria relief effort on Monday and described the suffering in Aleppo as the “apex of horror.”O’Brien, the UN’s under secretary general of humanitarian affairs, praised Russia’s recent support for a 48-hour cease-fire in Aleppo and called on other parties to follow Moscow’s lead. No humanitarian convoys have been able to reach the contested city this month.
The New York Timesreports that Iran’s sudden decision to reverse the permission it granted Russia to use its air base for airstrikes in Syria is an indication of Tehran’s deep-seated suspicion of Moscow.Russian state media had trumpeted the development as a sign of Russia’s growing influence in the Middle East, but Iranian officials interpreted Russia’s public statements as an unacceptable sign of arrogance about the privilege. Analysts said the partnership likely would have survived if Russia had not leaked the news without consideration for how the news would play with the Iranian public.
CNN reveals that Iraqi security forces and associated militia forces are inching towards Mosul, the Islamic State’s largest stronghold in Iraq. Iraq’s government aims to recapture Mosul by the end of the year. Soldiers said the Islamic State appears more reliant on local fighters, a sign that the so-called caliphate is growing weaker and unable to recruit enough foreigners to hold onto the city. But a humanitarian crisis is also looming, as roughly one million civilians live in Mosul.
The Washington Post examinesthe Islamic State’s turn to child bombers as the terrorist organization hemorrhages fighters and territory. The United States estimates the Islamic State has lost 45,000 fighters since an air campaign began two years ago. Analysts add that the Islamic State’s indoctrination campaign is also reaping benefits as captured children become inculcated with the organization’s perverse brand of Islam. A child suicide bomber affiliated with the so-called caliphate killed more than 50 people in Turkey this weekend.
The Post also tells us that after nearly a month of airstrikes against the Islamic State fighters dug in around the Libyan city of Sirte, U.S. helicopter gunships have been dispatched to help root out fighters from some of the denser parts of the city. According to a U.S. Africa Command release, the U.S. military launched nine strikes from Friday to Sunday targeting Islamic State positions. Some U.S. special forces are already on the ground in Libya.
A U.S. service member was killed in Afghanistan’s Helmand province by a roadside bomb, while another American soldier and six Afghan soldiers were also wounded. Helmand province has been the site of heavy fighting in recent weeks as Taliban forces have used the summer months to launch multiple offensives across the country. The group is estimated to control well over 50 percent of Helmand, and its pressure on the capital has forced U.S. and NATO troops to shuttle resources to help prop up the embattled Afghan security forces.
Turkey has criticized Israeli airstrikes in Gaza as a “disproportionate” response to Sunday’s Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli village, the Associated Press reports. In response, Israel called Turkey’s criticism “baseless.” The two countries have only recently reconciled a six-year break in relations following an Israeli naval raid on a Turkish aid ship attempting breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza, in which ten Turkish activists were killed.
Turkey’s deal with the European Union to stem the flow of migration into Europe might collapse under the country’s post-coup crackdown, the Postwrites. Both Turkish and European leaders are threatening to pull the deal. Ankara has accused European bureaucrats of failing to fulfill a promise to drop visa restrictions for Turkish nationals, giving the EU until October to fulfill the pledge. European leaders, however, said they are growing concerned about widespread human rights abuses in Turkey.
The New York Timesfills us in on the rare period of unity that has emerged in Turkey after the failed coup attempt in mid-July. Liberals and secularists have supported President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, despite his government’s harsh crackdown over the past month and concerns on the part of some that Erdogan is on the path to turning Turkey into a one-party state.
The Post’s editorial board urges Vice President Joe Biden to be candid and stern when he meets with Erdogan in Ankara this week. Biden should reiterate the United States’ mutual interests with Turkey, the board argues, but should also counsel Erdogan that his authoritarian impulses will only weaken Turkey in the long run.
Before meeting with Erdogan, Biden stopped in Latvia to reassure Baltic nations that the United States will uphold its NATO treaty obligations in the face of Russian hostility. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has recently rattled the Baltics by suggesting that the United States may not honor its Article 5 obligation to come to their aid if Russia invaded.
The United States is also nearing a military defense cooperation agreement with Finland, which has taken steps to augment its security in the face of Russian aggression in the region. Finland signed a similar deal with the United Kingdom in July while Sweden, the only other Nordic country not in NATO, signed a defense cooperation agreement with the United States in June. The Guardian hasmore.
Hackers affiliated with the Russian government may have attacked reporters at the New York Timesand other US media organizations along with Democratic Party institutions, CNN reports. The FBI is now investigating the possible hack. Neither the FBI nor the Times has confirmed CNN’s story.
During a meeting with her Italian and French counterparts, German Chancellor Angela Merkel calledfor Europe’s intelligence agencies to share more information across the European Union “in the face of Islamist terror and the civil war in Syria.” Merkel also indicated the European Union has reached a critical juncture after Britain’s recent decision to leave, saying and that the organization must begin to consider what shape its future will take.
The European Union’s spymasters are lobbying for new measures to limit the use of encrypted communications across the continent. Europe has been rocked by a series of high-profile attacks in the last year, and intelligence agencies are troubled by the number of terrorists who use platforms with end-to-end encryption such as WhatsApp or Telegram to communicate and launch attacks. TheFinancial Times has more on the ongoing debate between Europe’s vociferous digital privacy lobby and the EU’s intelligence and law enforcement community.
The Nigerian military said on Tuesday that its airstrikes had killed several top Boko Haram commanders in the country’s northeast, where militants have been hiding for months. A military spokesman said Abubakar Shekau, the group’s leader since 2009, was among the wounded. But the military has claimed to have killed Shekau before. The Nigerian military has recently stepped up its offensive against Boko Haram even as the group appears to be fracturing.
The FBI has launched a federal terrorism investigation into a stabbing attack last weekend in Roanoke, Virginia. According to ABC News, the Bureau is looking at whether the attacker may have been trying to behead his victim in an Islamic State-inspired assault. The alleged attacker, Wasil Farooqui, is reported to have injured a man and woman at an apartment complex in Roanoke, yelling "Allahu akbar" as he attacked them with a knife on Saturday. Authorities believe he may have been trying to behead the male victim, who was likely picked at random.
Abu Zubaydah, a long-time Guantanamo detainee who became notorious for his subjection to torture and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” at the detention center, appeared for the first time in a public hearing at Guantanamo this morning. The Timeswrites that Zubaydah announced that he “has no desire or intent to harm the United States or any other country” and should be released from detention.
ICYMI: Yesterday, on Lawfare
James Kraska pointed out gaps in the otherwise legally correct Philippines-China international tribunal award.
Bruce Riedel noted that Algeria is building the third largest mosque in the world, arguing that this a sign of the country’s move away from secularism.
Daniel J. Rosenthal made the case that foreign intelligence gathering under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is categorically exempt from disclosures under FOIA.
Charlie Dunlap argued that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump share a desire to pursue more aggressive material support legislation to combat terrorism.
Email the Roundup Team noteworthy law and security-related articles to include, and follow us onTwitter and Facebook for additional commentary on these issues. Sign up to receive Lawfare in your inbox. Visit our Events Calendar to learn about upcoming national security events, and check out relevant job openings on our Job Board.
A flood of recent polling data shows Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump in a head-to-head national match up, as well as in several key swing states. An oft-cited YouGov/Economist poll released last week found that in a two-way election, 47 percent of Americans would vote for Hillary Clinton and 41 percent would vote for Trump. Despite a USC Dornsife/LA Times poll released over the weekend showing Trump gaining ground, Real Clear Politics calculates that Hillary averages a 5.5 point lead over her Republican rival.
Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac University poll released last week found that Hillary Clinton enjoys a double digit lead over Mr. Trump in swing states like Colorado (41 to 33) and Virginia (50 to 38). She maintains a razor-thin lead over Mr. Trump in Iowa (41 to 39), the Quinnipiac survey found, and also hold a slim (43-39) lead in Ohio, according to a Monmouth University Poll released just yesterday.
These data have generated plenty of headlines as news organizations track each twist and turn in the polls. But, as James Hohmann recently wrote for the Washington Post, “sometimes the most interesting numbers in a poll are the ones that do not change.”
Though Hohmann’s piece addresses public opinion on Donald Trump, his observation is also true of polling on national security. Americans’ sense of the importance of national security in this election has remained notably steady over the past few months. And so long as national security remains an issue of paramount concern to voters, the candidates’ qualifications to serve as Commander in Chief will be a focal point in the general election.
NBC News-Survey Monkey data indicates that since the beginning of 2016, Americans have consistently identified “terrorism” as a key issue in the 2016 election. Terrorism polls ahead of immigration, education, and the environment. Since the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, the share of Americans who identify terrorism as the most pressing concern is second only to the share of those who identify “jobs and the economy.”
The YouGov/Economist poll released last week underscores the public’s focus on national security issues. Ninety-one percent of Americans identify terrorism as an important issue, the poll found, with 53 percent saying it’s “very important” and 23 percent saying it’s “somewhat important.” Additionally, 90 percent of Americans say the “use of military force” is an important issue, with 54 percent reporting that it’s “very important” and 36 percent who say it’s “somewhat important.” This markedly security-oriented tone is particularly striking when considered against the backdrop of recent history; when Hillary Clinton ran for the Democratic nominee in 2008, then-Senator Obama was campaigning as a peacemaker. During the 2012 election, the share of Americans who identified terrorism as a major problem facing the United States polled consistently below five percent, as IPSOS illustrates below.
Given the importance of national security issues in 2016, it is noteworthy than Americans are more uneasy than they are confident in the ability of both candidates to handle terrorism. According to the most recent YouGov/Economist poll, 52 percent of Americans say they are “uneasy” about Hillary Clinton’s ability to handle terrorism, while just 41 percent say they are “confident” in her abilities. These numbers are hardly a boon for the Clinton campaign, which has consistently sought to play up the former Secretary of State’s foreign policy prowess. But Donald Trump fares even worse: just 31 percent of Americans say they are confident in Mr. Trump’s ability to combat terrorism, compared to 61 percent who say they are uneasy. With both candidates underwater on an issue of consistent concern to many Americans, each campaign’s efforts to position its candidate as the more effective—or, perhaps, least ineffective—Commander in Chief will be of utmost importance.
For the second installation of Nick Asks the NSA, I offer Congress my services as to what questions in their oversight capacity they should be asking NSA about the Shadow Broker leak.
It now safe to say that the "Equation Group" leak by Shadow Brokers is real and consists of a genuine trove of NSA tools used to hack firewalls. The leaked code references known programs, uses a particularly unusual RC6 and cruddy crypto techniques previously associated with NSA implants, and the Washington Post has confirmed the authenticity of the materials with two anonymous ex-NSA employees.
And the threat of blackmail is also real. In addition to the now-public achieve offered as proof, the Shadow Broker group released an additional encrypted achieve which has not been unlocked. While the “auction” for the second file is little more than theater, we do not know what is in that 130MB of encrypted data. It is possible the file contains nothing authentic, but as far as the NSA knowns it is just as likely that the Shadow Broker group, on a whim, could release the key and contents to the world.
The whole episode raises a host of oversight questions. How and why did NSA lose 280MB of Top Secret attack tools, including multiple zero day exploits and un-obfuscated implants. As with my previous "Nick Asks the NSA," I doubt I’ll ever hear the answers in an unclassified space. But that’s why we need the Senate and House intelligence oversight committees to ask the hard questions for us.
Here is why they should be grilling NSA officials over:
When did NSA become aware of the breach?The answer to this initial question affects the subsequent questions. Whether NSA knew about the breach in 2013 or shortly thereafter or whether the agency learned of it approximately when the rest of the world did, there are significant implications.
If the NSA was aware of the breach in 2013, why didn't they contact Fortinet and Cisco?Among the information stolen in the breach was a series of fully-weaponized exploits, including ones targeting Fortigate (codename EGREGIOUSBLUNDER) and Cisco (codenames EXTRABACON and EPICBANANA) firewalls. These exploits represent vulnerabilities in US manufacturers which pose serious risks to both US government and corporate deployments.
Cisco has effectively confirmed that it was never notified by the NSA,since their hardware is still vulnerable to EXTRABACON and they have no patchyet. Presumably, if Cisco was aware before now of an issue of this magnitude, it would have fixed the problem. If NSA was aware of the breach, they could not have simply watched for the Cisco vulnerability in the wild, and only upon evidence of use notify the vendor. The only location one would expect to see this exploit is in the network between a sysadmin's computer and the firewall itself, which is not an area where NSA could have visibility.
If the NSA knew of the breach of their tools and failed to notify Cisco and Fortinet, this would represent a serious dereliction of the NSA's Information Assurance mission because both of those products are used by the government and on DOD systems which IAD is charged with protecting.
If NSA only recently learned of the breach, what failed?After the Snowden revelations, the NSA greatly increased increasing overall security in order to address the insider threat vulnerabilities that Snowden exploited. But it would appear that this data was stolen in October 2013, four months following Snowden’s disclosures. It might be impossible to prevent data exfiltration all of the time, but a functioning system should at least be able to detect the loss.
Is NSA recently learned of the breach, what steps does it plan to take regarding vendor notification and public announcements? Yes, it would be embarrassing for NSA to admit that it was unaware of a significant theft. But, as with Heartbleed, the agency should acknowledge that it is did not know about the theft in order to reassure the public that it remains committed to its Information Assurance mission. Incompetence is a black eye, but malfeasance has far more pernicious consequences. So it is it is only guilty of the first, NSA would be wise to make that clear.
Does NSA have a reasonable estimate of what exists in the second, still-unreleased file? One would certainly hope it does. There are key components missing from the “proof” files that are necessary to conduct an actual operation. These firewall tools generally require that the NSA operator already has control over a system administrator's system in order to launch these exploits. The code for controlling such implants, if made public, could potentially compromise many NSA operations by enabling direct detection of implant command and control. If there is any possibility of the second file including that kind of material, NSA needs to fess up to Congress and quick.
Did NSA or the executive interagency performed any sort of equities evaluation on the Cisco and Fortigate vulnerabilities?The likely timing of the theft in 2013 makes it unclear whether these exploits went through a formal Vulnerabilities Equities Process or similar analysis. Separate and apart from the compromise, there is a serious debate as to whether these are the kinds of vulnerabilities that NSA should ever remain confidential to the NSA. Vulnerabilities in firewalls are of extreme concern because someone who controls the firewall is able to control the entire network, monitoring everything and capable of launching attacks at will.
Further affecting the calculation as to whether these exploits should have been retained is the ease of exploitation. Although both exploits require a privileged location—namely having previously compromised a system administrator's computer—the actual exploits themselves are easy to recreate—they are classic "buffer overflow" attacks of the sort that undergraduate computer science students learn to exploit.
The other factor to consider is the damage which occurs on successful exploitation. If Chinese, Russian, Israeli, French, or other hackers take over a victim network's firewall, then they effectively control everything. They can spy on all unencrypted traffic. In most networks, the VPN ends at the firewall, allowing easy observation. The firewall can even modify traffic, redirecting specific targets to exploit servers.
Under equities calculations, it is important to understand these exploits are easy to develop and potentially discover, difficult to actually deliver, but potentially catastrophically damaging to US interests if used against us. on the specific classified details, one could make a strong case on either side for disclose or retain—particularly for the EXTRABACON exploit—but this is a case where Congress could gain considerable insight into the process of equities balancing in general.
How is NSA changing the equities process now that "someone stealing the NSA's tools" has to be explicitly included in the threat model?Previously, equities calculations generally relied on the probability that someone else might independently discover and exploit a vulnerability. How does this calculation change when the NSA's own tools might be stolen, without detection? Is there a policy on what to do when the NSA knows that their tools are compromised?
Has NSA identified the source of the breach?At present, there appear to be three possibilities. (1) An insider stole this data. (2) An adversary somehow exfiltrated data from a Top Secret system. Or (3) an NSA operator, seriously breaches operational security protocols and copied all these files—presumably a substantial part of an "ops disk"—onto an unclassified system for attack staging and then left it there for four months. None of these possibilities should be especially comforting, but Congress should at least expect NSA to account for which scenario occurred.
Has NSA identified the actual employee or contractor who set up the files that were stolen?Again, we should hope so. The SCRIPTS directory doesn't contain what computer programmers classically call "scripts." Instead, it is a set of notes, both general ones for the tools and ones for the particular operation. These internal notes—in particular those on BOOKISHMUTE—should help identify the operator.
Has NSA improved operator OPSEC with ops disks/Ops stations/reflectors?The possibility of an entire attack flow ending up on an unclassified system is troubling, but could easily result if tools are insufficient to provide a nice "pick and choose" interface to update a deployment server during an attack. Currently, rumors are circulating that this is not an unheard of error at NSA. Congress should ask whether NSA has improved the operator workflow so that Ops Stations only receive the minimum necessary tools for an operation and only retain these tools for the minimum necessary time.
It may be tempting for NSA to "blame the operator" here—and certainly somewhere there’s been a substantial screw up. But Congress should not let the agency off the hook, good security systems should make things difficult to fail. The public discussion indicates a serious point of failure with NSA OPSEC: operators apparently feel the need to upload all tools they might possibly end up needing to an unclassified space. This might be by creating better tools.