Thursday, July 28, 2016

Syria's Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida and changes its name

Syria's Jabhat al-Nusra splits from al-Qaida and changes its name

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Jabhat al-Nusra announced that it would henceforth be known as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham - or Front for the Liberation of Syria - and said it no longer owes allegiance to al-Qaida.

Obama passes baton to Clinton, imploring nation to elect her

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Hours of testimonials, urgent pleas and persuasion have led to this. Now, it's time to hear from Hillary Clinton.
The former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state on Thursday will step out of the shadows of presidents past and present for her moment to convince ...

Russia's defense minister says President Vladimir Putin has ordered a humanitarian operation outside

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MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's defense minister says President Vladimir Putin has ordered a humanitarian operation outside Syria's Aleppo.

Russia announces humanitarian operation in Aleppo

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia and the Syrian government will open humanitarian corridors in Syria's embattled city of Aleppo and offer a way out for opposition fighters wanting to lay down their arms, Russia's defense minister Sergei Shoigu announced on Thursday as Syrian forces took another district from rebels in the ...

The Latest: Syrian forces take another Aleppo neighborhood

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BEIRUT (AP) - The Latest on developments related to the Syrian war and international effort on the crisis (all times local):
12:15 p.m.
Syrian state media are reporting that government forces have taken another neighborhood from rebels in the contested northern city of Aleppo.
Thursday's report came as the Russian ...

Donald Trump: I was being sarcastic with Russia hacking comments 

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PHILADELPHIA — Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump says he was being sarcastic when he said Wednesday that he hoped Russia was able to find Hillary Clinton's deleted emails.
"Of course, I'm being sarcastic, and they don't even know, frankly, if it's Russia," Mr. Trump said in an interview for "Fox ...
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US commander: Turkey unrest could affect Islamic State fight

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East says he's concerned the failed coup in Turkey may have longer term effects on the fight against Islamic State militants in the region.
Gen. Joseph Votel tells the Aspen Security Forum that he's worried the unrest could affect ...

Agents at border point finds marijuana hidden inside pipes

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SANTA TERESA, N.M. (AP) - Authorities say federal officers at a southern New Mexico border crossing found nearly half a ton of marijuana concealed inside metal pipes being hauled on a flatbed trailer.
Customs and Border Protection say officers found 928 pounds of marijuana in six containers Tuesday after they ...

James Comey, FBI director, warns of 'terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we've never seen before' 

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FBI Director James B. Comey on Wednesday told a cybersecurity conference in New York that Americans can expect to see a "terrorist diaspora" metastasize out of the Middle East.
Mr. Comey told an audience at Fordham University that battlefield gains against the Islamic State group in Syria will have the ...

Dems ask Obama for transparent investigation into DNC hack, evidence of Russian involvement 

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Two of the intelligence community's top-ranking Democrats urged President Obama on Wednesday to release to the public any evidence linking the Russian government to the Democratic National Committee hack.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Schiff, California Democrats, laid out the request in an open letter to Mr. Obama prompted ...

Feds: Woman busted at LAX had $160K worth of meth

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - Federal authorities say a woman arrested at Los Angeles International Airport is suspected of trying to smuggle about $160,000 worth of crystal meth into the country from Mexico.
Customs and Border Protection says the 27-year-old appeared nervous and was singled out for further inspection after arriving ...

US says 6 airstrikes killed 14 civilians in Iraq and Syria

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WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. military says an internal investigation shows that 14 civilians were killed and one civilian was wounded in six separate U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria between July 2015 and April 2016.
The conclusions were reported Thursday by U.S. Central Command, which oversees U.S. military operations ...
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US general says 5 US troops wounded in Afghan fighting

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Five U.S. special operations troops were wounded in combat with Islamic State fighters in eastern Afghanistan, the senior U.S. commander in the country said Thursday.
It appeared to be the first reported instance of U.S. troops being wounded in fighting against the Islamic State in Afghanistan. U.S. ...

Donald Trump's no traitor, but left deflects Hillary Clinton's treason 

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Of course Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee's emails. China, Iran and others probably hacked them as well. They also hacked Hillary Clinton's unsecure server in the bathroom.
It's what countries do — they spy.
By the way, the United States does the same thing in return, guaranteed. Have ...

Giuliani on Protesters Shouting at Panetta: ‘So Stupid, It’s Ridiculous’ 

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Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R.) ripped the Bernie Sanders supporters who tried toshout down Leon Panetta during his Democratic National Convention speech, calling them “so stupid, it’s ridiculous” Thursday on Fox & Friends.
Panetta, the former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director, touted Hillary Clinton’s national security credentials and ability to defeat the Islamic State on Wednesday, but cries of “No more wars!” came from Sanders supporters as he spoke. Even MSNBC personalities ripped them for their lack of decorum, with liberal commentator Joy Reid calling it “embarrassing.”
Giuliani’s reaction was to tell a story of a former Republican Philadelphia judge who sometimes got annoyed at his own party, until he watched a Democratic convention and remembered why he was in the GOP.
“That guy should become a Republican,” he said of Panetta. Host Brian Kilmeade noted to Giuliani that Panetta was one early in his career before becoming a Democrat.
“They are at war with us,” Giuliani said of ISIS. “Those people are so stupid, it’s ridiculous.”
He noted French president Francois Hollande had said Islamic extremist terrorism was at war with their nation, so “we must be at war with them.”
“So those idiots are yelling and screaming,” Giuliani said. “They’re going to be at war with us, and we’re going to sit back and just let them kill us, just let them kill us like in Orlando and San Bernardino and Nice.”

Asia Times: Obama Aide’s China Visit Was to Ease Tension Over Sea Ruling 

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U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice traveled to Beijing this week as part of U.S. efforts to lessen simmering tensions over an international court ruling against China’s claims in the South China Sea.
Rice met Monday with Chinese leader Xi Jinping but few details were disclosed about the meeting. Xinhua, the official Chinese new agency, said Xi told Rice that Beijing is willing to develop “trusting, cooperative ties” and hoped for constructive solutions to disagreements.
White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said maritime issues were discussed in the meeting between Rice and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi and Central Military Commission Vice Chairman Fan Changlong but provided no details.
Read the entire article at Asia Times.

Russian Actors Have Been Hacking U.S. Government, Private Entities for Years 

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Russian actors have been hacking into U.S. government and private cyber systems for years, disregarding attempts by the Obama administration to temper relations with Moscow and prevent cyber attacks.
Russia’s hostile actions in cyber space have come under increased scrutiny amid reports of the country’s likely culpability in an attack on the Democratic National Committee computer network, a matter currently under FBI investigation. According to the New York Times, U.S. intelligence agencies have expressed “high confidence” that the Russian government orchestrated the cyber attack, which resulted in thousands of emails written by DNC officials being released online by WikiLeaks.
If tied to Russia, the hack would be the latest in a string of cyber attacks on U.S. systems that have been traced to actors in Russia.
Russian hackers are said to be responsible for numerous cyber attacks in recent years that have infiltrated networks used by the White House, State Department, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Pentagon. Cyber security researchers have also uncovered a state-sponsored Russian hacking group that has targeted the United States, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and private American entities for at least seven years.
Hacking attempts by Russian actors have persisted after the United States and Russia signed a bilateral agreement in 2013 to cooperate more in the cyber realm to reduce threats to information security. Data collected by cyber security firm CrowdStrike last year indicated that Russia ramped up cyber attacks after the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russian entities and individuals in response to the country’s military intervention in Ukraine.
Shane Tews, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who focuses on cyber security and internet governance, said to the Washington Free Beacon that the U.S. government and private entities have not put enough resources toward cyber security. The government also does not have a plan of action in place to retaliate against foreign hackers, she said.
“Money and resources would definitely help, but once you realize something is going on, you need to have a plan of action,” Tews said. “We don’t have an official act of cyber war or cyber deterrence strategy.”
One year ago, hackers infiltrated the Joint Chiefs of Staff unclassified email system used by roughly 4,000 military and civilian personnel, forcing the government to shut down the system for nearly two weeks. Investigators traced the attack to Russia days after it was disclosed by the Pentagon.
“This attack was fairly sophisticated and has the indications … of having come from a state actor such as Russia,” an unnamed U.S. official told the Washington Post in last August.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter revealed months earlier that Russian hackers successfully breached the Pentagon’s unclassified network for several hours.
“After learning valuable information about their tactics, we analyzed their network activity, associated it with Russia, and then quickly kicked them off the network, in a way that minimized their chances of returning,” Carter said during an April speech rolling out the Pentagon’s new cyber strategy, labeling the breach “worrisome.”
The same month, news broke that Russian hackers were believed to have hacked into the State Department and White House unclassified computer systems, gaining access to the former for months.
Russian hackers have also targeted private American entities and Western alliances. A report by cyber security researchers at F-Secure Labs last year shed light on the seven-year hacking operation of “the Dukes,” a hacking group that is believed to have been working for the Russian Federation since 2008 to accumulate intelligence to inform Moscow’s foreign policy.
According to the research, the hacking group targeted the United States and NATO beginning in 2009. The group ran hacking campaigns against a U.S.-based foreign policy think tank, a NATO exercise in Europe, and a NATO information center in Georgia.
“This is not new,” Tews observed. “The Russians have been hacking for a longtime.”
The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based research institution, has a timeline tracking major cyber incidents that have occurred globally since 2006, several of which have been attributed to Russia and many that have unknown sources. Chinese hackers have also perpetrated multiple cyber attacks on U.S. systems, including the massive Office of Personnel Management breach in 2014 that compromised the personal information of 22 million Americans.
Tews noted that Russian and Chinese hackers work together on cyber operations and do not launch attacks on one another. Last year, the two nations inked a cyber security deal agreeing not to conduct cyber attacks against one another and boosting information and technology sharing between their governments.
Revelations pointing to Russia’s likely involvement in the DNC hack come at a time when U.S.-Russian relations are arguably at their lowest point since the Cold War, more than seven years after the Obama administration’s infamous failed Russian “reset.” Intelligence officials told Reuters that the Russian hackers intentionally left behind digital fingerprints to assert Moscow as a “cyber power.”
Russia has displayed increasingly hostile behavior towards the United States and Western interests, by buzzing close to U.S. ships with warplanes in the Baltic Sea and threatening a military buildup in response to NATO’s decision to boost its troop presence in Eastern Europe. Many top military officials have assessed Russia as the gravest existential threat to the United States and its allies.
“Russia has chosen to be an adversary and poses a long-term existential threat to the United States,” retired Gen. Philip Breedlove, NATO’s former supreme commander, said in testimony before Congress in February.
Still, the Obama administration has sought cooperation with Russia in some areas. Any public accusations by the United States of Russia’s involvement in the DNC attack could threaten Secretary of State John Kerry’s efforts to finalize a deal with Russia on military cooperation and intelligence sharing in Syria.
The DNC leak, which came days before the Democratic National Convention, has riled both presidential campaigns.
Loyalists to Hillary Clinton have alleged that Russia perpetrated the hack to help Republican nominee Donald Trump, who has been scrutinized for his aides’ ties to Russia. Trump’s campaign has denied these allegations, though the candidate on Wednesday encouraged Russia to “find the 30,000 emails” that Clinton deleted from her personal email server before turning it over to the FBI.
The Kremlin has also dismissed theories that Russia orchestrated the hack to influence the U.S. election, without explicitly denying Russia’s culpability in the cyber attack.
This would not be the first instance in which foreign actors have been suspected of hacking U.S. political campaigns. Officials told NBC News in 2013 that Chinese actors hacked the presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCain (R, Ariz.) and Barack Obama.
Read the whole story
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Activists Call for Realistic Portrayal of Vietnam War on a Pentagon Website 

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For two years, a committee has been seeking changes to what it calls a rose-colored portrayal of the conflict on a website commemorating its 50th anniversary.
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China, Russia Plan Joint Military Drills in South China Sea

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China, Russia Plan Joint Military Drills in South China Sea

By The Associated Press

China’s military said Thursday it will hold joint exercises with Russian forces in the South China Sea, following a recent arbitration ruling that rejected Beijing’s claim to almost the entire strategic body of water.
The air and sea drills will be held sometime in September and were aimed at deepening relations between the two militaries and boosting their capacity to respond to maritime threats, ministry spokesman Col. Yang Yujun said at a monthly news briefing.
Yang said the exercises weren’t targeted at any third parties. He didn’t disclose the specific location, and some areas of the South China Sea are not disputed.
Chinese ships have challenged vessels from the U.S., the Philippines and other nations in disputed waters, and China considers the tribunal’s ruling earlier this month to be invalid.
Russia and China have held numerous joint drills in recent years, united in a desire to stem American power in the Asia-Pacific region, despite their own lingering mistrust over territory and influence in Central Asia.
Russia has also spoken in support of China’s rejection of the move by the Philippines to bring the South China Sea case before the international arbitration body in the Hague, the Netherlands, and argued that countries without a direct claim to territory should stay impartial, in a reference to the U.S., which has called on China to accept the ruling as binding.
In the wake of the ruling, China held live-firing exercises and said it would launch regular air patrols over the South China Sea while continuing with the construction of man-made islands equipped with harbors, airstrips and other infrastructure with military uses.
It has also launched a diplomatic campaign to denigrate the ruling that has so far persuaded other Southeast Asian countries that have similar disputes with it to back away. China kept any mention of the judgment from appearing in a joint communique from issued at the conclusion Tuesday of a meeting between it and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Six governments in all claim territory in the South China Sea. China says all disputes should be settled bilaterally through negotiations.
Read the whole story
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The Kid Who Helped Carve-Up The Priest

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New details emerge about teen killer of French priest

Adel Kermiche.
SAINT-ETIENNE-DU-ROUVRAY, France — Adel Kermiche nursed his obsession with jihad in this quiet French town alongside the Seine River, and his twice-thwarted attempt to join Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) extremists in Syria ended with an attack on an elderly priest celebrating Mass in its sturdy stone church.
New details emerged Wednesday about the 19-year-old, one of two assailants who took five hostages Tuesday at the church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, slitting the throat of the 85-year-old priest, the Rev. Jacques Hamel, before being shot to death by police.
This is an undated image of French Priest Jacques Hamel made available by the Catholic Diocese if Rouen in France on Tuesday July 26, 2016. Priest Jacques Hamel was killed on Tuesday when two attackers slit the throat of the 86-year-old priest who was celebrating Mass Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, in France, killing him and gravely injured another of the handful of church-goers present before being shot to death by police. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the first attack in a church in the West. (Doicese of Rouen via AP)
This is an undated image of French Priest Jacques Hamel made available by the Catholic Diocese if Rouen in France on Tuesday July 26, 2016. Priest Jacques Hamel was killed on Tuesday when two attackers slit the throat of the 86-year-old priest who was celebrating Mass Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, in France, killing him and gravely injured another of the handful of church-goers present before being shot to death by police. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the first attack in a church in the West. (Doicese of Rouen via AP)
The attack was claimed by ISIS, which released a video Wednesday allegedly showing Kermiche and his accomplice clasping hands and pledging allegiance to the group.
In it, Kermiche identifies himself by the nom de guerre Abul Jaleel al-Hanafi, and says his compatriot, who has not been identified by French authorities, is called Ibn Omar. Wearing a camouflage jacket and speaking in broken Arabic, Kermiche recites: “We pledge allegiance and obedience to Emir of the faithful Abu Bakr al-Baghdady in hardship and in ease.”
Social media pictures appear to show Kermiche as a youngster growing up in Northern France, but sometime in 2015, he was suddenly radicalized, CBS News’ Elizabeth Palmer reported.
At the time of Tuesday’s attack, Kermiche was awaiting trial. He was living with his parents and wearing an electronic tag.
“We tried to bring him to his senses,” his classmate Redwan said.
“But he would quote the Koran to us, saying France is the land of the unbelievers, and we should go to Syria and fight,” he continued.
Those who knew him in this Normandy town where he grew up said Kermiche appeared to think of little else other than trying to join the extremist group in Syria after the January 2015 attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket.
“He said it wasn’t possible to live peacefully in France. He spoke with words that did not belong to him. He was mesmerized, like in a sect,” his mother said in an interview last year after her son was detained and returned to France after trying to make it to Syria.
She said the family, who had flagged him to authorities, did not know where to turn.
“Luckily he was caught in time twice,” she told the Tribunal de Geneve newspaper. “If he had made it to Syria, I would have had to write him off.”
Initially Kermiche was jailed, but a judge later ordered him released — over prosecutor objections — and placed him under limited house arrest with an electronic surveillance bracelet.
He was not the first person to leave this corner of Normandy headed for Syria, nor the most notorious.
Maxime Hauchard, a Muslim convert who appeared in a November 2014 ISIS video slitting the throat of a Syrian soldier, grew up in a village just a few miles away, and was among a microcell of four or five local jihadi recruits.
Police officers conduct a search as they investigate an attack on a church that left a priest dead in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
Police officers conduct a search as they investigate an attack on a church that left a priest dead in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, Normandy, France, Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Two attackers invaded a church Tuesday during morning Mass near the Normandy city of Rouen, killing an 84-year-old priest by slitting his throat and taking hostages before being shot and killed by police, French officials said. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
By the time Kermiche’s obsession with joining ISIS began, Hauchard had already been in Syria for nearly 18 months, according to police. His most recent propaganda appearance, in a Twitter post after the November attacks in Paris, was a threat against next month’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Kermiche never made it that far. After being freed and placed under house arrest, wearing a surveillance bracelet, he was allowed out for four hours each day. During that time, the tracking device was deactivated and he was permitted to go anywhere in the region as long as he returned home by the appointed hour, according to a police official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
A neighbor, who gave only his first name, Redwan, was at work when he learned about Tuesday’s attack at the church.
“I knew it was him. I was sure,” the 18-year-old said, adding that Kermiche told friends that he had been promised women and the chance to “save his brothers” in Syria.
“We tried to bring him to his senses, but every time we did it he was bringing in a verse from the Quran. He was inventing things,” the young man said.
A family acquaintance defended the efforts of Kermiche’s parents even as this Normandy town tried to absorb the shock of Tuesday’s slaying.
“The parents did everything to avoid this. They gave them everything in material terms, in terms of love,” said Annie Geslin, who worked with Kermiche’s mother in a family association.
“They did not succeed in getting their son to return to a, how to say it, a normal behavior,” she added.
The Kermiche family home was empty Wednesday, and Geslin said the parents were right to leave, given the tumult.
Meanwhile, Pope Francis, visiting Krakow, Poland, for World Youth Day celebrations,decried the attack and slaying of the priest as an act of “war.”
“I am not speaking of a war of religions,” he said. Religions don’t want war. The others want war.”
President Francois Hollande presided over a defense council and Cabinet meeting in Paris after speaking with Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Muslim and Jewish leaders, who sent a message of unity and solidarity.
The archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Andre Vingt-Trois, called on Catholics to “overcome hatred that comes in their hearts” and not to allow ISIS “to set children of the same family upon each other.”
The rector of the main Paris mosque, Dalil Boubakeur, said France’s Muslims must push for better training of Muslim clerics and urged that reforming French Muslim institutions be put on the agenda. He did not elaborate.
With the attack threat for the country ranked extremely high, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said France was working to protect 56 upcoming summer events and may consider cancelling some.
Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said 4,000 members of the Sentinel military force were being deployed in Paris, while 6,000 had been sent to patrol in the provinces. They were being bolstered by tens of thousands of police and reservists.
Read the whole story
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(updated)-Syrian Terrorist Group Al-Nusra Claims To Have Quit Al-Qaeda, To Evade Bombers 

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Jolani Golani
One of these dudes is al-Jolani, or al-Golani, the mouthpiece of al-Nusra terrorist group.  Both of them have been sold to the world by Western and Arab press.  AlJazeera is in love with the little Jolani on the left, probably the only Islamist terrorist leader still unable to grow a beard.
FLASH!!!  We now have a 3rd al-Golani, picture released today by Al khaleej news in UAE….I guess he can grow a beard.
[Al Golani is a creation of the intelligence agencies (SEE: The layers of fiction surrounding Al Nusra chief Abu Mohammed Al Jolani).  He is credited with leading one of the currents generated by the break-up of Al-Qaida In Iraq, the same terrorist outfit which has been holding Lebanese soldiers hostage, after beheading 4 of them.  Nusra is fighting a holding action on the Leb. Army, giving ISIS time to lay in supplies the mountains of the east, preparing for an anticipated major assault upon Lebanon from Qalamoun in Syria.  Lebanon is expected to join a US anti-ISIS coalition, while it fights al-Nusra without proper weapons. 
Truth be told, Lebanon is expected to fold-up and play dead in the face of a sustained assault by the offspring of al-Q In Iraq.  Both ISIS  and al-Nusra are “al-CIA-da.”]
[Now that bombers target al-Nusra, the same as its parent, ISIS, the CIA’s boy is getting scared enough to publicly make this attempt to say that “WE ARE NO LONGER TERRORISTS”…bullshit!Al-Nusra is the bastard offspring of Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS), who are the bastard “BAIRN” of Al-Qaeda.  Nobody believed this al-Jolani pissant when he claimed to break with ISIS…nobody believes his lies now.  He cannot disavow his previous oathes of loyalty to the remnants of Al-Qaeda, where he claimed to take orders from bin Laden’s “Number 2,” Ayman al-Zawahiri.]

Leader of Syria’s Nusra Front claims no more affiliation with Al Qaeda


The leader of Syria’s Nusra Front says his group is changing name, and claims it will have no more ties with Al Qaeda.

In a video aired on the Syrian opposition station Orient TV and Al-Jazeera Thursday, Mohammed al-Golani said the delinking from the terror network aimed to remove “pretexts” by the U.S. and Russia to strike rebel groups while saying they are targeting Nusra.
Nusra has been Al Qaeda branch in Syria and one of the most powerful armed groups fighting the government.
Al-Golani said his group will be renamed the Levant Conquest Front and will “have no relation to outside groups.” The video was the Syrian militant’s first appearance showing his face.
Read the whole story
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WARPLANES: A Russian Victory In Iraq

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ELECTRONIC WEAPONS: Commandos Prefer iPhone

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The Early Edition: July 28, 2016 

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Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
US-backed Syrian Kurdish and Arab militias have seized over 10,000 documents and 4.5 terabytes of digital data from the Islamic State in the past few weeks while fighting the insurgents in Manbij, close to the Turkish border and a major hub for Islamic State fighters moving in and out of Syria. An initial review offers fresh clues about “foreign fighters, the networks, where they’re from,” Brett McGurk, the US’s special envoy for combating the Islamic State, has said. Eric Schmitt reports for the New York Times.  Operation Inherent Resolve spokesperson Army Col. Chris Garvey said yesterday that the information could also provide insight into the Islamic State’s plots outside of Iraq and Syria, reports Kristina Wong for the Hill.
The Russian and Syrian militaries will begin a “large-scale humanitarian operation” in Aleppo,Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said today. Three corridors will be opened for civilians to leave the city, and a fourth will be established for militants in the north of Aleppo, close to the Castello road. [Reuters]
Eight Eastern European countries have approved the sale of €1.2bn of weapons to countries known to ship arms to Syriaa year-long investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project has found. Thousands of weapons including assault rifles, rocket launchers and anti-tank weapons are being sent via a new arms pipeline from the Balkans to the Arabian Peninsula and countries bordering Syria, and the suspicion is that they are ending up in Syria itself. Ivan Angelovski et al report for the Guardian.
The death toll from the Islamic State’s bombing attack in Syria’s predominantly Kurdish Qamishli yesterday continues to riseAs of last night, at least 50 had died, according to Al Jazeera.
Thousands of Afghan men are travelling to Syria to fight alongside the Syrian government and its allies, reports Kareem Fahim for the New York Times. Most of them are Shiite Muslims from the Hazara ethnic minority, and the chief motivation is lack of work at home.
“At some point there is going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before.”Speaking at a cybersecurity conference at Fordham University yesterday, FBI Director James Comey warned that eventual victory against the Islamic State in Syria would push the “really dangerous” jihadists out, primarily into Western Europe. [New York Times’ Joseph Goldstein]
Al-Qaeda’s Syria branch the Nusra Front is considering splitting ties with the global terror groupits members have told the AP’s Bassem Mroue. It then intends to merge with other insurgent groups in Syria, a move that could complicate negotiations between the US and Russia on a military partnership in Syria, which involves separating militant fighters from other moderate rebel factions.  Al-Qaeda has issued an audio statement to its Syrian branch today telling it that it could break ties if it needed to, to preserve its unity and continue its battle in Syria, reports Reuters.
Hezbollah should be the US’s target in SyriaDaniel Serwer, a professor and director of the conflict management program at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, makes the case for focusing efforts on the group, which is “a major factor in the military balance in Syria” that has allowed Assad to “make progress against his opponents.” [Washington Post]
A series of bomb attacks in and around Baghdad, Iraq, yesterday have left at least 18 deadofficials have said. A provincial council south of Iraq’s capital has approved the demolition of homes of convicted militants and the banishing of their families from the province, the AP’s Sinan Salaheddin reports.
US-led airstrikes continue. US and coalition forces carried out 12 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria on July 26. Separately, partner forces conducted 10 strikes against targets in Iraq. [Central Command]
A top-level military meeting chaired by Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildrim today is likely to lead to a “major shake-up” within the armed forces, suggests Suzan Fraser in the AP. The Supreme Military Council, which yesterday discharged almost 1,700 officers on suspicion of involvement in the failed coup, is expected to announce more dismissals today.
Two of Turkey’s highest-ranking generals have resigned ahead of the meeting, according to Turkey’s private news agency, Dogan. Lower-ranking officers are expected to be fast-tracked to fill the gaps in the top positions. [AFP]
The Turkish government ordered the closing of over 100 media outlets yesterday, including newspapers, publishing companies and television channels, as the crackdown following the failed military coup this month continues. [New York Times’ Ceylan Yeginsu]
Turkey is intensifying pressure on the US to extradite Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, reports Nahal Toosi for Politico, comparing the demand to that made by the US of Afghanistan that it hand over Osama bin Laden, and the failed putsch to the 9/11 attacks. Despite the invocation, Turkey is unlikely to take direct military action against the US over Gulen, suggests Toosi. However, Turkey can make life difficult for the US is other ways, particularly in relation to the fight against the Islamic State.
The US should not extradite Gulen without “better evidence,” says the Wall Street Journal editorial board. Although the motivation behind President Erdoğan’s request may be clear – he and Gulen are erstwhile political allies who fell out over a personal rivalry – that alone does not establish culpability. As Secretary of State John Kerry has reminded his counterpart, “we have a very strict set of requirements that have to be met for an extradition to take place.” That is particularly true toward a government that seems to have trouble “distinguishing fact from fantasy” and recognizing the rule of law, suggests the board.
The second suspect in the attack on the Église-St-Étienne Tuesday has been identified by French prosecutors. Abdel-Malik Nabil Petitjean, 19, had previously been flagged as a terror threat, according to officials. Authorities had been searching for him after his recent disappearance from his home in southeast France. [Wall Street Journal’s Noemie Bisserbe]  In fact, Petitjean’s photo was distributed to French police services four days prior to the attack, accompanying information stating that the man pictured “could be ready to participate in an attack on national territory,” according to the AP.
The two suspected perpetrators feature in a video released by the Islamic State’s Amaq news agency. The video, in which the two reportedly pledge allegiance to the Islamic State, was sent by them to the jihadists before Adel Kermiche and Abdel- Malik Petitjean carried out the attack, reports Kim Willsher in the Guardian.
Some media outlets in France have opted to stop publishing the names and images of Islamic State-linked attackers to avoid inadvertently glorifying them, reports the AP. The decision is part of a wider debate in France over how the media might be contributing to the terrorist threat.
The 18-year-old who shot nine people and himself in Munich last Friday is believed to have been a right-wing extremist who hated Arabs and Turks, reports Rick Noack for the Washington Post, although he is not thought to have been associated with any right-wing groups. The attacker was initially mistaken for an Islamist extremist.
Ansbach bomb attacker Mohammed Daleel was chatting online with an as-yet unidentified person immediately before he blew himself up outside a wine bar on Sunday, having been denied entry to a music concert. The person he spoke to is believed to have had “a significant influence on this attack,” Germany’s Interior Minister said yesterday. [AP’s Kirsten Grieshaber and Bassem Mroue]
A mosque believed to be a “hot spot” for Islamic extremism has been raided by authorities in northern Germany, as well as the apartments of eight leading members of the “German-speaking Islam Circle Hidesheim” organization in the same area, which the state’s interior ministry is intending to ban. [AP]
Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing pressure to abandon her incremental approach to preventing Islamist terror attacks from far-right parties and some mainstream conservatives. France’s President Hollande is facing a similar situation. Demands include putting electronic monitoring bracelets on those deemed at risk of radicalization, or even placing them in detention centers. Stacy Meichtry and Anton Toianovski report for the Wall Street Journal.
Former Guantánamo Bay detainee Abu Wa’el Dhiab has showed up in Venezuela after disappearing from Uruguay, where he had been transferred following his release in 2014, last month. Taos Turner reports for the Wall Street Journal that Dhiab turned up at Uruguay’s consulate in Caracas, Venezuela, on Tuesday, asking for help to travel to Turkey to be reunited with his family.
Former CIA prisoner Abu Zubayda’s request for immunity in testifying in 9/11 pretrial proceedings about claims of intentional disruption at Guantánamo Bay’s Camp 7 has been denied by Convening Authority Paul Oostburg-Sanz, who decided that Zubayda’s testimony would be essentially redundant given what alleged 9/11 plotter Ramzi bin al Shibh has already said in relation to his complaint that deliberate noises and vibrations have been harassing him for years at Camp 7. Trial Judge Army Col. James L. Pohl has the power to overrule the decision, reports Carol Rosenberg for the Miami Herald.
Saudi Guantánamo Bay captive Mohammad al Qahtani has had his request for release declined by the Periodic Review Board, denying a request by his lawyers that he be returned to Saudi Arabia to receive treatment for severe mental illness. [AP and Miami Herald]
Democratic Lawmakers urged President Obama to release any information about Russia’s alleged involvement in the hack yesterday, Sen/ Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) writing in a letter to the White House that they believe “a heightened measure of transparency” is warranted given the serious nature of the breach. The Hill’s Katie Bo Williams reports.
Among the hacked DNC emails released by WikiLeaks are a number of voicemail message recordings, Harper Neidig reports for the Hill. Some of the messages are from voters upset that the DNC was giving too much support for Bernie Sanders.
Meanwhile, the story has gained “surprisingly little traction” in Russia, reports Alexey Eremenko forNBC News.
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.” Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s comments during a news conference yesterday, referring to messages deleted from Hillary Clinton’s private email server, are  “another bizarre moment in the mystery of whether Vladimir V. Putin’s government has been seeking to influence the United States’ presidential race,” write Ashley Parker and David E. Sanger in the New York Times.
“Let’s be clear about what this means,” says the Washington Post editorial board: “the Republican candidate for president has invited a hostile foreign power to conduct an unlawful cyberattack against his opponent.”
Trump may have committed a felony, suggest Nancy A. Youssef et al in the Daily Beast: inciting criminal activity. Alternatively, he could be charged as a conspirator under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. However, this is unlikely, since the FBI and the Department of Justice are unlikely to want to dive into a “political nightmare.”
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) has been intervening to limit the FBI’s ability to act on incidental sensitive information it collected while monitoring phone calls, previously undiscloseddocuments obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center have revealed. Jenna McLaughlin reports for the Intercept.
A 24-year-old Bangladeshi American student was among the nine suspected militants killed by Dhaka police in a raid this week following the attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery on July 1, which killed 22 people, police said today. Shazad Rouf had been missing for six months, a police spokesperson has told Reuters, and had been wanted by police on suspicion of plotting a subversive act.
China will hold naval exercises with Russia in the South China Sea in September, reports Reuters.  China’s defence minister stated these exercises are “routine” and “not directed against third parties.”
Washington has “crossed the red line” and effectively declared war on North Korea by placing leader Kim Jong-un on its sanctioned list, North Korea’s top diplomat told the AP’s Eric Talmadge today. He added that a showdown could be precipitated when the US and South Korea hold their annual war games next month.
The UN has accused Boko Haram of “almost unimaginable” violence and brutality in Nigeriaand has estimated that over nine million people in the region require humanitarian assistance. [BBC]  Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs told the Security Council that the crisis must be addressed holistically and beyond “an exclusively security lense.”
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Trump and Clinton to Get Intelligence Briefings - New York Times

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New York Times

Trump and Clinton to Get Intelligence Briefings
New York Times
Current and former government officials said the briefings were broad overviews of how American spy agencies see the state of the world, similar to the briefing that James RClapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, gives to Congress each year.

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Defeating ISIS on battlefield will likely lead to more terrorist - Rudaw

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Defeating ISIS on battlefield will likely lead to more terrorist
The eventual defeat of Islamic State (ISIS) will likely lead to an increase of ISIS and ISIS-inspired attacks on western countries, the director of the FBI, James BComey, has warned. “At some point there is going to be a terrorist diaspora out of ...
When ISIS claims terrorist attacks, it's worth reading closely – The ...The Denver Post

all 57
news articles »

Hillary Clinton campaign: Donald Trump's Russia hacking comments 'unbecoming of a president' - Washington Times

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Washington Times

Hillary Clinton campaign: Donald Trump's Russia hacking comments 'unbecoming of a president'
Washington Times
Earlier this month, FBI Director James BComey said that Mrs. Clinton and her team were “extremely careless” with her own email set-up and said that hostile actors could very well have gotten their hands on Mrs. Clinton's personal email account. The ...
The many problems with Donald Trump's call for Russia to spy on Hillary ClintonWashington Post 
Settle Down, Donald Trump Didn't Commit Espionage By Hoping Russia Finds Hillary's EmailsLawNewz

Politics|Spy Agency Consensus Grows That Russia Hacked DNCNew York Times

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FBI director: The terrorism threat out of Syria is 'an order of magnitude greater than anything we've seen before' - Business Insider

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Business Insider

FBI director: The terrorism threat out of Syria is 'an order of magnitude greater than anything we've seen before'
Business Insider
"At some point there is going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we've never seen before," explained FBI Director James BComey at a cybersecurity conference at Fordham University on Wednesday, the New York Times reports. "Not all of the ...
Defeating ISIS on battlefield will likely lead to more terroristRudaw
When ISIS claims terrorist attacks, it's worth reading closely - The ...Washington Post

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Donald Trump should receive real intelligence briefings: White House - Washington Times

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Washington Times

Donald Trump should receive real intelligence briefings: White House
Washington Times
FBI Director James BComey said after an investigation that Mrs. Clinton was “extremely careless” with sensitive government documents but broke no laws. He recommended no criminal charges, and Attorney General Loretta Lynch quickly endorsed the ...

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Turkish media accuse US general, CIA, of plotting coup

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American officials have strongly denied allegations in the Turkish press that Washington was behind the failed July 15 coup in Turkey.
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Spy Overhead 

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Title:                      Spy Overhead
Author:                 Clinch Calkins
Calkins, Clinch (1937, 1965, 1971). Spy Overhead: The Story of Industrial Espionage. New York: Arno
LCCN:    70156408


Date Posted:      July 28, 2016
Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[1]
This is an account of a special part of industrial espionage—labor spying. In Spy Overhead the author describes how industrialists, by hiring secret operatives to spy among workmen, attempted to prevent American labor from organizing itself; Calkins based her study and analyses on material obtained from the records of Senator La Follette’s civil liberties investigative committee.
[1] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 134


Drone Wars 

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Title:                      Drone Wars
Author:                  Peter L. Bergen
Bergen, Peter L. (2015) and Daniel Rothenberg, eds. Drone Wars: Transforming Conflict, Law, And Policy. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press
LCCN:    2014020421


  • Introduction / Peter Bergen and Daniel Rothenberg — My guards absolutely feared drones : reflections on being held captive for seven months by the Taliban / David Rohde — The decade of the drone : analyzing CIA drone attacks, casualties, and policy / Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland — Just trust us : the need to know more about the civilian impact of U.S. drone strikes / Sarah Holewinski — The boundaries of war? Assessing the impact of drone strikes in Yemen / Christopher Swift — What do Pakistanis really think about drones? / Saba Imtiaz — It is war at a very intimate level / Drone pilot — This is not war by machine / Charles Blanchard — Regulating drones : are targeted killings by drones outside traditional battlefields legal? / William C. Banks — A move within the shadows : will JSOC’s control of drones improve policy? / Naureen Shah.
  • Defending the drones : Harold Koh and the evolution of U.S. policy / Tara McKelvey — “Bring on the magic” : using drones in combat / Michael Waltz– The five deadly flaws of talking about emerging military technologies and the need for new approaches to law, ethics, and war / Peter W. Singer — Drones and cognitive dissonance / Rosa Brooks — Predator effect : A phenomenon unique to the War on Terror / Megan Braun — Disciplining drone strikes : just war in the context of counterterrorism / David True — World of drones : the global proliferation of drone technology / Peter L. Bergen and Jennifer Rowland — No one feels safe / “Adam Khan” — “Drones” : now and what to expect over the next ten years / Werner J. A. Dahm — From Orville Wright to September 11th : what the history of drone technology says about the future / Konstantin Kakaes — Drones and the dilemma of modern warfare / Richard Pildes and Samuel Issacharoff — How to manage drones, transformative technologies, the evolving nature of conflict and the inadequacy of current systems of law / Brad Allenby — Drones and the emergence of data-driven warfare / Daniel Rothenberg.


Date Posted:      July 28, 2016
Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1]
Reviewed by James I. Walsh[2] (UNC Charlotte)
How are combat drones—armed, remotely piloted, combat aircraft—changing the nature of warfare?Drone Wars: Transforming Conflict, Law, and Policy, edited by Peter L. Bergen and Daniel Rothenberg, takes up this important question by collecting essays and analyses from a diverse range of contributors. The book marks one of the first attempts to address the consequences of the military drone revolution in a comprehensive way, considering important ethical and legal implications as well as strategic and political consequences.
The collection is divided into four thematic sections. The first addresses the political and military consequences in countries where militants are targeted with drones, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. David Rohde, a Western reporter held hostage by the Haqqani militant group for over six months, describes in vivid detail how his captors feared drones and took steps to avoid detection by their sensors. Bergen and Jennifer Rowland next describe their important effort to collect open-source information on the location, target, and consequences in terms of militant and civilian deaths of each drone strike conducted by the United States outside of recognized theaters of war. Their dataset is a crucial resource for understanding the patterns of strikes and how the pace and targets of drone strikes have changed over time. A key challenge in collecting such data, however, is identifying the victims of drone strikes. Militants have incentives to exaggerate the degree to which civilians are killed by drones, while outsiders face powerful political and logistical barriers to both defining who is a “militant” as well as determining who is killed and injured by drone strikes. Sarah Holewinski takes up these issues in her contribution, arguing that greater transparency about how targeting decisions are made will help to ensure that the United States is properly held accountable for its actions. Christopher Swift and Saba Imtiaz discuss the domestic political impacts of drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan, respectively. Both hold that drones reverberate within existing political conflicts and that understanding the context of such conflicts is necessary for understanding the long-term consequences of relying on drones to counter militant groups. Both suggest that drone strikes might aggravate political divisions in both countries in ways that make countering militants more rather than less difficult.
Combat drones create novel challenges for international humanitarian law and international human rights law; the second set of contributions analyzes these challenges. Charles Blanchard, a former general counsel for the United States Air Force, emphasizes that drones are remotely piloted. Like more conventional weapons, such as piloted strike aircraft, drones are always under human control, and thus, he argues, capable of being subject to the same international and domestic rules that govern conventional use of force. William Banks’s chapter is a useful companion to Blanchard’s analysis, as it highlights how their regular deployment outside of recognized theaters of war and the capacity to target specific, known individuals in addition to groups of suspected enemy combatants challenges the laws of war. Naureen Shah suggests that these capabilities blur the lines between traditional military operations and intelligence operations, which in the United States are typically governed by different and less stringent oversight procedures than conventionally piloted strike aircraft.
The third major section of the book collects chapters that focus on the strategic and policy implications of drones. Peter Singer rightly notes that the technological development for drones, as well as other technologies, is rapidly outpacing our current capacity to govern and think through the ethical and legal implications of technological change; this is a point that Rosa Brooks develops in more detail. Megan Braun suggests that drone technology itself is not revolutionary but is part of a more gradual evolution of surveillance and precision weapons technologies. What is revolutionary, though, is the fact that drones have enabled a new policy of targeted killings, a change that is in some ways independent of drone technology and that raises important questions about the ethics of the use of force, discussed briefly by David True.
The book closes with considerations of how drone technology has and will continue to change the future of warfare. This section opens with an interview with an anonymous resident of Pakistan’s tribal areas, who stresses both how drones are quite accurate at hitting physical targets, such as building and vehicles, but at the same time create widespread anxiety among residents without a direct connection to militant groups. Werner J. A. Dahm speculates how drones might change in the future, while Konstantin Kakaes provides a short and fascinating history of the little-known development and use of drones since the early twentieth century. In their contributions, Samuel Issacharoff and Richard Pildes, as well as Brad Allenby, hold that rather than considering how the development of drone technology will change society, we must consider how it interacts with social structures and laws to jointly determine the consequences of new weapons systems. The book closes with Rothenberg’s analysis of how surveillance and precision targeting technologies are allowing a fundamental shift in the use of force from targeting enemy formations to targeting specific individuals anywhere in the world.
Drone Wars, then, is a wide-ranging review of current thinking in policy and academic circles regarding the military, legal, and social consequences of the use of combat drones. But even a book as lengthy as this cannot alone provide in-depth discussion of all of the implications of this new military technology. For example, there is little assessment of how the publics in countries that use combat drones, such as the United States, Britain, and Israel, view this technology. Since drones lack on-board crews, they eliminate the possibility of physical harm to military personnel. Might it be the case that their ability to wage war without risking military casualties could lead mass publics and political parties to support conflicts more readily than in the past? The contributions to the book are heavy on law, technology, and public policy, and there is surprisingly little social-scientific, systematic assessment of the consequences of combat drones. No doubt this is a reflection of the fact that social scientists typically do not investigate an issue until sizable quantities of useful data are available. As drones become more frequently used both for combat but also for peaceful domestic purposes, political scientists, economists, and sociologists will begin to pay more attention to the social issues that they raise.
Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[3]
The seven books reviewed as part of this installment’s “Current Topics” section focus on the use of drones to combat terrorism and terrorists. They are mostly documented by a combination of anonymous interviews and secondary sources, a factor worth keeping in mind.
The goal of minimizing casualties while inflicting maximum damage on the adversary is an accepted principle of war. With the invention of artillery, close combat warfare began a gradual decline. Tanks, airplanes, battleships, submarines, and ballistic missiles that targeted an unseen enemy each allowed the projection of lethal force while reducing human vulnerability. With the introduction of armed, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, this concept no longer applies, in the view of French philosopher Grégoire Chamayou. In A Theory of the Drone, he argues that the “projection of power…without projecting vulnerability implies that the only vulnerability will be that of the enemy, reduced to the status of mere target.” (p. 12) Just so, a military commander might respond. But Chamayou says the use of drones is a form of “Warfare without risk… [that] critically undermines the meta-legal principles that underpin the right to kill in war.” In short, he concludes, drones “accommodate the right to targeted assassination…” and that in turn risks the possibility that the “subjects of a drone-state” may become that “state’s own population.” (p. 18)
With this background, Chamayou reviews the genealogy of the Predator UAV, its claimed uses for surveillance, and its lethal applications aimed at “the legitimization of drone homicide.” He also examines the psychological stress on those in the target area and “the psychic agony of drone operators” while dismissing the “PlayStation mentality” argument expressed by some pilots to explain their risk-free combat immunity. (p. 106) There is also a chapter on drone precision, in which Chamayou quotes former CIA Director Leon Panetta: “It was very precise and is very limited in terms of collateral damage.” In response, after making a comparison with the Dresden bombing and Hiroshima in WWII, he dismisses the analogy without elaboration as an “erroneous commonplace … a veritable nest of conceptual confusions.” (p. 140)
Although A Theory of the Drone never postulates a specific theory, it does consider the philosophical implications of armed drones, invoking Hegel, Hobbs, and Sartre in complex arguments. These envision a future where this weapon may remove humans from supervision and create “a situation in which robots are capable of exerting lethal force without human control or intervention.” (p. 207) It is also clear that Chamayou finds drone warfare unethical while accepting other weapons of war that bomb targets with much less precision, entail greater civilian casualties and pilot risk, and incur higher system costs. His theory of drones leaves this dilemma to other philosophers.
The only theory found in Richard Whittle’s PREDATOR: The Secret Origins of the Drone Revolution is associated with the aeronautics of unmanned remotely controlled aerial vehicles. And while the book doesn’t contain any secrets, it does chronicle the evolution of the Predator and its predecessors, especially the Gnat 750.
The Gnat 750, writes Whittle, was the first UAV the CIA used to collect intelligence. In 1993, the then-newly confirmed CIA director, James Woolsey, held a meeting to discuss how to obtain aerial coverage of fighting in Bosnia. Satellites were too often blinded by cloud cover and the Serbs were careful to operate at night and at other times when satellites weren’t overhead. Woolsey asked his staff: “What about UAVs?” (p. 70) The agency had been experimenting with the Gnat 750—a drone with minimum reconnaissance capability. Woolsey sent Deputy Director of Operations Thomas Twetten to California to see whether the. Gnat 750 could loiter over a target below the clouds; it could, and after some modifications, it did. About the same time, at the urging of then-Pentagon procurement czar John Deutch, the Air Force signed a contract for an “endurance UAV” (p. 80) reconnaissance version of the Predator. For reasons of time, not all contractors had been allowed to bid; TRW, in a cameo appearance by TRW executive and former CIA officer Robert Kohler, complained, but Deutch overcame Kohler’s objections. In the end, while the results from both systems were impressive and warranted further development, the Predator prevailed,
PREDATOR describes the Air Force program that gradually improved the Predator’s capabilities. Located at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, the program office—nicknamed Big Safari—would develop laser target designator and infrared electro-optical capabilities, and later, communications links that would eventually allow real-time target monitoring in the United States.
Whittle writes that CIA began using the Predator after Charlie Allen, then-assistant director for collection, raised the idea with Richard Clarke, Clinton’s White House advisor. Clarke then suggested in a memo to senior Pentagon and CIA personnel that the “CIA fly the Predator to search for bin Laden.” Whittle writes that, although the option was opposed by those who preferred airplanes with pilots and by others who favored HUMINT, Clarke and Allen won the toss. (p. 147) Whittle’s account of how a Predator found and imaged bin Laden but operators couldn’t get White House permission to conduct an air strike (the Predator was unarmed at that time) makes frustrating reading.
The obvious next step was to arm the Predator and make the system operable from the United States. Whittle tells this part of the story in detail. He includes descriptions of the Air Force crews trained to pilot the Predator remotely, the group at CIA who fed them target data, and the proof-of-concept attack that killed al-Qa`ida leader Mohammed Atef.
The revolution in drone capabilities continued with more technological improvements, new drones, and greatly increased targeted killings, writes Whittle, “that raised a set of profound moral, legal, political, and practical questions.” (p. 302) He concludes that drones are here to stay, and “society needs to figure out how to cope with (the) implications.” (p. 305)
For those interested in how the drone program became an essential component of the war on terror,PREDATOR is a good source.
Andrew Cockburn’s Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins focuses on failed defense department and so-called CIA high-value target (HVT) armed drone operations that Cockburn labels targeted killings or assassinations; no theory here. To add perspective, he reviews the CIA’s failed attempts at assassination in the early Cold War and mistakenly includes the Phoenix program during Vietnam in the same category. Then he describes the origins of the military drone and the gradual improvements in technology and operational concepts that led to current capabilities. As to “targeted killings,” he includes a chapter on how they failed when applied to the post-Cold War “war on drugs.”
Kill Chain also discusses the CIA CounterTerrorism Center and its links to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). But the bulk of his story concentrates on the evolution of drone operations and the practical problems encountered in their unsuccessful efforts to eliminate HVTs. A key factor here is the reduction of “kill time”—from target acquisition to execution—which minimizes civilian casualties. Cockburn includes example after example where problems arose—in Afghanistan and Pakistan—to support his conclusion that drones are counterproductive, expensive, and immoral. (pp. 204, 221)
Kill Chain concludes with a discussion of “super-drones” in the planning stage and their susceptibility to Iranian or Chinese interference with the electronic command links. He notes that the solution to this problem is the “autonomous” drone, capable of conducting missions without human intervention that may “be just around the corner.” (p. 257) But he suggests that even these systems could be defeated by the same simple measures terrorists employ today to avoid drones.
While Cockburn acknowledges that armed drone warfare makes US personnel less vulnerable, he suggests their use is somehow “sinful.” A better solution, he proposes, is that drones be used for reconnaissance only.
In Sudden justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars, British investigative journalist Chris Woods takes a broader and more balanced view of drones that collect intelligence and execute armed missions. That is not to say that Woods avoids the controversies publicly associated with the armed Predator—”the world’s first airborne sniper rifle”—and its successor, the Reaper; he does not. (p. xii) But, reflecting on their performance, he acknowledges that “controversial though civilian casualties were, they were still fewer in number when compared to previous conflicts. The relative precision of armed drones… means that noncombatants were likely to be at less risk of death or injury than from most other weapon systems.” As collection systems, drones became “key assets… crucial to the intelligence revolution now taking place in warfighting.” (p. xv) Surprisingly, Woods reports, “despite the fearsome reputation of armed drones, their lethal use on the battlefield was at first uncommon… even in 2014 their focus still remained mostly on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR).” (p. 2) And even when not armed, “drones helped facilitate attacks from other air assets.” (p. 3) Thus, in the war on terror that followed 9/11, Woods contends, “US foreign policy would increasingly shape itself to the Predator’s unique selling point—its effectiveness as an assassination tool.” (p. 27) Sudden Justice explains how this occurred despite domestic interagency mission conflicts and friction with the governments of the various countries where the targets were located.
Wood describes how the path that ended with an effective drone program began in the mid-1970s with an Israeli engineer, Abe Karem—”the Moses of modern drones”—who designed the Predator prototype in his Los Angeles garage. When the US government learned of Karem’s work, a “black” development contract was arranged through the Pentagon and later merged with a CIA program. (p. 33 ) By 1986, two prototypes had flown. At first, only reconnaissance capabilities were considered; these capabilities were used after 9/11 over Afghanistan. Woods describes the decision to arm the Predator with Hellfire missiles and the successful tests in mid-2001. Then he covers their routine use in targeted killings of al-Qa`ida leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and eventually Yemen.
Of course these operations often resulted in public controversy—in some cases with the governments of the countries where the attacks occurred; in others, the issue was civilian casualties. Woods gives examples of these and deals at length with what he terms “prolonged virtual combat stress” (p. 187) that affected the drone pilots during a targeted killing operation, especially when target identity was in doubt or involved a US citizen.
Sudden Justice concludes with a reminder that many countries already have their own armed drones and that terrorist groups are likely to acquire them. The challenge ahead, he suggests, lies in convincing others “not to follow Washington’s own rule book.” (p. 288) His warning is well documented; a path to his solution remains problematical.
Unmanned: Drones, Data, and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare begins with a review of the current state of remotely controlled weapon systems. At the time of 9/11, author William Arkin writes, there were “fewer than 200 unmanned aerial vehicles—drones.” Today the military possesses “in addition to the some 500 in the Predator class…well over 11,000 other kinds of drones.” (p. 4). There are also numerous unmanned systems—land and sea—controlled by each of the military services. Arkin points out, “the United States is not the sole owner of unmanned vehicles: 88 other nations also operate drones, and 54 nations manufacture their own.” (p. 5) As a consequence, he suggests, many nonmilitary observers foresee a “nightmare of spying, and killer robots and autonomous decisionmakers.” In his judgment, this explains why the term “drone” has become “a sizzling curse word for some that invokes ethical failure and lawlessness.” (p. 6) In response to these critics, he points out that drone systems provide less risk and “ubiquitous surveillance and targeted killing that are necessary for security but also legal.” Do the critics, he asks, “really want more risk… less precision… and more casualties?” (p. 7)
Then, astonishingly, Arkin shoots down his own argument as “totally off the mark.” (p. 8) The real problem is with “drones and the Data Machine they serve.” They are “the greatest threat to our national security, our safety, and our way of life.” (p. 18) Unmanned attempts to explain these views in a first-person narrative that is alternatively informative and quirky. The quirkiness derives from Arkin’s insistence that “to understand drones you have to understand Gilgamesh,” the main character in The Epic of Gilgamesh, a 5,000-year-old literary work. Arkin devotes a chapter to the topic and then returns to it from time to time throughout the book. The connections remain obscure, however, and the story he tells of the life of the drone program is not enhanced by his references to Gilgamesh.
In the substantive parts of the book, Arkin tracks the development of drones and related unmanned vehicles that preceded the first operational remotely controlled system, the Predator. He explains their characteristics in detail and provides many examples of their use in the Middle East against high-value targets—not all successful—and some not presented in the other books reviewed here. He also describes the high-level politics involved and the interservice turf battles as, for example, the fight between the Air Force and the Army for “absolute control of the drone program.” The Army won and got what it needed—”intelligence.” (p. 161) But the theme of Unmanned that underlies all the factual and bureaucratic detail is the systemic automation involved, what Arkin calls the Data Machine, with “its vast collection of intelligence” and black boxes. This is the vital long-range threat, as he sees it, to the United States’ entire system of national security that is becoming autonomous and unmanned; “even our foreign policy itself is unmanned.” (p. 254)
Unmanned’s forecast of an excessively automated future, as implied in the final chapter of the sciencefiction example, is a dilemma left to the reader. The facts of the drone program presented, however, are worth attention.
“There is something about drones that makes people crazy. Some demonize drones, denouncing them for causing civilian deaths or enabling long-distance killing even as they ignore that fact that the same (or worse) could be said of many other weapons delivery systems.” (p. 230) “For many Americans, drones make all the sense in the world.” (p. 42) These observations from two articles inDrone Wars hint at the range of public views on the topic. Editors and contributors Peter Bergen, of the New America Foundation, and University of Arizona professor Daniel Rothenberg point out that “drones are the iconic military technology of the current conflicts in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen.” But while their unique characteristics and appearance “have captured the public imagination” they have also resulted in divisive debates. (p. 1) The well written, thoughtful articles inDrone Wars weigh the military and civilian perspectives—American and foreign—on four of the principal categories associated with those debates: ground applications and consequences, legality and ethics, national security policy, and the future use of drones.
The impact of drones on civilians is a topic that pervades each category. A poignant account by “Adam Kahn” (a pseudonym), a Pakistani merchant in North Waziristan, conveys the effect drones have on the civilians who possess no direct connection to terrorism. At the other end of the civilian perspective spectrum, David Rohde, a former captive of Haqqani terrorists, records that, “My guards absolutely feared drones.” In a more general account of this issue, Sarah Holewinski discusses why civilians need to know more about the impact of drones on themselves. (pp. 42ff)
The topics of “targeted killings” and “assassination”—equally controversial issues—are addressed at length by William Banks, with an emphasis on their legality. Among other aspects discussed, in an attempt to remove ad hominem attacks from the debate, he suggests that the term “assassination” be applied to “unlawful killing” while reserving the term “targeted killing” for “premeditated acts of an individual by a government or its agents—which may, in fact, be permitted under US law.” (p. 137)
Other important topics found in Drone Wars include a history of drone technology with implications for the future of warfare, a review of “The Decade of the Drone” with a chronology, a chapter on the misconceptions about drones and their uses, “the Predator effect,” and the drone dilemmas of modern warfare with the emergence of data-driven warfare.
Those seeking a balanced d overview of this sensitive topic should read Drone Wars.
Despite the appearance of a Predator drone on the cover and the implications of its subtitle, Scott Horton’s Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Warfare is a not book about drones. Its central theme is excessive secrecy in the executive branch, in general, and the CIA and NSA, in particular. The expression “lords of secrecy”—used throughout to annoying excess—is Horton’s catchphrase for the government leaders who uphold and perpetuate unjustifiable secrecy practices: This is not to say that Horton, a human rights lawyer, opposes secrecy in general; he does acknowledge “a legitimate, though limited, role for secrecy” in three areas—”advanced weapons sensitive systems… critical signals intelligence and cryptography… and the identity of covert and foreign informants.” (p. 179)
Horton strives to establish a basis for his positions by invoking Athenian precedents, the views of several German philosophers, and references to former US Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The practical issues Horton discusses include the CIA conflict with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence over the rendition and enhanced interrogation programs, NSA and the Snowden leaks; the “conflict between whistleblowers and the lords of secrecy” and the growth “of authority and control of the lords of secrecy”; and the threat at drones “may trigger broader and more sustained warfare.” (pp. 24-5)
In his chapter on drones, Horton contends that “the lords of secrecy have. chosen a favorite weapon that helps identify and define their power. It is the Predator drone.” The one attribute of the drone that makes this passible is that “it is a consummately secret weapon.” (p. 110) Who doesn’t know about drone warfare? The.people of the United States.” (p. 122) This assertion may surprise those who have read some of the books reviewed above.
Horton argues that while drones seem to offer the possibility of “zero-casualty war” their use may in fact “create a slippery slope leading to continual or wider wars.” Moreover, there is the risk of civilian casualties or as Horton puts it, the devaluation of noncombatants.” (p. 112) From a legal perspective, he writes, “drones open the prospect for a new kind of war that includes targeted killings” that he categorizes as “extrajudicial,” far away from “ground or naval forces.” Other disadvantages include political difficulties with nations like Pakistan and the possibility that other nations will acquire similar capabilities. But, he asserts, the “most disquieting aspect of the drone program has to do with {the) secrecy” surrounding the drone program, especially in the case of “individual attacks” (p. 114) and the CIA’s putatively covert role in the post-9/11 warfare. Without suggesting any alternatives to current practices (beyond more transparency), he concludes, “the only real explanation that emerges is that the use of drones for sustained covert military activity serves the interests of the lords of secrecy.” (p. 128)
While Lords of Secrecy raises some genuine concerns regarding government secrecy, readers may well question Horton’s grasp of the drone program.
[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance — at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]
[2] Walsh, James I. (2015). Published on H-Diplo (August, 2015). Downloaded July 28, 2016. Walsh was at UNC Charlotte at the time of reviewing. Citation: James I. Walsh. Review of Bergen, Peter L.; Rothenberg, Daniel, eds., Drone Wars: Transforming Conflict, Law, and Policy. H-Diplo, H-Net Reviews. August, 2015.
[3] Peake, Hayden, “Seven Books on Drones,” in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 2, Spring 2016, pp. 115-119). The seven books are: Bergen, Peter L. (2015) and Daniel Rothenberg, eds. Drone Wars: Transforming Conflict, Law, And Policy. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press; Cockburn, Andrew (2015). Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins. Henry Fink and Co.; Horton, Scott (2015). Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Warfare. Nation Books; Whittle, Richard (2014). PREDATOR: The Secret Origins of The Drone Revolution. Henry Holt and Company; Woods, Chris (2015). Sudden Justice: America’s Secret Drone Wars. New York: Oxford University Press; Chamayou, Grégoire (2015). A Theory of the Dron. The New Press; Arkin, William M. (2015). Unmanned: Drones, Data, and the Illusion of Perfect Warfare. Little Brown and Company. Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence, Other reviews and articles may be found online at

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