1. Is a Russian Sub in Trouble in the Waters Off Stockholm, Sweden?

    October 19, 2014

    Could be a damaged russian submarine

    Svenska Dagbladet

    October 19, 2014

    A distress signal in Russian preceded the submarine alert in the archipelago of Stockholm. When the military search operation started radio communication between a transmitter in the archipelago and a transmitter in Kaliningrad was detected. This indicates that there could be a damaged russian submarine in Swedish waters.

    Stockholms skärgård under lördagen.

    Stockholms skärgård under lördagen.

    FOTO: Pontus Lundahl/TT

    Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet can now reveal new sensational information about what happened before and during the ongoing military operation in the archipelago of Stockholm, where the military – in their own words – are searching for “suspected foreign activity under water”.

    In the official version the operation started due to the reports from a “credible source” that had seen a suspicious object on friday.

    But what has not been revealed is that the National Defence Radio Establishment (“Försvarets radioanstalt”, FRA) detected radio communication in Russian a day before the operation started. It was transmitted on a special frequence, used by Russia in emergency situations.

    About 14 hours later, Friday the 17th october around noon, the underwater vehicle was detected and the search operation begun.

    Friday night signal intelligence once again intercepted radio communication. This time it was encrypted but it was possible to determine the position of the transmitter and the reciever. The transmitter was situated somewhere in Kanholmsfjärden in the archipelago of Stockholm, and the reviever was situated in Kaliningrad, Russia.

    This information has been confirmed by several persons with knowledge about the ongoing search operation, altough they can’t confirm that there is a damaged submarine in Swedish waters.

    – We are now focusing on determining if there is ongoing foreign underwater activity or not, one of the sources tells Svenska Dagladet.

    11 hours ago  /  0 notes

  2. German Intelligence Service (BND) Concludes That Pro-Moscow rebels Shot Down Malaysian Airliner Flight MH17 Over the Eastern Ukraine on July 19, 2014

    October 19, 2014

    Deadly Ukraine Crash: German Intelligence Claims Pro-Russian Separatists Downed MH17

    Der Spiegel

    October 19, 2014

    Burning debris at the crash site of Malaysian Airllines Flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine on July 17: "It was pro-Russian separatists," the head of Germany's foreign intelligence agency, the BND, has told parliament of the crash cause. Zoom

    Burning debris at the crash site of Malaysian Airllines Flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine on July 17: “It was pro-Russian separatists,” the head of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, has told parliament of the crash cause.

    Germany’s foreign intelligence agency says its review of the crash of a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 in Ukrainian has concluded it was brought down by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists near Donetsk.

    After completing a detailed analysis, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), has concluded that pro-Russian rebels were responsible for the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 on July 19 in eastern Ukraine while on route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

    In an Oct. 8 presentation given to members of the parliamentary control committee, the Bundestag body responsible for monitoring the work of German intelligence, BND President Gerhard Schindler provided ample evidence to back up his case, including satellite images and diverse photo evidence. The BND has intelligence indicating that pro-Russian separatists captured a BUK air defense missile system at a Ukrainian military base and fired a missile on July 17 that exploded in direct proximity to the Malaysian aircraft, which had been carrying 298 people.

    Unambiguous Findings

    Evidence obtained shortly after the accident suggested the aircraft had been shot down by pro-Russian militants. Both the governments of Russia and Ukraine had mutually accused each other of responsibility for the crash. After a Dutch investigative commission reviewed the flight recorder, it avoided placing any blame for the crash. Some 189 residents of the Netherlands perished in the downing of Flight MH17.

    BND’s Schindler says his agency has come up with unambiguous findings. One is that Ukrainian photos have been manipulated and that there are details indicating this. He also told the panel that Russian claims the missile had been fired by Ukrainian soldiers and that a Ukrainian fighter jet had been flying close to the passenger jet were false.

    "It was pro-Russian separatists," Schindler said of the crash, which involved the deaths of four German citizens. A spokesman for the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office told SPIEGEL that an investigation has been opened into unknown perpetrators because of the possibility that the crash had been a war crime.

    11 hours ago  /  0 notes

  3. Huge AN/FLR-9 SIGINT Intercept Antenna Array at Misawa Is Being Demolished

    October 19, 2014

    An AN/FLR-9, also known as the “Elephant Cage,” is seen Oct. 15, 2014, before its demolition begins at Misawa Air Base, Japan. The demolition process of the 137-foot-tall structure is expected to last until September 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Jordyn Rucker)

    Iconic “Elephant Cage” laid to rest

    An AN/FLR-9, also known as the “Elephant Cage,” is seen Oct. 15, 2014, before its demolition begins at Misawa Air Base, Japan. The demolition process of the 137-foot-tall structure is expected to last until September 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Jordyn Rucker) 

    Airman Jordyn Rucker

    (2.91 MB)

    11 hours ago  /  0 notes

  4. Have There Been Cases Where Arming Rebels Has Actually Work in Past CIA Operations?

    October 19, 2014

    The CIA’s Wrong: Arming Rebels Works

    Christopher Dickey

    The Daily Beast

    October 19, 2014

    President Obama has weighed the options and concluded America does more harm than good when it sets out to topple regimes. OK. But don’t pretend that’s the CIA’s fault.

    PARIS, France—What could be more cynical than a covert operation? Sure, there’s always a lot of talk about fighting for freedom, defeating tyranny. What was it Ronald Reagan called the Contras and the Afghan mujahedin? “They are the moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers.”

    Actually some of the Contras whom I knew were the moral equivalent of pathological killers. They were so out of control that the CIA, which had armed them and trained them, finally had two of their commanders hunted down and executed.

    As I say, covert ops: cynical business.

    But recent reporting on the subject has been profoundly and, indeed, dangerously misleading about both the truth and the consequences surrounding such operations.

    All sorts of politicians—left, right and center; former administration insiders and confirmed outliers—have been talking about arming and training Syrian rebels as if that could have been the salvation of the uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s dictatorship in Damascus in 2012, and would have preempted, somehow, the rise of the horrific organization that calls itself the Islamic State, but which we’ll call by the acronyms it despises: ISIS or ISIL.

    Certainly there was bitter infighting inside the administration back then. As one agency insider told me, “three years ago the Syria program was headed by a man who was competent but not senior enough to run such a high-profile account.” So Langley decided to cut short the tour of the then-CIA station chief in Bangkok and bring him in to head up the show. But “he was so shocked by the disorganization and lack of seriousness that he submitted his papers to retire.”

    Criticism keeps pouring in and the Obama administration is hard pressed to prove it made the right decision back then, on the one hand, but has good reason to change its mind now as it tries to train new cadre to fight, not Assad, but ISIS. “This makes no sense,” says the same CIA veteran.

    But from Obama’s point of view, actually, it does. The basic principles by which this administration operates are clear for anyone to see, even if the once-eloquent POTUS now finds it impossible to articulate simple ideas:

    Obama does not believe in overthrowing foreign governments.

    Obama does not intend to occupy foreign countries.

    Obama does not think American troops—overt or covert—provide very good answers to the world’s crises.

    Indeed, Obama sees very clearly what most average Americans see: U.S. efforts to overthrow bad guys abroad usually wind up making things worse, and the only reason to move against them is if they pose, as Tom Clancy would say, a “clear and present danger” to the United States.

    Obama does not see Assad as a threat to U.S. security unless he uses weapons of mass destruction (which he’s mostly given up) or shoots at American and allied warplanes fighting ISIS (which he has not done so far).

    On the other hand, in Obama’s view the zealots of the Islamic State are not a state at all, they are ISIL, and they do present a near-term threat to American interests, American allies, and the American people. The beheadings of American and British citizens are just a small part of the picture. One recent missive from ISIS to its follower advised them, “If you are able to kill an American or European infidel—particularly any of the hostile, impure Frenchmen—or an Australian or a Canadian, or any [other] infidel enemy from the countries that have banded against the Islamic State, then put your trust in Allah and kill him, by any way or means. Do not consult anyone and do not seek a fatwa from anyone. It is immaterial if the infidel is a combatant or a civilian. Their sentence is one; they are both infidels, both enemies. The blood of both is permitted…”

    “A CIA study says arming rebels rarely works? You could say the same thing about the U.S. military. How many wars have we won since World War II?”

    And then there’s this, in the same message: “If you cannot [detonate] a bomb or [fire] a bullet, arrange to meet alone with a French or an American infidel and bash his skull in with a rock, slaughter him with a knife, run him over with your car, throw him off a cliff, strangle him, or inject him with poison.”

    Up against such an enemy, you are bound to use whatever resources are available, including local ground forces that you train and arm. You are not trying to create an insurgency, after all, you are trying to stop one. And it may be that this strategy will not work. But it is hardly so irrational or contradictory as Obama’s critics have suggested.

    Unfortunately, the administration has added to the confusion rather than helping to clear it up. It is trying to lay off responsibility for its earlier decisions without explaining clearly its current ones.

    Back in January, Obama told David Remnick of The New Yorker that when he was thinking about arming Syrian rebels a couple of years ago, he “actually asked the CIA to analyze examples of America financing and supplying arms to an insurgency in a country that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much.”

    The New York Times ran a story last week that suggested CIA covert operations failed again and again to achieve the policy objectives set for them.

    Just about everyone I talked to afterward in the U.S. intelligence community saw this as a story put out by the administration. One retired high-ranking intelligence officer said the article “seems founded on the kind of leaks that are permissible when beneficial to folks in high places but prosecutable when done by others.”

    Has the CIA failed repeatedly to meet its covert goals? Actually, the problem has been exactly the reverse. With the exception of the Bay of Pigs, the agency has succeeded repeatedly, sometimes spectacularly. In Afghanistan in the 1980s “the CIA arms for the mujahedin won the final and decisive battle of the Cold War, liberating Eastern Europe and destroying the USSR,” says CIA veteran Bruce Riedel, now at the Brookings Institute. “That’s victory by any measure. Of course the war had other long term consequences, but the CIA accomplished what the White House wanted, a Russian Vietnam.”

    Long-term consequences indeed. What happened again and again after the agency eliminated or helped to neutralize the presumed bad guys was the spectacle of their replacements turning out to be as bad or worse. But for those tragic policy decisions one must blame every president dating back to Dwight D. Eisenhower. American commanders-in-chief and the people around them come to think they can reengineer countries around the world, whether to make them more anti-Communist in the old days, or less terrorist, or more humanitarian in the present. And in many cases the action is out in the open.

     “A CIA study says arming rebels rarely works?” a senior veteran of the agency asked wryly. “You could say the same thing about the U.S. military. How many wars have we won since World War II?” Granada? Kosovo? One hardly wants to mention the continuing tragedy of Iraq and Afghanistan: “mission accomplished” turns so quickly to “mission impossible.”

    From 1983 to 2003 the United States waged what Rudyard Kipling called “savage wars of peace” to teach lessons and change regimes just about every year, sometimes secretly, more often openly, in Lebanon, Granada, Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan, Libya, against Iran in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, Somalia, Haiti, the Balkans, and so on. Most Americans have forgotten these operations, of course, but the latter ones, especially the 1999 Kosovo war in which not a single allied soldier lost his or her life, started to make the whole business of war look just a little too easy—and laid the groundwork for the biggest disaster of all, the full scale invasion of Iraq.

    By comparison with conventional military campaigns, the CIA ops were, in fact, pretty small beer, but most eventually left an acrid aftertaste. “The CIA’s most damaging interventions have come from its very success in arming insurgencies—whether in Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Brazil, Guyana, Chile, the list goes on and on,” says Stephen Schlesinger, co-author of Bitter Fruit, a classic study of the CIA covert action that overthrew the elected president of Guatemala in 1954. “The presumption that we can topple governments we don’t like, acting outside the boundaries of international law or the UN Charter, is what has gotten us repeatedly in trouble in the past, marring our international standing. We are the recidivists of global failure when it comes to tampering with foreign states.”

    And by comparison with almost any other conflict that the American dinosaur has been tempted to wade into, Syria is about as welcoming as the La Brea tar pit. Veteran CIA operative Robert Baer, author most recently of The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins, sees almost no comparison between the great covert victory in Afghanistan, however bad the after-shocks, and the situation in Syria today. “Arming the Afghans was a very clear-cut war: they wanted to end Russian occupation and the Reagan administration just wanted dead Russians,” Baer told me over the phone. In Syria, he said, “the dividing lines are just so blurred.”

    One of the most instructive analyses of the perils inherent in covert war was written by Stephen Schlesinger’s father, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., when he was a special assistant to President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Days before the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, he advised Kennedy, that “a successful military result may be to a considerable degree nullified by seriously adverse results in the political, diplomatic and economic areas,” and an unsuccessful result would be an unmitigated disaster in which, no doubt, “senatorial voices [would be] raised demanding overt U.S. intervention.” In the event, debacle that it was, Kennedy refused to listen to them.

    Whatever was in that CIA report referred to by the Times, Obama has had to weigh the example of the Bay of Pigs humiliation in the 1960s, of the Afghanistan victory in the 1980s, and the realities of Syria today, and decide whether he wants to put American power, blood and money behind regime change in Syria, or behind a war to crush upstart terrorists spreading across the region. Probably he thinks the choice is obvious.

    12 hours ago  /  1 note

  5. Annual Report of Australian Intelligence Services Inspector General Now Available Online

    October 19, 2014

    The 100-page unclassified annual report of the Australian Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security (IGIS) is now available online. IGIS is responsible for overseeing the activities of five agencies that comprise the Australian intelligence community - the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the Office of National Assessments (ONA), the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO), the Defence Imagery and Geospatial Organisation (NIGO), and the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD).

    Don’t expect to find many ‘hot’ revelations in this report. Remember that it is written at the Unclassified level, and anything juicy that IGIS was involved in examining during the past year is bound to be highly classified. Still… I could be wrong.

    The report can be accessed by clicking here.

    12 hours ago  /  0 notes

  6. Greeks Want More Intelligence Cooperation From U.S. on Counterterrorism Issues

    October 19, 2014

    Public order minister to seek US help on intelligence


    October 19, 2014

    Public Order Minister Vassilis Kikilias is expected to seek closer cooperation with the US on fighting terrorism and dealing with irregular immigration when he travels to Washington next Friday for a week of meetings with American officials.

    Ministry sources have told Kathimerini that Kikilias hopes to secure Washington’s help in dealing with domestic terrorists and possible jihadists that may pass through Greece with the aim of joining the Islamic State, or ISIS, in Syria and Iraq.

    “Our intention is to ask for assistance with regard to technical equipment that would improve our capability in terms of security and communication,” said a Public Order Ministry official who wished to remain anonymous.

    “The American government recognizes the progress that has been made on security matters over the past few months.”

    Kikilias is due to hold talks with all of the top security officials in Washington. He is to meet first with Lisa Monaco, President Barack Obama’s adviser on homeland security issues, including counterterrorism. The Greek minister is also due to meet CIA chief John Brennan, as well as the head of the FBI, James Comey, and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

    “We are working closely with the US, as well as Great Britain and Israel, with regard to the exchange of intelligence,” said the ministry source. “Our aim is to strengthen the level of cooperation in this area.”

    Kikilias is also scheduled to meet with Senator Robert Menendez, who is the chairman of the Senate’s foreign affairs committee and has good knowledge of Greek and Cypriot issues.

    16 hours ago  /  1 note

  7. DNI’s First Progress Report on Implementing NSA ‘Reforms’ Is Very Disappointing and Does Not Cover Bulk Surveillance Activities

    October 19, 2014

    New ODNI Report Doesn’t Address Mass Surveillance, Provides “Flexibility” to Skirt Privacy Commitments

    Rainey Reitman

    Electronic Frontier Foundation

    October 17, 2014

    Earlier today, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released an optimistically titled report Safeguarding the Personal Information of all People. This is basically a status update from ODNI on how they are doing in implementing Presidential Policy Directive 28, which among other things was supposed to better recognize the privacy rights of people worldwide.

    Today’s report from the ODNI is disappointing, though not surprising. This is in part because PPD 28 was pretty limited in the first place. When Obama first announced his surveillance reforms and PPD 28, we rated him on 12 criteria for effective surveillance reform—and found his proposal only met only 3.5 of those criteria. We saw an example of the limitations of PPD 28 in its 5th footnote, which begins, “The limitations contained in this section do not apply to signals intelligence data that is temporarily acquired to facilitate targeted collection.” That seems to say that they can seize a haystack so long as they intend to look for needles.  

    Here are a few choice sections from our initial read of today’s report:

    To that end, PPD-28 states that personal information of non-U.S. persons shall be retained and disseminated only if the retention and dissemination “of comparable information concerning U.S. persons would be permitted under section 2.3 of Executive Order 12333.”

    We are disheartened to see ODNI pinning its privacy protections to Executive Order 12333. EO 12333 is a poorly-understood Reagan-era authority; one former State Department chief said:

     …Section 215 permits the bulk collection only of U.S. telephone metadata — lists of incoming and outgoing phone numbers — but not audio of the calls.

    Executive Order 12333 contains no such protections for U.S. persons if the collection occurs outside U.S. borders. Issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 to authorize foreign intelligence investigations, 12333 is not a statute and has never been subject to meaningful oversight from Congress or any court. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has said that the committee has not been able to “sufficiently” oversee activities conducted under 12333.

    The ODNI report itself highlights (Section D) one massive flaw in EO 12333, noting that “if read literally,” it places no limits whatsoever on retention or dissemination of any information about any foreign person. One wonders if any element of the intelligence community has ever acted in accordance with this reading. 

    In short, Executive Order 12333 is a weak privacy standard—at least what we know of it, because its implementation has had little oversight from the public or even Congress. This is not the standard we want to adopt for protecting the rights of individuals worldwide who have not been suspected of a crime.

    What might be a better standard? EFF along with intentional human rights groups and scholars worldwide developed 13 principles for protection human rights when engaging in communications surveillance. That’s a much better starting point for crafting protections for privacy of people worldwide. 

    Another disappointment (though again not a surprise) in today’s report was the failure to address or rein in mass collection of digital data:

    Section 2 of PPD-28 acknowledges the importance of collecting SIGINT in bulk to help identify new and emerging threats or other vital national security information. At the same time, the United States recognizes that collecting information in bulk may not result in the collection of information about persons whose activities are not of interest to the Intelligence Community. PPD-228 therefore places limitations on the use of SIGINT collected in bulk…..PPD-28 also states that in no event may SIGINT be used for the purpose of suppressing or burdening criticism or dissent….

    Basically, ODNI is reaffirming that it will continue to vacuum up data from people not suspected of a crime and is merely outlining methods of limiting the use and dissemination of that data.

    It’s particularly disheartening to see ODNI talking about how data collected in bulk will not be used for the purpose of suppressing or burdening criticism or dissent. This is a cognitive dissonance: mass surveillance by its nature creates a chilling effect on free speech. More than 500 authors, including 5 Nobel laureates, have written that:

    A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy. To maintain any validity, our democratic rights much apply in virtual as in real space. Surveillance violates the private sphere and compromises freedom of thought and opinion.            

    The ODNI deludes itself into believing that you can have surveillance without suppressing or burdening dissent. In fact, it is the very nature of mass surveillance to chill criticism and dissent. That is the very basis for our lawsuit against the NSA phone record collection program.

    Finally, all of the commitments to civil liberties and privacy in ODNI’s report come with a rather alarmingly large loophole:

    N. Intelligence Community Elements Must Have the Flexibility to Deviate from their PPD-28 Implementing Procedures After Receiving Senior Level Approval.

    It is important that elements have the ability to deviate from their procedures when national security requires doing so, but only with approval at a senior level within the Intelligence Community element and notice to the DNI and Attorney General. 

    Regardless of what procedures are put into place to safeguard individual privacy, the intelligence community gives itself a loophole for “national security” concerns. National security, unfortunately, remains undefined in the document.

    We’re still reviewing the report and may have more thoughts in the coming days, but these are our initial impressions.

    16 hours ago  /  0 notes

  8. Russians Arrest 73-Year Old Grandmother Who Was Investigating Russian Military Involvement in the Ukraine War

    October 19, 2014

    Russian ‘Soldiers’ Mothers’ Activist Detained

    Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

    October 18, 2014

    A screen grab from a Dozhd TV report on Lyudmila Bogatenkova, from the Stavropol branch of Russia's Soldiers' Mothers Committee
    A screen grab from a Dozhd TV report on Lyudmila Bogatenkova, from the Stavropol branch of Russia’s Soldiers’ Mothers Committee

    Russian authorities have reportedly detained the local head of a group that has publicly alleged direct Russian troop involvement in neighboring Ukraine.

    The head of the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee from the Budennovsk branch in Russia’s Stavropol region, 73-year-old Lyudmila Bogatenkova, was said to have been detained on suspicion of fraud.

    An assistant, Elena Gerasimova, confirmed the detention to RFE/RL’s Russian Service.

    The charges stem from four-year-old allegations of financial wrongdoing, the same report added.

    Other reports said Bogatenkova’s home was searched by police on October 17 and by October 18 she had been taken into custody.

    The Facebook page of the St. Petersburg branch of the Soldiers’ Mothers Committee called Bogatenkova’s detention an “act of intimidation in connection with her activities.”

    The Citizen And The Army, a public initiative that has been critical of the Russian military, said Bogatenkova would not be able to consult with a lawyer until October 20. It did not explain.

    Radio station Govorit Moskva quoted activist and Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights Sergei Krivenko as saying that the council — a 62-member advisory body comprising a range of public figures but some of whose harshest Kremlin critics quit two years ago — would look into Bogatenkova’s case:

    In August, Bogatenkova referred specific cases of soldiers allegedly killed in action in Ukraine to that same presidential council. Its request for answers from military investigators has not received any conclusive response, according to RFE/RL’s Russian Service.

    The Soldiers’ Mothers group has long fought Russian military abuses and for the rights of conscripts and other soldiers, and has been researching recent deaths of Russian soldiers since the violence erupted in neighboring Ukraine.

    Bogatenkova had been investigating the deaths of Russian soldiers in Ukraine, and had testified for Russian authorities with specific data on a small number of those cases.

    She has been quoted as suggesting her group had a list of hundreds of soldiers that included many killed or wounded in action, many of them from the nearby southern Russian regions.

    Western governments accuse Russia of sending troops and weapons to support pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, while Moscow insists it is not a party to the fighting.

    The Soldiers’ Mothers Committee has claimed repeatedly that Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded fighting alongside separatists in eastern Ukraine.

    Russia’s Justice Ministry placed the St. Petersburg branch of the committee on a “foreign agent” blacklist in August after the head of the committee’s branch there, Ella Polyankova, claimed more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed in fighting near the eastern Ukrainian town of Snizhnye.

    16 hours ago  /  0 notes

  9. In Aftermath of War, Ukraine Trying to Quickly Make Up for Decades of Neglecting Its Military

    October 19, 2014

    Ukraine troops struggle with nation’s longtime neglect of military

    Sergei L. Loiko and Carol J. Williams

    Los Angeles Times

    October 18, 2014

    Militia commander Yuri Bereza and his 150 Ukrainian irregulars were closing in on pro-Moscow separatists in their last stronghold in this eastern city when Russian troops and armor thundered in out of nowhere to cut them off in the suburb of Ilovaisk.

    No satellite or drone surveillance detected the sudden movement of the Russian columns. No word of the impending attack had been radioed from the border guard base the invaders had to have passed. Neither did any of the allied soldiers who were supposed to be bringing up the rear inform Bereza’s fighters that they had been cut off. In fact, the 700-strong contingent of government recruits had deserted en masse.

    Ukraine's neglected army
    Ukraine's neglected army
    Ukraine's neglected army
    Ukraine's neglected army

    The unit’s calls to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, to say it was surrounded brought promises of a reinforcements, food and ammunition, none of which came to the rescue of the men, who survived on grass and rainwater as they braved five days of incessant sniper fire, “like game at a hunting range,” Bereza said bitterly of the battle two months ago.

    It was at Ilovaisk, where 107 irregulars died and at least 700 recruits and volunteers were taken captive, that the Ukrainian military’s post-independence disintegration was most painfully on display.

    A standing army of 1 million inherited by Ukraine after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union has dwindled to barely 100,000. Analysts say even that figure is inflated. At the time the Russia-backed separatists began grabbing territory in March, then-Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh told the parliament that Ukraine had no more than 6,000 combat-ready troops to repel the aggression.

    The Ukraine contingent of the once-fearsome Soviet Red Army rotted from the top after independence, when senior posts became cushy rewards for political supporters of the ruling party. Since the overthrow of Kremlin-allied President Viktor Yanukovich in February, the military leadership has been a revolving door. The fourth defense minister in eight months, Stepan Poltorak, was appointed by President Petro Poroshenko this week and confirmed Tuesday.

    Defense funding has declined to a fraction of its Soviet-era support. Ukraine last year allocated $1.9 billion for the armed forces, Defense Ministry figures show, only 10% of it earmarked for modernizing training and weapons. Russia, by contrast, spent $4.47 billion and has a standing force and conscription-age population three times larger than Ukraine’s, the CIA World Factbook estimates.

    Ukraine’s last significant military exercises took place nine years ago, said Ihor Smeshko, former security services chief and now head of Poroshenko’s intelligence committee.

    Not a single new combat aircraft has been commissioned since independence, and the country’s air power has shrunk to about three dozen fighter jets and a diminishing fleet of antiquated helicopters from the 1,500 acquired with the Soviet breakup, said Yuri Biryukov, a presidential aide in charge of fund-raising for militias.

    But perhaps the most serious blunder, analysts say, was the failure of successive Ukrainian leaders to see their Russian neighbors as a potential threat.

    "As the army shrank rapidly over the years, everybody thought it was such a good thing," Biryukov recalled. "They thought, ‘Who could threaten us if our friends and allies are Russia, the United States and Europe?’"

    Some of the erosion of defenses has been by design. Ukraine’s share of the Soviet nuclear stockpile, nearly 1,300 intercontinental ballistic missiles, was handed over to Russia for dismantling in 1994 when Kiev signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. In exchange, Russia, the United States and Britain pledged to respect Ukraine’s borders.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin violated that agreement when he launched his campaign of territorial plunder in February by first seizing Ukraine’s Crimea region. But more than two decades of corruption, misguided strategy and squandered resources had left Ukraine woefully unable to respond when Russian brothers turned hostile.

    "We should have fought this war from Day 1 in Crimea," said Maxim Dubovsky, deputy commander of the Dnipro-1 regiment humiliated in Ilovaisk. Russia’s seizure of the peninsula, home to its Black Sea fleet, robbed Ukraine of its own naval bases.

    Ukraine’s abysmal economy has led to deep cuts in weapons production, which was the lifeblood of the eastern regions, feeding the unemployment and discontent there that led to the current conflict. What is still produced is usually sold to other countries, including Russia.

    Even if Kiev’s Western allies were to provide more sophisticated weaponry to Ukraine, which isn’t a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and thus not entitled to the bloc’s protection, the armaments couldn’t be integrated into Ukraine’s obsolete, Soviet-designed arsenals and fleets without massive and costly retrofitting, said Vladimir Grek, a former Defense Ministry weapons designer.

    Ukraine needs to invest at least $5 billion a year to upgrade its defenses, Grek said. “We need to put our military industrial complex in war mode, with 24-hour-a-day production so that we can get new weapons to the army as soon as possible.”

    The regular army’s deterioration has given rise to an array of volunteer units. Some, like Bereza’s regiment, coordinate with commanders in Kiev, gaining access to the army’s tanks and artillery. Others, like the rogue nationalist Right Sector militia, are fighting for their own agenda, often with brutality that gives credence to Moscow’s claims that Ukraine is awash with “neo-fascists.”

    Underarmed and underfed, Ukrainian troops have fled some battles before shots were fired, as in the Sector D retreat at Ilovaisk. Another army unit camped near the remote border with Russia along the Sea of Azov fled in late August when two armored columns burst through a checkpoint and overran the town of Novoazovsk.

    "We don’t have hot food. We eat dry rations, and when they run out we start looking for something in the fields," said Ondriy, a 21-year-old soldier on leave in Kiev who didn’t want to give his last name for fear of retribution for complaining. He said his commander had advised him when he left on furlough not to come back, that there was "no point in dying for a country that doesn’t care for you."

    Ukrainians far from the war zones acknowledge that the conflict doesn’t seem real to them. In Kiev, there is little evidence of a war an hour’s flight east. Political ads for the Oct. 26 parliamentary elections dominate billboards and television talk shows, and few without family members at the front seem willing to let the war intrude on their worries.

    "Our best and bravest young men die every day in eastern Ukraine and I am already wondering whether they should really stay there and fight," said Anzhella Polovinko, 43, a Kiev clothing designer.

    Though the sorry state of the military is dispiriting for many, Ukrainian officials say they have the advantage of soldiers and volunteers more committed than their adversaries to a fight for the country’s very existence.

    Hundreds of Russian soldiers have been killed in Ukraine on missions the Kremlin denies any role in, and their returning coffins have been “an icy shower for their mothers and many of those who used to support Putin’s policy toward Ukraine,” said Andriy Parubiy, former secretary of the National Security and Defense Council and now head of a Kiev agency coordinating support for volunteer militias.

    Putin was able to score successes against troops loyal to the Kiev government when he had 40,000 Russian soldiers on Ukraine’s border, Parubiy said. “The deeper Putin pushes into Ukraine, the harder it will be for him to count on his supremacy in arms, technology and manpower, while the Ukrainian people will all rise like one to defend their motherland.”

    But the brave and patriotic are finite in number. Fighters like Volodymyr Tugai, a 38-year-old former paratrooper who battled alongside Bereza at Ilovaisk, said he feels betrayed but he doesn’t know by whom.

    Tugai, who was bleeding from a shrapnel wound to his neck during the mid-August battle, later recalled a young soldier with one of his legs blown off reaching for him in the bed of a pickup truck serving as a first-aid station.

    "He was screaming, ‘Mama! Mama! Mama! Help please! Take me home!’ " said Tugai, still emotionally numbed by the desperate soldier’s cries. "I wished I could be his mother there and then. But he was gone in a minute."

    16 hours ago  /  0 notes

  10. Moonlighting By Senior NSA Officials for Private Companies Suggests Lack of Ethics Rules Oversight by Agency

    October 19, 2014

    The NSA’s Moonlighting Problem

    A former NSA head has recruited one of his underlings for his lucrative cybersecurity firm—but that underling still works for the agency.
    Allen McDuffee
    The Atlantic

    October 18, 2014

    Gen. Keith B. Alexander, head of the National Security Agency, speaks during his retirement ceremony at the agency in Ft. Meade, Maryland March 28, 2014. (REUTERS/Brendan Smialowski/Pool)

    In Washington, the revolving door between government service and more lucrative ventures is common, if not expected. However, having one foot in each has raised questions for the National Security Agency, which has launched an internal review of one senior official who was recruited by former NSA director Keith Alexander to work for his new—and very lucrative—cybersecurity private venture.

    Patrick Dowd, the NSA’s Chief Technological Officer, is allowed to work up to 20 hours a week for Alexander’s firm, IronNet Cybersecurity, Inc., according to Reuters, which broke the story on the deal. Although the arrangement was apparently approved by NSA managers and does not appear to break any laws on its face, it does raise questions about ethics and the dividing line between business and one of the most secretive agencies in government.  

    NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines told Reuters, “This matter is under internal review. While NSA does not comment on specific employees, NSA takes seriously ethics laws and regulations at all levels of the organization.”

    Alexander, acknowledging that the dual roles were “awkward,” said that Dowd wanted to join IronNet full-time, but he declined the request, saying, “I wanted Pat to stay at NSA.” He added: "I just felt that his leaving the government was the wrong thing for NSA and our nation."

    Alexander, who retired from the NSA in March, was the founding general in charge of U.S. Cyber Command. His firm ostensibly draws on the prestige of that post—something that caused at least a little eyebrow-raising. Over the summer, it was revealed that Alexander’s firm would charge as much as $1 million a month to help banks protect their assets against digital assaults. Others have criticized him for filing anti-hacking patents on technology that he developed while he was the head of the NSA. Some of these were co-filed with Dowd.

    In other words, it already seemed as though Alexander profited from work he did while employed by the government. Now, we know he’s profiting from employing somebody who still has agency access.

    This isn’t the only conflict-of-interest case confronting the NSA. Last month, BuzzFeed News reported that Teresa Shea, the head of the overseas electronic eavesdropping efforts within the NSA, is married to a vice president of DRS Signal Solutions. DRS Signal Solutions is a contractor for the NSA. A subsequent report revealed that Shea was running an office and electronics sales and rental business out of her home.

    The Pentagon’s Inspector General found in August that Regina Dugan, the former director of DARPA, used her position to bring agency attention to a technology research company that she created. But Dugan’s career hasn’t exactly petered out: She’s now Google’s vice president for Engineering, Advanced Technology and Projects. And just what does that sector of the giant do?

    Among other things, it works on robotics projects for the military.

    17 hours ago  /  0 notes