September 30, 2014
Hong Kong explained: Mapping the protests and exploring the key issues
September 30, 2014
HONG KONG — Pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong are drawing thousands of mostly young residents of this former British colony into the streets in a massive but peaceful movement of civil resistance to Beijing’s plans to screen candidates for the post of the city’s leader, or chief executive. Here are the major issues and people in the dispute.
China took control of Hong Kong in 1997 after agreeing to a policy of “one country, two systems” that gives the financial hub of 7.1 million a high degree of control over its own affairs and allows residents civil liberties absent on the Communist-ruled mainland. During Hong Kong’s 156 years under British rule, London chose the city’s governor in an arrangement that faced virtually no opposition, but residents now want more say in their government and future.
WHY THE PROTESTS?
The protesters are unhappy that Beijing has rejected open nominations for candidates for the first-ever elections for Hong Kong’s leader, promised for 2017. China wants candidates to be chosen by a committee of mostly pro-Beijing tycoons, a requirement many residents see as a reversal of promises for more democracy in their semi-autonomous territory. Some protesters are calling for the city’s unpopular current chief executive, Leung Chun-ying, to step down.
The protests began over a week ago as college students boycotted classes, but have gained support from other Hong Kong residents and political activists as the demonstrations spread across the city. On Sunday, police used pepper spray and tear gas to try to stop people from joining students who had gathered near the city government headquarters two days earlier. By Monday, thousands were still occupying major streets downtown, as police stood watch but took no overt action to force them out.
Since Xi Jinping took over as China’s president in 2013, the country’s leaders have tightened restrictions on public dissent, even in social media, imposing harsh prison sentences on activists and others seen as a threat to the Communist Party’s monopoly on power. The current protests, however, have created a political problem for Beijing. While China has to be careful not to crack down too harshly on the demonstrators in Hong Kong, whose free press ensures global visibility, it also is eager to end the protests in order to avoid emboldening mainland Chinese. So far, China has condemned the protests, but has not intervened.
HONG KONG’S TOP DOG
Leung Chun-ying, also known as C.Y. Leung, is a private businessman and former real estate executive with long-standing ties to Beijing. He has appealed to protesters to withdraw for the sake of Hong Kong’s image and stability.
LEADING STUDENT PROTESTER
Joshua Wong, a 17-year-old student protester, was a leader of the “Scholarism” movement, which opposed plans to require moral and patriotic education in Hong Kong. He was dragged away by police soon after students stormed into the government headquarters complex late Friday and was released
LEADING DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST
Benny Tai Yiu-ting, an associate law professor at the University of Hong Kong, began the peaceful civil disobedience movement Occupy Central With Love and Peace — usually referred to as simply Occupy Central — to resist Beijing’s tightening of its grip on the city and demand universal suffrage.
Billionaire businessman Li Ka-shing, Asia’s wealthiest person, was among dozens of tycoons summoned to Beijing last week for meetings with top leaders as the political tensions in Hong Kong mounted. So far, Hong Kong’s capitalists have remained in the background as the protests have gathered momentum.
September 30, 2014
Gulf of Aden Security Review
AEI Critical Threats Project
September 30, 2014
Yemen: Suspected AQAP militants detonate IED near Yemeni soldiers in Shabwah; AQAP releases propaganda video on YouTube; President Hadi announces new Minister of Defense in Sana’a; U.S. sells Yemen UAVs; Russian Foreign Ministry urges citizens to leave Yemen
Horn of Africa: Suspected al Shabaab militants detonate VBIED in Bay region; Puntland security forces arrest suspected al Shabaab militants in Bari region; al Shabaab executes four alleged spies in Lower Shabelle region; unidentified gunmen assassinate local cleric in Hiraan region
Yemen Security Brief
- Suspected al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) militants detonated an improvised explosive device (IED) near a military patrol in Azzan, Shabwah on September 30, wounding four soldiers. Separately, AQAP confirmed on September 27 that leader Abdulaziz al Omari, a Saudi citizen responsible for AQAP’s Twitter campaign, was killed in a September 26 airstrike in al Jawf.
- AQAP’s media arm, al Malahem Media Foundation, released a video on September 29 in which Nasser Bin Ali al Ansi, an AQAP religious official, criticized the Israeli military’s activities in the Gaza Strip and encouraged all Jihadi groups to mend their differences. Al Ansi also condemned airstrikes conducted by the United States and vowed Ansar al Sharia will continue to attack al Houthis in Yemen.
- President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi announced that Major General Mahmoud al Subaihi will be the new Minister of Defense in Sana’a on September 30. Al Subaihi previously served as the commander of the fourth military region in Aden.
- The U.S. Department of Defense announced on September 29 an 11 million U.S. dollar contract to sell Yemen a system of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to be used for surveillance and reconnaissance.
- The Russian Foreign Minister issued a statement on September 29, urging Russian citizens to leave Yemen due to political instability.
Horn of Africa Security Brief
- Suspected al Shabaab militants detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in Baidoa, Bay region on September 29. The target of the blast and the extent of casualties remain unknown.
- Puntland security forces arrested more than twenty suspected al Shabaab militants during a security operation in Boosaaso, Bari region on September 30.
- Al Shabaab publicly executed four men accused of spying for the Somali Federal Government in Barawe, Lower Shabelle region on September 30.
 “Explosion targeting a military patrol in Azzan,” Barakish, September 30, 2014 [Arabic]. Available: http://barakish.net/news02.aspx?cat=12&sub=23&id=213360“AQAP Twitter-warrior killed in latest US drone strike in Yemen,” Long War Journal, September 29, 2014. Available: http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2014/09/aqap_twitter-warrior_killed_in.php Al Malahem Media Foundation video released to YouTube, September 29, 2014. “Agency: Major Subaihi receives a ‘defense’ as the first minister in the new government,” al Montasaf, September 30, 2014 [Arabic]. Available: http://www.almontasaf.net/NewsDetailsPage.aspx?NewsID=C16E7193-3AEA-4319-92CA-034B75BAF433.html “Yemen to acquire ScanEagle UAGs,” Janes, September 29, 2014. Available: http://www.janes.com/article/43853/yemen-to-acquire-scaneagle-uavs#.VCrACMK9qYU.twitter “Russians Urged to Leave Yemen,” Telesur, September 29, 2014. Available: http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Russians-Urged-to-Leave-Yemen-20140929-0034.html “SOMALIA: Car explosion leaves unconfirmed casualties in Bay region,” RBC Radio, September 29, 2014. Available: http://www.raxanreeb.com/2014/09/somalia-car-explosion-leaves-unconfirmed-casualties-in-bay-region/ “Puntland Police Arrest Tens During Sweeps in Bossaso,” Dalsan Radio, September 30, 2014. Available: http://dalsanradio.com/articles/8619/Puntland-Police-Arrest-Tens-During-Sweeps-in-Bossaso SOMALIA: Al Shabab executes four teenagers in Barawe for ‘spying’,” RBC Radio, September 30, 2014. Available: http://www.raxanreeb.com/2014/09/somalia-al-shabab-executes-four-teenagers-in-barawe-for-spying/ “SOMALIA: Well known local cleric assassinated in Beledweyn town,” RBC Radio, September 30, 2014. Available: http://www.raxanreeb.com/2014/09/somalia-well-known-local-cleric-assassinated-in-beledweyn-town/
- Unidentified gunmen shot and killed a local Muslim cleric in Beledweyne, Hiraan region on September 30. Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, al Shabaab militants have previously conducted targeted killings against clerics in the area.
September 30, 2014
Pakistan Security Brief
AEI Critical Threats Project
September 30, 2014
AQIS releases “press release” commenting on Karachi Naval dockyard attack; U.S. sanctions Pakistan-based individuals, entities as global terrorists; Hezb-e-Islami says no political or organizational links to groups outside Afghanistan; Two foreigners arrested in Karachi for involvement in bomb attack; U.S. sanctions Pakistan-based individuals and entities; Pakistan army chief speaks at inauguration of new counterterrorism training center; Pakistan hopes hope for improved ties with new Afghan government; Afghanistan signs BSA; Government asks IMF to drop demand for power tariff increase.
Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) spokesman Usama Mahmood, released a nine-page “press release” on his official Twitter feed on September 29 explaining the group’s September attack that aimed to target the U.S. and Indian navies. The statement claims that the Pakistani government has suppressed news regarding the extent to which the plot was successful. It also claims that the attack took place at sea on September 3 and not in the Karachi naval dockyard on September 6, as Pakistani military sources claim, and that all the militants involved were current or former naval officers.
On September 30, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned three individuals as Specially Designated Global Terrorists and two affiliated Pakistan-based entities. The Treasury Department specifically targeted Fazl-ur-Rehman, the leader of Harakat ul- Mujahideen (HuM). The designations also include Sheikh Muhammad Naeem and Sheikh Umiar Naeem for providing support and acting for or on behalf of Lashkar-e-Taiba, as well as their Pakistan-based businesses, titled Abdul Hameed Shahab-Ud-Din (AHSD) and Nia International.
According to a The News report on September 30, The Gulbadin Hekmatyar-led Hezb-e-Islami militant group declared in a statement that it had no political or organizational links to any political party outside Afghanistan including the Muslim brotherhood, Jamaat-e-Islami, Islamic State, al Qaeda, or the Pakistani or Afghan Taliban. It stated that the group’s resistance was confined to Afghanistan but that it morally supported jihadist activities in every nook and corner of the world.
On September 30, police arrested two foreigners in the Manghopir area of Karachi in connection with the September 25 attack on a senior police official which killed two people and injured seven more. The foreigners are reportedly affiliated with a “banned organization.”
On a visit to Kharian for the inauguration ceremony of the upcoming National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) on September 30, army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif reiterated that the Pakistan Army was fully prepared to deter and defeat all forms of aggression across the entire spectrum of threats. The NCTC will have the capacity to impart large-scale training to troops to combat terrorism in all kinds of terrain.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published on September 29, Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that the relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan had deteriorated for inexplicable reasons in the final months of the outgoing Karzai administration. He expressed hope that Afghanistan’s new President, Ashraf Ghani, would work with Pakistan to reverse the sharp deterioration in bilateral relations and work toward better management of their common border.
On September 30, Afghan National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) at the Presidential palace in Kabul. New Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that the agreement was signed for the stability, goodwill, and prosperity of the Afghan people as well as the stability of the region and the world. Under the BSA, 12,000 foreign military personnel are set to stay after 2014 to train and assist Afghan security forces to combat security threats.
“Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent claims attacks on Pakistani ships were more audacious than reported,” Long War Journal, September 29, 2014. Available at http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/09/al_qaeda_in_the_indi_1.php“Treasury Department Targets Senior Official and Support Networks of Two Pakistan-based Terrorist Groups,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, September 30, 2014. Available at http://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/jl2653.aspx“No links with JI, Islamic State, al-Qaeda: Hazb-e-Islami,” The News, September 30, 2014. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-33221-No-links-with-JI,-Islamic-State,-al-Qaeda:-Hezb-e-Islami“Two foreigners arrested in connection with attack on SSP Awan,” The News, September 30, 2014. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/article-161252-Attack-on-SSP-Farooq-Awan:-Two-foreigners-arrested-“Troops ready to defeat any form of aggression: army chief,” Express Tribune, September 30, 2014. Available at http://tribune.com.pk/story/769209/troops-ready-to-defeat-any-form-of-aggression-army-chief/“Pakistan Seeks Improved Ties With New Afghan Leader,” WSJ, September 29, 2014. Available at http://online.wsj.com/articles/pakistan-seeks-improved-ties-with-new-afghan-leader-1412014801“Afghanistan, US sign long-awaited security pact,” Dawn, September 30, 2014. Available at http://www.dawn.com/news/1135293/afghanistan-us-sign-long-awaited-security-pact“Govt asks IMF to abandon demand for 7pc raise in power tariffs,” The News, September 30, 2014. Available at http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-13-33214-Govt-asks-IMF-to-abandon-demand-for-7pc-raise-in-power-tariff
According to a report in The News on September 30, the Finance Ministry of Pakistan has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to abandon its demand that the government raise power tariffs by seven percent because of the political difficulties currently being faced by the government. Official sources claim the ministry would make alternative adjustments to ensure the budget deficit does not surpass agreed upon levels.
September 30, 2014
No Images of Hong Kong Protests in China’s Media
September 30, 2014
BEIJING — China’s government has cut off news about Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests to the rest of the country, a clampdown so thorough that no image of the rallies has appeared in state-controlled media, and at least one man has been detained for reposting accounts of the events.
By contrast, media in semiautonomous Hong Kong have been broadcasting nonstop about the crowds, showing unarmed students fending off tear gas and pepper spray with umbrellas as they call for more representative democracy in the former British colony.
The contrast highlights the differences in the “one country, two systems” arrangement that China’s Communist Party agreed to when it negotiated the 1997 return of Hong Kong. It also reflects Beijing’s extreme sensitivity about any possible sparks of pro-democracy protest spreading to the mainland.
"The authorities see this as a matter of life and death," said Shanghai-based columnist and independent analyst Zhao Chu. "They don’t see it as a local affair but a fuse that can take down their world."
In Hong Kong, broadcasters NOW and Cable TV have carried wall-to-wall coverage of the unfolding events, including student leaders storming government headquarters Friday and the running clashes with police over the weekend. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy newspaper, the popular Apple Daily, has run its own live Internet feed that features aerial images of the crowds captured by a drone.
Beijing clearly has not been pleased with the unfettered coverage and has appeared to lump the Hong Kong media outlets in with foreign ones.
"Several Western media are making a big fuss, and some even have done live casts," said an editorial on the party-run news site of the People’s Daily.
While Hong Kong enjoys civil liberties unheard of on the mainland under the “one country, two systems” arrangement, the situation is vastly different in Beijing’s official media, through which the authorities can largely control the narrative on any outbreaks of unrest in the mainland.
The coverage of the Hong Kong protests has been confined in mainland China to TV anchors reading brief statements with no video and text reports with no photos. The reports have mostly mentioned illegal gatherings in Hong Kong and the efforts of authorities to disperse them.
The Hong Kong-based China Media Project counted only nine articles in Chinese newspapers Tuesday about the protests, six of them stemming from a news release by the official Xinhua News Agency saying the protests had hurt Hong Kong’s economy and misquoting a high-profile university administrator as saying students should disperse.
The other three pieces appeared in the nationalistic newspaper Global Times, which called the gatherings illegal, disruptive of social order and harmful to the economy.
Censorship of microblogs — including phrases such as “tear gas” — has kept online discussion muted. The image-sharing Instagram service was shut down in China over the weekend.
"The clampdown has been most thorough, covering all media — traditional or new, central or local, governmental or market-oriented," Zhao said.
Some images from Hong Kong’s streets have seeped into the mainland via cellphone messaging services. Many users have converted words into images to avoid having searchable text that can be easily caught by censors. Still, users are complaining of posts being deleted, including in private chats with friends.
Activist Wang Long in the southern city of Shenzhen, who reposted news about the protests on the instant messaging service WeChat, was detained Monday by police on suspicion of causing trouble, his lawyer friend Fan Biaowen said.
The controls have been largely effective.
"The majority of the Chinese public does not know what’s going on in Hong Kong. Only a handful know," said Beijing-based journalism professor Zhan Jiang.
While Hong Kong is outside China’s “Great Fire Wall” that blocks mainland access to many foreign Internet news and social sites, authorities could conceivably shut down the Internet there — as they have done in the country’s restive ethnic regions — because of their control of telecommunications companies.
For now, that seems unlikely because the move would dent Hong Kong’s image as an open financial center.
Nevertheless, rumors of that possibility have fueled a rush to download Firechat, a messaging service that can send and receive messages without an Internet connection. Instead, the handsets can message each other in a daisy-chain fashion that creates a cloud-like network.
Beijing is on edge because it fears the social movement in Hong Kong and its appeal for democracy could galvanize members of the Chinese public, said Zhao, the analyst from Shanghai.
"It must be tightly controlled so it will not infect the mainland," he said.
September 30, 2014
Kurdish and Iraqi Forces Widen Offensive Against ISIS in Northern Iraq
New York Times
September 30, 2014
BAGHDAD — Kurdish fighters opened offensives on Tuesday against Islamic State militants in several parts of northern Iraq, seizing control of a vital border crossing between Iraq and Syria that has been a major conduit for insurgents moving between the two countries, officials said.
In a predawn push, pesh merga forces of the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government fought their way into the Rabia district, near the Syrian border, seizing control of two villages by late morning, officials said. Fighting elsewhere in the district continued through the day, with the pesh merga eventually gaining control of the border crossing, Kurdish officials said.
Islamic State, also known as ISIS, had controlled Rabia since early June, when jihadist fighters swept across the border from Syria and quickly overwhelmed Iraqi security forces throughout the region, including in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.
The militants, who have declared an Islamic caliphate stretching across eastern Syria and western Iraq, have used a highway between Rabia and Mosul, 70 miles away, to freely transport fighters, weapons, armored vehicles and supplies between the two countries.
“The militants showed fierce resistance but pesh merga forced them to retreat to the center of the district,” said Helgurd Hikmet Mela Ali, a spokesman for the Kurdish force.
Fighting between pesh merga and Islamic State also erupted in Zumar, about 40 miles northwest of Mosul, near the reservoir of the Mosul Dam, officials said. Zumar has been the site of periodic clashes since early August when militants captured the area.
American warplanes conducted seven airstrikes against Islamic State in northwest Iraq, destroying one armored vehicle, two transport vehicles and four armed vehicles, the American military said in a statement. Two other American airstrikes destroyed an Islamic State fighting position and an armed vehicle near the Mosul Dam, the military said. It was unclear whether those bombardments occurred in conjuction with the fighting in Rabia and Zumar.
For the first time, British forces joined the airstrike campaign, with Tornado attack jets striking ISIS positions in support of Kurdish forces, the British Defense Ministry announced.
Iraqi and Kurdish officials also reported heavy fighting south of the Kirkuk in Daquq, a district located on the main highway connecting the oil-rich area around Kirkuk with Baghdad. Islamic State fighters seized control of the area during its June push into northern and central Iraq, commandeering the Kirkuk-Baghdad road along with two other major north-south highways, effectively halting ground transportation between central and northern Iraq.
With the support of airstrikes by warplanes from the United States-led coalition, Iraqi and Kurdish forces pushed into Daquq district Tuesday morning, Iraqi officials said. On Tuesday afternoon, the officials reported that the coalition of forces had taken control of the villages of Sa’ad, Khaled and Wadah, about 20 miles south of Kirkuk, and the district of Tazah, between Kirkuk and Daquq.
But late Tuesday, Brig. Gen. Hussein Mansour, a division commander for the pesh merga, reported that a counterattack by the insurgents had forced the government troops to retreat from Sa’ad, Khaled and Wadah, allowing the Iraqi Air Force to conduct airstrikes on the militants’ positions.
Iraqi officials also reported that Sunni tribal fighters allied with Iraqi government forces were fighting Islamic State militants in the Rashad district on the highway connecting Kirkuk with Tikrit.
Any lasting success in pushing back Islamic State would be a significant boost for the Iraqi government, which has struggled to roll back Islamic State’s gains around the country and, in places, has continued to cede ground.
But should the coalition of Iraqi forces prevail, it remained unclear which unit would assume responsibility for holding Daquq and Zumar. Both districts fall within the so-called disputed territories claimed by both the government of Kurdistan and the central government of Iraq.
The Kurdistan government exploited the power vacuum caused by the Islamic State’s lightning advance in June, and the rationale of regional security and the Iraqi army’s feeble response, to progressively seize control of the disputed territories.
In addition to Daquq and Zumar, which is also in the disputed territories, the pesh merga have been trying to drive Islamic State militants out of Jalawla and Sinjar.
“The plan is to get our lands back, set the border, get our bunkers strong and then wait for orders,” Helgurd Hikmet Mela Ali, a spokesman for the pesh merga, said in a recent interview. “That’s our right: to be ambitious.”
Mr. Ali also said that after suffering several humiliating setbacks soon after Islamic State’s push into northern Iraq, the morale of the Kurdish forces had rebounded.
“If you compare the pesh merga today and a month ago, you can tell there’s higher morale, better readiness, and we’ve been able to take back some locations,” he said.
But the gains had come at a cost, he said: Fighting since June has killed about 200 pesh merga soldiers and wounded about 1,000.
Elsewhere in Iraq on Tuesday, three bombs concealed on roads in Baghdad killed seven people and wounded 32, an official at the Iraqi Interior Ministry said. Two car bombs were detonated near the city of Hilla, in southern Iraq, killing four and wounding 16, officials said. Another car bomb was detonated in the city of Karbala, also in southern Iraq, killing six and wounding 14.
September 30, 2014
US Air Force Takes the Lead on Airstrikes Against Islamic State
September 29, 2014
The Air Force has flown a large majority of all airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, with the mission expected to change as Islamic State fighters adjust to the aerial bombardment.
Seventy-four percent of the more than 240 strikes in Iraq and Syria have been flown by Air Force aircraft, including 50 percent of all strikes in Syria. The US Air Force has flown 95 percent of almost 1,300 tanker sorties, and more than 700 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights. All told, the service has accounted for 70 percent of about 3,800 sorties in the fight against the Islamic State.
These flights have changed how the Islamic State is operating in Iraq and Syria, said Maj. Gen. Jeff Harrigian, the Air Force assistant chief of staff of operations, plans and requirements.
"Instead of the columns of vehicles that you had previously seen with flags over the top … they are a smart adversary," Harrigian said. "They have seen that that is not effective for their survival. So they are now dispersing themselves to allow themselves situations to be more survivable, if you will, which requires us to work harder to locate them and develop the situation to appropriately target them."
The weeklong air battle has prevented Islamic State forces from amassing on a large scale, along with degrading the group’s command and control abilities and impacting their finances through destruction of their operations at oil refineries, Harrigian said.
All of the aircraft have depended on surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft to both develop targets and conduct after-action battle damage assessment. The US does not have boots on the ground to help provide targets, however the Air Force does have joint terminal attack controllers working in the combined air operations center to determine the targets and how to best target them.
"We have JTACs in the operations center that remain connected with the Iraqis or Peshmurga depending on who are supporting so we know where the front line is," Harrigian said. "As these requirements come up, we have done thoughtful analysis to offer them what would be the best capability to get after whatever that threat might be."
The highlight of the first attacks in Syria on Sept. 22 was the first combat flight of the F-22. F-22s are still flying over Syria, and while they have not dropped bombs since, the aircrafts’ advanced avionics and improved situational awareness assists other aircraft in identifying threats and targeting.
"Planners are taking a look at the specifics of each mission, determining if they need them or not," Harrigian said. "It depends on the targets, where they are, and the environment … those types of things to determine if it is necessary to fly the F-22 package at night."
Syria’s air defenses have remained “passive” during the entire air campaign, Harrigian said.
Over the weekend, American and coalition aircraft targeted vehicles, safe houses and checkpoints, along with what activists said was a grain silo northeast of Aleppo. Activists have reported that the facility did not belong to the Islamic State and that those killed were civilians. Defense Department spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said Monday that the US “knows for a fact” that the site was used by the Islamic State as a vehicle staging facility.
The Defense Department has not found any evidence of civilian casualties in any US or coalition airstrikes,Warren said
September 30, 2014
Can General Rizwan Akhtar clean up Pakistan’s notorious ISI spy agency?
September 30, 2014
Pakistan’s new spy chief, who takes up his post this month, comes to the job of running one of the world’s most notorious intelligence agencies after two years trying to bring order to one of Asia’s most troubled cities. Former colleagues have nothing but praise for General Rizwan Akhtar’s stint commanding the paramilitary Rangers during the internal security force’s crackdown on the criminal mafias, armed wings of political parties and religious militants that dominate the teeming port city of Karachi.
“Before the start of the operation there was no fear of law-enforcement agencies,” said Ahmed Chinoy, head of Karachi’s citizen police liaison committee. “With Akhtar, the fear was restored that they would be killed in an encounter, arrested or face the consequences.”
Akhtar has been praised for backing decent police officers against politicians who were anxious to protect their network of street thugs, and for making morale-boosting appearances on the streets during firefights and enhancing the Rangers’ intelligence gathering capabilities.
His supporters say this will all be invaluable when he takes over as director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), the powerful military spy agency.
“For him, a terrorist is a terrorist,” said Nasir Aftab, a senior Karachi policeman. “There is no impression of good terrorism or bad terrorism, or that some are working for Pakistan.”
Such moral clarity is not usually associated with the ISI, an organisation accused of conspiring to overthrow civilian governments and backing regional insurgencies.
The ISI has faced calls for it to be branded a terrorist organisation because of its habit of drawing a distinction between militants trying to topple Pakistan and those whose interests are confined to Afghanistan and India.
Frustrated western officials claim that only this year the Taliban-allied Haqqani network was assisted in moving to safety before the launch of a long-awaited military operation in North Waziristan, a tribal agency neighbouring Afghanistan that had been allowed to become a terrorist hub.
Sceptics say the ISI is beyond reform. Director generals only serve for a couple of years, hardly enough time to get to grips with a sprawling organisation that includes some officers who, it is feared, share the ideology of the militants that they handle. There has even been speculation that the ISI has slipped from the control of the army itself.
“[Under Akhtar] there will be no change in objectives but only in how he handles things,” said Ayesha Siddiqa, an analyst who specialises in military affairs. “He will try to make the army look neutral, but we are not going to see less intervention in politics, or changed perspectives on India or Afghanistan.”
But other analysts believe Pakistan’s military has been forced by the blossoming of domestic terrorism in the last decade to rethink its approach to militancy. After Pakistan was forced to side with the US and its allies in the military operation against the Taliban in 2001, jihadis who had been nurtured over decades for export to India and Afghanistan turned their guns on their former patron.
The army, for so long prepared and indoctrinated for war against India, had to transform itself into a force capable of fighting an internal insurgency, which has claimed the lives and limbs of thousands of soldiers.
For many, the experience of serving on the new front line has helped to inoculate them against the romantic illusions of Islamist jihad.
“Everything had to change to fight an enemy that is invisible and where the battle lines are not clearly drawn,” said a retired army officer whom Akhtar served under while working in South Waziristan – another militant haven where the military launched a milestone operation in 2009. “Personally I feel he will bring about profound difference in the ISI.”
Many of the themes in the military’s thinking are reflected in a 2008 dissertation that Akhtar wrote while attending a course at the US Army War College on the subject of the “US-Pakistan trust deficit and the war on terror”.
While the US was blamed for making numerous mistakes in the way it handled Pakistan, the dissertation also identified the need to “confront and eliminate Islamic extremism, and create a more tolerant society” as being among the country’s most “critical strategic challenges”.
“Most important, [Pakistan] must aggressively pursue rapprochement with India,” he wrote.
Kamran Bokhari, an analyst at the private intelligence company Stratfor, said Akhtar’s impact was likely to be incremental. “We overrate the importance of individual ISI chiefs, but ultimately he is part of a trajectory where the army does not want to directly govern Pakistan, even if it still wants to rule from behind the scenes,” he said.
“And the enthusiasm for developing non-state militant actors as instruments of foreign policy has gone because it has blown up in their faces.”
The ongoing relationship with groups such as the Haqqani network, Bokhari believes, is simply the ISI’s way of managing a group it is unwilling to pick a fight with.
The immediate hope for the government is that the new ISI chief will dispel the widespread belief that it has tried to undermine Nawaz Sharif, the embattled prime minister, who has been weakened by street protests in the capital led by opposition politician Imran Khan and Tahir-ul-Qadri, a cleric with a committed following.
Javed Hashmi, the former president of Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, accused the former cricketer of attempting to topple Sharif’s government under the direction of ISI spies.
Sharif’s relationship with the ISI soured dramatically this year when Geo News, the country’s most popular television station, accused the incumbent director general, Zaheer-ul-Islam, of attempting to kill its star journalist during an April shootout in Karachi.
The government chose not to challenge the unprecedented public attack on the ISI and Sharif even made a point of rushing to the bedside of the wounded journalist.
Back in 2008, Akhtar wrote that “the role of the military should be limited to ensuring the nation’s security from external threats”. Sharif can only hope that he meant it.
Treasury Department Debating Whether to Tell People That They Were Designated As Terrorists Based on Warrantless Eavesdropping
September 30, 2014
Debate Simmers Over Disclosing Warrantless Spying
New York Times
September 3, 2014
WASHINGTON — Obama administration lawyers have been debating whether the Treasury Department must inform the people or groups it lists as foreign terrorists when it relies on warrantless surveillance as the basis for the designation, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.
Intelligence officials are said to oppose being more forthcoming about who has been subjected to surveillance, especially in cases involving noncitizens abroad — who do not have Fourth Amendment privacy rights — because such information would tip them off that the National Security Agency had intercepted their communications.
But a provision in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, requires the government to disclose when it uses information from eavesdropping in any “proceeding” against people. In 2008, Congress made the N.S.A.’s warrantless surveillance program a part of FISA, but the full implications of applying its disclosure provision to that program were initially overlooked.
Outside specialists said the same part of the law may apply to other government decisions that rely on such intelligence, including adding names to the “no fly” list and deciding whether to approve visas and licenses that require a security screening.
“This has so many potential spillovers that it’s fascinating,” said Robert M. Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
The government began to scrutinize how the disclosure provision applied to the warrantless surveillance program in the summer of 2013, when leaks from Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor, were shining a spotlight on surveillance-related policies.
The scrutiny began in the Justice Department, where it became clear that prosecutors in the National Security Division had been concealing from criminal defendants — Americans protected by the Fourth Amendment — that some of the evidence they faced had been derived from warrantless wiretapping.
In August 2013, the department changed that practice and began notifying criminal defendants. Some of them have since challenged the program’s constitutionality, so far without success, though the litigation is early.
Now, the ripples have spread to the Treasury Department, whose Office of Foreign Assets Control administers and enforces sanctions against people or groups that it designates as foreign terrorists, drug lords or other wrongdoers. Any American-based assets of those designated entities are frozen, and Americans may not do business with them.
Over the summer, lawyers for the Treasury Department had discussions with the National Security Division about whether — or at what stage — that process should count as a “proceeding” that falls under the disclosure provision, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
When designating groups for sanctions, the Treasury Department announces its decision without prior notice. The designated groups can request that it reconsider, and if that effort fails, they can file a lawsuit. Neither the designated groups nor their lawyers get to see any classified evidence against them, but at the lawsuit stage a judge is shown that information.
Erich C. Ferrari, a lawyer who represents foreign clients who have challenged their designations by the Treasury Department, said the government typically provided very little information about the basis for its decisions. He argued that “the language of the statute should control” its interpretation and said that he considered even the administrative reconsideration stage to be a “proceeding,” but he added, “I think they would try to find a way to get out of that.”
Jimmy Gurule, a Notre Dame law professor who served from 2001 to 2003 as the Treasury Department’s under secretary for enforcement, a post that oversees the Office of Foreign Assets Control, said there was a strong argument that every stage of the process be counted as a “proceeding” because the statute is written broadly, meaning that the FISA notice law should apply from the start.
There is also precedent for the Treasury Department’s providing notice after a group has received its designation and is trying to have it reconsidered. In 2007, after an Ohio-based charity accused of funding Hamas asked to have its assets unfrozen, Treasury told the group it was relying on FISA evidence for its designation, court papers show. But that case involved a FISA warrant targeting an entity on American soil.
The Treasury Department declined to explain how it has decided to interpret its obligations under the disclosure rule, although it provided a general statement.
“The Office of Foreign Assets Control is committed to complying fully with FISA, which we implement in close consultation and collaboration with the Department of Justice,” it said. “We are confident in the legality and validity of our designation actions, including decisions taken in response to delisting requests.”
The Obama administration has apparently decided that it does not need to ask Congress to change the FISA notice law. Several aides on the intelligence and judiciary committees said the executive branch had not asked for modifications.
But the administration may also have decided to construe the notice law narrowly. Several precedents support the view that the FISA disclosure rule may not apply to the Treasury Department’s administrative process.
For example, courts have held, in several cases involving regular law-enforcement wiretaps — which have a similar notice rule — that only an adversarial process, in which two sides present opposing views before a decision maker, counts as a covered “proceeding.” A court has also ruled that disclosure is not required when FISA information is shown to a grand jury.
Legal specialists said the government could also be invoking arguments against providing a FISA notice even at the court stage, which is adversarial. It may say, for example, that Congress could not have intended the law to apply in situations where the recipients of the notice could not do anything with that information. For example, most foreigners abroad could not argue that the warrantless surveillance violated their rights — since the Constitution does not cover them — and so they could not ask to have the evidence suppressed.
Still, the experts said surveillance-derived information could affect Americans who do have constitutional rights, like the approximately 800 people placed on the “no fly” list, which prevents people from boarding aircraft, as well as applicants for licenses like those that allow people to work behind airport security checkpoints.
“Very significant decisions about people’s lives are made on this kind of evidence,” said Jameel Jaffer, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer. “When all this takes place in secret, you don’t have an opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the government’s surveillance methods.”
In June, a Federal District Court judge struck down the process for challenging being put on the “no fly” list, saying it was too opaque and violated Americans’ due-process rights. She ordered the government to give people more information about why they are on the list.
Swedish-Owned Company Lobbies to Get Sensitive U.S. Telecommunications Contract Despite Opposition from US Intelligence Community
September 30, 2014
Swedish-Owned Firm Defends Bid for Sensitive U.S. Phone Contract
New York Times
September 30, 2014
WASHINGTON — A technology company vying to win the job of routing the country’s tens of millions of phone calls and text messages accused a competitor on Tuesday of using “scare tactics” and spreading misinformation by raising the specter of national security threats if the deal goes forward.
A private panel has recommended to the Federal Communications Commission that Telcordia, a United States division of the Swedish-based company Ericsson, get the phone-routing contract. But its competitor, Neustar, a Virginia firm that has done the work since the late 1990s on a no-bid basis, is lobbying intensely to hold on to the job, which earned it $446 million last year.
This week, Neustar produced a report from Michael Chertoff, the former homeland security secretary, whom it hired to analyze the contract.
Mr. Chertoff warned in his report that the F.C.C.’s bidding process had given short shrift to national security concerns and could allow a foreign intelligence service to gain access to secret United States surveillance data. American agencies rely on the phone-routing system to trace suspicious calls and text messages and consider it a vital tool in surveillance and law enforcement efforts.
Telcordia was unimpressed by Mr. Chertoff’s report. The company said in a statement that the report was “the latest desperate stunt from Neustar in an attempt to use fear to hold on to its multibillion contract.”
James Barnett, Jr., a retired rear admiral who is an outside lawyer for Telcordia, said the New Jersey company, while owned by a Swedish technology giant, which bought it in 2012, had deep American roots and would produce a secure and reliable system. He accused Neustar of using “scare tactics” and “fear mongering” in order to “spread misinformation.”
The F.C.C. has not scheduled a vote on the contract. Mark Wigfield, a spokesman for the commission, said that it was looking carefully at all national security implications in the contract and “will continue to ensure that security remains paramount throughout any contract transition.”
September 30, 2014
Lawmaker: Italian spy agency paid Mafia bosses
September 30, 2014
ROME (AP) — An Italian lawmaker has decried a secret arrangement in which intelligence agents paid imprisoned top Mafiosi for information during several of the years when Silvio Berlusconi was premier.
Claudio Fava, vice president of Parliament’s anti-Mafia commission, told reporters Tuesday that magistrates investigating Italy’s organized crime syndicates were kept in the dark about the practice, described in a written protocol between the now-defunct intelligence agency Sisde and the national prison administration agency. The practice came to light when Premier Matteo Renzi declassified the document in July.
The arrangement ran from about 2003 to 2007. The commission will begin hearings Wednesday to learn if information bought from bosses was useful. Fava said he suspects the information might have been used to derail investigations into whether politicians had ties with the Mafia.