1. China Building an Underwater Surveillance System to Detect Submarines

    April 24, 2014

    China Builds A SOSUS
    strategypage.com
    April 24, 2014

    April 24, 2014: It was recently revealed that China began installing underwater passive sonar systems in its coastal waters back in 2011. This enables China to monitor submarines operating off its coasts and, presumably, in the South China Sea. South Korea did the same in 2011 when it announced that it was installing underwater submarine sensors off its coasts and this was apparently completed in 2013. The South Korean effort was in response to North Korea using a small submarine to torpedo a South Korea patrol ship in 2010. China simply wants to keep foreign warships as far away as possible, even if it means trying to force them out of international waters.

    Technical details were not revealed by China or South Korea, but this sort of thing is similar to the system of passive (they just listen) sonars the United States deployed on the sea bottom in key areas during the Cold War. SOSUS (SOund Surveillance System) consisted of several different networks. On the continental shelf areas bordering the North Atlantic was the CAESAR network. In the North Pacific there was COLOSSUS plus a few sensors in the Indian Ocean and a few other places that no one would talk about. The underwater passive sonars listened to everything and sent their data via cable to land stations. From there it was sent back to a central processing facility, often via satellite link. SOSUS was accurate enough to locate a submarine within a circle no wider than 100 kilometers. That’s a large area, but depending on the quality of the contact, the circle might be reduced up to ten kilometers. The major drawback of the system was that it did not cover deep water areas more than 500 kilometers from the edge of the continental shelf. This is not a problem for the South Korean or Chinese systems, as both only cover coastal waters or shallow off shore areas like the South China Sea.

    SOSUS systems are very expensive to maintain. SOSUS managed to survive the end of the Cold War by making its sensors available for civilian research and by using cheaper and more powerful electronic and communications technology. While many parts of the SOSUS have been shut down, additional portable SOSUS gear has been put in service, to be deployed as needed.

    South Korea had the advantage of being able to get help from the United States about SOSUS and how to collect and process the “sound signatures” of submarines operating in the area. The U.S. was also able to help South Korea obtain more sensitive passive sonar systems that can identify submarine location more accurately. The U.S. has been doing research in this area and knows that such cooperation would result in American access to the South Korean SOSUS. South Korea also has the design and manufacturing capability for this sort of device.  The first South Korea SOSUS systemimage was placed off the west coast, near the North Korean border. North Korean submarines, travelling under water, using battery power and near the coast, are very hard to detect. The South Korean SOSUS will help even the odds.

    China’s Internet based espionage efforts have probably already stolen a lot of American SOSUS secrets and that helped a lot.

    3 hours ago  /  0 notes

  2. New Details on Russian Strategic Bomber Missions Over North Sea

    April 24, 2014

    Russian Bombers Conduct Test Flights Over Northern Europe

    RIA Novosti

    April 24, 2014

    Tu-95MS “Bear” strategic bomber

    MOSCOW, April 24 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Tu-95MS “Bear” strategic bombers, accompanied by supersonic Mikoyan MiG-31 interceptors, have conducted test flights over neutral waters of the North Sea, a senior Air Force official told reporters Thursday.

    Russia’s strategic bomber force regularly performs flights over neutral waters of the Arctic, the Atlantic, the Black Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

    The flights sometimes prompt a reaction by neighboring countries. Japan has scrambled aircraft to escort such flights several times since the beginning of the month.

    The Russian Defense Ministry has insisted that the flights are carried out “in strict accordance with international regulations” and do not violate the borders of other countries.

    "The flight route was over the neutral waters of the North Sea, along the Kola Peninsula. The aircraft have flown some 12,000 kilometers. The flight duration exceeded 16 hours," Col. Igor Klimov said.

    The crews were training to fly over featureless terrain and perform aerial refueling. A pair of MiG-31 interceptors escorted the bombers, interacting via an A-50 airborne early warning aircraft.

    The Tupolev-95 (NATO designation Bear) is a Russian turboprop-powered strategic bomber and missile platform. The bomber, the fastest propeller aircraft ever built, is a famous symbol of the Cold War.

    The Tu-95MS variant, equipped with the X-55 cruise missile, is the backbone of the modern Russian strategic bomber force. The plane is designed to destroy critical facilities in the rear of the enemy at any time and under any weather conditions.

    3 hours ago  /  0 notes

  3. Former DHS Inspector General Stymied Investigations and Watered Down Critical Inspection Reports

    April 24, 2014

    Probe: DHS watchdog cozy with officials, altered reports as he sought top job

    Carol D. Leonnig

    Washington Post

    April 24, 2014

    The top watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security altered and delayed investigations at the request of senior administration officials, compromising his independent role as an inspector general, according to a new report from a Senate oversight panel.

    Charles K. Edwards, who served as acting DHS inspector general from 2011 through 2013, routinely shared drinks and dinner with department leaders and gave them inside information about the timing and findings of investigations, according to the report from an oversight panel of the Homeland Security and Government Operations Committee.

    A year-long bipartisan investigation by the panel also found that Edwards improperly relied on the advice of top political advisers to then-Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and acquiesced to their suggestions about the wording and timing of three separate reports.

    The Washington Post obtained an advance copy of the Senate document, which will be released to the public Thursday.

    Edwards’s actions occurred while he was seeking President Obama’s nomination to be the permanent inspector general overseeing DHS, the third-largest government agency, with a $39 billion budget and more than 225,000 employees.

    “We found that Mr. Edwards was a compromised inspector general . . . who was not exercising real oversight,” said Sen. Ronald H. Johnson (Wis.), the ranking Republican on the subcommittee on financial and contracting oversight, which led the investigation of Edwards’s tenure. “Any report generated out of his office would be suspect.”

    Edwards declined to comment through a department spokesperson.

    Edwards, a 20-year federal career employee with expertise in computer engineering, resigned his office in December, three days before he was scheduled to appear at a Senate hearing to answer questions. DHS granted his request to be transferred into its office of science and technology, and the hearing was canceled.

    Johnson and Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), the subcommittee’s chairman, opened the investigation while looking into the hiring of prostitutes by Secret Service agents ahead of a 2012 presidential trip to Cartagena, Colombia. Whistleblowers alleged that Edwards had ordered them to remove derogatory information about the service and evidence implicating a White House staff member ; more staff members came forward to allege deletions and delays in other reports.

    Several staff members said Edwards told colleagues, meanwhile, that he was the White House’s pick for the permanent job.

    Investigators said they confirmed improper deletions and delays in several reports but did not reach a conclusion on the Secret Service-related allegations because the department declined to provide Edwards’s e-mails about the Secret Service report.

    Napolitano, now president of the University of California system, said in a statement issued by her office several weeks ago that no changes were ordered in IG reports related to the Secret Service. “Neither Secretary Napolitano nor her staff ordered that anything be deleted in the Inspector General’s investigative report. Any suggestion to the contrary is false,” the statement read.

    Napolitano said Wednesday that she could not comment on the Senate panel’s findings without reading the report.

    One senior aide said Edwards ordered changes to a March 2012 report about Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the request of senior DHS officials, according to the Senate inquiry. The report dealt with complaints that senior DHS officials intentionally misled Congress and the public about a new program to identify illegal immigrants called Secure Communities, and whether local law enforcement was required to participate.

    Edwards agreed to delay the release of the report at the request of a DHS official, Senate investigators said. The report was on Edwards’s desk on March 1 of that year, but he agreed to a request from John Sandweg, then DHS general counsel, not to release it until March 27.

    The timing meant the report was not issued until after the director of ICE testified at a House hearing that month.

    In another instance, the Senate report said, Edwards followed the suggestion of a top DHS official by adding information to a report questioning the effectiveness of advanced imaging screening by the Transportation Security Administration. Edwards’s chief investigator complained that the move was an effort to “derail our report and minimize our findings,” according to the Senate report.

    Edwards agreed with the DHS official’s suggestion to classify the TSA report as “Top Secret/Secure Compartmented Information” — the highest level of classification — rather than the looser restriction of “Secret.” The label meant that members of Congress could read the document only if they had a reason to do so, made arrangements and reviewed it in a specially secured room.

    The panel’s investigators said they could not confirm Edwards’s role in a report on Secret Service culture because — unlike in the other cases — his office declined to provide any related e-mails or correspondence. Edwards’s investigation concluded that the agency did not have a broad leadership or cultural problem in the wake of the Cartagena scandal.

    The Senate investigation found that Edwards placed on administrative leave three people who questioned the Secret Service report deletions, including the office’s general counsel, who was on paid leave for eight months before getting another job. The federal office that reviews whistleblower complaints sided with the counsel’s argument that Edwards was retaliating against him for complaints the counsel made about Edwards’s conduct.

    Edwards was particularly close to members of Napolitano’s inner staff and often communicated more with them than with his own senior leadership team, the Senate inquiry found. Before scheduled testimony in front of a House committee in March 2012, Edwards asked Sandweg, Napolitano’s top political adviser and acting general counsel, how Edwards should respond to questions from Congress about the best way to improve a department program, the report said.

    Edwards also asked Sandweg to edit a memorandum of understanding that involved Edwards and to provide ongoing legal advice at work, investigators said. “I really need some legal help,” Edwards wrote in one e-mail to Sandweg. “Please help me for the next four months.”

    Federal law requires inspectors general to remain independent of the agencies they oversee and to seek legal advice only from their own counsel or another IG’s counsel. Edwards told Senate investigators he didn’t trust his staff counsel.

    The Senate report said Edwards conferred regularly with both Sandweg and Noah Kroloff, Napolitano’s chief of staff, at the same time he was allegedly pushing to delete embarrassing information from the Secret Service report. Kroloff has close ties to Mark Sullivan, the Secret Service director at the time of the inquiry, and left the department to co-found a private consulting company with him.

    Kroloff declined to comment through a spokesperson, saying he had not seen the report. Sandweg, who resigned in February as acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also said he could not comment without seeing the report.

    Senior officials in the inspector general’s office said they were not aware of Edwards’s private communications to DHS. Edwards told the Senate there was nothing improper about such updates.

    A new DHS inspector general, former federal prosecutor John Roth, was confirmed by the Senate last month.

    DHS spokesman Peter Boogaard said in a Wednesday statement that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson “believes in and values the critical role the IG plays in this department” and that he is confident in Roth’s new leadership of the office.

    3 hours ago  /  0 notes

  4. Chinese Military Going Through Major Expansion; China Will Have 3 Aircraft Carriers In 10 Years

    April 24, 2014

    China Splurging on Military as US Pulls Back

    Associated Press

    April 24, 2014

    QINGDAO, China — China’s navy commissioned 17 new warships last year, the most of any nation. In a little more than a decade, it’s expected to have three aircraft carriers, giving it more clout than ever in a region of contested seas and festering territorial disputes.

    Those numbers testify to huge increases in defense spending that have endowed China with the largest military budget behind the United States and fueled an increasingly large and sophisticated defense industry. While Beijing still lags far behind the U.S. in both funding and technology, its spending boom is attracting new scrutiny at a time of severe cuts in U.S. defense budgets that have some questioning Washington’s commitments to its Asian allies, including some who have lingering disputes with China.

    Beijing’s newfound military clout is one of many issues confronting President Barack Obama as he visits the region this week. Washington is faced with the daunting task of fulfilling its treaty obligations to allies such as Japan and the Philippines, while also maintaining cordial relation with key economic partner and rising regional power China.

    China’s boosted defense spending this year grew 12.2 percent to $132 billion, continuing more than two decades of nearly unbroken double-digit percentage increases that have afforded Beijing the means to potentially alter the balance of power in the Asia-Pacific. Outside observers put China’s actual defense spending significantly higher, although estimates vary widely.

    Increases in spending signal “strength and resolve to China’s neighbors,” requiring other countries to pay close attention to where Beijing is assigning its resources, said China defense expert Abraham Denmark, vice president for political and security affairs at the U.S-based National Bureau of Asian Research.

    At the same time, the U.S. military is seeking to redirect resources to the Asia-Pacific as it draws down its defense commitment in Afghanistan, although officers warn that budget cuts could potentially threaten plans to base 60 percent of U.S. naval assets to the region. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert recently warned that U.S. capabilities to project power “would not stay ahead” of those of potential adversaries, given the fiscal restraints.

    Meanwhile, China’s navy is rapidly developing into a force to contend with the U.S., long the dominant military player in the Asia-Pacific region.

    China commissioned its first aircraft carrier — a refurbished Ukrainian hull — in 2012, and another two indigenous carriers are expected to enter service by 2025, significantly increasing Beijing’s ability to project power into the South China Sea that it claims virtually in its entirety.

    Analysts say China will have as many as 78 submarines by 2020, part of an expansion that has seen it leap past the U.S. and Russia in numbers of warships delivered annually, according to experts and available figures.

    "That’s very much in line with the leadership’s call for China to become a major military-industrial power," said Tai Ming Cheung, director of the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation at the University of California, San Diego.

    By comparison, the U.S. Navy takes on about 10 major vessels per year, while Russia averages slightly less.

    Despite the impressive hardware, uncertainty still surrounds the capabilities of China’s armed forces, which haven’t seen significant combat since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Home-grown technologies have yet to be tested in battle, and training and organization are hampered by a risk-adverse attitude and overemphasis on political indoctrination that reflects the People’s Liberation Army’s essential role as the defender of the ruling Communist Party.

    "Being the world leader is all about software and networking," said Denny Roy, an expert on the Chinese military at the East-West Center in Hawaii, referring to problems with China’s command structure and communications.

    Concerns about Chinese aggression focus on three scenarios: An attack on self-governing island democracy Taiwan that China claims as its own territory; an attempt to seize uninhabited East China Sea islands controlled by Japan but claimed by China; and a move to drive off claimants to waters and islands claimed by China in the South China Sea.

    All those situations pose considerable risks for Beijing, ranging from a lack of transport and resupply capabilities, to the near certainty of the formidable U.S. military responding in defense of its allies. Japan and the Philippines are U.S. treaty partners, while American law requires Washington to respond to threats against Taiwan.

    Although tensions with Japan have grown sharper over the islands dispute, Beijing takes great pains to play down the impact its military may have on the region. Its explanations about its military buildup, however, mix a proclaimed desire for closer cooperation with prickly nationalism.

    Addressing navy chiefs from two dozen nations gathered at a forum in the eastern Chinese port city of Qingdao on Wednesday, one of China’s most powerful generals said China is committed to maintain peace and stability but would never compromise its national interests.

    "No country should expect China to swallow the bitter pill of compromising our sovereignty rights, national security and development interests," said Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission.

    3 hours ago  /  0 notes

  5. Iraqi Suicide Bomber Kills 11 at Police Checkpoint Ouytside Baghdad

    April 24, 2014

    Suicide Attack in Iraq Kills at Least 11 People

    Associated Press

    April 24, 2014

    BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber rammed his explosives-laden car into a police checkpoint south of Baghdad on Thursday morning, killing at least 11 people, officials said, the latest episode in an uptick in violence in the run-up to next week’s parliamentary elections.

    The attack struck during the morning rush hour, when the checkpoint at one of the entrances to the city of Hillah, about 95 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad, was crowded with commuters.

    Among the 11 killed were seven civilians and four policemen while 27 people were wounded in the bombing, a police officer said. The blast also damaged about 15 cars nearby.

    A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

    The Shiite-dominated city of Hillah has seen sporadic violence recently. Last month, a suicide car bomber hit another checkpoint in same area, killing 36 people.

    Iraq has seen a spike in violence since last year, with the death toll climbing to its highest levels since the worst of the country’s sectarian bloodletting between 2006 and 2008. The U.N. says 8,868 people were killed in 2013, and more than 1,400 people were killed in the first two months of this year.

    No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which bore the hallmarks of an al-Qaida spin-off group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The group and other Sunni militants frequently use car bombs and suicide attacks to target public areas and government buildings in their bid to undermine confidence in the Shiite-led government.

    Next Wednesday, Iraq is to hold its first parliamentary elections since the U.S. troops’ withdrawal in late 2011. More than 9,000 candidates will compete for 328 seats.

    3 hours ago  /  0 notes

  6. FBI Informant Directed Cyber Attacks on Foreign Government Websites

    April 24, 2014

    F.B.I. Informant Is Tied to Cyberattacks Abroad

    Mark Mazzetti

    New York Times

    April 24, 2014

    WASHINGTON — An informant working for the F.B.I. coordinated a 2012 campaign of hundreds of cyberattacks on foreign websites, including some operated by the governments of Iran, Syria, Brazil and Pakistan, according to documents and interviews with people involved in the attacks.

    Exploiting a vulnerability in a popular web hosting software, the informant directed at least one hacker to extract vast amounts of data — from bank records to login information — from the government servers of a number of countries and upload it to a server monitored by the F.B.I., according to court statements.

    The details of the 2012 episode have, until now, been kept largely a secret in closed sessions of a federal court in New York and heavily redacted documents. While the documents do not indicate whether the F.B.I. directly ordered the attacks, they suggest that the government may have used hackers to gather intelligence overseas even as investigators were trying to dismantle hacking groups like Anonymous and send computer activists away for lengthy prison terms.

    Photo

    Hector Xavier Monsegur aided the F.B.I. after his arrest.

    The attacks were coordinated by Hector Xavier Monsegur, who used the Internet alias Sabu and became a prominent hacker within Anonymous for a string of attacks on high-profile targets, including PayPal and MasterCard. By early 2012, Mr. Monsegur of New York had been arrested by the F.B.I. and had already spent months working to help the bureau identify other members of Anonymous, according to previously disclosed court papers.

    One of them was Jeremy Hammond, then 27, who, like Mr. Monsegur, had joined a splinter hacking group from Anonymous called Antisec. The two men had worked together in December 2011 to sabotage the computer servers of Stratfor Global Intelligence, a private intelligence firm based in Austin, Tex.

    Shortly after the Stratfor incident, Mr. Monsegur, 30, began supplying Mr. Hammond with lists of foreign websites that might be vulnerable to sabotage, according to Mr. Hammond, in an interview, and chat logs between the two men. The New York Times petitioned the court last year to have those documents unredacted, and they were submitted to the court last week with some of the redactions removed.

    “After Stratfor, it was pretty much out of control in terms of targets we had access to,” Mr. Hammond said during an interview this month at a federal prison in Kentucky, where he is serving a 10-year sentence after pleading guilty to the Stratfor operation and other computer attacks inside the United States. He has not been charged with any crimes in connection with the hacks against foreign countries.

    Mr. Hammond would not disclose the specific foreign government websites that he said Mr. Monsegur had asked him to attack, one of the terms of a protective order imposed by the judge. The names of the targeted countries are also redacted from court documents.

    But according to an uncensored version of a court statement by Mr. Hammond, leaked online the day of his sentencing in November, the target list was extensive and included more than 2,000 Internet domains. The document said Mr. Monsegur had directed Mr. Hammond to hack government websites in Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey and Brazil and other government sites, like those of the Polish Embassy in Britain and the Ministry of Electricity in Iraq.

    An F.B.I. spokeswoman declined to comment, as did lawyers for Mr. Monsegur and Mr. Hammond.

    The hacking campaign appears to offer further evidence that the American government has exploited major flaws in Internet security — so-called zero-day vulnerabilities like the recent Heartbleed bug — for intelligence purposes. Recently, the Obama administration decided it would be more forthcoming in revealing the flaws to industry, rather than stockpiling them until the day they are useful for surveillance or cyberattacks. But it carved a broad exception for national security and law enforcement operations.

    Mr. Hammond, in the interview, said he and Mr. Monsegur had become aware of a vulnerability in a web-hosting software called Plesk that allowed backdoor access to thousands of websites. Another hacker alerted Mr. Hammond to the flaw, which allowed Mr. Hammond to gain access to computer servers without needing a user name or password.

    Over several weeks in early 2012, according to the chat logs, Mr. Monsegur gave Mr. Hammond new foreign sites to penetrate. During a Jan. 23 conversation, Mr. Monsegur told Mr. Hammond he was in search of “new juicy targets,” the chat logs show. Once the websites were penetrated, according to Mr. Hammond, emails and databases were extracted and uploaded to a computer server controlled by Mr. Monsegur.

    The sentencing statement also said that Mr. Monsegur directed other hackers to give him extensive amounts of data from Syrian government websites, including banks and ministries of the government of President Bashar al-Assad. “The F.B.I. took advantage of hackers who wanted to help support the Syrian people against the Assad regime, who instead unwittingly provided the U.S. government access to Syrian systems,” the statement said.

    Photo

    Jeremy Hammond, who was convicted in hacking cases. Credit Cook County Sheriff’s Department, via Associated Press

    The court documents also refer to Mr. Monsegur’s giving targets to a Brazilian hacker. The hacker, who uses the alias Havittaja, has posted online some of his chats with Mr. Monsegur in which he was asked to attack Brazilian government websites.

    One expert said that the court documents in the Hammond case were striking because they offered the most evidence to date that the F.B.I. might have been using hackers to feed information to other American intelligence agencies. “It’s not only hypocritical but troubling if indeed the F.B.I. is loaning its sting operations out to other three-letter agencies,” said Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University and author of a forthcoming book about Anonymous.

    During the prison interview, Mr. Hammond said that he did not have success hacking a large number of the Plesk websites that Mr. Monsegur had identified, and that his ability to create a so-called back door to a site depended on which operating system it ran on.

    He added that Mr. Monsegur never carried out the hacks himself, but repeatedly asked Mr. Hammond for specific details about the Plesk vulnerability.

    “Sabu wasn’t getting his hands dirty,” he said. Federal investigators arrested Mr. Monsegur in mid-2011, and his cooperation with the F.B.I. against members of Anonymous appears to have begun soon after.

    In a closed hearing in August 2011, a federal prosecutor told a judge that Mr. Monsegur had been “cooperating with the government proactively” and had “literally worked around the clock with federal agents” to provide information about other hackers, whom he described as “targets of national and international interests.”

    “During this time the defendant has been closely monitored by the government,” said the prosecutor, James Pastore, according to a transcript of the hearing. “We have installed software on a computer that tracks his online activity. There is also video surveillance in the defendant’s residence.”

    Mr. Monsegur’s sentencing hearing has been repeatedly delayed, leading to speculation that he is still working as a government informant. His current location is unknown.

    Exactly what role the F.B.I. played behind the scenes during the 2012 attacks is unclear. Mr. Hammond said he had been in constant contact with Mr. Monsegur through encrypted Internet chats. The two men often communicated using Jabber, a messaging platform popular among hackers. Mr. Monsegur used the alias Leondavidson and Mr. Hammond used Yohoho, according to the court records.

    During a conversation on Feb. 15, 2012, Mr. Hammond said he hoped all the stolen information would be put “to good use.”

    “Trust me,” Mr. Monsegur said, according to the chat logs. “Everything I do serves a purpose.”

    Now, sitting in prison, Mr. Hammond wonders if F.B.I. agents might also have been on the other end of the communications.

    3 hours ago  /  0 notes

  7. Who Are the Brains Behind the Pro-Moscow Separatists in the Eastern Ukraine

    April 24, 2014

    Ukraine revolt shows faces, but whose are the brains?

    Reuters

    April 23, 2014

    DONETSK/SLAVIANSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - One is a dapper former croupier and promoter of Ponzi scams run by “Russia’s Bernie Madoff”; the other is a burly Soviet Navy veteran turned soap factory boss, with a shifting gaze and a glint of gold teeth.

    In an uprising whose calling cards are the Kalashnikov and the black balaclava, Denis Pushilin and Vyacheslav Ponomaryov have become the unmasked faces of the pro-Russian separatist movement in eastern Ukraine that has plunged Moscow and the West into their most ominous confrontation since the Cold War.

    But many in the Donetsk region, including officials who have negotiated with the activists, see the pair as mere fronts for brains behind the scenes: a “puppeteer” in the words of one local Ukrainian mediator; or Vladimir Putin in the eyes of Kiev, which says Russian special forces are orchestrating events.

    Pushilin, a 32-year-old who won 77 votes when he ran for parliament a few months ago, emerged this month as leader of the self-styled People’s Republic of Donetsk, occupying the regional governor’s office in Ukraine’s industrial heartland.

    Well-pressed suits set him apart from his frumpy admirers and unwashed men in mismatched camouflage on the barricades, as he gives an articulate voice to widely held fears among Russian speakers; many despise the leaders in Kiev who overthrew Viktor Yanukovich, the Donetsk-born president, and want a vote on letting the industrial east follow Crimea into Russian hands.

    "There will be a referendum," is his mantra to small crowds who gather to hear him speak from a stage protected by walls of sandbags and truck tires, topped with barbed wire.

    'PEOPLE'S MAYOR'

    Ponomaryov, “people’s mayor” of Slaviansk, a rustbelt city of 130,000 a two-hour drive north of Donetsk, cuts an altogether different figure. Middle-aged, he is much less comfortable around the media, often addressing the ground, his eyes shielded by a baseball cap, occasionally flashing those gold teeth.

    He is cagey about his Cold War military service and his business affairs, even his age, but shows greater authority over the gun-heavy separatists who have taken effective control of the entire city. Long feared by officialdom as a haven for crime gangs, Slaviansk looks like the military base camp for the pro-Russian political demands in other towns across the region.

    Ponomaryov and Pushilin, who seem largely unacquainted with each other, deny taking orders from the Kremlin or liaising with Russian commandos, who the Ukrainian government and its U.S. and European allies suspect are active under cover, coordinating moves by locals to seize strategic objectives three weeks ago.

    "There’s not a single Russian soldier or an active member of Russian armed forces in the Slaviansk area, and no contact with Russian authorities, its state security services or military," Ponomaryov said - though he did broadcast an appeal to President Putin at the weekend asking for Russian troops to protect the city from "fascists" after three of his men died in a gunfight.

    The mayor says his own military career ended in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. He had served in a “special operations unit” of the Arctic-based Northern Fleet. In civilian life, he said, he ran a factory “and then I had my own company”.

    "Now I own another company," he said. "It produces soap."

    For a small businessman, he commands considerable respect among many of the armed men manning checkpoints around the city - some 2,500, he reckons - including men Ponomaryov calls “volunteers from Russia” and other former Soviet states.

    Casually dressed in jeans, T-shirt and hoodie, reluctant to shake hands and missing two fingers - a sawmill accident, aides say - he growls at underlings in ripe, street language and moves between his bodyguards with a rolling, fighter’s gait.

    Though he is elusive about the wider command structure in the region, he said: “We are maintaining contacts at all levels, with all towns and cities in the Donetsk Republic.”

    MASKED MEN

    Where Ponomaryov’s authority seems less certain, however, is among the brisk, clearly professional soldiery concentrated at the headquarters of the SBU security service, men with better weapons and less of a line in chat for reporters or local kids.

    It is these masked men, some sporting Cossack lambskin hats or unruly beards, who draw comparisons to the “little green men” who appeared in uniforms lacking insignia in Crimea last month - as if from Mars, if one believed Moscow’s denials of involvement.

    Monitors from Europe’s OSCE security body say they see signs of a Russian troop presence - but have no concrete evidence.

    In Donetsk, a city of a million going about its business untroubled by the makeshift camp in the regional government building, the environment is much less military.

    Pushilin is no guerrilla commandante, though like Ponomaryov he also relates a personal journey to political action against the “Kiev junta” that he insists owes nothing to Moscow.

    Born locally, he graduated in engineering. After military service, he drifted from security guard to casino croupier, ad man and candy salesman before promoting new financial products for famed fraudster Sergei Mavrodi - “the most honest man in the world”, according to Pushilin. He ran for parliament for a party called MMM, a name notorious for the Ponzi pyramid schemes by which Mavrodi ruined thousands of Russian savers in the 1990s.

    'PEOPLE'S SOVIET'

    He won less than 0.1 percent of the vote but was inspired to offer his services as “people’s mouthpiece” after pro-Russian militants seized the regional government offices on April 6.

    He puts his rapid salesman’s patter to use, holding court to reporters on the top floor of the Soviet-era tower and keeping fellow members of the “people’s soviet” on-message - a roll of the eyes or a gesture silence those who stray from the script.

    Democracy, he says, is the key. Pushing for a referendum on May 11 - though it is far from clear how any vote can be held - he says annexation by Russia is not a foregone conclusion: “The question will be sovereignty, ‘yes or no,” for Donetsk, he said.

    "Afterwards we will decide what is best for us: staying with Ukraine, becoming part of Russia, or whatever."

    An attempt to seize power in Donetsk in early March fizzled and a previous “people’s governor” is now in jail - explaining, aides say, why Pushilin shares out some responsibilities.

    Now, however, Ukraine’s government seems paralyzed by the uncertain loyalties and poor resources of forces on the ground - and by fear that any casualties may provoke Russian to step in.

    Nonetheless, Ponomaryov and Pushilin do not look like masters of their own destiny. Some observers say that, as in Crimea, those in the spotlight have been drawn from the obscure wings of an existing pro-Russian political camp to speak lines dictated by Moscow and, perhaps, by powerful local interests.

    "They are well-known marginal forces … that are now being used as functional figures to voice and represent the positions of the organizers of this separatist spectacle," said Volodymyr Kipen, a leading political analyst in Donetsk. "They have long been kept around to carry out the more radical work.

    "But now they have new owners outside the country."

    Many, he said, had links with Yanukovich’s now fragmented Party of Regions, which had its power base in Donetsk and was long bankrolled by leading business figures, including Ukraine’s richest man, the region’s coal and steel tycoon Rinat Akhmetov.

    'SOME KIND OF PUPPETEER'

    Party of Regions official Alexei Granovsky, who has tried to negotiate with the overt separatist leaders for the regional council, said he did not believe they were not really in charge.

    "There is some kind of puppeteer behind them - I don’t know who," Granovsky said. "Someone is managing some of these people from outside … They can’t make decisions right away. They say, ‘Let’s go ask the people. We’re only their mouthpiece.’ It shows they can’t make decisions. They need to check with someone."

    He also had the impression that some kind of go-between was coordinating pro-Russian groups across the region: “The Donetsk People’s Republic is not linked directly to Slaviansk.

    "That’s a whole different vector - the military wing."

    Ukraine’s SBU security service has named a lieutenant-colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, as well as a fugitive SBU officer who it says was a GRU spy, as having coordinated local militants in Crimea and now in Donetsk.

    Pushilin, Ponoymaryov and others in smaller towns have yet to establish anything like the wider municipal authority seized by separatists in Crimea, though Slaviansk comes closest.

    In Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov - “Goblin” to his associates - traded obscurity and control of the local wrestling association into a spotlight role on the Kremlin podium alongside Putin.

    The arrest of reporters and suspected Ukrainian nationalists in Slaviansk; an anti-Semitic leaflet in Donetsk that forced Pushilin into strenuous denials of involvement; and, this week, the murder of a local councilor that Kiev is blaming on Russia and Ponomaryov’s men, have all raised concerns about a repeat of lawlessness seen in Crimea. There, Ukrainian speakers have been leaving and ethnic Tatars have complained of discrimination.

    Many question whether Russian can, or even wants to any time soon, take over eastern Ukraine. Polls show deep disillusion with Kiev - a combination of fears about Ukrainian nationalists and long-standing disillusion after 23 years of corruption and decline as an independent state. But barely a third of people in Donetsk region say they would vote for annexation by Moscow.

    Putin’s critics see him trying to hold Kiev hostage to unrest in the east, preventing it from shutting out Russia and locking itself into the Western bloc. Moscow says it is not interfering but concerned for the welfare of Russian-speakers.

    Ponomaryov says he is in it for the long run, to defend his people against “fascists” he says seized power in Kiev: “We are on our home soil,” he said. “We have given everyone a warning.”

    Pushilin talks of a golden future for the Donetsk Republic, rising from the pungent chaos of the occupied governor’s office.

    His last political manifesto called for abolishing interest on loans. Now, he says: “We are uniting for something, for the referendum, so we will build something big and bright.”

    3 hours ago  /  0 notes

  8. New NSA Report on Its Electronic Eavesdropping Programs

    April 23, 2014

    Without any fanfare whatsoever (even NSA’s press releases are handled like Top Secret Codeword information), late last week the National Security Agency (NSA) released a new report on its website about how Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) gives legal cover to a range of NSA electronic eavesdropping operations, including the PRISM operation which authorizes the FBI and NSA to demand customer information from America’s biggest high-tech companies and internet providers.

    The purpose of the report is a commendable one - to increase the level of transparency about NSA’s eavesdropping operations. And while the report rehashes in considerable NSA’s legal authorities to do those things that it does, the report sadly falls flat because it is written in a plain brown paper wrapper style which reveals virtually nothing about what NSA actually does. It provides no details about what targets are being monitored by NSA using the Section 702, nor does it provide any new information on the successes and/or failures of these signals intelligence (SIGINT) programs.

    NSA should have issued this report back in June 2013 after the first news reports began appearing based on leaked materials from Edward J. Snowden. Because it provides no new information, this report unfortunately will do nothing to allay the fears and concerns that many here in the U.S, and overseas have about what NSA has been up to.

    17 hours ago  /  2 notes

  9. New DNI Report Reveals That Almost 3.1 Million Americans Hold Active Security Clearances

    April 23, 2014

    2013 Report on Security Clearance Determinations

    Office of the Director of National Intelligence

    April 17, 2014

    The Intelligence Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year 2010 established a requirement for the President to submit an annual report to Congress on the security clearance process, to include the total number of security clearances across government and in-depth metrics on the timeliness of security clearance determinations in the Intelligence Community (IC). In response to this requirement, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has prepared this 2013 Report on Security Clearance Determinations, which provides the number of security clearance determinations in the categories outlined below…

    Download the 2013 Report on Security Clearance Determinations

    17 hours ago  /  0 notes

  10. President Obama’s Daily Intelligence Briefings

    April 23, 2014

    Inside The President’s Daily Briefing; DNI Moves With Care To Tablets

    Colin Clark

    breakingdefense.com

    April 21, 2014

    Robert Cardillo Deputy DNI Integration

    TAMPA: The conventional image of an American president managing a crisis shows him thumbing through a briefing book on a desk in the Situation Room or Oval Office. The new standard may well become that of a president with an iPad in his lap or on his desk, keenly watching a video or flipping through a series of satellite images or listening to an NSA intercept as he peers at an NGA map overlaid with targets and reams of hyperspectral data or showing the movements of a terrorist over time.

    The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) is the man formally charged with briefing the president each work day on the world’s most pressing intelligence and national security issues faced by the United States but he covers a lot of territory so, day-in day-out another person — Robert Cardillo — oversees compilation of what’s known in Washington as the PDB.

    Cardillo, deputy DNI for integration, rarely grants interviews, speaks to the press or to Congress. (He’s probably spoken to Congress more than he’d like lately, but that’s another story. Think of Syria’s poison gas attacks.)

    At the end of last week’s Geoint conference (the world’s largest intelligence conference), Cardillo offered a rare glimpse inside the PDB, talking of “oval briefs” and how the Intelligence Community continues to grapple with essential problems like how to tell the president what he needs to know and how to decide what he needs to know.

    Cardillo spends a lot of time in the White House so he knows his principal client pretty well. As a deputy on the National Security Council he meets one to three times a day in the Situation Room. And then there are those regulars forays to the Oval Office for the “oval briefings.”

    He told a small gathering of reporters Thursday afternoon that we wouldn’t be “surprised by the topics” of the PDB. “Today it’s Ukraine; it’s Iran; it’s Korea it’s South Sudan; it’s cyber; it’s terrorism etc.”

    While that is not surprising (and is wonderfully vague) the more interesting details were about how the president gets his briefing. That brings us back to the iPad or other tablets used. (If you peer closely at the photo below you will see that is Cardillo in the Oval Office with the president, finger poised over the tablet. That was the first time a tablet was used to brief the president.)

    obama-uses-tablet-for-intelligence-briefing

    The White House and the president initially pushed quite forcefully to get the PDB delivered digitally. That got the ball rolling. But Cardillo made clear that things have moved at the more usual Washington pace since then.

    “We did offer him the move to the tablet about a year ago,” he told me when I asked for an update. (The photo was taken more than two years ago.) ”My motivation was two-fold. My job is to tell stories — which is your job by the way — and to tell them clearly and crisply.” More interestingly, he noted a cultural bias in the Intellgience Community’s workforce.

    “I also wanted to send a message to our workforce that says, look some of you may be struggling with the transition from our customary comfort zone, which is prose,” he said, noting “there were some people who worried, felt this is glitzy, and we will lose our way and we will forget our tradecraft….”

    But Cardillo made pretty clear that argument has been heard and the tablet will be used: “If the real measure or merit of our business is alerting, informing, providing insight, understanding so that you can make a decision, then the tablet is a way at least to open up possibilities of ways to do that.” He “would like to see it move faster myself.”

    Almost two years ago, when I wrote the first story about efforts to digitize the PDB, there was much talk about giving the president secure smartphones or tablets from which he could both pull and push for information. The deputy DNI did not address that during his discussion but I would be surprised if the IC has found ways to do that in a way that maintains its ability to do that securely and without disrupting the PDB process.

    Today, the IC tries to provide the most useful product to the man they call the customer. What and when does the president need to know something, and why does he need it, they ask themselves. If the president started sending emails to ask for more or new information — especially without the PDB leadership team there to ensure they understood exactly what he wanted — that could create a whole lot of excitement in the Old Executive Office Building, in the DNI’s offices and at CIA headquarters.

    17 hours ago  /  0 notes