October 1, 2014
Troubled Russian Aircraft Carrier Kuznetsov Returns to Sea
September 29, 2014The Kuznetsov is Russia’s only aircraft carrier of its type to enter service.
Russia’s only aircraft carrier, the Soviet-era flagship Admiral Kuznetsov, has returned to sea after going into port for maintenance at the Sevmash Shipyards near Arkhangelsk, Interfax reported Monday.
The vessel, Russia’s largest, is now heading out into the Barents Sea for post-repair sea trials, ensuring that the ship is in working order before resuming normal combat duties, Western Military District spokesperson Vadim Serga was quoted by Interfax as saying.
In Russian naval parlance, the Kuznetsov is not a proper aircraft carrier but rather a heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser, about half the size of a modern U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier. But the Kuznetsov’s cruiser capabilities mean that in addition to launching fighter planes, the warship can pummel enemy surface vessels with anti-ship guided missiles.
A U.S. Nimitz-class super-carrier displaces more than 100,000 tons — the standard of measurement for ship sizes. The Kuznetsov, by comparison, displaces a mere 55,000 tons with a full load.
In July, state news agency TASS reported that the Kuznetsov would undergo a massive retrofit at the Sevmash Shipyards in the next three to four years. The vessel has not been extensively serviced since it was launched in 1985, despite having been plagued with a slew of serious problems during the course of its lifetime.
While on deployment in the Mediterranean in 2009, a short circuit aboard the vessel caused a fire that killed one crew member. A month after the incident, an attempt to refuel the vessel at sea caused a large oil spill off the coast of Ireland.
Last year The Daily Beast reported that the U.S. Mediterranean Fleet trailed the Kuznetsov into the Mediterranean to lend a hand in case of an emergency, according to an unidentified U.S. Navy source. “The Kuznetsov might sink,” the source said.
The Kuznetsov is Russia’s only aircraft carrier of its type to enter service. Its sister ship, the Varyag, was not completed before the collapse of the Soviet Union and was later sold to China for completion after rusting in a Ukrainian shipyard for nearly a decade. The Varyag entered service in the Chinese navy as “the Liaoning” in 2012, making it China’s first aircraft carrier.
An older Soviet-era Kiev-class aircraft-carrying cruiser was retrofitted by Sevmash for the Indian Navy and entered service last year as the Vikramaditya.
Although the navy does not have any immediate plans to build any new aircraft carriers of its own, Russia is waiting on the delivery of two French-built Mistral-class amphibious assault carriers over the next two years.
But amid the ongoing sanctions spat between Russia and the West, many NATO members are lobbying Paris to ax the deal, which would bolster Russian naval power.
French President Francois Hollande said in September that France will only deliver the first vessel at the end of October if tensions in Ukraine subside.
October 1, 2014
Russian Army to Deploy Three More Iskander Missile Brigades by 2016
October 1, 2014
The Iskander-M (SS-26 Stone) is mobile missile system equipped with two solid-propellant single-stage 9M723K1 guided missiles with “quasi-ballistic” capability© RIA Novosti. Aleksei Danichev
MOSCOW, October 1 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian army will bring the number of brigades armed with Iskander-M theater ballistic missile systems to seven by 2016, Commander-in-Chief of the Land Force, Col.Gen. Oleg Salyukov, said Wednesday.
"There are four Iskander-M brigades in service with the army,” Salyukov told reporters.
"One more brigade in the Central Military District will be equipped with Iskander systems by the end of 2014, while the Southern and Eastern military districts will each receive an Iskander brigade in 2015," the general said.
The Iskander-M is a missile system equipped with two solid-propellant single-stage guided missiles.
The supply of the system is carried under a contract signed in 2011 between the Russian Defense Ministry and military industrial corporation Mashinostroyenia.
Iskander is one of the country’s most powerful missile strike systems used by the Russian Ground Forces. The systems were successfully tested in 2007. The Russian Army currently uses its Iskander-M and Iskander-K variants.
October 1, 2014
Factbox: Fractured Mosaic of North Africa’s Militant Groups
October 1, 2014
ALGIERS — Egyptian security officials have offered military training to pro-government forces in Libya, citing what they said was a growing regional threat from Islamist militants.
North Africa is one of the main sources of jihadi fighters traveling to Syria and Iraq.
Several splinter groups have declared their alliance with Islamic State, while the main group, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has urged jihadists to put aside their differences and call a halt to infighting in Iraq and Syria.
Here are the main Islamist militant organizations operating in North Africa and the Sahel.
AL QAEDA IN THE ISLAMIC MAGHREB (AQIM) - The main Islamic militant group in the region, AQIM traces its roots back to the Algerian conflict of the 1990s when the Armed Islamic Group, known as GIA, fought to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic State.
Split by infighting and military defeats, many of the Algerian Islamists accepted a government amnesty and mostly ended a conflict that killed 200,000. But some Algerian hardliners refused and are among North Africa’s most experienced militants. Among those are Abdelmalek Droukdel, AQIM’s current commander. AQIM and its allies took part in the Islamist militant takeover of Northern Mali before a French military intervention drove them back and scattered their fighters.
Droukdel, who remains loyal to al Qaeda commander, is believed to be hiding in the mountains of northern Algeria, but the group also operates across northern Mali, Niger, Mauritani and Algeria. U.S. military officials say the group has loosely coordinated with other militants across Africa, including Boko Haram and al Shabaab in Somalia.
MOKHTAR BELMOKHTAR - THOSE WHO SIGN IN BLOOD - A former Algerian AQIM commander, smuggler and veteran of Afghanistan conflicts, Belmokhtar split with Droukdel to form his own group “Those who Sign in Blood” in 2012. But he has not sided with the Islamic State, staying for the moment more aligned with al Qaeda’s core leadership.
Belmokhtar, who lost one eye in a bomb-making accident, was reported killed in March 2013 by Chadian forces. But his death was never confirmed outside Chad. He was last seen in an undated video released in September last year.
With his experience fighting in Afghanistan and Algeria’s civil war, former fighters and experts have said Belmokhtar has wide-ranging local and foreign contacts. Some security officials believe he is now taking refuge in the remote southern Libyan desert across the border from Algeria.
Dubbed “The Uncatchable” by French forces, Belmokhtar was accused of masterminding last year’s attack on a French uranium mine in Niger and the Amenas gas plant in southern Algeria, where 39 foreign contractors were killed.
CALIPHATE SOLDIERS OF ALGERIA - A newly formed Algerian al Qaeda splinter group announced its allegiance with Islamic State this month, and just a week later kidnapped and beheaded French hostage Herve Gourdel, a mountain guide who was on holiday.
Little is known about the group’s self-declared leader Abdelmalek Gouri, once AQIM central region commander and veteran from Algeria’s civil war. But Caliphate Soldiers declared AQIM was heading in the wrong direction and pledged loyalty to Islamic State.
Their potential and capabilities are unclear, but security sources say the group may number as few as 20 hardcore former AQIM fighters. Whatever their size, their high-profile murder has put them on the jihadist map.
ANSAR DINE - An al Qaeda-linked Islamist group in northern Mali, their name means “Defenders of the Faith” and they follow the puritanical form of Islam known like many jihadi groups. Along with Tuareg separatist movement MNLA, Ansar Dine and other Islamists were among rebels who seized northern Mali.
Ansar Dine’s leader, renegade Tuareg chieftain Iyad Ag Ghali, has links with AQIM through a cousin who is a local commander, according to diplomats. Ansar Dine’s fighters, who operate under the black Islamist flag, initially gained a reputation in the north for keeping order after outbreaks of looting. But earned hostility from locals when they tried to enforce a more strict interpretation of Islam.
MUJAO - An al Qaeda splinter group in Mali, MUJAO or Movement for Unification and Jihad in West Africa, was one of the groups involved in taking over the north of Mali. It was also suspected in the killing of two French journalists who kidnapped in the Malian city of Kidal in 2013. It was also blamed for the kidnapping of several Algerian diplomats and has joined forces loosely in the past with Belmokhtar’s fighters.
ANSAR AL SHARIA TUNISIA - Led by Afghanistan veteran Abu Iyad, Ansar al Sharia was one of the most radical groups to emerge following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution that began the Arab Spring uprisings. The group was at first allowed to practice its social activities especially in poorer neighborhoods.
Ansar’s Abu Iyad was blamed for instigating the ransacking of the U.S. embassy in Tunis in 2012, and later the group was charged with the murder of two opposition leaders, triggering a political crisis for Tunisia’s Islamist-led government. Ansar was declared illegal and it has since gone underground and clashed increasingly with security forces.
Abu Iyad expresses loyalty to al Qaeda leadership, and had said Syria was the route for jihad not Tunisia, encouraging fighters to join the war there. Washington has declared Ansar al Sharia in Tunisia a foreign terrorist organization, saying it is tied to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
TUNISIA UKBA IBN NAFAA - A small group of militants based in the Chaambi mountains bordering Algeria, where some of the foreign fighters fled after the French intervention in Mali. Tunisian troops have surrounded the mountains to try to flush them out, but the group, which may only number in the dozens, has been holding out. It recently released a video threatening attacks before Tunisian elections next month. There were unconfirmed statements about it swearing allegiance to Islamic State.
ANSAR AL SHARIA LIBYA - Blamed by the United States for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi in 2012 which killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, Ansar al Sharia has managed to position itself as a powerful armed faction inside Libya’s growing lawlessness and armed rivalries.
Heavily armed, it says it wants to impose strict sharia Islamist law in Libya. Based mostly out of Benghazi, Ansar al Sharia joined forces with another Islamist-leaning faction to drive the armed forces and pro-government armed groups out of the eastern city a few months ago.
While it often operated security patrols and checkpoints, it had been forced out of the city by popular protests in 2012. Ansar al Sharia had been blamed for a string of assassinations of local officials and security officers.
Ansar al Sharia Benghazi and Derna branches are designated foreign terrorist organizations.
Libya is in huge chaos, with the elected government based in Tobruk now challenged by an alternative government set up in Tripoli after a mainly Islamist-aligned armed faction took over the capital. Several other Islamist-lending armed groups operate in the North African country.
ANSAR BAYT AL MAQDIS - An Egyptian, Sinai-based group that is blamed for killing hundreds of security force members since the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi by the military. Formed in the wake of the 2011 uprisings in Egypt, it has claimed high-profile attacks such as an assassination attempt on Egypt’s interior minister.
The United States has designated it a foreign terrorist organization, and says it is mainly a local group with some ties to the al Qaeda organization. But the Egyptian government has linked the group to Islamic State.
Islamic State has been coaching the Sinai-based Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis militants on how to operate more effectively, a senior Ansar Bayt Al-Maqdis commander told Reuters recently.
The group has launched rockets at Israel’s southern city of Eilat and attacked Israeli border guards. It has also targeted Egyptian and foreign tourists and has claimed to have beheaded several people, accusing them of being Israeli spies.
News of the Paranoid: Chinese Security Personnel Body-Searched (Including Anal Cavity Searches) 10,000 Doves Released in Beijing on National Day
October 1, 2014
Reports: China Body-Searched 10,000 Pigeons
October 1, 2014
BEIJING — The 10,000 doves released in a ceremony Wednesday for China’s National Day underwent unusual scrutiny, each having its feathers and anus checked for dangerous materials, state-run media reports said, reflecting government jitters over possible attacks.
The symbols of peace were released at sunrise in Beijing’s symbolic heart of Tiananmen Square in a ceremony for the Oct. 1 holiday to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Beijing domestic security police officer Guo Chunwei was quoted in the Jinghua Times as saying workers checked the wings, legs and anus of each pigeon ahead of time to ensure they were “not carrying suspicious material.” The entire process was videotaped, and the birds were then loaded into sealed vehicles for the trip to Tiananmen Square, the newspaper said.
A similar report appeared in the Beijing News, and the People’s Daily tweeted about it in English: “10,000 pigeons go through anal security check for suspicious objects Tue, ready to be released on National Day on Wed.”
The reports — which did not say what the suspicious materials might be — drew amused and derisive responses from some Chinese readers, and many news sites, including the Beijing News website, later deleted the reports. However, the Jinghua Times report and the People’s Daily tweet were still visible as of midday Wednesday.
Members of the Chinese public responded with sarcasm because they see in the pigeon body searches their own plight in what they consider an oppressive society with tight surveillance, censorship and judicial injustice, independent columnist Zhang Ping said in an editorial that was circulated on social media under his pen name, Changping.
"The liberty and dignity of citizens are increasingly vulnerable, and can be expropriated at any time, like with the pigeons," Zhang wrote. "They have to go through the pains and insults of the rude anal check and yet they must appear peaceful and happy on the screen of the state broadcaster."
The notched-up security measures reflect heightened concern about violence following a string of attacks blamed on separatist militants from the country’s ethnic Uighur Muslim minority, as well as bus explosions and random slashing attacks attributed to disgruntled individuals.
Last October, three Uighurs in a vehicle rammed through crowds in front of Tiananmen Gate in central Beijing and set off explosives in an attack that killed themselves and three bystanders.
Beijing authorities also are sending police helicopters to monitor highway checkpoints, ring roads within the city, major intersections and areas with heavy traffic, including popular tourist spots such as the Great Wall and the Summer Palace, the Beijing News said. Additionally, the capital has mobilized 850,000 citizen volunteers to help keep a lookout in the city of about 20 million people, the newspaper said.
October 1, 2014
Taliban Suicide Bombers Kill 7 in Kabul, Wound 21
October 1, 2014
KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban suicide bombers struck two buses carrying Afghan soldiers in Kabul early Wednesday, killing seven people and wounding 21, just a day after the signing of a key U.S.-Afghan security pact.
The long-awaited deal allows U.S. forces to remain in the country past the end of 2014, ending the uncertainty over the fate of foreign troops supporting Afghans as they take over the fight against the Taliban insurgency.
Wednesday’s attacks involved two suicide bombers targeting buses carrying Afghan troops in the country’s capital.
The first attacker hit a bus with Afghan National Army officers in west Kabul, killing seven and wounding 15, said the city’s criminal investigation police chief Mohammad Farid Afzali.
The second attacker, who was also on foot, blew himself up in front of a bus in northeastern Kabul, wounding at least six army personnel, Afzali said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying the security pact with America has only motivated the group and given the Taliban “more morale” to fight the enemy.
"They need to give more sacrifices to make their homeland free," Mujahid said, referring to Taliban fighters.
In a separate statement to media, the Taliban denounced the Bilateral Security Agreement as an “American plot” and said that “such fake documents will never hold back the lawful jihad,” or holy war.
In Kabul, dozens of Afghan security forces sealed off the attack sites, littered with broken glass, as military ambulances took the victims to hospital. Worried Afghans passed by, on their way to work.
Under the security pact, along with a separate deal signed with NATO, about 10,000 American troops and several thousand more from other NATO countries will stay to train and advise Afghan forces after the international combat mission ends on Dec. 31.
More than a decade after U.S. forces helped topple the Taliban in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, Afghanistan is still at war with the Islamic militant group, which regularly carries out attacks, mainly targeting security forces.
There are also serious questions about the ability of the Afghan security forces to take on the militants, even with a residual U.S. force remaining in the country.
In other violence, two police officers were killed when a suicide bomber targeted a police vehicle late Tuesday in Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province. Five policemen were also wounded in the attack, Omar Zwak, the spokesman for the provincial governor said Wednesday.
The U.S.-Afghan pact was long in the making. U.S. officials had first warned their Afghan counterparts that if the security accord was not signed by the end of 2013, the Pentagon would have to start planning for a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
But when the year ended, the White House moved back the deadline, saying then-President Hamid Karzai needed to sign off within weeks. Karzai surprised U.S. officials by ultimately saying he would not sign the accord and would instead leave that task for his successor.
But the results of the race to replace Karzai took months resolve, finally coming to a conclusion on Monday with the swearing in of Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai as Afghanistan’s second elected president.
Ghani Ahmadzai signed the security agreement Tuesday, nearly one year after the White House’s initial deadline.
October 1, 2014
Islamic Militants Behead Captured Kurds in Syria
October 1, 2014
BEIRUT — Activists say Islamic State militants have beheaded nine Kurdish fighters, including three women, captured in clashes near the Syria-Turkey border.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday that the nine Kurds were captured during fighting over the northern Syrian town of Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab.
There have been fierce clashes around Kobani since mid-September, when the Islamic State group launched an assault to seize the area.
The Observatory also says that dozens of militants and Kurdish fighters were killed in clashes overnight.
Images posted on social media networks show women’s heads placed on a cement block, said to be in the northern Syrian city of Jarablous, held by militants. The photos could not be independently verified but correspond to The Associated Press’ reporting of the event.
Declassified Documents Show That in 1976 Secretary of State Henry Kissinger Ordered Secret Contingency Plan to Launch Airstrikes against Havana and “Smash Cuba”
October 1, 2014
Kissinger Drew Up Plans to Attack Cuba, Records Show
New York Times
October 1, 2014
MIAMI — Nearly 40 years ago, Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger mapped out secret contingency plans to launch airstrikes against Havana and “smash Cuba,” newly disclosed government documents show.
Mr. Kissinger was so irked by Cuba’s military incursion into Angola that in 1976 he convened a top-secret group of senior officials to work out possible retaliatory measures in case Cuba deployed forces to other African nations, according to documents declassified by the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library at the request of the National Security Archive, a research group.
The officials outlined plans to strike ports and military installations in Cuba and to send Marine battalions to the United States Navy base at Guantánamo Bay to “clobber” the Cubans, as Mr. Kissinger put it, according to the records. Mr. Kissinger, the documents show, worried that the United States would look weak if it did not stand up to a country of just eight million people.
“I think sooner or later we are going to have to crack the Cubans,” Mr. Kissinger told President Ford at a meeting in the Oval Office in 1976, according to a transcript.
The documents are being posted online and published in “Back Channel to Cuba,” a new book written by the longtime Cuba experts William M. LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University, and Peter Kornbluh, the director of the archive’s Cuba Documentation Project.
The previously undisclosed blueprint to strike Cuba highlights the tumultuous nature of American-Cuban relations, which soured badly after the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.
Mr. Kissinger, who was secretary of state from 1973 to 1977, had previously planned an underground effort to improve relations with Havana. But in late 1975, Mr. Castro sent troops to Angola to help the newly independent nation fend off attacks from South Africa and right-wing guerrillas.
That move infuriated Mr. Kissinger, who was incensed that Mr. Castro had passed up a chance to normalize relations with the United States in favor of pursuing his own foreign policy agenda, Mr. Kornbluh said.
“Nobody has known that at the very end of a really remarkable effort to normalize relations, Kissinger, the global chessboard player, was insulted that a small country would ruin his plans for Africa and was essentially prepared to bring the imperial force of the United States on Fidel Castro’s head,” Mr. Kornbluh said.
“You can see in the conversation with Gerald Ford that he is extremely apoplectic,” Mr. Kornbluh said, adding that Mr. Kissinger used “language about doing harm to Cuba that is pretty quintessentially aggressive.”
The plans suggest that Mr. Kissinger was prepared after the 1976 presidential election to recommend an attack on Cuba, but the idea went nowhere because Jimmy Carter won the election, Mr. LeoGrande said.
“These were not plans to put up on a shelf,” Mr. LeoGrande said. “Kissinger is so angry at Castro sending troops to Angola at a moment when he was holding out his hand for normalization that he really wants to, as he said, ‘clobber the pipsqueak.’ ”
The plan suggested that it would take scores of aircraft to mine Cuban ports. It also warned that the United States could seriously risk losing its Navy base in Cuba, which was vulnerable to counterattack, and estimated that it would cost $120 million to reopen the Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico and reposition destroyer squadrons.
The plan also drafted proposals for a military blockade of Cuba’s shores. The proposal warned that such moves would most likely lead to a conflict with the Soviet Union, which was a top Cuba ally at the time.
“If we decide to use military power, it must succeed,” Mr. Kissinger said in one meeting, in which advisers warned against leaks. “There should be no halfway measures — we would get no award for using military power in moderation. If we decide on a blockade, it must be ruthless and rapid and efficient.”
Mr. Kissinger, now 91, declined a request to comment.
The memos show that Donald H. Rumsfeld, who was secretary of defense from 1975 to 1977 under President Ford, and again under President George W. Bush, was also present at the meeting when Mr. Kissinger ordered up the contingency plan. Mr. Rumsfeld, 82, also declined a request to comment.
Some Cuba historians said the revelations were startling, particularly because they took place just as the United States was coming out of the Vietnam War.
“The military piece dumbfounds me a little bit,” said Frank O. Mora, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense who now directs the Latin American and Caribbean Center at Florida International University. “For Kissinger to be talking the way they were talking, you would think Cuba had invaded the whole continent.”
October 1, 2014
NSA eavesdropping is still roiling relations with Germany
September 30, 2014
BERLIN — Juergen Hardt’s position in the German government, coordinator of trans-Atlantic cooperation, once was considered a major honor – the official liaison to the United States, arguably Germany’s closest ally.
But since the revelation that the United States’ National Security Agency eavesdropped for years on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone, U.S.-German relations have been a twisting, stomach-churning roller coaster ride so wild that many Germans wonder whether it’s possible to get off. The pro-America crowd, meanwhile, can only warn that despite the nausea, it’s not safe to leave a ride in motion.
“We have gone through challenging times in the bilateral relationship in the past,” Hardt said in an interview. “As in every relationship, there have been ups and downs. Right now, we are going through challenging times when it comes to public perception.”
The relationship between Germany and the United States, two of the world’s four largest economies, is no small matter. The United States relies on Europe as a strategic and trading partner, and Germany is the tail that wags the European Union. As the world tilts toward Asia, economists and politicians think that perhaps the best way to extend the American Century and Europe’s global influence is through good relations, from shared security through open trade.
But the mere fact that Hardt is in this role today says something about the state of affairs. In the past, the job has been trusted primarily to political senior figures. But Hardt joined the Parliament only in 2009, and before his appointment as liaison to North America he wasn’t widely considered to be among Germany’s political elite. His previous career as spokesman for a family-owned door-to-door vacuum cleaner sales company didn’t make national headlines, and he’d never been noted for taking the lead on trans-Atlantic issues.
The previous holders of the post were well-known: Hardt’s immediate successor was Philipp Missfelder, a foreign policy star in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union. It wasn’t long ago that former Hamburg Mayor Hans-Ulrich Klose, a onetime vice president of the Parliament, had held the position.
Since then, the job has lost much of its sheen. Hardt doesn’t shy away from talking about why.
“Our nations share historic and long-standing close relations. We share bonds of friendships and personal connections between our people,” he said. “This solid basis is often overshadowed these days for one simple reason: NSA surveillance. The problem is that this is to a certain degree a matter of two different cultures and experiences. What is being accepted in the United States is not acceptable here.”
Hardt notes that Germans are not naive about the ways of the modern spy world. There will be surveillance.
“We do not and we cannot expect a complete change of American security policy,” he said. “But we do expect our citizens to be treated with the same respect U.S. law grants to its citizens. And we do expect that our national laws will be honored.”
Germans were shocked by some areas of the U.S. spy program against his country, he said. And he reiterated a point made by Merkel: “In that regard, Germany needs some clear commitments.”
What, specifically? Nonspecific electronic spying? “No go.” Tapping the chancellor’s cellphone? “Absolutely no go.” Hiring spies in the German intelligence services? “No go.”
Beyond that, it’s become clear in Germany that part of the problem is the lack of transparency in the online world about where data are stored. It’s understood that a German driver on an Italian highway is subject to Italian, not German, speed limits. But that driver knows he’s on Italian roads. German Internet users on international Web services have as much of a right to know where their data are stored, Hardt said. They should know that the United States isn’t permitted to spy on data stored in Germany, or Europe.
But that’s only the first step in an overdue discussion, he said.
The problem the two nations have in starting this discussion is that it wasn’t so long ago that relations were very, very good.
Germans say that had the United States asked to know what was going on in the parliamentary committee that’s investigating NSA spying, Germany would have provided the information. Instead, the United States decided to pay a low-level committee worker when he offered information for cash. Just as it agreed to create another U.S. mole, in the German military, when approached by a low-level worker there.
“Alerting us to this would have been a positive,” Hardt said.
Instead, German officials discovered the parliamentary leak when German counterintelligence intercepted an email the man sent to Russian officials. The Americans had already bought the information he was selling; giving Germany a heads up that there was someone selling parliamentary secrets – instead of paying for the secrets themselves – might have stanched a leak before it did harm.
“Our government is these days often forced to explain to our own people why the United States continues to be such an important and close partner and why we continue to work with the United States in so many different areas,” Hardt said. “The trust that we lost in the past year between our nations must be rebuilt.”
That distrust has made life very difficult for the leadership in Berlin. In the Ukrainian crisis, from Russia’s seizure of Crimea to the Russian incursion into southeastern Ukraine, Germany stands with the United States. In dealing with the self-proclaimed Islamic State – an issue that deeply affects Germany, as more than 400 Germans have joined the fighting in that region – Germany stands with the United States. Again and again, on issue after issue, Hardt said Germany stood by the United States. Or, at least, he noted, Germany wants to stand with the United States.
“Who are our friends in the world? Our closest allies are in Europe and the United States,” he said. “Most Germans grew up knowing this. But now we have to make an extra effort to make this case. Nobody can explain something that is simply regarded as being illegal here. And the anti-American circles, which always existed here in small numbers, are seizing the opportunity to set a new agenda.”
Recent Incident in Karachi Highlights the Growing Danger of Infiltration of the Pakistani Military by Extremists
October 1, 2014
In attack by al Qaeda, lines blur between Pakistan’s military, militants
October 1, 2014
(Reuters) - Months after Owais Jakhrani was sacked from the Pakistan navy for radical Islamist views, he led an audacious mission to take over a warship and turn its guns on a U.S. naval vessel in the open seas.
The early September dawn raid at a naval base in the southern city of Karachi was thwarted, but not before Jakhrani, two officers and an unidentified fourth assailant snuck past a patrol boat in a dinghy and engaged in an intense firefight on or around the warship, PNS Zulfiqar.
Four people were killed in the attempt to hijack the Zulfiqar, including Jakhrani and two accomplices, who were serving sub-lieutenants, according to police reports seen by Reuters.
Officials are divided about how much support the young man in his mid-20s had from inside the navy. They also stress that Jakhrani and his accomplices were a long way from achieving their aim when they were killed.
But the attack, claimed by al Qaeda’s newly created South Asian wing, has highlighted the threat of militant infiltration into Pakistan’s nuclear-armed military.
The issue is a sensitive one for Pakistan’s armed forces, which have received billions of dollars of U.S. aid since 2001 when they joined Washington’s global campaign against al Qaeda.
According to an initial statement from al Qaeda, the plan was to use the Zulfiqar to attack a U.S. navy vessel, meaning potential loss of American lives and a blow to relations between the two nations.
A further statement issued by the group identified the target as USS Supply, a US naval ship used to refuel warships at sea. The Indian navy was also a target, the statement said.
It urged followers to “make jihad on the seas one of their priorities,” according to the SITE intelligence group, which monitors extremist communications.
A naval spokesman said an inquiry was still ongoing when Reuters contacted the military with detailed questions about the incident. The military typically does not publish its inquiries.
"The Reuters story is not based on facts," he said. "All the facts will be ascertained once the inquiry is finalised."
Most Pakistani military officials deny infiltration is a significant problem.
Yet Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told parliament the attackers could only have breached security with inside help.
One navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press, said at least eight navy personnel had been arrested based on the attackers’ phone records, including four aboard the Zulfiqar.
Three serving mid-level lieutenant commanders from Karachi were also arrested in the western city of Quetta, allegedly trying to flee to Afghanistan two days after the botched raid, officials said.
Further arrests were made in Karachi, Peshawar, and northwestern Pakistan, they added.
The plot’s mastermind was sub-lieutenant Jakhrani, either 25 or 26 years old, whose father is a senior police officer in Karachi, officials said.
He was fired several months ago during his probationary training period, according to a senior naval officer.
"He used to ask questions about why there is no break for prayers given during the course of training sessions," the officer said. "He used to question seniors."
Earlier this year, Jakhrani traveled to Afghanistan to meet militant leaders and receive combat training, according to two officials. They said that he had told his bosses before departing that he needed to take leave to study for exams.
But Jakhrani failed his exams and alarmed colleagues with his militant views.
"We found literature and material on his person that no one can be allowed to have. His colleagues reported his views and he was then closely watched and monitored and finally dismissed," one official said.
Once he left the navy, information on his movements and plans was patchy.
Intelligence officials tipped off the navy days before the attack that a raid was imminent, according to two officials. But Jakhrani, who had an insider’s knowledge of the Karachi base, did not appear to be closely monitored.
Imtiaz Gul, head of the Islamabad-based think tank the Centre for Research and Security Studies, said senior generals were aware of a long-standing weakness in surveillance of military officials dismissed for extremism.
"They don’t have a tracking system for officers who are dismissed or asked to leave the service (for radical views)," said Gul. "That makes it very difficult to track if they have joined extremist groups."
Chris Rawley, vice president of the Washington D.C.-based think tank the Center for International Maritime Security, said the attack never looked likely to succeed.
But underlining one of the United States’ biggest fears, he added: “The fact that maybe there are some collaborators in the navy is worrying because maybe there are collaborators among others that have purview over nuclear weapons.”
Similar fears about militant infiltration and the sympathies of junior officers were raised after sophisticated attacks penetrated a Karachi naval base in 2011 and the army’s headquarters in Rawalpindi in 2009.
The Karachi attack came two days after al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri announced the formation of a new wing, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent. The region, stretching across India to Bangladesh, is home to more than 400 million Muslims.
"The targets were the American and the Indian navies!" the group said in a statement carried by SITE intelligence group.
The statement threatened U.S. naval allies that seek to secure maritime routes and prevent the movement of militants.
It claimed that jihadi fighters had launched an attack aboard the Zulfiqar and another ship, the PNS Aslat, and had killed many naval officers. A police report that Reuters saw recorded one sailor’s death on the Zulfiqar and did not mention the Aslat.
Militants have launched attacks on top Pakistani security installations before, but this plot sought to strike at the heart of the alliance between Pakistan and the United States.
At least four attackers wearing navy uniforms snuck past the patrol boat, arriving at the Zulfiqar as the dawn shift change was due, a navy official said.
A sailor on board challenged them, leading to a shootout that ended when the ship’s gunner fired anti-ship guns at the attackers, according to the navy official and the police report.
"The special services group commandos arrived from their nearby base and eliminated at least one attacker who had taken position below the deck," said a naval officer who worked on the base.
"Meanwhile, reinforcements of naval commandos came from the nearby (unit) Iqbal. The commandos came in with their gadgetry of jammers and a lab which absorbed all the data being transmitted from the ship at that moment."
In total, three attackers and one sailor were killed, police reports and autopsies showed.
A policeman said he raced to the dockyard when he heard a blast, but the military told him it was part of celebrations for Pakistan Defence Day, which fell on the day of the attack.
The navy official said it was not clear what caused the blast, but it could have been either a grenade or suicide vest.
Witnesses’ statements differ in some aspects to an account given by another security official, who said Jakhrani and five attackers were killed by a gunner on the ship who fired on their dinghy before they boarded.
One Pakistani security official said the threat posed by the plot to a U.S. ship in the region should not be exaggerated.
"It was not a success and trying to make it look like it was is unfair propaganda. Hijacking a navy ship isn’t a joke," the official said. "We can all be alarmists if we want but this is not some Hollywood film."
October 1, 2014
Australia passes security law, raising fears for press freedom
October 1, 2014
The first of a series of security powers requested by Australia’s government to combat Islamist militants passed through parliament on Wednesday, despite criticism that they could land journalists in jail for reporting on national security.
Australia is increasingly concerned over the number of its citizens heading to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside radical Islamists, and police said they foiled a plot by the Islamic State group last month to behead a random Australian citizen.
Conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned that the balance between freedom and security “may have to shift” in the wake of a series of raids targeting what authorities say are the group’s members and supporters.
Under the legislation, which passed the lower house with support from the main opposition Labor Party, anyone disclosing information about “special intelligence operations” could face a decade in prison.
It also outlaws copying, transcribing, retaining, or recording intelligence materials, which critics say is a direct response to former damaging leaks by National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, and vastly expands the government’s power to monitor computers.
The reforms were needed to update legislation written in the 1970s, Attorney General George Brandis said, and were in the same spirit as emergency legislation passed in Britain forcing telecoms firms to retain customer data.
Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the government made “no apologies” for trying to protect the secrecy of covert intelligence operations.
"This is not, as has been wrongly suggested, about preventing the release of information that might simply embarrass the government of the day or expose it to criticism," he said.
But the Committee to Protect Journalists said it was concerned that the legislation did not contain an exemption for journalists, which could mean they could be imprisoned for up to ten years simply for reporting on national security matters.
"This national security bill and other draft legislation raise grave concerns about the direction in which Australia is heading,” spokesman Bob Dietz said in a statement.
"These bills would seriously hamper reporting in the public interest and we urge lawmakers to add the necessary safeguards to protect journalists and whistleblowers."
The legislation is the first of a series of laws aimed at beefing up the government’s security powers, including a controversial proposal to make it a crime for an Australian citizen to travel to any area overseas once the government has declared it off limits.
Legislation requiring telecommunications providers to keep metadata and to make it available to police and security agencies will soon be introduced as well, granting the government broader access to its citizens’ communications.