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July 30 2016

August 2, 2016




30 July 2016


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ISIS goes on the defensive in cyber

Mark Pomerleau, C4ISRNET 7:02 a.m. EDT July 22, 2016

ISIS has adapted its approach in the digital space to resist efforts aimed at disrupting and restricting its use of the internet, some experts say. A new report, made public today, details the items in ISIS’s digital toolbox that the group uses to resist these disruptive attempts.

The report, titled “Tech for Jihad: Dissecting Jihadists’ Digital Toolbox” and released by Flashpoint, an intelligence firm, notes that while “most communication platforms lack the sophistication necessary to ensure sufficient security … today’s jihadists constantly seek alternative ways to advance their agendas and communicate securely.” The report explains 36 of the most noteworthy tools and technologies leveraged by groups such as ISIS conducted by examining primary sources from the Deep and Dark Web. Most of the technologies, the report notes, have been used long before ISIS developed a public presence.

Jihadist organizations, according to the report, utilize encryption to protect their communications on a variety of platforms and services that include web browsers, email services, mobile devices and mobile applications. While many use traditional browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Safari, these services are not secure. “Jihadists enact stringent online security measures starting with the World Wide Web’s most fundamental portal: browsers,” the report said. “[T]ech-savvy jihadists are increasingly turning to highly-secure, alternative browsers such as Tor Browser and Opera Browser, so they can operate online more clandestinely without easily divulging their IP address and risking third-party surveillance.” They also use VPNs and DNS tools to obfuscate their location and IP address.

Encrypted tools are leveraged to protect emails as well as communications on mobile applications. Protected email services used by these groups include services that offer end-to-end encryption on emails, inbox encryption services that encrypt attachments and subject lines and services that guard against spam and phishing attempts. Additionally, common mobile encrypted communicates are Threema, WhatsApp and Telegram.

These groups have also leveraged tools that hide and delete files on devices as well as a tool called Net Guard, an open source firewall allowing users to specify apps connected to the internet.

While the exact culprit is not verifiable, one of the report’s authors said there has been a noticeable decline in ISIS’s Twitter activity and a significant uptick in use of encrypted platforms. This is likely a combination of the mass shuttering of social media accounts by the social media companies, CYBERCOM’s efforts against the group and the efforts of nongovernmental hacktivist groups such as Anonymous, said Laith Alkhouri, co-founder and the Director of Research & Analysis Flashpoint, in an interview with C4ISRNET.

Alkhouri said one of the ways ISIS has been effected in cyberspace isthe disruption of password-protected deep web forums used to communicate and release propaganda prior to widespread social media release. He was unable to say exactly who perpetrated these disruptions and hacks of one of ISIS’s top administrators.

ISIS’s hacking and cyber capabilities are often described as proficient, but disorganized. The group’s hacking community is a loosely knit community of ideologically driven hackers, another report from Flashpoint, released in April and titled “ISIS Cyber Capabilities,” said.

Alkhouri said ISIS does not have an official hacking or cyber wing and has not taken credit for any of the cyber activity perpetrated in its name on its official media channels, but it has praised calls to commit acts against perceived enemies in its name. ISIS has never acknowledged the presence of ISIS hackers that proclaim that they are hacking on their behalf, he said. ISIS does not coordinate or supervise the hacking collective working in their name.

Given ISIS’ capabilities and exploitation of technology — there’s a difference between the pro-ISIS hackers and ISIS, he added, noting that ISIS is not a cyber threat on par with nation-states. They use technology and the internet to further their agenda.

This is not say the group or its supporters will never pose a threat in cyberspace. “The challenge I look for or that concerns me when I look at the future is what happens if the non-state actor — [ISIS] being one example — starts to view cyber as a weapon system? That would really be a troubling development,” CYBERCOM Commander Adm. Michael Rogers told Congress in April.

Alkhouri said ISIS or pro-ISIS hacking groups could recruit individuals or organizations with far greater sophistication to join their ranks. He said he only saw one instance in which an individual that did not totally share the group’s ideology was recruited and helped the organization in the digital arena. British ISIS member Junaid Hussain, who was killed in an August 2015 drone strike and led the effort to launch and grow the so-called “Cyber Caliphate,” recruited Ardit Ferizi, a Kosovar hacker that collected and sent the personally identifiable information of U.S. service members to ISIS. Ferizi was eventually indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for his efforts.


U.S. goes to cyber war with ISIS

“As pro-ISIS cyber attacks and capabilities have gradually increased over time but remained relatively unsophisticated, it is likely that in the short run, these actors will continue launching attacks of opportunity. Such attacks include finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in websites owned by, for example, small businesses, and defacing these websites,” Flashpoint’s April report forecasts. “Other attacks may include DDoS attacks. Furthermore, advanced targeting and exfiltration are not far-fetched if the group is able to recruit outside experts into its fold… advancement of the cyber capabilities of pro-ISIS actors largely depends on the group’s ability to bring in a technological savvy, diverse group of people with broad technical skills.”

For some in the government these commercially available technologies that can be accessed by all pose a grave threat. “I think the biggest challenge for national security in the 21st Century as opposed to the 20th Century is that the things that are most likely to affect the future the most are going to be developed outside of the Defense Department,” William Roper, director of the Strategic Capabilities Office, said at the Defense One Tech Summit in June.

A recent report by the Rand Corporation discovered open-source and commercial off the shelf devices can have adverse effects on militaries in future urban conflicts. These technologies “are persistent and are dual-use, which means that they can benefit society or harm it,” the report said. “Although they are intended for commercial purposes, such as learning about shoppers’ preferences and finding new markets, they can easily be used by police and security services to identify and track criminals, terrorists, insurgents and spies.”

From its days as an al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq almost driven to extinction, ISIS has endured rising from the ashes of the Iraq War insurgency to rebrand, proving how it can adapt and evolve to changing circumstances, much to the fear of its enemies.

Alkhouri said the first creation of proprietary encryption technology for communication by al-Qaida in 2007 set a precedent for proprietary software development. Jihadi organizations can now trust their own proprietary technology as opposed to western technology, especially as smartphones and encryption for shielding communication is becoming more widespread.

ISIS and other groups have coped with technology changes. Alkhouri provided the unique example of members using Xbox Live and PlayStation 4 to as one unexpected form of communication used. He said ultimately it will be a whack-a-mole process: When one platform is scrutinized and attacked, ten other platforms will pop up.



Air Force works to keep older planes in air longer

By Barrie Barber – Staff Writer 5

Posted: 12:00 a.m. Sunday, July 24, 2016


WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — First flown in the 1970s, the Air Force could potentially fly the aging F-15 Eagle into the 2040s, according to a top Air Force official in charge of fighters and bombers.

It’s another sign the Air Force may have to keep planes in the air years longer than originally planned while it flies the smallest and oldest fleet in its history.

The average age of an Air Force plane is 27 years. In the interim, the aircraft have continuously flown combat missions for decades, and finding parts often becomes harder as the planes grow older, officials say.

The job to acquire, maintain and modernize more than 2,000 aircraft lands on the Fighters and Bombers Directorate at Wright-Patterson, a workforce of about 3,000 people across the country, said Brig. Gen. Michael J. Schmidt, who since April has been the directorate program executive officer.

Consider that the last B-52 Stratofortress rolled off the assembly line in 1962; the A-10 Thunderbolt II, F-15 and F-16 Fighting Falcon first flew in the 1970s; the B-1 Lancer in the 1980s; and B-2 Spirit bombers have flown two decades.

Brig. Gen. Michael J. Schmidt is the Program Executive Officer for Fighters and Bombers, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Air … read more

“If you think about those (aircraft), to get those initial operation capability dates, the technology in them was older than that,” Schmidt said. “(It’s a) huge amount of work in sustaining these legacy fleet of aircraft.”


About 20 percent of B-1 bombers, for example, have a parts issue at any one time, a rate about twice as high as other military aircraft, he said.

“Out-of-production parts and vanishing vendors are things that we deal with on every single program, but of course the older the airplane the harder it is to go out and find someone in industry sometimes that is either willing to do it or has the capability to do it,” he said.

For some needs, the Rapid Development Integration Facility at Wright-Patterson has made equipment, Schmidt said.

At the same time, the Air Force faces a shortage of skilled workers in maintenance depots, the one-star general said. More than 25,000 employees work in three Air Force depots at bases in Georgia, Oklahoma and Utah.


Eagle in the skies

The Air Force has started fatigue testing of the F-15 to determine if it can as much as triple the original life span, Schmidt said.

“We’re going to figure out through this fatigue testing process what things are breaking and how much do we have to invest to sustain that airplane to maybe three times the life cycle and then make some decisions on whether we can afford to do that,” Schmidt said.

One of the reasons the Air Force needs to fly the F-15 longer is because it bought far fewer F-22 Raptors meant to replace the F-15, an aviation analyst said. Another is a slower-than-expected pace to buy the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which the Air Force expects to declare ready to join the fleet later this year after years of delays and technical challenges.

Eventually, the F-35A will replace the A-10 and F-16.

“The early death of the F-22 program, along with slower-than-expected F-35 procurement, means that last generation just simply have to last longer,” Richard Aboulafia, a Teal Group analyst in Virginia, wrote in an email. “Since the F-15 is a great all-around fighter and strike aircraft, it will stay in service for decades to come.”

In recent weeks, congressional lawmakers have asked the Air Force to explore restarting production of the Raptor. Once envisioned to field a fleet of 750 fighters, the Pentagon slashed the number to 187 out of budget concerns and the last stealth fighter was built in 2011.

Schmidt said he would let the decision-makers determine the need for the jet, “but the longer we wait the more expensive it gets and the harder it gets to reconstitute that group of suppliers.”

Connecticut-based Pratt & Whitney, for example, no longer assembles the jet’s engines, he said.


F-15 questions

Keeping the F-15 flying through 2040 depends on how threats evolve, what missions are highest priority and the cost to keep the plane airworthy, another defense analyst said.

“Older F-15s are already gone from the force, because you can’t fly tight maneuvers at supersonic speeds for decades without it taking a toll on the aircraft,” Loren Thompson, a defense expert with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute and a defense industry consultant, wrote in an email.

“It isn’t clear that non-stealthy planes like the F-15 will be able to safely transit hostile airspace 30 years from now — even with upgrades like new jamming equipment,” he added.

Like the F-15, the Fighters and Bombers Directorate modernizes aging planes with updated communications, radar, navigation and defensive systems and weapons and manages foreign military programs of Air Force aircraft sold overseas, such as F-15s to Saudi Arabia, F-16s to Iraq, and the A-29 to Afghanistan and Lebanon, Schmidt said.

The directorate has pushed program managers to work with the defense industry to install new aircraft technologies more quickly through an “open architecture” and worked with small businesses to bring in innovations, Schmidt said.

Air Force depots also have added new capabilities, such as work on F-16 computer software, in recent years, he added.


Do recent veterans have more psychological problems than those of past wars?

Bret Moore, Special to Military Times 2:06 a.m. EDT July 25, 2016

Q: I’m a World War II veteran, and I find myself wondering about our country’s newest group of veterans. It seems like they are always talking about some disorder they have because of combat. Does our current generation of vets have more psychological problems than those of us from previous wars?

A: Your question is a tough one. My short and honest answer is, “I don’t think so.” The research comparing the rate of psychological conditions between different wars is sparse. But the information we do have seems to show that the rates of psychiatric ailments are fairly consistent between conflicts.

What makes it seem like our current veterans are battling more psychological problems may be a matter of awareness. Veterans, and the public at large, are more informed about conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder. They understand that depression, anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse can be consequences of extended and multiple deployments.

Increased awareness is likely only one part of the equation. Related to awareness, anti-stigma campaigns that focus on encouraging veterans to seek help leads to more veterans getting care. This does not mean that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have more problems than those from Desert Storm, Korea, Vietnam or World War II. It’s a matter of it being made easier and more acceptable for them to ask for help.

What I do know for sure is that the bond between veterans, regardless of which conflict they fought in, is one of the strongest bonds that can occur between groups. Veterans from all eras have much to teach and share with others.


Q: I retired from the Navy last year. Although I look back on my service with pride, I find myself hoping that my 8-year-old son doesn’t want to join the military when he’s older. I know it’s hypocritical, but it’s how I feel. Is this wrong?

A: It’s not a matter of right or wrong. It makes sense if a veteran looks back on his career and wells up with pride with the thought of his son or daughter serving. It’s also perfectly acceptable for a parent to reflect on how difficult and dangerous military service can be and not want that for a child.

My recommendation is to find comfort in the fact that the choice is the child’s. And if you’ve done your best as a parent, then you’ve given your child what he or she needs to make the best choice for their life. Beyond that, you’re just trying to control someone else’s future. That never turns out well!


Bret A. Moore, Psy.D., is a board-certified clinical psychologist who served two tours in Iraq. Email him at This column is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey specific psychological or medical guidance.


Vladimir Putin’s Bad Blood With Hillary Clinton

Simon Shuster / Berlin @shustry


July 25, 2016

The Russian President has long held a grudge against Clinton for trying to weaken his rule when he was most vulnerable

In December 2011, Vladimir Putin came closer than he’s ever been to losing his hold on power. His decision that year to run for a third term as Russia’s President had inspired a massive protest movement against him. Demonstrations calling for him to resign were attracting hundreds of thousands of people across the country. Some of his closest allies had defected to the opposition, causing a split in the Kremlin elites, and Russian state media had begun to warn of a revolution in the making.

At a crisis meeting with his advisers on Dec. 8 of that year, the Russian leader chose to lay the blame on one meddling foreign diplomat: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“She set the tone for certain actors inside the country; she gave the signal,” Putin said of Clinton at the time, accusing her of ordering the opposition movement into action like some kind of revolutionary sleeper cell. “They heard this signal and, with the support of the U.S. State Department, started actively doing their work.”

Five years later, the U.S. presidential elections may have given Putin his chance for getting even. According to Clinton’s campaign staff and a number of cyber-security experts, Russian hackers in the service of the Kremlin were behind last week’s leak of emails from the Democratic National Committee. The hacked messages appeared to show DNC officials, who are meant to remain neutral during the Democratic Party’s primary race, favoring Clinton over her then-rival, Senator Bernie Sanders.

Reactions to the leak so far, including from Clinton’s campaign managers, have focused on what Russia would have to gain from helping Donald Trump win the Presidency. Trump’s flattering remarks about Putin in the past, as well as his recent equivocating about whether the U.S. should defend NATO allies in case of a Russian attack, would seem to support the notion that Trump is Russia’s favored candidate.

If the Kremlin has indeed begun interfering in the presidential race on Trump’s behalf, the bad blood between Putin and Clinton would seem like enough of a motivation. Putin’s list of grievances goes back a lot further than Clinton’s alleged support for the Russian protest movement.

In 2009, soon after President Obama took office, his newly appointed Secretary of State initiated what the White House called a “reset” in relations with Russia. At the time, Putin had already positioned himself as an adversary to the U.S., or at least a check on American influence in the world, and he showed no inclination for making friends with Obama. But constitutional term limits had forced Putin to switch to the less powerful role of Prime Minister the previous year, and his younger protégé, Dmitri Medvedev, then took over the presidency. In sharp contrast to his mentor, Medvedev began to cast himself as a liberal Westernizer with a particular affection for high-tech American gadgets.


That presented Washington an opportunity and, in the first year of Obama’s presidency, the U.S. tried to sidestep Putin and build better relations with Russia through Medvedev. As Secretary of State, Clinton oversaw these efforts, which saw the two Presidents visit each other’s countries—Obama in 2009, Medvedev in 2010—and establish a range of bilateral commissions to cooperate on everything from counter-terrorism to the tech economy.

But among Kremlin hardliners, who have since come to dominate Russian politics, Clinton’s efforts to flatter and befriend Medvedev all seemed like part of a scheme to undermine Putin and subvert his role as a counterweight to U.S. dominance in world affairs. One incident in particular drove home that perception.

In the spring of 2011, the U.S. and its allies began pushing for a military intervention in Libya to prevent the regime of Muammar Ghaddafi from massacring rebel forces and their civilian supporters. But without Russia’s acquiescence, the West could not pass a resolution in the U.N. that would provide a legal basis for the intervention. So Clinton and Obama began pressuring Medvedev to play along, and he ultimately agreed not to veto the resolution in the U.N. Security Council.

Putin was furious. The resolution, he said, resembled “the medieval calls for a Christian crusade,” one that Clinton, as the top U.S. diplomat at the time, helped to orchestrate. Later that same year, when Russia’s flawed parliamentary elections set off a season of street protests, Clinton spoke up in support of the demonstrations. “The Russian people, like people everywhere, deserve the right to have their voices heard and their votes counted,” Clinton said. “And that means they deserve free, fair, transparent elections and leaders who are accountable to them.”

It was a fairly tame statement of support for the Russian opposition movement. But Putin took it as a personal affront against his leadership, as well as a sign that Clinton was intent on manipulating the Russian presidential elections that were then just a few months away.

With a campaign based on Cold War rhetoric against the conniving West, Putin won that vote handily, and it is easy to see how he would relish the chance to manipulate the U.S. presidential elections in return.

At least in his public statements, he has tried not to take sides between Clinton and Trump too overtly. Asked during a panel discussion in June about his statements that Trump is a “colorful” politician, Putin said that Russia “never interferes in the internal political processes of other countries, especially the United States.”

Regardless of whom the U.S. electorate chooses as its leader in November, Putin said, Russia would work with the new American President in the hope of restoring constructive ties. “The world needs a strong country like the U.S., and we need it, too,” he said. “What we don’t need is for them to constantly interfere in our business and tell us how to live.” Considering his experience with Clinton’s supposed meddling in Russian affairs, it seems clear which candidate he would trust not to interfere in the Kremlin’s business.



The U.S. is apparently using anti-drone rifles against the Islamic State

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff July 26



U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit on Fire Base Bell in Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an Islamic State infiltration route March 18. (Cpl. Andre Dakis/U.S. Marine Corps)

A tweet posted last week by Peter Singer, a co-author of the book Ghost Fleet and a strategist at the New America Foundation, shows his book couched up against what appears to be a Battelle DroneDefender anti-drone rifle in a tent at Fire Base Bell outside Makhmour, Iraq.

The advent and proliferation of small, cheap drones has had a lasting effect on the battlefields of the 21st century. From Syria to Ukraine, the devices have been used in myriad ways, from filming propaganda videos to observing enemy locations. The presence of a U.S. anti-drone system, while a seemingly sensible counter-measure against the Islamic State’s fondness for using the remote-controlled aircraft, is a small glimpse into how the American military is adapting to evolving battlefield threats in the wake of its two protracted ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is unclear when the picture was taken, though the small American base was first stood up in March. Now renamed the Kara Soar Counter-Fire Complex, the outpost has been responsible for providing artillery support for Iraqi and Kurdish peshmerga forces as they attempt to move northwest into the Tigris River valley.

According to Singer, he and his fellow author August Cole had sent the book as part of a care package to Iraq and had received the picture, and the permission to post it, as a thanks in response.

According to the rifle’s description on the manufacturer’s website, the rifle takes “no extensive training” and “disrupts the adversary’s control of the drone, neutralizing it so no remote action, including detonation, can occur.” The rifle is a “non-kinetic” weapon, meaning it doesn’t use bullets.

The system has the ability to disrupt the user’s control link to their drone as well as its ability to sync with a GPS network. It is unclear what type of frequency the rifle uses to attack its target, but the size of the dual front-mounted antennas suggest that the disruption pulse is distributed across multiple radio frequency bands. The rifle has a range of roughly 400 yards, will hit a drone in a 30-degree cone and can be ready to use and fire in less than a second, according to the site. Aside from the antennas and the attached battery pack, the anti-drone rifle appears to be very similar to the M-16/M-4 series of rifles carried by U.S. troops, including a similar stock and attachment system for accessories such as scopes and flashlights.

While small drones can be used to observe enemy locations, they can also be used to coordinate indirect-fire weapons such as mortars, rockets and artillery. Indirect-fire weapons are often fired beyond the line of sight of their intended target, making the presence of an observer that can see where the rounds are impacting invaluable. Using drones to observe and coordinate artillery and mortar strikes has been nearly perfected in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed separatists have used the tactic almost daily since the war started there in 2014.

In March, an Islamic State rocket attack killed Marine Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin and wounded eight others at Fire Base Bell. Pentagon officials at the time said that the Islamic State had used 107mm Katyusha rockets. First debuting on World War II’s eastern front, the Katyusha rocket has been a staple in conflict zones ever since, and has been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The commander of the Marine unit stationed at Fire Base Bell recently told reporters that the base came under numerous rocket attacks during the unit’s 60-day stay there. It is unclear if the Islamic State used a drone to make their strikes more accurate, but its likely that the terror group used the small devices to at least perform some type of reconnaissance prior to targeting the American contingent.



What do ordinary citizens in the Arab world really think about the Islamic State?

By Mark Tessler, Michael Robbins and Amaney Jamal July 27


What do ordinary Arabs think about the Islamic State? This spring, we added several questions to the standard battery of Arab Barometer surveys to find out. We asked a scientific sample of respondents in Tunisia, Jordan, Palestine, Algeria and Morocco the following questions:


To what extent do you agree with the goals of the Islamic State;

To what extent to do you support the Islamic State’s use of violence; and

To what extent do you believe the Islamic State’s tactics are compatible with the teachings of Islam?


Little support for the Islamic State

The findings were stark: Not many Arabs sympathize with the Islamic State. The percent agreeing with the Islamic State’s goals range from 0.4 percent in Jordan to 6.4 percent in the Palestinian territories. The percent agreeing with the Islamic State’s use of violence range from 0.4 percent in Morocco to 5.4 percent in the Palestinian territories. The percent agreeing that the Islamic State’s tactics are compatible with Islam range from 1.0 percent in Jordan to 8.9 percent in the Palestinian territories.

It’s important to dig deeper, though. While very few respondents express positive attitudes toward the Islamic State, it is possible that some who support the Islamic State’s goals or tactics or believe the group’s actions are compatible with Islam decline to answer the question or say they don’t know, rather than explicitly express approval of the Islamic State.

For sensitive issues like support for an extremist group, this is a common way to avoid expressing an opinion that is contrary to societal norms. For each question and each country, therefore, we also note the percent that decline to respond or say they don’t know. With these responses treated as expressions of support for the Islamic State, the percent having positive, or at least neutral, attitudes toward the Islamic State increases, particularly in Algeria and in the Palestinian territories. Nevertheless, it is clear, overall, that there is very little support for the Islamic State among these five Arab publics.


A key demographic differs little

What about younger and poorly educated men, who seem to be a primary audience for the Islamic State message? Breaking out the responses of male respondents age 36 or under who have had less than secondary schooling shows that even among this key demographic there is also little support for the Islamic State’s goals or for its use of violence, and that few consider the Islamic State’s tactics to be compatible with the teachings of Islam. Indeed, in some instances, positive attitudes toward the Islamic State are held by fewer individuals in the key demographic category.


A Tunisian exception?


Findings are similar with respect to whether the Islamic State’s tactics are compatible with the teachings of Islam, but with one potentially instructive exception. This concerns Tunisia, where 14.9 percent of poorly educated younger male respondents say that the Islamic State’s tactics are compatible with Islamic teachings, compared with 8.6 percent of other Tunisians.

The finding that younger and less-well-educated Tunisian men are more likely than other Tunisians to judge the Islamic State’s tactics to be compatible with Islamic teachings may help to explain why a large number of Tunisians have left the country to fight with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. News reports place the number at 3,000 to 8,000, far more than any other Arab country with the exception of Saudi Arabia. And since most who have responded to the Islamic State’s call are poorly educated younger men, the comparatively high percentage that considers the Islamic State’s tactics to be compatible with Islam may provide a part of the explanation.

There are only 87 respondents in this key demographic category in the Tunisian survey, and so the findings should be accepted with a measure of caution, even though a non-parametric statistical test does show a very low probability of obtaining by chance alone the difference reported.

Only 3.4 percent of poorly educated younger Tunisian men express support for the Islamic State’s goals, and only 2.3 percent agree with its violent tactics. Nevertheless, it is notable that Tunisians in the demographic category that is the primary target of the Islamic State messaging are significantly more likely than other Tunisians, and their counterparts in other Arab countries, to consider the Islamic State’s tactics compatible with Islam.



Mark Tessler is the Samuel J. Eldersveld Collegiate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Michael Robbins is the director of the Arab Barometer. Amaney A. Jamal is the Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics at Princeton University and director of the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice.


N. Korea: US Has Crossed Red Line, Relations on War Footing


By eric talmadge, Associated Press

PYONGYANG, North Korea — Jul 28, 2016, 2:03 PM ET


North Korea’s top diplomat for U.S. affairs told The Associated Press on Thursday that Washington “crossed the red line” and effectively declared war by putting leader Kim Jong Un on its list of sanctioned individuals, and said a vicious showdown could erupt if the U.S. and South Korea hold annual war games as planned next month.

Han Song Ryol, director-general of the U.S. affairs department at the North’s Foreign Ministry, said in an interview that recent U.S. actions have put the situation on the Korean Peninsula on a war footing.

The United States and South Korea regularly conduct joint military exercises south of the Demilitarized Zone, and Pyongyang typically responds to them with tough talk and threats of retaliation.

Han said North Korea believes the nature of the maneuvers has become openly aggressive because they reportedly now include training designed to prepare troops for the invasion of the North’s capital and “decapitation strikes” aimed at killing its top leadership.

Han says designating Kim himself for sanctions was the final straw.

“The Obama administration went so far to have the impudence to challenge the supreme dignity of the DPRK in order to get rid of its unfavorable position during the political and military showdown with the DPRK,” Han said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“The United States has crossed the red line in our showdown,” he said. “We regard this thrice-cursed crime as a declaration of war.”

Although North Korea had already been heavily sanctioned internationally for its nuclear weapons and long-range missile development programs, Washington’s announcement on July 6 was the first time Kim Jong Un has been personally sanctioned.

Less than a week later, Pyongyang cut off its final official means of communications with Washington — known as the New York channel. Han said Pyongyang has made it clear that everything between the two must now be dealt with under “war law.”

Katina Adams, State Department spokeswoman for East Asia and the Pacific, said the U.S. continues to call on North Korea “to refrain from actions and rhetoric that further destabilize the region and focus instead on taking concrete steps toward fulfilling its commitments and international obligations.”

She said the U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises are “defense-orientated” and have been carried out regularly and openly for roughly 40 years, and are designed to maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula. “These exercises are a clear demonstration of the U.S. commitment to the alliance,” she said.

South Korea’s unification, defense and foreign ministries did not immediately comment.

Kim and 10 others were put on the list of sanctioned individuals in connection with alleged human rights abuses, documented by the United Nations Human Rights Commission, that include a network of political prisons and harsh treatment of any kind of political dissent in the authoritarian state. U.S. State Department officials said the sanctions were intended in part to highlight those responsible for the abuses and to pressure lower-ranking officials to think twice before carrying them out.

Pyongyang denies abuse claims and says the U.N. report was based on fabrications gleaned from disgruntled defectors. Pointing to such things as police shootings of black Americans and poverty in even the richest democracies, it says the West has no moral high ground from which to criticize the North’s domestic political situation. It also says U.S. allies with questionable human-rights records receive less criticism.

Han took strong issue with the claim that it not the U.S. but Pyongyang’s continued development of nuclear weapons and missiles that is provoking tensions.

“Day by day, the U.S. military blackmail against the DPRK and the isolation and pressure is becoming more open,” Han said. “It is not us, it is the United States that first developed nuclear weapons, who first deployed them and who first used them against humankind. And on the issue of missiles and rockets, which are to deliver nuclear warheads and conventional weapons warheads, it is none other than the United States who first developed it and who first used it.”

He noted that U.S.-South Korea military exercises conducted this spring were unprecedented in scale, and that the U.S. has deployed the USS Mississippi and USS Ohio nuclear-powered submarines to South Korean ports, deployed the B-52 strategic bomber around South Korea and is planning to set up the world’s most advanced missile defense system, known by its acronym THAAD, in the South, a move that has also angered China.

Echoing earlier state-media reports, Han ridiculed Mark Lippert, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, for a flight on a U.S. Air Force F-16 based in South Korea that he said was an action “unfit for a diplomat.”

“We regard that as the act of a villain, who is a crazy person,” Han said of the July 12 flight. “All these facts show that the United States is intentionally aggravating the tensions in the Korean Peninsula.”

Han warned that Pyongyang is viewing next month’s planned U.S.-South Korea exercises in this new context and will respond if they are carried out as planned.

“Nobody can predict what kind of influence this kind of vicious confrontation between the DPRK and the United States will have upon the situation on the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “By doing these kinds of vicious and hostile acts toward the DPRK, the U.S. has already declared war against the DPRK. So it is our self-defensive right and justifiable action to respond in a very hard way.

“We are all prepared for war, and we are all prepared for peace,” he said. “If the United States forces those kinds of large-scale exercises in August, then the situation caused by that will be the responsibility of the United States.”

Last year’s Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises involved 30,000 American and 50,000 South Korean troops and followed a period of heightened animosity between the rival Koreas sparked by land mine explosions that maimed two South Korean soldiers. In the end, the exercises escalated tensions and rhetoric, but concluded with no major incidents.

Han dismissed calls for Pyongyang to defuse tensions by agreeing to abandon its nuclear program.

“In the view of cause and effect, it is the U.S. that provided the cause of our possession of nuclear forces,” he said. “We never hide the fact, and we are very proud of the fact, that we have very strong nuclear deterrent forces not only to cope with the United States’ nuclear blackmail but also to neutralize the nuclear blackmail of the United States.”



FBI Chief Warns ‘Terrorist Diaspora’ Will Come to the West

Chris Strohm

July 27, 2016 — 9:59 AM EDT

Updated on July 27, 2016 — 11:35 AM EDT

Hundreds of terrorists will fan out to infiltrate western Europe and the U.S. to carry out attacks on a wider scale as Islamic State is defeated in Syria, FBI Director James Comey warned.

“At some point there’s going to be a terrorist diaspora out of Syria like we’ve never seen before,” Comey said Wednesday in New York. “We saw the future of this threat in Brussels and Paris,” said the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, adding that future attacks will be on “an order of magnitude greater.”


Comey’s blunt warnings echo those of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has scoffed at Obama administration efforts to defeat Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq. Nonetheless, the FBI chief’s comments reflect a consensus among U.S. intelligence officials that the group inevitably will strike out abroad as it continues to lose ground militarily under attack from a U.S.-led coalition.

CIA Director John Brennan told the Senate Intelligence Committee in June that “our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach.” Using an acronym for Islamic State, Brennan said, “as the pressure mounts on ISIL, we judge that it will intensify its global terror campaign to maintain its dominance of the global terrorism agenda.”


‘Greatest Threat’

Comey, who called violence directed or inspired by Islamic State “the greatest threat to the physical safety of Americans today,” said that “a lot of terrorists fled out of Afghanistan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This is 10 times that or more.”

In his remarks at a conference on cybersecurity, Comey also cited the difficulty of heading off what are often called “lone-wolf” attackers acting on the group’s calls for violence.

It is “increasingly hard” for counterterrorism officials to find and stop individuals inspired or directed by Islamic State who use a knife or a vehicle to kill people, Comey said.

At the same time, U.S. officials have claimed increasing success in reducing Islamic State’s hold on the caliphate the group proclaimed across a swath of Iraq and Syria.

“We can say that the tide has turned,” Secretary of State John Kerry said last week. Using an Arabic name for Islamic State, he said, “Our coalition and partners on the ground have driven Daesh out of nearly 50 percent of the territory that it once controlled in Iraq and 20 percent of the territory in Syria.” But he also cited the need for “real-time communications between countries” and other measures to counter the group’s efforts “to transform themselves into a global terrorist organization.”

While Trump has said he would be more aggressive in attacking Islamic State if elected in November, he hasn’t provided details. His response to the threat of attacks in the U.S. is a vow to introduce “extreme vetting” of potential immigrants from certain “territories” affected by terrorism.

Attacks in France have left more than 230 dead since the start of last year. A mass shooting that killed 49 people at a nightclub last month in Orlando, Florida, was carried out by a man who claimed allegiance to Islamic State. Less than two weeks before the Olympic Games begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian police have rounded up a dozen people it said were possibly members of an Islamic State cell.

Beyond the West, Islamic State took credit for a July 23 suicide bombing at a rally in Kabul that killed more than 80 people, the deadliest single attack in Afghanistan in 15 years of war.


Encryption Debate

The FBI chief also spoke Thursday of the unresolved fight over law enforcement access to encrypted communications that brought his agency into conflict with Apple Inc. earlier this year.

The debate over encryption “has dipped below public consciousness right now,” Comey said.

The FBI is using that time to collect data on the negative impact that encrypted communications is having on investigations, he said. From October through March, 500 of 4,000 devices the FBI confiscated couldn’t be opened due to encryption, he said.


Debate by policy makers over the issue probably will have to wait until next year, after the U.S. elections, he said.

“At some point encryption is going to figure in a major event in this country,” Comey said. “We’ve got to have the conversation before that happens.”



New evidence confirms what gun rights advocates have said for a long time about crime

By Christopher Ingraham July 27

Lawful gun owners commit less than a fifth of all gun crimes, according to a novel analysis released this week by the University of Pittsburgh.

In the study, led by epidemiologist Anthony Fabio of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health, researchers partnered with the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police to trace the origins of all 893 firearms that police recovered from crime scenes in the year 2008.

They found that in approximately 8 out of 10 cases, the perpetrator was not a lawful gun owner but rather in illegal possession of a weapon that belonged to someone else. The researchers were primarily interested in how these guns made their way from a legal purchase — at a firearm dealer or via a private sale — to the scene of the crime.

“All guns start out as legal guns,” Fabio said in an interview. But a “huge number of them” move into illegal hands. “As a public-health person, I’d like to be able to figure out that path,” he added.

More than 30 percent of the guns that ended up at crime scenes had been stolen, according to Fabio’s research. But more than 40 percent of those stolen guns weren’t reported by the owners as stolen until after police contacted them when the gun was used in a crime.

One of the more concerning findings in the study was that for the majority of guns recovered (62 percent), “the place where the owner lost possession of the firearm was unknown.”

“We have a lot of people with a lot of guns,” Fabio said, referencing statistics on the large number of guns in circulation. “And some of them aren’t keeping track of them for different reasons — maybe because they have a lot of them and they don’t use them that often.”

A number of factors could lead to legal firearms entering the black market. Owners could misplace them, or they could be stolen — either through carelessness on the owner’s part (leaving a gun in an unlocked car, for instance) or determination on the part of thieves.

It’s also likely that many guns on the black market got there via straw purchases — where a person purchases a gun from a dealer without disclosing that they’re buying it for someone else. This is illegal under federal law. One potential sign that straw purchasing is a factor in the Pittsburgh data: Forty-four percent of the gun owners who were identified in 2008 did not respond to police attempts to contact them.

The top-line finding of the study — that the overwhelming majority of gun crimes aren’t committed by lawful gun owners — reinforces a common refrain among gun rights advocacy groups. They argue that since criminals don’t follow laws, new regulations on gun ownership would only serve to burden lawful owners while doing little to combat crime.


But Fabio’s research suggests that this strict dichotomy between “good guys” and “bad guys” isn’t necessarily helpful for figuring out how to keep “good” guns — those purchased legally — from getting into “bad” hands. And there may be modest, non-burdensome ways to help keep guns in the hands of the good guys.

For instance, 10 states plus the District of Columbia have laws in place requiring gun owners to report the theft or loss of firearms to law enforcement, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a group that advocates for stronger firearm regulations. But in the majority of states, no such law is in place.

Additionally, past research has demonstrated that a small fraction of gun dealers are responsible for the majority of guns used in crimes in the United States. A 2000 report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found that in 1998, more than 85 percent of gun dealers had no guns used in crimes trace back to them. By contrast, 1 percent of dealers accounted for nearly 6 in 10 crime gun traces that year.

The firearms bureau knows exactly who these gun dealers are — but they’re not allowed to share that information with policymakers or researchers due to a law passed by Congress in 2003. As a result, solutions for stanching the flow of guns from these dealers to crime scenes remain frustratingly out of reach for public-health researchers.

“There’s not much federal funding out there to do research on firearm and firearm safety,” Fabio said. As a result, “there’s not a lot of good research out there. The process of getting it done has been hindered by a lot of limits on academics and how they can do firearms research.”

In the meantime, researchers have to be creative — like partnering with local law enforcement agencies to find answers to their questions.



James: Crawl, walk run on enlisted pilots flying UAS

Mark Pomerleau, C4ISRNET 4:16 p.m. EDT July 27, 2016


Recently, the Air Force for the first time adopted a new plan to allow enlisted service members to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk, an unarmed, high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned surveillance aircraft. Now the service’s secretary is offering a cautious approach but noted more could come.

“What we’re doing is we’re opening up to the enlisted force the world of piloting for the Global Hawk. At the moment, that’s our focus because it’s something new and when you try something new, I’m a believer in crawl, walk run – do it, learn your lessons, do it well and then look at expanding down the line,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said at a July 26 Washington event hosted by Defense One.


Enlisted airmen one step closer to flying UAVs

However, while the current approach is only focused on these large, non-weaponized aircraft, James said there could be opportunities to expand in the future depending on how successful the initiative is.


“I absolutely do see possibilities for further expansion beyond Global Hawk but again I think it’s prudent when you start something new to start with something, what I call crawl, walk, run,” James said.

Currently, the force’s weaponized unmanned aircraft – the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper – are piloted by officers, and will be for the foreseeable future. As part of the Air Force’s so-called “get well plan” to help alleviate a force strained by growing demand for global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, contractors will take control of 10 daily combat air patrol sorties. The Air Force has been clear that the contractors will not operate weaponized aircraft, something James reiterated July 26.


Does the Pentagon need a Space Acquisition Agency?

by Mike Gruss — July 28, 2016


WASHINGTON – U.S. Defense Department leaders suggested to government auditors that to improve the management and oversight of the national security space enterprise, the Pentagon should consider creating a single space force, one that would handle duties currently divided between the National Reconnaissance Office and at least seven other Defense Department agencies.

Debating the best organizational structure for the Pentagon’s space programs has been a decades long exercise for the national security space community. In a report released July 26, the Government Accountability Office said national security experts and Defense Department leaders recommended a series of reforms and the congressional watchdog agency studied three of those ideas.


Among the suggestions the GAO considered:

Starting a Defense Space Agency that would combine military space functions currently spread out over eight agencies but would leave the NRO, which builds and operates the country’s spy satellites, intact.

Creating a Space Acquisition Agency that would combine the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, which handles the majority of the Defense Department’s space acquisitions, with the NRO, which performs the same tasks for the intelligence community.

Standing up a Space Force that would combine all military space agencies, including the NRO, and would be led by a civilian secretary.


Such changes “would likely involve significant short- term disruption to DOD’s space organizational structure, roles, and responsibilities,” the report said. “However, given the long-standing fragmentation in space leadership and consequent challenges faced by DOD in synchronizing its extensive space enterprise, proposals such as these that may entail disruptive changes may nevertheless deserve a closer look.”

The GAO said the proposals should receive closer examination if the current organizational structure, which has been in place less than a year, proves ineffective. In October 2015, Bob Work, the deputy secretary of defense, designated the Air Force secretary as the Principal DoD Space Advisor. In that role, the PDSA oversees the entire DoD space portfolio and acts as an adviser to senior Pentagon leadership.

Some defense leaders also suggested doing nothing but seeing how the current changes play out, the report said.

“We and others have reported for over two decades that fragmentation and overlap in DOD space acquisition management and oversight have contributed to program delays and cancellations, cost increases, and inefficient operations,” the GAO report said.

Notably, the GAO found in 2012 that a lack of a government-wide authority hindered space situational awareness acquisition efforts.

The report, titled “Defense Space Acquisitions: Too Early to Determine If Recent Changes Will Resolve Persistent Fragmentation in Management and Oversight,” was sent to congressional defense committees and completed at the request of the Senate Armed Services Committee as part of the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.

While not making any recommendations, the GAO said each of the reorganizations would offer benefits and drawbacks. A Defense Space Agency would not require changes for the intelligence community, but also would not consolidate all national security space activities. A Space Acquisition Agency would create a more cohesive approach for industry, but would require changes to the intelligence community’s change of command as well as more time and money to stand up a new organization. A Space Force would create visibility and attention, but would require congressional attention, an increased budget and may not shorten DoD review processes.

In a July 6 letter to the GAO, Defense Department leaders chafed at the ideas in the report.

“The Department does not concur with the GAO publishing this report at this time since it contains no new information on the reforms already adopted and states clearly that it is ‘too early to gauge’ whether these reforms are working,” said James MacStravic, a DoD acquisition official. “Identification of additional reforms for consideration before assessing the effectiveness of the existing reforms would be premature.”


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Saturday, July 30, 2016


The national political conventions are over. Now the real dirty work begins.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton remain deadlocked in our latest weekly White House Watch survey.   However, the survey was taken prior to Clinton’s acceptance speech at Thursday night’s Democratic National Convention. We’ll see next Thursday if Clinton got a bounce out of her convention.

In the key state of Nevada, Trump leads Clinton 43% to 38%, with Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson picking up eight percent (8%) of the vote.   This survey, too, was taken before the Democratic convention really got going but will be updated on Tuesday to see if this week’s confab made a difference.

Just 54% of voters nationwide still favor the presidential candidate they liked at the beginning of the year.

Heading into the Democratic convention, the party’s progressive wing had a lot to be fired up about, and it wasn’t the party’s nominee. 

Less than half of Democrats feel Clinton has done enough to win over supporters of her primary rival Senator Bernie Sanders, but most voters in their party still think there’s a good chance Sanders supporters will back her in the fall. 

Bill Clinton used to tell voters during his 1992 campaign for the presidency that they would be getting “two for the price of one” if he was elected, referring to his wife. Voters are strongly convinced that they’ll get the same deal if Mrs. Clinton is elected to the White House this fall. 

Does America think the former president is ready to be the nation’s first First Man? 

Despite complaints from progressives in her party, Clinton’s decision to make Virginia Senator Tim Kaine her running mate makes little difference to voters. The 2016 presidential election has, without a doubt, been an unusual one in many ways. The vice-presidential picks are no exception.

Which political party a voter is affiliated with remains a key indicator of which cable news network they watch. Television, primarily cable, still reigns supreme for political news among voters, but voters remain skeptical of the political news they are getting.

As in previous presidential election cycles, voters expect most reporters covering political campaigns to help their favorite candidates and think it’s far more likely they will help the Democrat than the Republican. 
Forty-nine percent (49%) think most reporters are biased against Trump, while only 18% believe most are biased against Clinton.

France experienced another terrorist horror this week when radical Islamicists invaded a church and brutally murdered a Catholic priest.  Americans aren’t confident that France can defeat these terrorists and worry that Europe is losing the war against terrorism.

America’s own war on terror continued with the murder of another policeman, this time in San Diego, California. Given the continuing national debate over police conduct, more Americans favor requiring police officers to wear body cameras while on duty but still tend to believe they will protect the cops more than those they deal with.

Only 14% think most deaths that involve the police are the fault of the policeman.  More Americans than ever (72%) rate the performance of the police in the area where they live as good or excellent. 

Republican Joe Heck holds a nine-point lead over Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto in our first look at the race in Nevada to replace retiring U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

In other surveys last week:

— Just 24% of voters think the country is headed in the right direction.

— Still, President Obama continues to earn better-than-average daily job approval ratings.

— Political conservatives have charged in recent months that major social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are censoring their points of view. Regular users of those sites, especially those under the age of 40, strongly disagree with any attempts to close down free speech.

— The summer Olympics are just over a week away, and Americans are gearing up to watch even though they suspect many of the participating countries are cheating.

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