Archive for June, 2011


June 30, 2011

AP on June 29, 2011, reported that a jihadist Internet forum had been knocked down presumably by hackers according to counterterrorism experts.

The al-Shamukh forum appears to have been taken down by a fairly sophisticated cyberattack that hit not only the website, but the server.

Evan Kohlmann, a counterterrorism expert who tracks jihadist websites as a senior partner with Flashpoint Partners consultancy in New York, described the site as a key Al Qaeda propaganda forum.

Kohlmann said:

These sites can be like spy satellites, they’re great ways of gathering information about your adversaries.

Bringing them down is like shooting at your own spy satellites. But there are others who don’t agree with that.

He said there’s been a “struggle behind the scenes” in the U.S. government about whether to allow the site to stay up.

The Defense Department said that it was aware of reports that Al Qaeda’s Internet operations had been disrupted, but could not comment on the specific incident.

U.S. and British officials have acknowledged that British intelligence authorities launched a cyberattack against Al Qaeda’s English-language Internet magazine, Inspire, taking down directions for bomb-making and replacing them with cupcake recipes.

The fact that the al-Shamukh wasn’t knocked out sooner is revealing. Forcing a website offline can be a relatively easy matter. A so-called denial-of-service attack, which floods a website’s servers with enormous amounts of webpage requests is a popular hacking activity. But it apparently wasn’t used in this instance. Instead, cyber experts said it was a more complex attack.


June 27, 2011

Warrants were issued for for the Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, a son and brother-in-law on charges of crimes against humanity, an international court June 27, 2011 said according to UPI.

The arrest warrants accuse Gadhafi, son Saif al-Islam, and Abdullah al-Senussi, head of Libya’s intelligence agency, of committing crimes against humanity — murder and persecution — across Libya against regime opponents fighting to oust Gadhafi, the International Criminal Court said in a statement issued from The Hague, Netherlands.

The three-judge pre-trial chamber said it found “reasonable grounds” to believe the Gadhafis and Senussi committed the alleged crimes and their arrests were necessary.

“We have direct evidence of each of them involved in the crimes,” the court said.

Gadhafi “personally ordered attacks on unarmed Libyan civilians,” in which government forces shot demonstrators, fired heavy weapons on funeral processions and “placed snipers to kill those leaving mosques after prayers,” the prosecutor said.


One of the same day wives of Osama bin Laden and her five children will be among the first members of his family deported from Pakistan, officials in Islamabad said, UPI reported.

Intelligence officials told London’s pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat in May that Osama bin Laden’s 10-year-old daughter Safiyah offered importantinformation regarding regular visitors to the Abbottabad compound. Islamabad is keen to find out who supported the bin Laden family during their five-year stay near the Abottabad. Another source inside the Pakistani government told the newspaper that Islamabad would deport members of bin Laden’s family to their home countries at the “appropriate time.”

Amal Abdul-Fattah, one of bin Laden’s widows, and her five children would be among the first to head to their native countries, in this case Yemen, the newspaper adds.

Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency has been grilling members of bin Laden’s family since the May 2 raid. The British newspaper said the deportation suggests the ISI has ended its investigation into how bin Laden lived close to one of Pakistan’s top military academies for years without capture.


June 24, 2011

On June 23, 2011, Fox News reported via AP that a Danish appeals court has sentenced a Somali man to 10 years in prison for breaking into the home of a cartoonist who caricatured the Prophet Muhammad.

The Western High Court in Aarhus added an extra year to a nine-year sentence given by a lower court to Muhideen Mohammed Geelle in February. He was sentenced a day after the court found him guilty of a terror attempt.

Geele entered Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard’s home on New Year’s Day 2010 armed with an ax. Westergaard locked himself inside a panic room and was unharmed. Police arrived and apprehended Geelle after shooting him in the leg.

Prosecutor Kirsten Dyrman commented the sentence:

This is a question of a terror-related murder attempt. It is a very serious sentence for a very serious crime.

The prosecutors, however, did not link Geelle to any terrorist group.

The Western High Court in Denmark said Geelle will be deported from after serving his term.

The appeals court also found Geelle guilty of assaulting a policeman after the officers confronted him on arrival at Westergaard’s home in Aarhus, northwestern Denmark.

Danish authorities say they have foiled several terror plots linked to the 2005 newspaper cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that triggered protests in Muslim countries.


June 23, 2011

Former Deputy Assistant to Vice President Cheney for National Security Affairs.Stephen Yates on Fox News was on June 22, 2011, critical of President Obama’s timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan

The president chose to use the East Room of the White House to offer a fairly simple campaign speech, not a war update or national security strategy.
Obama cannot be blamed for misleading America. His call tonight to “wind down this war” and “focus on nation building here at home” comes straight out of the 2008 campaign.

The question we need to ask the president, and ourselves, is whether his medicine will cure or simply sedate the patient.

On Afghanistan, few dispute that progress has been made. But is that progress reversible if the troop surge that delivered the progress is reduced too quickly? Americans do want to know how the war will conclude. The president did not offer any reassurance.

On Pakistan, the most dangerous and expensive U.S. alliance in the world, the president offered little. He will continue to “insist” that Pakistan keep its commitments, and promises that “the United States will never tolerate a safe-haven for those who aim to kill us.”

Unaddressed, however, is the inconvenient truth that our Pakistani allies appear to have done exactly that with Usama bin Laden.

Concerning Libya Obama calls on Qaddafi to go, offers encouragement to the opposition, but fails to ensure the rebels have the means to succeed in doing the job themselves – no U.S. diplomatic recognition, no access to Qaddafi’s frozen assets, no training or equipping opposition forces. This is not a model worthy of praise in Libya or to be followed anywhere else.

Obama promised more when he was still seeking the Oval Office. Americans should expect more from their commander in chief.


June 20, 2011

In a forthcoming book (Chinese Naval Strategy in the 21st Century: The Turn to Mahan) by James R. Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara in the Cass Series: Naval Policy and History Routledge UK is presenting thoughts on an important current geopolitical problem.

Alfred Thayer Mahan has been called America’s nineteenth-century sea power theorist and the intellectual father of the modern US Navy. His theories have a timeless appeal, and Chinese analysts invoke Mahan’s writings, exhorting their nation to build a powerful navy.

Economics is the prime motivation for maritime reorientation, and securing the sea lanes that convey foreign energy supplies and other commodities now ranks near or at the top of China’s list of military priorities.

This book is the first systematic effort to test the interplay between Western military thought and Chinese strategic traditions vis- -vis the nautical arena. It uncovers some universal axioms about how theories of sea power influence the behaviour of great powers and examines how Mahanian thought could shape China’s encounters on the high seas.

The findings also clarify the possible implications of China’s maritime rise for the United States, and illuminate how the two powers can manage their bilateral interactions on the high seas.

For researchers on Western geopolitical influence on present day Chinese naval strategic thinking this book will be of great interest.

Of the chapters in the forthcoming book 2. Mahanian Sea-Power Theory and History and 3. China Interprets Mahan should be of special interest to geopoliticians.


June 19, 2011

British newspaper The Observer on June 18, 2011, published on files and documents hidden at a secure location in the rebel-held city of Misrata in Libya. They contain orders by Colonel Ghadafi to unleash the torture, arrest and bombardment that have torn the country apart

The Observer was last week granted exclusive access to view some of the files – documents that even the International Criminal Court has not yet seen. A glance at the paperwork is astonishing: on the top of one file is a letter from 4 March, two weeks after Misrata rose up to defy Gaddafi, signed by the general he put in charge of the operation to quell the protest: Youssef Ahmed Basheer Abu Hajar. Addressed to the “fighting formations”, which had by then cut all roads into the city, it issues a blunt instruction: “It is absolutely forbidden for supply cars, fuel and other services to enter the city of Misrata from all gates and checkpoints.”

Or, to put it more bluntly, he ordered his army to inflict starvation on every man, woman and child in Misrata.

Another document, bearing the stamp of Gaddafi’s Anti-Terrorism Committee – his inner circle of commanders – instructs forces to hunt down two wounded rebels who had fled to the neighbouring town of Zlitan, a clear violation of the guarantees of the Geneva conventions that demand protection for wounded combatants.

There are other documents, not to be revealed to the press – at least, not until a trial is in open court – that reveal Gaddafi’s generals giving orders to smash rebel centres, regardless of causing civilian casualties.

When rebellion broke out on 17 February they had the foresight to rush around the city, urging the protesters who broke into army bases and police stations not to set the buildings ablaze. And when rebel forces, aided by powerful Nato air strikes, finally pushed Gaddafi’s forces from the city, the lawyers were there again – persuading commanders not to destroy bases and depots that were overrun.

In Misrata appeals go out at regular intervals for rebels who capture prisoners to go through their pockets and search their vehicles, handing in any paperwork, however innocuous it may seem.

The Observer concludes:

While Gaddafi and his top henchmen, including four of his sons, are destined for The Hague – assuming they escape more direct retribution – thousands of lesser figures will be prosecuted by Libya’s own courts, assuming the rebels win the war. “Everybody with blood on his hands will go to the court,” says a local lawyer. “We do these things for our country,” he adds.

More surprising, given the three months of horror he has been through, is the passionate desire that Gaddafi and his generals get a fair trial; the lawyers want to ensure that all defendants have good defence lawyers, and hope foreign lawyers will do the job to remove even the hint of bias.


June 18, 2011

China’s weapons systems, utilities and chemical plants are all risking cyberattack. Reuters on June 17, 2011, reported that software widely used in China to help run weapons systems, utilities and chemical plants has bugs that could be exploited to damage public infrastructure, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

On June 16 the department issued an advisory warning of vulnerabilities in software applications from Beijing-based Sunway ForceControl Technology Co that could be used to launch attacks on critical infrastructure.

Sunway’s products, widely used in China, are also deployed to a lesser extent in other countries including the United States, the Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team said in its advisory.

The DHS advisory comes amid a wave of high-profile cyberattacks on institutions ranging from the International Monetary Fund to Citigroup Inc and Sony Corp.

Last year the Stuxnet computer worm surfaced, targeting industrial control systems manufactured by Siemens. Security experts widely believe that the worm was built as part of a state-backed attack on Iran’s nuclear program.

Iran said the worm was used to attack computers at its Bushehr nuclear reactor. There has been widespread speculation that Stuxnet actually damaged the plant.

The Sunway software flaws highlight growing concerns about the safety of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) computer systems that are used to monitor and control processes in a wide variety of facilities, including nuclear power plants, chemical factories, water distribution networks and pharmaceutical plants.

SCADA systems — designed before Internet use became widespread — were not built to withstand Web-based attacks.

Security systems to deal with Web threats have been bolted on rather than incorporated into SCADA systems, leaving holes that hackers can penetrate.


June 17, 2011

Well known Conservative commentator David Frum on June 14, 2011, wrote for CNN that Sweden is making a political right turn.

One of contenders for the most highly taxed country in the Western world has cut taxes significantly since 2006. Tight fiscal policy has pushed the public sector’s share of GDP back down toward 50%. The economy is growing, the budget is balanced, unemployment is declining.

The governing center-right coalition was re-elected last year; the once dominant Social Democrats suffered their worst defeat since before World War I.

Between 1980 and 1992, Sweden lost ground relative to other rich countries, according to a McKinsey study. Since 2009, however, Sweden has one of the faster-growing economies in Western Europe. The growth has been led by the private sector, where jobs are multiplying.

Sweden’s right turn started back in the early 1990s, but the turn is being institutionalized under the prime ministership of Fredrik Reinfeldt. Reinfeldt is a cautious conservative in the manner of Britain’s David Cameron. His party is formally known as the Moderates, and he goes to great pains to reassure Swedes that the party will live up to its billing.

In five years in office, he has repealed Sweden’s wealth taxes and inheritance taxes. He has reduced the labor taxes that pushed almost all home repairs into the black market. He has championed a simple powerful idea: Work should pay better than benefits. He is prevailing.

As he prevails, he changes the country’s political culture.

Swedish civil servants used to see the Social Democrats as the natural party of government. Over five years of conservative governance — and with at least three more to come — the civil servants are adjusting. The people who run the Swedish state day-to-day are learning that promotion goes to those with the best ideas for expanding opportunity and accelerating growth.


June 16, 2011

David W. Lesch, a Syria expert on CNN on June 16, 2011 said that the fall of Colonel Gadhafi of Libya within the next few months could be a game-changer. It will present a new model for regime change in the Mideast:

Limited but targeted military support from the West combined with an identifiable rebellion.

Lesch says this model may not be easily applied to Syria because the regime in that country is stronger than the Gadhafi regime in Libya. Also the Syrian opposition is less united and less able to establish a Benghazi-like refuge from which to launch a rebellion that can be aided by the West.

Should there be regime change in Libya, however, the international community might be emboldened with the precedent, with maybe even the Russians finally getting on board, and it would give the Syrian regime something to really think about.

The Syrian regime does not want, nor can it probably survive, long-term international pressure or isolation, but it is used to sanctions, special tribunals, the withdrawing of ambassadors and similar actions. These are marginal levers that will have very little effect on the regime in the near term.

Comment: With the new model for regime change in the Mideast a Libya-type option for Syria might be possible if the Syrian opposition could unite and start an organized rebellion with a firm leadership.


June 16, 2011

Fox News on June 15, 2011, reported that Libyan rebel forces are advancing closer to the capital of Tripoli on three fronts as forces loyal to leader Muammar al-Qaddafi shelled rebel positions in the Western mountains Wednesday, according to Reuters.

A rebel spokesman told Reuters that there were no casualties in the town of Nalut.

“Qaddafi’s forces bombarded Nalut… Over 20 Grad rockets landed in the town. They bombarded from their positions… around 12 miles east of Nalut,” the rebel spokesman said.

Rebel forces have seized the town of Kikla and also pushed several miles west of their Misrata stronghold to the outskirts of government-held Zlitan, also according to Reuters.