Friday, February 27, 2015

U.S. Intelligence Chief Describes 'Pervasive Uncertainty' Of Worldwide Threats

Jim Garamone at the DoD News offers the below piece:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2015 - "Unpredictable instability" is the new normal, the director of National Intelligence told the Senate Armed Services Committee here yesterday.

James R. Clapper (seen above in his official photo) testified on worldwide threats facing the United States and gave his best advice on what he considers to be the dangers Americans need to be aware of.

He said 2014 had the highest rate of political instability since 1992, when the Soviet Union collapsed. Last year also saw the most deaths as a result of state-sponsored mass killing and the highest number of refugees and internally displaced persons since World War II.

"This pervasive uncertainty makes it all the harder to predict the future," he said.

The North Korean cyberattack on Sony, the Ebola epidemic, and dramatic terrorist attacks in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France and the United States mean 2015 promises to be as unstable as 2014, Clapper said.

Cyber, Terror Concerns

Cyberattacks are increasing in frequency, scale, sophistication and severity of impact, he said. The U.S. government must be prepared for a massive cyberattack, he added, but the truth is the nation is already living with a constant and expanding barrage of cyberattacks.

Nations, criminal networks, terror groups and even individuals can launch these attacks, Clapper said. He highlighted the actions of North Korea, Iran, Russia and China in the cyber realm.

The terrorist threat grew last year, also, the director said.

"In 2013, just over 11,500 terrorist attacks worldwide killed approximately 22,000 people," he said. "Preliminary data for the first nine months of 2014 reflects nearly 13,000 attacks, which killed 31,000 people."

About half of all attacks, as well as fatalities occurred in just three countries: Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, Clapper said. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant conducted more terror attacks than any other entity in the first nine months of 2014.

A new terror threat comes from "radicalized" individuals who travel to fight with ISIL in Syria or Iraq and then return to their home countries and launch attacks there, Clapper said. He estimates more than 20,000 Sunni foreign fighters have traveled to Syria from more than 90 countries to fight the Assad regime. Of that number, at least 13,600 have extremist ties, he said.

"About 180 Americans or so have been involved in various stages of travel to Syria," Clapper said.

Rise of ISIL

ISIL is increasing its influence outside of Iraq and Syria, seeking to expand its self-declared caliphate into the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa and South Asia and planning terrorist attacks against Western and Shia interests, Clapper said.

"ISIL's rise represents the greatest shift in the Sunni violent extremist landscape since al-Qaida affiliates first began forming, and it is the first to assume at least some characteristics of a nation state," the director said.

Iran is exerting its influence in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, he said. Iranian leaders have provided robust military support to Syrian leader Bashir al-Assad and to the Iraqi government. This includes arms, advisers, funding, intelligence collection, electronic warfare and cyber support and combat support, Clapper explained.

"More broadly, Iran will face many of the same decision points in 2015 as it did in 2014," Clapper said. "Foremost is whether the supreme leader will agree to a nuclear deal. He wants sanctions relief but, at the same time, to preserve his options on nuclear capabilities."

Yemen's political future and stability are, at best, uncertain. Iran has provided support to the Houthis -- a group that now controls the government -- for years," Clapper said. "Their ascendancy is increasing Iran's influence."

Russia's Intentions in Eastern Europe

Clapper discussed problematic relations with Russia, as the country seems intent on a revanchist strategy with Ukraine squarely in the cross hairs.

"Moscow sees itself in direct confrontation with the West over Ukraine and will be very prone to overreact to U.S. actions," he said. "[Russian President Vladimir] Putin's goals are to keep Ukraine out of NATO and to ensure separatist control of an autonomous entity within Ukraine. He wants Moscow to retain leverage over Kiev, and Crimea, in his view, is simply not negotiable."

China Modernizes its Military

China is an emerging power and China's leaders are primarily concerned with domestic issues, the Communist Party's hold on power, internal stability and economic growth, Clapper said.

"Although China is looking for stable ties with the United States," he said, "it is more willing to accept bilateral and regional tensions in pursuit of its interest, especially on maritime-sovereignty issues."

The Chinese government continues a robust military modernization program directly aimed at what they consider to be U.S. strengths, Clapper said.

"Their military training program last year included exercises unprecedented in scope, scale and complexity to both test modernization progress and to improve their theater warfare capabilities," he said.

FBI Counterterrorism Executive Briefs Congress On ISIL And Domestic Terrorism

The FBI website offers the below report:

The day after a criminal complaint was unsealed in federal court in New York charging three Brooklyn residents with attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), FBI Assistant Director Michael Steinbach (seen in the below photo) briefed a congressional subcommittee on the dynamic threat posed by foreign fighters traveling in support of ISIL and the continued threat to America posed by homegrown violent extremists.

According to Steinbach, the conflict in Syria and Iraq is currently the most attractive overseas theater for Western-based extremists who want to engage in violence. The Bureau estimates upwards of 150 Americans have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria to join extremist groups, and it also has to consider the influence of groups like ISIL on individuals located in the U.S. who could be inspired (particularly through the Internet and social media) to commit acts of violence. “It is this blending of homegrown violent extremism with the foreign fighter ideology that is today’s latest adaptation of the threat,” said Steinbach.

Given the global nature of these threats, Steinbach said that “regular engagement with our domestic and foreign partners concerning foreign fighters is critical,” and that—with these partners—we collect and analyze intelligence information related to the ongoing threat posed by ISIL and other foreign terrorist organizations. In addition to using a variety of investigative techniques and methods to combat these threats, the FBI recognizes its responsibility to share information concerning ongoing or emerging threats quickly with our local and state partners—and our Joint Terrorism Task Forces located in each of our 56 field offices serve as a “vital mechanism” for doing just that.

Steinbach was joined at the hearing—held before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations—by two of the Bureau’s local law enforcement partners: Charlotte (North Carolina) Police Chief Rodney Monroe and Hennepin County (Minnesota) Sheriff Richard Stanek.  

International Arms Traffickers Extradited For Conspiring To Kill Officers Or Employees Of The United States And To Provide Material Support to a Designated Foreign Terrorist Organization

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York and Administrator Michele Leonhart of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced today the extradition of Cristian Vintila, 44, Massimo Romagnoli, 43, and Virgil Flaviu Georgescu, 42, international arms traffickers charged with conspiring to sell large quantities of military-grade weaponry to the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (the FARC) – a designated foreign terrorist organization – to be used to kill officers and employees of the United States in Colombia. Vintila, Georgescu, and Romagnoli, all of whom were arrested in December 2014, were extradited from Montenegro yesterday and will be arraigned in front of U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Abrams later today.

“As alleged, these three men were ready and willing merchants of death, poised to sell sophisticated weapons to a terrorist organization,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara.  “It is further alleged that they conspired to sell the weaponry with the understanding that it would be used to shoot down American aircraft and kill American officers.  We once again laud the efforts of the DEA to stem the flow of lethal weapons that could be aimed at U.S. officers and to deter weapons traffickers who mean harm to the United States.”

According to the Indictment, which was unsealed in December 2014:

Since at least May 2014, Vintila has been a Romania-based weapons trafficker, Romagnoli has been a Europe-based weapons trafficker, who is able to procure fraudulent end-user certificates (EUCs) for military-grade weaponry, and Georgescu has been a Romania-based weapons broker.  Between May and October 2014, Vintila, Romagnoli, and Georgescu conspired to sell an arsenal of weapons, including machine guns and anti-aircraft cannons, with the understanding that the weapons would go to the FARC to be used by FARC against the United States.  During a series of recorded telephone calls and in-person meetings, Vintila, Romagnoli and Georgescu agreed to sell the weapons to three confidential sources working with the DEA (the CSs), who represented that they were acquiring these weapons for the FARC.  Vintila, Romagnoli and Georgescu agreed to provide these weapons to the CSs with the specific understanding that the weapons would be used to kill officers and employees of the United States and, in particular, to shoot down American helicopters and airplanes.  Romagnoli further agreed to provide fraudulent EUCs in order to make the illegal sale of weapons look legitimate.

During their recorded meetings, Vintila and Romagnoli provided the CSs with catalogues of military-grade weapons they were prepared to provide the FARC.  Vintila gave the CSs a catalogue of weapons that included pistols, machine guns and other high-powered weaponry, and Romagnoli showed the CSs a catalogue that included automatic weapons and shoulder-fired rocket launchers.  Romagnoli additionally showed one of the CSs a sample fraudulent EUC.  Vintila, Romagnoli, and Georgescu also discussed the logistics of receiving payment for the weapons from the CSs and delivering the weapons to the FARC.

* * *
The indictment charges Vintila, Romagnoli, and Georgescu, with two separate terrorism offenses:
Count one charges all three defendants with conspiracy to kill U.S. officers or employees.  If convicted of count one, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of life in prison.  Count two charges all three defendants with conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the FARC.  If convicted of count two, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.  The statutory maximum sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin joined U.S. Attorney Bharara in praising the outstanding investigative efforts of the DEA’s Special Operations Division, the DEA’s Bucharest Country Office, the DEA’s Rome Country Office, the Montenegrin National Police, and the Romanian National Police.  The defendants’ arrests and subsequent extradition are also the result of the close cooperative efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrea Surratt and Ilan Tuviah Graff, with assistance provided by Trial Attorney Brenda Sue Thornton of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Live Free Or Die: The Life And Wars Of John Stark

Chris Carola at the Washington Times offers a review of Richard V. Polhemus and John F. Polhemus' Stark: The Life and Wars of John Stark.

His words grace New Hampshire’s license plates - “Live Free or Die” - yet most people outside New England would be hard-pressed to identify Gen. John Stark, despite his heroics in two 18th century wars, including key roles in some of the American Revolution’s most significant battles.

Two brothers hope to enlighten readers with their new book on the Granite State’s favorite son, who did most of his soldiering in New York while serving in the forerunner of today’s U.S. Army Rangers and, two decades later, leading troops in the nation’s fight for independence.

“He was a lot better known in past years than he is now. He deserves for that to change,” said retired lawyer Richard Polhemus of Dover, New York, co-author with his brother, John, of “Stark, The Life and Wars of John Stark,” recently published by Delmar, New York-based Black Dome Press.

Born in New Hampshire to Scottish immigrant parents in 1728, Stark grew up hunting and trapping in the northern New England woods, where settlers were under constant threat of attack from Abenaki Indians allied to the French in Canada. In 1755, when the French and Indian War began, Stark joined a company of frontier scouts led by his friend, Robert Rogers.

Known as Rogers’ Rangers, the unit became famous for its daring forays into the northern New York wilderness to scout enemy movements for the British army. As one of Rogers’ lieutenants, Stark proved to be a cool-headed officer in some of the war’s fiercest guerrilla-style engagements. That reputation served him well when he recruited scouts for the Rangers and, later, New Hampshire militiamen during the Revolutionary War.  

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

FBI Agent Testifying In Trial Of Accused Al Qaeda Terrorist Says He Saw Body Of Osama Bin Laden

John Marzulli and Doreh Gregorian at the New York Daily News report on the testimony of an FBI special agent who says he saw the dead body of the most wanted terrorist in the world, Osama bin Laden.

He saw the body of the devil himself.

Testifying at a Brooklyn terror trial on Wednesday, FBI special agent Alexander Otte recalled seeing the corpse of Osama bin Laden after the Navy SEALS daring 2011 raid on the terror mastermind's secret lair in Pakistan.

Otte secured the computer files that were seized by the SEALS. They were delivered to a military hangar in Afghanistan — along with a corpse.

"It was the body of Osama bin Laden. I knew who he was," Otte said. “I recognized him

The computer files outlined other planned plots against the U.S. by the architects of the Sept. 11th attacks.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Snowden Could Not Attend The Oscars For Some Treason: Snowden's Disclosures Have Damaged U.S. Efforts To Battle Terrorists, Says NSA Admiral

Veteran national security reporter Bill Gertz at the Washington Free Beacan offers a piece on the NSA director's comments on Edward Snowden, who in my view is a spy and traitor.

Disclosures of National Security Agency secrets by the former contractor Edward Snowden have damaged U.S. efforts to battle terrorists, NSA Director Adm. Mike Rogers said on Monday.

“I would say that it has had a material impact on our ability to generate insights as to what terrorist groups around the world are doing,” Rogers said at a conference in Washington.

The admiral declined to provide specifics. “I don’t want them to have any doubt in their minds we are aggressively out hunting and looking for them,” he said during a cyber security conference hosted by the New America Foundation.

“And they should be concerned about that, and I want them to be concerned, quite frankly, because I’m concerned about the security of our nation,” Rogers said.

The director of the NSA in his comments voiced concerns that the security of Americans and overseas allies has been undermined by the leaks. “So anyone who thinks this has not had an impact, I would say, doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” he said.

... "Edward Snowden could not be here for some treason,” Harris said after Citizenfour, a film about Snowden, won an Oscar.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

Former Connecticut Resident Pleads Guilty To Attempting To Send Sensitive Military Documents To Iran

The U.S. Justice Department released the below information:

Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin and U.S. Attorney Deirdre M. Daly for the District of Connecticut announced that Mozaffar Khazaee, 60, formerly of Manchester, Connecticut, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Vanessa L. Bryant in Hartford to violating the Arms Export Control Act, in connection with his efforts to send to Iran sensitive, proprietary, trade secret and export controlled material relating to military jet engines for the U.S. Air Force’s F35 Joint Strike Fighter program and the F-22 Raptor program, which he had stolen from defense contractors where he had previously been employed.

“While employed with U.S. defense contractors, Mozaffar Khazaee stole sensitive, proprietary and controlled technology to send it to Iran,” said U.S. Attorney Daly.  “The illegal export of our military technology compromises U.S. national security and reduces the advantages our armed forces currently possess.  As today’s case demonstrates, we will aggressively investigate and hold accountable those who attempt to steal trade secrets and sensitive military technology from U.S. industries, whether for their own personal gain or for the benefit of foreign actors.”

“Today’s guilty plea demonstrates the ongoing cooperation with our federal law enforcement partners to prevent U.S. technology from falling into the wrong hands,” said Special Agent in Charge Bruce Foucart of HSI Boston.  “Across the globe, the magnitude and scope of threats facing the United States has never been greater, and that's why one of Homeland Security Investigations highest priorities is to prevent illicit procurement networks, terrorist groups and hostile nations from illegally obtaining U.S. military products and sensitive dual-use technologies.  Homeland Security Investigations takes pride in protecting our country, and today’s guilty plea is the latest example of our effective investigative efforts.”

“This joint investigation has emphasized the need for American companies to remain vigilant against the theft of valuable and sensitive technologies,” said Special Agent in Charge Patricia M. Ferrick of the FBI’s New Haven Division.  “As our nation continues to lead the way in research and development, we are constantly reminded that there are those who seek to advance their own causes by stealing the hard work of others, and we owe it to ourselves and to the American public to guard against it. The FBI vigorously investigates these matters in cooperation with our law enforcement partners, both domestic and abroad.”

“This investigation demonstrates the dedication of the Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service and our federal and military partners to ensure that critical technology is not exploited by criminals acting on behalf of governments hostile to the U.S.,” said Special Agent in Charge Craig W. Rupert of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service’s Northeast Field Office.  “Foreign governments continue to actively seek U.S. military technology in an effort to advance their own military development.  Today’s plea represents our continuing efforts to safeguard sensitive technology and to shield America’s investment in national defense by thwarting those who try to illegally acquire our national security assets.”

According to court documents and statements made in court, at different times between 2001 and 2013, Khazaee was employed by three separate defense contractors.  From at least 2009 through and including late 2013, Khazaee attempted to use trade secret, proprietary and export controlled material that he had obtained from his employers to gain employment in Iran.

In November and December 2009, Khazaee corresponded by email with an individual in Iran to whom he attempted to send, and in some cases did send, documents containing trade secret, proprietary and export controlled material relating to the Joint Strike Fighter Program.  In one email Khazaee wrote “some of these are very controlled . . . and I am taking [a] big risk.  Again please after downloading these two Power Point files delete everything immediately.”

Analysis of Khazaee’s computer media revealed not only additional documents containing proprietary, trade secret and export controlled material belonging to the U.S. defense contractors at which he had been employed, but also cover letters and application documents, dating from in or about 2009 through in or about 2013, in which Khazaee sought employment with multiple state-controlled technical universities in Iran.  In multiple letters Khazaee described the knowledge and skills he had obtained while working for the U.S. defense contractors and wrote:  “[a]s lead engineer in these projects I have learned some of the key technique[s] that could be transferred to our own industry and universities.”  Khazaee stated that he was “looking for an opportunity to work in Iran, and . . . transferring my skill and knowledge to my nation.”

In or about November 2013, while residing in Connecticut, Khazaee caused a shipment to be sent by truck from Connecticut to a freight forwarder located in Long Beach, California, which was intended for shipment to Iran.  The shipment included numerous boxes and digital media containing thousands of documents consisting of sensitive technical manuals, specification sheets, technical drawings and data, and other proprietary material relating to military jet engines and the United States Air Force’s F35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program and the F-22 Raptor.  Many documents were labeled as “Export-Controlled,” as well as stamped with “ITAR-controlled” warnings.  Khazaee did not apply for nor did he obtain any export license or written authorization to export any of the documents, and the export or attempted export of such material to Iran is illegal.

On Jan. 9, 2014, Khazaee was arrested at the Newark Liberty International Airport before boarding a flight with a final destination of Iran.  Search warrants executed on Khazaee’s checked and carry-on luggage revealed additional sensitive, proprietary, trade secret and export controlled documents relating to military jet engines, in both hard copy and in electronic form on Khazaee’s computer media.  Khazaee has been detained since that time.

Judge Bryan scheduled sentencing proceedings for May 20, 2015, at which time Khazaee faces up to 20 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine.

This investigation is being led by the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations in New Haven, in coordination with the New Haven Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service in New Haven and the Department of Commerce’s Boston Office of Export Enforcement.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin joins U.S. Attorney Daly in commending the efforts of the many other agencies and offices that were involved in this investigation, including U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Central District of California, the Southern District of Indiana and the District of New Jersey, Homeland Security Investigations in Los Angeles, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service in Los Angeles, the U.S. Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations in Los Angeles and Boston,  as well as HSI, CBP, and FBI in New Jersey, and HSI, FBI and DCIS in Indianapolis.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Stephen Reynolds and Krishna Patel of the National Security and Major Crimes Unit of the District of Connecticut, and Trial Attorney Brian Fleming of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.