Friday, September 30, 2016

FBI seeking former Syrian intelligence officer reportedly hiding in Florida

Moustafa Abed Ayoub

A Syrian former intelligence officer, who was given American citizenship several years ago, is being sought by authorities in the United States. The man was named by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week as Moustafa Abed Ayoub, a 75-year-old resident of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Astatement by the FBI said the wanted man is believed to be hiding in southern Florida, possibly in the Miami area. A reward is now offered for information leading directly to Ayoub, according to the FBI press release. The release did not specify whether the former intelligence officer is wanted in connection with the ongoing civil war in Syria.
The FBI press release described Ayoub as a former brigadier general in Syria’s powerful Mukhabarat, the Military Intelligence Directorate, which operates under the auspices of the country’s Ministry of Defense. He is reported to have served in the Mukhabarat for nearly 20 years, from the early 1980s to the late 1990s. According to the FBI release, Ayoub served initially in Hama and Homs before he was transferred to Damascus. It appears that Ayoub is accused by the FBI of procuring American citizenship unlawfully, after giving deliberately false testimony during his naturalization proceedings. To be eligible for American citizenship, an applicant must have lived in the US for at least 30 months during the period leading to his or her naturalization application. Ayoub is accused of not telling immigration authorities that he had spent over 1,000 days outside the US in the months leading to his application for citizenship.
The FBI said it issued a warrant for Ayoub’s arrest in Florida, where he is believed to be hiding. However, the FBI release noted that Ayoub may have returned to Syria, or may be currently residing in the Lebanese capital Beirut.

US lists Italian rapper turned Islamic State jihadist as global terrorist

Anas El Abboubi
Anas El Abboubi

The State Department added Anas El Abboubi, an Italian-born rapper who doubles as a jidhadist fighting for the Islamic State in Syria, to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorists earlier today. Abboubi was briefly in Italian custody in June 2013, but fled to Syria after he was released.
According to State, “Abboubi began to radicalize in 2012 after being relatively well known on the Italian hip hop scene as rapper McKhalif,” and by August of that year, “he established the Italian branch of an extremist organization.” While State did not name the organization, it is Sharia4Italy.
Italian police and counterterrorism forces in Brescia, Italy, detained Abboubi in June 2013 “for plotting a terrorist attack in Northern Italy and recruiting individuals for militant activity in Syria.”
According to quiBrescia, police seized Abboubi’s computer and “found texts in Arabic with video that explained how to build weapons and ordnance.” However, Abboubi was “released from prison because there was no hard evidence that he was organizing subversive or potentially dangerous activities.”
Abboubi disappeared shortly afterward and resurfaced in Syria, under the nom de guerre of Anas al Itali. He continued to post on the Sharia4Italy website and Facebook page up until 2015.
State noted that Abboubi “is one of approximately 50 foreign terrorist fighters of Italian origins fighting in Syria.”
Italy is a known hub for jihadists in Europe, and the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan has served as a headquarters for al Qaeda’s operations in the country. [See LWJ report, From al Qaeda in Italy to Ansar al Sharia Tunisia.]
Abboubi is one of several European rappers who have joined jihadist groups. The two most infamous are Denis Cuspert, a.k.a Deso Dogg, and Abdel Majed Abdel Bari, a.k.a. Lyricist Jinn.
Cuspert left Germany for Syria in 2013, where he eventually joined the Islamic State. While Cuspert abandoned his music to wage jihad, he became a prominent fixture in Islamic State propaganda. In one video, Cuspert is seen holding the severed head of a civilian. In another, Cuspert called on Germans to travel to Syria to fight alongside the Islamic State. The US added Cuspert to its list of global terrorists in February 2015.
Bari, a British citizen, traveled to Syria in 2013 and linked up with the Islamic State in 2014. He has been featured in numerous videos threatening Britain and the West, and was also seen holding a severed head. He was reported to have had a falling out with the Islamic State in June 2015 and fled to Turkey.
Bari comes from a jihadist pedigree. His father, Adel Abdel Bari, pled guilty for his role in the 1998 bombings at the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The senior Bari admitted to transmitting the claim of responsibility for the attacks and other communications from Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri.
Additionally, Omar Hammami, an American jihadist who joined Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, fancied himself a rapper. Hammami released several nasheeds, or Islamic chants. In one clumsy, rap-styled song, Hammami glorified death while waging jihad and asks to die in US drone strikes like other notorious Qaeda commanders. Shabaab killed Hammami after he refused to remain quiet about a dispute with the group.

How ISIS rewards its fighters: Snitch on your brother, win three sex slaves!


ALEPPO, Syria - In a tell-all interview, a captured ISIS fighter has made some shocking revelations about the functioning of the world’s most dreadful terror group. 
The captured jihadi fighter, identified as Abu Al-Mughira Al-Muhajer was one amongst the numerous ISIS fighters arrested at the Al-Sham front in Aleppo, Syria. He made the revelations in a TV interview in the United Arab Emirates.
Amongst the most shocking revelation made by Al-Muhajer was that that terror group would reward its fighters with sex slaves. 
Al-Muhajer recalled that he had helped capture his own brother who was trying to flee the militant regime and in return for his noble act, ISIS awarded him three slave girls. 
He added that ISIS would buy these women from a slave market in Raqqa, Syria for anywhere between $250 and $500.
He said in the chilling interview, “Whenever they took captives, they would bring slave girls, and they would place them on the slave market in Raqqa. Afterwards, they would sell them for dollars. Their price would range from $250 to $500. The Islamic State would buy slave girls and give them as rewards.”
Detailing the incident involving him, Al-Muhajer said, “After I informed on my brother who wanted to leave ISIS, I was rewarded with three slave girls - one from Damascus and two from Homs. All of them had been beaten on their backs. They told me that the girl from Damascus was a Yazidi and that the two girls from Homs were Christians.”
The ethnic group, Yazidis was mentioned in the statement by Abu Al-Mughira Al-Muhajer. This group is known for committing horrific genocide, killing 5,000, according to a UN estimate.
The jihadi said that he had been lied to by the ISIS commanders when it came to the women.
He stated, “They told me that the had been captured, but it turned out they were wives of Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters from the Islamic Front. So I went to the Emir and told him that they were not slave girls or anything. He admitted that they were wives of FSA fighters, but said that they too needed to be captured.”

French fighter jets on mission against IS in Mosul

A rafale fighter jet takes off from the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the Mediterranean

Eight jets took off from the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle in the eastern Mediterranean in preparation of an offensive backed by Britain and the US to liberate the city.
Iraqi forces will lead the operation, backed by western special forces and aircraft including the RAF, once it starts - possibly in October.
A French defence official said Friday's mission "in no way" marked the beginning of the battle to retake Mosul.
However, it is unclear whether the jets will carry out airstrikes or reconnaissance.
French radio station RTL reported the warplanes were armed with four 250kg laser-guided bombs each, and that the operation would involve an attack on average every three minutes.
US and British drones have been flying constant surveillance missions over the city.
They have witnessed senior IS leaders flee, but intelligence reports estimate there are between 2,500 and 3,000 fighters left.
An assault on the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul is expected to begin in early October
The Pentagon is hoping to obtain a raft of intelligence on IS, including its foreign networks, during the offensive.
Many of the 615 additional soldiers Washington is sending to Iraq are intelligence specialists who will help the Iraqis use any intelligence gathered from the northern city as quickly as possible.
"When you free a city like Mosul, you can expect a tremendous lot of intelligence," Colonel John Dorrian, a coalition spokesman, said from Baghdad.
The French mission comes after Iraqi forces retook two villages on the border of Nineveh and Salahuddin provinces from IS earlier this month as part of a broader operation to secure supply lines ahead of a move on Mosul.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned up to one million Iraqis could be forced to flee their homes as the war intensifies against IS.
The flight of so many people could pose a "massive humanitarian problem" for Iraq, the Geneva-based aid group said.
More than three million civilians are already displaced inside the country and 10 million people are in need of assistance.
Around Mosul, the United Nations is preparing for what it has described as the largest relief operation so far this year to provide food, water and shelter for people fleeing the area.
The British government has begun moving aid into northern Iraq in anticipation.
US-backed government forces have trained their sights on Mosul since retaking full control of Fallujah, 30 miles west of Baghdad, after a vast operation against IS in May.

DHS Official Admits Some Refugees Allowed Into U.S. Based on Their Testimony Alone

Senior Homeland Security official León Rodríguez admitted Thursday that some refugees are allowed into the United States based solely on their testimony to authorities.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) grilled Rodríguez on the Obama administration’s refugee resettlement program during a Senate Judiciary immigration subcommittee hearing. Cruz and other lawmakers highlighted issues with the current refugee vetting process.
Cruz began his questioning by reading part of a DHS memorandum on the vetting process for refugees, Townhall reported. The memorandum states that the “refugee program is particularly vulnerable of fraud due to loose evidentiary requirements where at times the testimony of an applicant alone is sufficient for approval.”
When Cruz finished reading, Rodríguez, director of Citizenship and Immigration Services at DHS, fired back against the memorandum, arguing the document was written by an individual who lacked knowledge of the vetting process.
“What I am telling you is that I would not give that document a whole lot of credit because whoever that person was did not do the homework to learn about our process,” Rodríguez said.
Cruz then pushed Rodríguez on whether it was true or false that testimony of the applicant can solely be sufficient for approval into the United States.
“It depends on the case. Usually we do have extensive documentation. Syrians in particular present with extensive documentation passports, military records, so there is documentation that we review,” Rodríguez said.
Rodríguez went into further detail before Cruz cut him off, saying he asked a simple question and wanted a simple answer but his time had expired.
“There are cases where the testimony is not necessarily corroborated by documents, but it is always tested against country conditions and other information. That is why it doesn’t lend itself in the way that you’re asking the question, senator,” Rodríguez said.
“Are you saying it’s true, or are you saying it’s false?” Cruz asked. “I’m just trying to understand.”
“I am acknowledging that, yes, testimony can be the basis for the grant of a refugee, but it needs to be tested against other information that we know–about the country conditions, at a minimum,” Rodríguez said.
Following Cruz’s questioning, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) lambasted Rodríguez for taking so long to answer Cruz’s question.
“This is the Congress of the United States. We have a right to ask questions. We expect unbiased objective answers and [Cruz] took too long to get you to acknowledge that answer and I do not appreciate it,” Sessions said.
FBI Director James Comey also admitted Wednesday that the federal government does not have the ability to conduct background checks on 10,000 Syrian refugees coming to the United States.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

MI6 to recruit hundreds more staff in response to digital technology

MI6 building

The UK’s overseas intelligence agency is to recruit hundreds more staff over the next four years in response to the pace of change in digital technology.
MI6, which employs 2,500 people at present, deals with intelligence-gathering and operations abroad, while MI5 is responsible for security within the UK.
The government announced last year that the security services would be given 1,900 additional staff – and MI6 is the main beneficiary. BBC’s Newsnight put the rise in staff for MI6 at 1,000 but it is believed to be fewer than that, though still substantial.
There is increasing reliance by worldwide intelligence agencies upon the internet, social media and changes such as facial recognition; rather than the running of agents as in the past.
One fear is that easier access to information, tracking and cross-checking can also be used against MI6 operatives.
The head of MI6, Alex Younger, speaking in Washington DC on Tuesday, said: “The information revolution fundamentally changes our operating environment. In five years’ time there will be two sorts of intelligence services: those that understand this fact and have prospered, and those that don’t and haven’t. And I’m determined that MI6 will be in the former category.
“The third and most important part of British intelligence is the surveillance agency GCHQ, which in partnership with the US National Security Agency, is responsible for scooping up most of the intelligence through tracking phone calls, emails, chat lines and other communications.”
Younger expressed concern about enemies also exploiting these new capabilities. He said: “Our opponents, who are unconstrained by conditions of lawfulness or proportionality, can use these capabilities to gain increasing visibility of our activities which means that we have to completely change the way that we do stuff.”
Both the NSA and GCHQ relied heavily on cooperation from the major internet companies but that relation was badly damaged by the revelations of the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. The internet companies not only faced a backlash from customers concerned about their privacy but were displeased on discovering that, in spite of their cooperation, the agencies were accessing their information anyway through backdoor channels.
Younger said: “I think that the real issue for us has been the effect that this has had on the levels of trust between the intelligence communities internationally and the technology community where I think that the right and proper response to the common threats that face us is through community of effort and teamwork between those different groups. And to the extent that those revelations damaged and undermined the trust that needs to exist, I think it is highly problematic.”
Asked about the threat posed by groups such as al-Qaida and Islamic State, Younger said: “I would like to be optimistic about this but we have got quite a long experience of this phenomenon now and I see it very much as the flip-side to some very deep-seated global trends, not least of all globalisation: the reduction of barriers between us.
“It’s a function also of the information revolution and the capacity for ideas to travel. It is fuelled by a deepening sectarian divide in the Middle East and there are some deep social economic and demographic drivers to the phenomenon that we know as terrorism. Allied with the emergence of state failure this means that, regrettably, this is an enduring issue which will certainly be with us, I believe, for our professional lifetime.”
At the conference, staged by the Central Intelligence Agency and George Washington University, Younger said increased cooperation between agencies and improvements in the way governments tackled terror were “doing a great deal to mitigate the threat”.

Iran threatens to 'turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust' if Israel missteps

Iran military

 In an attempt to tout its military prowess on Wednesday, Iran threatened to "turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust" during a parade of the Islamic Republic's armed forces in Tehran.

Iran marked the anniversary of its 1980 invasion by Iraq by parading its latest ships and missiles and telling the United States not to meddle in the Gulf.

At a parade in Tehran, shown on state TV, the military displayed a wide array of long-range missiles, tanks, and the Russian-supplied S-300 surface-to-air missile defense system.

In a reference to Iran's arch-foe Israel, a banner on one military truck shown on state TV read,: "If the leaders of the Zionist regime make a mistake then the Islamic Republic will turn Tel Aviv and Haifa to dust."

Iran’s military chief of staff Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri said at the parade that the $38 million, 10-year defense aid package granted to Israel by the United States makes Iran “more determined” to strengthen its military.

“The criminal move [by the United States] to sign an agreement to present a supportive military package to the Zionist regime is a desperate attempt to protect the security vacuum of the regime and makes us more determined to increase our military power,” Baqeri said, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in Tehran (CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI/AFP) 
Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in Tehran (CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI/AFP)

At the port of Bandar Abbas on the Gulf, the navy showed off 500 vessels, as well as submarines and helicopters, at a time of high tension with the United States in the strategic waterway.

US officials say there have been more than 30 close encounters between US and Iranian vessels in the Gulf so far this year, over twice as many as in the same period of 2015.

On September 4, a US Navy coastal patrol ship changed course after an Iranian Revolutionary Guard fast-attack craft came within 100 yards (91 meters) of it in the central Gulf, at least the fourth such incident in less than a month, US Defense Department officials said.

"We tell the Americans that it's better that the capital and wealth of the American people should not be wasted on their inappropriate and detrimental presence in the Persian Gulf," said Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in Tehran (CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI/AFP) 
Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in Tehran (CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI/AFP)

The Tasnim news site quoted him as saying: "If they want to extend their reach and engage in adventurism they should go to the Bay of Pigs" - a reference to the location of a botched US attempt to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro in 1961.

In Tehran, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, declared that Iran wanted peace.

But he also said Iran's lessons in the 1980-88 war against Iraq now served as a guide for "our brothers in faith" in Syria, "Palestine," Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Bahrain, a checklist of countries where Iran has political, religious or military allies.

The Russian-supplied missile defense system on show in Tehran was deployed last month around Iran's underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow. Enrichment at the site, around 100 km (60 miles) south of Tehran, has stopped since the implementation in January of Iran's agreement with world powers to curb its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions.

Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in Tehran (CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI/AFP) 
Iranian soldiers march during the annual military parade marking the anniversary of the start of Iran's 1980-1988 war with Iraq, on September 21, 2016, in Tehran (CHAVOSH HOMAVANDI/AFP)

Also on display was the Qadr H missile, which has a range of 2,000 km, according to state TV. Iran's ballistic missile program has been criticized by the West, and the US Treasury imposed sanctions on two Iranian companies in March because of their alleged ties to it.

The Russian-supplied missile defense system on show in Tehran was deployed last month around Iran's underground uranium enrichment facility at Fordow. Enrichment at the site, around 100 km (60 miles) south of Tehran, has stopped since the implementation in January of Iran's agreement with world powers to curb its nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions.

Also on display was the Qadr H missile, which has a range of 2,000 km, according to state TV. Iran's ballistic missile program has been criticized by the West, and the US Treasury imposed sanctions on two Iranian companies in March because of their alleged ties to it.

British judge denies request to name alleged new member of Cambridge spy ring

Corpus Christi College Cambridge

A document that allegedly contains the name of a man who could be connected to one of the most sensational spy rings of the Cold War is to remain secret after a judge rejected a request to have it released. The man is believed by some to have been associated with the so-called ‘Cambridge spy ring’, a group of upper-class British graduates of Cambridge University, who spied for the USSR from the 1930s until the 1960s. Among them was Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and H.A.R. “Kim” Philby, all of whom eventually defected to the Soviet Union. In 1979, it was revealed that Anthony Blunt, an art history professor who in 1945 became Surveyor of the King’s Pictures and was knighted in 1954, was also a member of the group. A fifth member, career civil servant and former intelligence officer John Cairncross, was publicly outed as a Soviet in 1990, shortly before his death.

Over the years, more individuals have been suggested by historians as potential members of the group, including intelligence officers Leo Long and Guy Liddell, academics Ludwig Wittgenstein and Andrew Gow, and physicist Wilfrid Mann. But according to British newspaper The Daily Mail, another individual may be identified in a classified document as a possible member of the Cambridge spy ring. The document was allegedly traced by Andrew Lownie, who authored the recently published Stalin’s Englishman: The Lives of Guy Burgess. Lownie filed a Freedom of Information request to have the document, which is held at the National Archives in London, released. But the request was denied, and a judge has now upheld the decision.

In denying the request, the judge argued that the man named in the document is still alive and that a possible release of the document could “jeopardize […] personal relationships”. He also contended that the case is too old to warrant immediate public interest, and thus there was “no pressing need” to declassify the file. The Mail speculates that the individual named in the document could have cooperated with the British government in the past in return for protection, or that the file in question may contain details that could embarrass the British government.

Informer accuses Sinn Féin leader of ordering British spy’s murder

Denis Donaldson

A former member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, who was an agent for the British security services, has alleged that Gerry Adams, leader of the second-largest political party in Northern Ireland, ordered the killing of a British spy in 2006. The former agent was referring to the killing of Denis Donaldson, a senior member of the Provisional IRA, who was found dead months after it was revealed that he had been secretly spying on the republican organization on behalf of British intelligence.

In December 2005, Adams announced at a press conference in Dublin, Ireland, that Donaldson had been a spy for the British government inside the Provisional IRA and its political wing, Sinn Féin. Soon after Adams’ revelation, Donaldson read a prepared statement on Ireland’s RTÉ television station, admitting that he had been recruited as a spy by the British Security Service (MI5) and the Special Branch of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (known today as the Police Service of Northern Ireland). Following his public admission, Donaldson was nowhere to be found. However, in March 2006, a reporter for a British tabloid newspaper found Donaldson living in a remote farmhouse in Northern Ireland’s County Donegal. Weeks later, Donaldson was shot dead in his cottage by persons unknown. In 2009, the Real IRA, a Provisional IRA splinter group that disagreed with the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent cessation of hostilities, took responsibility for Donaldson’s killing.

On Tuesday, a man who claims he was an informant for British intelligence inside Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA alleged that Donaldson’s killing was ordered by Adams himself. The man, who spoke on the BBC’s Spotlight program, could not be identified due to concerns about his personal safety. He said during a televised interview that he knew from his “experience in the IRA that murders have to be approved by […] the leadership of the IRA and the military leadership of the IRA”. When asked by the report who he was “specifically referring to”, the former informant answered: “Gerry Adams. He gives the final say”. On Wednesday, Adams denied any involvement in the killing, saying he wished to “specifically and categorically refute these unsubstantiated allegations”. The leader of Sinn Féin went on to claim that the accusations against him were “part of the British security agencies’ ongoing attempts to smear republicans and cover-up their own actions”. Adams’ lawyer said late on Wednesday that his client was considering launching a lawsuit against the BBC for defamation.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

France's 'first all-female ISIS cell' allegedly sought to strike Eiffel Tower

French police

Authorities have reportedly uncovered the first all-female Islamic State cell in France after several suspects were detained over alleged plans to attack the Eiffel Tower.

The four-woman cell's purported leading member was arrested last week in connection to an explosives-laden car found near another Paris landmark - the Notre Dame cathedral.

The leading suspect, an alleged 29-year-old mother-of-three was named as Ornella Gilligman. She reportedly told French authorities that her jihadi cell had preferred to target the iconic Eiffel Tower, and not in fact the cathedral. 

Last Sunday, French authorities found the car near Notre Dame loaded with gas cylinders and jerry cans of diesel.

The finding lead to the discovery of a plot to attack a Paris railway station under the direction of Islamic State.

Seven people, including the four women, were arrested on suspicion of connection to the plot. 

One of the women, arrested on Thursday stabbed a police officer during her arrest on Thursday.

Gilligman was arrested with her partner on a motorway on Tuesday and was placed under investigation on Saturday.

The man was freed on Saturday.

The discovery of the vehicle triggered a terrorism investigation and revived fears about further attacks in a country where Islamist militants have killed more than 230 people since January 2015.

North Korea ramps up uranium enrichment, enough for six nuclear bombs a year:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives field guidance to the January 18 General Machine Plant in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 10, 2016. KCNA/ via REUTERS

North Korea will have enough material for about 20 nuclear bombs by the end of this year, with ramped-up uranium enrichment facilities and an existing stockpile of plutonium, according to new assessments by weapons experts.
The North has evaded a decade of U.N. sanctions to develop the uranium enrichment process, enabling it to run an effectively self-sufficient nuclear program that is capable of producing around six nuclear bombs a year, they said.
The true nuclear capability of the isolated and secretive state is impossible to verify. But after Pyongyang conducted its fifth and most powerful nuclear test last week and, according to South Korea, was preparing for another, it appears to have no shortage of material to test with.
North Korea has an abundance of uranium reserves and has been working covertly for well over a decade on a project to enrich the material to weapons-grade level, the experts say.
That project, believed to have been expanded significantly, is likely the source of up to 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of highly enriched uranium a year, said Siegfried Hecker, a leading expert on the North's nuclear program.
That quantity is enough for roughly six nuclear bombs, Hecker, who toured the North's main Yongbyon nuclear facility in 2010, wrote in a report on the 38 North website of Johns Hopkins University in Washington published on Monday.
Added to an estimated 32- to 54 kilogram plutonium stockpile, the North will have sufficient fissile material for about 20 bombs by the end of 2016, Hecker said.
North Korea said its latest test proved it was capable of mounting a nuclear warhead on a medium-range ballistic missile, but its claims to be able to miniaturize a nuclear device have never been independently verified. [nL3N1BL1ND]
Assessments of the North's plutonium stockpile are generally consistent and believed to be accurate because experts and governments can estimate plutonium production levels from telltale signs of reactor operation in satellite imagery.
South Korean Defence Minister Han Min-koo this year estimated the North's plutonium stockpile at about 40 kilograms.
But Hecker, a former director of the U.S. Los Alamos National Laboratory, where nuclear weapons have been designed, has called North Korea's uranium enrichment program "their new nuclear wildcard," because Western experts do not know how advanced it is.
Jeffrey Lewis of the California-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies said North Korea had an unconstrained source of fissile material, both plutonium from the Yongbyon reactor and highly-enriched uranium from at least one and probably two sites.
"The primary constraint on its program is gone," Lewis said. Weapons-grade plutonium has to be extracted from spent fuel taken out of reactors and then reprocessed, and therefore would be limited in quantity. A uranium enrichment program greatly boosts production of material for weapons.
The known history of the uranium enrichment project dates to 2003, when the North was confronted by the United States with evidence of a clandestine program to build a facility to enrich uranium with the help of Pakistan.

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said in his memoirs that A.Q. Khan, the father of that country's nuclear program, transferred two dozen centrifuges to the North and some technical expertise around 1999.
"It was also clear that the suspected Pakistani connection had taken place, as the centrifuge design resembled Pakistan's P-2 centrifuge," Hecker said in a report in May.
Hecker reported being shown around a two-story building in the Yongbyon complex in November 2010 that a North Korean engineer said contained 2,000 centrifuges and a control room Hecker called "astonishingly modern."
By 2009, the North had likely acquired the technology to be able to expand the uranium project indigenously, Joshua Pollack, editor of the U.S.-based Nonproliferation Review, has said.
North Korea has not explicitly admitted to operating the centrifuges to produce weapons-enriched uranium, instead claiming they were intended to generate fuel for a light water reactor it was going to build.
Despite sanctions, by now North Korea is probably largely self-sufficient in operating its nuclear program, although it may still struggle to produce some material and items, Lewis said.
"While we saw this work in Iran, over time countries can adjust to sanctions," he said.

Edward Snowden: Why Obama should pardon me

The world famous whistle-blower is making his case for a presidential pardon, saying his decision to leak a trove of highly classified National Security Agency documents helped bring about much needed change.
"If not for these disclosures, if not for these revelations, we would be worse off," Snowden told The Guardian journalist Ewen MacAskill in a video interview published Tuesday.
Snowden now lives in Russia, where he fled after sharing with MacAskill and other journalists a vast database of documents that revealed the scope of the NSA's surveillance efforts in the United States and abroad.
Asked about the prospect of a presidential pardon, Snowden said the legal process -- most often used by U.S. presidents as they leave office -- was appropriate in his case.
Yes, there are laws on the books that say one thing, but perhaps this is why the pardon power exists -- for the exceptions, for the things that may seem unlawful in letters on a page but when we look at them morally, when we look at them ethically, and when we look at the results, it seems obvious that these were necessary things," he said. 
The timing of Snowden's interview with The Guardian appears to be timed to coincide with the release of "Snowden," an Oliver Stone biopic about the former NSA contractor's exploits.
Prominent advocacy groups Amnesty International and the ACLU are also poised to launch a campaign asking for Obama to grant Snowden a pardon. The organizations have scheduled a press conference for Wednesday and established a website for their campaign.
Snowden has been charged with violating the United States Espionage Act. He has said consistently that he would be willing to return home if he could face a fair trial.
The leak prompted significant changes in Washington, including the passage of legislation that revoked the NSA's authority to collect the phone records of millions of Americans.
Snowden's case for a pardon may not be entirely hopeless. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told CNN in May that while Snowden should still face trial, he had performed a "public service" by triggering a debate over surveillance techniques.
At the White House, though, there has been little in the way of conciliatory gestures. Spokesman Josh Earnest addressed the prospect of a pardon on Monday, saying that President Obama's position had not changed.
obama ottawa

"Mr. Snowden has been charged with serious crimes, and it's the policy of the administration that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face those charges," Earnest said.
"The fact is the manner in which Mr. Snowden chose to disclose this information damaged the United States, harmed our national security, and put the American people at greater risk," he added.

French police arrest another teenage boy on suspicion of plotting terror attack

police france

French police on Wednesday arrested a 15-year old suspected of planning an attack and using encrypted social media channels to communicate with a French Islamist militant believed to be in Syria or Iraq, sources said.
In an operation led by France's domestic intelligence agency, police swooped on the teenager in Paris' eastern 20th arrondissement.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve confirmed the operation. "We're working with extreme intensity to identify those we think are likely to carry out an attack," he told reporters, adding that Islamic State was recruiting "younger and younger individuals".
It is the second time a 15-year-old minor suspected of plotting to kill in the name of Islamic State has been arrested in five days. A source inside the prosecutor's office said both youngsters had used Telegram to communicate with Rachid Kassim, an Islamic State jihadist of French nationality.
Their arrests follow the detention of three women, including a 19-year-old, who had allegedly wanted to attack a Paris railway station using a car laden with gas cylinders.
France is reeling from a wave of militant attacks on its territory that have killed more than 230 people since January, 2015, and its intelligence services are struggling to dismantle a web of militant networks inside the country.
The attacks have varied in style and profile of killer: In November last year, a squad of suicide bombers and gunmen killed 130 people in a sophisticated and coordinated attack on multiple sites in Paris; In July, a Tunisian delivery man killed 86 people when he drove his truck through a crowd on Nice's seafront; and two militants knifed to death an elderly priest at his altar in a church in northern France.
"What sets France apart (from other European nations) is the wide-open profile of recruit: urban or rural, Muslim or convert, man or woman," said Arnaud Danjean, a European Parliament lawmaker who specializes in defense and security.
"Acts like the attempted attack with gas cylinders, the throat-slitting of a priest, or the guy who plows his truck through a crowd, that today is the face of this threat" in France, said Danjean.

Germany Arrests 3 Syrians on Suspicion of ISIS Ties

BERLIN — Three Syrians who entered Germany as migrants have been arrested on suspicion of belonging to the Islamic State and may have links to those who carried out the Paris terrorist attacks last year, the authorities said on Tuesday.
Thomas de Maizière, the German interior minister, said the travel documents the men were carrying when they were arrested on Tuesday had been issued by the same authority as ones found on some of the men who carried out the attacks in and around Paris in November. The authorities also said that the three Syrians appeared to have used the same smugglers to enter Germany and to apply for asylum as some of those involved in the terrorist assaults in France.
“It could be that this was a sleeper cell,” Mr. de Maizière told reporters.
Prosecutors said in a statement that they believed the three came to Germany in November to carry out a planned attack for the group, also known as ISIL or ISIS, or to await instructions for one.


While there was no indication the three had been planning a specific attack, prosecutors said they had sufficient evidence to arrest the men on suspicion of membership in a foreign terrorist organization.
The German security authorities have been on high alert since two young men who entered the country as migrants carried out separate attacks in Bavaria in July, wounding dozens. Both attacks appeared linked to or inspired by the Islamic State, the authorities said.
The three men arrested on Tuesday were identified only by their first names and last initials, in keeping with German privacy laws. They entered the country in November by traveling through Turkey and Greece and had been living in refugee shelters north of Hamburg, the German news media reported.
In October, the suspects “pledged to an Islamic State operative responsible for operations and attacks outside of Islamic State-held territory to travel to Europe,” where they were to carry out a planned attack or await instructions, prosecutors said. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

France sees sharp fall in number of citizens joining Islamic State

An Islamic State flag is seen in this picture illustration taken February 18, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

The number of French citizens travelling to join Islamic State in 2016 has dropped drastically from last year, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Tuesday, putting the fall down to military reverses suffered by the militant group.
With Europe's largest Muslim population, France has been a major centre for recruitment of would-be jihadis joining Islamic State, with hundreds of people travelling to the region since the group took control of large swathes of Iraq and Syria.
Speaking to security agents at the ministry, Cazeneuve said there had been a "fourfold decrease" with just 18 French people recorded travelling to the area in the first six months of the year compared with 69 in the corresponding period in 2015.
The depletion, he said, was explained by the group's recent losses on the ground but also by France's "enhanced anti-terrorism efforts."
According to interior ministry figures released on Tuesday, 689 French citizens are still in the region, including 275 women and 17 underage fighters.
More than 900 people have been identified as having either attempted to travel to the region or expressed a desire to go there, the ministry's figures showed.

Terror-hit France to put THOUSANDS of armed undercover marshals on national train network

Armed policemen

TRAINS across France will be patrolled by 3,000 armed security guards - many dressed as civilians - in a bid to better protect travellers from terror attacks.

The so-called ‘train marshals’ will have a similar role to ‘sky marshals’ - plainclothes security guards armed with guns whose job is to protect commercial airliners from skyjacking.
Thousands of railway security guards are already allowed on trains on the national service, SNCF, carrying truncheons and handcuffs but a bill has finally been passed to arm them with guns.
But the new decree under the Savary law would allow train marshals to carry similar firearms to the ones carried by regular police officers, and will also allow them to patrol undercover.
Railway chiefs have pushed for the extreme action in light of the increasing terror threat to hit the country.

Armed police 
The new decree would allow train marshals to carry similar firearms to regular police officers

Last August, five civilians tackled and subdued a heavily-armed gunman,‎ Moroccan extremist Ayoub El Khazzani, as he opened fire on the high-speed train, saving the lives of scores of people.
In April, some eight months after the attack, Guillaume Pépy, the president of the SNCF, confirmed the train company would be upping its security measures, and that passengers should be able to board trains in “peace”.

These new security measures come under the ‘Loi Savary,’ a law finally now enacted to “prevent and combat incivilities, public security threats, and terrorist attacks on public transport”.
A spokesperson for the SNCF said: “These new security measures could be implemented soon, but we need to be given enough time to gear up our security agents and teach them safe gun handling techniques.”

French armed police 

The Savary law already gives security agents the right to carry out identity checks and to go through a passenger’s bag once they are inside the station.
According to the SNCF, the new law will not only allow the train marshals to carry a gun, but also enable them to collaborate more closely with the police force on key operations.



FBI warns against alleged Russian campaign to destabilize US elections

Putin and Obama

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is among several intelligence agencies in the United States that have expressed concerns about an alleged Russian campaign to destabilize November’s presidential elections. The Washington Post, which revealed the FBI’s concerns on Monday, claimed that Moscow recently launched an “active measures” operation aimed at covertly sabotaging the integrity of the US election process. Russia’s goal, said the paper, was to “counter US leadership and influence in international affairs”, thus subverting America’s image, especially in countries of the former Eastern Bloc or former Soviet republics.

According to The Post, the FBI and other US intelligence agencies have “no definitive proof” that Moscow is attempting to promote public distrust in American political institutions. But there are strong indications that have made this topic “a priority” for intelligence officials from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, said the paper. These indications include the hack of the computer systems at the Democratic National Committee, the official governing body of the US Democratic Party, which was revealed in June. The hack resulted in the disclosure of over 20,000 internal emails and led to the resignation of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, the DNC’s Chairwoman. According to The Post, the hack is “not yet officially ascribed by the US government to Russia”, but US intelligence officials are convinced that Moscow was behind it.

The DNC hack prompted the FBI to send a so-called “flash alert” to US election officials in July, urging them to remain vigilant against “attempts to penetrate election systems”, which have been detected in several states, according to the report. The unprecedented FBI alert did not expressly name Russia as a national-security threat, nor did it give details of electoral sabotage. But it urged state election officials to “be on the lookout for intrusions into their election systems”. Citing unnamed intelligence officials, The Post said that the investigation into alleged Russian operations against the US Presidential election is being coordinated by James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence.

Poland requests multi-billion-euro Patriot missile system


Polish Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz on Tuesday said he had approached the US defence firm Raytheon about buying the Patriot missile system.

"Today, I signed the decision to address a letter of request to the US government and the firm Raytheon in regard to ordering the Patriot system," Macierewicz told reporters.
"It concerns a total of eight missile batteries," he said.
Macierewicz, who was speaking on the sidelines of an arms fair in the southern city of Kielce, did not mention any price tag for the deal.
But local media had previously valued it at an estimated five billion euros ($5.6 billion euros).
The Patriot is a mobile air defence system designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, low-flying cruise missiles and aircraft.
The Eurosam consortium including MBDA France, MBDA Italy and Thales Group of France is the other contender for the deal.
Macierewicz, who inked a letter of intent with Raytheon in July, said Tuesday that Raytheon was offering "extremely advantageous offset conditions".
Raytheon had promised that Polish firms designated by the government would carry out at least 50 percent of the work involved, he said.




‘Blood will be spilled’ if Anas Haqqani is executed, Taliban threatens

 Anas Haqqani and Qari Abdul Rashid Omari (a.k.a. Hafiz Rashid). NDS photos via Khaama Press.

The Taliban threatened to attack “judicial installations” if the Afghan government follows through on executing Anas Haqqani, the brother of the group’s deputy emir who is also the operational leader of the Haqqani Network. Anas was detained in 2014 along with Qari Abdul Rasheed Omari, the Haqqani Network’s military commander for southeastern Afghanistan, after visiting the five Taliban leaders in Qatar who were exchanged for Bowe Bergdahl, the US soldier who deserted his unit in 2009 and was captured by the Taliban.
“Last time after the execution of the political prisoners many judicial installations were attacked giving severe blow to the government,” the Taliban said in a statement released on its official website, Voice of Jihad, on Sept. 2.
“If the higher courts also uphold the death sentence to Anas Haqqani, it will have very disastrous and dangerous consequences for the current regime,” it continued. “The war and its intensity will increase in all parts of the country. A lot of blood will be spilled and the government will be responsible for all of it.”
An Afghan court purportedly sentenced Anas to death in late August, Zee News reported at the end of the month.
Anas is the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Haqqani Network who serves as a member of the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s executive council. Anas’ brother, Sirajuddin, is the operational commander of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network who was named as one of the two deputies to Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the emir of the Taliban, in May 2016. Sirajuddin wields significant influence within the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, and is also linked to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.
The Taliban dispute the method of the detention of Anas and Rashid, a.k.a. Qari Abdul Rashid Omari, the younger brother of Mohammad Nabi Omari. Omari is a senior Taliban official who was held at Guantanamo beginning in late 2002. The Taliban have also said that the two were detained illegally.
In October 2014, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s intelligence service, claimed it captured Anas and Rashid during a special operations raid in Khost province, where the Haqqani Network is active. [See Threat Matrix report, Afghan intel agency captures two senior Haqqani Network leaders.]
The NDS claimed that Anas “has special skills in computer and was considered one of the master minds of this network in making propaganda through social networks. He was responsible for collecting and preparing funds from Arabic countries to carry out operations of this network.”
Rashid, according to the NDS, “was responsible of choosing targets and providing equipment to the suicide bombers,” that traveled from Peshawar, Pakistan to North and South Waziristan to their ultimate destination of the Afghan capital of Kabul. At the time of his capture, he was “a military commander of [the] Haqqani Network in south eastern provinces of Afghanistan” and previously served as the shadow governor of Ismailkhil district in Khost. [See Threat Matrix report, Afghan intel agency captures two senior Haqqani Network leaders.]
At the time of their capture, the Taliban claimed that Anas and Rashid were actually detained by the US in Bahrain, and transferred back to Qatar and then to Afghanistan into the custody of the NDS. The Taliban’s statement could not be independently verified. The US, Afghan, and Qatari governments have not discussed the detention of the two Haqqani Network leaders.
In addition to its claim that Anas and Rashid were detained illegally, the Taliban have maintained that Anas had no involvement in the group. After he was initially captured, the Taliban maintained that Anas was “a Talib-ul-ilm (student) in his last year of studies who does not have an affiliation with any current political movements.” [See LWJ report, Taliban claims captured Haqqani leaders visited ex-Gitmo detainees in Qatar.]
In its most recent statement, the Taliban said that Anas is “an ordinary student of religious school. He is also one of those members of his family who is not sanctioned by any authority because he was not involved in any political or military activity. There was no prize money on his head as he was not involved in any military or other activity.”
While the Taliban’s claim that Anas is not on the US list of specially designated global terrorists nor is he named on the Rewards for Justice website as a wanted individual, there are numerous Taliban commanders who are not on these lists.
In additional to claiming that Anas and Rashid were detained illegally and that Anas is an innocent, the Taliban maintain that US violated its agreement with the Taliban on the release of the so-called Taliban Five. According to the group, the Taliban Five were allowed to receive visits from their family members.
However, given Omari’s past history with the Taliban and al Qaeda, Anas’ role as a fundraiser (the NDS said he was “collecting and preparing funds from Arabic countries” at the time of his arrest) and Rashid’s role as military commander, and the fact that Qatar serves as a nest for jihadist fundraising activities, it is more likely that the purpose of Anas and Rashid’s visit consisted of more than a simple family visit.
Additionally, at least one of the Taliban Five is “has attempted to return to militant activity from his current location in Qatar by making contact with suspected Taliban associates in Afghanistan,” CNN reported in January 2015, three months after Anas and Rashid’s arrest. Less than two months later, FOX News reported that at least three members of the Taliban Five have tried to reestablish contact with jihadists in Afghanistan, with one of them “trying to provide advice, council or inspiration.” However, neither report named the Taliban leaders who attempted to reengage in jihadist activities.