Posts Tagged ‘military intelligence’

UK minister slams ‘pariah state’ Russia over worldwide cyber attacks campaign

October 4, 2018

Ahead of NATO talks, Gavin Williamson says Moscow’s ‘reckless and indiscriminate’ attacks have isolated it from the international community


British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson prior to attend a NATO defense ministerial meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on October 4, 2018.  (AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel DUNAND)

British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson prior to attend a NATO defense ministerial meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on October 4, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Emmanuel DUNAND)

BRUSSELS, Belgium — Britain’s defense minister on Thursday condemned Russia as a “pariah state” after London accused Kremlin spies of mounting a campaign of cyber attacks on civilian bodies around the world.

Cyber experts from the UK have identified operatives from Russia’s GRU military intelligence as being behind a string of high-profile incidents, including an attempted hack on the World Anti-Doping Agency in Switzerland last year.

As he arrived for talks in Brussels with his NATO counterparts, Gavin Williamson said Moscow’s “reckless and indiscriminate” attacks had left it isolated in the international community.

“This is not the actions of a great power, this is the actions of a pariah state and we’ll continue working with allies to isolate, make them understand they cannot continue to conduct themselves in such a way,” Williamson told reporters.

Britain’s National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) has “high confidence” that the GRU was “almost certainly” responsible for a number of attacks, including the infamous targeting of the US Democratic Party ahead of the 2016 presidential election, according to sources in London.

In this photo taken on March 8, 2018, members of the emergency services in green biohazard encapsulated suits investigate the site where Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on March 4 in critical condition at The Maltings shopping center in Salisbury, southern England. (AFP PHOTO/Ben STANSALL)

NATO is stepping up efforts to strengthen its resources to counter electronic warfare, with the US set to announce it is making offensive cyber capabilities available to the alliance.

Asked three times whether Britain would consider hitting back at Russia with cyber attacks of its own, Williamson said that being named and shamed was a deterrent in itself.

“We’re going to make it clear where Russia acts that we are going to be exposing that action and we believe that by doing so this will act as a disincentive to act in such a way in the future,” he said.

Ties between Britain and Russia are at rock bottom after a nerve agent attack targeting former Kremlin agent Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury.

London has blamed Moscow for the attack, which left one person dead, and last month the British-based investigative group Bellingcat identified one of the suspects as a highly decorated GRU colonel.



GRU Russian shadow spy network wreaking worldwide chaos will be ‘dismantled’, Downing Street vows

September 6, 2018

Image may contain: one or more people and people standing

A Russian military intelligence squad behind the Salisbury Novichok attack is now behaving “with impunity” to wreak chaos around the world, senior Whitehall sources have warned.

Theresa May revealed the GRU, Moscow’s shadowy spy network, had plotted the nerve agent assault on Sergei Skripal on the orders of the Kremlin to “send a message” to other suspected traitors.

The two senior GRU officers dispatched to carry out the attack were named as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – fake identities given to them by the agency, although the men’s real names are understood to be known to British authorities.

Downing Street vowed to do everything in its power to “dismantle” the GRU and warned of further…

Read the rest (Paywall):


Theresa May vows revenge as she blames Vladimir Putin’s spies from intelligence agency GRU for Salisbury Novichok poisoning

Mrs May said after a six-month investigation by UK spy chiefs that it was a state-ordered hit


THERESA May last night ordered Britain’s spies into a global war with Russia’s shadowy GRU after declaring it mounted the Salisbury outrage.

Hours after police named two suspects for the sickening nerve agent murder attemptthe PM stunned MPs by going on to reveal they were serving officers from the country’s military intelligence agency.

 The two suspects were caught smiling as they strolled through Salisbury hours before the attack on the Skripals

The two suspects were caught smiling as they strolled through Salisbury hours before the attack on the Skripals

The findings are the product of a painstaking six-month investigation by the UK’s spy chiefs, run alongside the police’s criminal probe, the PM disclosed.

It concluded the assassination attempt on Sergei and Yulia Skripal was a state-ordered hit.

And she also pointed the finger firmly at Russia’s President Vladimir Putin for signing it off.

Delivering the shock findings to a hushed House of Commons, Mrs May insisted: “This was not a rogue operation.

 These men are wanted over the attempted hit on the Skripals in Salisbury

These men are wanted over the attempted hit on the Skripals in Salisbury
 Sergei and Yulia Skirpal were both poisoned by Novichok in March this year

Sergei and Yulia Skirpal were both poisoned by Novichok in March this year

“It was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state”.

The shocking development means Britain must significantly step its war in the shadows with the GRU, and across the globe, the PM also insisted – signalling the spy service is now Public Enemy No1.

She added: “We know that the GRU has played a key part in malign Russian activity in recent years.

“And today we have exposed their role behind the despicable chemical weapons attack on the streets of Salisbury.

What we know so far…

 Theresa May said in the House of Commons that it was a state-ordered hit by Russia

Theresa May said in the House of Commons that it was a state-ordered hit by Russia
 The pair on CCTV at Salisbury station on March 3

The pair on CCTV at Salisbury station on March 3

“The actions of the GRU are a threat to all our allies and to all our citizens.”

Vowing steely revenge, Mrs May added: “We must now step up our collective efforts, specifically against the GRU.

“While the House will appreciate that I cannot go into details, we will deploy the full range of tools from across our National Security apparatus in order to counter the threat posed by the GRU.”

Senior Whitehall sources revealed that meant a full blown offensive to smash the GRU’s power and activities by both overt and covert activities.

 Yulia and her father were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury after coming into contact with the deadly nerve agent

Yulia and her father were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury after coming into contact with the deadly nerve agent
 Police said Novichok was brought into Britain in a Nina Ricci ‘Premier Jour’ perfume bottle

Police said Novichok was brought into Britain in a Nina Ricci ‘Premier Jour’ perfume bottle
 The perfume bottle was brought into the country with a specially made poison applicator

The perfume bottle was brought into the country with a specially made poison applicator

While officials will counter the spy service’s black propaganda open releases across traditional and social media, MI6 and GCHQ will increase their clandestine operations against it.

That will include missions sabotage their capabilities, expose and embarrass the GRU’s agent networks, and cyber attacks to cripple its online activities.

Asset freezes and travel bans for senior GRU officers are planned.

And Britain has also called a special United Nations Security Council meeting for today in a bid to heap embarrassment on Moscow.

Read the rest:

How Kaspersky’s Software Fell Under Suspicion of Spying on America

January 5, 2018

Officials lack conclusive evidence, but incidents involving the firm’s antivirus products raised alarms

 Image result for Eugene Kaspersky, photos
Kaspersky CEO Warned of Cyber Attacks on 2017 European Elections
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year, Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of cyber security firm Kaspersky Labs, said European governments should expect highly sophisticated cyber attacks during their elections. (Originally published Jan 1, 2017.) Photo: Bloomberg News.

Eugene Kaspersky was late for his own dinner party.

Eugene Kaspersky at his company’s Moscow headquarters in 2017.Photo: Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

At his invitation, guests from the Washington cybersecurity community waited one evening in 2012. Seated at the National Press Club were officials from the White House, State Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, said people who were there. Guests had started their first course when Mr. Kaspersky arrived, wearing a tuxedo with a drink in hand.

Mr. Kaspersky, chief executive of Russian security-software vendor Kaspersky Lab, proposed a toast to the ranking guest, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, whose country had suffered a cyberattack five years earlier. The assault followed Estonia’s decision to remove a Soviet-era monument from its capital, and U.S. officials suspected Russia was behind it.

“Toomas,” Mr. Kaspersky said. “I am so sorry that we attacked you.”

The comment stopped all conversation until Mr. Ilves broke the silence. “Thank you,” he said, raising his glass. “This is the first time anyone from Russia has ever admitted attacking my country.”

​No one suggested Kaspersky was involved in the Estonian hack, but Mr. Kaspersky’s toast played into a suspicion held by many in the U.S. intelligence community that his company might be wittingly or unwittingly in league with the Russian government—a suspicion that has only intensified since.

The process of evaluating Kaspersky’s role, and taking action against the company, is complicated by the realities of global commerce and the nature of how modern online software works. A top Department of Homeland Security official said in November congressional testimony the U.S. lacks “conclusive evidence” Kaspersky facilitated national-security breaches.

While the U.S. government hasn’t offered conclusive evidence, Wall Street Journal interviews with current and former U.S. government officials reveal what is driving their suspicions.

Some of these officials said they suspect Kaspersky’s antivirus software—the company says it is installed on 400 million computers world-wide—has been used to spy on the U.S. and blunt American espionage. Kaspersky’s suspected involvement in U.S. security breaches raises concerns about the relationship between the company and Russian intelligence, these officials said.

Employees at Kaspersky Lab in Moscow, October 2017. Photo: Kirill Kallinikov/Sputnik/Associated Press

DHS, convinced Kaspersky is a threat, has banned its software from government computers. The company sued the U.S. government on Dec. 18 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., saying the ban was arbitrary and capricious, and demanding the prohibition be overturned. DHS referred inquiries to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.

Kaspersky, in a statement, said: “Unverified opinions of anonymous officials about Kaspersky Lab continue to be shared, and should be taken as nothing more than unsubstantiated allegations against a company whose mission has always been to protect against malware regardless of its source, and which has repeatedly extended an offering to the U.S. government to help alleviate any substantiated concerns. We have never helped and will never help any government with its cyberespionage efforts.”

The company in a court filing said any Russian government engagement in cyberespionage isn’t evidence that a Russia-headquartered company such as Kaspersky is facilitating government-sponsored cyberintrusions, adding: “In fact, more than 85 percent of Kaspersky Lab’s revenue comes from outside of Russia—a powerful economic incentive to avoid any action that would endanger the trusted relationships and integrity that serve as the foundation of its business by conducting inappropriate or unethical activities with any organization or government.”

The Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., didn’t respond to requests for comment. In October, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn’t address whether the Russian government stole NSA materials using Kaspersky software but criticized the U.S. software ban as “undermining the competitive positions of Russian companies on the world arena.”

Servers in Russia

Mr. Kaspersky enrolled at the KGB-sponsored Institute of Cryptography, Telecommunications, and Computer Science, finished in 1987 and was commissioned in Soviet military intelligence, he has told reporters. He has acknowledged his company has done work for the KGB’s successor, the FSB.

Kaspersky, closely held, says it has unaudited 2016 revenues of $644 million. Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said they doubt Kaspersky could have risen to such heights outside of Russia without cooperating with Russian authorities’ aims, a conjecture the company denies.

Kaspersky’s main product is similar to other antivirus software, which scans computers to identify malicious code or infected files. Such software typically requires total access so it can remotely scan documents or emails and send a record of any suspicious and previously unidentified code back to the software company.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year, Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of cyber security firm Kaspersky Labs, said European governments should expect highly sophisticated cyber attacks during their elections. (Originally published Jan 1, 2017.) Photo: Bloomberg News.

In Kaspersky’s case, some servers are in Russia. When the DHS banned Kaspersky products, it cited “requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to compel assistance from Kaspersky or intercept communications transiting Russian networks.” Kaspersky countered that those laws and tools don’t apply to its products because the firm doesn’t provide communications services.

Concerns about the potential threat posed by Kaspersky software have circulated in U.S. intelligence circles for years. U.S. intelligence issued more than two dozen reports referring to the company or its connections, according to a U.S. defense official, with the Pentagon first mentioning the firm as a potential “threat actor” in 2004.

A Defense Intelligence Agency supply-chain report flagged Kaspersky in 2013, referring to its efforts to sell American firms a protection product for large-scale U.S. industrial companies, the defense official said. A former U.S. official said Kaspersky’s efforts to make inroads in the U.S. industrial and infrastructure market made people uncomfortable.

At a February 2015 conference, Kaspersky exposed what it described as a cyber-snooping network it dubbed the “Equation Group.” In fact, it was an elite classified espionage group within the U.S. National Security Agency, said some of the former U.S. officials. Kaspersky linked it to a virus called Stuxnet that the Journal and other publications have since reported was designed by the U.S. and Israel to destroy Iranian nuclear centrifuges. Kaspersky also described other techniques and tactics the U.S. uses to break into foreign computer networks.

Once such techniques are public, they are effectively useless for spying. When NSA officials got word of Kaspersky’s plans to expose its tactics, they pulled the agency’s spying tools from around the world as a preventive measure and reworked how its hackers were functioning, said some of the former U.S. officials. The NSA didn’t respond to requests for comment.

U.S.-Russian relations at the time were deteriorating. President Vladimir Putin had granted NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum and annexed a swath of Ukraine. Some U.S. officials were convinced Kaspersky was promoting Russian interests and had shared with the Kremlin what it knew about the Equation Group.

“To think that information wasn’t shared with Russian intelligence, or they weren’t supporting Russian intelligence,” said one former U.S. official about Kaspersky, “you’d have to be very nearsighted to not at least think there was something there.”

Mr. Kaspersky at Kaspersky Lab headquarters in Moscow, July 2017. Photo: Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

Not all U.S. officials believed the worst about Kaspersky, with many citing the high quality of the firm’s cyberthreat research. “There was this innocent until proven guilty attitude,” said another former U.S. official who worked on Russia and national-security matters.

Israeli intelligence shared with U.S. counterparts in 2015 that it had penetrated the networks of Kaspersky, the Journal reported previously. The Israelis discovered Kaspersky software was being used to scan computers not only for viruses but also for classified government information that would be of interest to Russia, said former U.S. officials familiar with the Israeli discovery.

As the NSA investigated the Israeli tip, it homed in on a worker in the agency’s elite hacking unit, then called Tailored Access Operations. The worker had improperly removed classified information about NSA spying operations and installed it on his home computer, said former U.S. officials familiar with the episode. The contractor’s computer ran Kaspersky’s antivirus software, which acted as a digital scout and identified the classified material, these people said.

Assessing damage

U.S. investigators immediately sought to assess the damage, including whether Kaspersky’s products were installed on other sensitive computers, including personal machines used by government employees and their families. That could include those used by family members of then President Barack Obama, said one of the former officials familiar with the episode.

Officials feared Russian intelligence could have not only turned personal computers into tracking devices, but also used them as staging points to access other machines inside the White House, the official said. Still, the incident didn’t trigger a broader alarm across the U.S. government about whether any federal agency computers were using Kaspersky.

In response to the Journal’s story on the incident earlier this year, Kaspersky conducted an internal investigation, releasing a report in November. The only incident Kaspersky said it found that matched the story’s description occurred in late 2014. By then, it said, it had been investigating Equation Group for six months when its antivirus software detected previously unidentified variants of the malware on a U.S.-based computer and sent a zip file containing the suspicious code to the Moscow-based virus lab for analysis.

Kaspersky Lab headquarters in Moscow.Photo: Sergei Karpukhin/REUTERS

The analysis discovered hacking tools now known to have belonged to the NSA, as well as four documents bearing what appeared to be classification markings, Kaspersky said, without mentioning the NSA or U.S. government by name. Mr. Kaspersky ordered the files deleted from the company’s systems within days and the information wasn’t shared with third parties, the company said.

Kaspersky said it did keep certain malware files from that collection. It said it also detected commercially available malware on the U.S. computer, which could have been used to remove files.

In the summer of 2016, a mysterious online group calling itself the Shadow Brokers posted stolen NSA cyberspying tools. The Shadow Brokers claimed in its postings that some of the tools came from Equation Group.

Again, U.S. officials rushed to determine how the tools were stolen. Among the posted computer code were technical manuals the NSA uses as part of its spying operations. These are akin to guidebooks, showing the agency’s hackers how to penetrate various systems and walking them through the procedures for different missions.

One lead pointed back to Kaspersky products, said current and former U.S. officials. Investigators now believe that those manuals may have been obtained using Kaspersky to scan computers on which they were stored, according to one of the officials.

Kaspersky said it has no information on the content of the classified documents it received in 2014 because they were deleted. It isn’t clear if the manuals the Shadow Brokers posted are the same documents.

Around the time the Shadow Brokers were spilling NSA secrets, emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were showing up on WikiLeaks in what intelligence officials have said publicly they concluded was a Russian-led hacking operation to discredit the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Officials from the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community met in late 2016 to debate responses to the alleged Russian aggression, said some former U.S. officials.

At the State Department, among options considered was taking retaliatory action against Kaspersky, said former officials involved in the deliberations. Daniel Fried, then chief sanctions coordinator at the State Department, told the Journal he recommended to colleagues they look for elements of Russia’s cyberpower the U.S. could target. He told colleagues Kaspersky at least needed to be considered as a potential player in Russia’s moves against the West.

“I asked rhetorically, do you want to testify before some committee about when did you know about this and why didn’t you do anything?” said Mr. Fried, now a Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank focusing on international affairs.

The State Department referred inquiries to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.

Some U.S. officials, including top White House security officials at the time, were concerned any action against Kaspersky could hurt U.S. companies by provoking a Russian response against them. U.S. officials also worried that, to justify harsh penalties, they would have to divulge what they knew about Kaspersky and its possible links to Russian intelligence, said several former officials.

Ultimately, the Obama White House didn’t seriously consider sanctioning Kaspersky, some former U.S. officials said.

Last year, Homeland Security created and led an interagency task force that collected information about the scope of the risk the Kaspersky software posed and began coordinating efforts across the government to minimize the risks.

In the months after President Donald Trump took office, concern about Kaspersky grew. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.) put forward an amendment in the annual military-spending bill that would prohibit Kaspersky’s use on government computers.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen at a hearing in June. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

During hearings on the matter on Capitol Hill, “I thought the most damning example” came from intelligence-community representatives, she said in an interview. “When each of them got asked would you put Kaspersky on your own personal computer and the answer was no, that’s a pretty strong message that maybe we should be taking a look at this.”

In September, the DHS banned Kaspersky products from government computers, instructing agencies to remove any Kaspersky software and report back on where it was found. The public statement accompanying the ban reads like a declassified version of the intelligence community’s suspicion regarding Kaspersky:

“The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security.”

Kaspersky says the DHS ban has had a “severe adverse effect” on its commercial operations in the U.S., with retailers removing its products from shelves and an unprecedented number of product returns.

—Aruna Viswanatha contributed to this article.

Write to Gordon Lubold at

Trump Aide Michael Flynn Partnered With Firm Run by Man With Alleged KGB Ties

December 23, 2016
Bloomberg News
December 23, 2016, 5:00 AM EST
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Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn. Photographer: John Angelillo/Pool via Bloomberg

Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, partnered this year with a controversial technology company co-run by a man once convicted of trying to sell stolen biotech material to the Russian KGB espionage agency.

Subu Kota, who pleaded guilty in 1996 to selling the material to an FBI agent posing as a Russian spy, is one of two board directors at the company, Boston-based Brainwave Science. During years of federal court proceedings, prosecutors presented evidence they said showed that between 1985 and 1990 Kota met repeatedly with a KGB agent and was part of a spy ring that made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling U.S. missile defense technology to Russian spies. Kota denied being part of a spy ring, reached a plea agreement in the biotech case and admitted to selling a sketch of a military helicopter to his co-defendant, who was later convicted of being a KGB operative.

Image may contain: 1 person

Subu Kota

Flynn served more than three decades in the military and rose to become director of the Defense Intelligence Agency before he was fired by President Barack Obama in 2014 over policy disagreements. He formed a private consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, which has sought business with an array of cyber security firms and defense contractors. He began collaborating with Brainwave Science last spring.

Flynn, who has been widely criticized for close associations with Russia, has declined repeated requests during the past month to be interviewed about his company’s business ties. A spokesman for the Trump transition team, Jason Miller, said in an email that Flynn has never met or spoken with Kota and that he has ended his association with Brainwave Science.

In a phone interview on Thursday, Kota described his criminal charges and dealings with the KGB as misunderstandings. He acknowledged selling biotech material to a federal agent posing as a Russian spy, but said the incident was a patent dispute, not espionage.

‘Brain Fingerprinting’

Brainwave is seeking to develop a market for its innovative -– but broadly disputed — technology called “brain fingerprinting” which tries to assess an interrogation subject’s honesty through a brain scan. Flynn was brought onto the company’s board of advisers to help sell the product to defense and law enforcement agencies, Brainwave President Krishna Ika said in an interview.

Ika said the company has not sold anything to U.S. federal agencies yet and is looking for investors. He runs the day-to-day operations while Kota brings business and technological expertise and helps make strategic decisions.

Although undercover federal agents testified that Kota bragged of his involvement in a KGB spy ring, Kota says he has never been a spy. He acknowledges meeting with Vladimir Galkin, a KGB agent, on at least four occasions and receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for information about technology related to U.S. missile defense systems. But Kota said he thought Galkin was a businessman and that the information he provided was from public sources. Galkin was arrested at Kennedy Airport in 1996. Prosecutors were unable to build a case in the military spy ring they said he ran involving Kota and others after the U.S. State Department allowed him to leave the country.

Since pleading guilty to the biotech and tax evasion charges, Kota said he has steered clear of anything remotely illegal.

“Not even a parking ticket,” he said.

Kota also runs a consulting company called The Boston Group. Federal court records show that after pleading guilty in the biotech case, he testified against his co-defendant and received a reduced sentence of four years’ probation and a $50,000 fine.

Flynn has met with Brainwave officials at least 10 times, according to Ika, and signed a collaboration agreement to help drum up new business with U.S. agencies. Flynn also agreed to train any national security or law enforcement agency that purchased Brainwave products at Flynn Intel Group headquarters, Ika said. Flynn’s company, based in the Washington suburb of Fairfax, Virginia, promised to provide “world-class training services led by qualified security professionals with experience in intelligence and investigation,” Brainwave’s website says.

Headpiece With SensorsFlynn tested the product himself, Ika said. He put on the helmet-like headpiece fitted with sensors, which is said to read a subject’s brainwaves in an attempt to detect information.

“He found it very convincing,” Ika said.

Flynn’s activities with the company continued after he began receiving classified intelligence briefings in mid-August as part of Trump’s campaign. In late September, Ika said, he and Flynn pitched Brainwave to officials from the Bangladeshi defense forces during a meeting at Flynn’s offices.

After Trump won the election in November and named Flynn his national security adviser, the collaboration stalled, Ika said. Lawyers are now negotiating how to continue Brainwave’s collaboration with other partners from Flynn Intel Group.

Russia Today

Flynn has been criticized for making a paid speech at Russia Today, a state-run news agency, and sitting with President Vladimir Putin at a dinner in Moscow in 2015 to celebrate RT’s anniversary. Flynn and his son also helped spread internet conspiracies on social media, and last February the elder Flynn tweeted, “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, center left, shown at a dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin, center right, last December in Moscow. The event marked the 10th anniversary of RT, a 24-hour English-language TV news channel in Russia.ENLARGE
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, center left, shown at a dinner with Russian President Vladimir Putin, center right, last December in Moscow. The event marked the 10th anniversary of RT, a 24-hour English-language TV news channel in Russia. PHOTO: AP

For defense employees and private-sector military contractors such as Flynn who want to check on potential business partners, the Department of Defense publishes a periodic report entitled “Espionage and Other Compromises of National Security.” The 2009 edition, available online, includes a description of Kota’s conviction.

Brainwave’s product line is built on a technique developed by inventor Lawrence Farwell in the 1990s. The process received so much attention as a potential breakthrough for law enforcement that Congress ordered the General Accounting Office to study it. In a report released in 2001, the GAO found that its claims of effectiveness could not be validated and were not worth trying.

Ika said that after the 9/11 terror attacks, which inspired him to use his background to help fight terrorism, he heard about the technique and eventually collaborated with Farwell. Ika said he was convinced that skepticism about brain fingerprinting had been fomented by the “polygraph lobby” which did not want to lose business to a more effective technology. Brainwave now markets its product as an enhancement to polygraphs.


Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn Clashed With Intelligence Community, Pentagon

Donald Trump’s pick for national security adviser has become known as a maverick

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who clashed with the Obama administration’s Pentagon and intelligence establishment over the U.S. fight against global extremism, has been selected as President-elect Donald Trump’s White House national security adviser, putting him in the upper ring of the nation’s security policies.

Name: Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (retired)

Age: 57

Education: University of Rhode Island, Golden Gate University (Calif.), Ft. Leavenworth (Kan.), United States Naval War College.

Background: Gen. Flynn served in many military intelligence posts throughout his 33-year career, including as director of intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and intelligence adviser to Gen. Stanley McChrystal in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Outlook: He became known as a maverick within the ranks of the normally deferential and apolitical corps of “general officers,” the military’s top-ranking officials. In 2010, Gen. Flynn published a paper lambasting the military intelligence community for deficiencies in its approach to intelligence collection, taking the unusual step of releasing the study through the Center for a New American Security, a center-left think tank in Washington.

Still, he rose through the ranks. His military career culminated in his 2012 appointment to run the Defense Intelligence Agency. During his two-year tenure there, Gen. Flynn tried to overhaul the way the U.S. military treats intelligence but also clashed with superiors and counterparts, officials and colleagues said.

Ultimately, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, and Michael Vickers, then-undersecretary of defense for intelligence, removed him from the post in 2014, forcing his retirement. In a July 9, 2016, article in the New York Post, Gen. Flynn wrote that he had been fired for the stand he took “on radical Islamism and the expansion of al Qaeda and its associated movements,” describing his anger at the decision.

Gen. Flynn argued that the Obama administration rested on its laurels after killing Osama bin Laden in 2011 and underestimated the depth of the threat from al Qaeda and its remnants.

Others suggested different reasons for Gen. Flynn’s dismissal. Colin Powell, the former secretary of state and onetime chairman of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, described Gen. Flynn in a July 19, 2016, email as someone who was “abusive with staff, didn’t listen, worked against policy, bad management, etc.” That email and others was stolen by hackers and released.

Gen. Flynn in recent months promoted a view, backed by Mr. Trump on the campaign trail, that the Pentagon shouldn’t talk about its campaign to retake the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State and instead conceal its operations. Defense Secretary Ash Carter later disputed the matter, saying Islamic State followers needed to see that the attack was occurring to undercut the group’s claims to the establishment of a caliphate. Former military officials also questioned whether a large-scale concealed attack on Mosul, a city of about a million people, would be possible given the size and scope of the campaign.

Write to Paul Sonne at

Mosul: Islamic State Crushes Rebellion Plot But is a “Demoralized Enemy” — U.S.-led Military Coalition Forces Prepare to Assault the IS Stronghold

October 15, 2016


A fighter from the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), mans an anti-aircraft gun mounted on the rear of a vehicle in Mosul July 16, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer
By Ahmed Rasheed | BAGHDAD

Islamic State has crushed a rebellion plot in Mosul, led by one of the group’s commanders who aimed to switch sides and help deliver the caliphate’s Iraqi capital to government forces, residents and Iraqi security officials said.

Islamic State (IS) executed 58 people suspected of taking part in the plot after it was uncovered last week. Residents, who spoke to Reuters from some of the few locations in the city that have phone service, said the plotters were killed by drowning and their bodies were buried in a mass grave in a wasteland on the outskirts of the city.

Among them was a local aide of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who led the plotters, according to matching accounts given by five residents, by Hisham al-Hashimi, an expert on IS affairs that advises the government in Baghdad and by colonel Ahmed al-Taie, from Mosul’s Nineveh province Operation Command’s military intelligence.

Reuters is not publishing the name of the plot leader to avoid increasing the safety risk for his family, nor the identities of those inside the city who spoke about the plot.

The aim of the plotters was to undermine Islamic State’s defense of Mosul in the upcoming fight, expected to be the biggest battle in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Mosul is the last major stronghold of Islamic State in Iraq. With a pre-war population of around 2 million, it is at least five times the size of any other city Islamic State has controlled. Iraqi officials say a massive ground assault could begin this month, backed by U.S. air power, Kurdish security forces and Shi’ite and Sunni irregular units.

A successful offensive would effectively destroy the Iraqi half of the caliphate that the group declared when it swept through northern Iraq in 2014. But the United Nations says it could also create the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world, in a worst case scenario uprooting 1 million people.

Islamic State fighters are dug in to defend the city, and have a history of using civilians as human shields when defending territory.


According to Hashimi, the dissidents were arrested after one of them was caught with a message on his phone mentioning a transfer of weapons. He confessed during interrogation that weapons were being hidden in three locations, to be used in a rebellion to support the Iraqi army when it closes in on Mosul.

IS raided the three houses used to hide the weapons on Oct. 4, Hashimi said.

“Those were Daesh members who turned against the group in Mosul,” said Iraqi Counter-terrorism Service spokesman Sabah al-Numani in Baghdad, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State. “This is a clear sign that the terrorist organization has started to lose support not only from the population, but even from its own members.”

A spokesman for the U.S.-led military coalition which conducts air strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq was unable to confirm or deny the accounts of the thwarted plot.

Signs of cracks inside the “caliphate” appeared this year as the ultra-hardline Sunni group was forced out of half the territory it overran two years ago in northern and western Iraq.

Some people in Mosul have been expressing their refusal of IS’s harsh rules by spray-painting the letter M, for the Arabic word that means resistance, on city walls, or “wanted” on houses of its militants. Such activity is punished by death.

Numani said his service has succeeded in the past two months in opening contact channels with “operatives” who began communicating intelligence that helped conduct air strikes on the insurgents’ command centers and locations in Mosul.

A list with the names of the 58 executed plotters was given to a hospital to inform their families but their bodies were not returned, the residents said.

“Some of the executed relatives sent old women to ask about the bodies. Daesh rebuked them and told them no bodies, no graves, those traitors are apostates and it is forbidden to bury them in Muslim cemeteries,” said one resident whose relative was among those executed.

“After the failed coup, Daesh withdrew the special identity cards it issued for its local commanders, to prevent them from fleeing Mosul with their families,” Colonel al-Taie said.

A Mosul resident said Islamic State had appointed a new official, Muhsin Abdul Kareem Oghlu, a leader of a sniper unit with a reputation as a die-hard, to assist its governor of Mosul, Ahmed Khalaf Agab al-Jabouri, in keeping control.

Islamic State militants have placed booby traps across the city of Mosul, dug tunnels and recruited children as spies in anticipation of the offensive.

(Writing by Maher Chmaytelli; editing by Peter Graff)


Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers unleash heavy tank fire on Isis fighters along the Khazir river. Photograph by Souvid Datta

ABC News

Oct 14, 2016, 6:55 PM ET

The Iraqi military’s looming offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS promises to be not only its largest operation but also its toughest test as ISIS fighters have had more than two years to prepare elaborate defenses inside Iraq’s second largest city.

“The size of Mosul makes this by far the largest task the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] has undertaken to date, an order of magnitude larger than the liberation battles in cities like Ramadi, Fallujah and Sharqat,” Col. John Dorrian, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, told reporters earlier this week.

Last year, American military officials said it could take as many as 20,000 Iraqi military forces to retake Mosul. Since then, the U.S. military’s training, advise and assist mission in Iraq has been focused on readying ISF to retake the city held by ISIS since 2014. That training is now almost complete with the last of 12 Iraqi Army combat brigades, numbering between 800 and 1,600 troops, ready to complete its training in a few weeks.

Senior American military officials have said in recent weeks that Iraq’s military forces are now prepared to undertake a Mosul offensive but that timing of the operation will be made by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.

The offensive on Mosul will likely follow the pattern used successfully by the Iraqi military to retake the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.

In a process that could take weeks, a large number of Iraqi forces will slowly complete the encirclement of Mosul. That will be followed by a push into the center of the city by the elite Iraq special operations force known as the Counter-Terrorism Service, which will be tasked with pushing out the estimated 3,000 to 4,500 ISIS fighters believed to still be in Mosul.

American military advisers working with Iraqi troops will not be engaged in the fighting but will remain at the headquarters of Iraqi military units. Airstrikes for the tough urban fight will be provided by coalition aircraft flying overhead.

“We believe that the Iraqis are well positioned to be successful and of course we’ll be there with our strikes so that as the enemy becomes evident, we’ll strike them and help the Iraqis advance,” said Dorrian.

ISIS fighters have gone to great lengths to prevent that from happening by building berms and trenches along major roadways into the city. They have also placed booby-trapped bombs along roads, bridges and inside buildings in preparation for an urban fight. Giant pits of tire and oil have been readied to create giant dark clouds what would make it difficult for coalition aircraft to conduct airstrikes in the city.

“All these things cause delays and challenges,” said Dorrian. “But they’re also things that as we train the Iraqis to go into Mosul, a lot of them have received specialized training like explosive ordnance disposal, sniper training, breach training, and there have been warfare-trained so they know how to clear buildings and all these sorts of things.”

It is believed some senior ISIS fighters have already left Mosul ahead of the expected Iraqi offensive and a Pentagon spokesman characterized those that have remained as “a demoralized enemy.”

“There is a very large scale loss of morale,” Capt. Jeff Davis told Pentagon reporters Tuesday.

When the fighting begins, it is believed that as many as 800,000 civilians could flee the city. As part of its planning, the Iraqi government has worked with the United Nations and international relief organizations to build 20 camps to take care of them.

As was done in the battles for Ramadi and Fallujah, the Iraqis will put in place screening procedures to find any ISIS fighters disguised as civilians fleeing the city.

Plans call for local Iraqi police and Sunni tribes to provide security in Mosul once the main fighting has been completed. Then the thousands of Iraqi military forces that fought to retake the city will undergo new training by the coalition in counterinsurgency techniques as ISIS likely morphs away from a combat force into an insurgent role.


‘Last battle’ against Isis in Iraq: forces mass for Mosul assault

Attack on group’s last urban stronghold in Iraq is most critical challenge yet to its ‘caliphate’ which led to exodus of refugees

By The Guardian

Iraqi and Kurdish forces are finalising plans to attack the last urban stronghold of Islamic State in Iraq, the northern city of Mosul, which after a month-long buildup is now largely surrounded by a 60,000-strong force.

The assault could begin as early as this weekend and is the most critical challenge yet to Isis’s two-year-old “caliphate”, which had shredded state authority in the region’s heartland, led to a mass exodus of refugees, attempted a genocide of minorities and led to grave doubts over Iraq’s viability.

Read the rest (A very good report):

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s Policy Shifts Confound U.S. Allies

September 14, 2016

Philippine president’s blunt remarks toward America have left many questioning longstanding relationship

President Rodrigo Duterte at the Philippine Air Force headquarters in Pasay city, Philippines, on Tuesday. The president’s outbursts have left U.S. allies wondering what to make of the country’s new leader.
President Rodrigo Duterte at the Philippine Air Force headquarters in Pasay city, Philippines, on Tuesday. The president’s outbursts have left U.S. allies wondering what to make of the country’s new leader. PHOTO: BULLIT MARQUEZ/ASSOCIATED PRESS


Updated Sept. 14, 2016 1:55 p.m. ET

MANILA—A rash of anti-American outbursts from Philippine President Rodrigo Dutertehas jolted U.S. allies in Asia, raising doubts about his commitment to a U.S.-led military alliance seeking to counter an increasingly assertive China—while leaving Beijing wary as well.

Allied governments from Washington to Tokyo to Canberra are struggling to understand whether Mr. Duterte’s tough talk is merely hot air or if he really intends to cut loose from their decades-old partnership.

In China, the picture appears equally murky.

His apparent antipathy to the U.S. is seen as a windfall for Beijing’s long-term effort to establish itself as the apex power in the region and weaken the defense partnerships through which Washington has dominated Asia militarily since 1945. Mr. Duterte’s remarks also bode well for Beijing’s attempts to undermine an international tribunal’s July ruling against its South China Sea maritime claims in a case brought by the previous Philippine administration.

Even so, Chinese authorities calculate that Mr. Duterte could change direction at any point and would lose popular support if he was seen to concede too much to Beijing on the South China Sea dispute.

“With Duterte’s temper, no matter who he’s blasting, it won’t be easy for him to be used by any third party,” the Global Times, a jingoistic tabloid affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party’s main newspaper, the People’s Daily, wrote. “In the long run, it may not be easy for China to deal with him either.”

Discerning his long-term strategy—if there is one—is made more difficult by confused communications from the 2½-month-old administration. His spokesmen routinely tell the media the president, who has a penchant for coarse language, didn’t really mean what he had just said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, an independent Philippine lawmaker, lashed out at the president’s press officers Wednesday, saying they were “damaging the credibility not only of the head of state but of the country.” Whatever the president says should be considered official policy, no matter how controversial, he said.

Mr. Duterte’s spokesmen didn’t respond to questions sent Wednesday.

In recent days, the 71-year-old Mr. Duterte has said the Philippines would stop patrolling the South China Sea alongside the U.S. Navy to avoid being part of any “hostile act” toward Beijing; called for the departure of some U.S. troops and said he would pursue a more independent foreign policy and shop for weapons in China and Russia.

Residents carried the body of a suspected drug dealer killed by unidentified gunmen in Manila on Sept. 14. Mr. Duterte’s violent crackdown on drugs and crime has left almost 3,000 people dead since he came to office, according to police.
Residents carried the body of a suspected drug dealer killed by unidentified gunmen in Manila on Sept. 14. Mr. Duterte’s violent crackdown on drugs and crime has left almost 3,000 people dead since he came to office, according to police. PHOTO: NOEL CELIS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The official response Wednesday in Beijing was vague.

“For China’s part, we are willing to work with the Philippines to promote and resume bilateral cooperation across the board,” a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said. Asked about Mr. Duterte’s assertion that Beijing had offered favorable terms for arms purchases, she said she had no information.

Any withdrawal from the traditional alliance would be a blow for U.S. President Barack Obama’s efforts to cement closer ties with Asian countries as a balance to Beijing’s growing influence.

It also would be costly for Manila: The U.S. alliance provides the Philippine military—one of the least-effective fighting forces in the region—with a more-credible deterrent against any aggression.

“This is a risky and dangerous strategy” that would alienate regional allies, prove unpopular with the overwhelmingly American-friendly public and appall the Philippine military, which has worked hand in glove with the U.S. military for decades, said Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

“Duterte has brought to a grinding halt the forward momentum in Philippine-American relations,” said Mr. Storey.

In Mr. Duterte’s eyes the Philippines has been poorly served by the alliance. American meddling has stoked the Philippines’ long-running insurgencies, he has said. He also has faulted Washington for failing to check China’s island-building in the South China Sea, and for providing insufficient hardware to the ill-equipped Philippine military.

U.S. military and security assistance to the Philippines this year is budgeted at $120 million, equivalent to about 3% of Manila’s defense budget.

With a huge majority in Congress, Mr. Duterte faces little political opposition at home. But comments on social media about his turn away from the U.S. toward China seemed to be overwhelmingly negative.

“What he’s really saying is, ‘I surrender to China,’” one Facebook user wrote.

Former Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose Cuisia, who stepped down in June, criticized the decision to end joint patrols and said Mr. Duterte was wrong to play down the value of the American alliance.

“When you look at what the U.S. provided us over the past six years, it’s been quite substantial and you have to appreciate that,” he said in a television interview Wednesday.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte further strained his country’s ties with the U.S., Manila’s most important military ally, by calling for the departure of American troops from troubled Mindanao island, where they serve as military advisers. Photo: Getty Images

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said this week that Mr. Duterte’s incendiary remarks were “unhelpful,” and that the U.S. government was waiting to see whether his tough statements would translate into official policy.

Japan also risks a setback in its efforts, under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, to build alliances with Southeast Asian nations and Australia as a counterweight to China.

Just last week, Mr. Abe met Mr. Duterte for the first time. Japan agreed to provide low-interest loans to allow the Philippines to buy two more large patrol vessels, on top of 10 smaller vessels already promised. Japan also said it would lease five TC-90 military training planes, which can be used for surveillance, and Mr. Abe told Mr. Duterte that Japan hopes to offer assistance in training pilots and mechanics.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry declined to comment on Mr. Duterte’s statements Wednesday. South Korea, which also sells arms to the Philippines, also declined to comment.

Professor Narushige Michishita at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies in Tokyo said the fear for the region is that a shift by Manila “could give China a chance to create splits” among countries around the South China Sea. “And the risk that China would become more assertive in the East China Sea would rise,” he added.

Gregory Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S. think tank, said U.S. efforts to enforce the rule of law in the South China Sea, and reassert its leadership in the Asia-Pacific more generally, would be “undermined” by any Philippine retreat from the alliance.

While Mr. Duterte’s anti-American views aren’t new, his decision to air them now may have been sparked by international criticism regarding his continuing “war on drugs,” in which police say nearly 3,000 people have died June 30, when he took office.

Mr. Duterte used an expletive last week in warning the U.S. president not to lecture him on human rights. Mr. Obama canceled their planned meeting.

“If you want to attack me or to lecture me, do not do it in public, just like one president and the U.N.” did, Mr. Duterte said on Tuesday. “You know when you lecture me, I get mad.”

Write to Trefor Moss at


Just empty talk? Philippines’ Duterte is playing China off against US on arms purchases, analysts say

September 14, 2016

Mentally Ill or Crazy Like a Fox?

Manila not brave or powerful enough, and existing treaty, lack of mutual trust and compatibility issues make option of buying Chinese arms ‘unrealistic’

By Kristin Huang
South China Morning Post

Thursday, September 15, 2016, 12:01am

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte — Who called President Obama a “Son of a Whore” — is known for his outspokenness. AP photo

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte may have said he wants to buy arms from China, but he is simply playing China off against the United States rather than presenting a realistic plan, analysts say.

And the fallout from an international tribunal ruling on the South China Sea is far from over, they added.

Duterte told military officers in Manila on Tuesday that he would not allow government forces to conduct joint patrols of disputed waters near the South China Sea with foreign powers, and that he was considering acquiring defence equipment from Russia and China.

Last week, he said he wanted all American special forces out of the southern Philippines, where they have been advising local troops battling Muslim extremists, but the US said no official order was received.

The acid-tongued Duterte has had an uneasy relationship with the US recently and is also trying to mend ties with China frayed by the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which ruled against China’s territorial claims to the South China Sea.

 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte cites accounts of US troops who killed Muslims during the US occupation of the Philippines in the early-1900s last week as he says he is ordering all US special forces out of the southern region of Mindanao. Photo: AFP

Oh Ei-sun, a senior fellow with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said Duterte’s expressed wish to buy Chinese arms could not be interpreted clearly while debate on the international tribunal ruling continues.

“What Duterte is doing is to play the US off against China and vice versa, to hopefully achieve the greatest benefits for the Philippines,” Oh said.

“In this regard, he could afford to be more ‘severe’ and ‘colourful’ against the US, which considers the Philippines to be an important pillar for its rebalancing policy and is thus more restrained in its responses to Duterte’s outbursts, than to China, which typically does not take foreign impoliteness or diplomatic slights too lightly.

“I think what Duterte is really looking for is better weapons sales terms from the US.”

Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, a Chinese government think tank, said Duterte was testing the US while hoping for greater benefits, especially military goods, even though what he said was unrealistic.

“The Mutual Defence Treaty between the US and the Philippines is a legally binding document approved by the Philippine Supreme Court and a few words from Duterte cannot stop that deep military engagement with the US, which obviously wants to maintain and even boost its geopolitical sway in the region,” Wu said.

“China also may not sell weapons to the Philippines as Duterte wishesdue to a lack of mutual trust. And it would be embarrassing if the Philippines used Chinese warships to fight against China.”

Military observer Zhou Chenming said the Philippines was neither brave nor powerful enough to split from the US. Therefore, he said, Duterte’s proposal to buy arms from China was mere posturing to please Beijing, which was infuriated by the Hague ruling on the South China Sea, rather than a realistic plan.

“Also, compatibility problems hinder Chinese arms sale to the Philippines, as the latter is accustomed to US-style weaponry, which is totally different from Chinese designs and production,” Zhou said.

 The Philippine government released what it says are surveillance pictures earlier this month of Chinese coastguard ships and barges at the disputed Scarborough Shoal. Photo: AP

Ties between the Philippines and China have been strained since the Philippines applied for a ruling on the South China Sea from the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Filipino fishermen have also complained of harassment by Chinese government vessels near the Scarborough Shoal.

Oh, from Singapore, said the oral proposal to buy Chinese weapons could not be seen as a symbol that disputes in the South China Sea were over, as “even if the Philippines does not insist upon the ruling, other Southeast Asian countries would still do so. Similarly, the South China Sea situation is calmer at the moment, but will likely flare up as soon as any claimant acts rashly.”

Wu said the ruling could not be easily ignored by the Philippines because the US and Japan would not allow it to do so, as both viewed it as an excuse to contain Chinese assertiveness in the important waterway.

Duterte is famous for his outspokenness. He referred to US President Barack Obama as a “son of a whore” last week and, less than a month earlier, he addressed the Chinese presence in the disputed waters. “I guarantee to them (China), if you enter here, it will be bloody,” he said. “And we will not give it to them easily. It will be the bones of our soldiers, you can include mine.”

Oh said: “We can hardly discern the seriousness or real effect of what Duterte blurts out in colourful language on an almost daily basis, only to be typically diluted or explained away by other Philippine officials a short while later. Their flippantly contradictory nature frankly does not inspire confidence in their logical implementation. ”

American soldiers will remain in Mindanao, Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana says

September 14, 2016
In this Aug. 5, 2016 photo, President Rodrigo Duterte, flanked by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya, speaks to members of the AFP Central Command in Camp Lapu-Lapu, Cebu City. PPD/Ace Morandante

Yasay meeting with Kerry in Washington

MANILA, Philippines – American soldiers will remain in Mindanao despite President Duterte’s pronouncement that he wanted them out of the region so they won’t be targeted by members of the Abu Sayyaf, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said yesterday.

“We still need them there because they have the surveillance capability that our Armed Forces don’t have,” Lorenzana told the House appropriations committee.

He was responding to questions raised by leftist lawmakers who said they were not only supporting Duterte’s statement but would want all American troops in Mindanao and other parts of the country to leave for good.

Lorenzana said there are 107 US soldiers based in Zamboanga City conducting surveillance operations in Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi to help the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) fight terrorists.

“They are using two types of assets: a small aircraft with night flying capability and three drones,” he said.

In many cases, he said the Americans send their surveillance assets to areas identified by the AFP.

He added that of the 107, 50 are Marines, 17 are Army soldiers and 20 belong to Special Forces units.

Lorenzana pointed out the chances of the Americans being attacked or kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf – as voiced out by the President – are a remote possibility.

“They are located in a compound inside Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City. If they go out of the camp, they are either accompanied by our soldiers or are armed. Remember that these US soldiers are combatants,” he said.

He said US soldiers in Mindanao used to number 600 a few years ago. “Before, they were embedded with our units in the field up to the brigade level,” he said.

He later told reporters that the country needs its military alliance with the US and the agreements on cooperation the two nations have signed like the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

He said he has explained the importance of the alliance and the agreements to Duterte.

“I think it’s just right for us to remain allied with the US. They are still the dominant military force in this part of the Pacific. Our neighbors – Japan, Australia, South Korea – have military alliance with the US,” he said.

Under EDCA, the defense chief said American troops have been given access to five military camps – Basa Air base in Floridablanca in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Mactan Air base in Cebu, Lumbia Air base in Cagayan de Oro City, and a camp in Palawan.

“We are spending for our facilities in these camps and the Americans are spending for their facilities,” he said.

At Camp Aguinaldo, AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said a withdrawal by the Americans would be a bane to the military’s counterterrorism efforts.

He said US forces have been providing intelligence information and technical assistance to the military. They also provide humanitarian and disaster assistance to communities, he added.

He expressed confidence Duterte’s pronouncements would not affect existing agreements like the EDCA. Duterte, he pointed out, made the pronouncement out of concern for the safety of US forces. “They could be victims of retaliation,” he said of the US soldiers.

AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla earlier echoed Lorenzana’s explanation of Duterte’s asking for a US pullout.

“Pursuant to the same statement, he (Duterte) desires that our American counterparts should be eased from harm’s way.  This refers to Western Mindanao where intense focused military operations combatting terrorism are ongoing,

“We take due notice of the pronouncement of the Commander-in-Chief President Duterte expressing his concern of the safety of US Servicemen in Mindanao,” he added.

For his part, AFP chief of staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya said the military is verifying information that the terrorist group ISIS is in contact with the Abu Sayyaf whose members are on the run due to intensified military operation.

“We have the Abu Sayyaf under control in Basilan. We are now pursuing them in Sulu,” he said.

During the hearing, appropriations committee members reiterated their concern for the ballooning appropriations for pension benefits for retired AFP personnel.

They noted that the military would need P44 billion next year for pension, an amount that is P12 billion bigger than its operating budget of P32 billion.

President Duterte himself has called for reforming the pension-retirement system in the military.

Ready to explain

Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. , meanwhile, said he is ready to explain the President’s pronouncement to Secretary of State John Kerry – if asked – at a private dinner with heads of state and foreign ministers to be hosted by the US official.

Yasay left Tuesday night for Washington before proceeding to New York to represent Duterte in the United Nations General Assembly.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose said no one-on-one meeting has been requested or arranged between Yasay and Kerry.

“I’m not sugarcoating it at all. You cannot dissociate, for instance, the fact that when he said that he wants the Americans out, you dissociate it from the fact that he said that he does not want these Americans to be harmed or be killed. This was the context,” Yasay said in an interview on News To Go.

“If Secretary of State John Kerry will ask me these questions, I will say the very things to him, and he will understand that. Alam niya naman na walang pagbabago ang (He knows there is no change in) policy,” he said.

Jose also said Yasay is set to meet with Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) chief executive officer Dana J. Hyde and speak before the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

He will also meet with the US-Philippine Society and the Filipino community at the Philippine embassy in Washington as well as with senior leaders of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Jose said Malacañang had already clarified the Philippines is not cutting its defense alliance with the US.

On Tuesday, Yasay said Duterte’s call for the withdrawal of US Special Forces from Mindanao was not an indication of policy shift as all agreements and treaties with the US would remain, including one allowing increased US military presence in the country.

He echoed the President’s explanation that the latter merely wanted the American soldiers out of harm’s way when expressed his wish that they leave Mindanao. Duterte had said the US presence in Mindanao was complicating Philippine security forces’ anti-terror operations. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Cecille Suerte Felipe

China says underwater drones are threatening to escalate South China Sea tensions

April 28, 2016

By Mark Valencia
South China Morning Post

Mark Valencia says the advent of unmanned submersibles as the next frontier in military intelligence will strain already fraught Sino-US relations on surveillance activities and test international law

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 April, 2016, 4:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 April, 2016, 5:12pm

On April 15, American defence secretary Ashton Carter announced that the US is on the verge of deploying “new undersea drones in multiple sizes and diverse payloads that can, importantly, operate in shallow water where manned submersibles cannot”. He chose his visit to the US aircraft carrier Stennis, sailing in the South China Sea, to make the announcement, thus sending a clear message to China.

The initial role of the unmanned underwater vehicles is likely to be intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. But they could also be used to track “enemy” submarines and even launch missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. Such drones could easily enter territorial seas and even harbours undetected. Amid tightening tensions in the South China Sea, this technological “threat” raises controversial legal and political questions surrounding their use. Indeed, the proliferation of drones and their roles create conflicts with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

These developments will clearly complicate the already strained US-China relationship regarding surveillance activities in the South China Sea. That relationship has already been sorely tested by the EP-3 (2001), the Bowditch (2001), the Impeccable (2009), the Cowpens (2013) and the Poseidon (2014) encounters. These incidents all involved Chinese challenges to US naval surveillance vessels and aircraft undertaking missions in its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone that China perceived to be a threat to its security.

 A Chinese J-11 fighter jet flies near a US Navy P-8 Poseidon about 215km east of Hainan Island. China said its pilot had maintained a safe distance from the US aircraft. Photo: Reuters

China and the US have converging strategic trajectories. China is developing what the US calls an “area denial strategy” designed to control China’s “near seas” and prevent access by the US in the event of a conflict – say between China and Taiwan. The US response is the air-sea battle concept, which is intended to cripple China’s command, control, communications, computer and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. This is the “tip of the spear” for both, and both are trying to dominate this sphere over, on and under China’s near seas. For both, drones are becoming the tip of that tip.

The US is quickly moving to the use of aerial and surface drones, as well as undersea drones for surveillance. Several countries in the region, including China, Malaysia and Thailand, do not allow military activities in their exclusive economic zones without permission. Thus, the use of drones is already creating controversy: in June 2011, Chinese jets “chased away” an unidentified US surveillance jet – rumoured to be a Global Hawk drone – over the Taiwan Strait. Despite China’s protests that such flights “severely harmed mutual trust and were a major obstacle to better military ties”, the then-chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, vowed to press ahead with such surveillance flights.

 US defence secretary Ashton Carter talks to airmen in front of a Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. Photo: AFP

For decades, military and civilian satellites have undertaken marine scientific research in other nations’ EEZs without the permission – or sometimes even the knowledge – required by the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. But now there is a new array of drones.

The Seaglider is just one example. It is a small, energy-efficient unmanned underwater vessel that uses a new form of propulsion that changes the vehicle’s buoyancy and allows it to ascend and descend as a means of moving forward. These vessels have extremely low energy demands which enable both endurance and stealth due to the absence of noise-producing engines. This makes them ideal for surveillance missions.

The proliferation of drones is bound to become more politically fraught

These advances will generate legal and political problems. International law, including the UN convention, prohibits overflight of foreign 12-nautical-mile territorial seas without permission. And in a foreign territorial sea, submarines – manned or unmanned – must surface and show their flag. In the 200-nautical-mile EEZ, the foreign user cannot conduct scientific research without permission.

Surface and underwater drones may well be regarded by some as marine scientific research “equipment”. Some countries like China claim that surveying for military purposes is a “preparation of the battlefield” and thus “non-peaceful” and not allowed.

Given these legal and strategic differences, the proliferation of drones is bound to become more politically fraught as the scale and scope of intelligence collection activities expand, involving levels of activity unprecedented in peacetime. Being more intrusive, they will generate tensions and more frequent crises, leading to less stability in affected regions like the East and South China seas.

China is trying to catch up and has made dramatic progress. Advances are most evident in aerial drones, but it is also accelerating its development of underwater and land drones. This effort is at least partially attributable to their utility in maritime territorial disputes.


A Japanese surveillance plane flies over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. Photo: AP

China’s use of drones in the East China Sea has already raised political hackles. In response to China’s intended deployment of an aerial drone, Japanese defence minister Itsunori Onodera announced that Tokyo would “consider shooting down drones that enter Japanese airspace”, significantly raising the prospects of escalation. Soon after, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe approved a plan for the Self-Defence Forces to “engage drones intruding into the country’s airspace”. In response to Abe’s remarks, the Chinese Ministry of National Defence spokesperson stated that shooting down a Chinese drone would constitute an “act of war”.

China’s use of drones in the East China Sea has already raised political hackles

What to do? The default option is to “do nothing” – just let the rules evolve. But doing nothing means that where the text of a governing treaty leaves matters ambiguous or unresolved, the practice of states will become particularly important in determining the interpretation of the treaty’s provisions. The increasing use of drones may even trigger a “Grotian moment”, in which rapid, radical changes in technology accelerate the formation of customary international law.

If many coastal states enact unilateral national legislation prohibiting certain military and intelligence-gathering activities by drones in and above their jurisdictional zones, then the banning of such missions could become part of customary international law through state practice, despite the opposition of a few countries.

The US and China could try to get ahead of the curve and negotiate voluntary guidelines for the use of drones in waters under foreign jurisdiction. But, of course, realists will argue that the US should maintain its technological advantage and therefore not agree to any constraints. Thus, it is likely that more international incidents will have to be endured in order to show the necessity of doing so.

Mark J. Valencia is an adjunct senior scholar at the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, Haikou, China


South China Sea.

Many South China Sea island people fear a new wave of swarming Chinese fishermen

Chinese fishing boats make ready for the fishing season. Vietnam and the Philippines have been reporting harassment and hostile acts from Chinese fishermen in traditional Vietnamese and Filipino fishing grounds.
These are Chinese fishing boats doing what the Vietnamese call “swarming”
Chinese fishing boats “swarming”