Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 23, 2017

Syria Summary - The Move On Tabqa May Complicate The Political Situation

Turkey is at a dead end in Syria. Erdogan's dream of going on to Raqqa and Deir Ezzor  or even Aleppo city has been blocked by an agreement between the U.S. and Russia. His proxy forces are stuck north-east of Aleppo city and have no way to go further south, east or west. They conquered a piece of rural land that gives Erdogan no negotiation leverage but potentially a lot of headaches. A small Russian contingent has moved into the Kurdish enclave in north-west Syria around Afrin blocking any serious Turkish move against that area.

Turkey and its paymasters in Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have lost the fight over Syria. Still tacitly backed by the U.S. they are currently trying a Hail-Mary pass to again achieve some negotiation power for the next round of Geneva talks. This is likely to again fail. Their proxy forces in the north west, including al-Qaeda, moved from the north towards the city of Hama (see map, red=Syrian government). Over the last days they captured 11 small villages which were only lightly defended. The Russian and Syrian airforce are now devastating them and a counter-attack by the Syrian army is prepared and will soon throw them back.


Source: Islamic World News - bigger

Coordinated with the Hama attack was an attempt to capture ground on the eastern periphery of Damascus and in the south around Deraa. The Damascus attack has run its cause. No ground was taken and held by the Takfiris and the counterattack against them is advancing. The attack in Deraa failed to break the Syrian army defense lines.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - The Move On Tabqa May Complicate The Political Situation

Posted by b at 02:34 PM | Comments (29)

March 22, 2017

Fool Me Once ... DNC Ally Crowdstrike Claimed Two Cases Of "Russian Hacking" - One At Least Was Fake

The cyber-security company Crowdstrike claimed that the "Russia" hacked the Democratic National Committee. It also claimed that "Russia" hacked artillery units of the Ukrainian army. The second claim has now be found to be completely baseless. That same is probably the case with its claims related to the DNC.

Sometime around May 2016 the Democratic National Committee lost control over its email archives. It claimed that its servers had been "hacked" by someone related to Russian interests. DNC emails were published by Wikileaks and provided that the DNC had worked during the primaries against its statutes and in favor of one presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. The DNC chair was forced to resign over the case.

The DNC had called in Crowdstrike, a company led by a one Dimitry Alperovich, a Senior Fellow of the NATO aligned "think tank" Atlantic Council. After a short investigation Crowdstrike claimed to found intruding software on the DNC servers that, it says, has been exclusively used by Russian intelligence services. From there followed claims that "Russia hacked the U.S. elections".

When the DNC went public with the Crowdstrike claims the FBI never requested access to the servers to determine if a crime had been committed and to detect the culprit. Access to the servers had been informally denied by the DNC. The FBI simply followed (pdf), without any own forensic investigation of its own, the conclusions Crowdstrike had made.

Imagine that some white guy claims that his house has been broken in and a large amount of money has been stolen. He hires a private investigators who says a window was broken and therefore the crime must have been committed by those "niggers" down the road. But others ask if the man hides the money himself, or if the man's son might have taken it. But the police does not investigate if a crime has actually happened. It does no forensics at the crime scene. It does not even check if a window has indeed been broken. It simply follows the conclusion of the private investigator and accuses the "niggers". This is what happened in the DNC case.

Month later and in a different case the same Crowdstrike investigators claimed (pdf) that the artillery units of the Ukrainian army had had "excessive combat losses" of up to 80% in their fight with Ukrainian separatists. Crowdstrike asserted that Russian intelligence hacked an application used by the Ukrainians to aim their guns. The hack, it was claimed, enabled well targeted counter-fire that then destroyed the Ukrainian guns.

The author of the application denied that any such hacking had taken place. His software was provided only directly from him to Ukrainian army units. Independent cyber-security researchers also doubted the claims.

Crowdstrike had based its numbers for "excessive losses" of Ukrainian artillery units on statistics collected by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). The IISS now says that its statistic do not provide what Crowdstrike claimed. There were no "excessive losses" of Ukrainian artillery.

VOA first contacted IISS in February to verify the alleged artillery losses. Officials there initially were unaware of the CrowdStrike assertions. After investigating, they determined that CrowdStrike misinterpreted their data and hadn’t reached out beforehand for comment or clarification.

In a statement to VOA, the institute flatly rejected the assertion of artillery combat losses.

It seems that the whole "Ukrainian artillery hack" claims by Crowdstrike was simply made up. There was no "hack" and the claimed damage from the "hack" did not occur at all. Crowdstrike evidently found a "crime" and "Russian hacking" where none had happened.

Cont. reading: Fool Me Once ... DNC Ally Crowdstrike Claimed Two Cases Of "Russian Hacking" - One At Least Was Fake

Posted by b at 09:59 AM | Comments (80)

March 21, 2017

Airlines Want Protectionism - U.S. Bans Laptops, Tablets On Competition's Flights

February 2017: CEOs of Delta, United and American Hope Trump Will Block Arab Competition

The big three U.S. airlines maintain that Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways — airlines backed by governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — are unfairly subsidized and that their expansion into the U.S. market represents unfair competition that should be blocked by regulators.

“The Gulf carriers have received over $50 billion in documented subsidies from their government owners since 2004,” the chief executives of the big three wrote in a recent letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “Mr. Secretary,” the letter continues, “we are confident that the Trump Administration shares our view on the importance of enforcing our Open Skies agreements, ensuring that U.S. airlines have a fair and equal opportunity to compete in the international market, and protecting American jobs.”

March 2017: US bans laptops, tablets on flights from Turkey and Arab world

Senior US officials told reporters that nine airlines from eight countries had been given 96 hours, beginning at 3:00 am (0700 GMT), to tell travelers to pack any device bigger than a smartphone in their checked luggage.

Laptops, tablets and portable game consoles are affected by the ban -- which only applies to direct flights to the United States from the blacklisted airports.

No US carriers are affected by the ban, but passengers on approximately 50 flights per day from some of the busiest hubs in Turkey and the Arab world will be obliged to follow the new emergency ruling.
...
The ban will hit flights operated by Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.

The U.S. move is certainly not about security. What now hinders anyone to fly from Dubai to Paris and on to New York with a laptop and tablet in her carry on luggage? Why would that be more secure than a direct flight with Emirates Airline?  No. This is all about unwanted competition and an effort of the highly subsidized U.S. airlines to sell higher priced tickets with less service.

Flying from the Middle East to the U.S. one can now choose between a direct flight without any personal entertainment equipment, or take a flight with some additional stop on a (code-sharing) U.S. carrier. The second variant is of course more "secure".

A bit funny: The Brits immediately followed up with their own "security measures". But they banned different airports and airlines than the U.S. There are no new, additional "security measures" for flights to Britain from Kuwait, Qatar and Morocco. Instead Tunisia is on the British list. That of course does not make sense from a security standpoint. But it probably reflects the importance of certain investors for the City of London as well as the competitive situation of British Airways.

Posted by b at 02:17 PM | Comments (54)

March 20, 2017

The False Handshake Story Aims To Delegitimize Trump

I dislike Trump and his policies. I dislike Merkel and her policies. Both are my political enemies. But what I dislike even more are lying media which try to deceive for undeclared political aims.

A recent example:

The pieces linked above go on to speculate about personal animosities between Merkel and Trump and about diverging U.S. and European political directions.

While differences may exist between Trump and Merkel they have nothing to do with a handshake in an Oval Office photo op. Not mentioned in the above reports is that Merkel and Trump shook hands with each other several times and in cordial ways.

Here as Merkel arrives at the White House:


bigger

And here at the end of the press conference after their talks:


bigger

So why the headlines above?

Cont. reading: The False Handshake Story Aims To Delegitimize Trump

Posted by b at 11:12 AM | Comments (100)

March 19, 2017

Red Scare Redux: "Russian Weapons Stocked Right Up At NATO's Border!"

A Washington Post news piece on the current NATO budget spat remarks:

Russia, for its part, keeps tanks and missiles stocked right up against the NATO border.

Now, that's truly threatening of Russia and DANGEROUS!

How did that come to be?


bigger

UPDATE:

Found some of the stocked up weapons ...

Cont. reading: Red Scare Redux: "Russian Weapons Stocked Right Up At NATO's Border!"

Posted by b at 11:22 AM | Comments (80)

March 17, 2017

Which "War Torn" Country? - U.S. Slaughter In Somalia, Yemen And Syria


bigger - original tweet

When I saw the above tweet this morning I wondered which "war torn" country those Somalis were fleeing from when they were murdered. The tweet doesn't say. Were they fleeing from the "war torn" Somalia? Or were the fleeing from "war torn" Yemen?

It is a sad world when has to ponder such.

It tuned out these people were fleeing from both wars:

Coast guard Mohammad Al Alay told Reuters the refugees, carrying official UNHCR documents, were on their way from Yemen to Sudan when they were attacked by an Apache helicopter near the Bab Al Mandeb strait.

An Apache attack helicopter shot up the refugees' boat. There are Saudi, United Emirati and U.S. Apache helicopters in or around Yemen. It is unknown which of them ordered and which executed the strike. These helicopters, their ammunition and the service for them are a favored U.S. export to belligerent dictatorships like Saudi Arabia.

The UN warns that 5 million people in Yemen are only weeks away from starving. The Saudis, the U.S. and the Emirates block all land routes, air ports and the coast of Yemen and no food supplies come through. This is an ongoing huge war crime and literally a genocide. But "western" media seem totally unimpressed. Few, if any, reports on the war on Yemen get published. Never have they so openly displayed their hypocrisy.

Somalia is falling back into an all-out civil war fueled by the decades old unwillingness of the U.S. to condone an independent local unity government. The Islamic Court Union, a unity government created by the Somalis in 2006, was the last working instance of a real Somali state. It had no Jihadist agenda and held down local warlords. It was destroyed by the Bush administration:

A UN cable from June 2006, containing notes of a meeting with senior State Department and US military officials from the Horn of Africa task force, indicates that the United States was aware of the ICU’s diversity, but would “not allow” it to rule Somalia. The United States, according to the notes, intended to “rally with Ethiopia if the ‘Jihadist’ took over.” The cable concluded, “Any Ethiopian action in Somalia would have Washington’s blessing.” Some within the US intelligence community called for dialogue or reconciliation, but their voices were drowned out by hawks determined to overthrow the ICU.

During the last 10 years an on-and-off war is waged in Somalia with the U.S. military interfering whenever peace seems to gain ground. Currently a new round of war is building up. Weapons are streaming into Somalia from Yemen, where the Houthi plunder them from their Saudi invaders:

Jonah Leff, a weapons tracing expert with conflict Armament Research, said many [Somali] pirates had turned to smuggling. They take boatloads of people [from Somalia] to Yemen and return with weapons, he said.

The wars on Somalia and Yemen are the consequences of unscrupulous and incompetent(?) U.S. foreign policy. (Cutting down the size of the U.S. State Department, as the Trump administration now plans to do, is probably the best thing one can do for world peace.)

The U.S. military should be cut down too. It is equally unscrupulous and incompetent.

Last night the U.S. military hit a mosque in Al-Jīnah in Aleppo governate in Syria. It first claimed that the strike, allegedly targeting a large meeting of al-Qaeda, was in Idleb governate. But it turned out to be miles away west of Aleppo. Locals said a mosque was hit, the roof crashed in and more than 40 people were killed during the regular prayer service. More than 120 were injured. The U.S. military said it did not hit the local mosque but a building on the other side of the small plaza.

The U.S. maps and intelligence were not up-to-date. A new, bigger mosque had been build some years ago opposite of the old mosque. The old mosque was indeed not hit. The new one was destroyed while some 200 people were in attendance. Eight hellfire missiles launched from two Reaper drones were fired at it and a 500lb bomb was then dropped on top to make sure that no one escaped alive. Al-Qaeda fighters were indeed "meeting" at that place - five times a day and together with the locals they have pressed by force to attend the Quran proscribed prayers.

Had the Russian or Syrian army committed the strike the "western" outcry would have been great. For days the media would have provide gruesome photos and stories. The U.S. ambassador at the UN would have spewed fire and brimstone. But this intelligence screw-up happened on the U.S. side. There will now be some mealymouthed explanations and an official military investigation that will find no fault and will have no consequences.

Amid this sorry incident it was amusing to see the propaganda entities the U.S. had created to blame the Syrian government turning against itself. The MI6 operated SOHR was the first to come out with a high death count. The al-Qaeda aligned, U.S./UK financed "White Helmets" rescuers made a quick photo session pretending to dig out the dead. The sectarian al-Qaeda video propagandist Bilal Abdul Kareem, which the New York Times recently portrait in a positive light, provided damning video and accusing comments. The amateur NATO researchers at Bellingcat published what they had gleaned from maps, photos and videos other people created. The NATO think tank, which defended al-Qaeda's invasion of Idleb, will shed crocodile tears.

Each new lie and obfuscation the U.S. Central Command in the Middle East put out throughout the day was immediately debunked by the horde of U.S. financed al-Qaeda propaganda supporters. This blowback from the "information operation" against Syria will likely have consequences for future U.S. operations.

In another operation last night the Israeli air force attacked Syrian forces near Palmyra which were operating against ISIS. The Israeli fighters were chased away when the Syrians fired air defense missiles. This was an Israeli attempt to stretch the "rules of operation" it had negotiated with the Russian military in Syria. The Russians, which control the Syrian air space, had allowed Israel to hit Hizbullah weapon transports on their way to Lebanon. Attacks on any force operating against Jihadis in Syria are taboo. The Russian government summoned the Israeli ambassador. Netanyahoo broke the rules. He will now have to bear the consequences.

Posted by b at 03:42 PM | Comments (134)

March 15, 2017

Third Time's The Charm - These Neocons Want Another Sunni Insurgency (Updated)

UPDATED below:

When the U.S. was confronted with an insurgency in Iraq it did not find fault with own behavior but identified Syria and Iran as the culprits. It decided to attack them too. As Seymour Hersh reported in 2007:

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Four years later the U.S. used the Sunni militants it created to first attack Libya and then Syria. With U.S. support the militants destroyed the independent Libyan state under Ghaddafi. The country is now in total chaos. In Syria the militants, with clandestine support from the U.S. and its allies, waged a six year long war to overthrow the government. Many of them joined the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, the Takfiri offsprings of the U.S. program and Saudi money that went (somewhat) rogue. These groups did not limit, as the U.S. wished, their attacks to U.S. enemies but committed several larger scale attacks against U.S. allied countries. Now the groups themselves are enemies.

The project of creating a controllable "Sunni Arab force" to destroy Syria had failed. The Pentagon made another attempts, spending tens of millions of dollars, to train a new Sunni Arab force in Syria to attack the Syrian government as well as the Takfiris. As soon as these new groups entered into Syria they joined the Takfiris and handed over the weapons the U.S. army had given them.

The U.S. is now engaging with Russia and local Kurdish forces in Syria to destroy the Takfiri groups on the ground. The Kurds are of various religions and denominations with a mostly secular outlook. That plan made some progress though an actual attack on Raqqa, the current center of the Islamic State, is still weeks off. The Syrian government is winning its part of the fight in the west of the country.

But that is not enough for the U.S. neoconservatives. Their task is to further Zionist plans by creating more chaos in the Middle East. Their partner and money source is the Sunni-Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. Having successfully arranged the destruction of Iraq, various failed "surges" as well as the attack on Syria, they cannot condone that the Syrian government survives the war.

Thus they set out to create a new (the third now) Sunni-Arab force to continue what their original war plan prescribed.

Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, luminaries of the neoconservative family, initiate their new campaign on the neoconned opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal: A New Strategy Against ISIS and al Qaeda - The U.S. has been relying too heavily on Shiites and Kurds. It needs to cultivate Sunni Arab partners.

The Kagan family - other well known members are Robert Kagan and Victoria Nuland - were also main instigators of the war on Iraq. Here they are in 2008 strolling (heavily guarded) through the occupied Basra, Iraq amusing themselves off the destruction they created.

Cont. reading: Third Time's The Charm - These Neocons Want Another Sunni Insurgency (Updated)

Posted by b at 03:43 PM | Comments (110)

March 14, 2017

The Democrats Anti-Russia Campaign Falls Apart (Updated)

UPDATED below
---

A while ago Matt Tabbi in Rolling Stone warned: Why the Russia Story Is a Minefield for Democrats and the Media:

If we engage in Times-style gilding of every lily the leakers throw our way, and in doing so build up a fever of expectations for a bombshell reveal, but there turns out to be no conspiracy – Trump will be pre-inoculated against all criticism for the foreseeable future.

Sanity is finally winning over. After raising all kinds of shambolic rumors about "Russian interference" the "western" intelligence agencies are walking back their previous outrageous claims:

  • Former DNI James Clapper admits (vid) that he has zero evidence for any Trump-Russia collusion;
  • The British Foreign Secretary now says there is "no evidence" of any Russian interference with British democracy;
  • The German secret services have no proof (in German) for any Russian disinformation campaign.

There is no evidence for any Russian interference in the U.S., or any other, election. No evidence has been show, despite many claims, that Russia or its proxies hacked John Podesta's emails or the DNC or collaborated with Wikileaks.

Even the Democrats now concede that the whole mountain of bullshit their anti-Trump and anti-Russian campaign created stinks to high heaven:

[S]ome Democrats on the Intelligence Committee now quietly admit, after several briefings and preliminary inquiries, they don’t expect to find evidence of active, informed collusion between the Trump campaign and known Russian intelligence operatives, though investigators have only just begun reviewing raw intelligence. Among the Intelligence Committee’s rank and file, there’s a tangible frustration over what one official called “wildly inflated” expectations surrounding the panel’s fledgling investigation.

Ardent Russia critics like Masha Geesen and former ambassador Michael McFaul now warn of irreparable damage the irrational anti-Russian campaign may cause. A New York Times opinion piece points out that the reignited anti-Russian attitude goes back to the 19th century and was as wrong then as it is now. Claims that meetings between the incoming Trump administration and the Russian ambassador were nefarious are hard to hold up when members of the Clinton campaign also met him. Trump's National Security Advisor Flynn was accused of colluding with Russia when in fact he was paid by Turkey to lobby for Erdogan.

The disinformation campaign against Russia is falling apart for lack of any evidence. The media who ardently supported it have lost trust. As they obviously lied about Russia how much truth are they telling on other issue?

Tabbi's warning was late. The damage is done. "Western" relations with Russia have been hurt. But also hurt are the reputations of the media and of the Democratic party. Trump though has been justified with his rejection of that campaign. He now is, as Tabbi predicted, "pre-inoculated" against other accusations - at least with his followers and those sitting on the fence. Trump has now the space to develop his original grand strategic idea of seeking amiable relations with Russia before getting embroiled in any other international dispute. Those relations are now developing on the ground in Syria where cooperation between Russian and U.S. troops intensifies:

Moscow, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis added, has "kept us abreast of their operations" in Manbij, ..

Signs are that there is way more of that then the Pentagon admits. There have been several meetings at the highest levels of Russian and U.S. military and whoever commands U.S. forces in Syria will surely have a direct line to the Russian ground commander to coordinate their moves.

The Democrats failed in their anti-Trump, anti-Russia campaign.

UPDATE:

The belligerent dude Hillary Clinton's wanted as CIA boss now admits that the British Steele dossier is total bullshit. (We said so months ago.)

Clinton Ally Says Smoke, But No Fire: No Russia-Trump Collusion

Cont. reading: The Democrats Anti-Russia Campaign Falls Apart (Updated)

Posted by b at 12:02 PM | Comments (127)

March 13, 2017

Open Thread 2017-11

News & views ...

Posted by b at 03:49 PM | Comments (121)

March 12, 2017

When Nothing "Left" Is Left The People Will Vote Far Right

Some of the people around the U.S. Democrats finally start to get the message of the 2016 election. An editor at Salon writes a slightly satirical critic of the Democratic Party under the headline: How the DudeBros ruined everything: A totally clear-headed guide to political reality . The core sentence:

When “the left” endlessly debates which core issues or constituencies must be sacrificed for political gain, as if economic justice for the poor and the working class could be separated from social justice for women and people of color and the LGBT community and immigrants and people with disabilities, it is no longer functioning as the left.

When LGBT claptrap, gluten free food, political correctness and other such niceties beat out programs to serve the basic needs of the common people nothing "left" is left. The priority on the left must always be the well-being of the working people. All the other nice-to-have issues follow from and after that.

Many nominally social-democratic parties in Europe are on the same downward trajectory as the Democrats in the U.S. for the very same reason. Their real policies are center right. Their marketing policies hiding the real ones are to care for this or that minority interest or problem the majority of the people has no reason to care about. Real wages sink but they continue to import cheep labor (real policy) under the disguise of helping "refugees" (marketing policy) which are simply economic migrants. (Even parts of the German "Die Linke" party are infected with such nonsense.)

The people with real economic problems, those who have reason to fear the future, have no one in the traditional political spectrum that even pretends to care about them. Those are the voters now streaming to the far right. (They will again get screwed. The far right has an economic agenda that is totally hostile to them. But it at least promises to do something about their fears.) Where else should they go?

The U.S. Democrats are currently applauding the former United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara. The position is a political appointed one. Whoever is appointed serves "at the pleasure of the President". It is completely normal that people in such positions get replaced when the presidency changes from one party to the other. The justice department asked Bharara to "voluntary resign". He rejected that, he was fired.

Oh what a brave man! Applause!

The dude served as United States attorney during the mortgage scams and financial crash. Wall Street was part of his beat. How many of the involved banksters did he prosecute? Well, exactly zero. What a hero! How many votes did the Democrats lose because they did not go after the criminals ruling Wall Street?

Bharara is one reason the Democrats lost the election. Oh yes, he is part of a minority and that makes him a favorite with the pseudo left Democrats. But he did nothing while millions got robbed. How can one expect to get votes when one compliments such persons?

But the top reader comments to the New York Times report on the issue are full of voices who laud Bharara for his meaning- and useless "resistance" to Trump.

Those are the "voices of the people" the political functionaries of the Democratic Party want to read and hear. Likely the only ones. But those are the voices of people (if real at all and not marketing sock-puppets) who are themselves a tiny, well pampered minority. Not the people one needs to win elections.

Unless they change their political program (not just its marketing) and unless they go back to consistently argue for the people in the lower third of the economic scale the Democrats in the U.S. and the Social-Democrats in Europe will continue to lose voters. The far right will, for lack of political alternative, be the party that picks up their votes.

Posted by b at 03:49 PM | Comments (106)

March 10, 2017

Syria - Preparing For The Big Move On Idlib

During the last week significant moves in Syria have taken place east of Aleppo. But the situation there will likely soon calm down. The next intense phase of the war may well be a Syrian army attack on al-Qaeda's position in Idlib governate in the north-west of the country.

One objective of the Syrian Arab Army move east of Aleppo city was to block the invading Turkish forces from reaching further south. This had been achieved as of last week. The main objective though was to reach the pumping stations at the Euphrates which supply Aleppo city with drinking water. This aim was achieved yesterday. The SAA managed to evict the Islamic State from the shut-down station before it could blow it up. The generators and pumps were booby trapped but seem otherwise operational. After 40 days of strictly rationed water Aleppo city and its nearly 2 million people will soon be back on a normal water supply.


map by Peto Lucem bigger

I expect that the SAA contingent in east-Aleppo will now move further south and then east along the Euphrates towards Raqqa. This move though will no longer have a high priority. There is no longer an urgent need to continue in the area. Should the Islamic State stop its retreat in the area and show significant resistance the SAA is likely to stop and only hold its line.

The Turkish government still insists on taking Manbij currently held by the Kurdish YPK (under the label "Syrian Democratic Forces" (SDF)) which is now a U.S. proxy force under U.S. military command. Russia moved to insert Syrian army forces between the Turkish forces west of Manbij and the city. Thereby a buffer has been created between the Turkish (proxy) forces of "moderate rebels" and U.S. proxy forces of the Kurdish SDF. A few Russian special forces entered the area. As no SAA soldiers were readily available some local Arabs and Kurds were asked to put up a Syrian flag and to call themselves "Syrian border guard". They happily agreed to do so.

Cont. reading: Syria - Preparing For The Big Move On Idlib

Posted by b at 02:33 PM | Comments (153)

Open Thread 2017-10

News & views ...

Posted by b at 04:56 AM | Comments (100)

March 09, 2017

Snake-Oil Alert - Encryption Does Not Prevent Mass-Snooping

The WikiLeaks stash of CIA hacking documents shows tools used by the CIA to hack individual cell-phones and devices. There are no documents yet that suggest mass snooping efforts on a very large scale. Unlike the NSA which has a "collect it all" attitude towards internet traffic and content the CIA seems to be more interested in individual hacking.

This suggests that the CIA can not decipher the modern encrypted communication it adversaries use. It  therefore has to attack their individual devices.

But it does not mean that the CIA can not engage in mass snooping.

The New York Times description is wrong:

Some technical experts pointed out that while the documents suggest that the C.I.A. might be able to compromise individual smartphones, there was no evidence that the agency could break the encryption that many phone and messaging apps use.

If the C.I.A. or the National Security Agency could routinely break the encryption used on such apps as Signal, Confide, Telegram and WhatsApp, then the government might be able to intercept such communications on a large scale and search for names or keywords of interest. But nothing in the leaked C.I.A. documents suggests that is possible.

Instead, the documents indicate that because of encryption, the agency must target an individual phone and then can intercept only the calls and messages that pass through that phone. Instead of casting a net for a big catch, in other words, C.I.A. spies essentially cast a single fishing line at a specific target, and do not try to troll an entire population.

“The difference between wholesale surveillance and targeted surveillance is huge,” said Dan Guido, a director at Hack/Secure, a cybersecurity investment firm. “Instead of sifting through a sea of information, they’re forced to look at devices one at a time.”

Snake-oil alert: Right diagnosis, wrong conclusion and therapy.

If the CIA breaks into an individual Samsung Galaxy 7 it can record what is typed on the screen, and whatever gets transferred via the microphone, camera and loudspeaker. No encryption can protect against that. But why should the CIA break into only one Galaxy 7?

It is wrong to conclude that the CIA can therefore not "intercept such communications on a large scale". It can. Easily.

If you can break into one individual Samsung Galaxy 7 you can break into all of them. This can be automated.

Cont. reading: Snake-Oil Alert - Encryption Does Not Prevent Mass-Snooping

Posted by b at 02:28 PM | Comments (74)

March 07, 2017

CIA Leak: "Russian Election Hackers" May Work In Langley

Attribution of cyber-intrusions and attacks is nearly impossible. A well executed attack can not be traced back to its culprit. If there are some trails that seem attributable one should be very cautions following them. They are likely faked.

Hundreds if not thousands of reports show that this lesson has not been learned. Any attack is attributed to one of a handful of declared "enemies" without any evidence that would prove their actual involvement. Examples:

In June 2016 we warned The Next "Russian Government Cyber Attack" May Be A Gulf of Tonkin Fake:

All one might see in a [cyber-]breach, if anything, is some pattern of action that may seem typical for one adversary. But anyone else can imitate such a pattern as soon as it is known. That is why there is NEVER a clear attribution in such cases. Anyone claiming otherwise is lying or has no idea what s/he is speaking of.

There is now public proof that this lecture in basic IT forensic is correct.

Wikileaks acquired and published a large stash of documents from the CIA's internal hacking organization. Part of the CIA hacking organization is a subgroup named UMBRAGE:

The CIA's Remote Devices Branch's UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques 'stolen' from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.

With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the "fingerprints" of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.

UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.

Hacking methods are seldom newly developed. They are taken from public examples and malware, from attacks some other organization once committed, they get bought and sold by commercial entities. Many attacks use a recombined mix of tools from older hacks. Once the NSA's STUXNET attack on Iran became public the tools used in it were copied and modified by other such services as well as by commercial hackers. Any new breach that may look like STUXNET could be done by anyone with the appropriate knowledge. To assert that the NSA must have done the new attack just because the NSA did STUXNET would be stupid.

The CIA, as well as other services, have whole databases of such 'stolen' tools. They may combine them in a way that looks attributable to China, compile the source code at local office time in Beijing or "forget to remove" the name of some famous Chinese emperor in the code. The CIA could use this to fake a "Chinese hacking attack" on South Korea to raise fear of China and to, in the end, sell more U.S. weapons.

Russia did not hack and leak the DNC emails, Iran did not hack American casinos and North Korea did not hack Sony.

As we wrote: "there is NEVER a clear attribution". Don't fall for it when someone tries to sell one.

(PS: There is a lot more in the new Wikileaks CIA stash. It seems indeed bigger than the few items published from the Snowden NSA leak.)

Posted by b at 12:46 PM | Comments (144)

NYT Blames Trump For Reading Its Reports

NYT March 6 - Trump’s Wiretapping Claims Puncture Veneer of Presidential Civility

[W]hen Mark Levin ... contended that Mr. Obama had targeted Mr. Trump for surveillance ... it struck a chord. Along with reports that in Mr. Obama’s last days in office his administration changed the rules on distributing intelligence and made a point of spreading information about Mr. Trump’s team and Russia to different parts of the government to “preserve” it, the wiretapping allegation pushed Mr. Trump over the top.

NYT March 5 - When One President Smears Another

In four tweets ... Mr. Trump declared as fact a theory he apparently encountered on alt-right websites: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

The above assertions by the New York Times raise the question where Mr. Levine got his information from. A reader might also ask who published those ominous "reports" and on which "alt-right website" one might encounter such theories?

The New York Times does not know where all this came from? That is a bit astonishing. Let me help:

  • On targeting Trump and his campaign for surveillance:

NYT - January 19 Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.
...
It is not clear whether the intercepted communications had anything to do with Mr. Trump’s campaign, or Mr. Trump himself.

NYT - February 14 - Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications ...

  • Those "reports" that Obama spread the information on Trump and his associates?

NYT January 12 - N.S.A. Gets More Latitude to Share Intercepted Communications

In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

NYT March 1 - Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking

In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information ... about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government ... to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.
  • The "alt-right website" that peddled all this?

By now you will have guessed it. It is the New York Times itself that reported (and slandered) the news about the Obama administration's surveillance of Trump and those associated with him.

The NYT and its editors now blames Trump for repeating, in a condensed tweet, the open and hidden assertions made in various reports by the New York Times itself.

There is zero evidence of any Russian involvement or hacking of the U.S. election. There is zero evidence of any collusion of Trump and those around him with Russia. There is zero evidence that any of the lunatic claims made in that Steele dossier, ordered up and financed by Trump's political enemies, are true.

Even if Trump's personal phone and email were not under direct wiretap, people near to Trump definitely were under communication surveillance. Inevitably such surveillance will have caught communication with and of the would be next president, Donald Trump. The Obama administration made sure that such taped communication would be widely distributed in raw form, guaranteeing future out-of-context leaks.

The Times knows all this and reported it - though often hidden in plain sight with misleading headlines and context.

Blaming Trump and others for repeating such reports is lame hypocrisy.

Posted by b at 09:49 AM | Comments (68)

March 04, 2017

Open Thread 2017-09

News & views ...

(I am on an extended family weekend which includes some ceremonies and festivities. Therefore: light posting)

You may want to discuss if "Obama wiretapped Trump". Not mentioned at the link is the Obama abuse of classification discussed earlier here.

My guess on the wiretapping:

  • The Obama administration did this at least before the election.
  • The "official target" was not Trump but someone else.
  • Nothing usable was found on Trump.

 

Posted by b at 10:33 AM | Comments (374)

March 02, 2017

Obama Ordered Abuse Of Intelligence To Sabotage Trump Policies

In its last months the Obama administration ordered the intelligence agencies to collect and distribute information of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. This to prevent any change by the Trump administration of the hostile policy towards Russia that the Obama administration instituted. The intent was also to give the intelligence services blackmail material against the Trump crew to prevent any changes in their undue, freewheeling independence.

The above is reported in a little discussed New York Times piece published yesterday. The reporting angle captured in the headline is biased to set the Obama efforts into a positive light: Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking.

Make no mistake by straight-reading that headline. Not single shred of evidence has been provided that "Russia hacked the election" or had anything to do with various leaks of Clinton related emails. A lot of fluff and chaff was thrown around but not even one tiny bit of evidence.

The Obama effort was clearly to sabotage the announced policy of the incoming administration of seeking better relations with Russia. Obama intended to undermine the will of the voters by abusing instruments of the state.

Excerpts from the piece:

In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about  ... possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.

It is completely normal for any campaign, and especially an incoming administration, to have contacts with foreign government officials.

Cont. reading: Obama Ordered Abuse Of Intelligence To Sabotage Trump Policies

Posted by b at 02:54 PM | Comments (100)

March 01, 2017

Syria - Erdogan's Lost Bet - Trump Likely To Follow A Cautious Strategy

The last Syria thread noted:

South of Al-Bab the Syrian army is moving towards the Euphrates. It will cut off the Turkish forces path to Raqqa and Manbij.

That move concluded. The Turkish invasion forces are now blocked from moving further south. They would have to fight the Syrian army and their Russian allies to move directly onto Raqqa. They would have to fight the Syrian-Kurdish YPG and its U.S. allies to move further east.

For the first time since the start of the war the supply lines between Turkey and the Islamic State are cut off!


map by Peto Lucem bigger

 

Cont. reading: Syria - Erdogan's Lost Bet - Trump Likely To Follow A Cautious Strategy

Posted by b at 11:42 AM | Comments (106)

 
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