Regime uses sanctions relief to beef up weaponry, leading their neighbors to do the same.
When a speedboat manned by Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) personnel approached American vessels operating in open water, the U.S. Navy patrol craft USS Thunderbolt issued a series of warnings, all translating as “stay away, keep safe distance.” The Revolutionary Guards kept coming, as they often do, probing until the USN reacts.
A fanatic’s boat weaving among American warships could disrupt the U.S. formation and cause a collision. Tehran propagandists would tout that as a victory at sea. Worse, an Iranian boat might be a water-borne bomb capable of sinking a big ship. The deadly October 2000 terror attack on the USS Cole is very much on the minds of Navy sailors when Iran’s small boats appear. Read the rest of this entry »
Beijing has been increasingly clamping down on use of VPNs in recent weeks. This has prompted concerns among various groups that it will stifle academic research and international trade.
OH HELL YEAH: U.S. Urges All Nationals In North Korea To ‘Depart Immediately’, Bans Tourists From VisitingPosted: July 21, 2017
YA THINK? The U.S. is to ban its citizens from travelling to North Korea.
US officials linked the move to the death of jailed American student Otto Warmbier.
Once the ban is in effect, US citizens will need special validation to travel to or within North Korea.
Mr Warmbier travelled to North Korea with Young Pioneer Tours. He was arrested in 2016 for trying to steal a propaganda sign and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was returned to the US in a coma in June and died a week later.
How did the news come to light?
Koryo Tours and Young Pioneer Tours, who both operate in North Korea, revealed on Friday that they had been told of the upcoming ban by the Swedish embassy, which acts for the US as Washington has no diplomatic relations with Pyongyang.
Rowan Beard, of Young Pioneer Tours, told the BBC the embassy was urging all US nationals to depart immediately.
He said the embassy was trying to check on the number of US tourists left in the country.
What form will the ban take?
Ms Nauert’s statement said: “Due to mounting concerns over the serious risk of arrest and long-term detention under North Korea’s system of law enforcement, the Secretary has authorised a Geographical Travel Restriction on all US nationals’ use of a passport to travelling through, or to North Korea.
“Once in effect, US passports will be invalid for travel to, through, and in North Korea, and individuals will be required to obtain a passport with a special validation in order to travel to or within North Korea.
“We intend to publish a notice in the Federal Register next week.
“The restriction will be implemented 30 days after publication.”
Rowan Beard said that the 30-day grace period would “give leeway for any [Americans] currently in the country as tourists or on humanitarian work”.
How have the travel agencies reacted?
Simon Cockerell of Koryo Tours told the BBC the agency would still conduct tours and take Americans until the ban came into effect.
“If their country allows them to go, we will take them,” he said.
Mr Cockerell added: “It’s unfortunate for the industry but also for North Koreans who want to know what Americans are really like.”
After the death of Mr Warmbier, the China-based Young Pioneer Tours announced it would no longer take visitors from the US to the country. Read the rest of this entry »
The Cold War test of nerves is back. Risky close encounters between Russian and NATO forces have increased dramatically in the Baltic region over the past three years. The WSJ’s Tanya Rivero explains what’s at stake.
President Donald Trump spoke Thursday in Warsaw, Poland, on his second international trip as President. These are his full remarks with first lady Melania Trump, as transcribed by the White House.
MRS. TRUMP: Hello, Poland! Thank you very much. My husband and I have enjoyed visiting your beautiful country. I want to thank President and Mrs. Duda for the warm welcome and their generous hospitality. I had the opportunity to visit the Copernicus Science Centre today, and found it not only informative but thoughtful, its mission, which is to inspire people to observe, experiment, ask questions, and seek answers.
I can think of no better purpose for such a wonderful science center. Thank you to all who were involved in giving us the tour, especially the children who made it such a wonderful experience.
As many of you know, a main focus of my husband’s presidency is safety and security of the American people. I think all of us can agree people should be able to live their lives without fear, no matter what country they live in. That is my wish for all of us around the world. (Applause.)
Thank you again for this wonderful welcome to your very special country. Your kindness and gracious hospitality will not be forgotten. (Applause.)
And now it is my honor to introduce to you my husband, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. That’s so nice. The United States has many great diplomats, but there is truly no better ambassador for our country than our beautiful First Lady, Melania. Thank you, Melania. That was very nice. (Applause.)
We’ve come to your nation to deliver a very important message: America loves Poland, and America loves the Polish people. (Applause.) Thank you.
The Poles have not only greatly enriched this region, but Polish-Americans have also greatly enriched the United States, and I was truly proud to have their support in the 2016 election. (Applause.)
It is a profound honor to stand in this city, by this monument to the Warsaw Uprising, and to address the Polish nation that so many generations have dreamed of: a Poland that is safe, strong, and free. (Applause.)
President Duda and your wonderful First Lady, Agata, have welcomed us with the tremendous warmth and kindness for which Poland is known around the world. Thank you. (Applause.) My sincere — and I mean sincerely thank both of them. And to Prime Minister Syzdlo, a very special thanks also. (Applause.)
We are also pleased that former President Leck Walesa, so famous for leading the Solidarity Movement, has joined us today, also. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
On behalf of all Americans, let me also thank the entire Polish people for the generosity you have shown in welcoming our soldiers to your country. These soldiers are not only brave defenders of freedom, but also symbols of America’s commitment to your security and your place in a strong and democratic Europe.
We are proudly joined on stage by American, Polish, British, and Romanian soldiers. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you. Great job.
President Duda and I have just come from an incredibly successful meeting with the leaders participating in the Three Seas Initiative. To the citizens of this great region, America is eager to expand our partnership with you. We welcome stronger ties of trade and commerce as you grow your economies. And we are committed to securing your access to alternate sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy. (Applause.)
Mr. President, I congratulate you, along with the President of Croatia, on your leadership of this historic Three Seas Initiative. Thank you. (Applause.)
This is my first visit to Central Europe as President, and I am thrilled that it could be right here at this magnificent, beautiful piece of land. It is beautiful. (Applause.) Poland is the geographic heart of Europe, but more importantly, in the Polish people, we see the soul of Europe. Your nation is great because your spirit is great and your spirit is strong. (Applause.)
For two centuries, Poland suffered constant and brutal attacks. But while Poland could be invaded and occupied, and its borders even erased from the map, it could never be erased from history or from your hearts. In those dark days, you have lost your land but you never lost your pride. (Applause.)
So it is with true admiration that I can say today, that from the farms and villages of your countryside to the cathedrals and squares of your great cities, Poland lives, Poland prospers, and Poland prevails. (Applause.)
Despite every effort to transform you, oppress you, or destroy you, you endured and overcame. You are the proud nation of Copernicus — think of that — (applause) — Chopin, Saint John Paul II. Poland is a land of great heroes. (Applause.) And you are a people who know the true value of what you defend.
The triumph of the Polish spirit over centuries of hardship gives us all hope for a future in which good conquers evil, and peace achieves victory over war.
For Americans, Poland has been a symbol of hope since the beginning of our nation. Polish heroes and American patriots fought side by side in our War of Independence and in many wars that followed. Our soldiers still serve together today in Afghanistan and Iraq, combatting the enemies of all civilization.
For America’s part, we have never given up on freedom and independence as the right and destiny of the Polish people, and we never, ever will. (Applause.)
Our two countries share a special bond forged by unique histories and national characters. It’s a fellowship that exists only among people who have fought and bled and died for freedom. (Applause.)
The signs of this friendship stand in our nation’s capital. Just steps from the White House, we’ve raised statues of men with names like Pułaski and Kościuszko. (Applause.) The same is true in Warsaw, where street signs carry the name of George Washington, and a monument stands to one of the world’s greatest heroes, Ronald Reagan. (Applause.)
And so I am here today not just to visit an old ally, but to hold it up as an example for others who seek freedom and who wish to summon the courage and the will to defend our civilization. (Applause.) The story of Poland is the story of a people who have never lost hope, who have never been broken, and who have never, ever forgotten who they are. (Applause)
AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thank you so much. Such a great honor. This is a nation more than one thousand years old. Your borders were erased for more than a century and only restored just one century ago.
In 1920, in the Miracle of Vistula, Poland stopped the Soviet army bent on European conquest. (Applause.) Then, 19 years later in 1939, you were invaded yet again, this time by Nazi Germany from the west and the Soviet Union from the east. That’s trouble. That’s tough.
Under a double occupation the Polish people endured evils beyond description: the Katyn forest massacre, the occupations, the Holocaust, the Warsaw Ghetto and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the destruction of this beautiful capital city, and the deaths of nearly one in five Polish people. A vibrant Jewish population — the largest in Europe — was reduced to almost nothing after the Nazis systematically murdered millions of Poland’s Jewish citizens, along with countless others, during that brutal occupation.
In the summer of 1944, the Nazi and Soviet armies were preparing for a terrible and bloody battle right here in Warsaw. Amid that hell on earth, the citizens of Poland rose up to defend their homeland. I am deeply honored to be joined on stage today by veterans and heroes of the Warsaw Uprising. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT TRUMP: What great spirit. We salute your noble sacrifice and we pledge to always remember your fight for Poland and for freedom. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause.)
This monument reminds us that more than 150,000 Poles died during that desperate struggle to overthrow oppression.
From the other side of the river, the Soviet armed forces stopped and waited. They watched as the Nazis ruthlessly destroyed the city, viciously murdering men, women, and children. They tried to destroy this nation forever by shattering its will to survive.
But there is a courage and a strength deep in the Polish character that no one could destroy. The Polish martyr, Bishop Michael Kozal, said it well: “More horrifying than a defeat of arms is a collapse of the human spirit.”
Through four decades of communist rule, Poland and the other captive nations of Europe endured a brutal campaign to demolish freedom, your faith, your laws, your history, your identity — indeed the very essence of your culture and your humanity. Yet, through it all, you never lost that spirit. (Applause.) Your oppressors tried to break you, but Poland could not be broken. (Applause.)
And when the day came on June 2nd, 1979, and one million Poles gathered around Victory Square for their very first mass with their Polish Pope, that day, every communist in Warsaw must have known that their oppressive system would soon come crashing down. (Applause.) They must have known it at the exact moment during Pope John Paul II’s sermon when a million Polish men, women, and children suddenly raised their voices in a single prayer. A million Polish people did not ask for wealth. They did not ask for privilege. Instead, one million Poles sang three simple words: “We Want God.” (Applause.)
In those words, the Polish people recalled the promise of a better future. They found new courage to face down their oppressors, and they found the words to declare that Poland would be Poland once again.
As I stand here today before this incredible crowd, this faithful nation, we can still hear those voices that echo through history. Their message is as true today as ever. The people of Poland, the people of America, and the people of Europe still cry out “We want God.” (Applause.)
Together, with Pope John Paul II, the Poles reasserted their identity as a nation devoted to God. And with that powerful declaration of who you are, you came to understand what to do and how to live. You stood in solidarity against oppression, against a lawless secret police, against a cruel and wicked system that impoverished your cities and your souls. And you won. Poland prevailed. Poland will always prevail. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you. You were supported in that victory over communism by a strong alliance of free nations in the West that defied tyranny. Now, among the most committed members of the NATO Alliance, Poland has resumed its place as a leading nation of a Europe that is strong, whole, and free.
A strong Poland is a blessing to the nations of Europe, and they know that. A strong Europe is a blessing to the West and to the world. (Applause.) One hundred years after the entry of American forces into World War I, the transatlantic bond between the United States and Europe is as strong as ever and maybe, in many ways, even stronger.
This continent no longer confronts the specter of communism. But today we’re in the West, and we have to say there are dire threats to our security and to our way of life. You see what’s happening out there. They are threats. We will confront them. We will win. But they are threats. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We are confronted by another oppressive ideology — one that seeks to export terrorism and extremism all around the globe. America and Europe have suffered one terror attack after another. We’re going to get it to stop. (Applause.)
During a historic gathering in Saudi Arabia, I called on the leaders of more than 50 Muslim nations to join together to drive out this menace which threatens all of humanity. We must stand united against these shared enemies to strip them of their territory and their funding, and their networks, and any form of ideological support that they may have. While we will always welcome new citizens who share our values and love our people, our borders will always be closed to terrorism and extremism of any kind. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: We are fighting hard against radical Islamic terrorism, and we will prevail. We cannot accept those who reject our values and who use hatred to justify violence against the innocent.
Today, the West is also confronted by the powers that seek to test our will, undermine our confidence, and challenge our interests. To meet new forms of aggression, including propaganda, financial crimes, and cyberwarfare, we must adapt our alliance to compete effectively in new ways and on all new battlefields.
We urge Russia to cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere, and its support for hostile regimes — including Syria and Iran — and to instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself. (Applause.)
Finally, on both sides of the Atlantic, our citizens are confronted by yet another danger — one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people. The West became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.
Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith and tradition that make us who we are. (Applause.) If left unchecked, these forces will undermine our courage, sap our spirit, and weaken our will to defend ourselves and our societies.
But just as our adversaries and enemies of the past learned here in Poland, we know that these forces, too, are doomed to fail if we want them to fail. And we do, indeed, want them to fail. (Applause.) They are doomed not only because our alliance is strong, our countries are resilient, and our power is unmatched. Through all of that, you have to say everything is true. Our adversaries, however, are doomed because we will never forget who we are. And if we don’t forget who are, we just can’t be beaten. Americans will never forget. The nations of Europe will never forget. We are the fastest and the greatest community. There is nothing like our community of nations. The world has never known anything like our community of nations.
We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers.
We reward brilliance. We strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God. We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression. (Applause.)
We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success. We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives. And we debate everything. We challenge everything. We seek to know everything so that we can better know ourselves. (Applause.)
And above all, we value the dignity of every human life, protect the rights of every person, and share the hope of every soul to live in freedom. That is who we are. Those are the priceless ties that bind us together as nations, as allies, and as a civilization.
What we have, what we inherited from our — and you know this better than anybody, and you see it today with this incredible group of people — what we’ve inherited from our ancestors has never existed to this extent before. And if we fail to preserve it, it will never, ever exist again. So we cannot fail.
This great community of nations has something else in common: In every one of them, it is the people, not the powerful, who have always formed the foundation of freedom and the cornerstone of our defense. The people have been that foundation here in Poland — as they were right here in Warsaw — and they were the foundation from the very, very beginning in America.
Our citizens did not win freedom together, did not survive horrors together, did not face down evil together, only to lose our freedom to a lack of pride and confidence in our values. We did not and we will not. We will never back down. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: Donald Trump! Donald Trump! Donald Trump!
PRESIDENT TRUMP: As long as we know our history, we will know how to build our future. Americans know that a strong alliance of free, sovereign and independent nations is the best defense for our freedoms and for our interests. That is why my administration has demanded that all members of NATO finally meet their full and fair financial obligation.
As a result of this insistence, billions of dollars more have begun to pour into NATO. In fact, people are shocked. But billions and billions of dollars more are coming in from countries that, in my opinion, would not have been paying so quickly.
To those who would criticize our tough stance, I would point out that the United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment. (Applause.)
Words are easy, but actions are what matters. And for its own protection — and you know this, everybody knows this, everybody has to know this — Europe must do more. Europe must demonstrate that it believes in its future by investing its money to secure that future. Read the rest of this entry »
Czech Republic Votes To Put Gun Rights In Constitution.
‘In reaction to the recent increase of security threats’
The European Commission passed stricter gun laws in December in response to a growing terror threat. The Czech Republic was one of three countries to oppose the changes, and it is now about to make it legal for citizens to use firearms to protect the security of the country.
“This constitutional bill is in reaction to the recent increase of security threats, especially the danger of violent acts such as isolated terrorist attacks … active attackers or other violent hybrid threats,” a draft of the bill reads.
[VIDEO] Hong Kong’s PLA Garrison Stages Biggest Military Parade in 20 Years as Xi Jinping Inspects TroopsPosted: June 30, 2017
President Xi Jinping today inspected 20 squads of the People’s Liberation Army garrison in Hong Kong at the biggest military parade since the city’s handover to China – marking 20 years since the army was first stationed here in 1997.
Xi Asserts Authority in Hong Kong
HONG KONG (AP) — Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected troops based in Hong Kong on Friday as he asserts Chinese authority over the former British colony China took control of 20 years ago.
Xi rode in an open-top jeep past rows of soldiers lined up on an airstrip on his visit to the People’s Liberation Army garrison. He called out “Salute all the comrades” and “Salute to your dedication” as he rode by each of the 20 troop formations.
Armored personnel carriers, combat vehicles, helicopters and other pieces of military hardware were arrayed behind the troops.
It was a rare display of the Chinese military’s might in Hong Kong, where it normally maintains a low-key presence.
Xi, wearing a buttoned-up black jacket in the steamy heat, spent about 10 minutes reviewing the troops at the Shek Kong base in Hong Kong’s suburban New Territories. It’s part of a visit to mark the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, when Britain gave up control of the Asian financial hub to China on July 1, 1997.
Another widespread cyber attack is causing massive problems across Europe Tuesday.
Ukraine has been hit particularly hard as government and company officials have reported serious intrusions across the Ukrainian power grid, banks and government offices. The country’s prime minister says that the cyber attack affecting his country is “unprecedented,” but “vital systems haven’t been affected.”
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Pavlo Rozenko on Tuesday posted a picture of a darkened computer screen to Twitter, saying that the computer system at the government’s headquarters has been shut down.
There’s very little information about who might be behind the disruption, but technology experts who examined screenshots circulating on social media said it bears the hallmarks of ransomware, the name given to programs that hold data hostage by scrambling it until a payment is made.
“A massive ransomware campaign is currently unfolding worldwide,” said Romanian cybersecurity company Bitdefender. In a telephone interview, Bitdefender analyst Bogdan Botezatu said that he had examined samples of the program and that it appeared to be nearly identical to GoldenEye, one of a family of hostage-taking programs that has been circulating for months. Read the rest of this entry »
BREAKING NEWS: Vehicle hits pedestrians in Finsbury Park. One person arrested and “a number of casualties” as a vehicle hits pedestrians in Finsbury Park, London, police say.
— Khalid Khan (@KhanUKIP) June 19, 2017
A vehicle has struck pedestrians “leaving a number of casualties” in north London, police said. One person has been arrested following the incident on Seven Sisters Road in Finsbury Park.Officers were called at 12.20 BST, the Metropolitan Police said.London Ambulance Service said: “We have sent a number of resources to an incident in Seven Sisters Road.”
— Tennessee (@TEN_GOP) June 19, 2017
President Donald Trump is growing his brand in China.
David Francis reports: According to a report from the Associated Press, the Chinese government has approved nine Trump trademarks it had earlier rejected, in whole or in part. The latest development is likely to add to the growing controversy over Trump’s potential conflicts of interest, and especially charges that he could be in violation of the emolument clause of the U.S. Constitution, which is supposed to prevent a sitting president from gaining a financial benefit from foreign nations.
There are now three lawsuits alleging the president is violating the Constitution by refusing to put his assets into a blind trust; Trump has put his son in charge of managing his many business dealings. Trump’s new Washington hotel is a particular sore spot, since many visiting delegations stay there. One was filed by nearly 200 Congressional Democrats Wednesday; a joint one was filed by the attorney generals of Washington, D.C. and Maryland; and a similar suit was filed by the watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Benefitting from foreign governments, whether through hotel bills or the granting of trademarks, lie at the center of all these cases. In the case of the China trademarks, records don’t show why these requests were initially rejected or why they were reconsidered. Read the rest of this entry »
Mueller Hires Justice Official With History Of Arguing For Expansive Interpretation of Obstruction of JusticePosted: June 13, 2017
Former Official: Obama Admin ‘Systematically Disbanded’ Units Investigating Iran’s Terrorism Financing NetworksPosted: June 9, 2017
Susan Crabtree reports: The Obama administration “systematically disbanded” law enforcement investigative units across the federal government focused on disrupting Iranian, Syrian, and Venezuelan terrorism financing networks out of concern the work could cause friction with Iranian officials and scuttle the nuclear deal with Iran, according to a former U.S. official who spent decades dismantling terrorist financial networks.
David Asher, who previously served as an adviser to Gen. John Allen at the Defense and State Departments, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee Thursday that top officials across several key law enforcement and intelligence agencies in the Obama administration “systematically disbanded” law enforcement activities targeting the terrorism financing operations of Iran, Hezbollah, and Venezuela in the lead-up to and during the nuclear negotiations with Tehran.
“Senior leadership, presiding, directing, and overseeing various sections [of these agencies] and portions of the U.S. intelligence community systematically disbanded any internal or external stakeholder action that threatened to derail the administration’s policy agenda focused on Iran,” he testified.
Asher now serves on the board of directors of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies‘ Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance and is an adjunct fellow at the Center for New American Security, two national security think tanks.
He attributed the motivation for decisions to dismantle the investigative units to “concerns about interfering with the Iran deal,” a reference to the nuclear deal forged between the U.S., five other world powers, and Iran during the final years of the Obama administration.
As a result, “several top cops” retired and the U.S. government lost their years of expertise. Read the rest of this entry »
Kurt Schlichter writes: The most significant revelation that came out of the most recent London massacre of disarmed British subjects was not the bloodshed itself, but the pathetic sissy whining, in the midst of throats being slashed, at the Brit who refused to adhere to the comforting lie that the Muslims doing the slashing in the name of Allah were not Muslims doing the slashing in the name of Allah.
The left would rather you lie and die than tell the truth and live.
It’s exhausting being lied to 24/7 about the big issues, and don’t start with the “but what about Trump?” nonsense because…well, what about Trump?
Does Trump pretend that the Islamic State has nothing to do with Islam because to admit the Islamic State has something to do with Islam is an admission that the unquestionable idea underlying multiculturalism – that every culture is wonderful except the Western culture that brought about 95 percet of the learning and science that is making the grinding poverty and disease that was heretofore man’s fate a thing of the past – is an utter fraud?
Does Trump pretend that we are morally or scientifically bound by a non-treaty that was non-submitted to our elected representatives to solve the non-problem of climate change at the price of our non-employment and non-prosperity?
Does Trump blame Russians for the utter repudiation of Felonia von Pantsuit’s poisonous ideology of greed and huggy fascism? Does he contend Hillary skipped those icky workin’ folks in Wisconsin and Michigan because Putin tricked her?
I keep trying to find the big Trump “lies” and they always seem to end up being disagreements with liberal orthodoxy. Read the rest of this entry »
Timing of hack occurred within days of the nuclear deal overcoming opposition in Congress.
Susan Crabtree writes: State Department officials determined that Iran hacked their emails and social media accounts during a particularly sensitive week for the nuclear deal in the fall of 2015, according to multiple sources familiar with the details of the cyber attack.
The attack took place within days of the deal overcoming opposition in Congress in late September that year. That same week, Iranian officials and negotiators for the United States and other world powers were beginning the process of hashing out a series of agreements allowing Tehran to meet previously determined implementation deadlines.
Critics regard these agreements as “secret side deals” and “loopholes” initially disclosed only to Congress.
Sources familiar with the details of the attack said it sent shockwaves through the State Department and the private-contractor community working on Iran-related issues.
It is unclear whether top officials at the State Department negotiating the Iran deal knew about the hack or if their personal or professional email accounts were compromised. Sources familiar with the attack believed top officials at State were deeply concerned about the hack and that those senior leaders did not have any of their email or social media accounts compromised in this particular incident.
Wendy Sherman, who served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs for several years during the Obama administration and was the lead U.S. negotiator of the nuclear deal with Iran, could not be reached for comment.
A spokeswoman for Albright Stonebridge LLC, where Sherman now serves as a senior counselor, said Tuesday that Sherman is “unavailable at this time and cannot be reached for comment.”
Asked about the September 2015 cyber-attack, a State Department spokesman said, “For security reasons we cannot confirm whether any hacking incident took place.”
At least four State Department officials in the Bureau of Near East Affairs and a senior State Department adviser on digital media and cyber-security were involved in trying to contain the hack, according to an email dated September 24, 2015, and multiple interviews with sources familiar with the attack.
The Obama administration kept quiet about the cyber-attack and never publicly acknowledged concerns the attack created at State, related agencies, and within the private contractor community that supports their work.
Critics of the nuclear deal said the Obama administration did not publicly disclose the cyber-attack’s impact out of fear it could undermine support right after the pact had overcome political opposition and cleared a critical Congressional hurdle.
The hacking of email addresses belonging to the State Department officials and outside contractors began three days after the congressional review period for the deal ended Sept. 17, according to sources familiar with the details of the attack and the internal State Department email.
In the week leading up to that deadline, Senate Democrats blocked several attempts to pass a GOP-led resolution to disapprove of the nuclear deal. The resolution of disapproval needed 60 votes to pass but the most it garnered was 58.
President Trump, during his trip to the Middle East in late May, talked tough against Iran and its illicit ballistic missile program but has so far left the nuclear deal in place. A Trump State Department review of the deal is nearing completion, the Free Beaconrecently reported, and some senior Trump administration officials are pushing for the public release of the so-called “secret side deals.”
State Department alerts outside contractors of cyber-attack
State Department officials in the Office of Iranian Affairs on Sept. 24, 2015 sent an email to dozens of outside contractors. The email alerted the contractors that a cyber-attack had occurred and urged them not to open any email from a group of five State Department officials that did not come directly from their official state.gov accounts. Read the rest of this entry »
Our political leaders are basically telling us that this kind of terrorism, random and deadly, is the price we have to pay for their policies of multiculturalism and political correctness.
Megan G. Oprea writes: As if on cue, in the wake of Saturday’s terrorist attack in London political leaders are trotting out the usual treacly lines that have become so rote. But the words they pretend will provide comfort to anyone but the most naïve are borderline worthless. Worse, they’re an insult to the families who have had to experience the shocking pain of the sudden loss of a family member or friend at the hands of a terrorist.
Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, called Saturday’s attack “deliberate and cowardly,” and asked “all Londoners to remain calm and vigilant today and in the days ahead.” Most notably, he said: “You will see an increased police presence today, including armed officers and uniformed officers. There is no reason to be alarmed by this. We are the safest global city in the world.”
What a thing to say at a time like this. Shouldn’t Britons be alarmed? Isn’t Saturday’s attack in London, coming as it did on the heels of the Manchester bombing, deeply disturbing? Why isn’t Khan more concerned about the threats that are so obviously at the doorstep, or better put, in Britain’s streets? Does anyone really take comfort from being told about swift police response times after yet another terrorist attack?
Our Politicians Can’t Handle the Truth
The sad truth, and getting sadder with every attack, is that the political class has little interest in doing what would really be necessary to combat Islamist terrorism, let alone talk about it. They don’t want to talk about how Britain’s lax immigration policies over decades led to hundreds of thousands of immigrants entering the country with varying degrees of willingness to assimilate and adopt Western values. They don’t want to openly criticize the blatant problems with the multiculturalism the UK has pursued for years and the obvious impact it has had on the immigrant population.
Oh no. This would cost them too much. It would shatter the façade of political correctness that’s been constructed over our “civilized” western world, and destroy the illusion, so vital to the political class, that Western values are universal. Read the rest of this entry »
In the wake of the U.K.’s most recent terrorist attacks, its prime minister is talking tough on Internet regulation, but what she’s suggesting is impractical.
Tragically, there have been three major terrorist attacks in the U.K. in less than three months’ time. After the second, in Manchester, May and others said they would look into finding ways to compel tech companies to put cryptographic “back doors” into their services, so that law enforcement agencies could more easily access suspects’ user data.
May repeated her stance in broaders terms Sunday, following new attacks in London. “The Internet, and the big companies” are providing “safe spaces” for extremism, she said, and new regulations are needed to “regulate cyberspace.” She offered no specifics, but her party’s line, just days from the June 8 national election, is clear: a country that already grants its government some of the most sweeping digital surveillance powers of any democracy needs more and tougher laws to prevent terrorism (see “New U.K. Surveillance Law Will Have Worldwide Implications”).
The trouble is, this kind of talk ignores how the Internet and modern consumer technology works. As Cory Doctorow points out in a detailed look at how you would actually go about creating services with cryptographic holes, the practicalities of such a demand render it ludicrous bordering on impossible. Even if all of the necessary state-mandated technical steps were taken by purveyors of commercial software and devices—like Google or Apple, say—anyone who wanted to could easily skirt their restrictions by running open-source versions of the software, or unlocked phones.
That isn’t to say that May and the Conservatives’ general idea that the government should be able to probe user data as part of an investigation should be dismissed out of hand. The balancing act between national security and digital privacy has become one of the central themes of our digital lives (see “What If Apple Is Wrong?”). And while there are advocates aplenty on both sides, simple answers are hard to come by. Read the rest of this entry »
Even the arrests after each attack give comfort to the enemy, which can act with impunity even if known.
Theodore Dalrymple writes: The only man I ever met whose ambition was to be a suicide bomber was an inmate at the British prison where I worked as a doctor in the 1990s and 2000s. He was a career criminal of very nasty propensities whose father was Arab and mother English. He had reached his 30s, the age at which criminals usually turn away from crime in favor of something better—in his case the killing of as many infidels as possible, along with himself.
Coming to religion is one reason, or pretext, for abandoning crime. In the prison there was much more Islamic evangelism than Christian. I would find Qurans and Islamic pamphlets in drawers, insinuated there by I knew not whom, but never Bibles or Christian pamphlets.
I interpreted religion as the means prisoners used to rationalize giving up common crime while at the same time not feeling defeated by, or having surrendered to, the society around them—for they knew conversion to Islam gave that society the shudders.
The problem for the security services, however, is that there is no invariable profile, social or psychological, of the Muslim terrorist. Nor is there a kind of economic lever that can be pulled so that, with better material prospects, young Muslims will be less attracted to terrorism. There have, it is true, been no-hopers among the terrorists, but there have also been medical students and doctors. There was nothing (except himself) impeding the recent Manchester bomber from having a normal or even a highly successful career. As Prime Minister Theresa May rightly said after the most recent atrocities in London, what the terrorists have in common is an ideology. She rightly called it evil, but it is also stupid: It makes the Baader-Meinhof Gang look like Aristotle.
An ideology, however stupid, is not easy to destroy; believing six impossible things before breakfast is almost par for the human course. One obvious thing to do would be to strangle the foreign funding of so much Islamist activity in Britain. That is no doubt complicated in many ways, but no British government, solicitous of trade relations, has dared even try. The British economy is precarious, and it is difficult to be strong when your economy is weak. Read the rest of this entry »
Matthew Cole, Richard Esposito, Sam Biddle, Ryan Grim report: Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.
The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.
While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based. Read the rest of this entry »
London Attack: ‘They literally just started kicking them, punching them, they took out knives… it was a rampage really.’Posted: June 4, 2017
The prime minister has said “it is time to say enough is enough” as she condemned a terror attack on “innocent and unarmed civilians” which left seven people dead and 48 injured in London.
A white van hit pedestrians on London Bridge at about 22:00 BST on Saturday, then three men got out and stabbed people in nearby Borough Market.
The three attackers, who wore fake bomb vests, were shot dead by police.
Several arrests have been made after police raids in Barking, east London.
It is the third terror attack in the UK in three months, following the car and knife attack in Westminster in March, which left five people dead, and the Manchester bombing less than two weeks ago, in which 22 people were killed.
Most political parties have suspended national general election campaigning, but Mrs May said full campaigning would resume on Monday and the general election would go ahead as planned on Thursday.
- Latest updates on London Bridge attack
- What we know so far
- In pictures: Attack aftermath
- London Bridge: The morning after
Eyewitnesses to the attack described seeing a white van travelling at high speed along London Bridge, hitting pedestrians, before crashing close to the Barrowboy and Banker pub.
BBC reporter Holly Jones, who was on the bridge, said it was “probably travelling at about 50 miles an hour” and hit “five or six people”.
Three men then got out and began attacking people in the nearby market – an area known for its bars and restaurants, which were busy on a warm summer evening.
Terrified drinkers rushed away from the scene, some taking shelter in London Bridge Underground station.
One witness, Gerard, told the BBC he saw a woman being stabbed “10 or 15 times” by men shouting “This is for Allah”.
Another, Eric, told the BBC the men “ran towards the people that they nearly ran over”.
“I thought, ‘Oh maybe they’re worried about them and trying to comfort them…’
“[Then] they literally just started kicking them, punching them, they took out knives… it was a rampage really.”
The three suspects were shot dead within eight minutes of the first 999 call being received.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick praised the “extraordinary bravery” of her officers, on and off duty, who risked their lives by rushing to confront the attackers.
Among the main developments:
- More than 80 medics were sent to the scene. The injured, some of them in critical condition, are being treated in five London hospitals
- The Met Police has set up a casualty bureau on 0800 096 1233 and 020 7158 0197 for people concerned about friends or relatives
- One of those hurt was a British Transport Police officer who was stabbed as he went to help. His injuries are serious, but not threatening.
- Three other police officers were also injured
- Two Australian citizens “have been directly impacted,” says the country’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull
- Four French citizens have been injured, one seriously, according to foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian
Another eyewitness, Steven Gibbs, who was drinking in St Christopher’s Inn, just metres from the scene, told the BBC: “A black cab drove past and the driver shouted, ‘Terrorist attack, run!’
“I stood up to take a look and then all of a sudden there were gunshots. Lots of people were screaming.”
Steven was taken into the basement of the bar before the police came in and told everyone inside to run. Read the rest of this entry »
PANAMA CITY (AP) — Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega, a onetime U.S. ally who was ousted as Panama’s dictator by an American invasion in 1989, died late Monday at age 83.
Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela wrote in his Twitter account that “the death of Manuel A. Noriega closes a chapter in our history.”
Varela added, “His daughters and his relatives deserve to mourn in peace.”
Noriega served a 17-year drug sentence in the United States and was later sent to face charges in France. He spent all but the last few months of his final years in a Panamanian prison for the murders of political opponents during his 1983-89 regime.
He accused Washington of a “conspiracy” to keep him behind bars and tied his legal troubles to his refusal to cooperate with a U.S. plan aimed at toppling Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government in the 1980s.
In recent years Noriega suffered various ailments including high blood pressure and bronchitis.
In 2016, doctors detected the rapid growth of a benign brain tumor that had first been spotted four years earlier, and in the following January a court granted him house arrest to prepare for surgery on the tumor.
He is survived by his wife Felicidad and daughters Lorena, Thays and Sandra.
Following Noriega’s ouster Panama underwent huge changes, taking over the Panama Canal from U.S. control in 1999, vastly expanding the waterway and enjoying a boom in tourism and real estate. Read the rest of this entry »
Shabir Ahmed: the Rochdale Sex Gang Ringleader Who Blamed White Community for Not Looking After GirlsPosted: May 20, 2017
Shabir Ahmed, the man at the heart of the conspiracy carried on a secret affair with the white teenager who acted as his recruiter.
For a year he lived in fear that people in his own community might find out about the relationship and ostracise him.
On every occasion the couple had sex he would “go home, say two units of prayer and ask Allah forgiveness for doing wrong”.
He told the jury that fellow Pakistanis would regard him as having “infested” their community by sleeping with a white girl. “It’s not just them who are racist. We are racist too”.
Ahmed, who could not be named during the original trial, cut a belligerent figure in the courtroom, hurling insults at the judge and prosecution barristers and claiming he was the victim of a police-led conspiracy.
He dismissed the allegations against him as “white lies” made up by girls who had built up a profitable business empire by working as prostitutes.
“They were clever girls,” he told the jury. “If they’d gone on Lord Sugar’s Apprentice programme they would have won.
“They knew more Pakistanis than I as a Pakistani know. They knew what they were doing. They were earning good money”.
But for all his bravado he was unable to refute one crucial piece of evidence about DNA found on the clothing of a girl he raped and later trafficked around the north-west.
The defendant came to Britain as a boy in 1967. He settled in Oldham and raised a family, but has been separated from his wife since 2000.
Below is my column in USA Today on President Donald Trump’s disclosure of highly classified information to the Russians in his controversial meeting after the firing of James Comey. While the Administration issued a series of categorical denials of the underlying stories as “false,” the next day it appeared to acknowledge that Trump did in fact reveal the information. As discussed below, it was a wise decision not to repeat the initially misleading statements to Congress. The intelligence was reportedly generated by Israel, which did not give permission to the President to make the disclosure to the Russians. Since the New York Times and Washington Post did not say that Trump released “sources and methods,” it now appears that the White House is not claiming that the stories were false. It is the latest example of denials from the White House which then lead to embarrassing reversals over the…
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SEATTLE – Dan Springer’s latest test launch over the weekend has raised concerns among U.S. officials. The Pentagon says the ballistic missile flew 1,000 miles higher than NASA’s International Space Station. It was then able to re-enter earth’s atmosphere and splash down just 60 miles from Russia. One official told Fox News it was a “big step forward” in North Korea’s nuclear missile program.
Emergency planners in Hawaii, the closest state to North Korea, have taken notice and are evaluating existing nuclear attack response plans. Meanwhile, another possible target on the West Coast is barred from taking any steps to plan for a nuclear attack.
Washington State allows evacuation plans for every disaster scenario except a nuclear bomb. Former state Rep. Dick Nelson remembers the prevailing thinking in the legislature at the time concerning response plans in the event of nuclear war.
“You are really sending a message that you’re getting ready to do something maybe yourself,” Nelson said.
The law passed in 1984, seven years before the end of the Cold War. It was the opposite approach taken by President Ronald Reagan, whose peace through strength doctrine helped lead to the collapse of the Soviet Union.
A current Washington state senator says the current law is irresponsible and naïve.
“I think it’s ridiculous and silly,” says state Sen. Mark Miloscia, “And sort of the head-in-the-sand mentality. If it has a probability of happening, prepare for it.”
Seattle could be in the crosshairs if North Korea’s leader, Kim Jung Un, ever did the unthinkable. Naval Base Kitsap reportedly has roughly 1,300 nuclear warheads — almost one-quarter of the U.S. arsenal — making it the largest stockpile of nukes in the world. The Puget Sound is also home to Joint Base Lewis McChord, home to the important Stryker Brigade. With the headquarters of Boeing, Microsoft and Amazon, the region is a high-tech hub. Read the rest of this entry »
The latest screed from Pyongyang’s unnamed prince of prose (or princes — it’s unclear how many write these gems) was delivered Monday in response to Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., asserting Kim Jong Un was a “whack job.”
Like previous statements, it bucked all norms for engaging in international repartee:
“It is a serious provocation that Gardner, like a psychopath, dare to bear the evil that dares our highest dignity,” the statement said, according to a translation. “It is America’s misfortune that a man mixed in with human dirt like Gardner, who has lost basic judgment and body hair, could only spell misfortune for the United States.”
The real-world reference point behind some of the putdowns, most of which are disseminated by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, is unclear. Gardner, for instance, has a full head of hair.
But KCNA has been dealing out hits against U.S. and international politicians for years, perfecting a style that’s veered from jaw-dropping to shockingly racist.
Among the worst insults directed at former President Barack Obama, North Korea in 2014 branded him a “juvenile delinquent,” “clown” and a “dirty fellow.” Obama, the KCNA statement said, was somebody who “does not even have the basic appearances of a human being.” Read the rest of this entry »
Remember last time an oil economy crashed catastrophically?
Anders Aslund writes: Venezuela is not the first developed country to put itself on track to fall into a catastrophic economic crisis. But it is in the relatively unusual situation of having done so while in possession of enormous oil assets. There aren’t many precedents to help understand how this could have happened and what is likely to happen next.
There is, however, at least one — the Soviet Union’s similar devastation in the late 1980s. Its fate may be instructive for Venezuela — which is not to suggest Venezuelans, least of all the regime of Nicolás Maduro, will like what it portends.
Venezuela has been ailing ever since the decline in oil prices that started in June 2014, and there is no reason to think this trend will shift anytime soon. Energy prices move in long quarter-century circles of one decade of high prices and one decade of low prices, so another decade of low prices is likely. Similarly, the biggest economic blow to the Soviet Union was the fall in oil prices that started in 1981 and got worse from there.
“Maduro seems intent on printing money like crazy, so the next step will be hyperinflation.”
But the deeper problem for the Soviet Union wasn’t the oil price collapse; it’s what came before. In his book Collapse of an Empire, Russia’s great post-Soviet reformer Yegor Gaidar pointed out that during the long preceding oil boom, Soviet policymakers thought that they could walk on water and that the usual laws of economic gravity did not apply to them. Soviet policymakers didn’t bother developing a theory to make sense of their spending. They didn’t even bother paying attention to their results. The math seemed to work out, so they just assumed there was a good reason.
This is as true of the current Venezuelan leaders as it was of the Soviet leaders. The Venezuelan government, though it doesn’t claim to be full-fledged in its devotion to Marxism-Leninism, has been pursuing as absurd an economic policy mix as its Soviet predecessor. It has insisted for years on maintaining drastic price controls on a wide range of basic goods, including food staples such as meat and bread, for which it pays enormous subsidies. Nonetheless the Venezuelan government, like the Soviet Union’s, has always felt it could afford these subsidies because of its oil revenues.
But as the oil price has fallen by slightly more than half since mid-2014, oil incomes have fallen accordingly. And rather than increase oil production, the Venezuelan government has been forced to watch it decline because of its mismanagement of the dominant state-owned oil company, PDVSA.
And now Venezuela seems intent on repeating the Soviet folly of the late 1980s by refusing to change course. This is allowing the budget deficit to swell and putting the country on track toward ultimate devastation.
The Soviet Union in its latter years had a skyrocketing budget deficit, too. In 1986 it exceeded 6 percent of GDP, and by 1991 it reached an extraordinary one-third of GDP. Venezuela is now following suit. The Soviet Union used its currency reserves to pay for imports, but when those reserves shrank, the government financed the budget deficit by printing money. The inevitable result was skyrocketing inflation.
It seems as if President Nicolás Maduro has adopted this tried-and-failed combination of fiscal and monetary policy. Venezuela already is dealing with massive shortages as a result of its controlled prices, because the government can no longer afford its own subsidies. But it will get worse from here.
Maduro seems intent on printing money like crazy, so the next step will be hyperinflation. Inflation is already believed to have reached 700 percent a year, and it is heading toward official hyperinflation, that is, an inflation rate of at least 50 percent a month. Read the rest of this entry »