Archive for March, 2016

Brussels terror attacks are symptoms of a larger problem

March 29, 2016

The cowardly and gruesome terrorist attacks in Brussels quickly brought a litany of condemnations from the Western world, but perhaps not shockingly, the silence from the Middle East was deafening. An exception came from Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad who said, “the attacks resulted from Western governments and their Arab allies labeling some Syrian groups ‘moderate,’ a designation it said had served to legitimize terrorism.” As Dorothy learned in the Wizard of Oz, there are good witches and bad witches. President Obama’s foreign policy team composed of Defense Secretary Leon Panneta, CIA Director, General David Petraeus, Chairman of the Joint Staff, General Dempsey, and Secretary of State Clinton argued before a Senate Committee that arming the “good” terrorists to fight against Assad was effective in furthering US foreign policy objectives in Syria, namely removing Assad. Unlike Oz, there are no good terrorists.

Then NATO ally Turkey, which has been using the fight against ISIS to attack Kurdish civilians and militias actually fighting ISIS in Syria, attempted to shift the blame to terrorists, including its enemy the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). President (for Life) Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the Brussels attacks, saying thugs that besiege a city’s international airport and train stations have proved they know no “humanitarian or moral bounds.” The authoritarian wannabe claims the battle he is waging with the Kurdish PKK is no different than al-Qaeda and the “heinous methods they deploy.” Turkey has allegedly been struck by the PKK several times in the past few months but the details remain sketchy.

But a closed-door meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II doused the Turkish president’s rhetoric and heaped criticism on the country by accusing its government of “enabling the infiltration of Islamist terrorists into Europe and encouraging a radical Islamic solution to the crises in the Middle East.”

Abdullah continued, “The fact that terrorists are going to Europe is part of Turkish policy and Turkey keeps on getting a slap on the hand, but they are let off the hook.”

Abdullah also told US lawmakers that Erdogan believes in a “radical Islamic solution to the region. Turkey sought a religious solution to Syria, while we are looking at moderate elements in the south and Jordan pushed for a third option that would not allow a religious option.”

The king, who was educated in the US and embodies strong allegiances to the West, said Turkey remains part of a strategic challenge to the world. “We keep being forced to tackle tactical problems against ISIL [the Islamic State group] but not the strategic issue. We forget the issue [of] the Turks who are not with us on this strategically.”

But is the Western world prepared for the increase of terrorism?

A new Rasmussen Reports national survey found that 63 percent of Americans believe there will be a terrorist attack like the one in Brussels somewhere inside the United States this year.

Glen Winn, an aviation security expert confirms many terrorists are operating under the radar. “Some of them are caught yes, but obviously many aren’t.”

Winn highlighted that the Brussels’ terror attack that killed 34, including four Americans is nothing new. “We can go back to the eighties when we had explosions in airports in Rome and machine gunning at Easter. The bombings in Frankfurt airport, which took place in front of the then Northwest airlines, Pan-American airways ticket counter, and multiple people were killed and wounded in that attack. There was a big suitcase left in the lobby area right in front of the ticket counter by terrorists, later to be known as Hezbollah.”

But could a Brussels–like attack happen in the US and will it prompt lawmakers to increase airport security? “Yes. We are going to see added security. The public is going to demand it because they are going to be weary, leery if you will, going into airports looking in the lobbies as well. I know I will be paying, even more, attention than I normally do. Is there a way to prevent it? Of course, there is and that is to move security to the front door of the airport or even beyond and of course therein lies the cost.” (Watch the entire interview here)

While Europe grapples with the seemingly unrelenting terror attacks, US officials have said they are beefing up security at the nation’s airports. But how safe are US airports?

Former Director of the CIA, James Woolsey said in a November 2015 interview on Fox News “that many of the nation’s airport security staffers are not subjected to full vetting. Many, in fact, come from overseas locations and are hired through the same process used to employ farm workers.”

The former CIA director wouldn’t rule out the possibility that workers could have terror ties. “They used to be vetted,” Woolsey said. “Now, quite a few of them are foreign nationals who have just worker visas. They’re treated like agricultural workers.” He also pointed out that these workers could do “a lot more damage in the baggage handling area of an airline than you can if you’re a terrorist than you can do in the middle of a wheat field.”

Plus, American journalist Aaron Klein spoke to a self-proclaimed ISIS leader that claimed the group already has jihadists inside those airport facilities. “The Islamic State is a state. The Islamic State has agents all around the very sensitive facilities in the world, like metro stations, like airports and other places whether in the West or in the Arab world. We have our mujahideen implanted in those facilities as workers, as employees, even in the security field in the airports,” he reported.

Other national security think tanks are also sounding the alarm bells. “Westerners sense that Islamist terror is on the rise as they follow the daily news, especially with the devastating attacks in Brussels and Paris,” said Pete Hoekstra, Investigative Project on Terrorism, the Shillman Senior Fellow, and former Chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee. “They might be shocked, however, at how significantly it has spiraled in deadliness and focus in such a very short amount of time.” The report highlights that deaths from jihadist assaults rose from an annual average of roughly 2,500 innocents per year from 2001 to 2006, to an average of 3,300 per year in 2007-2011, to 9,000 per year in 2012-2013 and more than tripled to an average of more than 28,000 in 2014-2015. Frightening scenarios will unfold over the coming months and years should current trends advance unchecked.”

The terrorist attacks also spilled into presidential politics. GOP hopeful Donald Trump argued that the “terrorists are totally winning” under the governance of President Obama, and his former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He told Breitbart news; “The terrorists will cause Hillary Clinton to lose the election. She’s weak on borders. She’s weak on crime. She’s weak on anything having to do with controversy other than controversy with herself. She’s weak on the police. She’s weak on anything having to do with strength. Hillary is so weak on the borders and so afraid to talk negatively about protecting our people, that it will end up costing her the election in my opinion.”

Whereas Ms. Clinton released a statement that read: “Terrorists have once again struck at the heart of Europe, but their campaign of hate and fear will not succeed. The people of Brussels, of Europe, and of the world will not be intimidated by these vicious killers. Today Americans stand in solidarity with our European allies. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed and wounded, and all the people of Belgium. These terrorists seek to undermine the democratic values that are the foundation of our alliance and our way of life, but they will never succeed. Today’s attacks will only strengthen our resolve to stand together as allies and defeat terrorism and radical jihadism around the world.”

Even the Pope spoke out in his Easter message calling for more love and understanding of Muslims while jihadis responded with a terrorist attack in Lahore, Pakistan which killed dozens of Christians and a reported crucifixion of a captured Catholic priest inYemen.

However, all the partisan bickering won’t solve the current radical Islamic war on the West and beyond. As westerners grapple with increased terrorism, a few weekend headlines speak for themselves. The Easter holiday headlines provide ample proof terrorism isn’t going away anytime soon.

Twenty-nine children among 72 killed in Sunday’s suicide bombing after Taliban jihadi blew himself up next to SWINGS at a park in Pakistan. The Daily Mail, a UK publication reported the Easter holiday suicide bomber attack specifically targeted Christians. The Taliban terrorist slaughtered at least 65 and wounded another 300. Not only did the gruesome attack target Christians, but it also exploded near a children’s playground in a park in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, Lahore Pakistan.

The same publication posted this; ISIS ‘crucifies Catholic priest on Good Friday’ after kidnapping him from old people’s home where four nuns were shot dead. An Indian Catholic priest kidnapped by ISIS-linked terrorists in Yemen earlier this month made good on their promise to crucify the priest on Good Friday. “Father Thomas Uzhunnalil, 56, was taken by Islamist gunmen, reportedly linked to ISIS, who attacked an old people’s home in Aden, southern Yemen, killing at least 15 people. The terrorists reportedly carried out the heinous murder on Good Friday, after threatening to do so earlier in the week, according to the Archbishop of Vienna.”

And the Mirror reported: German train operator introduces women-only carriages amid fears over ‘migrant sex attacks.’ The train carriages will be next to the conductor in a bid to make women feel safer. A spokesman for the railway said: “The local proximity to the customer service representative is chosen deliberately. The Regiobahn line between Leipzig and Chemnitz will introduce the carriages to increase security for women.”

Young women are being abducted from Mexico’s second largest city. According to VICE News, another war on women is taking the form of kidnappings. The trend in Jalisco, Mexico finds a number of women have gone missing. Last year 1,161 female disappeared and another 187 women have been reported missing in the first two months of this year. The local mayor dismissed the kidnapping stories at first, but on March 17, he held a press conference, confirming the abductions. “We will act firmly and responsibly,” Guadalajara Mayor Enrique Alfaro said. “We cannot and will never ignore a problem that is clearly affecting the quality of life of the city’s inhabitants, particularly women.”

And finally, Stephen Miller exposes faux feminism on CNN with female genital mutilation. On CNN’s Sunday talk show, Trump’s senior policy advisor Stephen Miller pointed out there are many other topics to focus on that don’t involve Donald Trump’s retweets.

“It’s a choice that the political class makes in DC in terms of what they want to focus on… It is a trivial issue to be debating retweets when it is a fact that you have Americans dying every single day as a result of our immigration policies. You want to talk about women’s issues? Here’s something we should be talking about. This is a fact: as a result of uncontrolled migration into this country— you can look this up, this is a statistic from Equality Now — half a million US girls in this country are at risk of female genital mutilation. The fact that half a million US girls are at risk of female genital mutilation as a result of large-scale Muslim migration has been widely documented by publications ranging from NPR to ABC, to Reuters, to Newsweek, to the Daily Beast, to the Huffington Post, to the Atlantic, to the New York Times.

Glenn Greenwald, the reporter who introduced the world to Edward Snowden, stated in a speech in Rancho Mirage, California that the question he is never asked is why the jihadis hate us so much. He suggested it lies in part to the War on Terror that has killed hundreds of thousands of non-combatants in drone and air strikes and raids. As well as the idea that the West is determined to force Western values on Muslims. Regardless of the politicization of everything Washington, the sad truth is the world has a number of problems and resolving them will require objectivity, something US politicians avoid like a community potluck.

GOP Elites–We’ve been Trumped

March 22, 2016

The noose tightens for free media in Turkey

March 15, 2016

Trump’s wall hounds Mexico’s Fox – Hillary breaks-down barriers

March 8, 2016

Apple bites back to keep the feds away

March 1, 2016

Last week Apple filed a motion to vacate a US magistrate judge’s order to force the iPhone® geeks to work with the FBI to write new software to defeat its own security protocols to open the San Bernardino terrorist’s work phone. The latest legal brief states that several of Apple’s constitutional rights are being threatened.

“Can the government compel Apple to write software we believe would make 100s of millions of customers vulnerable around the world including the US and also trample on civil liberties that are the basic foundation of our what our country is made on,” Time Cook, Apple CEO told David Muir of ABC News.

New Pew Research polling found that 51 percent of Americans’ believe Apple should unlock the terrorist’s work phone while 38 percent dissented.

“This is not about a poll this is about the future and what I’ve seen as people understand what is at stake here, we have increasing support,” Cook explained. “If the court can ask us to write this piece of software, think about what else they can ask us to write. Maybe it’s an operating system for surveillance; maybe it’s the ability for law enforcement to turn on a camera. I mean I don’t know where this stops.”

The leader of the iPhone® giant firmly believes this case should not be heard in the court of public opinion, but rather in the US Congress where lawmakers can fully vet the action in front of their constituents.

“If there should be a law that compels us to do it, it should be passed out in the open and the people of America should get a voice in that. The right place for that debate to occur is in Congress.”

Democrats agree that this probably won’t be resolved in the courtroom.

“This case has much broader policy implications, which is why ultimately the court decision won’t decide this issue,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), House Intelligence Committee, told CNN. “Ultimately, it’s going to fall on us in Congress to try to draw the line, in terms of what the technology sector must or must not do.”

“The parties have to find common ground, and Congress needs to write it into law,” Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA) wrote in The Hill newspaper.

However, Cook says tech firms always have to consider that hackers are always probing their devices to find backdoors. Something smart phone users should also consider is their hand-held devices contain personal information about their daily lives. Standing firm on his beliefs, Cook says, the company will not bow to critics who argue this was a terrorist attack and that changes the rules. Giving the government free reign into smart phones could also unlock the government’s power to turn on cameras or microphones remotely unbeknownst to the owner. It is this power that Cook finds offensive to the Constitution.

“It would also set a precedent that I believe many people in American would be offended by so when you think about those that are known compared to something that might be there I believe we are making the right choice.”

The government’s argument rests on the premise “just this once and just this phone” when in fact they know that statement is not true, Cook says. According to state and local representatives, they would seek relief from this ruling because they have hundreds of devices they would like opened, the majority of these have nothing to do with terrorism.

“This case is an awful case – there is no worse case than this, but there may be a judge in a different district that feels that this case should apply to a diverse case, there may be one in the next state over that should apply in a tax case another state over it should apply in a robbery you begin to say this is not how this should happen,” Cook contends.

Also backing up Apple’s position is Lowell McAdam, Chief Executive of Verizon Communications which sells iPhones®. They support “the availability of strong encryption with no backdoors. The case with Apple presents unique issues that should be addressed by Congress, not on an ad hoc basis.”

Another point to remember is the government has had some of the worst security breeches in the world, including the Office of Personnel Management, which lost personnel data of 22 million current employees of the federal government. The bad guys will find it too. Once the bad guys know that additional info can be hacked they would stop at nothing to get that software and exploit it to harm the US.

But what are the chances that a favorable court ruling would open the door to law enforcement cases asking for relief? (The CIA/DOJ already spying on phones story by this reporter.)

“I do think that it is potentially, whatever the Judge’s decision is in California and I’m sure it will be appealed no matter how it ends up, (and) will be instructive for other courts and there may well be other cases that involve the same kind of phone and same operating system,” James Comey FBI Director said. On top of that, the director is on the record stating the government does not believe there is critical information on the phone in question that belongs to the county of San Bernardino. Furthermore, the FBI admits it made an error in triggering the security mechanisms of the phone prior to searching the cloud storage for the information.

“Apple is challenging the judge’s order, and the standoff could lead to a new legal precedent on investigators’ ability to compel private companies to help them penetrate the security around their devices and software. A federal judge in New York is weighing similar issues in a drug investigation; and around the country, the Justice Department is seeking a dozen other court orders compelling Apple to help them open iPhones®,” the FBI director said in WSJ. “This is the hardest question I’ve seen in government, but it’s going to require negotiation and discussion,” Mr. Comey said, but also admitted precedent could be set. “I love encryption, I love privacy,’’ Director Comey repeatedly said.

One such case was Lavabit, an encrypted email service that shut its doors rather than provide the government a backdoor key to retrieve customer information. It has also prompted other companies to open doors outside the US, offering more secure, encrypted devices like Blackphone®.

Unfortunately, Congress appears to employ terrorism to unite American fear rather than legislate a permanent solution for the ever-changing electronic revolution. In the meantime, lawmakers and bureaucrats will ignore the use of ex parte hearings and in camera reviews behind closed courtrooms as the preferred method to escape public scrutiny for continued civil liberty violations.

Plus, Apple contends the writ would force it to “use the location of suspects, or secretly use the iPhone’s microphone and camera to record sound and video. And if it succeeds here against Apple, there is no reason why the government could not deploy its new authority to compel other innocent and unrelated third-parties to do its bidding in the name of law enforcement. For example, under the same legal theories advocated by the government here, the government could argue that it should be permitted to force citizens to do all manner of things ‘necessary’ to assist it in enforcing the laws, like compelling a pharmaceutical company against its will to produce drugs needed to carry out a lethal injection in furtherance of a lawfully issued death warrant, or requiring a journalist to plant a false story in order to help lure out a fugitive, or forcing a software company to insert malicious code in its auto-update process that makes it easier for the government to conduct court-ordered surveillance. Indeed, under the government’s formulation, any party whose assistance is deemed “necessary” falls within the ambit of the All Writs Act and can be compelled to do anything the government needs to effectuate a lawful court order. While these sweeping powers might be nice to have from the government’s perspective, they simply are not authorized by law and would violate the Constitution.”

But, it’s also important to point out that the smart phone giant has censored apps, submitted to security audits and has moved local user data to Chinese state-owned servers. Clearly Apple wants to do business with China’s 1.3 billion people who are not protected by the same Bill of Rights as US consumers.

Civil libertarians have warned the surveillance state is one legal case away. “Rather, it’s a fight over the future of high-tech surveillance, the trust infrastructure undergirding the global software ecosystem, and how far technology companies and software developers can be conscripted as unwilling suppliers of hacking tools for governments. It’s also the public face of a conflict that will undoubtedly be continued in secret—and is likely already well underway.” There are four main components Americans should consider before throwing their support behind the US government, according to Julian Sanchez, is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

“This offers the government a way to make tech companies help with investigations; this public fight could affect private orders from the government; the consequences of a precedent permitting this sort of coding conscription are likely to be enormous in scope; and most ominously, the effects of a win for the FBI in this case almost certainly won’t be limited to smartphones. These, then, are the high stakes of Apple’s resistance to the FBI’s order: not whether the federal government can read one dead terrorism suspect’s phone, but whether technology companies can be conscripted to undermine global trust in our computing devices. That’s a staggeringly high price to pay for any investigation,” Sanchez explained.

In breaking news, a federal judge in New York, has denied the government’s efforts to force Apple to assist law enforcement officers’ skirt an iPhone® passcode belonging to a person who plead guilty to drug charges. The ruling could affect an Apple case in California where the FBI is requesting the company assist law enforcement circumvent the passcode on a work 5c iPhone® used by the terrorist in the San Bernardino shootings.

US Magistrate Judge James Orenstein rejected federal prosecutors’ claim that a 1789 law gives the government the right to obtain a court order that would bypass the passcode-lock on a phone. “Nothing in the government’s arguments suggests any principled limit on how far a court may go in requiring a person or company to violate the most deeply-rooted values to provide assistance to the government the court deems necessary,” Orenstein wrote.

It boggles the mind to think that US courts would be willing to issue such sweeping judicial powers to the FBI based on an FBI screw-up in handling the smartphone’s security features and the admission by Comey that the phone does not contain any critical information.