Archive for April, 2012

OFFICIAL: EXPANDED U.S. DRONE STRIKES APPROVED FOR YEMEN

April 29, 2012

Washington Times on April 26, 2012, published an AP report that the United States is widening the war on al Qaeda in Yemen, expanding drone strikes against the terror network a year after the raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Excerpts below:

U.S. counterterrorist forces now will be allowed to target individuals found to be plotting attacks on U.S. territory, even if U.S. intelligence cannot identify the person by name, two senior U.S. officials said.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive strategic matters.

Prior practice required militants to be identified as part of a lengthy legal vetting process. Now, tracking an individual in the act of commanding al Qaeda fighters or planning an attack on U.S. territory or on Americans can land the person on the shoot-to-kill list, officials said.

“What this means in practice is there are times when counterterrorism professionals can assess with high confidence someone is an AQAP leader, even if they can’t tell us by name who that individual is,” one of the officials said, referring to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the branch in Yemen is known.

The White House did not approve wider targeting of groups of al Qaeda foot soldiers, a practice sometimes employed by the CIA in Pakistan, and strikes will be carried out only with Yemeni government approval, officials said.

The new policy will widen the war against AQAP, which has gained territory in fighting against the Yemeni government.

The past year of political turmoil in Yemen, since the start of revolts linked to last year’s Arab Spring, is “making it harder for them (the Yemeni government) to take a focused effort against al Qaeda” one of the officials said. “So these are counterterrorism tools designed to protect U.S. interests and homeland.”


The U.S. has carried out 23 airstrikes in Yemen since last May, with 12 of those strikes in 2012, according to the Long War Journal, a website that tracks U.S. counterterrorism and militant activity.

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SENATOR MARCO RUBIO SPEAKS OUT IN DEFENSE OF THE U.S.

April 28, 2012

Below are excerpts of Senator Marco Rubio’s foreign policy speech, which he delivered on April 25, 2012 at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. The text was published by the Weekly Standard:

Thank you, Brookings, for the opportunity to contribute a few thoughts to the current debate over America’s role in the world in the 21st Century. I wanted to give this speech today to share with you my observations as someone who is a longtime observer of foreign policy, who now finds himself in the role of policymaker.

I am always cautious about generalizations but until very recently, the general perception was that American Conservatism believed in a robust and muscular foreign policy. That was certainly the hallmark of the foreign policy of President Reagan, and both President Bush’s. But when I arrived in the Senate last year I found that some of the traditional sides in the foreign policy debate had shifted.

But I wanted to begin by addressing another trend in our body politic. One that increasingly says it is time to focus less on the world and more on ourselves.

I always begin by reminding people of how good a strong and engaged America has been for the world. In making that argument, I have recently begun to rely heavily on Brookings fellow, Bob Kagan’s timely book, The World America Made.

Bob begins his book with a useful exercise: asking readers to imagine what kind of world order might have existed from the end of World War II until the present absent American leadership. Could we say with certainty that it would look anything like America’s vision of an increasingly freer and more open international system, where catastrophic conflicts between great powers were avoided, democracy and free market capitalism flourished, where prosperity spread wider and wider and billions of people emerged from poverty?

Would it have occurred if, after the war, we had minded our own business, and left the world to sort out its affairs without our leadership?

Almost surely not. As Bob persuasively argued, every world order in history has reflected the interests and beliefs of its strongest power, just as this world order still largely reflects ours. Of course many of these things weren’t achieved by us alone. They weren’t achieved because we succeeded in all our international endeavors. They weren’t achieved because everyone always agreed with everything we did. They weren’t achieved because we were the most popular nation on earth. They were achieved because the United States had the vision, the will and means to do the hard work of bringing it into existence and then maintaining it.

HANSON IN NATIONAL REVIEW : AMERICA IS NOT “DECLINING” DUE TO MATERIAL SHORTAGES

April 27, 2012

National Review on-line on April 26, 2012, published an article on the supposed “decline” of America. Excerpts below:

Almost daily we read, it said, of America’s “waning power” and “inevitable decline,” as observers argue over the consequences of defense cuts and budget crises.

Yet much of the new American “leading from behind” strategy is more a matter of choice than of necessity.

We certainly have plenty of planes and bombs with which to pound Syria’s Bashir al-Assad. Never in the last 70 years has the U.S. military been so lethal.

So much of our sagging profile abroad is simply a growing realization that the Middle East is, well, the Middle East: You can change the faces, but the regimes end up mostly the same.

Can decline be better measured by our vast debt of $16 trillion, growing yearly with $1 trillion deficits? Perhaps. But Americans know that with a new tax code, simple reforms to entitlements, and reasonable trimming of bloated public salaries and pensions, we could balance federal budgets.

Do high gas prices and huge imported-oil fees reflect an energy-short America? Not really. There are 25 billion barrels of oil sitting right off California’s central coast, and much more in Alaska, the Midwest, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Eastern shore.

In other words, the manifest symptoms of decline — frustration with the Middle East, military retrenchment, exorbitant energy costs, and financial insolvency — are choices we now make, but need not make in the future.

An average American with an average cell phone has more information at his fingertips than did a Goldman Sachs grandee 20 years ago.

American poverty is not measured by absolute global standards of available food, shelter, and medical care, or by comparisons with prior generations, but by one American now having less stuff than another.

As America re-examines its military, entitlements, energy sources, and popular culture, it will learn that our “decline” is not due to material shortages, but rather arises from moral confusion over how to master, rather than being mastered by, the vast riches we have created. If decline is fighting just two wars at a time rather than three, budgeting as we did in 2008, tapping a bit more oil offshore, or having our colleges offer more grammar courses and fewer rock-climbing walls, then by all means, bring it on.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author most recently of The End of Sparta.

U.S. NEEDS TOP-LEVEL APPROVAL TO LAUNCH CYBERATTACKS

April 26, 2012

Washington Times on April 25, 2012, published an AP report on the United States using cyberweapons against an adversary’s computer networks only after those at the highest levels of government approved of the operation because of the risks of collateral damage, a senior U.S. military official said this week. Excerpts below:

The director of intelligence at U.S. Cyber Command, Navy Rear Adm. Samuel J. Cox, said cyberattacks can do significant harm to a country’s infrastructure and never should be carried out in a cavalier manner.

Offensive cyberoperations are difficult to conduct with enough precision to avoid unintended casualties and damage to unrelated systems, he said.

“If you’re trying to do precision strike in cyberspace with a very high degree of confidence,” Adm. Cox said, “that takes enormous amounts of intelligence, planning, great care and very carefully crafted cybertools that won’t boomerang against you down the road.”

Cyber Command is in charge of defending U.S. military networks from attacks and intrusions. The command’s top officer, Army Gen. Keith B. Alexander, also is the director of the secretive National Security Agency, which gathers electronic intelligence from foreign governments.

Both NSA and Cyber Command are headquartered at Fort Meade, Md.

The Defense Department is developing rules of engagement for how commanders will operate in cyberspace and what missions they can conduct under their own authority.

The House of Representatives on the 26th will consider legislation to better defend critical U.S. industries and corporate networks from electronic attacks and intrusions by foreign governments, cybercriminals and terrorist groups. However, there are deep divisions over how best to accomplish the goal.

The Obama administration officials and security experts say companies that operate power plants, communication systems, chemical facilities and other such entities should have to meet basic performance standards to prove they can withstand cyberattacks or recover quickly from them.

There is broad agreement, though, on the need for the private sector and government to share information about hackers and the techniques they use to control the inner workings of corporate networks. With a system to securely exchange information, there is a much better chance of blocking cyberattacks and the theft of proprietary information.

Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the panel’s top Democrat, said on the 24th that they had worked out several amendments to their information-sharing bill to address privacy concerns and to clarify parts of the legislation.

Lawmakers will offer the amendments when the House considers the bill later this week. Mr. Rogers said he clearly has the votes to pass the overall measure

THE JIHADISTS WINNING WAR ON AMERICA

April 25, 2012

Washington Times on April 23, 2012, published an article by Frank J. Gaffney Jr. who reported on the US not winning the war on terrorism. Excerpts below:

Thankfully, we have been able to kill some dangerous bad guys. The sad truth is that by almost any other measure, the prospect of victory is becoming more remote by the day. No one seems able to explain the reason.

In an effort to provide the missing answer, on Tuesday , the Center for Security Policy is making available via the Internet a new, free 10-part video course titled “The Muslim Brotherhood in America: The Enemy Within” (MuslimBrotherhoodinAmerica.com). This course connects the proverbial dots, drawing on a wealth of publicly available data and firsthand accounts to present a picture that has, for more than a decade, been obscured, denied and suppressed.

In addition to the threat of violent jihad, America faces another, even more toxic danger – a stealthy and pre-violent form of warfare aimed at destroying our constitutional form of democratic government and free society. The Muslim Brotherhood is the prime mover behind this seditious campaign, which it calls “civilization jihad.”

[Presently there is] the Egyptian Brotherhood-dominated government’s hostage-taking of American democracy activists; murderous Islamist rampages against Coptic Christians and other religious minorities; the toleration and abetting of escalating violence against Israel in and from the Sinai; and official threats to jettison the 1979 peace treaty with the Jewish state.

Unfortunately, as the center’s course makes clear, this episode is just the latest of many that flow from the subversion by Muslim Brotherhood operatives that has been happening within our civil society and governing institutions in every administration since Bill Clinton was in office. During his presidency, a top Muslim Brother, Abdurahman Alamoudi, was put in charge of recruiting, training and credentialing Muslim chaplains for the U.S. military and prison system. Incredibly, some of them are believed to be in place still, even though Alamoudi turns out to have been a top al Qaeda financier and is doing hard time at Colorado’s Supermax on terrorism charges.

Unfortunately, those look like the good old days compared to what is happening under the Obama administration. Mr. Obama facilitated and now has underwritten the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover in Egypt and an increasing number of states elsewhere in the Middle East. At his direction, explicit or implicit, the U.S. government is systematically purging its training materials of any information that Islamists might find offensive – including factual information about Shariah, its impelling of jihad (preferably violent and, where necessary, pre-violent) and the Muslim Brotherhood’s mission of destroying us from within.

In short, we are losing what is more accurately described as the “jihadists’ war on America” because we are being subjected to a systematic, disciplined and highly successful campaign of what the military would call “information dominance.” It leaves us as a nation witless about the true nature of the enemy and his motivations and therefore incapable of countering them effectively.

On April 25, Glenn Beck will release an important new hourlong documentary that addresses many of these same points, titled “Rumors of War III.” It concludes, as does our course, with a powerful reminder of what is at stake if we persist in such behavior and continue to lose the jihadists’ war on America – a quote from a speech Ronald Reagan gave 50 years ago that rings as true today as ever:

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy (SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of Secure Freedom Radio.

U.S. EYES SANCTIONS ON TECH USED ON DISSIDENTS AND REBELS

April 24, 2012

Fox News on April 23, 2012, published an AP report on the U.S. announcing a plan to impose sanctions against foreign entities and individuals who help authoritarian regimes use technology to crack down on dissidents, an administration official said.

The U.S. president signed an executive order authorizing the new category of sanctions on April 22. The tougher penalties are aimed in particular at those who facilitate human-rights abuses in Syria and Iran, said the official, who requested anonymity because the official was not authorized to discuss the order publically.


While rebellions in countries like Libya and Egypt have been fueled by cellphones and social media, other regimes have used technology to track dissidents or block Internet access.

For example, Iran has provided the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad with technology to jam cellphones and block or monitor the social networking sites rebels would use to organize demonstrations.

The president has also asked the U.S. intelligence community to include assessments of the likelihood of mass killings in its National Intelligence Estimates.

The new White House policy was first reported by The Washington Post.

DOCUMENTING SOVIET CRIMES IN ESTONIA

April 23, 2012

The Hoover Institution in the United States and the National Archives of Estonia have signed an agreement of cooperation for digitizing and sharing records pertaining to Estonia it was reported in January of 2012. Excerpts below:

The first project will be Hoover Archives’ acquiring copies of selected groups of records of the NKVD and of its successor, the KGB of the former Estonian SSSR.

Estonia was occupied by Soviet troops as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939, which divided much of East Central Europe between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia. The military takeover was followed by arrests and the gradual liquidation of the political and military elites in the occupied countries and territories. During the first months of Soviet occupation over eight thousand people were arrested and twenty-two hundred murdered, this however was only the beginning of the national tragedy. By the end of the war, Estonia lost at least 200,000 people, or about 20 percent of its population, to repression, exodus, and war. Then the systematic settlement of ethnic Russians reduced the Estonian population to barely a majority in its own country.

More than ninety thousand digitized images of Estonian SSSR KGB documents are already available in the Hoover Archives, complementing similar documentation received concurrently from Lithuania (see “Agents of History,” Hoover Digest, 1, winter 2010). The project is expected to continue for several years, resulting in the transfer to Stanford of copies of vast Soviet-era archival resources documenting Estonia’s tragic history during five decades of Soviet occupation.

SLINGSHOT DRONE FLEETS OVER THE UNITED STATES

April 21, 2012

Fox News on April 20, 2012, reported on a new fleet of model-airplane sized unmanned drones that can be launched from a slingshot on a moment’s notice are among the first wave in the massive rollout of commercial robot planes currently underway into U.S. skies. Excerpts below:

The Aggie Air Flying Circus are environmental crusaders instead, deployed to prevent water shortages and solve water resource challenges in Utah.

“[It’s an] on-demand fleet of UAVs that could be put in the sky at a moment’s notice,” explained Mac McKee, director of the Utah Water Research Lab at Utah State University that created the Flying Circus.

Water is a key resource in the state, where approximately 85 percent is diverted toward irrigating agriculture — meaning the rest of the economy relies on the remaining 15 percent. But satellite images weren’t providing adequate aerial imagery to let the lab effectively study wetlands and agriculture.

The drones have made the water delivery system far more efficient by better anticipating demand, freeing up a huge volume for Utah’s economy and citizens.

On February 3, the House of Representatives passed a bill that will lead to a dramatic increase in the number of drones permitted to fly in US airspace. As restrictions ease, UAVs have been the subject of considerable debate; the Wall Street Journal wrote on the 19th that more than 50 universities and law-enforcement agencies have been granted approval to operate them, according to Freedom of Information Act requests by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

‘[It’s an] on-demand fleet of UAVs that could be put in the sky at a moment’s notice.’

– Mac McKee, director of the Utah Water Research Lab

The Flying Circus fleet inexpensively gathers high-resolution images over wide expanses to paint a picture that experts can use to address a wide range of natural and water resources problems.

Each UAV can reach 1,000 feet, last about an hour, and cover a total of about three to four square miles, producing photos that are “geo-referenced,” or located on map coordinates.

Each of the half dozen aircraft in service has a name drawn from illustrious planes of the past such as “Raven,” “Spitfire” and “Mustang,” and each has its own unique color scheme painted so that the operator can confirm that the aircraft is right side up.

The UAVs are launched like a slingshot using a 100-foot bungee cord: The pilot ties the bungee to a stake in the ground, gets the proper tension and hooks the bungee to the aircraft before lofting it into the skies.

When the UAV detects it is at the right height and distance, the onboard computer arms the camera and the plane follows a pre-programmed flight path.
One computer flies it and another communicates with the camera. Together they identify both the location and orientation of the aircraft and coordinate this data with each image taken.

While other UAVs designed for the homeland cost as much as $150,000 per aircraft, the AggieAir fleet are under $10,000 apiece. And more are on the way.

This summer the team will deploy three new platforms including a UAV with a rotary design that will allow vertical takeoff and landing.

“Titan” will be larger, with an 11-foot wingspan and a 20 to 25 pound mass when fully loaded. The researchers expect it to have about 80 minutes of endurance. “Minion” a smaller aircraft, will address a fresh, yet undetermined target.

GROWING CONFLICT IN THE SOUTH CHINA SEA

April 18, 2012

Geocurrents in the US on April 17, 2012, reported on the boundary conflict in the South Chima Sea. Excerpts below:

Philippine president says his country won’t go to war war with China over disputed shoal.

The remarks of President Benigno Aquino III did help the country save face as it pulled a warship out of the disputed waters and allowed several Chinese fishing vessels to return home with their catch. On April 16, the United States and the Philippines began joint military exercises, a move that officials insist has no connection with the China-Philippine dispute.

The disputed territory in question is Scarborough Shoal (called Huangyan Island in China and Panatag Shoal in the Philippines.) It is situated well to the northeast of the better-known Spratly Islands.

Despite the fact that Scarborough is labeled as a mere shoal or reef, it actually contains a significant amount of dry land, estimated at 50 square kilometers (58 sq mi). It is, however, highly rocky and of little use. The local seas, however, are rich marine resources, and a successful territorial bid would give the controlling country power over an expansive maritime domain.

The dispute in the Spratly Islands is intensified by the possibility of substantial oil and natural gas deposits in the area.

THE EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS CLASSIFIES KATYN TRAGEDY AS WAR CRIME

April 16, 2012

The Kyiv Post on April 17, 2012, published an Interfax-Ukraine report on The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) concluding that the mass murders of Polish prisoners of war in the former Soviet Union in 1940 were a war crime, but found no new evidence requiring the Russian authorities to reopen the Katyn case. Excerpts below:

The court said on Monday, Apr. 16, it had concluded that the executions of Polish prisoners of war were a war crime, as the humane treatment of POWs and the ban on murders were a part of the conventional international law the Soviet authorities were compelled to observe. The judgment was made on the lawsuit of 15 family members of the Polish citizens executed in the USSR in 1940.

The court said that the hearing of a complaint of the breach of Article 2 of the Convention (murder investigations) would go beyond its area of activity.

The responsibility for murders of Polish prisoners of war in 1942 exceeds the case limits, it said.

However, due to the Convention and the Court’s opinion, states are bound to investigate violent or suspicious deaths, it said. It also noted that the commitment existed irrespectively of whether the death occurred before or after the Convention entered into force.

Fifteen citizens of Poland, family members of twelve Polish citizens – police and army officers, a military medic and a primary school principal who had fallen victim to the Katyn executions, lodged their claim with the ECHR.

The investigation of mass murders of more than 20,000 Polish citizens in 1940 started in 1990 and lasted until 2004 when the case was dropped. The related resolution of the Russian Main Military Prosecutor’s Office was classified.

The ECHR judgment is not final and either side may appeal for a hearing at the ECHR Grand Chamber within three months in exceptional cases.