Archive for May, 2013


May 31, 2013

Daily Telegraph, London, on May 30, 2013, reported that a leader of the Cambodian Khmer Rouge expressed remorse on Thursday for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people during the “Killing Fields” regime in the 1970s and accepted responsibility for the first time. Excerpts below:

“I am responsible for what happened during the time of Democratic Kampuchea,” Nuon Chea told the United Nations-backed tribunal, referring to the name of the country during the period, when he was the party’s second-in-command.

“I am very regretful for events that happened intentionally and unintentionally. I am morally responsible,” he said, expressing “condolences” to victims of the regime present in the court, where he faces charges including war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“Brother Number Two” Nuon Chea and co-defendant Khieu Samphan, a former head of state during the Khmer Rouge period, have until now denied responsibility or even knowledge the killings.

Khieu Samphan said he regretted the “unspeakable suffering” done to the Cambodian people under the Khmer Rouge and offered condolences, his first such apology in court.

The court, operated jointly by Cambodia and the United Nations, was set up in 2005 with the aim of trying “those most responsible” for the bloodshed.

To date, it has delivered one verdict, a life sentence given to Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, chief of the notorious Tuol Sleng prison, a converted Phnom Penh school where as many as 14,000 people may have been executed.

The current trial opened in June 2011 with four people in the dock – Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, former foreign minister Ieng Sary and his wife, Ieng Thirith, who was social affairs minister in the Khmer Rouge government.


May 30, 2013

Fox News on May 29, 2013 published an AP report that a suspected U.S. drone strike killed the No. 2 commander of the Pakistani Taliban on Wednesday, Pakistani intelligence officials said, although the militant group denied he was killed. Excerpts below:

If confirmed, the death of Waliur Rehman would be a strong blow to the militant group responsible for hundreds of bombings and shootings across Pakistan. The United States has a $5 million bounty out on Rehman, who Washington has accused of involvement in the 2009 suicide attack on a U.S. base in Afghanistan that killed seven Americans working for the CIA.

Two officials said their informants in the field saw Rehman’s body, while a third said intelligence authorities had intercepted communications between militants saying Rehman had been killed. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The missile attack was the first since Pakistan’s May 11 elections…

The tribal region in northwestern Pakistan is home to local and Afghan militant outfits, including al-Qaida-linked fighters. The U.S. has often criticized Pakistan, saying it does not vigorously target militants in these areas who then attack American troops in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Taliban, officially called the Tehrik-e-Taliban, has been battling government forces for years in a bid to push them from the tribal regions, cut Pakistan’s ties with the U.S. and eventually establish their brand of hardline Islam across Pakistan.

Rehman has been on the U.S. radar for years. In 2010, Washington offered $5 million for information leading to Rehman under their “Rewards for Justice” program.

While Rehman was mostly known for his activities in Pakistan, the U.S. said in its announcement that he also participated in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan against U.S. and NATO personnel.

The U.S. wanted Rehman in connection with his alleged involvement in an attack on a U.S. base in Khost, Afghanistan in 2009. The attack on Camp Chapman killed seven Americans working for the CIA, a Jordanian intelligence officer and wounded six other CIA personnel.

Rehman was believed to be about 42 or 43 years old and was from South Waziristan, Mahsud said. He had already been fighting American troops in Afghanistan when the TTP was created in late 2007 and he turned his focus onto Pakistani targets.

Pakistan has been hit by 355 drone attacks since 2004, according to the New America Foundation, a U.S.-based think tank.


May 29, 2013

Fox News on May 28, 2013, reported that more than two dozen top weapons systems — including the Patriot missile defense program, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship — were compromised by a widening Chinese cyber espionage campaign, according to a new military report. Excerpts below:

A portion of the confidential Defense Science Board report, titled “Resilient Military Systems and the Advanced Cyber Threat,” was obtained by the Washington Post. The confidential portion detailed the various weapons that had been compromised.

It includes the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the most expensive weapons system ever built at $1.4 trillion, the Post reported.

“That’s staggering,” said Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank that focuses on Asia security issues. “These are all very critical weapons systems, critical to our national security. When I hear this in totality, it’s breathtaking.”

The report stopped short of saying that China stole the designs, but senior military officials with knowledge of the breaches told the paper that the vast majority of the compromises were the result of a growing Chinese espionage campaign against U.S. defense contractors and government agencies.

“The Department of Defense has growing concerns about the global threat to economic and national security from persistent cyber-intrusions,” a spokesman for the Pentagon told the Post.


May 28, 2013

Fox News on May 27, 2013 reported that Senator McCain has quietly slipped into Syria for a meeting with Syrian rebels. Excerpts below:

The GOP lawmaker is one of Congress’ strongest advocates for increasing America’s role in Syria and became the highest ranking U.S. official to visit the country since civil war broke out there more than two years ago.

McCain crossed the Turkey-Syria border with Gen. Salem Idris, the leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, The Daily Beast first reported. McCain met with rebel leaders who called on the U.S. to up its support by providing weapons, a no-fly zone and air strikes on President Bashar al-Assad backers.


May 27, 2013

Fox News on May 26, 2013, published an AP report on Vietnamese police having arrested one of the country’s best known bloggers for posting criticism of the communist government. Excerpts below:

The arrest of 49-year-old Truong Duy Nhat is the latest in an intensified crackdown against dissent in the one-party state.

He was accused of “abusing democratic freedoms,” an offense that carries up to seven years in prison.

Nhat was a reporter at a state-run newspaper before quitting more than two years ago to focus on his blog. His posts have often criticized the government, including one calling for the prime minister and the Communist Party chief to resign.


May 26, 2013

The Washington Times on May 25, 2013, published an AP report on an Israeli security expert saying Syrian hackers tried to break into the computers of the water system of the city of Haifa. Excerpts below:

Speaking at a lecture in the southern city of Beersheba, Yitzhak Ben Yisrael, Israel’s former cyber security adviser, said that a group calling itself “The Syrian Electronic Army” had launched the failed attack two weeks ago.

The attack took place just after Israel bombed a military complex near Damascus. Israel refuses to comment on the strike but officials at the time said Iranian missiles set for Hezbollah were hit. Syria has said that it would keep all options on the table for its response.


May 25, 2013

Fox News on May 23, 2013, reported that British police have made two further arrests and searched multiple properties as they widened their investigation into the fatal hacking to death of a British soldier in broad daylight on a busy London street by two Muslim terrorists. Excerpts below:

The two arrests, of a man and a woman — both 29 — on suspicion of conspiracy to murder, raises the possibility that the gruesome attack was not a so-called “lone wolf” killing as once thought. Earlier it had been reported that the attackers were known to UK authorities and one had ties to a radical jihadist group well before the shocking attack that has stunned the United Kingdom and risked inflaming tensions between communities.

The killers, who wielded a machete and a cleaver and were dubbed “sickening individuals” by an incensed Prime Minister David Cameron, were already on the radar of security services…

Michael Adebolajo, a Muslim convert from Christianity named by the BBC as one of the attackers, attended a number of jihadist demonstrations, lectures and activities according to Islamist British leader Choudary, although he claimed not to have seen him for about two years.

The Ministry of Defense has named the slain soldier as 25-year-old Drummer Lee Rigby, of 2nd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.

Prime Minister Cameron firmly condemned the attack in Churchillian terms, stating: “We will never give in to terror, or terrorism, in any of its forms.”

One of the attackers went on video to explain the crime — shouting political statements, gesturing with bloodied hands and waving a meat cleaver.

Images from the scene showed a blue car that appeared to have been used in the attack, its hood crushed and rammed into a signpost on a sidewalk that was smeared with blood. A number of weapons — including butchers’ knives, a machete and a meat cleaver — were strewn on the street.

“We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you,” the man declared. “We must fight them as they fight us.” The camera then panned away to show a body lying on the ground.

Britain has been at the heart of several terror attacks or plots in recent years, the most deadly being the 2005 rush-hour suicide bombings when 52 commuters were killed. More recently, Parviz Khan was convicted in 2008 of plotting to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier in Birmingham.

Some extremists have lashed out at Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. Recently, groups have also criticized Britain’s assistance in the French-led mission to Mali to root out Islamic extremists in the north.


May 24, 2013

The Washington Times on May 23, 2013, published an article on former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saying that he expects that the use of drone planes will continue to play a significant role in the global “War on Terror,” and that the prison at Guantanamo Bay should remain open. Excerpts below:

“I think we have to begin with the fact that a drone is nothing more than an airplane,” he said on Fox News. “It just doesn’t happen to have a human being flying it. So you ought to be able to do with a drone what you do with a manned aircraft. The difference is simply that one thing — there isn’t a person in it.”

“I think there is clearly going to be a use for drones; there has been in the past, there will be in the future, both armed and unarmed drones,” he continued.

U.S. drone strikes have killed four Americans, including one who was “specifically targeted” and three others who were not targets, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in a letter to Congress, publicly confirming the strikes for the first time.

Mr. Rumsfeld said one of the big disadvantages with drones, however, is that they can kill people who might have otherwise been able to provide valuable information if captured alive. He said the place to gather that information should be Guantanamo Bay.

“It’s probably as well-run a prison as you’ll find,” he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld also said that the United States, since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, has still not engaged in an ideological battle against terrorists throughout the world.

“This is much more like the Cold War than it is like World War I or Korea — it’s going to take time, and we have to be willing to engage against the people that are training young people to go out and kill innocent men, women and children,” he said.


May 23, 2013

Fox News on May 22, 2013, published a report that high-tech weapons may be screaming through the skies at five times the speed of sound by the middle of the next decade, U.S. military officials say. Excerpts below:

That’s the most optimistic timeline for the battlefied debut of a superfast new strike capability, officials said, and it depends on continued research into hypersonic vehicles like the Air Force’s X-51A Waverider, which completed its final test flight earlier this month.

The Air Force is “trying to get the technologies mature enough that in the 2020 timeframe we would like to be able to show the warfighter that we would be ready to start a development program of record sometime around that time,” said Charlie Brink, X-51A program manager for the Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate.

‘We’re busily working with leadership on what the next steps are to take, and I’ll leave it at that.’

Typical cruise missiles travel at around 500 to 600 mph, Brink said. There are obvious advantages to ramping up to hypersonic flight, which is generally defined as anything that reaches at least Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. (The speed of sound at sea level is about 762 mph.)

“That not only brings a whole set of responsiveness to the warfighter, it also, at those speeds, enhances the survivability of those systems as they overfly enemy territory,” Brink said.

So the U.S. military has been researching ways to achieve a rapid strike capability. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), for example, has launched two trials of its HTV-2 unmanned hypersonic bomber prototype, which reached Mach 20 in an August 2011 test flight before losing control.

While the military has no plans to resurrect the X-51A, another hypersonic program may well follow in the vehicle’s footsteps soon.

A lot of work still needs to be done before hypersonic scramjets first see action in battle, but the technology shows great promise, officials said.

“It’s really close,” said Joe Vogel, X-51A program manager at Boeing, which built the four Waveriders for the Air Force. “I’d say the tools, the development of the technology under the Air Force’s leadership — we’ve evolved to the extent where this isn’t invention. It’s execution at this point.”

Commercial hypersonic scramjet flight would likely come soon after the technology achieves military use, he added.

“You look historically, after things are used for military applications, there’s a couple of years and it usually then works its way into commercial application,” Vogel said. But in this case, he added, commercial and military use “may happen about the same time, because the timeframes have been shrinking over the course of many years.”


May 22, 2013

The Washington Times on May 21, 2013, reported that President Obama faces mounting bipartisan pressure for the U.S. to become more deeply involved in Syria’s civil war, with a key Senate panel pushing through legislation that would clear the way for the administration to supply weapons to rebels fighters in the Mideast nation. Excerpts below:

It was not yet clear when — or whether — the full Senate will vote on the measure, which calls for a stark strategy shift so far resisted by Mr. Obama on grounds that the risks are too high that American military hardware will flow into the hands of radical Islamist terrorists among those fighting for the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Concern about such risks was on full display during a fiery Senate Committee on Foreign Relations debate on the legislation that would give the administration power to “provide defense articles, defense services and military training” to rebel fighters who “have been properly and fully vetted and share common values and interests with the United States.”

The legislation, which was passed by the panel on a 15-3 vote, does not identify specific types of weapons that should go to the rebels, but suggests predominantly small arms since its language states that “no anti-aircraft defensive systems may be transferred as part of the assistance authorized.”

Introduced by committee Chairman Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat, and ranking Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the bill offers a range of benchmarks to be met by rebels in the “vetting” process — including a requirement that all recipients of American arms be “committed to rejecting terrorism and extremist ideologies.”

While news reports suggest the White House already has authorized a limited degree of secret training for select groups of rebels, the president has consistently rejected calls to directly arm those fighting to overthrow Mr. Assad.

The State Department last week added Muhammad al-Jawlani, the leader of a group known as the al-Nusrah Front, to its official list of “Specially Designated Global Terrorists.” In making the designation, the department said video footage proves al-Jawlani’s goal is to overthrow the Assad government and replace it with one “of Islamist Shariah law throughout the country.”

In pushing through the bill, Mr. Menendez said he and his colleagues have worked diligently to address concerns about terrorists in Syria, and stressed the proposed legislation includes a “tough vetting mechanism.”

Noting the economic and societal strain now being put on Syria’s neighbors — including U.S. allies Jordan and Turkey — by the more than 1 million refugees spawned by the war, Mr. Menendez said the U.S. is faced with the responsibility of taking a leadership role in the conflict.

Furthermore, he said, without “stepping up” to such a role, other nations in the region “would simply allow weapons to flow into Syria.”

While most on the committee agreed, some argued that the proposed legislation did not go far enough.

Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, was the most vocal in arguing that the U.S. would “have to do much more” than called for in the bill “if we are going to reverse the tide” of Syria’s war.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, and others argued that the movement of American weapons to the rebels is a key step if Washington hopes to secure any kind of influence with forces destined to fill the vacuum of power in Syria should Mr. Assad finally be ousted.

His position was echoed Tuesday by Rep. Eliot L. Engel, New York Democrat and the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who has for months been pushing a House resolution with similar wording to the Senate legislation.

Without more aggressively supporting the “moderate opposition” in Syria, “we leave the field to pro-Iran and pro-al Qaeda forces to determine Syria’s fate,” said Mr. Engel, who co-sponsored the House resolution on March 21 with Rep. Mike Rogers, Michigan Republican and the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.