Archive for May, 2017

TRUMP VISITS SAUDI COUNTER-TERRORISM CENTER

May 22, 2017

Washington Examiner on May 21, 2017 reported that President Trump on that day visited Saudi Arabia’s headquarters for countering extremist ideologies in the Middle East. Excerpts below:

The Global Center for Combating Extremist Ideology is primarily focused on combating militant ideology and messaging. Saudi officials said the center will be used to counter the messaging used by groups like the Islamic State.

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia signed a joint declaration on May 20 that called for the creation of a special commission to coordinate both country’s efforts on combating extremism by cutting off groups’ financing, countering their messaging and applying military force.

The commission will meet both in Saudi Arabia and the U.S. at least once annually to analyze the counter-terror strategy’s success and better coordinate both countries’ efforts.

Comment: The new center is an important indication that King Salman is willing to let Saudi Arabia take a more active part in the struggle against terrorism and violent extremism.

At the center various details were presented about the main room to both the president and Saudi King Salman. The center was described as a dashboard utilizing artificial intelligence data to track and monitor sentiments posted online.

There is a media monitoring system that can process up to 100 television channels in 11 different languages.

It has been reported that 350 technicians are to work in the main rooms rows of computers and workstations.

NORTH KOREA’S CYBER OPERATIONS

May 20, 2017

Fox News on May 18, 2017, reported North Korean hackers, believed to be some of the best in the world. Excerpts below:

North Korea and the group to which they are being linked, have quite a resume when it comes to aggression in cyberspace.

A 2013 Department of Defense report suggests the sluggishness of North Korea’s economy may be the reason why they are pursuing operations in the digital space, and that “[offensive cyber operations] may be seen as a cost-effective way to develop asymmetric, deniable military options.”

Cost-effectiveness aside, experts agree that the Hermit Kingdom’s cyber capabilities are undeniable. In April 2016, Army Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, now the commander of U.S. forces in Korea, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the North Koreans “are among the best in the world and the best organized” when it comes to cyber threats.

South Korea has claimed that the North’s digital army could number as many as 6,000, a number confirmed by a North Korean defector in a 2015 BBC interview.

That same defector, Professor Kim Heung-kwang, suggests that Bureau 121 was established decades ago, and initially began in China. Experts believe that North Korea continues to conduct illicit activities in China, though Kim suggests China-based operations have been scaled back significantly.

The [so called] Lazarus Group [connected to North Korea] has been linked to last year’s $81 million digital heist from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett has reportedly argued that if North Korea had anything to do with the attack, “that means that a nation state is robbing banks,” something he calls “a big deal.”
Lazarus was also implicated in the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment…

…researchers describe the scale of the Lazarus Group’s operations as “shocking,” and suggested the “rare cases when they are caught [using the same kind of code twice] are operational mistakes, because the group seems to be so large that one part doesn’t always know what the other is doing.”

AMERICAN INTELLIGENCE TO FOCUS ON NORTH KOREAN THREAT

May 14, 2017

Fox News on May 11, 2017, reported that the Central Intelligence Agency had opened a mission center with the sole task to monitor North Korea. Excerpts below:

Many of the details about the center are not yet known. It is led by an unnamed CIA veteran, who was tapped as the new assistant director for Korea. The CIA offshoot will work closely with the intelligence and national security community, the agency said.

“Creating the Korea Mission Center allows us to more purposefully integrate and direct CIA efforts against the serious threats to the United States and its allies emanating from North Korea,” CIA Director Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “It also reflects the dynamism and agility that CIA brings to evolving national security challenges.”

The opening of the mission center comes as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea increased over the last few months.

PENTAGON STUDIES IRAN-NORTH KOREA MILITARY CONNECTION

May 5, 2017

Fox News on May 4, 2017, published an article on the growing concern in the United States that Iran and North Korea are cooperating in the military field. Excerpts below:

When Iran attempted to launch a cruise missile from a “midget” submarine earlier this week, Pentagon officials saw more evidence of North Korean influence in the Islamic Republic – with intelligence reports saying the submarine was based on a Pyongyang design, the same type that sank a South Korean warship in 2010.

Nonproliferation experts have long suspected North Korea and Iran are sharing expertise when it comes to their rogue missile programs.

“The very first missiles we saw in Iran were simply copies of North Korean missiles,” said Jeffrey Lewis, a missile proliferation expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. “Over the years, we’ve seen photographs of North Korean and Iranian officials in each other’s countries, and we’ve seen all kinds of common hardware.”

When Iran tested a ballistic missile in late January, the Pentagon said it was based on a North Korean design.

Defense analysts say North Korea’s Taepodong missile looks almost identical to Iran’s Shahab.

Iran’s attempted cruise missile launch from the midget submarine in the Strait of Hormuz was believed to be one of the first times Iran has attempted such a feat. In 2015, North Korea successfully launched a missile from a submarine for the first time, and officials believe Tehran is not far behind.

Only two countries in the world deploy the Yono-class submarine – North Korea and Iran.

During [a recent] testimony, Adm. Harry Harris, the head of American forces in the Pacific, warned the United States has no land-based short- or medium-range missiles because it is a signatory to the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty signed in 1987 between Russia and the United States. But Iran and North Korea are under no such constraints.

Perhaps most worrisome for the United States is that Iran attempted this latest missile launch from a midget sub Tuesday in the narrow and crowded Strait of Hormuz, where much of the world’s oil passes each day.

In July 2016, two days before the anniversary of the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers, the Islamic Republic attempted to launch a new type of ballistic missile using North Korean technology, according to multiple intelligence officials.

It was the first time Iran attempted to launch a version of North Korea’s BM-25 Musudan ballistic missile, which has a maximum range of nearly 2,500 miles, potentially putting U.S. forces in the Middle East and Israel within reach if the problems are fixed.

In Washington Secretary of State Rex Tillerson [recently] tried to garner support for more United Nations sanctions against North Korea by hosting leaders from Southeast Asia. Days after Iran’s first ballistic missile test of the Trump administration, the White House put Iran “on notice.”