Archive for the 'Intelligence' Category



NSA Spying

BY Herschel Smith
7 months, 3 weeks ago

I’m going to provide a running list of recent reports concerning NSA spying on Americans, and then some commentary at the end.

The NSA Back Door to NIST:

Through the Snowden disclosures, the NIST standard for pseudo-random number generation has fallen into disrepute. Here I describe the back door to the NIST standard for pseudo-random number generation in elementary and mathematically precise terms. The NIST standard offers three methods for pseudo-random number generation [NIST]. My remarks are limited to the third of the three methods, which is based on elliptic curves.

This is a scholarly paper, and I simply don’t have the time to explain how random number generators work (I have seen the coding and have several algorithms).  I also don’t have the time to explain public and private encryption keys and how they work.  Any attempt to explain this would run way past the usual time Site Meter shows that I have readers.  But suffice it to say that random number generators are compromised.  Thus, any communication you use in which you depend on such methods has also been compromised and isn’t reliable.

ExtremeTech:

Security researchers have successfully broken one of the most secure encryption algorithms, 4096-bit RSA, by listening – yes, with a microphone — to a computer as it decrypts some encrypted data. The attack is fairly simple and can be carried out with rudimentary hardware. The repercussions for the average computer user are minimal, but if you’re a secret agent, power user, or some other kind of encryption-using miscreant, you may want to reach for the Rammstein when decrypting your data.

This acoustic cryptanalysis, carried out by Daniel Genkin, Adi Shamir (who co-invented RSA), and Eran Tromer, uses what’s known as a side channel attack. A side channel is an attack vector that is non-direct and unconventional, and thus hasn’t been properly secured. For example, your pass code prevents me from directly attacking your phone — but if I could work out your pass code by looking at the greasy smudges on your screen, that would be a side channel attack. In this case, the security researchers listen to the high-pitched (10 to 150 KHz) sounds produced by your computer as it decrypts data.

This might sound crazy, but with the right hardware it’s actually not that hard. For a start, if you know exactly what frequency to listen out for, you can use low- and high-pass filters to ensure that you only have the sounds that emanate from your PC while the CPU decrypts data. (In case you were wondering, the acoustic signal is actually generated by the CPU’s voltage regulator, as it tries to maintain a constant voltage during wildly varied and bursty loads). Then, once you have the signal, it’s time for the hard bit: Actually making sense of it.

Without going into too much detail, the researchers focused on a very specific encryption implementation: The GnuPG (an open/free version of PGP) 1.x implementation of the RSA cryptosystem. With some very clever cryptanalysis, the researchers were able to listen for telltale signs that the CPU was decrypting some data, and then listening to the following stream of sounds to divine the decryption key. The same attack would not work on different cryptosystems or different encryption software — they’d have to start back at the beginning and work out all of the tell-tale sounds from scratch.

Hard and a lot of work, but feasible.  My oldest son Joshua responds this back to me concerning this article.

Yeah, saw this on reddit. Physical security is just as important as digital. Also, the Debian distro just released a new version that fixes this by generating pink noise, although if they know the algorithm used to generate the randomness in pink noise they could still filter it.Right now they’re working on using thermal heat/noise generated by PC components as an external factor to seed random number generators.Still, the takeaway is that if the government wants access to the info, they’re going to get it one way or another. Russia just placed an order for typewriters so they could begin archiving sensitive material on paper instead of digitally because paper is more difficult to exfiltrate.

AP:

One of the slides described how the NSA can plant malicious software onto Apple Inc.’s iPhone, giving American intelligence agents the ability to turn the popular smartphone into a pocket-sized spy.

Another slide showcased a futuristic-sounding device described as a “portable continuous wave generator,” a remote-controlled device which – when paired with tiny electronic implants – can bounce invisible waves of energy off keyboards and monitors to see what is being typed, even if the target device isn’t connected to the Internet.

A third slide showcased a piece of equipment called NIGHTSTAND, which can tamper with wireless Internet connections from up to 8 miles (13 kilometers) away.

An NSA spokeswoman, Vanee Vines, said that she wasn’t aware of Appelbaum’s presentation, but that in general should would not comment on “alleged foreign intelligence activities.”

“As we’ve said before, NSA’s focus is on targeting the communications of valid foreign intelligence targets – not on collecting and exploiting a class of communications or services that would sweep up communications that are not of bona fide foreign intelligence interest to the U.S. government.”

Spiegel (select quotes):

The insert method and other variants of QUANTUM are closely linked to a shadow network operated by the NSA alongside the Internet, with its own, well-hidden infrastructure comprised of “covert” routers and servers. It appears the NSA also incorporates routers and servers from non-NSA networks into its covert network by infecting these networks with “implants” that then allow the government hackers to control the computers remotely. (Click here to read a related article on the NSA’s “implants”.)

In this way, the intelligence service seeks to identify and track its targets based on their digital footprints. These identifiers could include certain email addresses or website cookies set on a person’s computer. Of course, a cookie doesn’t automatically identify a person, but it can if it includes additional information like an email address. In that case, a cookie becomes something like the web equivalent of a fingerprint.

Once TAO teams have gathered sufficient data on their targets’ habits, they can shift into attack mode, programming the QUANTUM systems to perform this work in a largely automated way. If a data packet featuring the email address or cookie of a target passes through a cable or router monitored by the NSA, the system sounds the alarm. It determines what website the target person is trying to access and then activates one of the intelligence service’s covert servers, known by the codename FOXACID.

This NSA server coerces the user into connecting to NSA covert systems rather than the intended sites. In the case of Belgacom engineers, instead of reaching the LinkedIn page they were actually trying to visit, they were also directed to FOXACID servers housed on NSA networks. Undetected by the user, the manipulated page transferred malware already custom tailored to match security holes on the target person’s computer …

At the same time, it is in no way true to say that the NSA has its sights set exclusively on select individuals. Of even greater interest are entire networks and network providers, such as the fiber optic cables that direct a large share of global Internet traffic along the world’s ocean floors.

One document labeled “top secret” and “not for foreigners” describes the NSA’s success in spying on the “SEA-ME-WE-4″ cable system. This massive underwater cable bundle connects Europe with North Africa and the Gulf states and then continues on through Pakistan and India, all the way to Malaysia and Thailand. The cable system originates in southern France, near Marseille. Among the companies that hold ownership stakes in it are France Telecom, now known as Orange and still partly government-owned, and Telecom Italia Sparkle.

The document proudly announces that, on Feb. 13, 2013, TAO “successfully collected network management information for the SEA-Me-We Undersea Cable Systems (SMW-4).” With the help of a “website masquerade operation,” the agency was able to “gain access to the consortium’s management website and collected Layer 2 network information that shows the circuit mapping for significant portions of the network.”

It appears the government hackers succeeded here once again using the QUANTUMINSERT method.

The document states that the TAO team hacked an internal website of the operator consortium and copied documents stored there pertaining to technical infrastructure …

Take, for example, when they intercept shipping deliveries. If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or related accessories, for example, TAO can divert the shipping delivery to its own secret workshops. The NSA calls this method interdiction. At these so-called “load stations,” agents carefully open the package in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote computer.

These minor disruptions in the parcel shipping business rank among the “most productive operations” conducted by the NSA hackers, one top secret document relates in enthusiastic terms. This method, the presentation continues, allows TAO to obtain access to networks “around the world.”

Now for my own commentary.  I overheard a television commercial over Christmas state something like “we believe in helping children reach their creative potentials and then creating their own future,” or some claptrap like that.

I don’t believe that, as I’ve explained before.  The thieves stealing your information and invading your privacy were once creative children too.  Creativity can be turned towards good or evil.  The moral rot and decay in America has produced the totalitarianism under which we now suffer.  The NSA is a sign of the wickedness of our society.  I am not giving excuse to individuals inside the NSA who do this, for it is not society but individuals who do these things.  But I’m remarking on the general cultural, religious, theological and moral darkness that pervades our world.

I am not sanguine about our immediate future.  Oh yes, I have guns and ammunition.  And I know how to use them.  So do a lot of my readers.  But regardless of what happens in our near term and far term future, without addressing the moral rot that caused this situation, we cannot move forward – not with a new constitution, not with a constitutional convention, not with a new revolution.  These things don’t change the heart of man.

The nearest I can see to a solution, albeit a temporary band aid, is secession, in part because of the fact that my location, i.e., the South, has not yet so completely thrown off the garments of our orthodox Christian heritage.  This is not so much a solution for other places, which would doubtless devolve into totalitarianism and anarchy in dialectic tension in short order.

I know this is a long way from the original subject of the post, but with no hesitation and no apology, I unequivocally assert that if you believe that all of your training, all of your tactics, all of your firearms, all of your ammunition, and all of your passion for whatever you have passion, are some sort of fix for moral darkness, you are sadly mistaken, and you will eventually learn this.

This country has far greater problems than how many guns I own.  The kind of behavior we are witnessing from the NSA is consistent with Nazi Germany, Communist China, the Soviet Union and North Korea.  The America I once knew has almost faded from memory, and exists no more.  I have hope that one day it will be born anew, but I know that it will not happen within the present moral darkness and relativism.

UPDATE: The Daily Dot.  The NSA has nearly complete backdoor access to Apple’s iPhone.

UPDATE #2: Zero Hedge, How The NSA Hacks Your iPhone.

Encryption Followup

BY Herschel Smith
10 months, 3 weeks ago

I’m not going to get detailed in why I am saying what I am about to say.  Go and read this post – Encryption Via A One-Time Pad – at Dan Morgan’s place.  Also, all of this is courtesy of Mosby via WRSA.

The post is interesting, especially the more rudimentary methods of communication, which I think are far superior to the high tech methods.  Then again, this kind of stuff is interesting to me, and perhaps few others.  I suspect that this kind of thing would be useful under certain circumstances, but not me, and not right now.

If I had ever wanted to be anonymous, that ship left port years ago.  I have been tracked by CIA, NSA, FBI, DIA, DHS, Department of State and *.mil network domains ever since I posted real examples of the sinfully restrictive ROE in Iraq and Afghanistan (from folks who were there).  I’ve seen it from network domains that visited my site.  Eventually, I lost interest in that and simply assume that I’m being watched all of the time on everything.  Again, that horse left the barn a long time ago.  I cannot ever be anonymous again.  I have given some thought to how I might return to normal life again, but only thoughts.

But regarding the post on encryption, the issue of random number generators comes up.  Morgan says some of the random number generators are “pseudo-random number generators.”

I have to get all pointy head here, and I fear that the more I do this, the larger the chance is that I give away who I am and what I do.  I just want to keep that separate from my blogging if I can.  But here it goes.  There are guys who do their entire post-doctoral work on developing random number generators at the National Labs for Monte Carlo computer codes.  There are tests for randomness – ten in all the last time I read the papers and listened to the presentations.

Listen.  All random number generators are pseudo-random number generators.  None are truly random.  With a given random number seed, a random number generator will generate the same sequence of numbers every time it is launched.  Monte Carlo computer code users are constantly aware of whether they are exceeding the random number stride with any specific calculation.  There are tricks used as work-arounds if they do, such as choosing a random number seed that happens to be different than the default value, or different than the one they chose earlier.  But the simple question is this: Do you understand that you cannot just launch the application and assume that you get “random numbers?”

But also listen to me on this.  The folks that propose to rule us have access to all of these random number generators.  If you use a random number generator like it’s a black box and generate the same sequence of “random numbers” every time you use it, your communications will become predictable.

What’s the point?  Just be aware that you cannot use a piece of technology as a black box.  You have to be at least semi-educated in order to make proper use of any technology, and don’t assume that you are any more than one step ahead of your opponent, even if you’ve changed what you did since the last time you did it.

Okay.  End of pointy head lecture.

Bilderberg, The New American Century And The Rise Of Intelligence

BY Herschel Smith
11 months ago

We’ve seen how the Department of Homeland Security has pressed for biometric identification of American citizens, and how American police have adopted COIN tactics, techniques and procedures in the policing of America, including more than seventy federal agencies.  These are cogs in a larger machine.  In an event that went completed ignored in the Main Stream Media (ignored, not missed), Wikileaks recently released 249 important documents on global intelligence contractors.

Today, Wednesday 4 September 2013 at 1600 UTC, WikiLeaks released ‘Spy Files #3′ – 249 documents from 92 global intelligence contractors. These documents reveal how, as the intelligence world has privatised, US, EU and developing world intelligence agencies have rushed into spending millions on next-generation mass surveillance technology to target communities, groups and whole populations.

WikiLeaks’ publisher Julian Assange stated: “WikiLeaks’ Spy Files #3 is part of our ongoing commitment to shining a light on the secretive mass surveillance industry. This publication doubles the WikiLeaks Spy Files database. The WikiLeaks Spy Files form a valuable resource for journalists and citizens alike, detailing and explaining how secretive state intelligence agencies are merging with the corporate world in their bid to harvest all human electronic communication.”

WikiLeaks’ Counter Intelligence Unit has been tracking the trackers. The WLCIU has collected data on the movements of key players in the surveillance contractor industry, including senior employees of Gamma, Hacking Team and others as they travel through Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brazil, Spain, Mexico and other countries.

Julian Assange, WikiLeaks’ publisher, stated: “The WikiLeaks Counter Intelligence Unit operates to defend WikiLeaks’ assets, staff and sources, and, more broadly, to counter threats against investigative journalism and the public’s right to know.”

Documents in Spy Files #3 include sensitive sales brochures and presentations used to woo state intelligence agencies into buying mass surveillance services and technologies. Spy Files #3 also includes contracts and deployment documents, detailing specifics on how certain systems are installed and operated.

Internet spying technologies now being sold on the intelligence market include detecting encrypted and obfuscated internet usage such as Skype, BitTorrent, VPN, SSH and SSL. The documents reveal how contractors work with intelligence and policing agencies to obtain decryption keys.

The documents also detail bulk interception methods for voice, SMS, MMS, email, fax and satellite phone communications. The released documents also show intelligence contractors selling the ability to analyse web and mobile interceptions in real-time.

Analysis & Commentary

An important reddit comment follows this up.

Would you like to know more?

Revolution in Military Affairs

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolution_in_Military_Affairs

Former DoD analyst Franklin Spinney

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franklin_C._Spinney

“At the core of the RMA is a radical hypothesis that would cause Sun Tzu, Clausewitz and George Patton to roll over in their graves. That is, that technology will transform the fog and friction of combat – the uncertainty, fear, chaos, imperfect information which is a natural product of a clash between opposing wills – into clear, friction-free, predictable, mechanistic interaction.”

Project for the New American Century

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_for_the_New_American_Century

In its “Preface”, in highlighted boxes, Rebuilding America’s Defenses states that it aims to:

ESTABLISH FOUR CORE MISSIONS for the U.S. military:

  1. Defend the American homeland;
  2. Fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars;
  3. Perform the “constabulary” duties associated with shaping the security environment in critical regions;
  4. Transform U.S. forces to exploit the “revolution in military affairs”;

CONTROL THE NEW “INTERNATIONAL COMMONS” OF SPACE AND “CYBERSPACE”

Section V of Rebuilding America’s Defenses, entitled “Creating Tomorrow’s Dominant Force”, includes the sentence: “Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event––like a new Pearl Harbor” (51).[15]

“The technotronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities. ”

-Zbigniew Brzezinski, geopolitician, former US National Security Advisor, and member of the Bilderberg Group. Quote lifted from his book “Between Two Ages”

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zbigniew_Brzezinski

It’s a brave new world that the rulers envision, no doubt.  No more conventional warfare, not even fourth generation warfare since the rulers know what we’re doing, who we are, where we are, what assets we have, to whom we’re connected, and how to stop “trouble-making” before it gets started.  Iraq was a laboratory for stability operations, and the story about the “snake-eaters” using a synthesis of organic intelligence, signals intelligence and smart analysis and finding the bad guys in order to end the insurgency only plays into the hands of the collectivists.  But can it really work like this?

The narrative about the “snake eaters” bringing an end to the campaign in Iraq is greatly overblown.  It was primarily the U.S. Marines who brought stability to the Anbar Province, and it was the hard work of thousands of Soldiers in the balance of Iraq that brought the modicum of success that we had in Iraq, for what end I don’t really know.

The Chicago police department cannot even stop gang violence in their own city, and the Governor is considering the use of National Guard troops to quell the violence.  It won’t work, and I seriously doubt that such troops would even be under arming orders, any more than the National Guard sent to the Southern border were under arming orders.

There is another intersection of this paradigm with collectivist intentions.  In order to find money for redistribution to the masses, they need to gut the military.  Notwithstanding the ongoing debate in our community over a standing army, the point is that the collectivists are going after money, and before they target 401Ks and IRAs, they willl use defense dollars in their designs for control.  It’s easier for them that way.

But this is all well and good for the rulers until the bullets start flying.  Obamacare was and continues to be a big deal.  Confiscation of 401Ks and IRAs might be the event that pushes typical Americans over the edge.  Watching the death of loved ones due to decisions by government death panels (while their wealth goes to funding the medical care of illegal aliens) might be another.

In the end, the hives the government has created (like Chicago) don’t work because they undermine values and the organic family unit.  Whatever the final straw, if the government cannot control violence in the very hives that they’ve created, they certainly can’t accomplish that in suburbia America, where fences, yard dogs and guns every fifty yards would make the hedgerows in Normany look like inviting terrain.

To be sure, the degree of electronic control over Americans makes the situation hard, and the government knows almost everything about us.  But for the Bilderberg group and the elitist rulers, I have a suggestion.  Try a test case in which you announce gun and wealth confiscations, and send one of the many federal policing agencies up Highway 276 in South Carolina, through Marietta, and turn left on Highway 11.  Within a few minutes make a turn to the right towards Jocassee Gorges, and start your confiscations up in those hills.  My bet is that the your vehicles will be blown to smithereens.  If you do make it up the road, it’s likely that they boys with scoped, bolt action hunting rifles will make life very difficult for you.  With all due respect to the tactical trainers (which training is very good and necessary, I’m sure), there won’t be small unit maneuver warfare.  No one will ever see the boys hiding behind the trees.  They won’t go on the run as a lone wolf because you won’t ever know they were involved in anything.  The best planning, the best troops and the best equipment couldn’t handle an insurgency in America – if one ever develops.

Or try to do confiscations in Murphy, North Carolina, or any one of a multitude of places in Idaho or Montana.  To be reminded of the value of a good rifleman, I strongly recommend an article in the most recent American Rifleman magazine (October 2013).  Sometimes this publication becomes annoying with its advertizing and product reviews.  But occasionally the magazine crafts a winner, and this one is meets the criteria.

The article is entitled “Where will we bury them all?,” and in my paper copy it begins on page 95.  It’s the story about the communist invasion of Finnland in 1939, and the value of basic combat rifles and good fieldcraft.  It summarizes:

The winter war proved a costly victory for the Soviets.  The Red Army lost approximately 126,875 dead or missing, 264,908 wounded and appriximately 5,600 captured.  In addition, they lost about 2,268 armored vehicles.  The Finns suffered greatly to preserve their freedom.  In the four months of combat, Finnish losses numbered approximately 26,662 dead and more than 39,000 wounded.  A tiny nation of riflemen had held off the communist Red giant.

It would be easy to conclude that the 50% of America which is still working is on a direct collision course with the elitist rulers.  It would be just as easy for the collectivists to conclude that biometrics, numbers, cards, decryption, cameras and aggressive policing will enable their designs.  The former conclusion seems more likely every day.  The later conclusion seems dangerous for the collectivists.

Of course, everything in this article is for educational purposes only.

Is Iran Trying to Develop Nukes? Don’t Ask U.S. Intelligence Agencies

BY Glen Tschirgi
2 years, 5 months ago

According to a front-page story by James Risen in The New York Times, those crazy mullahs in Iran have U.S. intelligence agencies dumbfounded:

WASHINGTON — While American spy agencies have believed that the Iranians halted efforts to build a nuclear bomb back in 2003, the difficulty in assessing the government’s ambitions was evident two years ago, when what appeared to be alarming new intelligence emerged, according to current and former United States officials.

Intercepted communications of Iranian officials discussing their nuclear program raised concerns that the country’s leaders had decided to revive efforts to develop a weapon, intelligence officials said.

That, along with a stream of other information, set off an intensive review and delayed publication of the 2010 National Intelligence Estimate, a classified report reflecting the consensus of analysts from 16 agencies. But in the end, they deemed the intercepts and other evidence unpersuasive, and they stuck to their longstanding conclusion.

Unbelievable.

We have an authoritarian regime in Iran that has repeatedly attacked the United States and its allies over the last 30 years.  They have invested billions of petro dollars (at the expense of their shaky economy and massive public unrest) in order to build elaborate, underground facilities with state of the art centrifuges to enrich uranium.  They are known to have consulted with A.Q. Khan, the Pakistani nuclear scientist key to the Pakistani Bomb.  They are known to have consulted with North Korea on nuclear weapons including, according to one recent article, the testing of a uranium nuclear device in North Korea.   Their attempts to develop ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear payloads was recently exposed when the testing facility suffered enormous explosions.  The Regime leadership regularly threatens to obliterate Israel.

And yet the collected wisdom of U.S. intelligence agencies, according to Mr. Risen, remains unchanged from the controversial 2007 N.I.E. that concluded that Iran had stopped pursuing nuclear weapons in 2003.  They found the evidence of Iranian intentions “unpersuasive.”

How can this be?  And bear in mind that the N.I.E. believes that the Iranians have still not re-started their nuclear program.  Let that sink in.   Our intelligence agencies best information leads them to believe that the Iranians have had their nuclear weapons program on hold for almost 10 years now.

What has our intel services so stymied?

The picture emerging from Risen’s article is incredibly troublesome.   To hear Risen tell it, the U.S. lacks any meaningful human intelligence sources inside of Iran and relies, instead, upon signals intelligence– intercepted telephone calls and emails, recon photos and sensitive detection devices.   Israel, we are told, has human intelligence sources in Iran, but the U.S. agencies give them little credence, seemingly afraid of the shadows of Iraq intelligence failures.

Worse, U.S. agencies cannot seem to figure out the complex structure and hierarchy of Iranian leadership:

“In large part, that’s because their system is so confusing,” he said, which “has the effect of making it difficult to determine who speaks authoritatively on what.”

And, he added, “We’re not on the ground, and not having our people on the ground to catch nuance is a problem.”

This is a systemic failure in so many respects that it defies belief.   It almost seems like a farce at times.

Consider the apparent basis for concluding in 2007 that Iran had stopped their nuke program:

Just as in 2010, new evidence about the Iranian nuclear program delayed the National Intelligence Estimate in 2007, the last previous assessment. Current and former American officials say that a draft version of the assessment had been completed when the United States began to collect surprising intelligence suggesting that Iran had suspended its weapons program and disbanded its weapons team four years earlier.

The draft version had concluded that the Iranians were still trying to build a bomb, the same finding of a 2005 assessment. But as they scrutinized the new intelligence from several sources, including intercepted communications in which Iranian officials were heard complaining to one another about stopping the program, the American intelligence officials decided they had to change course, officials said. While enrichment activities continued, the evidence that Iran had halted its weapons program in 2003 at the direction of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was too strong to ignore, they said.

One former senior official characterized the information as very persuasive. “I had high confidence in it,” he said. “There was tremendous evidence that the program had been halted.”

Is this a joke?  “Intercepted communications in which Iranian officials were heard complaining… about stopping the program” ?  And other, apparent evidence that Khamenei directed that the program be halted?  I am obviously not a professional intelligence analyst but if all the physical evidence (enrichment, secret, underground facilities, contacts with nuclear rogue states) points to a burgeoning nuclear weapons program and there are intercepted communications saying the program has stopped, I am going to believe the physical evidence and dismiss the intercepts as so much misinformation.

Can it really be so easy to deceive U.S. intelligence?  Apparently so.

One final note.   Risen claims that Israeli intelligence mainly agrees with the U.S. assessment.   I do not buy this for one moment.   Not a single Israeli source is cited in the article (and on the whole, the article relies upon unnamed and anonymous sources).   We have hearsay from an unnamed source that Israel’s Mossad is on board with the U.S. view.   This runs so contrary to every report being published that it should not be trusted unless and until a source is named.

It is, of course, quite possible that the NYT article is a planted piece by the Obama Administration to take some of the pressure off of Obama to take any decisive action on Iran as well as further undercut any building consensus in Israel to take action on its own.   It is even possible that the intelligence agency chiefs are willing participants in an effort by the Administration to undersell and downplay the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.   Either way, it stinks and this moment should be marked down as yet another step in the path to a very violent and rude awakening.

Targeted Killings and Limited Intelligence

BY Herschel Smith
3 years, 3 months ago

Kate Clark at Foreign Policy treats us to the confusion that is intelligence in Afghanistan.

On September 2, 2010, ten men in northern Afghanistan were killed in an air attack that was a targeted killing, part of the U.S. Special Forces ‘kill or capture’ strategy. The U.S. military said it had killed the Taliban deputy shadow governor of Takhar, who was also a ‘senior member’ of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU): one Muhammad Amin, as well as “eight or nine other insurgents.”

Many Afghans, including senior government officials, were incredulous. Many knew the man who had actually been targeted — who was not Muhammad Amin, but Zabet Amanullah. He had not fought for the Taliban since 2001 and had been out campaigning for his nephew in Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections with more than a dozen other men, mainly extended family members. That very morning, as per usual, he had called in to the district police chief to check on security before the election campaign convoy set off. The strike was an “obvious mistake,” said the provincial governor, Abdul-Jabar Taqwa. “He was an ordinary person and lived among normal people,” said the Takhar Chief of Police, Shah Jahaan Nuri. “I could have captured him with one phone call.”

U.S. Special Forces got the wrong man, but despite overwhelming evidence, they have remained adamant that they were correct. Senior Special Forces officers’ gave me lengthy accounts of the attack, including the intelligence behind it. That has allowed a piecing together of what went wrong.

Intelligence analysts were monitoring the calls of Muhammad Amin in early 2010 — and confirmed that he really was the Taliban deputy governor of Takhar. They came to believe that one number he had called in Kabul was passed on to him. They believed he began to use this phone and to ‘self-identify’ as Zabet Amanullah. In other words, they believed Muhammad Amin was using the name ‘Zabet Amanullah’ as an alias.

Friends and family have confirmed that Zabet Amanullah, who was living in Kabul, was in occasional telephone contact with active members of the Taliban, but this is not unusual in a country where fortunes change and it is prudent to stay in touch with all sides. Zabet Amanullah also kept in touch with senior members in the government. What may have looked like a suspicious cluster of calls and contacts, in reality, proved nothing about the actual conduct of the caller. Zabet Amanullah’s life, lived quietly and openly at home in Kabul, has been documented in detail. I met him in 2008 when he had just fled Pakistan where he had been working on a human rights project. He had been detained and severely tortured by the Pakistani intelligence agency, he believed, because he was a former Taliban commander who was not fighting.

The Special Forces unit denied that the identities of two different men, Muhammad Amin and Zabet Amanullah, could have been conflated. They insisted the technical evidence that they were one person was irrefutable. When pressed about the existence — and death — of an actual Zabet Amanullah, one officer said, “We were not tracking the names, we were targeting the telephones.”

Yet in the complex political landscape of Afghanistan, it is not enough to track phones. It is certainly not enough to base a targeted killing on. The analysts had not built up a biography of their target, Muhammad Amin —where he was from, what his jihadi background was, and so on. They had not been aware of the existence of a well-known person by the name of Zabet Amanullah. They had not had access to the sort of common, everyday information available to Afghans watching election coverage on television. They had not made even the most basic background checks about a target they had been tracking for months. Instead, they relied on signals intelligence and network analysis (which attempts to map insurgent networks by monitoring phone calls), without cross-checking with any human intelligence.

There are a whole host of problems here, including (a) Ms. Clark concluding with certainty that the target was a case of mistaken identity, (b) it being commonplace to stay in contact with insurgents (that they haven’t been marginalized by now is testimony to the state of the campaign), (c) the supposed need to have absolute certainty in intel before reacting, and (d) the lack of local atmospherics.  But let’s assume the accuracy of Ms. Clark’s report for the sake of argument.  It is this last item I want to discuss for a moment.

Recall in Good Counterinsurgency, Bad Counterinsurgency and Tribes that we discussed the value of local intelligence and direct action kinetics being conducted by the same Soldiers and Marines who patrol villages every day.

The American patrol set out from a base in Yahya Khel district center at 6 p.m. Tuesday, planning to provoke a fight with a team of Taliban sharpshooters suspected to be operating around the village of Palau. The troops, from Angel Company, 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, dropped off a team at a small Afghan army outpost and then moved by foot toward the village.

Just before dusk, the patrol was ambushed, not by the expected long-range marksmen, but by a team of gunmen who attacked with rifles and grenades from as close as 50 feet away. Two American soldiers were wounded. Half an hour later, at the outpost, Angel Company’s commander, Capt. Joshua Powers, received permission over the radio from Col. David Fivecoat, the battalion commander, to call in fire from attack helicopters. The pilots had watched a group of fighters move from the area of the gun battle to a courtyard in a small village north of Palau. They told Captain Powers that they could make out a machine gun and several rifles. At 8:38 p.m., one of the helicopters fired a Hellfire missile into the cluster, then shot another man who was on the roof of the building abutting the courtyard. Over the next half hour the helicopters attacked two more groups of suspected fighters in the area with cannon fire.

In the dark, Angel Company walked north from the outpost to assess the damage. In the courtyard, the corpses of two men were illuminated by burning weapons and motorcycles. While his medic tended to a third man, severely wounded and clad in camouflage, Captain Powers radioed his battalion with bad news: The building by the courtyard was a mosque. The pilots had not known, since no loudspeakers were visible and identifying writing was visible only from the ground. There was shrapnel damage to the walls, and the roof had a hole in it from cannon rounds.

The patrol, along with a group of Afghan soldiers and their commander, Lt. Col. Mir Wais, stayed the night outside the mosque. The Taliban would undoubtedly claim that civilians had been killed, Captain Powers explained, and he wanted to be there when the villagers woke up to show them the weapons and combat gear. “If we hold this ground, we can show them the evidence right away,” he said. “The first story is usually the one that sticks.”

The pilots thought they had killed half a dozen fighters at a second site the helicopters had attacked, but the bodies were already gone when the patrol arrived. Captain Powers acknowledged that this meant there was no way to know for sure whether civilians had been killed, but thought it unlikely: the site was secluded, and among charred motorcycles there were rocket-propelled grenades and camouflage vests with rifle magazines. At the first site, all four bodies — the two in the courtyard, the one on the roof, and the wounded man, who later died — wore camouflage fatigues and similar vests, containing grenades, ammunition, makeshift handcuffs and a manual on making homemade explosives.

Around 5 a.m., the men of the village started to congregate by the mosque. Captain Powers and Colonel Mir Wais addressed them, telling their story of what had happened. The men complained that the strike had frightened their wives and children and damaged the mosque, and that they were trapped between the pressures of the Americans and the Taliban. But they did not suggest that any residents of the village had been wounded or killed, and did not claim the bodies. Later in the morning, the district subgovernor, Ali Muhammad, described the night’s events to citizens gathered in the Yahya Khel bazaar. He also signed, along with Captain Powers, a letter about the attack  that would be distributed in the area after dark: a counterpoint to the Taliban’s infamous “night letters.”

And as I previously observed, the same people who ordered the strike were there to explain it in the morning, just as I suggested should happen.  The same people who fight by night are there for the locals to look at in the morning.  And look into their eyes.  If they see cut and run, they will side with the insurgents, or someone else, whomever that may be.  If they see victory and determination, they will side with the stronger horse.  We need to be the stronger horse.

Once again this explains why a small, SOF-driven, raid-based hunt for high value targets can never work as a strategy in Afghanistan, in spite of how much we might like to withdraw and let dark operations take over.  In addition to the lack of logistical support (where do you think the SOF troopers get their supplies?), the most significant problem with a small footprint in Afghanistan is that the intel will be worthless.  Unless we have boots on the ground, patrolling every day, living amongst the population, looking into their eyes, we will never know who should be courted and who should be killed.

New York Times to Release Names of Intelligence Personnel in Afghanistan?

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 4 months ago

From Brad Thor:

I have just received word that the New York Times is preparing to go public with a list of names of Americans covertly working in Afghanistan providing force protection for our troops, as well as the rest of our Coalition Forces. If the Times actually sees this through, the red ink they are drowning in will be nothing compared to the blood their entire organization will be covered with. Make no mistake, the Times is about to cause casualty rates in Afghanistan to skyrocket. Each and every American should be outraged.

As chronicled here, here, here, and here the Central Intelligence Agency via the New York Times has been waging a nasty proxy war against the Department of Defense over its use of former military and intelligence personnel to do what the CIA is both incapable and unwilling to do: gather the much needed intelligence that keeps our troops safe.

Here Brad is referring to the con job that Robert Young Pelton and Eason Jordan did on the NYT to assist them in their fight against the DoD for usurping what they saw as their own dollars.  Continuing with Brad’s comments:

… thanks to the beating the folks on the 7th floor at Langley and the New York Timeshave taken in the blogosphere, they are about to go for broke and to do so in a fashion so grotesque that every American should be moved to action.

These morbidly conjoined twins have entered dangerous territory. They are not only putting at risk the lives of the brave men and women working day and night to keep our troops safe (who, along with their families, will surely be targeted for retribution by al Qaeda and the Taliban), but they are also calling down a host of legal woes via the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (made famous in the Valerie Plame affair under the George W. Bush Administration) as the intelligence gathered and reported on by the Defense Department operatives in question is most definitely classified.

So while the New York Times stands ready to once again put American lives at grave risk in order to sell a few more papers, the Central Intelligence Agency appears committed to its misguided “Kappes Doctrine”, (so named for Leon Panetta’s number-two man, who many in the intel game blame for being the “hidden hand in many of the nation’s intelligence failures”). Per the Kappes Doctrine, which was so disastrously tied to the F.O.B. Chapman attack, the Agency is happy to pay foreign intel services to take the risks as long as the CIA can take the credit (and in this case, continue to claim that what the Department of Defense is doing every day on the ground in Afghanistan can’t be done).

There are a number of questions raised by this report.  Who are the operatives to which Brad refers?  It cannot possibly be military contractors, who now outnumber our own troops in Afghanistan.  It would seem unlikely that the operatives are CIA employees, since the NYT has indeed been assisting the CIA in its war against the DoD.  It would also seem unlikely that the operatives are U.S. special operations forces.  Not even the NYT would be privy to that information.  Who is covertly working in Afghanistan supplying force protection?  Force protection is a very overt affair, but Brad may mean force protection via intelligence gathering and assessment.

If so, then apparently the NYT is still embroiled in the same tired and absurd war against DoD intelligence contractors.  What’s so ironic about this is that the NYT is allowing itself to become a pawn in an internecine fight between the CIA and DoD.  Finally, I hope that Brad’s information is good.  I can see this information being a ruse.  On the other hand, if it’s true, leave it to the NYT to harm national security.  They have the experience to do it right.

Contractors Tied to Effort to Track and Kill Militants

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 5 months ago

I wanted to circle around and cover a report from The New York Times about a week ago.

Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants, according to military officials and businessmen in Afghanistan and the United States.

The official, Michael D. Furlong, hired contractors from private security companies that employed former C.I.A. and Special Forces operatives. The contractors, in turn, gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the officials said.

While it has been widely reported that the C.I.A. and the military are attacking operatives of Al Qaeda and others through unmanned, remote-controlled drone strikes, some American officials say they became troubled that Mr. Furlong seemed to be running an off-the-books spy operation. The officials say they are not sure who condoned and supervised his work.

It is generally considered illegal for the military to hire contractors to act as covert spies. Officials said Mr. Furlong’s secret network might have been improperly financed by diverting money from a program designed to merely gather information about the region.

Moreover, in Pakistan, where Qaeda and Taliban leaders are believed to be hiding, the secret use of private contractors may be seen as an attempt to get around the Pakistani government’s prohibition of American military personnel’s operating in the country.

Officials say Mr. Furlong’s operation seems to have been shut down, and he is now is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Defense Department for a number of possible offenses, including contract fraud.

Even in a region of the world known for intrigue, Mr. Furlong’s story stands out. At times, his operation featured a mysterious American company run by retired Special Operations officers and an iconic C.I.A. figure who had a role in some of the agency’s most famous episodes, including the Iran-Contra affair.

The allegations that he ran this network come as the American intelligence community confronts other instances in which private contractors may have been improperly used on delicate and questionable operations, including secret raids in Iraq and an assassinations program that was halted before it got off the ground.

“While no legitimate intelligence operations got screwed up, it’s generally a bad idea to have freelancers running around a war zone pretending to be James Bond,” one American government official said. But it is still murky whether Mr. Furlong had approval from top commanders or whether he might have been running a rogue operation …

The contractor, Robert Young Pelton, an author who writes extensively about war zones, said that the government hired him to gather information about Afghanistan and that Mr. Furlong improperly used his work. “We were providing information so they could better understand the situation in Afghanistan, and it was being used to kill people,” Mr. Pelton said.

He said that he and Eason Jordan, a former television news executive, had been hired by the military to run a public Web site to help the government gain a better understanding of a region that bedeviled them. Recently, the top military intelligence official in Afghanistan publicly said that intelligence collection was skewed too heavily toward hunting terrorists, at the expense of gaining a deeper understanding of the country.

Instead, Mr. Pelton said, millions of dollars that were supposed to go to the Web site were redirected by Mr. Furlong toward intelligence gathering for the purpose of attacking militants.

Take a look at what Tim Lynch has to say about Eason and this whole bunch, and also don’t miss the scathing critique by Brad Thor.  Go and read the whole NYT article.  Especially take a look at the screen capture of the web site they built.  It has the look and feel of Iraq Slogger in which Eason Jordan was also involved.

So the story line is that Jordan and his cohorts were hired to build and maintain a web site similar to Iraq Slogger, except for Afghanistan.  I don’t believe that charging for content on Iraq Slogger worked out very well, and they apparently worked a deal with the DoD to fund this new web site with tax dollars.  Some of “their” money got diverted to use in actually developing real intelligence and killing the enemy, and they went to The New York Times, complaining and moaning about lost revenue.

Since I have gone on record demanding a covert campaign to foment an insurgency inside of Iran (as well as advocated targeted assassinations of certain figures such as Moqtada al Sadr and others), it should come as no surprise that I have no problem with dollars being spent wherever they are best utilized.  It’s amusing that a government official said “no legitimate intelligence operations got screwed up.”  No, to the contrary, these dollars redounded to success.  There is a lesson in this.

Aside from the issue of dollars being sent the direction of private security and intelligence contractors, there is the moralistic element to this account.  It’s an outrage: his information was “being used to kill people,” intoned the flabbergasted Pelton.  This is the same preening, holier than thou, sanctimonious crap that we heard from the anthropologists who weighed in against the use of human terrain teams – as if war isn’t a legitimate application for anthropology.  Every enlisted man and officer in war practices anthropology every day.

As I passed a car today I saw a bumper sticker that questioned “Who would Jesus bomb?”  The Apostle grants the power of the sword for the purpose of justice, and Professor Darrell Cole has done an excellent job of explaining the notion of good wars from the perspective of Calvin and Aquinas.  Certainly, not every aspect of every war America has ever fought falls under this rubric, but war can be righteous and justified, and denial of this truth can lead to ridiculous conclusions (and even more ridiculous bumper stickers).  In the end though, it’s more likely that Jordan and Pelton are offended over the money, and The New York Times allowed itself to get ensnared in a fight over income rather than ethics.

The Media, the New Media and U.S. Intelligence

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 5 months ago

The DoD policy on the new media has been released.  There are positive steps – computers are to be configured to access such sites within the constraints of operational security.  But the policy is subject to local application and enforcement.  Milblogging.com likes it, but I’ll wait to see the affects of the policy before weighing in on it.

My experience with blogging is that even as a parent of a member of the military, my words got significant attention to both me and my son, some of it unwanted and unwarranted.  There were daily site visits from PAOs, and usually within minutes of making posts.  If I mentioned water survival training while donning body armor, it got my son a visit to the First Sergeant’s office and a call from the Colonel, or better yet, a comment about how “we don’t do that sort of thing.”

Absurd.  Nothing false, nothing OPSEC about it, just a desire to control the narrative.  Concern over what mothers might think if they read the blog, or something of that nature.  I would have thought it wise and laudable that the Marines taught their guys to deal with HMMWV rollover incidents where the Marine ended up in a river with his body armor on.  After all, it had happened before.

The secrecy surrounding the 26th MEU was extraordinary.  We got more information from his deployment to Fallujah than we did from the Persian Gulf.  But any bystander at the Suez Canal who has a cell phone can inform his contacts when he sees a U.S. Amphibious Assault Dock floating by.  The concern that a Marine on board a ship  informing his family members about his proximity being more valuable information than someone in Egypt actually seeing a ship floating by is the fantasy of control freaks.  Enlisted men rarely are in possession of something that can seriously compromise OPSEC, and if they are, they are usually mature enough to handle the responsibility.

Stepping into the twenty first century is proving to be difficult for the military in more ways than accepting social networking.  In Systemic Defense Intelligence Failures, I lamented the fact that I had pointed out the Taliban strategy of targeting lines of logistics two years ago, while Army intelligence was busy denying that there would be any resurgence of the Taliban or even a spring offensive in 2008.  Military intelligence should have been reading my analysis rather than arguing their own merits.  Intelligence failures also played a part in the losses at COP Keating and Wanat.

The DoD may be adjusting.

On their first day of class in Afghanistan, the new U.S. intelligence analysts were given a homework assignment.

First read a six-page classified military intelligence report about the situation in Spin Boldak, a key border town and smuggling route in southern Afghanistan. Then read a 7,500-word article in Harper’s magazine, also about Spin Boldak and the exploits of its powerful Afghan border police commander.

The conclusion they were expected to draw: The important information would be found in the magazine story. The scores of spies and analysts producing reams of secret documents were not cutting it.

“They need help,” Capt. Matt Pottinger, a military intelligence officer, told the class. “And that’s what you’re going to be doing.”

The class that began Friday in plywood hut B-8 on a military base in Kabul marked a first step in what U.S. commanders envision as a major transformation in how intelligence is gathered and used in the war against the Taliban.

Not too many months ago Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn published a scathing critique of intelligence analysis in Afghanistan (I thought it was more than a little weird and a bit too political to publish this report with CNAS).  But I have read the entire report by Matthieu Aikins in Harpers.  It’s well worth the read by people interested in hard core data, names, information and analysis of the situation in Afghanistan.

Whether studying Aikins’ report, or Nicholas Schmidle on the Next-Gen Taliban, or David Rohde’s account of his captivity under the Taliban, some of the best information and analysis is right in front of our eyes if we can think outside the box.  This is why the media must be culled for good reports, and – to a lesser extent – it’s why I get military visits every day.  The new media merits its own attention, but it needs to be the right kind of attention.  We need for the military to pursue good analysis, not fulfill their own [sometimes] megalomaniacal ambitions to control every little detail of everyone’s life.

Systemic Defense Intelligence Failures

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 9 months ago

Bill Gertz reports on intelligence leading up to the Taliban attack at COP Keating, Kamdesh Afghanistan.

Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr. recently testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that there were three intelligence reports indicating Taliban forces were preparing to attack a remote U.S. combat outpost in eastern Afghanistan, according to defense officials.

Gen. Burgess appeared before a closed-door meeting of the committee on Oct. 22 and was asked by senators about the advance warning of a Taliban attack, first reported in The Washington Times, and whether the intelligence warnings were ignored.

About 100 Taliban fighters carried out the attack on the outpost near the town of Kamdesh on Oct. 3 in what U.S. Army spokesmen said was a surprise strike that left eight U.S. soldiers dead.

Gen. Burgess explained in testimony to the committee that the military had three intelligence reports on the issue, but that the reports were among many human-source reports that had not been verified by other means, such as electronic intelligence. As a result, the reporting was not deemed “actionable” intelligence, said defense officials familiar with the testimony.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Democratic and Republican spokesmen for the Senate Intelligence Committee had no comment, citing rules limiting discussion of closed-door committee meetings.

A DIA spokesman also declined to comment.

One official said the reports indicate that there was an intelligence failure by analysts who he suspects were “waiting for the smoking-gun report from technical systems.”

“The bottom line is that in spite of all our intelligence capabilities in Afghanistan, U.S. forces have been surprised twice by massed Taliban forces in a pre-planned attack against two of our outposts,” the official said. “That begs the question of whether we have a problem of analysis.”

Partially declassified intelligence reports revealed that in the period before the Oct. 3 battle, a new Taliban subcommander in Kamdesh named Ghulan Faroq had been appointed and was in charge of attacking Combat Outpost Keating. The reports also indicated that days before the attack, insurgent fighters in Kamdesh were resupplied with ammunition for large-caliber guns.

Commentary & Analysis

One year and nine months ago we discussed the claim made by General Rodriguez, apparently relying on Army intelligence, that the Taliban were focusing on Pakistan rather than Afghanistan and thus there wouldn’t be a Taliban spring offensive in 2008.  We predicted otherwise, and quite obviously defense intelligence got it wrong while we got it right.  Reinforcing this analysis several months later, Colonel Pete Johnson said that the notion of a Taliban spring offensive was a myth that was going to be debunked.  Yet there has been a spring offensive every year, with the security situation in Afghanistan continuing to degrade and the Taliban controlling more and more of both the terrain and the population.

In our analysis of the Battle of Wanat we pointed out that the AR 15-6 Investigation and Findings of Wanat pointed towards intelligence failures in the time leading up to the battle.

One key breakdown in force protection pertained to intelligence. Multiple villagers, including tribal elders, had told multiple U.S. troops that an attack on VPB Wanat was imminent, but the assumption that such an attack would be probative caused little concern among the leadership. But the enlisted ranks included men who knew what was coming. Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling suspected that his days were numbered, while he and his band of brothers in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team prepared for a mission near Wanat, Afghanistan. “It’s gonna be a bloodbath,” he told his father, Kurt Zwilling, on the phone in what would be their last conversation.  In fact, there had been daily reports of 200-300 fighters massing to attack COP Bella in the first 10 days of July before transfer of operations to VPB Wanat

We have also discussed in detail the Taliban massing of troops, bringing at times near half-Battalion size forces to bear on U.S. troop garrisons as a favorite tactic.

Nuristan

Now regarding the Taliban attack at Combat Outpost Keating at Kamdesh, Afghanistan, we learn that defense intelligence had three reports of imminent danger but failed to act on this intelligence.  What “smoking gun report” would have convinced them to take action we aren’t told in the Gertz investigation, but it’s important not to get buried in the details of the specific intelligence failure.

This failure is part of a larger problem in defense intelligence.  The problem is both significant and consequential.  It is significant in that it points to a systemic problem, and consequential in that the affects range from denying the presence of a Taliban offensive to the deaths of nine Soldiers at Wanat and eight at Kamdesh.

The point is granted that this administration is at war with the CIA.  But issues at the tactical level, e.g., Taliban massing of forces, imminent attacks, etc., must be acted upon without reference to certainty.  Intelligence is meant to be shared, and if further verification and validation is needed, the proper assets must be deployed to address the need.

I have previously weighed in on the cult of special forces advocating a shift away from (the current fad of) replacing kinetic operations by infantry with Special Operations Forces.  But regarding the proper use of special operators (as I see it), this is an instance of ideal application of several Rangers assigned to and embedded with infantry platoons.  Recon missions based out of the smaller COPs might add to the local intelligence rather than having to rely on electronic and technological verification of other intelligence information.

In any case, just as we are attempting to define the boundary conditions for riskless war, our Army intelligence is attempting to craft riskless analysis.  There is no such thing, and in the mean time, we are failing our Soldiers and Marines in the field at the tactical and personal level.

SECDEF Gates Loses Intelligence-Gathering Opportunity?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 4 months ago

With the (then) upcoming North Korean missile launch, I had settled on the idea that the U.S. would shoot the missile out of the sky.  This position quickly evaporated into one of watching Japan shoot the missile out of the sky.  With some thought, I landed on the notion that Japan doesn’t have reliable enough systems to ensure success, and so attempt and failure would no doubt be an intelligence boon for North Korea.

No, over time my position evolved to one of no attempt at a shoot-down, just high quality intelligence-gathering.  We’d pull a Sun Tzu on them – they wouldn’t get to see our capabilities, but we’d see all of theirs.  If they’re willing to show us their capabilities, then we should collect data – and lot’s of it.  It was the most sensible position to take, and I was sure that the Pentagon would follow this line of thinking.

Not so, apparently.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates denied permission for the U.S. Northern Command to use the Pentagon’s most powerful sea-based radar to monitor North Korea’s recent missile launch, precluding officials from collecting finely detailed launch data or testing the radar in a real-time crisis, current and former defense officials said.

Jamie Graybeal, Northcom public affairs director, confirmed to The Washington Times that Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, the Northcom commander, requested the radar’s use but referred all other questions to the Pentagon.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said Mr. Gates’ decision not to use the $900 million radar, known as SBX, was “based on the fact that there were numerous ground- and sea-based radars and sensors in the region to support the operational requirements for this launch.”

SBX, deployed in 2005, can track and identify warheads, decoys and debris in space with very high precision. Officials said the radar is so powerful it could detect a baseball hit out of a ballpark from more than 3,000 miles away, and that other radars used by the U.S. would not be able to provide the same level of detail about North Korea’s missile capabilities.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry Obering, who until recently headed the Missile Defense Agency, said the SBX would have gathered data other U.S. systems could not.

“The sea-based X-band radar is clearly without a doubt the most powerful and capable sensor in all of our missile defense inventory,” he said. “It is three or four more times powerful than other radars” in Asia, including Aegis-equipped ships, a Cobra Dane early warning radar in Alaska and a small X-band radar in northern Japan, he said.

Gen. Obering noted that the SBX was used by the U.S. Strategic Command to track a falling satellite and guide U.S. sea-based missile interceptors that destroyed it in February 2008.

There are several potential reasons for this decision that have been floated.

One current and two former specialists in strategic defenses said the administration rejected the request because it feared that moving the huge floating radar system would be viewed by North Korea as provocative and upset diplomatic efforts aimed at restarting six-nation nuclear talks …

Obama administration civilian policymakers accepted North Korea’s claim that the rocket spotted by intelligence satellites being fueled at North Korea’s Musudan launch complex was a space launcher with a satellite, and not a missile, the official said. He spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he was discussing internal deliberations.

In the end, the missile failed to put a satellite into orbit, although the missile traveled farther than in previous North Korean tests.

Former defense officials said the failure to use the SBX precluded the U.S. from gathering finely detailed intelligence and electronic signatures on the North Korean missile – information that could be useful in guarding against a future rocket launch aimed at the United States or one its allies.

Regardless of whether it was a missile or space launcher, “the technologies that overlap between a ballistic missile and a space launcher are incredible; everything you need for a ballistic missile can be tested out with a space launcher,” one of the former defense officials said, speaking only on the condition of anonymity because the information he possesses about the SBX’s capabilities is not public.

The first potential justification for this decision is that it would be seen as provocative.  We’ll come back to that in a moment.  The second potential justification is that the technology was associated with a satellite launch.  This is of course irrelevant, since the North Koreans are attempting to perfect missile technology, whether the technology is used for satellites or warheads.  The Obama administration had no chance of this justification passing muster, since the launch was a test.  The circumstances surrounding the test have nothing whatsoever to do with how the technology might be used in the future.

Let’s continue with the next excuse.

The SBX radar, built on a large floating oil rig platform and normally based at the remote western Aleutian island of Adak, about 1,200 miles southwest of Anchorage, was undergoing maintenance in Hawaii in early March.

The senior military official involved in continental missile defense said it would have required suspending the work to get the SBX sailing “so we asked [for it to be moved] pretty early, and preparations were begun.”

“As it became more clear that this was a space launch attempt and SBX would not have added any to the capabilities we needed to monitor a space launch, we canceled our request to allow refit to continue on timeline,” the senior official said.

Nice try, but again, that dog won’t hunt.  One cannot say ahead of time what data might be required after the fact to properly assess performance.  Ask any test engineer how precise he would like the test data, and you’ll get the answer “as precise as we can get it” every time.  This senior official has offered an uncompelling excuse for utilizing what is arguably the most suitable technology for the situation.  If not now, then when would the technology be used?

Finally, the worst excuse floats to the top.

Philip Coyle, a former Pentagon weapons testing specialist who has been critical of missile defense testing, said the SBX is technically a better radar than any system in Japan.

However, Mr. Coyle said one problem with the radar is that its resolution is so fine it needs to be “cued,” or directed where to look. That may be a reason it was not deployed, he said.

“Both the [Government Accountability Office] and my former office have questioned whether this radar can survive the maritime environment,” said Mr. Coyle, now with the Center for Defense Information.

Oh good grief.  They should have stopped with just poor instead of ending up with ridiculous.  Now they look like they’re just making stuff up.  If you want to know if the system can “survive the maritime environment,” just ask the weapons design and testing engineers.  The GAO won’t know something that they don’t.  If the engineers don’t know, then this presents yet another unmatched opportunity to test our own systems real time and in a live environment.  Who knows when the North Koreans will launch another missile?

In short, the most plausible reason for this decision is the first, i.e., that a huge floating radar system would have been “provocative.”  Thus we’ve missed a once in a blue moon opportunity for valuable intelligence-gathering.

Whether Gates supported this decision behind closed doors is not known.  But one is left to wonder, would he have made the same decision while working for the previous administration?


26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (675)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (28)
Air Power (9)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (6)
Ammunition (13)
Animals in War (4)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
AR-15s (35)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (34)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (25)
Australian Army (5)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (2)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (44)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (15)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (2)
Blogs (4)
Body Armor (16)
Books (2)
Border War (6)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (25)
British Army (35)
Camping (4)
Canada (1)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
CENTCOM (7)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (10)
Christmas (5)
CIA (12)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (2)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (214)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (114)
Department of Homeland Security (9)
Disaster Preparedness (2)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (5)
Drone Campaign (3)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (1)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (1)
Featured (160)
Federal Firearms Laws (14)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (248)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (14)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (38)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (7)
Georgia (19)
GITMO (2)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (187)
Guns (519)
Guns In National Parks (2)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
HAMAS (7)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (7)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (11)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (1)
Horses (1)
Humor (13)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (32)
India (10)
Infantry (3)
Information Warfare (2)
Infrastructure (2)
Intelligence (22)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (169)
Iraq (377)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (33)
Islamists (37)
Israel (17)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (2)
Jihadists (71)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (8)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (2)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (2)
Lawfare (6)
Leadership (5)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (1)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (11)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (7)
Logistics (47)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (229)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
MEDEVAC (2)
Media (22)
Memorial Day (2)
Mexican Cartels (20)
Mexico (24)
Michael Yon (5)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (3)
Military Equipment (24)
Militia (3)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (10)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (16)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (13)
NATO (15)
Navy (19)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (2)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (1)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (53)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (204)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (6)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (17)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Police (103)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (133)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (72)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (74)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (27)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (135)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (22)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (17)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Survival (9)
SWAT Raids (47)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (1)
Tactical Gear (1)
Taliban (167)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (16)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (86)
Thanksgiving (4)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (10)
TSA Ineptitude (10)
TTPs (1)
U.S. Border Patrol (4)
U.S. Border Security (11)
U.S. Sovereignty (13)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (2)
Uncategorized (38)
Universal Background Check (2)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (2)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (210)
War & Warfare (40)
War Movies (2)
War Reporting (18)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (5)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (57)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (11)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2014 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.