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Sunday, December 6, 2015

Some Counter-Terrorism, Defense Intelligence Thoughts, and More

- many people are often critical of choices that are often made in other countries. If you think carefully about it, massive loops have been being created. People wouldn't survive and hit certain points within the social hierarchy if they didn't possess certain characteritics and these characteristic are normally a factor of existing circustances. Think about Putin (or US or China for that matter. You're a product of the system as much as it is of you). You can not survive in Russia without strength. It's the exact same problem with some of the Middle-Eastern territories where we enter and attempt to, "bring peace and democracy". It's almost certain that you will have to choose the least worst option rather than the best one. The only real option is to purge things but we've seen how that works out in Iraq/Afghanistan. Unless you achieve critical mass and support within the local population (and stick it out for the long run) change isn't going to happen easily
- sometimes it feels as though the people in charge either don't know of that there are other choices available when problems come in or only believe that there is only a problem if and when fighting breaks out. I know this mentality because I've known some people (family, friends, etc...) who have served within the military establishment in various capacities (politics, ground troops, support, etc...) A lot of them have thought that the only way to deal with force is through force. The problem with this is that if you've seen some of the video footage in some of the other posts on this blog violence begets violence. If you 'neutralise' people associated with some of them the cycle will go on no matter what for all eternity (think about degrees of separation also and the number of people you have to 'neutralise' on the enemy side and the number on your own side that will end up becoming disillusioned if you use force as your only philosophy). As stated earlier we need to kill this right way earlier in the kill chain through an understanding of one anothers problems and coming to a genuine agreement amongst ourselves to achieve near and long term peace. Your focus must be to avoid force whenever possible and deploying force only as a method of last report, sparingly and effectively. In building more effective technologies for defense and intelligence we've become less accustomed to being able to deal with our problems in non-militaristic means it sometimes seems. Those who have the most effective weapons are able to impose their will on the entire world whether for good or bad
- part of the reason why our defense and intelligence spending seems so high (and of limited utility) is that we're thinking about the terrorism issue as though it's just another near peer threat. What they've done is de-centralised their strategy which makes it harder to track them and neutralise their operations. I think we should look at this problem slightly differently. If they de-centralise, we should also de-centralise. This means that every person (from a young age. Perhaps kids should even be taught about this in school) should have an idea of what constitutes odd behaviour, what they should report, how they should deal with certain problems, etc... This is about reducing the load on our intelligence services by reducing the incidence of false positives, increasing effectiveness of any reports, facilitating rescue operations, as well as reducing the effectiveness of each attack as they come in. We need to learn how to look after one another without necessarily requiring professional help at all times. The 'Art of War' doesn't start on battlefield...
- a lot of things in the Middle East make no sense without better background. One of the obvious solutions that has been proposed has been separate states for each religious sect. If you know about a bit about the fall of the USSR as well as how things are amongst the Palestianian population in Gaza and the West Bank you'll know that this can lead to enormous problems. People who somehow end up on the wrong end of the fence suddenly lose easy access to family and friends. They grow apart and ultimately, their culture beings to diverge from one another. It's almost like two completely different civilisations given enough time. Pragmatism, idealism, and realism need to go hand in hand though. We should (and could) have had a political settlement in Syria a long time ago. Now that seems a distant possibility
Mehdi Hasan goes Head to Head with Michael T  Flynn
Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn (Ret.) Exposes Islamic Jihad Terror Threats
ISIS Tilting the Chess Board - The Dawn of a New Middle East Balance of Power - H. van Lynden lecture
- some of the damage damage assessments regarding Snowden (and other whistleblowers) have been crazy over-stated while others have made them out to be of negligible value. What's clear though is that much of this information is already out there (some of it has even been on the websites of the intelligence services complaining about the leaks themselves). That said, I haven't looked through everything yet
- in spite of how much intelligence we can collect and military power we have, are we just fooling ourselves into believing that we can conduct long term strategic change elsewhere in the world? Or are we just not using effective mechanisms? If the latter is true then why hasn't every single demotratic, capitalist (or every single communist, socialist, authoritarian, etc...) country seen peace and prosperity filter through to their society?
The Global Threat Picture as the Defense Intelligence Agency Sees It
Accelerating Change - The Way Ahead for Defense Intelligence _ Institute of Politics
A New Model for Defense Intelligence
Preparing for the Unknown - LTG Michael Flynn on national security and intelligence
Susan Brender Interviews General Michael T. Flynn
- it's a general belief that strength creates fear and/or respect. However, in some cases it seems rediculous. We've seen the tactics of the Russians the Chinese with regards to their neighbours, interests, and territorial affairs. In reality, some of the aggreements/treaties being made are next to useless because these countries (and others) skirt around the issue and set about acheiving their goals in other ways. Their political structure also makes it much easier to create a coherent set of policies and strategies that are designed to work over the long term as wellhttp://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/nato-expands-alliance-defying-russia/article27558874/
- as a follow on the the above, I believe that many modern defense agreements aren't factoring in enough of these difficult problems that we face. Part of me feels they're just a political gesture to appease the public
- defense treaties can create as much trouble as they can create peace. Think about how many linkages there are in the system. If a NATO country gets attacked how many other get automically pulled in. Think of how this automatically sets up a global war in the case of other near pear threats such as Russia/China who also have similar agreements
- after the end of the Cold War it was clear that we toyed around the idea of 'Mutually Assured Peace' rather than 'Mutually Assured Destruction'. This basically entailed US/Russia reducing their arms and aggreeign to mutual arms inspections. Clearly, things haven't worked out this way. I wonder whether it would actually work, be practicable though? or would be end up simply beating each other up using wooden sticks rather than using tanks and jets?
Tu 160 ' White Swan '! Wings of Russia
- if you've been following the technological world for a while you'll be aware of brain scanning technology. It effectively reads your brain waves in order to control mouse cursors, machines, robots, etc... I'm wondering whether this is feasible in the context of couter-insurgency/terrorism? If we can amplify the brain waves (preferably without implants or beacons) of people from long range can we determine when and/if a attack is about to occur? How accurate would it be? Practicality, cost? Civil liberties issues (only put in people likely to offend. Useless against lone wolf attacks but this is better than nothing...)? Obvious counter-measures would be a shielded cap/helmet, etc...
- one of the biggest problems with having external 'interests' is that the wider you spread your intelligence net the more threats you're going to see and perceive. Imagine being able to listen into the conversation of everyone in the world and you were well known. If you didn't hear about the threats wouldn't you be less likely to perceive yourself as being under siege? How much of the threat is actually real?

- a friend of mine has opened up an African import business in Melbourne. Please drop a line if you are interested in any African products

- had to do a lot of data mining/analysis work of late. Been interesting, frustrating, rewarding, difficult, etc...
- Google News doen't seem that great if you use it regularly and know of it's problems (indexing publications which require subscriptions or memberships is definitely one of them, orphaned links is another, strange choices another flaw in search technology in general, etc...)

- sometimes you need public DNS options. If you want Public DNS try or to use Google's publicly accessible DNS servers

-  finding fingerprints for songs

- some useful reverse engineer/obfuscation tools for Android applications
- bugs in getting Akai MPD24 transport controls going under Abelton. Need to updated firmware to get it going

Some interesting quotes in the recent media:
- OBAMA: What I didn’t fully appreciate, and nobody can appreciate until they’re in the position, is how decentralized power is in this system. When you’re in the seat and you’re seeing the housing market collapse and you are seeing unemployment skyrocketing and you have a sense of what the right thing to do is, then you realize, "Okay, not only do I have to persuade my own party, not only do I have to prevent the other party from blocking what the right thing to do is, but now I can anticipate this lawsuit, this lobbying taking place, and this federal agency that technically is independent, so I can’t tell them what to do. I’ve got the Federal Reserve, and I’m hoping that they do the right thing—and by the way, since the economy now is global, I’ve got to make sure that the Europeans, the Asians, the Chinese, everybody is on board." A lot of the work is not just identifying the right policy but now constantly building these ever shifting coalitions to be able to actually implement and execute and get it done.
- Just like we do, there are "talking heads" on Russian television that tell people what to think. And many of these "talking heads" on Russian television are openly talking about how war with the United States is inevitable. These days, the Russians consider themselves to be the great force for good in the world, and they consider America to be the great force for evil in the world. In fact, one of their most popular talking heads named Alexander Dugin has publicly called the U.S. the "kingdom of the Antichrist."
- What makes the Paris attacks particularly troubling is that it appears to be a confounding mix of all three trends. These were homegrown violent extremists, directed by a well funded international organisation that controls vast resources and territory, hitting purely civilian, soft targets in a sophisticated manner.
- Putting the numbers in context, the index notes that homicides kill 13 times more people worldwide than terrorism.

Separately, World Health Organisation figures show 38 times more people die worldwide in road traffic accidents than from terrorism.
- The British government said it stood ready to assist the French. The German defence minister, Ursula von der Leyen, said that the French invocation of the mutual defence clause meant only that there was “a basis for consultation”.

A priority is likely to be an attempt at greater sharing of intelligence among EU states to try to counter terrorism, amid growing evidence that failure to act on intelligence by the French and Belgian security services may have contributed to the Paris attacks.
- I worked really, really, really hard on those AdSense sites. I worked 15-hour days; I wrote keyword-laced post after keyword-laced post; I entered them in article directories and put them through social media bulk submitters; I launched site after site, tweaked, customized, and researched.

And by doing that, I made $111 in a year.
- Reading some articles here just makes you dumber.
- Unicorns, angel investors and venture capitalists: Silicon Valley's world-beating ecosystem is literally the stuff of legends.

The Valley fairytale goes something like this: Two bright young things drop out of Stanford University to become "Founders". They give their brilliant new tech idea a snazzy name consisting of two words – inappropriately capitalised – combining fruit and a utilitarian object, like GrapeBox.

An angel investor swoops providing much needed funding and mentorship. The boys (yes, usually boys) hold a "Series A" funding round, attracting enthusiastic bidding from a handful of legendary venture capital firms. A few years and funding rounds later, their private tech firm is valued at more than $US1 billion – earning it "unicorn" status. A few more years later, they take the company public, listing on the NASDAQ, and retiring as billionaires to a mansion in Palo Alto.

Of course, for every fairytale, a hundred failures. But in the Valley, failure is a badge of honour. Success is glamorised, but failure is too. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
- “Individuals whose data is released under the new, lightly de-identified Big Data model will be effectively on their own, but in the dark. There is no legal obligation to tell people when their privacy has been breached, and no enforceable legal remedy if something goes wrong and there is a breach. There is also no ability to recall the data and no legal recourse if de-identification attempts turn out to be ineffective.

“The beleaguered Privacy Commissioner, now filling in for the other two recently abolished Information commissioners, has neither the powers nor the resources to address the potential hidden impact of the release of poorly anonymised data on a massive scale.”

Robertson-Dunn added that although this threat is clearly acknowledged by technical communities the broader government agencies releasing the data, are yet to catch on.

He calls for a formal inquiry into this area before "government agencies commit to unprotected disclosure of weakly de-identified Big Data 'lakes."
- A drug control officer in the central city of Homs told Reuters he had observed the effects of Captagon on protesters and fighters held for questioning.

"We would beat them, and they wouldn't feel the pain. Many of them would laugh while we were dealing them heavy blows," he said. "We would leave the prisoners for about 48 hours without questioning them while the effects of Captagon wore off, and then interrogation would become easier."

One secular ex-Syrian fighter who spoke to the BBC said the drug is tailor-made for the battlefield because of its ability to give soldiers superhuman energy and courage:

"So the brigade leader came and told us, 'this pill gives you energy, try it'," he said. "So we took it the first time. We felt physically fit. And if there were 10 people in front of you, you could catch them and kill them. You're awake all the time. You don't have any problems, you don't even think about sleeping, you don't think to leave the checkpoint. It gives you great courage and power. If the leader told you to go break into a military barracks, I will break in with a brave heart and without any feeling of fear at all — you're not even tired."

Another ex-fighter told the BBC that his 350-person brigade took the pill without knowing if it was a drug or medicine for energy.

"Some people became addicted to it and it will damage the addicts," he said. "This is the problem."
- Beijing’s strategy in Tibetan areas is twofold: forcibly restrict religious practice while pumping money into development in a bid to control, and eventually change, the Tibetan way of life.

Some Tibetans call it colonization. Beijing has long preferred “liberation,” and state media regularly tout expensive efforts in road and rail construction, mass resettlement and the restoration of historic sites.
- Today, the Navy’s doing more with less by cutting into crew rest, training, and maintenance, but that’s not sustainable. In fact, the consequences have been coming back to bite us already. Unplanned repairs on the carrier Nimitz forced the USS Eisenhower to cover its missions by doing two deployments back-to-back. Then the Eisenhower in turn needed months of extra maintenance. All told, to keep the number of ships on station the same as the number of ships in the Navy shrinks, the workload per ship has risen 20 percent since 1998.

Clark advocates getting more days on station by eliminating long voyages from base to theater. “The transit time to and from the Middle East or the Western Pacific takes about 15 to 20 percent of your deployment,” he told reporters. To cut out that transit time — and to get effectively 15 to 20 percent more out of each ship — we need to move ships out of homeports in the US and base them abroad, mainly in the Pacific: Guam, perhaps Australia, and above all Japan.
- Last year private security firm Flashpoint Global Partners examined the frequency of releases and updates of encryption software by jihadi groups. It found no correlation to Snowden’s leaks about the NSA’s surveillance techniques, which became public from June 5, 2013.

“Prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them,” the report said

“The underlying public encryption methods employed by online jihadists do not appear to have significantly changed since the emergence of Edward Snowden.”
- With upgrades to keep the B-1 viable, the air force may keep it in service until approximately 2038.[133] Despite upgrades, the B-1 has repair and cost issues; every flight hour needs 48.4 hours of repair. The fuel, repairs and other needs for a 12-hour mission costs $720,000 as of 2010.[134] The $63,000 cost per flight hour is, however, less than the $72,000 for the B-52 and the $135,000 of the B-2.[135] In June 2010, senior USAF officials met to consider retiring the entire fleet to meet budget cuts.[136] The Pentagon plans to supplement the aircraft with the Long Range Strike Bomber beginning in 2030.[137][138] In the meantime, its "capabilities are particularly well-suited to the vast distances and unique challenges of the Pacific region, and we'll continue to invest in, and rely on, the B-1 in support of the focus on the Pacific" as part of President Obama's "Pivot to East Asia".[139]
- The U.S. Air Force’s new long-range bomber may cost as much as $81 billion for the 100 planes planned, 47 percent more than the $55 billion sticker price the service has listed.

The Air Force based its estimate of $550 million per plane on the value of the dollar in 2010, and it represents only the production costs for an aircraft that won’t be deployed for at least 10 years. Including research and development, the bomber would cost as much as $810 million apiece in this year’s dollars, according to calculations by three defense analysts.
“The Air Force has zero credibility on start-of-program cost estimates unless and until it ponies up real details about the bomber and its acquisition plan,” Winslow Wheeler, a former Government Accountability Office defense analyst now with the Project on Government Oversight in Washington, said in an e-mail. “It is a fool’s errand, or worse, to pretend the cost stated now is anything but a bait-and-switch buy-in gambit.”
B-2, F-35

The B-2 was planned as 132 planes for about $571 million each in 1991 dollars before the first Bush administration cut the fleet to 20 planes in the early 1990s. That resulted in a price of about $2.2 billion per bomber, a fourfold increase, in a program that remained highly classified during its development.

The F-35 program has a current price tag of $391.2 billion for 2,443 aircraft, a 68 percent increase from the projection in 2001, as measured in current dollars, for 409 fewer planes than originally planned.
- Earlier this month, documents published by Motherboard showed that the agency spent nearly $1 million on drones that were essentially toys; a 2014 report by Gault found that, rather than return defective repair parts for mine resistant vehicles for a refund, the DLA simply destroyed them. A Reuters report from 2013 found that DLA kept buying parts it didn’t need, and just destroyed whatever it didn’t need or use.

These are not just media reports. Mark Harnitchek, director of the DLA, told aviation administration executives in 2013 that it keeps $14 billion worth of inventory in its warehouses at any given time, “probably half of that is excess to what we need,” he said.
- Do you think China has a policy limiting sales of armed drones, LaPlante asked? No. He said he’d held bilateral talks with Jordan, Saudia Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others about their interest in buying US weapons. “But our partners are saying, even if it [a Chinese weapon] doesn’t work, I can buy theirs. even if it doesn’t work that well and works about a third of the time. It’s still worth it,” LaPlante said they told him.  “Those guys are at war and it’s existential for them.”

So I asked the head of Air Force acquisition how he would speed things up. He was honest and said we wouldn’t like the answer. He doesn’t have one, at least not yet. In the meantime, he asked for help from industry and other experts to press the case with Congress and the press. We need your help, LaPlante told them.
- It's the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.

Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there's a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.

"If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way," Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army's chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.

Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics.
- "U.S. military is good at fighting wars, but it sucks at managing money. Partly, because of its convoluted bookkeeping systems, $8.5 trillion—yes, Trillion—taxpayer dollars doled out by Congress since 1996 has never been accounted for" reported The F.T.
- As a fellow Cub fan and Chicago boy, I always enjoyed LaPlante’s seemingly direct approach. Few senior Pentagon leaders are as good at speaking quickly and saying little of substance — when that was his goal. He and Frank Kendall, head of Pentagon acquisition, have worked persistently to control costs and requirements. As Breaking D readers know, the Air Force has pushed costs down each of the last three years, though schedule continues to stretch out.
- All of those performance measures are forecasts, not actuals. It's not news when Program Managers say that things will go even better than planned; it's news when things actually do go better than planned. Get back to us when the final costs are in.

That said, it's absurd to single out the USAF for bad results. The Army wasted $50B on cancelled programs last decade, and the Navy/USMC has had their DDG-1000, LCS, AAAV/EFV/ACV, presidential helicopter, and carrier woes. There's plenty of failure to go around.
- Earlier this year, the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman reported that “more than 100,000 fake Turkish passports” had been given to ISIS. Erdogan’s government, the newspaper added, “has been accused of supporting the terrorist organization by turning a blind eye to its militants crossing the border and even buying its oil… Based on a 2014 report, Sezgin Tanrıkulu, deputy chairman of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said that ISIL terrorists fighting in Syria have also been claimed to have been treated in hospitals in Turkey.”

This barely scratches the surface. A senior Western official familiar with a large cache of intelligence obtained this summer told the Guardian that “direct dealings between Turkish officials and ranking ISIS members was now ‘undeniable.’”

The same official confirmed that Turkey, a longstanding member of NATO, is not just supporting ISIS, but also other jihadist groups, including Ahrar al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria. “The distinctions they draw [with other opposition groups] are thin indeed,” said the official. “There is no doubt at all that they militarily cooperate with both.”
- This did not happened overnight and could not have emerged from a vacuum. ISIS propaganda is good, but not that good. No, decades of Islamist propaganda in communities had already primed these young Muslims to yearn for a theocratic caliphate. When surveyed, 33 percent of British Muslims expressed a desire to resurrect a caliphate. ISIS simply plucked the low-hanging fruit, which had been seeded long ago by various Islamist groups, and it will now require decades of community resilience to push back. But we cannot even begin to do so until we recognize the problem for what it is. Welcome to the full-blown global jihadist insurgency.
- In FY14, the U.S. spent approximately $609 billion on defense compared to China’s $216 billion.  Or, to put it another way the difference between the U.S. and China in military spending ($393 billion) is still greater than what China spent last year. 
- "Academics are able to keep on top of most terrorism-related issues because of the volume of open source information," said Professor Williams.

He said they are best on broader aspects, such as trends and longer term developments. Intelligence analysts usually don't have time to read weighty think-tank reports, but he said academics cannot compete on short-term issues without access to timely and accurate information available to intelligence agencies.

Mr West said that the centre was needed now more than ever, especially since terrorism is unlikely ever to be defeated – it will just change focus.

There is a "desperate appetite for people to find an answer", he said.

"You don't defeat it. You manage it and hope that circumstances and politics change so that you being the primary target will move on," he said.

Mr West said the terrorists also have other ideas about being stopped by the West.

"What ISIS can teach us is that when we decided that we are all wrapped up with Iraq, actors in Iraq and Syria had slightly different ideas about that."
- Small wars become major wars because of treaties, a squabble between Austria and Serbia escalated into WW-l because Russia had a treaty with Serbia, Germany with Austria, France with Russia and off to the races. The major danger now is the U.S. We have so many military alliances around the world that anything, that happens anywhere, will probably involve us.

- as usual thanks to all of the individuals and groups who purchase and use my goods and services

Cheesy Tomato Based Pasta Recipe, Adding Subtitles to Video Files, and More

This is the latest in my series on quick, easy, and tasty meals:   http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com/2018/08/cheapeasyhealthy-tomato-based-pa...