Monday, January 31

Egyptian Police Redeploying

Egyptian Interior Minister Habib al-Adly reportedly ordered Egyptian police patrols to redeploy across Egypt during a Jan. 30 meeting with the commanders of the Central Security Forces (CSF) in Nasr city east of Cairo.
The decision to redeploy the internal security forces follows a major confrontation that has played out behind the scenes between the Interior Ministry and the military. The animosity between Egypt’s police and soldiers was amplified Jan. 28 when demonstrators overwhelmed the CSF and plainclothes police and the army stepped in to attempt to restore order.
Fearing that he and his forces were being sidelined, al-Adly was rumored to have ordered the police forces to stay home and leave it to the army to deal with the crisis. Meanwhile, multiple STRATFOR sources reported that many of the plainclothes policemen were involved in a number of the jailbreaks, robberies of major banks, and the spread of attacks and break-ins into high-class neighborhoods that occurred Jan. 29. In addition to allowing the police to blow off steam, the implicit message that the Interior Ministry was sending to the army through these actions was that the cost of undermining the internal security forces was a complete breakdown of law and order in the country that would in turn break the regime.
That message was apparently heard, and, according to STRATFOR sources, the Egyptian military and internal security forces have coordinated a crackdown for the hours ahead in an effort to clear the streets of the demonstrators. The interior minister has meanwhile negotiated his stay for the time being, in spite of widespread expectations that he, seen by many Egyptians as the source of police brutality in the country, would be one of the first ministers that would have to be sacked in order to quell the demonstrations. Instead, both Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and al-Adly, the two main targets of ire for the demonstrators, seem to be betting that they can ride this crisis out and remain in power. So far, the military seems to be acquiescing to these decisions.
The real test for the opposition has thus arrived. In spite of a minor reshuffling of the Cabinet and the military reasserting its authority behind the scenes, Mubarak and al-Adly remain in power. The opposition is unified in its hatred against these individuals, yet divided on most everything else. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Islamist platform, for example, is very different from opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei’s secularist campaign, which explains why no one has been able to assume leadership of the demonstrations. In evaluating the situation on the streets, the regime appears willing to take a gamble that the opposition will not cohere into a meaningful threat and that an iron fist will succeed in putting down this uprising.
Within the next few hours, police and military officials are expected to redeploy in large numbers across major cities, with the CSF taking the first line of defense. Tensions are still running high between the internal security forces and the military, which could lead to serious clashes between the army and police on the streets. The size and scope of the protests appear to be dwindling into the low thousands, though there is still potential for the demonstrations to swell again after protesters rest themselves and wake up to the same government they have been trying to remove. Moreover, as the events of Jan. 28 and 29 illustrated, protesters are far more likely to clash with the CSF than with the military.
A deadly clash in front of the Interior Ministry Jan. 29 demonstrated the varying tensions between the protesters on one side and the military versus the police on the other. According to a STRATFOR source, Al-Adly was attempting to escape the Interior Ministry under heavy protective detail Jan. 29 when he came under attack. The CSF reportedly shot dead three protesters attempting to storm the building. Eyewitness reports later came out claiming that the army had to step in and set up a barrier between the protesters and the CSF to contain the crisis.
The demonstrators are still largely carrying with them the perception that the military is their gateway to a post-Mubarak Egypt and the CSF is representative of the regime they are trying to topple. It remains to be seen how much longer that perception of the military holds. A curfew in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez has been extended from 3 p.m. to 8 a.m. local time. In the hours ahead, it will become clearer whether the redeployment of the internal security forces will contribute to improving security and the government’s control or whether their presence will simply further stoke the flames.


UFFICIO ESTERO EGITTO                                                            

The Egypt Crisis in a Global Context: A Special Report Read more: The Egypt Crisis in a Global Context: A Special Report | STRATFOR

It is not at all clear what will happen in the Egyptian revolution. It is not a surprise that this is happening. Hosni Mubarak has been president for more than a quarter of a century, ever since the assassination of Anwar Sadat. He is old and has been ill. No one expected him to live much longer, and his apparent plan, which was that he would be replaced by his son Gamal, was not going to happen even though it was a possibility a year ago. There was no one, save his closest business associates, who wanted to see Mubarak’s succession plans happen. As his father weakened, Gamal’s succession became even less likely. Mubarak’s failure to design a credible succession plan guaranteed instability on his death. Since everyone knew that there would be instability on his death, there were obviously those who saw little advantage to acting before he died. Who these people were and what they wanted is the issue.
Let’s begin by considering the regime. In 1952, Col. Gamal Abdel Nasser staged a military coup that displaced the Egyptian monarchy, civilian officers in the military, and British influence in Egypt. Nasser created a government based on military power as the major stabilizing and progressive force in Egypt. His revolution was secular and socialist. In short, it was a statist regime dominated by the military. On Nasser’s death, Anwar Sadat replaced him. On Sadat’s assassination, Hosni Mubarak replaced him. Both of these men came from the military as Nasser did. However their foreign policy might have differed from Nasser’s, the regime remained intact.

Mubarak’s Opponents

The demands for Mubarak’s resignation come from many quarters, including from members of the regime — particularly the military — who regard Mubarak’s unwillingness to permit them to dictate the succession as endangering the regime. For some of them, the demonstrations represent both a threat and opportunity. Obviously, the demonstrations might get out of hand and destroy the regime. On the other hand, the demonstrations might be enough to force Mubarak to resign, allow a replacement — for example, Omar Suleiman, the head of intelligence who Mubarak recently appointed vice president — and thereby save the regime. This is not to say that they fomented the demonstrations, but some must have seen the demonstrations as an opportunity.
This is particularly the case in the sense that the demonstrators are deeply divided among themselves and thus far do not appear to have been able to generate the type of mass movement that toppled the Shah of Iran’s regime in 1979. More important, the demonstrators are clearly united in opposing Mubarak as an individual, and to a large extent united in opposing the regime. Beyond that, there is a deep divide in the opposition.
Western media has read the uprising as a demand for Western-style liberal democracy. Many certainly are demanding that. What is not clear is that this is moving Egypt’s peasants, workers and merchant class to rise en masse. Their interests have far more to do with the state of the Egyptian economy than with the principles of liberal democracy. As in Iran in 2009, the democratic revolution, if focused on democrats, cannot triumph unless it generates broader support.
The other element in this uprising is the Muslim Brotherhood. The consensus of most observers is that the Muslim Brotherhood at this point is no longer a radical movement and is too weak to influence the revolution. This may be possible, but it is not obvious. The Muslim Brotherhood has many strands, many of which have been quiet under Mubarak’s repression. It is not clear who will emerge if Mubarak falls. It is certainly not clear that they are weaker than the democratic demonstrators. It is a mistake to confuse the Muslim Brotherhood’s caution with weakness. Another way to look at them is that they have bided their time and toned down their real views, waiting for the kind of moment provided by Mubarak’s succession. I would suspect that the Muslim Brotherhood has more potential influence among the Egyptian masses than the Western-oriented demonstrators or Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who is emerging as their leader.
There is, of course, the usual discussion of what U.S. President Barack Obama’s view is, or what the Europeans think, or what the Iranians are up to. All of them undoubtedly have thoughts and even plans. In my view, trying to shape the political dynamics of a country like Egypt from Iran or the United States is futile, and believing that what is happening in Egypt is the result of their conspiracies is nonsense. A lot of people care what is happening there, and a lot of people are saying all sorts of things and even spending money on spies and Twitter. Egypt’s regime can be influenced in this way, but a revolution really doesn’t depend on what the European Union or Tehran says.
There are four outcomes possible. First, the regime might survive. Mubarak might stabilize the situation, or more likely, another senior military official would replace him after a decent interval. Another possibility under the scenario of the regime’s survival is that there may be a coup of the colonels, as we discussed yesterday. A second possibility is that the demonstrators might force elections in which ElBaradei or someone like him could be elected and Egypt might overthrow the statist model built by Nasser and proceed on the path of democracy. The third possibility is that the demonstrators force elections, which the Muslim Brotherhood could win and move forward with an Islamist-oriented agenda. The fourth possibility is that Egypt will sink into political chaos. The most likely path to this would be elections that result in political gridlock in which a viable candidate cannot be elected. If I were forced to choose, I would bet on the regime stabilizing itself and Mubarak leaving because of the relative weakness and division of the demonstrators. But that’s a guess and not a forecast.

Geopolitical Significance

Whatever happens matters a great deal to Egyptians. But only some of these outcomes are significant to the world. Among radical Islamists, the prospect of a radicalized Egypt represents a new lease on life. For Iran, such an outcome would be less pleasing. Iran is now the emerging center of radical Islamism; it would not welcome competition from Egypt, though it may be content with an Islamist Egypt that acts as an Iranian ally (something that would not be easy to ensure).
For the United States, an Islamist Egypt would be a strategic catastrophe. Egypt is the center of gravity in the Arab world. This would not only change the dynamic of the Arab world, it would reverse U.S. strategy since the end of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Sadat’s decision to reverse his alliance with the Soviets and form an alliance with the United States undermined the Soviet position in the Mediterranean and in the Arab world and strengthened the United States immeasurably. The support of Egyptian intelligence after 9/11 was critical in blocking and undermining al Qaeda. Were Egypt to stop that cooperation or become hostile, the U.S. strategy would be severely undermined.
The great loser would be Israel. Israel’s national security has rested on its treaty with Egypt, signed by Menachem Begin with much criticism by the Israeli right. The demilitarization of the Sinai Peninsula not only protected Israel’s southern front, it meant that the survival of Israel was no longer at stake. Israel fought three wars (1948, 1967 and 1973) where its very existence was at issue. The threat was always from Egypt, and without Egypt in the mix, no coalition of powers could threaten Israel (excluding the now-distant possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons). In all of the wars Israel fought after its treaty with Egypt (the 1982 and 2006 wars in Lebanon) Israeli interests, but not survival, were at stake.
If Egypt were to abrogate the Camp David Accords and over time reconstruct its military into an effective force, the existential threat to Israel that existed before the treaty was signed would re-emerge. This would not happen quickly, but Israel would have to deal with two realities. The first is that the Israeli military is not nearly large enough or strong enough to occupy and control Egypt. The second is that the development of Egypt’s military would impose substantial costs on Israel and limit its room for maneuver.
There is thus a scenario that would potentially strengthen the radical Islamists while putting the United States, Israel, and potentially even Iran at a disadvantage, all for different reasons. That scenario emerges only if two things happen. First, the Muslim Brotherhood must become a dominant political force in Egypt. Second, they must turn out to be more radical than most observers currently believe they are — or they must, with power, evolve into something more radical.
If the advocates for democracy win, and if they elect someone like ElBaradei, it is unlikely that this scenario would take place. The pro-Western democratic faction is primarily concerned with domestic issues, are themselves secular and would not want to return to the wartime state prior to Camp David, because that would simply strengthen the military. If they win power, the geopolitical arrangements would remain unchanged.
Similarly, the geopolitical arrangements would remain in place if the military regime retained power — save for one scenario. If it was decided that the regime’s unpopularity could be mitigated by assuming a more anti-Western and anti-Israeli policy — in other words, if the regime decided to play the Islamist card, the situation could evolve as a Muslim Brotherhood government would. Indeed, as hard as it is to imagine, there could be an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood designed to stabilize the regime. Stranger things have happened.
When we look at the political dynamic of Egypt, and try to imagine its connection to the international system, we can see that there are several scenarios under which certain political outcomes would have profound effects on the way the world works. That should not be surprising. When Egypt was a pro-Soviet Nasserite state, the world was a very different place than it had been before Nasser. When Sadat changed his foreign policy the world changed with it. If Sadat’s foreign policy changes, the world changes again. Egypt is one of those countries whose internal politics matter to more than its own citizens.
Most of the outcomes I envision leave Egypt pretty much where it is. But not all. The situation is, as they say, in doubt, and the outcome is not trivial.

Saturday, January 29

Stopping terror: how? NY has a say

Getting stuck in Russia's maze of Soviet style bureaucracy is more likely to make you cry than laugh.

“A spy goes to KGB headquarters and says, 'I want to turn myself in'. They ask him 'What country he was spying for? America? Then you need to go to room 5.' In room 5 they ask him, 'You are an American spy, do you have a gun? If you do, you need to go to room 7.' In room 7 they ask him, 'Do you have special communication devices? If so, go to room 20.' In room 20 they ask, 'Do you have a mission?' 'I do,' he says. 'Well if you do, go and do it and stop bothering people here."


ALBANIA ARCHIVE                                                            

Thursday, January 27

COPASIR: "Patto di ferro tra D'Alema e Fini!". Cementato in molte sere trascorse insieme, ospiti di contesse pasionarie!

Il Copasir, Comitato Parlamentare per la Sicurezza nazionale, presieduto da Massimo D'Alema, è una commissione bicamerale permanente, prevista come paritaria tra le due camere e tra maggioranza ed opposizione. Quando il FLI ha ufficializzato il suo passaggio all'opposizione, l'on. Briguglio del FLI si è correttamente dimesso. Il PdL ha indicato il candidato per la maggioranza, l'on. Pietro Laffranco, ma dopo 40 giorni la Presidenza della Camera non aveva provveduto alla ratifica. Ieri colpo di scena: Briguglio ritira le dimissioni e Fini immediatamente accetta! In questo modo si viola la legge, perché la maggioranza si trova in minoranza e l'opposizione in maggioranza, più presidente compiacente! Bene hanno fatto i rappresentanti del CDX a dichiarare che non parteciperanno alle riunioni finché non si ristabilirà la legalità. Stamattina si doveva ascoltare De Gennaro, ma la riunione non si è tenuta per l'assenza dei membri Lega-PdL. L'audizione si è tenuta a livello informale, che significa? a che titolo si ascolta il Capo della Polizia a livello Non Ufficiale? O si fa l'audizione o non si fa, la chiacchierata informale è scorretta. Definire il comportamento della Presidenza della Camera mi è difficile, perdonatemi, sono troppo nauseata! Sono cresciuta nel rispetto e nel culto della Legge, maiuscolo, come della Democrazia e delle Istituzioni, veder crollare tutto mi amareggia! Provo lo stesso scoramento sbigottito di chi a L'Aquila, ha visto crollare la casa centenaria, quelle mura che hanno visto la sua storia personale e familiare ridotte a calcinacci! Così stanno riducendo la nostra Repubblica: un ammasso di macerie, lo Stato di Diritto sepolto dagli attacchi rossi ed a luci rosse, i servizi segreti all'agguato, con i traditori che imperversano nelle stanze del Palazzo, tramando non contro un Uomo, ma contro la Maggioranza degli Italiani che l'hanno eletto! Riusciremo a rialzarci? Sveva Orlandini

The Moscow Attack and Airport Security

By Scott Stewart
The Jan. 24 bombing at Moscow’s Domodedovo International Airport killed 35 people and injured more than 160. The attack occurred at approximately 4:40 p.m. as passengers from several arriving international flights were leaving the airport after clearing immigration and customs. The attacker (or attackers; reports are still conflicting over whether the attack was conducted by a man or a man and a woman together) entered the international arrivals hall of the airport, a part of the facility that is outside the secure area and that is commonly packed with crowds of relatives and taxi and limo drivers waiting to meet travelers.
Once the attacker was in the midst of the waiting crowd and exiting passengers, the improvised explosive device that he (or she) carried was detonated. It is not clear at this point whether the device was command-detonated by the attacker as a traditional suicide bomb or if the device was remotely detonated by another person. The attack was most likely staged by Islamist militants from Russia’s Northern Caucasus region who have conducted a long series of attacks in Russia, including the Aug. 24, 2004, suicide bombings that destroyed two Russian airliners.
The Domodedovo attack serves as a striking illustration of several trends we have been following for years now, including the difficulty of preventing attacks against soft targets, the resourcefulness of militants in identifying such targets and the fixation militants have on aviation-related targets.

Soft Targets

By definition, soft targets are those targets that are vulnerable to attack due to the absence of adequate security. Adequate security may be absent for a number of reasons, including disregard for the threat and lack of competent forces to conduct security, but most often soft targets are “soft” because of the sheer number of potential targets that exist and the impossibility of protecting them all. Even totalitarian police states have not demonstrated the capability to protect everything, so it is quite understandable that more liberal democratic countries do not possess the ability to provide airtight security for every potential target.
Moreover, some measures required to provide airtight security for soft targets are often seen as intrusive by citizens of countries where personal freedom is valued and the financial cost associated with providing such security measures is often seen as excessive. There is an old security truism that states: “If you try to protect everything all the time you will protect nothing.” Because of this reality, policymakers must use intelligence gained from militant groups, along with techniques such as risk assessment and risk management, to help them decide how best to allocate their limited security resources. While this will help protect the targets the government deems most sensitive or valuable, it will also ensure that some things remain unprotected or under-protected. Those things become soft targets.
While most militants would prefer to attack traditional high-profile targets such as embassies and government buildings, those sites have become far more difficult to attack in the post-9/11 world. At the same time, the relentless pursuit of terrorist operatives by the United States and its allies has resulted in the degradation of the capabilities and reach of groups such as al Qaeda. Today the threat posed to the West stems primarily from grassroots militants and jihadist franchises rather than the al Qaeda core. While this has broadened the threat, it has also made it shallower, since grassroots operatives are far less capable of spectacular and strategic attacks than the professional terrorist cadre of the al Qaeda core.
The combination of increased security at hard targets and the reduced capabilities of militant operatives has resulted in militant planners shifting their targeting toward softer targets, which are easier to attack. As a result of this shift, targets such as hotels have replaced embassies and other hardened sites in militant target selection.
Generally, militants prefer to attack soft targets where there are large groups of people, that are symbolic and recognizable around the world and that will generate maximum media attention when attacked. Some past examples include the World Trade Center in New York, the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai and the London Underground. The militants’ hope is that if the target meets these criteria, terror magnifiers like the media will help the attackers produce a psychological impact that goes far beyond the immediate attack site — a process we refer to as “creating vicarious victims.” The best-case scenario for the attackers is that this psychological impact will also produce an adverse economic impact against the targeted government.
Unlike hard targets, which frequently require attackers to use large teams of operatives with elaborate attack plans or very large explosive devices in order to breach defenses, soft targets offer militant planners an advantage in that they can frequently be attacked by a single operative or small team using a simple attack plan. The failed May 1, 2010, attack against New York’s Times Square and the July 7, 2005, London Underground attacks are prime examples of this, as was the Jan. 24 attack at Domodedovo airport. Such attacks are relatively cheap and easy to conduct and can produce a considerable propaganda return for very little investment.

Shifting Fire

In Russia, militants from the Northern Caucasus have long attacked soft targets, including buses, trains, the Moscow Metro, hotels, a hospital, a theater, a rock concert, shopping centers, apartment buildings, a school and now the soft side of Domodedovo airport.
In the case of Domodedovo, the past two attacks involving the facility are a clear illustration of the process by which militants shift to softer targets in response to security improvements. In August 2004, Chechen militants were able to exploit lax security on the domestic side of Domodedovo in order to smuggle two suicide devices aboard two targeted aircraft, which they used to blow up the planes. In response to that attack, security at the airport was increased. The Jan. 24 Domodedovo attack seems to have confirmed the effectiveness of these security improvements — the militants apparently believed they could no longer smuggle their suicide device aboard an aircraft. However, they adjusted their targeting and decided to conduct an attack against a vulnerable soft spot — the arrivals hall — located in the midst of the hardened airport target.
From a tactical standpoint, the attack at Domodedovo was a logical response to increased security designed to keep explosives off aircraft. This attack also demonstrates, significantly, that the militants behind it maintained the intent to hit aviation-related targets, a fixation we have discussed for some time now. One reason for this fixation is the impact that aviation-related attacks have on terror magnifiers. This was seen in the international response to the Domodedovo attacks, which was much larger than the response to twin suicide bombings of the Moscow Metro in March 2010. Even though the Metro bombings produced more fatalities, they did not resonate with the international media as the airport attack did. This media response to the most recent Domodedovo attack was presumably enhanced by the fact that it killed several foreigners.
This difference in international reaction is significant, and will certainly be noted by militants planning future terrorist attacks. In all likelihood, it will also serve to solidify their fixation on aviation-related targets and on soft targets such as arrival halls that are located in the midst of harder aviation targets. It must be noted, however, that this concept is not altogether new: Militants have long targeted the soft area outside airports’ security hardlines. Ticket desks were attacked by the Abu Nidal Organization in Rome and Vienna in December 1985, and more recently the El Al ticket desk at Los Angeles International Airport was attacked by a gunman in July 2002 and an unsuccessful car bomb attack against the main entrance of the international airport in Glasgow, Scotland, was conducted by a grassroots jihadist in June 2007.
In the wake of the Domodedovo attack, security has been increased in the arrival halls of Russian airports — a step that has been instituted elsewhere in order to make the traveling public feel secure. However, such measures are costly and will tie up security personnel who will then be unavailable to protect other sites. Because of this, these measures will likely be short-lived, and airports will return to “normal” in a matter of months. Furthermore, even when security is increased in areas such as arrival halls, the very nature of airports dictates that there will always be areas outside the rings of security where people will congregate — either to meet travelers or as they wait to clear security screening. While the threat can be pushed away from the airport building, in other words, it cannot be completely alleviated. Because of this, there will always be soft areas that are impossible to protect using traditional security measures. However, facilities that employ non-traditional security measures like protective intelligence and countersurveillance will be able to protect this type of soft area far more effectively than facilities relying solely on physical security measures.
The bottom line for travelers and security managers is that plots to attack aviation-related targets will continue and the array of aviation-related soft targets such as ticket desks and arrival halls will remain vulnerable to attack. A persistent, low-level threat to these targets does not mean the sky is falling, but it should prompt travelers to take some simple steps that can help minimize the time spent on the soft side of the airport. And, as always, travelers should practice an appropriate level of situational awareness so they can see trouble developing and take measures to avoid it.

Reprinting or republication of this report on websites is authorized by prominently displaying the following sentence, including the hyperlink to STRATFOR, at the beginning or end of the report.

Wednesday, January 26


Roma, 26 gen. (Adnkronos) - "Quarantatre giorni dopo l'annuncio, contrasti fra i gruppi parlamentari di opposizione evidentemente hanno impedito all'onorevole Briguglio di dimettersi dal Copasir. L'indicazione di un membro sostitutivo, alla quale il Pdl aveva provveduto su richiesta della presidenza della Camera, non ha avuto dunque seguito da parte degli uffici competenti". Lo dichiarano in una nota congiunta Fabrizio Cicchitto, Giuseppe Esposito, Gaetano Quagliariello e Marco Reguzzoni, rappresentanti del Pdl e della Lega nel Copasir. "Alla vigilia di una giornata di importantissime audizioni - proseguono - il Comitato parlamentare si trova dunque in un rapporto di sei a quattro tra minoranza e maggioranza, a discapito di quest'ultima. Si tratta di una aperta e grave violazione della legge istitutiva, che proprio per garantire serenità e imparzialità ai lavori del Copasir assegna la presidenza alla minoranza ma sancisce che la composizione sia rigorosamente paritaria tra maggioranza e opposizione. Non possiamo avallare oltre questa situazione di grave illegalità, e tanto meno intendiamo farlo in una circostanza di così grande rilievo istituzionale come quella cui domani il Comitato era chiamato ad adempiere''. ''Ricordiamo per amore di verità che quando ponemmo il tema della composizione del Copasir all'indomani della scissione del gruppo di Futuro e Libertà, in ossequio al dettato della legge che prescrive parità fra i due schieramenti e proporzionalità fra i gruppi parlamentari, ci fu risposto che a far fede era la situazione esistente all'inizio della legislatura. Per senso di responsabilità accettammo all'epoca di garantire con la nostra presenza il regolare funzionamento del Comitato. Lo stesso senso di responsabilità non è stato dimostrato dai gruppi di opposizione e questo - concludono Cicchitto, Esposito, Quagliariello e Reguzzoni - ci impedisce di prendere parte ai lavori del Copasir che resteranno dunque bloccati fin quando non verrà ripristinato un basilare principio di legalità".



Risks of terrorism and its economic threats

“I don’t think it’ll have too much of a negative effect. Maybe short-term it would have. But, unfortunately, the world has seen a lot more incidents around the world. We’ve seen things happening in New York, London, Bombay and Moscow. I think we’ll all have to work to see how we can get together”!!!


Ore 13,00. presso Piazza Missori, 2. - Milano: "America 2011, la sicurezza nell'epoca dell'austerità", incontro organizzato da Aspenia in collaborazione con Ispi e Fondazione Icsa.

Wednesday, January 19

U.S. Military Failed to Disclose Cyberwarfare Operations

TSgt James Ortiz, shift lead, boundary protection looks over a rack in the server room at the Air Force Space Command Network Operations & Security Center at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado July 20, 2010. U.S. national security planners are proposing that the 21st century's critical infrastructure -- power grids, communications, water utilities, financial networks -- be similarly shielded from cyber marauders and other foes. The ramparts would be virtual, their perimeters policed by the Pentagon and backed by digital weapons capable of circling the globe in milliseconds to knock out targets. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Senators say military cyber ops not disclosed (Washington Post):
The Pentagon failed to disclose clandestine cyber activities in a classified report on secret military actions that goes to Congress, according to a Senate document that provides a public peek at oversight concerns surrounding the government’s computer war capabilities.
A brief written exchange between Senate questioners and the Pentagon’s assistant secretary for special operations, Michael Vickers, underscores unresolved questions about how and when the Pentagon conducts cyber warfare, and about the guidelines for military action in the event of a computer-based attack on the U.S.
The U.S. military’s use of offensive cyber warfare has only rarely been disclosed, the most well-known instance being the electronic jamming of Iraqi military and communications networks just before the lightning strike against Saddam Hussein’s army in 2003. But Pentagon officials have been clear that cyber espionage and attacks from well-funded nations or terror groups are the biggest threats to military networks, including critical battlefield communications.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Wednesday that the cyber threat from China is significant and that the Defense Department needs to focus more on cyber warfare. The Pentagon has made a lot of changes to deal with the threat, he said in remarks at the Foreign Press Center, but added that the U.S. has to “come to a place where, again, those threats are diminished, if not eliminated.”
The growing threat has been evident in recent global clashes including the Internet blitz against Georgian government sites just before the Russians invaded in 2008 and the Chinese government’s reported efforts to develop computer viruses to attack enemy networks. The Pentagon created Cyber Command to better deal with the threats, but has yet to clearly define the parameters of its offensive and defensive cyber operations.

Afghan Opium Business Thriving

The government of Afghanistan is fighting a losing battle against drugs because of soaring street prices for heroin and opium derivatives, a minister said.
Mohammed Azhar, deputy minister for counter-narcotics, told The Washington Post despite the 10-year occupation by NATO troops fighting the Muslim extremist Taliban and al-Qaida factions, peasant farmers are still growing poppies to feed the drug market.
“The price of opium is now seven times higher than wheat, and there is a $58 billion demand for narcotics, so our farmers have no disincentive to cultivate poppy,” Azhar said. “We have gotten a lot of help but it is not enough. Afghanistan is still producing 85 percent of the opium in the world, and it is still a dark stain on our name.”
In September, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said the value of Afghan opium rose from $29 per pound in 2009 to $77 per pound last year, the newspaper said.
Success of Afghan drug war is waning (Washington Post):
After several years of steady progress in curbing opium poppy cultivation and cracking down on drug smugglers, Afghan officials say the anti-drug campaign is flagging as opium prices soar, farmers are lured back to the lucrative crop and Afghanistan’s Western allies focus more narrowly on defeating the Taliban.
That combination adds a potentially destabilizing factor to Afghanistan at a time when the United States is desperate to show progress in a war now into its 10th year. The country’s Taliban insurgency and the drug trade flourish in the same lawless terrain, and are often mutually reinforcing. But Afghan officials say the opium problem is not receiving the focus it deserves from Western powers.
“The price of opium is now seven times higher than wheat, and there is a $58 billion demand for narcotics, so our farmers have no disincentive to cultivate poppy,” said Mohammed Azhar, deputy minister for counternarcotics. “We have gotten a lot of help, but it is not enough. Afghanistan is still producing 85 percent of the opium in the world, and it is still a dark stain on our name.”
International attention to Afghanistan’s drug problem has waxed and waned over the course of the war, often as a result of shifts in Western priorities as elected governments have changed and conflict with Islamist insurgents has intensified.
In the first several years after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, U.S.-led policy was military-driven and drugs were not seen as a critical issue. Poppy cultivation, once banned by the Taliban, surged. By 2004, the U.S. and British governments stepped in with programs to eradicate poppy, encourage farmers to grow other crops and train Afghan police and prosecutors in how to combat drug trafficking.
Those efforts met with mixed success. Afghanistan eliminated poppy cultivation in 20 of 34 provinces, but it continued to flourish in the south and west, where the insurgency was strongest. Anti-drug police arrested hundreds of smugglers, but few major traffickers were caught and some were released under high-level political pressure. Insecurity and Taliban threats made some alternative crop programs hard to carry out.
Now, Afghan officials say, the latest NATO push to wipe out the Taliban leadership and focus on military goals has once again led to a reduced international interest in the drug war.
According to a U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime report released in September, the value of Afghan opium skyrocketed from $29 per pound in 2009 to $77 per pound in 2010, fueling fears that production levels will soon follow upward. Although the amount of land devoted to growing poppies has remained the same over the past year -- about 304,000 acres -- the number of families producing the crop has grown. In all, more than 1.5 million Afghans depend on the sale of drugs for their livelihoods.
“I was excited when I took this job, but it seems narcotics is no longer a priority,” said Lt. Gen. Bazz Mohammed Ahmadi, who was named to head the anti-narcotics police in September. “All the attention now is on security, but people don’t realize that drugs and insecurity go together.”

Number of Corrupt Russian Officials Doubled in 2010

Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev. Photo RIA Novosti.
Number of corrupt Russian top officials doubled in 2010 – minister (RIA Novosti):
The number of corruption-related crimes involving top government officials and large bribes increased 100% in 2010 year-on-year, Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev said on Thursday.
“Criminal proceedings were launched against some 10,000 officials, one-third of them were started for taking brides,” Nurgaliyev said at a session of a Russian presidential council for combating corruption.
More than 20 top Russian officials were brought to trial last year compared with half that number in 2009. “Such cases almost doubled,” Nurgaliyev said adding that corruption remains an issue of concern despite efforts taken by the government.
Nurgaliyev said the Russian Interior Ministry plans to speed up efforts to combat corruption. He said the main focus will be made on detecting corruption-related crimes among businessmen and also ministry officials themselves.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev launched a wholesale reform to clean up corruption but admitted earlier that his anti-corruption drive had so far yielded few practical results.
The Berlin-based non-governmental anti-corruption organization Transparency International has persistently rated Russia as one of the most corrupt nations in the world. In the 2009 Corruption Perception Index, Russia was ranked 146 out of 180 countries, with a ranking below countries like Togo, Pakistan and Libya.
Medvedev Orders Probe Into Bureaucrats’ Income Declarations (Bloomberg):
President Dmitry Medvedev gave prosecutors three months to verify income declarations filed by government officials as part of his drive to stamp out Russia’s rampant corruption.
“You hear that they all have palaces in the countryside and the declarations they make” are tiny, Medvedev told a government meeting on corruption in the Kremlin today. “Let’s check it all. If there are discrepancies, prepare proposals on the accountability of these people.”
Medvedev, who called corruption a threat to national security, has pushed for government officials to make their income declarations public and wants new legislation that will dramatically increase fines for taking bribes. Russia is the world’s most corrupt major economy, according to Berlin-based Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index released in October. It ranked 154th among 178 countries.
Among new proposals, bribes under 25,000 rubles ($832) will entail either a fine of 25 times to 50 times the amount, or a jail term of up to three years and a fine. Bribes of over a million rubles will carry a fine of between 80 times and 100 times the sum or a jail term of up to 15 years plus a fine.
“We have to find a way to undermine the material interest in bribe taking,” Medvedev’s aide Larisa Brycheva told reporters after the meeting. Anti-corruption amendments to more than a dozen laws will be sent to the State Duma, the lower chamber of parliament, by the end of the month, she said.