On Monday, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey penned an op-ed in the national security blog Lawfare which claimed that data encryption techniques that are effective enough to challenge the government’s ability to crack them are a threat to national security.
“The logic of encryption will bring us, in the not-to-distant future, to a place where devices and data in motion are protected by universal strong encryption. That is, our conversations and our ‘papers and effects’ will be locked in such a way that permits access only by participants to a conversation or the owner of the device holding the data,” said Comey. After paying brief lip service to the benefits of strong encryption, Comey began to lay out why he thinks future advancements in encryption technology will “inexorably affect my ability to do [my] job.”
“When the government’s ability—with appropriate predication and court oversight—to see an individual’s stuff goes away, it will affect public safety,” asserted Comey. He continued, evoking terrorism, “That tension is vividly illustrated by the current ISIL threat, which involves ISIL operators in Syria recruiting and tasking dozens of troubled Americans to kill people, a process that increasingly takes part through mobile messaging apps that are end-to-end encrypted, communications that may not be intercepted, despite judicial orders under the Fourth Amendment. But the tension could as well be illustrated in criminal investigations all over the country. There is simply no doubt that bad people can communicate with impunity in a world of universal strong encryption.”
According to National Journal, Comey will testify on Wednesday before the US Senate’s Intelligence and Judiciary committees on the challenges law enforcement agencies face in keeping up with encryption techniques.
Earlier this year, President Obama took a position similar to Comey’s on the issue and said, “If we get into a situation which the technologies do not allow us at all to track somebody we’re confident is a terrorist… that’s a problem.”
National Journal’s Dustin Volz wrote, “Many believe there is no such thing as a ‘golden key’ for encryption that could allow law-enforcement or national security professionals access into an encrypted device without also creating a vulnerability that malicious hackers could exploit.“
In 2005, amid reports that the London subway bombers had used cellphones as detonators, the White House secretly established the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 303, which granted the government the ability to unilaterally shut down all cellphone service in an area of its choosing when it feels it needs to.
The power has become increasingly controversial in recent years, as cellphone communication has increasingly replaced landline phones, and would be more essential than ever during “emergencies,” the very time the administration wants to be able to silence them.
An even bigger concern is that, with the details of the law a secret, officials can just flat out abuse it to silence dissent. In 2011, the Bay Area Rapid Transit system used the kill switch to shut off all cellphone services in several stations specifically to try to prevent organization of a public protest there.
The administration argues that even letting the public know the basic outline of the policy would itself be a threat to national security, and while courts have been somewhat skeptical on this claim, whenever the administration plays the terrorism card they seem to get what they want, so the safe money is on the power remaining unchecked.
Milford, NH- Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul spoke at Milford Town Hall on Wednesday as part of his multi-state announcement tour. The Milford speech appealed to the conservative base while touching on a few liberty-minded ideas including pledging to protect Americans from bulk phone data collection by the federal government. He spoke briefly yet favorably about repealing unfair drug laws, avoiding unnecessary military intervention and promoting school choice.
While critical of both conservative and liberal policies, his tone about the future of America remained optimistic, saying that “America and freedom are so intertwined that people are literally dying to come to our country.”
Paul, in criticizing the national debt, was sure to place some of the responsibility of the Republican party. “It seems to me that both parties and the entire political system is to blame. Big government debt doubled under the Republicans and now its tripling under Barack Obama’s watch,” he said.
When moving to discuss the economy, Paul said that he has an “ambitious plan” that includes introducing “economic freedom zones to allow impoverished areas like Detroit, Chicago, and eastern Kentucky, to prosper not by taking your money,” but by “leaving more of their money in their pockets.”
Paul spoke in favor of term limits, saying that he ran for Senate because of career politicians “who go to Washington and never come home.” He said that “we need less career politicians now more than ever. We limit the president to two terms- it’s about time we limit the terms of Congress.”
Paul went on to praise the idea of school choice, which led to heavy applause from the crowd. “We need to top limiting our kids in poor neighborhoods to failing public schools and offering them school choice,” he said.
“Not only do we not need Common Core, we need school choice, let them have choice,” Paul declared.
Paul, who has been criticized for what some say is a weak foreign policy, spoke strongly of fighting terrorism while abiding by the Constitution. “Until we name the enemy, we cannot win the war,” he said. “This enemy is radical Islam.”
“I will do whatever it takes to defend america from these haters of mankind,” Paul claimed, while calling for “a national defense robust enough to defend against all attack, moderate enough to deter all enemies, and nimble enough to defend our vital interests.”
Paul warned against nation building, saying that “conservatives should not succumb to the notion that a government inept at home will somehow succeed in building nations abroad.” Paul said he envisions an America with a national defense that is “unparalleled, undefeatable, and unencumbered by overseas nation building.”
Later, Paul said that “we must defend ourselves, but we must never give up who we are as a people. We must never diminish the Bill of Rights as long as we fight this long war against evil.”
Paul went on to argue for the need to gather foreign intelligence while condemning the federal government’s collection of American phone records. Paul, a longtime critic of the NSA, said that to defend the country “we do need to gather intelligence on our enemy. But when the intelligence director is not punished for lying under oath, how are we to trust our government agencies?”
“Warrantless searches of Americans phone records and computer records, are un-American and a threat to our civil liberties. I say that your phone records are yours. I say the phone records of law abiding citizens are none of their damn business. The president created this vast dragnet by executive order. As President, on day one I will immediately end this unconstitutional program.”
In closing his speech, Paul said: “I see an America strong enough to deter foreign aggression, yet wise enough to avoid unnecessary intervention. I see an America where criminal justice is applied equally. And any law, like some of our drug laws, that disproportionately incarcerate people of color, should be repealed.”
“Today begins the journey to take America back, to rescue a great country now adrift. Join me as together we seek a new vision for America. Today, I announce that with God’s help, with the help of liberty lovers everywhere, that I am putting myself forward as a candidate to be President of the United States,” he concluded.
But when discussing electromagnetic pulse attacks and the insecurity of our power grid, there are groups that have organized seeking to thwart such scenarios.
“There are solutions to this problem, and they are relatively inexpensive, but right now we lack the political leadership to get it done,” said Scott Cooper, executive director of High Frontier which spearheads the grassroots efforts to tackle these problems.
“We believe it’s going to take a grassroots effort to put pressure on our leaders to fix this problem,” he explained.
The detonation of a ballistic missile a few hundred miles over our atmosphere could wipe out our entire infrastructure, sending the country back to the 1800s.
“We know our good friends over in Iran right now are working diligently to acquire such a weapon, and they have a stated purpose of trying to destroy us,” said Cooper. “They should put all of us on alert that we need to protect ourselves so that cannot happen.”
Cooper explained that cost and regulation were hindering solutions.
Cost, he explained, could be broken down to a per subscriber level, or each subscriber would pay about 25 to 50 cents per year for 10 years. When it’s broken down like that the cost appears nominal.
“What’s preventing it honestly is the fear of additional regulation,” he added. The group is for limited government, but every rule has its exception.
“But this isn’t regulation for regulation’s sake. It’s regulation to protect the American citizenry, and it needs to be passed.”
Legislation to help the government strengthen our power grid’s security has never made it out of committee.
In the meantime, Cooper encourages citizens to get involved and to live wisely.
“When we were living under the fear of mutually assured destruction, the concept of civil defense was talked about regularly. It wasn’t a ‘prepper’ or a kind of extreme group. Folks did it because they were trained to do it,” said Cooper about the “Prepper” movement.
Cooper favors things like victory gardens and making strategic partnerships with farmers.
“I think we need to think strategically about that again. It’s about living wisely,” he added.
To listen to Joshua Cook’s entire interview with Scott Cooper below.
Former CIA director and military commander David Petraeus reached a plea deal with the Justice Department Tuesday and has agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of “unauthorized removal and retention of classified material.” That charge can lead to up to one year in prison, but prosecutors are expected to recommend two years of probation and a $40,000 fine.
The Justice Department released a statement following the plea deal:
“Three documents — a criminal information, a plea agreement and a statement of facts — were filed today in the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina’s Charlotte Division in the case of United States v. David Howell Petraeus. The criminal information charges the defendant with one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material. … The plea agreement and corresponding statement of facts, both signed by the defendant, indicate that he will plead guilty to the one-count criminal information.”
Petraeus admitted that he gave highly classified information- including “identifies of covert officers, war strategy, intelligence capabilities and mechanisms, diplomatic discussions, quotes and deliberative discussions from high-level National Security Council meetings” as well as discussions with President Barack Obama- to his mistress, Paula Broadwell, an Army Reserve officer who was writing a biography about Petraeus. He also gave her “national defense information, including top secret/SCI and code word information.” In 2012, Petraeus had initially denied giving Broadwell the information.
Before the discovery that Petraeus had given information to Broadwell, he had resigned from his position as CIA director after an FBI investigation of Petraeus’s emails revealed a relationship with Broadwell. Petraeus’s emails were monitored because a woman named Jill Kelley told the FBI that she was receiving threatening emails, and the emails traced back to Broadwell.
Officials had originally said in 2012 that Petraeus’s affair with Broadwell had no effect on national security, but evidence was later found that Petraeus gave Broadwell classified information.
WASHINGTON—February 15, 2015 – When Naghmeh Abedini married her husband Saeed in Iran, she never dreamed she would raise their future children as a single mother in Boise, Idaho, while her husband languished for years in an Iranian prison.
A native of Iran, Naghmeh and her family left when she was nine years old and spent a year in California before relocating to Boise. Her father was educated in the United States and obtained his master’s degree at Oregon State University prior to taking his family out of Iran. “He had a green card,” says Naghmeh, “We were not refugees.”
The real reason they left Iran, however, was due to the radicalization of their Muslim faith in the school system. “My brother was being brainwashed in elementary school,” says Naghmeh, “They started war recruiting for Jihad when he was eight years old.” Students were told that if they died for the cause they would “get to meet God.” They were forced to run through active mine fields as a school exercise. The land mines would occasionally detonate. “The government arrested any parents who complained,” says Naghmeh, “So our parents quietly packed up and left.”
Her parents were unhappy with the school system in California, also, and hoped a move to a smaller city would help preserve their culture and Muslim faith. Within ten years in Boise, however, both of Naghmeh’s parents, along with herself, her brother, and a sister had converted to Christianity.
In 2001, Naghmeh spent a year in Iran. Just before she returned to Boise, her cousin invited her to a government-approved Christian church service. She heard Saeed Abedini speak and was intrigued by his passion, so she introduced herself and asked him if he would watch out for her cousins. Later, she learned that Saeed was a pastor and a leader of the growing house church movement. He was also a former Muslim who once desired to kill Christians, but he converted in 2000. When she returned to Iran in 2003 for another visit, the sparks flew between them. He proposed marriage in June of that year, and they were married in Iran the following June in a government-sanctioned Christian church.
The Abedini’s life together in Iran was cut short when the country experienced a regime change in 2005 and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rose to power. Known for his religious hardline stances, Ahmadinejad was a main figure in the Alliance of Builders of Islamic Iran party, usually shortened to Abadgaran and widely regarded as the political front for the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (Revolutionary Guards.) The latter group was designated as a terrorist organization by the United States in 2007.
After Ahmadinejad was elected, the church the Abedinis married in was forced to close, as were other Christian churches in Iran, despite current law allowing the peaceful gathering of religious minorities. Overnight, Christians were seemingly not welcome or tolerated in the country, so the couple moved together to Boise. Their daughter Rebekka was born in 2006 and their son Jacob arrived in 2008, the same year Saeed became an ordained minister through the American Evangelistic Association.
In 2009, the entire family decided to visit Iran together and see Saeed’s family, as it had been four years since he had seen his parents who had yet to meet their grandchildren. When the Boise-based Abedini family arrived at the airport to fly home to Idaho, Saeed was arrested by Iranian intelligence police. “Please leave Iran,” Saeed told his wife and children, “It will make it easier on me.”
Saeed was placed on house arrest for a month in his parents’ home while investigators determined whether or not he was still establishing Christian church groups. Before he was released, the police advised him to focus on humanitarian efforts—a move that inspired Saeed to use his grandfather’s land and an existing building to open an orphanage in the Iranian city of Rasht.
Back in Idaho, Saeed began a three-year process riddled with paperwork hurdles and setbacks in an attempt to open the orphanage he envisioned. He visited Iran ten more times in an effort to complete the approval process for the orphanage. Naghmeh, Rebekah, and Jacob joined him in October 2011, as the Abedinis were convinced that the orphanage was close to being opened. “We really wanted our kids to be able to meet the orphans,” Naghmeh recalls. However, by February 2012, the approval was still pending. The Abedinis returned to Boise once more. Four months later, Saeed traveled to Iran to finish the orphanage once and for all. “That was the last time I saw him,” says Naghmeh.
He was due to return to Boise on July 29. However, on July 27, Saeed was arrested on a bus in Turkey after looking at land in Georgia. He was placed under house arrest once again. The Iranian government seized his U.S. Passport and he was questioned for months about his activities, without being charged with a crime.
He thought he would be able to resolve his detainment with one last interrogation, scheduled for September 26 at a location to be determined by a 9:00 a.m. phone call that same day. However, Revolutionary Guards forces raided his parents’ house in Tehran at 6:00 a.m. and took Saeed to an unknown location. Four days later, it was revealed that he was in solitary confinement at the notorious Evin Prison. Saeed was accused of “corrupting a whole generation against Islam,” a reference to his pre-Revolution house church activities.
Saeed was charged with undermining the national security of Iran. At his trial on January 21, 2013, Saeed and his attorney were only given one day to make their defense. He was convicted by Judge Pir-Abassi of Branch 26 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, and sentenced a week later to eight years in prison. Revolutionary Court trials are not public, there is no jury, and a single judge decides the cases—which are final and not eligible for appeal. Details about court proceedings are revealed at the sole discretion of the court. The government says it will release Saeed if he converts back to Islam, but he refuses.
The American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) is representing Naghmeh and her children. “This is a real travesty—a mockery of justice,” said ACLJ’s Executive Director Jordan Sekulow. “From the very beginning, Iranian authorities have lied about all aspects of this case, even releasing rumors of his expected release. Iran has not only abused its own laws, it has trampled on the fundamentals of human rights.”
Saeed Abedini has been reportedly beaten and tortured during his incarceration and is now housed in the Rajaei Shahr prison in Karaj, his sudden move a possible indication of defiance toward President Hassan Rouhani by the Revolutionary Guard. Saeed is denied any electronic or voice communications with the outside world, but his parents visit him almost weekly, bring him letters from home, and send his letters out—including one to President Obama just before this year’s National Prayer Breakfast.
Naghmeh is hopeful due to extensive support from Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, as well as remarks made by President Obama, that her husband’s release will be secured during upcoming negotiations with Iran. “We’re in a good place,” she says, “If Iran wants to make a deal, I want to make sure Saeed is not left behind.”
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) is constantly struggling with Pentagon and the State Department trying to keep them from uncovering their various failures. Today, they reported an unprecedented such effort by the Pentagon.
One of the metrics the Pentagon has constantly put forward to prove its military progress in Afghanistan has been data relating to the creation of an Afghan military and national police force. Starting this month, they’ve decided all such information is classified.
The military is insisting that information on how many Afghan troops there are and how much its costing “could endanger American lives,” even though they’ve been providing this data as a matter of course for six straight years.
The Afghan government doesn’t consider the information secret themselves, so it is possible that portions of the data will slip out by way of them, though the Pentagon seems eager to avoid anything Afghan-themed going forward.
The timing of the new classification is likely not coincidental, but reflects the narrative of the war being “over.” The shift to a primarily “training” based mission would put even more attention on the training and how poorly it’s gone.
The Pentagon isn’t a fan of criticism, and has decided that instead they will just classify the data surrounding the war outright, allowing them to escape all oversight.
After a series of recent interviews, members of the Foley family have said the government threatened to prosecute their family if they had raised and paid the money for the ransom sought for the life of their son, James Foley.
According to ABC News, Diane Foley, the mother of James, said they were threatened with lawsuits multiple times if they had gone through with paying the ransom. “We were told that several times and we took it as a threat and it was appalling.”
Diane then said a highly decorated military officer, who serves on the National Security Council, came to their house to warn them about the pending prosecutions.
“Three times he intimidated us with that message,” said Diane. “We were horrified he would say that. He just told us we would be prosecuted. We knew we had to save our son, we had to try.”
A current NSC member said the military officer who went to the Foley house had, “no business,” talking to the family and these discussions were “idiotic.” This same current NSC member said the officer was unqualified to discuss legal issues and should have stayed away from the family.
Michael Foley, James’s brother, confirmed these accusations against the government with FOX News.
“I was specifically threatened by the Department of State about raising funds towards ransom demands for my brother,” said Michael. “[The government] were actually an impedance… We were smart enough to look past it but it slowed us down.”
Diane also told CNN, she was told to have faith her son would be freed and be safe. “We were just told to trust that he would be freed somehow, miraculously… And he wasn’t, was he?”
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden did defend the position of prosecuting the Foley family. “Without getting into the details of our private discussions with families,” said Hayden, “the law is clear that ransom payments to designated individuals or entities, such as ISIL [ISIS], are prohibited. It is also a matter of longstanding policy that the U.S. does not grant concessions to hostage takers.”
In an unprecedented move, reports of the Obama administration firing a second military commander of the U.S. Nuclear Weapons system have surfaced. These officers have some of the highest clearances you can get, and have been in charge of the nation’s most sensitive nuclear arsenals.
Reuters reported on Friday, Oct 11th that Major General Michael Carey was fired from his job as Commander of the 20th Air Force. The role is responsible for three wings of intercontinental missiles, a total of 450 missiles at three different US bases. He has served for 35 years per his Air Force bio, with numerous awards.
The Air Force is reporting the firing is due to the current administrations “loss of trust” in . A Pentagon official told Reuters on Friday that the decision to fire the 2 star general was made by Lieutenant General James Kowalski. Kowalski has replaced him with Major General Jack Weinstein.
On Wednesday, October 9th, President Barack Obama himself fired the Navy head of nuclear weapons, according to ABCNews Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz. Navy Vice Admiral Tim Giardina, the second-in-charge at US Strategic Command, was fired by the President. Official statement indicates firing was due to use of counterfeit poker chips at an Iowa casino.
Some say the firings of these two, along with two Marine Corp Generals, an Army Brigadier General, an Army 2-star General, and a Navy 1-star General are part of an effort to clean up operational failures, such as the 2007 incident of the Minot missing nukes.
According to a wide range of reports, several nuclear bombs were “lost” for 36 hours after taking off August 29/30, 2007 on a “cross-country journey” across the U.S., from U.S.A.F Base Minot in North Dakota to U.S.A.F. Base Barksdale in Louisiana. Reportedly, in total there were six W80-1 nuclear warheads armed on AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missiles that were “lost.” The story was first reported by the Military Times, after military servicemen leaked the story
The rare firings of military nuclear chiefs follows another recent incident of nukes making headlines.
As reported by CBS local Charlotte affiliate station on September 3rd, Senator Lindsay Graham told reporters in Goose Creek that if the US didn’t invade Syria, and launch a first strike war against Iran, that nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists could result in a bomb coming to Charleston Harbor. After the US Congress refusal to authorize war in Syria, Senator Lindsay Graham has not provided clarification for that statement made on September 3rd.