| ‘Historic’ Drone landing paves way for ‘Killer Robots’ anytime, anywhere!

‘Historic’ Drone Landing Paves Way for ‘Killer Robots’ Anytime, Anywhere ~  Lauren McCauley, Common Dreams.

Aircraft landing of the X-47B proves US military “would take autonomous armed combat anywhere in the planet.”

The landing of the X-47B pilotless drone is just the ‘precursor’ to the future of warfare. (Photo: Timothy Waller/ USNavy/ AP)In an event sure to make “history”—if not for its technical prowess, then for its long-term impact on international warfare—the US Navy Wednesday successfully completed the landing of a fully automated aerial drone on an aircraft carrier at sea.

In what is being billed as a “pivotal moment” for the US military in the “growing global robotics arms race,” the landing—which took place on the deck of the USS George HW Bush off the mid-Atlantic coast—is the first time a “robot performed a feat executable only by the navy’s top pilots,” reports the Guardian.

They continue:

The X-47B, constructed by Northrop Grumman, is a different kind of drone from the Predators and Reapers that have become global symbols of American military power. Contrary to popular understanding, those drones are not actually pilotless. People, usually US air force officers and contractors, fly them remotely, controlling them through instruments resembling those found in a traditional cockpit.

The X-47B is pilotless. Its operations occur thanks to lines of software code that its on-board computer systems execute. Its flight paths are pre-programmed […] although navy officials can take control in the event of a malfunction.

“Precursor to fully autonomous weapons?” tweeted Amy Wareham, Advocacy Director at Human Rights Watch.

The human rights watchdog group has long been sounding the alarm over the potential of ‘killer robots,’ including the X-47B—a craft which they say “would take autonomous armed combat anywhere in the planet.”

And the Associated Press confirms that the successful landing paves the way for the US to “launch unmanned aircraft without the need to obtain permission from other countries to use their bases.”

“Your grandchildren and great-grandchildren and mine will be reading about this historic event in their history books,” boasted Rear Admiral Mat Winter, the head of the navy’s drone programs.

Though the navy plans on “mothballing” the costly X-47B ($1.4bn over four years), there are plans to develop other models of armed drones which will work alongside manned naval aircraft providing “around-the-clock surveillance while also possessing a strike capability.”

The Guardian continues:

[T]he navy will now put its energy into the X-47B’s successor, the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike robot, or UClass. The navy wants to use UClass to augment its carrier air wings – it will not replace manned pilots – providing surveillance flights longer than human pilots can withstand and, if necessary, firing its weapons in battle scenarios too dangerous for human pilots. Unlike the X-47B, the UClass robots will be armed, although navy officers insist that weapons releases will only occur at a human’s direction.

Four companies are competing for the UClass contract, each with their own design for the forthcoming drone.


New Age in Carrier Aviation Takes Off With X-47B Landing.

Northrop Grumman's X-47B just before landing on the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on July, 10 2013. US Navy Photo

Northrop Grumman’s X-47B just before landing on the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) on July, 10 2013. US Navy Photo

The Navy has entered a new age in carrier aviation with the successful landing of the unmanned Northrop Grumman X-47B on the USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), the service announced at 1:45 p.m. EST on Wednesday.

Call sign Salty Dog 502 left Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. shortly after 12:00 p.m. EST and flew to the Bush controlled through a complex series of algorithms and navigational sensors and landed on the deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier guided not with a joystick and throttle controls but by an operator with a mouse and a keyboard.

On its final approach to Bush a hypersensitive version of the same GPS technology used to direct families on vacation guided the hook of the tailless aircraft safely to the deck of the carrier and into history.

“The dynamics and complexity of the demonstration is not just flying an airplane. It is operating a system autonomously in and out of the most demanding launch and recovery environment around the world,” Rear Adm. Mat Winter program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons said in a Tuesday conference call with reporters.
“This is not trivial.”

The landing of the X-47B successfully proved the Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) project and will pave the way to include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on carriers in the future.

The Navy’s focus now will be to move beyond the experimental UCAS-D and into a capability that will move from novelty to an organic component of the carrier air wing.

The next step will be development of the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) a capability the Navy wants to field by 2020.

The UCLASS program has run in parallel with the UCAS-D program. According to documents obtained by USNI News, the Navy is looking for a system (consisting of one or more aircraft) that can conduct two 650 nautical mile orbits around a carrier for $150 million.

In June, the Navy issued a preliminary request for proposal (RfP) to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Atomics and Northrop Grumman to begin design work on their bids ahead of a full RfP in 2014.

“All of the knowledge out of the program is being transferred to UCLASS,” Winter said.
“UCLASS will benefit from all of what we have done here in X-47B.”


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| Digital Blackwater: Meet the contractors analyzing your private data!

Meet the contractors analyzing your private data ~  , Salon.

Private companies are getting rich probing your personal information for the government. Call it Digital Blackwater.

Meet the contractors analyzing your private data(Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed)

Amid the torrent of stories about the shocking new revelations about the National Security Agency, few have bothered to ask a central question. Who’s actually doing the work of analyzing all the data, metadata and personal information pouring into the agency from Verizon and nine key Internet service providers for its ever-expanding surveillance of American citizens?

Well, on Sunday we got part of the answer: Booz Allen Hamilton. In a stunning development in the NSA saga, Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald revealed that the source for his blockbuster stories on the NSA is Edward Snowden, “a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.” Snowden, it turns out, has been working at NSA for the last four years as a contract employee, including stints for Booz and the computer-services firm Dell.

The revelation is not that surprising. With about 70 percent of our national intelligence budgets being spent on the private sector  – a discovery I made in 2007 and first reported in Salon – contractors have become essential to the spying and surveillance operations of the NSA.

From Narus, the Israeli-born Boeing subsidiary that makes NSA’s high-speed interception software, to CSC, the “systems integrator” that runs NSA’s internal IT system, defense and intelligence, contractors are making millions of dollars selling technology and services that help the world’s largest surveillance system spy on you. If the 70 percent figure is applied to the NSA’s estimated budget of $8 billion a year (the largest in the intelligence community), NSA contracting could reach as high as $6 billion every year.

But it’s probably much more than that.

“The largest concentration of cyber power on the planet is the intersection of the Baltimore Parkway and Maryland Route 32,” says Michael V. Hayden, who oversaw the privatization effort as NSA director from 1999 to 2005. He was referring not to the NSA itself but to the business park about a mile down the road from the giant black edifice that houses NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Md. There, all of NSA’s major contractors, from Booz to SAIC to Northrop Grumman, carry out their surveillance and intelligence work for the agency.

With many of these contractors now focused on cyber-security, Hayden has even coined a new term — “Digital Blackwater” – for the industry. “I use that for the concept of the private sector in cyber,” he told a recent conference in Washington, in an odd reference to the notorious mercenary army. “I saw this in government and saw it a lot over the last four years. The private sector has really moved forward in terms of providing security,” he said. Hayden himself has cashed out too: He is now a principal with the Chertoff Group, the intelligence advisory company led by Michael Chertoff, the former secretary of Homeland Security.

One of NSA’s most important contractors may be Narus, a subsidiary of Boeing that makes a key telecommunications software that allows government agencies and corporations to monitor huge amounts of data flowing over fiber-optic cables. According to Bill Binney, one of four NSA whistle-blowers who’ve been warning about NSA’s immense powers, one Narus device can analyze 1,250,000 1,000-character emails every second. That comes to over 100 billion emails a day.

“Narus is the one thing that makes it all possible,” Binney told me over the weekend, of the Verizon surveillance program unveiled by the Guardian. “They probably pick up 60 to 80 percent of the data going over the [U.S.] network.” The Narus technology, he added, “reconstructs everything on the line and then passes it off to NSA for storage” and later analysis. That includes everything, he said, including email, cellphone calls, and voice over Internet protocol calls such as those made on Skype.

NSA’s use of the Narus technology first came to attention in 2006. That was when an AT&T technician named Mark Klein went public with his discovery that NSA had hooked Narus devices to AT&T’s incoming telecom stream in San Francisco and set up a secret room that allowed NSA to divert AT&T’s entire stream to its own databases. Binney believes the equipment was hooked up to as many as 15 sites around the country.

The Narus devices can’t pick up everything, however, because large amounts of traffic (such as domestic calls and Internet messages) don’t go through the switches. That’s why NSA apparently decided in 2006 to create the PRISM program to tap into the databases of the Internet service providers such as Yahoo and Google, Binney says. “Even though there’s so many Narus devices collecting on the Net, they don’t get it all,” he explained. “So if they go to the ISPs with a court order, they fill in the gaps from the collection on Narus.”

But once the data is downloaded, it has to be analyzed. And that’s where Booz and the other contractors that surround the NSA come in.

Booz Allen Hamilton is one of the NSA’s most important and trusted contractors. It’s involved in virtually every aspect of intelligence and surveillance, from advising top officials on how to integrate the 16 U.S. spy agencies to detailed analysis of signals intelligence, imagery and other critical collections technologies. I first introduced Booz’s intelligence business in a 2007 profile in Salon when President Bush appointed Michael McConnell, a Booz veteran and former NSA director, to be director of national intelligence (he’s now back at Booz).

Among other secret projects, Booz was deeply involved in “Total Information Awareness,” the controversial data-mining project run for the Bush administration by former National Security Adviser John Poindexter that was outlawed by Congress in 2003.

Another major presence at NSA’s Business Park is SAIC. Like Booz, it stands like a private colossus across the whole intelligence industry. Of its 42,000 employees, more than 20,000 hold U.S. government security clearances, making it one of the largest private intelligence services in the world. “SAIC provides a full suite of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and cybersecurity solutions across a broad spectrum of national security programs,” it claims on its website.

Despite its grandiose claims, however, SAIC is also known for several spectacular intelligence failures, including NSA’s ill-fated Trailblazer project to privatize its analysis of signals intelligence. Other companies acting as pillars of NSA’s SIGINT analysis team include Northrop Grumman, RaytheonCACI International, and hundreds of smaller companies scattered around the Washington Beltway (you can read detailed explanations of what they do for NSA in my book “Spies for Hire”). They, in turn, are surrounded by a small army of “big data” companies that are hired by NSA to sift through data for suspicious patterns and map the creation of “illicit networks” that can be followed or investigated.

In April, I wrote about one of those companies, Palantir Technologies Inc., in Salon. It sells a powerful line of data-mining and analysis software that maps out human social networks that would be extremely useful to NSA analysts trying to make sense of all the telephone and Internet data downloaded from Verizon and nine Internet companies that was described in the latest blockbuster stories in the Guardian and the Post.

“Their bread and butter is mapping disparate networks in real time,” a former military intelligence officer who has used Palantir software told me. “It creates a spatial understanding that can be easily used by analysts.” (See the detailed profile of Palantir I posted on my website last Friday.)

But how did NSA, long considered the crown jewel of U.S. intelligence, become so privatized in the first place?

In the late 1990s, faced with a telecommunications and technological revolution that threatened to make the NSA’s telephonic and radar-based surveillance skills obsolete, the agency decided to turn to private corporations for many of its technical needs.

The outsourcing plan was finalized in 2000 by a special NSA Advisory Board set up to determine the agency’s future and codified in a secret report written by a then-obscure intelligence officer named James Clapper. “Clapper did a one-man study for the NSA Advisory Board,” recalls Ed Loomis, a 40-year NSA veteran who, along with Binney and two others, blew the whistle on corporate corruption at the NSA.

“His recommendation was that NSA acquire its Internet capabilities from the private sector. The idea was, the private sector had the capability and we at NSA didn’t need to reinvent the wheel.”

Hayden, who was the NSA director at the time, “put a lot of trust in the private sector, and a lot of trust in Clapper, because Clapper was his mentor,” added Loomis. And once he got approval, “he was hell-bent on privatization and nothing was going to derail that.” Clapper is now President Obama’s director of national intelligence, and has denounced the Guardian leaks as “reprehensible.”

Hayden was relentless in shifting NSA from an agency that relied on in-house experts for its technology to one of the most privatized agencies in government today. His first action, a project known as Groundbreaker, outsourced all of NSA’s internal communications system. In one fell swoop, hundreds of longtime NSA employees left their government jobs one day and walked in the next morning wearing their green badges from CSC and its many subcontractors.

“To this day, the IT at Fort Meade is owned by a private sector company,” Hayden boasted recently. “That worked. That was a really good idea.” CSC remains the head of the “Eagle Alliance” consortium, and is now one of NSA’s biggest suppliers of cybersecurity services.

But Hayden’s master project, the grandiose Trailblazer project to private NSA’s analysis of signals intelligence flowing over the Internet, didn’t fare so well.  Managed by SAIC in a consortium that included Northrop Grumman and Booz Allen Hamilton, it burned through over $5 billion without producing any actionable intelligence, and was canceled in 2005.

Despite the scandals and massive amount of money spent on private intelligence contractors, however, the mainstream media has been slow to report on the topic. It took until 2010, years after the spending spree began, for the Washington Post to highlight intelligence outsourcing in its famous series on “Top Secret America.” The paper, despite its work on the PRISM story, is stillbehind the curve.

On Monday, it reported for the first time the 70 percent figure I discovered back in 2007 and wrote about for Salon. But no credit was given to me or this publication for that blockbuster finding. Maybe next time.




| Hubris: Still droning on with new upgrades!

These New Drones Are Like Nothing The World Has Ever Seen ~ Walter Hickey, Business Insider.

Even with drones already dominating the skies, neutralizing adversaries and covertly collecting data, new research is still underway on the generation of pilotless planes to come.  

And the United States isn’t the only country interested in developing long-range and lethal drone technology.

See the pictures >

Groups of European  and Asian nations — allies and former adversaries alike — are busy investing in next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles of their own.

These UAVs — some in development, some testing, and some already in service — are part of a global competition to gain aerial superiority.

But right now, only a handful of companies are working seriously on this next wave of drones. Some are researching independently, some are working for a single nation, others are working for a dozen.

Here’s the top tier of next-gen drone tech.


Northrop Grumman X-47B

The strike fighter was developed by Northrop Grumman as part of a research contract awarded in 2007. Look for these in use for the Navy, which hopes to use them as carrier-based drones. Tests for that begin in 2013. 

National Origin: United States

Intended Customers: United States Military and clandestine services

Status: In development, used by Navy for testing

Cruise Speed: around 420 mph, (Mach 0.55)

Wingspan: 62 ft

Range: At least 2,400 miles

Boeing Phantom Ray

The project was hatched in 2007, and was carried out in utmost secrecy. The drone’s development was funded internally, without funding from the government of military. The Boeing Phantom Ray, which precedes the development of the Phantom Eye, is Boeing’s planned ground strike and surveillance drone. 

National Origin: United States

Intended Customers: United States Military and clandestine services

Status: In development, maiden flight April 27, 2011

Cruise Speed: 614 mph (Mach 0.8)

Wingspan: 50 ft

Range: 1500 miles

General Atomics Predator C Avenger

General Atomics Predator C Avenger

General Atomics Courtesy Photo

This drone is incredible. The Predator line of drones currently in constant use in Afghanistan and Iraq were the first ever weaponized UAVs. This model follows up with a reduced heat signature and speed boosts. It boasts an upgraded “quick response armed reconnaissance capability” from its predecessors. 

National Origin: United States

Intended Customers: United States Military and clandestine services

Status: Deployed. Maiden flight April 4, 2009

Max Speed: 460 mph

Wingspan: 66 ft

Range: 20 hours

BAE Systems Taranis

BAE Systems Taranis

Fun Fact: the Taranis is pictured here in an Anechoic chamber, a room which cancels out sound or electromagnetic waves. It’s used for calibration, testing, and measurements.

BAE Systems Courtesy Photo

BAE Systems, a major supplier of aircraft to the Royal Air Force, began development of their drone after being allocated funds from the British Ministry of Defense. The project also involves General Electric and Rolls Royce, and the aircraft is named after the Celtic god of thunder

National Origin: United Kingdom

Intended Customers: United Kingdom

Status: Ground tests complete, Flight trials upcoming

Cruising Speed: Unknown

Wingspan: 30 ft.

Range: Expected intercontinental

Dassault nEUROn

The name refers to intended buyers of the planned drone, the European community. Flight tests were planned for last year but were delayed to late 2012. Pictured here is a replica of the aircraft, as the project is being closely protected by manufacturer Dassault. 

National Origin: France

Intended Customers: Euro-zone nations, especially France, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Greece.

Status: Maiden flight planned for 2012

Cruising Speed: Undetermined, Top speed 0.8 Mach

Wingspan: 41 ft

Range: Unknown

EADS Cassidian Barracuda

The Barracuda is a project of German and Spain to develop a ground-attack drone. The test model, despite a successful maiden voyage, crashed into the Atlantic is late 2006. Germany initiated the program with Spain after abstaining from involvement in the nEUROn project for fiscal reasons. 

National Origin: Germany and Spain

Intended Customers: Euro-zone nations, especially Germany and Spain, possibly Italy and Sweden.

Status: Maiden flight April 2006. Remains in development.

Cruising Speed: Uncertain, Top Speed 0.85 mach

Wingspan: 24 ft

Range: Unknown

Mikoyan Skat

Made by Mikoyan — formerly MiG — the Skat was developed as one of two concept drones for the Russian government. Skat means “manta ray” in Russian, and the aircraft would be used against enemy air defenses and as an attack drone. Development was discontinued recently. 

National Origin: Russia

Intended Customers: Russia

Status: Discontinued. Work on Russian drone project to be continued by Sukhoi Holding.

Cruising Speed: N/A, Top Speed was 500 mph

Wingspan: 37 ft

Range: N/A

Lockheed Martin RQ-170

Details on this one are sparse, mostly because the RQ-170 was developed by Lockheed Martin for covert use. A significant setback occurred with the capture of one in-service RQ-170 by Iran. The Air Force, which uses the RQ-170 already for surveillance purposes, has contracted Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Programs to make the drones. 

National Origin: United States

Intended Customers: United States Military and clandestine services

Status: In service with U.S. Air Force. One allegedly crash landed, and is in Iranian possession

Top Speed: Information unavailable

Wingspan: around 39 ft

Range: Information Unavailable


Drones aren’t going away any time soon!


| Still droning on: Now US draws up plans for nuclear-powered drones!

US draws up plans for nuclear drones ~ , The Guardian.

Technology is designed to increase flying time ‘from days to months’, along with power available for weapons systems!

American scientists have drawn up plans for a new generation of nuclear-powered drones capable of flying over remote regions of the world for months on end without refuelling.

The blueprints for the new drones, which have been developed by Sandia National Laboratories – the US government’s principal nuclear research and development agency – and defence contractor Northrop Grumman, were designed to increase flying time “from days to months” while making more power available for operating equipment, according to a project summary published by Sandia.

“It’s pretty terrifying prospect,” said Chris Coles of Drone Wars UK, which campaigns against the increasing use of drones for both military and civilian purposes. “Drones are much less safe than other aircraft and tend to crash a lot. There is a major push by this industry to increase the use of drones and both the public and government are struggling to keep up with the implications.”

The highly sensitive research into what is termed “ultra-persistence technologies” set out to solve three problems associated with drones: insufficient “hang time” over a potential target; lack of power for running sophisticated surveillance and weapons systems; and lack of communications capacity.

The Sandia-Northrop Grumman team looked at numerous different power systems for large- and medium-sized drones before settling on a nuclear solution. Northrop Grumman is known to have patented a drone equipped with a helium-cooled nuclear reactor as long ago as 1986, and has previously worked on nuclear projects with the US air force research laboratory. Designs for nuclear-powered aircraft are known to go back as far as the 1950s.

The research team found that the nuclear drones were able to provide far more surveillance time and intelligence information per mission compared to other technologies, and also to reduce the considerable costs of support systems – eliminating the need, for example, for forward bases and fuel supplies in remote and possibly hostile areas.

A halt has been called to the work for now, due to worries that public opinion will not accept the idea of such a potentially hazardous technology, with the inherent dangers of either a crash – in effect turning the drone into a so-called dirty bomb – or of its nuclear propulsion system falling into the hands of terrorists or unfriendly powers.

Sandia confirmed that the project had been completed: “Sandia is often asked to look at a wide range of solutions to the toughest technical challenges. The research on this topic was highly theoretical and very conceptual. The work only resulted in a preliminary feasibility study and no hardware was ever built or tested. The project has ended.”

According to a summary of the research published by the Federation of American Scientists, an independent thinktank, computer-based projections were used to test the concepts. “Based on requirements and direction provided by Northrop Grumman, Sandia performed focused studies to translate stated needs into conceptual designs and processes that could be transferred easily from Sandia to industry design and production personnel,” the document says.

So sensitive is the issue that the summary does not spell out the fact that it is referring to a nuclear-powered drone, referring instead to “propulsion and power technologies that went well beyond existing hydrocarbon technologies”. However, the project’s lead investigator at Sandia, Dr Steven Dron, is well known as a specialist in nuclear propulsion, having co-chaired a session at the 2008 Symposium on Space Nuclear Power and Propulsion, held at the University of New Mexico in 2008.

The research summary also stated that the results “were to be used in the next generation of unmanned air vehicles used for military and intelligence applications”, where they “would have provided system performance unparalleled by other existing technologies”.

It added that “none of the results will be used in the near-term or mid-term future”, due to political constraints.

The potential impact of nuclear-powered drones can be gauged by comparing them with existing aircraft such as the MQ-9 Reaper, which is used extensively in Afghanistan and Pakistan in operations against insurgents. The Reaper presently carries nearly two tonnes of fuel in addition a similar weight of munitions and other equipment and can stay airborne for around 42 hours, or just 14 hours when fully loaded with munitions.

Using nuclear power would enable the Reaper not only to remain airborne for far longer, but to carry more missiles or surveillance equipment, and to dispense with the need for ground crews based in remote and dangerous areas.

Coles believes the increasing sophistication of drones poses many threats: “As they become low-cost, low-risk alternatives to conventional warfare, the threshold for their use will inevitably drop. The consequences are not being thought through.”

Reaper drone 8/8/07

A conventionally powered MQ-9 Reaper drone, which has a flight time of 14 hours when loaded, could fly far longer with nuclear energy. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty

| WikiLeaks begins publishing 5 million emails from STRATFOR!

| WikiLeaks begins publishing 5 million emails from STRATFOR!

WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files – more than five million emails from the Texas-headquartered “global intelligence” company Stratfor. The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. Stratfor.

The emails reveal private intelligence staff who align themselves closely with US government policies and channel tips to the Mossad – including through an information mule in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Yossi Melman, who conspired with Guardian journalist David Leigh to secretly, and in violation of WikiLeaks’ contract with the Guardian, move WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables to Israel!

  1. Via BNO News Wire Service:
  6. Monday 27 February 00:01 GMT 2012
  7. The Global Intelligence Files
  8. Twitter tag: #gifiles
  10.     Monday 27 Feburary, noon, Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Place, Paddington,
  11. London, W2 1QJ.
  12. LONDON–Today WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files – more than five million emails from the Texas-headquartered “global intelligence” company Stratfor. The emails date from between July 2004 and late December 2011. They reveal the inner workings of a company that fronts as an intelligence publisher, but provides confidential intelligence services to large corporations, such as Bhopal’s Dow Chemical Co., Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and government agencies, including the US Department of Homeland Security, the US Marines and the US Defense Intelligence Agency. The emails show Stratfor’s web of informers, pay-off structure, payment-laundering techniques and psychological methods, for example:
  13. “[Y]ou have to take control of him. Control means financial, sexual or psychological control… This is intended to start our conversation on your next phase” – CEO George Friedman to Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla on 6 December 2011, on how to exploit an Israeli intelligence informant providing information on the medical condition of the President of Venezuala, Hugo Chavez.
  14. The material contains privileged information about the US government’s attacks against Julian Assange and WikiLeaks and Stratfor’s own attempts to subvert WikiLeaks. There are more than 4,000 emails mentioning WikiLeaks or Julian Assange. The emails also expose the revolving door that operates in private intelligence companies in the United States. Government and diplomatic sources from around the world give Stratfor advance knowledge of global politics and events in exchange for money. The Global Intelligence Files exposes how Stratfor has recruited a global network of informants who are paid via Swiss banks accounts and pre-paid credit cards. Stratfor has a mix of covert and overt informants, which includes government employees, embassy staff and journalists around the world.
  15. The material shows how a private intelligence agency works, and how they target individuals for their corporate and government clients. For example, Stratfor monitored and analysed the online activities of Bhopal activists, including the “Yes Men”, for the US chemical giant Dow Chemical. The activists seek redress for the 1984 Dow Chemical/Union Carbide gas disaster in Bhopal, India. The disaster led to thousands of deaths, injuries in more than half a million people, and lasting environmental damage.
  16. Stratfor has realised that its routine use of secret cash bribes to get information from insiders is risky. In August 2011, Stratfor CEO George Friedman confidentially told his employees: “We are retaining a law firm to create a policy for Stratfor on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. I don’t plan to do the perp walk and I don’t want anyone here doing it either.”
  17. Stratfor’s use of insiders for intelligence soon turned into a money-making scheme of questionable legality. The emails show that in 2009 then-Goldman Sachs Managing Director Shea Morenz and  Stratfor CEO George Friedman hatched an idea to “utilise the intelligence” it was pulling in from its insider network to start up a captive strategic investment fund. CEO George Friedman explained in a confidential August 2011 document, marked DO NOT SHARE OR DISCUSS: “What StratCap will do is use our Stratfor’s intelligence and analysis to trade in a range of geopolitical  instruments, particularly government bonds, currencies and the like”.  The emails show that in 2011 Goldman Sach’s Morenz invested “substantially” more than $4million and joined Stratfor’s board of directors. Throughout 2011, a complex offshore share structure extending as far as South Africa was erected, designed to make StratCap appear to be legally independent. But, confidentially, Friedman told StratFor staff: “Do not think of StratCap as an outside organisation. It will be integral… It will be useful to you if, for the sake of convenience, you think of it as another aspect of Stratfor and Shea as another executive in Stratfor… we are already working on mock portfolios and trades”. StratCap is due to launch in 2012.
  18. The Stratfor emails reveal a company that cultivates close ties with US government agencies and employs former US government staff. It is preparing the 3-year Forecast for the Commandant of the US Marine Corps, and it trains US marines and “other government intelligence agencies” in “becoming government Stratfors”. Stratfor’s Vice-President for Intelligence, Fred Burton, was formerly a special agent with the US State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service and was their Deputy Chief of the counterterrorism division. Despite the governmental ties, Stratfor and similar companies operate in complete secrecy with no political oversight or accountability.  Stratfor claims that it operates “without ideology, agenda or national bias”, yet the emails reveal private intelligence staff who align themselves closely with US government policies and channel tips to the Mossad – including through an information mule in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Yossi Melman, who conspired with Guardian journalist David Leigh to secretly, and in violation of WikiLeaks’ contract with the Guardian, move WikiLeaks US diplomatic cables to Israel.
  19. Ironically, considering the present circumstances, Stratfor was trying to get into what it called the leak-focused “gravy train” that sprung up after WikiLeaks’ Afghanistan disclosures:
  20.         “[Is it] possible for us to get some of that ‘leak-focused’ gravy train? This is an obvious fear sale, so that’s a good thing. And we have something to offer that the IT security companies don’t, mainly our focus on counter-intelligence and surveillance that Fred and Stick know better than anyone on the planet… Could we develop some ideas and procedures on the idea of ´leak-focused’ network security that focuses on preventing one’s own employees from leaking sensitive information…  In fact, I’m not so sure this is an IT problem that requires an IT solution.”
  21. Like WikiLeaks’ diplomatic cables, much of the significance of the emails will be revealed over the coming weeks, as our coalition and the public search through them and discover connections. Readers will find that whereas large numbers of Stratfor’s subscribers and clients work in the US military and intelligence agencies, Stratfor gave a complimentary membership to the controversial Pakistan general Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service, who, according to US diplomatic cables, planned an IED attack on international forces in Afghanistan in 2006. Readers will discover Stratfor’s internal email classification system that codes correspondence according to categories such as ‘alpha’, ‘tactical’ and ‘secure’. The correspondence also contains code names for people of particular interest such as ‘Izzies’ (members of Hezbollah), or ‘Adogg’ (Mahmoud Ahmedinejad).
  22. Stratfor did secret deals with dozens of media organisations and journalists – from Reuters to the Kiev Post. The list of Stratfor’s “Confederation Partners”, whom Stratfor internally referred to as its “Confed Fuck House” are included in the release. While it is acceptable for journalists to swap information or be paid by other media  organisations, because Stratfor is a private intelligence organisation that services governments and  private clients these relationships are corrupt or corrupting.
  23. WikiLeaks has also obtained Stratfor’s list of informants and, in many cases, records of its payoffs, including $1,200 a month paid to the informant  “Geronimo” , handled by Stratfor’s Former State Department agent Fred  Burton.
  24. WikiLeaks has built an investigative partnership with more than 25 media organisations and activists to inform the public about this huge body of documents. The organisations were provided access to a sophisticated investigative database developed by WikiLeaks and together with WikiLeaks are conducting journalistic evaluations of these emails. Important revelations discovered using this system will appear in the media in the coming weeks, together with the gradual release of the source documents.
  25. Public partners in the investigation:
  26. More than 25 media partners (others will be disclosed after their first publication):
  27. Al Akhbar – Lebanon – http://english.al-akhbar.com
  28. Al Masry Al Youm – Egypt – http://www.almasry-alyoum.com
  29. Bivol – Bulgaria – http://bivol.bg
  30. CIPER – Chile – http://ciperchile.cl
  31. Dawn Media – Pakistan – http://www.dawn.com
  32. L’Espresso – Italy – http://espresso.repubblica.it
  33. La Repubblica – Italy – http://www.repubblica.it
  34. La Jornada – Mexico – http://www.jornada.unam.mx/
  35. La Nacion – Costa Rica – http://www.nacion.com
  36. Malaysia Today – Malaysia – http://www.malaysia-today.net
  37. McClatchy – United States – http://www.mcclatchy.com
  38. Nawaat – Tunisia – http://nawaat.org
  39. NDR/ARD – Germany – http://www.ard.de
  40. Owni – France – http://owni.fr
  41. Pagina 12 – Argentina – http://www.pagina12.com.ar
  42. Plaza Publica – Guatemala – http://plazapublica.com.gt
  43. Publico.es – Spain – http://www.publico.es
  44. Rolling Stone – United States – http://www.rollingstone.com
  45. Russia Reporter – Russia – http://rusrep.ru
  46. Ta Nea – Greece –- http://www.tanea.gr
  47. Taraf – Turkey – http://www.taraf.com.tr
  48. The Hindu – India – http://www.thehindu.com
  49. The Yes Men – Bhopal Activists – Global http://theyesmen.org
  50. Nicky Hager for NZ Herald – New Zealand – http://www.nzherald.co.nz




| Dronin’ On ~ Eye in the Sky Spying on Americans!

Eye in the Sky Spying on Americans ~ Stephen Lendman


Money power runs America. So do lobbies representing all corporate and other interests.


The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) represents dozens of influential companies.


They include Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Bell Hellicopter Textron, Sikorsky Aircraft, Goodrich, General Dynamics, Honeywell, Booz Allen Hamilton, Hill & Knowlton, and many more promoting unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) drone technology.


Against targeted countries, it’s America’s newest sport. From distant command centers, operators kill by remote control. They use computer keyboards and multiple monitors. UAVs stand ready round-the-clock for missions.


Predator drones perform sanitized killing on the cheap compared to manned aircraft. Independent experts believe militants are hit about 2% of the time. All others are noncombatants, despite official disclaimers.


In 1995, Predator drones were used for the first time in Bosnia. In 2001, the Global Hawk drone was used in Afghanistan. Throughout the Afghan and Iraq wars, the Pentagon used various type drones for combat and spying missions.


In Libya, Obama authorized Predator drones. They operated throughout the war. They’re also used in Yemen, Somalia, and wherever Washington designates targets to kill.


US citizen Anwar al-Aulaqi was assassinated this way. So can anyone anywhere on America’s hit list, including perhaps domestically before long.


Washington plans escalated drone killing, as well domestic spying on Americans. Currently, around one in three US warplanes are drones. One day perhaps they’ll all be unmanned.


Domestic Drone Spying in America


On January 10, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) staff attorney Jennifer Lynch headlined, “Are Drones Watching You?” saying:


EFF sued the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for information on domestic drone use. Who’s flying UAVs it asked?


Drones carry surveillance equipment, including video cameras, infrared ones, heat sensors, and radar for sophisticated virtually constant spying. Newer versions carry super high resolution “gigapixel” cameras. They enable tracking above 20,000 feet. They can monitor up to 65 enemies simultaneously, and can see targets up to 25 miles away.


Predator drones can eavesdrop on electronic transmissions. A new model’s able to penetrate Wi-Fi networks and intercept text messages and cell phone calls covertly.


Even domestically, drones may be weaponized with tasers, bean bag guns, and other devices able to harm or perhaps kill.


Currently, the US Customs and Border Protection uses UAVs for surveilling borders. State and local law enforcement agencies also use them to investigate “cattle rustling, drug dealing, and the search for missing persons.”


Flying above 400 feet requires FAA certification. Information’s unavailable on who obtained authorizations for what purposes.


FAA comes under the Department of Transportation (DOT). It failed to respond to EFF’s April 2011 FOIA request. EFF attorney Lynch said:


“Drones give the government and other (UAV) operators a powerful new surveillance tool to gather extensive and intrusive data on Americans’ movements and activities.”


“As the government begins to make policy decisions about the use of these aircraft, the public needs to know more about how and why these drones are being used to surveil United States citizens.”


Drones “could dramatically increase the physical tracking of citizens – tracking that can reveal deeply personal details about our private lives. We’re asking the DOT to follow the law and respond to our FOIA request so we can learn more about” what the public has a right to know.


The Supreme Court hasn’t been people friendly on many issues, including privacy. In United States v. Place (1983), the court held that sniffs by police dogs trained to detect illegal drugs aren’t searches under the Fourth Amendment.


They’re sui generis, intended only to reveal the presence or absence of narcotics. In other words, Fourth Amendment protections don’t apply to non-human searchers. As a result, privacy rights are on the chopping block for elimination. Already, in fact, they’re gravely compromised under institutionalized Bush administration surveillance policy.


In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authorized spying through the National Applications Office (NOA). It was described as “the executive agent to facilitate the use of intelligence community technological assets for civil, homeland security and law enforcement purposes within the United States.”


With or without congressional authorization or oversight, the executive branch may authorize state-of-the-art technology, including military satellite imagery, to spy on Americans covertly.


Though initial plans were delayed, eye in the sky spying ahead potentially will monitor everyone everywhere once full implementation’s achieved. Included will be thousands of Big Brother drones watching.


On February 3, the FAA Reauthorization Act (HR 658) cleared both houses of Congress after differences between Senate and House versions were resolved. Expect Obama to sign it shortly.


It authorizes domestic drone spying under provisions to test and license commercial drones by 2015. Estimates of up to 30,000 UAVs could overfly America by 2020. Privacy advocates are concerned. Steven Aftergood, head of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, said:


“There are serious policy questions on the horizon about privacy and surveillance, by both government agencies and commercial entities.”


According to Electronic Privacy Information Center’s Amie Stepanovich, “Currently, the only barrier to the routine use of drones for persistent surveillance are the procedural requirements imposed by the FAA for the issuance of certificates.”


Changing the rules changes the game. Expect it. It’s coming once Obama signs HR 658. UAV proliferation already is expanding rapidly. A July 2010 FAA Fact Sheet said in America alone, “approximately 50 companies, universities, and government organizations are developing and producing some 155 unmanned aircraft designs.”


America’s expected to account for about 70% of global growth. In 2011, Congress, DOD, state and local governments, as well as AUVSI pressured the FAA to review and expand its current “Certificate of Authorization or Waiver (COA)” program related to unmanned aircraft (UA).


The agency’s also examining its own rules for small UAs. It’s expected to authorize expanded COA use shortly.


ACLU Concerns


On February 6, the ACLU headlined, “Congress Trying to Fast-Track Domestic Drone Use, Sideline Privacy,” saying:


In fact, Congress already authorized expanded domestic drones. Obama’s poised to sign HR 658 into law. Provisions in it include requiring FAA:


(1) to simplify and accelerate permission for drone operations. The agency’s already working on loosening regulations by spring 2012.


(2) to establish a pilot project within six months for six test zones to integrate drones “into the national airspace system.”


(3) create a comprehensive plan within nine months “to safely accelerate the integration of civil (privately operated) unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system.”


(4) after submitting a comprehensive plan, publish final rules within 18 months to allow civil operation of small (under 55 pounds) drones in America’s airspace.


On December 15, the ACLU published a report titled, “Protecting Privacy From Aerial Surveillance: Recommendations for Government Use of Drone Aircraft,” saying:


They’re coming to America. Privacy may be seriously compromised. Protections are urgently needed. The report recommends that “drones should not be deployed unless there are grounds to believe that they will collect evidence on a specific crime.”


“If a drone will intrude on reasonable privacy expectations, a warrant should be required.” The report also urges “restrictions on retaining images of identifiable people, as well as an open process for developing policies on how drones will be used.”


Overflying America with drones unrestrained changes the game. A “surveillance society” will be institutionalized to monitor, track, and record “our every move.”


Given a bipartisan penchant for spying, expect the worst. Privacy, like other civil and human rights, is fast disappearing under policies in place or coming to destroy it.


Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.