The U.S. government put 271 Syrian chemists and other officials on its financial blacklist April 24, punishing them for their presumed role in the deadly chemical weapons attack on a rebel-held town in early April.
In one of its largest-ever sanctions announcements, the Treasury Department took aim at the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC), which it said was responsible for developing the alleged sarin gas weapon used in the April 4 attack.
A new documentary, “National Bird,” exposes the secret drone war being carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere from the ground level of the strike and from the perspective of three military operators who used to pull the trigger.
“When you watch someone in those dying moments, what their reaction is, how they’re reacting and what they’re doing,” Heather Linebaugh, a former drone imagery analyst, says in the film. “It’s so primitive. It’s really raw, stripped down, death.”
Though unmanned systems have been used for many years to carry out surveillance, it wasn’t until after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks — on February 4, 2002 — that a drone was armed and used for targeted killing. That 2002 strike apparently killed three civilians mistaken for Osama bin Laden and his confidantes, a theme that went on to play out again and again.
Armed drones have operated since in Afghanistan and many other countries in which the U.S. is not at war, including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. They have been used to strike militants and terror leaders over the years — a program accelerated under the Obama administration — but it has come at a deadly cost, with thousands of innocent civilians killed, to include hundreds of children.
“I can say the drone program is wrong because I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” Linebaugh says.
Linebaugh and two others, introduced only by their first names Daniel and Lisa, tell equally compelling stories from their time in the military’s drone program. The film gives them a chance to shine a light on what is a highly secretive program, which officials often describe as offering near-surgical precision against terrorists that may someday do harm to U.S. interests.
Instead, the three offer pointed critiques to that narrative, sharing poignant details of deaths they witnessed through their sophisticated cameras and sensors. The most disturbing thing about being involved with the drone program, Daniel said, was the lack of clarity about whom he killed and whether they were civilians.
“There’s no way of knowing,” he says.
Though the testimony of the three operators is compelling, the documentary’s most important moments come from a visit to Afghanistan, where the documentary showcases a family that was wrongly targeted by a strike. It was on February 21, 2010, when three vehicles carrying more than two-dozen civilians were hit by an Air Force drone crew.
“That’s when we heard the sound of a plane but we couldn’t see it,” one victim says.
Filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck mixes witness statements with a reenactment of overhead imagery and voices reading from the transcript prior to the strike. A later investigation found that the operators of the Predator drone offered “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting of what they saw.
During the incident, the drone operators reported seeing “at least five dudes so far.” Eventually, they reported 21 “military-age males,” no females, and two possible children, which they said were approximately 12 years old.
“Twelve, 13 years old with a weapon is just as dangerous,” one drone operator says. The operators never got positive identification of the people below having weapons.
That’s because the group consisted only of innocent men, women, and children, according to the documentary. Twenty-three Afghan civilians were killed, including two children aged seven and four.
“We thought they would stop when they saw women, but they just kept bombing us,” the mother of the children says.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of U.S. forces in the country, apologized for the strike. Four officers involved were disciplined.
The documentary cuts through the defense of drones as a “surgical” weapon that only kills the bad guys. As many reports have made clear, the US often doesn’t know exactly who it is killing in a drone strike, instead hazarding an “imperfect guess,” according to The New York Times, which is sometimes based merely on a location or suspicious behavior.
That imperfect guess has often resulted in the death of innocent locals — or, as was the case in 2015, the death of two men, an American, and an Italian, who were being held hostage by militants.
As Daniel points out in the documentary, the presence of drones on the battlefield has only emboldened commanders, who no longer have to risk military personnel in raids and can fire a missile instead. That viewpoint only seems to be growing, as the technology gets better and drones continue to proliferate around the world.
The drone may continue to be the “national bird” of the U.S. military for a long time, but perhaps the documentary can start a conversation around their use and whether they create more terrorists, as has been argued, than they are able to take out.
“Not everybody is a freakin’ terrorist. We need to just get out of that mindset,” says Lisa, a former Air Force technical sergeant, in the documentary. “Imagine if this was happening to us. Imagine if our children were walking outside of their door and it was a sunny day, and they were afraid because they didn’t know if today was the day that something was going to fall out of the sky and kill someone close to them. How would we feel?”
A North Korea-linked hacking group has been tied to a series of cyberattacks spanning 17 countries, far larger than initially thought.
A new report by McAfee Advanced Threat Research found a major hacking campaign, dubbed Operation GhostSecret, sought to steal sensitive data from a wide range of industries including critical infrastructure, entertainment, finance, healthcare, and telecommunications.
Attackers used tools and malware programs associated with the North Korea-sponsored cyber unit Hidden Cobra, also known as Lazarus, to execute the highly sophisticated operation.
Servers in the US, Australia, Japan, and China were infected several times from March 15 to 19, 2018. Nearly 50 servers in Thailand were hit heavily by the malware, the most of any country.
McAfee researchers noted many similarities between the methods used in Operation GhostSecret and other major attacks attributed to the group, including the 2014 attack on Sony Pictures and 2017’s global WannaCry attack.
(Flickr photo by Blogtrepreneur)
“As we monitor this campaign, it is clear that the publicity associated with the (we assume) first phase of this campaign did nothing to slow the attacks. The threat actors not only continued but also increased the scope of the attack, both in types of targets and in the tools they used,” Raj Samani, McAfee’s chief scientist, said.
The report indicates North Korea has been expanding its cybercrime beyond its usual focus of stealing military intel or cryptocurrency that can be used to funnel money to the heavily sanctioned government.
North Korean groups have been tied to increasingly high-stakes attacks in recent months.
The attack was attributed to the Lazarus group, which has been conducting operations since at least 2009, when it launched an attack on US and South Korean websites by infecting them with a virus known as MyDoom.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The show has yet to reveal a name for the little being, so fans have taken to simply calling it “Baby Yoda.” This show takes place after “Star Wars: Return of the Jedi,” which means it’s not literally young Yoda (though it could be his clone). But the term has stuck anyways, and even the show’s pilot episode director Dave Filoni says the name “Baby Yoda” is perfectly acceptable until we know more about it.
So for now, let’s just enjoy all of the viral tweets about this small baby who the entire world will protect at all costs.
As victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma pleaded to be rescued on popular social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the National Guard altered its response accordingly.
“It’s been a very dynamic and evolving environment,” National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel recently told Military.com. “This has certainly evolved how we do it.”
Lengyel spoke with Military.com at the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States in Louisville, KY.
While social media isn’t the primary communications tool between the Guard and those at risk, it’s starting to play a larger role.
The Washington Post reported that during Harvey, a Guard Humvee vanished in Katy, Texas. With no other way to reach the driver, soldiers finally were able communicate with him using SnapChat, a messaging app that can capture a photo or video, which is then relayed to the recipient briefly before it disappears.
Similar situations can happen when there is a communications capability gap in a disaster area, Lengyel said.
“Whenever you go into particular environments, communications is always difficult when you first start. Because the infrastructure [isn’t] there. It has to evolve,” he said.
For example, the Guard got the call to drive to Beaumont, Texas, before the Federal Emergency Management Agency or first responders could set up hub stations to house communications equipment.
The military has crews that monitor response efforts as they happen in real-time.
For example, its only non-offensive air operations center, known as “America’s AOC,” at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, keeps track of relief no matter where it’s needed in the US.
Military.com visited the 601st AOC in March. It evaluates domestic operations, or DomOps, for Air Forces Northern, monitoring the airwaves — and social media sites — for events with potential military ties.
Lengyel said he was impressed with efforts as ongoing training rotations across the globe have not stopped despite the massive hurricane relief effort. Part of the Texas Guard deployed to the Horn of Africa even as Harvey laid waste to the Houston area and Hurricane Irma loomed.
“Every state creates and drafts an all-hazards response plan … and a lot of it comes together from various federal agencies,” Lengyel said of the constant training and push to get ahead of the next big disaster, which could vary from an earthquake to a terrorist attack.
“Everybody has a plan. And we coordinate … and we think about it before it happens, and we’ve gotten much better about this over the years,” he said.
Special Mission Unit Milestone
This year’s relief efforts — from Harvey and Irma to wildfires in the West — created another milestone for the US military this year.
For the first time in the nearly 70-year history of the Air Force Reserve, all three special mission units — weather reconnaissance, firefighting, and aerial spray — were called to action simultaneously, the service said this week.
Air Force Reserve Command’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — better known as the Hurricane Hunters — out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, “have been flying weather reconnaissance missions nonstop” since Aug. 17, the Air Force said in a release.
The 302nd Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is assisting the National Interagency Fire Center by providing a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130H Hercules, aircraft and aircrew to support ongoing aerial firefighting efforts in the western U.S.
And the 910th Airlift Wing, out of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, is providing its aerial spray capability to repel mosquitos and other pests in eastern Texas following Harvey.
On May 26, 1940, Operation Dynamo began, starting the evacuation of over 338,000 Allied troops from Dunkirk’s beaches in France.
British and French armies were cornered by the advancing German forces near Dunkirk in World War II — and the Germans knew it. Hoping to capitalize on the situation, the Luftwaffe rained fire from the skies.
British, Polish, and Canadian fighter pilots fended off the Luftwaffe attack as all seaworthy craft in the area, including privately owned boats, battled to ferry the troops to safety. Also known as “The Miracle of Dunkirk,” the evacuation lasted a week and a half, and to this day the expression ‘Dunkirk spirit” is used to describe the willingness of a group of people to rally together in the face of adversity.
The operation became a turning point in the Allied war effort. Germany had hoped to defeat the Allies in Dunkirk — and indeed, France would call for an armistice the next month — but Britain rallied behind the “Dunkirk spirit” and dug in for a hard fight. Winston Churchill gave a rousing speech that focused on British resolve and steeled English hearts in the war-torn years to come:
“[We] shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” — Winston Churchill, June 4, 1940
Featured Image: British troops lined up on the beach while awaiting evacuation, 26–29 May 1940 (Imperial War Museum image).
Syrian state media is blaming explosions hitting the capital city of Damascus on Israeli missile strikes as the Israel Defense Forces sound the alarm in the northern part of the country — the part that borders Syria and Lebanon.
SANA, Syria’s government mouthpiece, says the strikes hit Syrian government forces in Kisweh, a city to the south of Damascus. The attack came just an hour after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the end of American participation in the Iranian nuclear deal. SANA also reports the Syrian military was able to shoot two more incoming missiles down.
The Times of Israel reported a statement from Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who said the target of the strike was an arms and ammunition depot for Iranian-backed militias, namely Hezbollah. Kisweh was also the site of a permanent Iranian base, struck by Israel in the December 2, 2017, attack.
The base is just 31 miles from the Israeli border. On Sunday, Iranian Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said Iran would retaliate for the December strikes and any new strikes when deemed suitable.
“If the enemy casts a covetous eye on our interests or conducts [even] a slight act of aggression, the Islamic Republic will give an appropriate response at an appropriate time,” Bagheri said according to Press TV, media associated with the Iranian regime.
In a statement, Trump cited the reason for pulling out of the Iranian nuclear agreement — signed in 2015 — was Iranian influence in the region, calling the regime an exporter of terrorism. The BBC reports the President calling the deal “decaying and rotten… an embarrassment.”
As for restarting production on enriching uranium, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said he would consult with other signatories to the deal, including France and Germany who vowed to remain committed to the agreement, before moving forward. In the meantime, he ordered preparations to begin.
“I have ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to be ready to start the enrichment of uranium at industrial levels,” he said in response to the American withdrawal.
The Daytona 500 is known as the Great American Race.
Well, the Great American Race just had a driver make a Great American Entrance.
The United States Air Force has had a partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports for several years now. As part of their partnership, they decided that they were going to make a mark this weekend in Daytona.
The other was one of the best paintjobs a racecar has ever had.
Bubba Wallace is a fan favorite among NASCAR fans. He finished second at the Daytona 500 in 2018 and 3rd at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2019. While he has had ups and downs in his short career, he is talented and a lot of people are rooting for his success. He is young, personable, and just an overall nice guy. He also does some pretty cool things.
The Air Force Wings of Blue demonstration team decided to help him make a grand entrance at the legendary racetrack on the days before the race. Wallace did a tandem jump out of a C-17 Globemaster and landed about 50 yards from the start/finish line of the 2.5 mile track.
After his lap, Wallace said, “I guess I can now say that was the coolest thing I’ve done. I’ve been able to go with the United States Air Force a couple of times in a fighter jet, F-15 F-16, and I didn’t think that could be beat. I’m still trying to decide if skydiving beat that, but jumping with the Wings of Blue was incredible.”
He continued, “I wasn’t nervous at all, which was kind of surprising because I’m about to jump out of a perfectly good C-17 aircraft, and that was cool, by the way; that thing is awesome. I didn’t get nervous. I went straight to scared crapless when we just walked off the back of the airplane. I wanted to back out right then and not do it then. The adrenaline rush that I got at that moment. I don’t know another feeling, another moment in my life that can describe that. Incredible. I couldn’t really see coming down, I had to hold my goggles. Once I did that, it was incredible; pulled the chute, super quiet ride. (Instructor) Randy did awesome, gave me the ride of my life.”
Wallace then tweeted video of the jump.
Talk about an entrance! Just your typical Thursday leading into the #DAYTONA500. Grateful for @USAFRecruiting, @RPMotorsports and @USAFWingsofBlue for knocking this off my bucket list!pic.twitter.com/LYGcfmZNIC
After a four-year legal battle, Matthew Bissonnette, a former member of the elite SEAL Team 6 who participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, has agreed to forfeit to the Justice Department all of the proceeds from “No Easy Day,” his first-person account of the raid written under the pen name “Mark Owen.”
“I acted on the advice of my former attorney, but I now fully recognize that his advice was wrong,” Bissonnette wrote in a formal apology, as reported by NPR. “It was a serious error that I urge others not to repeat.”
“No Easy Day,” co-written by military journalist Kevin Maurer, was the first public account from someone who actually participated in the high-profile raid to kill the al Qaeda leader. That impact was enhanced by the fact that not only did it deal with the killing of the terrorist mastermind, but it was written by a member of SEAL Team 6, the one of the nation’s top special operations units whose methods and techniques are highly classified and seldom written about.
The book was a bestseller, and that as much as anything is what got the author in trouble with the Pentagon. Officials claimed that Bissonnette had violated a non-disclosure agreement he’d signed as a Navy commando and also failed to have the book’s manuscript reviewed by proper authorities before it was published.
“Ironically, Matt didn’t want the book to be about him,” co-author Maurer said in an exclusive interview with WATM. “He always intended for it to be a tribute to his teammates and one that would allow readers to truly understand what SEALs do. It was also supposed to be a nod to the CIA, helicopter pilots, and Rangers — all the elements of these sorts of missions.”
Maurer, who sat down with Bissonnette in Virginia Beach five days a week for a month recording the story before writing it out, said the former SEAL was focused on security.
“He was never cavalier about the details,” Maurer said. “We talked a lot about things we weren’t going to include. It was a conscious decision.”
After experiencing firsthand the hew and cry from veterans — as well as members of the special operations community displeased that one of their own had broken ranks by socializing their tactical world on a grand scale — Maurer said he understood the Justice Department ruling. But he added that “the real travesty is that the money [estimated at more that $6 million according to court documents, as reported by NPR] is now going to the government instead of veteran charities as Matt had always intended.”
Bissonnette’s current lawyer, Robert Luskin, hinted that his client had been made a scapegoat by government officials embarrassed by the information that has come out about the bin Laden raid and other operations in the wake of “No Easy Day” landing on shelves.
“The government has a right to keep its secrets and to enforce procedures that are designed to protect them from inadvertent disclosure,” Luskin said in a statement. “But it is shameful that — of all the people who leaked, talked, whispered and backgrounded about the mission — Matt Bissonnette, who risked his life to make it a success, is the only one to pay a price.”
A former US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer, who had top secret security clearance, has been arrested by the FBI for allegedly attempting to give state secrets to China.
Ron Rockwell Hansen, 58, was arrested on June 2, 2018, while on his way to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to board a connecting flight to China, the Justice Department said.
Hansen appeared in court June 4, 2018, and was charged with transmitting national defense information to aid a foreign government, acting as an unregistered foreign agent for China, and bulk cash smuggling. Hansen also allegedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars for his actions.
Hansen, who lived in Syracuse, Utah, served in the army for nearly 20 years, working as a case officer for the DIA while on active duty from 2000-2006, court documents reveal. In 2006, he retired from the military but continued working for the DIA as a civilian intelligence officer.
Hansen had top secret security clearance while working for the DIA.
(Defense Intelligence Agency)
Between 2013 and 2017, Hanson frequently traveled between China and the US, gathering information from military and intelligence conferences and providing intel to his sources in China. He also allegedly sold export-controlled technology to his Chinese contacts.
From May 2013, Hansen received at least $800,000 in funds originating from China.
The Department of Justice claims Hansen repeatedly tried to regain access to classified information after he stopped working for the US government, offering to serve as a double agent against Chinese intelligence agencies.
The FBI began investigating Hansen in 2014. Hansen was unaware of the probe, and met with federal agents voluntarily on nine occasions and allegedly disclosed that China’s intelligence services had targeted him for recruitment.
Hansen joins a growing list of former US intelligence officers who have been accused of spying for the Chinese government.
In May 2018, former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Jerry Chun Shing Lee was charged with gathering classified information which he allegedly intended to pass along to the Chinese government.
And another former CIA employee Kevin Mallory went to trial for allegedly selling US secrets to China.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Basic trainees in the Air Force are being issued “Stress Cards.” If basic training gets too hard or they need a time out they can just pull these out and the instructor has to stop yelling at them.
No joke. I heard it from my cousin. Or my friend John. My buddy swears he saw them being handed out to the new trainees. Kids today just don’t have the chutzpah my generation does. One time when I was platoon leader in Somalia, this kid handed me one and asked for a time out, I kid you not.
None of that is true, of course. The stress cards myth is usually attributed to the Air Force, due to the perceived ease of Air Force basic training, and the Chair Force reputation. Sometimes, Bill Clinton introduced them to the Army (because the 90s were that awesome). In the legend, they’re yellow, because if you need to use one, you’re yellow too! Even some Airmen are guilty of perpetuating it. Whenever someone hears about the stress card myth, they are usually doomed to repeat it.
There is truth to the myth, but it wasn’t the Army or even the Air Force. In the 1990s, the cards were issued to new recruits as a means of telling them of what their options were if they got depressed. It contained basic information such as chaplain services and what to tell your Recruit Division Commander, etc. instead of deserting or washing out. And they were blue, because if you need these services, you were probably blue too.
The Blues Card was not a Get Out of Jail Free Card, though some RDCs reported troops holding it up while being disciplined, trying desperately (and probably in vain) to use it in that way. If you waved this in your RDC’s face, he probably made you eat it.
The Army did issue “Stress Control Cards” which were the equivalent of a wallet-based mood ring. the recruit or soldier could put their finger on a special square, which would turn colors to indicate a range of stress levels, from “relaxed” to “most stressed.”
For those of you who used to be in the Army or Navy, imagine your Drill Instructor or RDC’s response to your waving this card around while they’re trying to discipline you. How would that have gone? Tell us in the comments below.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser has called Iran “the central banker of international terrorism” as he laid out a wider strategy for countering Tehran in the Middle East.
John Bolton told reporters on Oct. 4, 2018, that the U.S. strategy toward Iran would use both military and nonmilitary means to push back on Iranian-backed militants, and their financial backers.
Bolton made the announcement as part of the release of a new U.S. counterterrorism strategy, the first since 2011.
“Radical Islamist terrorist groups represent the preeminent transnational terrorist threat to the United States and to the United States’ interests abroad,” Bolton said according to a White House transcript.
Iran, he said, had been “the world’s central banker of international terrorism since 1979.”
Since taking office, Trump has taken an aggressive approach toward Iran, including pulling out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal.
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
In November 2018, the Trump administration plans to impose new sanctions on Iran’s oil sector with the aim of stopping Tehran’s involvement in conflicts in Syria and Iraq and forcing new negotiations of its ballistic missile program.
Earlier on Oct. 4, 2018, the top U.S. general overseeing U.S. operations in the Middle East said Washington was not seeking war with Iran.
“I don’t think we’re seeking to go to war with Iran, and I don’t think that’s what we’re focused on,” General Joseph Votel told Pentagon reporters.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here is the best of what they shot this week:
F-16 Fighting Falcons taxi down the runway March 3, 2015, at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The F-16s are assigned to the 18th Aggressor Squadron at Eielson AFB. Aggressor pilots returned after completing a mobile training team exercise.
Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) heave line during an underway replenishment and ammunition onload with the Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic (T-AOE 8). Theodore Roosevelt deployed from Norfolk and will execute a homeport shift to San Diego at the conclusion of deployment.
EAST CHINA SEA (March 17, 2015) Sailors assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (31st MEU) taxi an AV-8B Harrier assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 238.
Bach, a military working dog, takes down an Army military policeman during a demonstration at Fort Sill, Okla., March 12, 2015. The demonstration showed how Fort Sill’s K9 Unit assists with searches for narcotics, explosives and assists in apprehending suspects.
Marines with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unitconduct a daytime boat operation exercise using Combat Rubber Raiding Crafts as part of amphibious integration training aboard the USS Green Bay, at sea, March 11, 2015. The Marines and sailors are currently conducting their spring patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.
Marines with 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit conduct a nighttime boat operation exercise using a Combat Rubber Raiding Craft as part of amphibious integration training aboard the USS Green Bay, at sea, March 11, 2015. The Marines and sailors are currently conducting their spring patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.
Petty Officer 1st Class Denis Butierries holds his son Jacob so he can get a view of Honolulu Harbor during a tour of the Coast Guard Cutter Rush Dec. 23. 2014. Six-year-old Jacob was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy when he was four months old and was given between four months and one year to live. His longtime wish was to see the Rush where his grandfather served as the engineering officer.
Coast Guard Station Golden Gate lifeboat crews conduct surf training in Sausalito, Calif., Wednesday, Dec. 10, 2014. The crews train in high surf to ensure they are prepared to respond to any maritime emergency during rough weather conditions.