An American who fought beside Kurdish Peshmerga fighters against ISIS has died.
Kurdish officials said on Wednesday that the man, who has not officially been named by Syria, was “martyred” near Kobani. The co-deputy foreign minister of the Kobani district, Idris Nassan, has also verified the death to NBC news.
Several Kurdish Facebook and Twitter handles have named the volunteer soldier as Keith Thomas Broomfield, and American officials have reportedly contacted Bloomfield’s next of kin.
Cristina Silva of International Business Times has more:
“I didn’t want him to go but I didn’t have a choice in the matter,” said his mother, Donna, in a tearful phone interview with NBC News. She said he traveled to the Middle East four months ago to fight and they had little communication during that time. “I’m waiting for his body to come back,” she added.
Lt. Danny Nee, a Marine Corps veteran turned firefighter saved a teenager’s life from a burning apartment building on Christmas Day.
His unit was responding to a call that morning when he was notified by onlookers of a woman hanging from a third-floor window. He called a ground ladder and told the woman not to jump, but then realized that the ladder would take too long to deploy and the firefighters were better off rescuing her from the interior.
They made their way through the building, broke through the apartment door and Nee went in with two other firefighters. Nee found the girl, gave her his gas mask and made it out of the building.
In his 38 years of service before becoming the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces during World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower had never been in combat.
It was never his plan to avoid combat; in fact, he was considering giving up his commission because he thought he’d hit the glass ceiling of his military career. He felt like he was being held back, but in actuality, he was being groomed. In 1941, he was unproven, but he had the recommendation of great men such as Pershing, Conner, MacArthur, and Krueger, who believed he would make a good commander.
Designed by a former toy maker, the Black Hornet UAV fits in a human palm and weighs the same as three pieces of paper. But don’t be fooled by its size. It has impressive capabilities as a reconnaissance drone, which is why Special Forces and U.S. infantry have begun testing it.
The tiny drone feeds surprisingly clear video to the pilot from as far as kilometer away and can bear different sensors including thermal cameras for night assaults. The video is stored on the small user station on the operator’s belt, so enemies lucky enough to catch the Hornet will not be able to see what video the pilot has captured.
See this amazing little drone in action in this video:
For the past few years, DARPA has been working on a system called ARGUS-IR, or Autonomous Real-Team Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Infrared, which can take video over an area that is so super high resolution — 1.8 gigapixels — it would take a fleet of 100 Predator drones to produce the same images.
A PBS documentary last year explored the program, which uses hundreds of cell phone cameras linked together into a sophisticated rig. Mounted underneath an RQ-4 Global Hawk for example, ARGUS could loiter over an area at 17,500 feet and capture images as small as six inches square on the ground, effectively being able to tell the color of the shirt you are wearing.
It’s pretty incredible — and somewhat scary — stuff.
Current infrared systems either have a narrow field of view, slow frame rates or are low resolution. DARPA’s Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance – Infrared (ARGUS-IR) program will break this paradigm by producing a wide-field-of-view IR imaging system with frame rates and resolution that are compatible with the tracking of dismounted personnel at night. ARGUS-IR will provide at least 130 independently steerable video streams to enable real-time tracking of individual targets throughout the field of view. The ARGUS-IR system will also provide continuous updates of the entire field of view for enhanced situational awareness.
In July, the Air Force made the first step toward making ARGUS a reality with the implementation of the Gorgon Stare Increment 2 pod on the MQ-9 Reaper.
Here’s the view from an ARGUS system from 17,500 feet. It can capture a very wide area.
When an operator wants to zoom in, the system places boxes over cars, people, and other objects and tracks them in real time.
Now check out the PBS Nova documentary on the project:
The US-led annual multinational military exercise Cobra Gold kicked off in Thailand on Monday, despite a faltering relationship between the two countries following Thailand’s military coup in May 2014.
Cobra Gold 2015 is scaled down due compared to past years because of the frosty relations between Thailand’s ruling military junta and the US. But it’s still a massive military exercise even in a reduced form. This year 13,000 personnel from 7 participating nations have joined in the exercises, the AP reports.
The participant countries are Thailand, the United States, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Malaysia, while India and China are taking part in humanitarian training missions. Even though the exercise is smaller than in the past, the scope of Cobra Gold has grown since the first one was held in 1982 and involved only the US and Thailand.
Exercises in Cobra Gold 2015 include jungle survival training and civic assistance programs in underdeveloped regions of Thailand.
Survival training is a big part of Cobra Gold. Thai Marines demonstrate how to capture a cobra in the wild.
US Marines then help decapitate the cobra and take turns drinking its blood. Cobra blood is surprisingly hydrating and can be used as a temporary replacement for water if a Marine is lost without supplies.
Thai Marines also teach their counterparts how to recognize edible jungle fruits.
Like cobra blood, several of the fruits can serve as an improvised source of hydration.
Marines are also instructed in the proper way to eat scorpions and spiders. Spiders are eaten after their fangs are ripped off, while scorpions are edible once the stinger is removed.
Aside from survival lessons, participant countries also take part in construction projects to build greater regional cooperation in the event of disasters like typhoons or plane crashes. Here, Chinese and US soldiers work together to build a school as part of Cobra Gold 2015.
Most Americans know of the elite sailors who serve on Navy SEAL teams, but there is another group of quiet professionals backing them up when they need a heavily-armed ride into or out of combat.
Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman, better known as SWCC, serve on high-speed attack boats that can effectively patrol rivers and coastal regions around the world. Tracing their lineage back to the PT boats of World War II and combatant craft of Vietnam, SWCC (pronounced “Swick”) operators today are mostly known for their skills at inserting and extracting Navy SEAL teams.
“We refer to it as the best kept secret in the Navy,” one operator says in the video below.
SWCC teams serve on state-of-the-art boats outfitted with plenty of firepower, which include the U.S. military’s standard M240 light machine-gun, heavy M2 .50 caliber, and the M134 Minigun, a belt-fed monster that can churn out up to 6,000 rounds per minute.
Check out the video of SWCC in action below, courtesy of the U.S. Navy:
Each year, this five-day intensive training program, also known as Cool School, teaches over 700 servicemembers the survival skills necessary to fight back against nature and survive in the Arctic.
“Mother nature does not like you in this situation,” Survival Instructor Staff Sgt. Seth Reab, tells his students in the morning freeze. “She’s violent. She’s harsh. Your job is to survive until help comes; her job is to find a way to take your life.”
The Air Force’s Cool School, which brings in more than 700 participants every year across all service branches, takes place outside Eielson Air Force Base, deep inside Alaska. Temperatures average about 30 degrees below zero.
At the start of the course, all participants are given the emergency equipment they would have depending upon what plane they would be flying.
The emergency equipment usually works. But everything else in the Arctic will try to kill the participants. This includes subzero temperatures …
… and even dehydration. Despite the abundance of snow, it is extremely difficult to drink enough water under harsh Arctic conditions.
One of the first things students are taught is to harvest snow in parachutes, in order to melt it down for water.
This supply of snow can then be moved into tin cans, in which the snow can be mixed until it melts enough to easily drink.
Warmth is just as important as water. Students are taught to find tender wood with which to build a fire.
In Cool School, students are taught the ideal way to split wood into longer thin splints that will burn more easily and evenly.
Servicemembers learn to create sparks with a metal match. Though somewhat antiquated, metal matches can be used indefinitely.
Once students create a fire, it can be used for signaling, heat, and food preparation.
Students also learn more basic practical skills — they have to change socks in order to keep feet dry so as to avoid hypothermia.
On the first night of school, students are taught to create open primitive shelters that provide little insulation from the elements.
Staff Sgt. Joseph Reimer unpacks his duffle bag during the first night of arctic field training near Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The course is five days in duration with instruction in familiarization with the arctic environment, medical, personal protection, sustenance and signaling. Reimer is an explosive ordnance disposal technician assigned to the 354th Civil Engineer Squadron
During the second day, instructors teach students to make more complex A-frame shelters out of wood and a parachute or tarp.
Airman 1st Class Ray Simon prepares the cover for his thermalized A-frame shelter during arctic survival training at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The A-frame shelter is designed to keep the survivor warm and dry to endure harsh arctic nights. Simon is a 3rd Maintenance Support Squadron crew chief.
The A-frame is then covered with almost a foot of snow to provide insulation.
Airman 1st Class Ray Simon looks out of his thermalized A-frame tent during Arctic Survival School training. The thermalized A-frame is designed to keep survivors warm and dry in arctic environments. Simon is a 3rd Maintenance Support Squadron crew chief and also a member of a crash disable damage recovery team responsible for retrieving downed aircraft in emergency situations.
Another vital principle of survival students learn is how to create an effective signal fire by placing a flare inside a base of kindling and smoke-generating tree limbs.
Staff Sgt. Seth Reab ignites a flare in the middle of tender wood to create a smoke signal during a field training lesson at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The signal flare can be seen for up to 10 miles away and much further when rescue help is coming through the air. Reab is an Air Force Arctic Survival School instructor assigned to Det. 1, 66th Training Squadron at Eielson AFB.
Next to the smoke signal, students create a giant letter ‘V’ to alert passing pilots that they are in need of rescue.
You can watch a recap of the Arctic Survival School below.
Relatively little is known about Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the jihadist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS and ISIL). However, newly declassified military documents obtained by Business Insider on Wednesday reveal several new details about the ISIS leader.
The records come from time Baghdadi spent in US Army custody in Iraq. They were released through a Freedom of Information Act request. In these files, Baghdadi was identified by his birth name, Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry.
There have been conflicting reports about the time Baghdadi spent as a US detainee. These files identify his “capture date” as Feb. 4, 2004 and the date of his “release in place” as Dec. 8, 2004. According to the records, Baghdadi was captured in Fallujah and held at multiple prison facilities including Camp Bucca and Camp Adder.
In the book “ISIS: Inside The Army of Terror,” Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan relay an account of Baghdadi’s capture from ISIS expert Dr. Hisham al-Hashimi. In the interview, al-Hashimi said Baghdadi was captured by US military intelligence while visiting a friend in Fallujah named Nessayif Numan Nessayif.
“Baghdadi was not the target — it was Nessayif,” said al-Hashimi, who consults with the Iraqi government and claims to have met the ISIS leader in the 1990s.
Baghdadi’s detainee I.D. card lists him as a “civilian detainee,” which means he was not a member of a foreign armed force or militia, but was still held for security reasons. His “civilian occupation” was identified as “ADMINISTRATIVE WORK (SECRETARY).” As of 2014, he was listed as being 43 years old though his birth date was redacted. Baghdadi’s birthplace was identified as Fallujah.
These records also provide some details about Baghdadi’s family. His file identifies him as married and his next of kin was an uncle. The names of his family members were redacted from the records.
View the Baghdadi files below. According to Army Corrections Command, some of the records requested by Business Insider remain classified. We are working to obtain all possible files from Baghdadi’s detention.
Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939. Yes, seriously.
There was nothing peaceful about this brutal tyrant. Under his leadership, the Nazi regime was responsible for the genocide of at least 5.5 million Jews and millions of other people who were deemed “sub-human.” Ironically, his first love was a Jewish girl. As if this weren’t weird enough, here are eight other jaw-dropping facts you didn’t know about Hitler:
Typically, an amputation ends a military career. For a long time, most any level of amputation was considered to make a service member unfit for combat. As of last summer, only 57 amputees had returned to conflict zones and most of those stayed at a desk.
These three men wanted to get back into the fight.
1. The Ranger who swore he’d still be a squad leader
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Kapacziewski was in an armored vehicle when insurgents threw a grenade into it. Kapacziewski survived the blast with serious injuries. After months of surgeries and casts, he attempted to walk on his right leg again and heard the pins holding it together snap. Soon after, he asked doctors to remove it.
Over the months and years that followed, Kapacziewski (a.k.a. “Joe Kap”) relearned how to do the basic tasks required of Rangers . He ran, rucked, parachuted, and completed Army drills with his prosthetic leg. Since his amputation, he has conducted four combat deployments and even earned an Army Commendation Medal for pulling an injured soldier 75 yards during a firefight.
2. The paratrooper who led an airborne platoon with a prosthetic
1st Lt. Josh Pitcher finished relieving himself on the side of the road, closed his fly, and heard the loud pop of a small roadside bomb. Two days later, he was in a hospital in Germany, promising to return to combat despite losing his left leg beneath the knee. Before he could even try and return to active duty, Pitcher had to kick a pill and drinking habit he got trying to deal with the pain after his surgeries. But, he learned how to do his old job with his new leg. Less than two years after his injury, he returned with his unit, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, to Afghanistan. A few months later, he took over a 21-man platoon and led them for the rest of the deployment, most of it trudging through the mountains in the northern regions of the country .
3. The captain who calmly reported his own double amputation
When then-1st Lt. Daniel Luckett’s vehicle was hit by an IED in Iraq in 2008, a squad leader called up to ask if everything was all right. Luckett calmly responded, “Negative. My feet are gone.” Two years later, Capt. Luckett was with the 101st Airborne Division again; this time in Afghanistan. He uses a small prosthetic to assist what remains of his right leg. A much larger one serves as his left. His second day with his first prosthetic, he attempted to walk away with the leg. Doctors tried to get it back, but Luckett convinced them to let him keep it. He would go on to earn the Expert Infantry Badge during his efforts to prove he was still an asset. After successfully earning the award, the soldier was promoted to captain and allowed to deploy with his unit as part of the Afghan surge.
The Greek tragedian Aeschylus famously wrote: “In war, truth is the first casualty.”
Well, in this new era of so-called “hybrid” or “gray zone” warfare, truth is not only a casualty of war — it has also become the weapon of choice for some of America’s contemporary adversaries.
Recent “deepfake” videos of the actor Tom Cruise illustrate the power of the new technological tools now available to foreign adversaries who wish to manipulate the American people with online disinformation. The three videos, which appear on the social media platform TikTok under the handle @deeptomcruise, are striking in their realism. To the naked eye of the casual observer, it’s difficult to discern the videos as fakes.
Equally as stunning is an artificial intelligence tool called Deep Nostalgia, which animates static, vintage images — including those of deceased relatives. Together, these technological leaps harken back to the famous line by the writer George Orwell: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”
The technology now exists for America’s foreign adversaries, or other malign actors, to challenge citizens’ understanding of their present reality, as well as the past. Coupled with the historic loss in confidence among Americans for their country’s journalistic institutions, as well as our addiction to social media, the conditions are certainly ripe for deepfake disinformation to become a serious national security threat — or a catalyst for nihilistic chaos.
“The internet is a machine, but cyberspace is in our minds. As both expand and evolve faster than we can defend them, the ultimate target — our brains — is closer every day,” Kenneth Geers, a Cyber Statecraft Initiative senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
According to a September Gallup Poll, only 9% of Americans said they have “a great deal” of trust in the media to report the news “fully, accurately, and fairly.” On the other hand, when it comes to trusting the media, six out of 10 Americans, on average, responded that they had “not very much” trust or “none at all.” Those findings marked a significant decline in Americans’ trust for the media since polling on the topic began in 1972, Gallup reported.
“Americans’ confidence in the media to report the news fairly, accurately and fully has been persistently low for over a decade and shows no signs of improving,” Gallup reported.
That pervasive distrust in the media leads to increased political polarization and is bad for America’s democratic health, many experts say. Americans’ loss of trust in the media could also portend a national security crisis — especially as contemporary adversaries such as Russia and China increasingly turn to online disinformation campaigns to exacerbate America’s societal divisions.
In fact, Russia already used deepfake technology in its disinformation campaign to influence the 2020 US election, said Scott Jasper, author of the book, Russian Cyber Operations: Coding the Boundaries of Conflict. In advance of the election, Russian cybercriminals working for the Internet Research Agency created a fake news website called “Peace Data,” which featured an entirely fictitious staff of editors and writers, multiple news agencies reported.
“Their profile pictures were deepfakes generated by artificial intelligence,” Jasper told Coffee or Die Magazine. “The fake personas contacted real journalists to write contentious stories that might divide Democratic voters.”
A Soviet doctrine called “deep battle” supported front-line military operations with clandestine actions meant to spread chaos and confusion within the enemy’s territory. Similarly, modern Russia has turned to cyberattacks, social media, and weaponized propaganda to weaken its adversaries from within. According to an August State Department report, Russia uses its “disinformation and propaganda ecosystem” to exploit “information as a weapon.”
“[Russia] invests massively in its propaganda channels, its intelligence services and its proxies to conduct malicious cyber activity to support their disinformation efforts, and it leverages outlets that masquerade as news sites or research institutions to spread these false and misleading narratives,” wrote the authors of the State Department report, Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem.
Some experts contend that the cyber domain has become the proverbial “soft underbelly” of America’s democracy. In the past, America’s journalistic institutions served as gatekeepers, shielding the American people from foreign disinformation or propaganda. However, due to the advent of social media and the internet, America’s adversaries now enjoy direct access into American citizens’ minds. Consequently, the ability to manufacture video content indistinguishable from reality is an exponential force multiplier for adversaries intent on manipulating the American people.
The emerging deepfake threat spurred the Senate in 2019 to pass a bill mandating that the Department of Homeland Security provide lawmakers an annual report on advancements in “digital content forgery technology,” which might pose a threat to national security.
According to the Deepfake Report Act of 2019: “Digital content forgery is the use of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques, to fabricate or manipulate audio, visual, or text content with the intent to mislead.”
The advancement of deepfake technology has been meteoric. Just a couple of years ago, the casual observer would have been able to rather easily tell the difference between genuine humans and their computer-generated, deepfake doppelgangers. Not anymore. Much like the advent of nuclear weapons, the Pandora’s box of deepfake technology has officially been opened and is now impossible to un-invent.
The potential dangers of this technological leap are practically boundless.
Criminals could conceivably concoct videos that offer an alibi at the time of their alleged crimes. Countries could fabricate videos of false flag military aggressions as a means to justify starting a war. Foreign adversaries could generate fake videos of police brutality, or of racially charged acts of violence, as a means to further divide American society.
“I think it’s a safe assumption that video manipulation is a key short-term weapon in the arsenal of less reputable political-military organizations needing to shape some opinions before the contents can be disputed,” Gregory Ness, a Silicon Valley cybersecurity expert, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
There are certain commercially available artificial intelligence, or AI, tools already available to detect deepfake videos with a fidelity surpassing that of the human observer. Microsoft, for example, has already developed an AI algorithm for detecting deepfakes.
Some cybersecurity experts are calling on social media platforms to integrate these deepfake detection algorithms on their sites to alert users to phony videos. For his part, Geers, the Atlantic Council senior fellow, was skeptical that social media companies would step up on their own initiative and police for deepfake content.
“Social media profits from our negativity, vulnerability, and stupidity,” Geers said. “Why would they stop?”
The overarching intent of disinformation campaigns — particularly those prosecuted by Moscow — is not always to dupe Americans into believing a false reality. Rather, the real goal may be to challenge their belief in the existence of any objective truths. In short: The more distrustful Americans become of the media, the more likely they are to believe information based on its emotional resonance with their preconceived biases. The end goal is chaos, not brainwashing.
“If we are unable to detect fake videos, we may soon be forced to distrust everything we see and hear, critics warn,” the cybersecurity news site CSO reported. “The internet now mediates every aspect of our lives, and an inability to trust anything we see could lead to an ‘end of truth.’ This threatens not only faith in our political system, but, over the longer term, our faith in what is shared objective reality.”
Some experts say the US government should get involved, perhaps by leveraging the power of the Department of Defense, to patrol the cyber domain for deepfake videos being spread by foreign adversaries. The Pentagon, for its part, has already been called in to defend America’s elections against online disinformation.
In the wake of Russia’s attack on the 2016 presidential election, the Department of Defense partially shouldered the responsibility of defending against foreign attacks on America’s elections. By that measure, it’s certainly within the bounds of national security priorities for Washington to leverage the US military’s resources to root out and take down deepfake videos.
“Governments will inevitably step in, but what we really need is for democracies to step up and create innovative policies based on freedom of expression and the rule of law,” Geers said.
Based on a similarly-named book by Mitchell Zuckoff, the film will focus on the CIA officers, contractors, and Navy SEALs who fought on the ground against a group of Islamic militants. It stars James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, Max Martini, and Toby Stephens, and is directed by Michael Bay.
On September 11th, 2012, Islamic militants attacked two American compounds in Benghazi, Libya, killing two CIA contractors, a US foreign service information management officer, and a US ambassador — Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens became the first US ambassador to be killed in the line of duty since the late 1970s. Following the attack, State Department officials received continued criticism for failing to provide additional security support before the attack, with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton still embroiled in controversy among some right-wing critics over unreleased internal emails.
Though there has been intense debate over what went wrong and who was to blame for the attack, Deadline Hollywood notes that the film will likely not get into that part or the aftermath. “Like the book upon which its based, it probably won’t get into the conspiracy theories surrounding the attacks,” Ross A. Lincoln writes. “Going instead for an on-the-ground view of the attacks through the eyes of serious badasses.”