After a series of interdictions, the U.S. Coast Guard has found itself in possession of over 32 metric tons of cocaine worth an estimated $1 billion or more on the wholesale market. On the streets, they would likely have fetched $1.8 billion.
The drugs had been consolidated on the deck of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton where the Coast Guard displayed them for media before offloading them. This was the largest offload of drugs in U.S. history.
Trust for Brian Williams, the most popular news anchor in America, has plummeted in one week after he admitted to embellishing a story from his war coverage.
Williams, who anchors “NBC Nightly News,” went from being the 23rd-most-trusted person in America a little over a week ago to falling to the 835th spot, The New York Times reports.
The list comes from the Marketing Arm, a research firm that creates a celebrity index for advertisers and media and marketing executives.
Before Williams admitted that he misrepresented an incident in which a helicopter ahead of his was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade while he was in Iraq covering the invasion in 2003, his trustworthiness was on par with that of Denzel Washington, Warren Buffett, and Robin Roberts, according to The Times.
Williams has recounted the Iraq story several times over the past 12 years and has embellished his role in the incident over time. His coverage of Hurricane Katrina has also been called into question. In fact, NBC executives were reportedly warned that Williams was known to embellish stories.
Earlier this month, Williams said on NBC that the helicopter he was flying in was “was forced down after being hit by an RPG.” Crew members who were on the helicopter that was actually hit by a rocket-propelled grenade then came forward to say Williams was on another helicopter that arrived at the site later.
Whether Williams’ helicopter was hit with small-arms fire (as opposed to an RPG) is in some dispute.
Williams announced over the weekend that he would step down from anchoring “NBC Nightly News” for “several days” in light of the fallout over this story. NBC is now conducting an internal investigation into what happened.
Fascinated by a French reporter’s ability to purchase a nuclear warhead on the black market, American journalists from Vice travelled to Bulgaria to meet the man who sold it, according to the video below.
They met with Ivanoff, a former military intelligence colonel turned entrepreneur, whose business led him into the Saudi Arabian building industry. Through his business dealings, Ivanoff met with terror mastermind Osama Bin Laden, who was interested in making a “dirty bomb” out of radioactive waste. Ivanoff suggested why not get the real thing, a nuclear warhead.
Not content with fighting against the infidel crusaders from the U.S. and other NATO countries, ISIS and the Taliban have declared jihad against each other, Afghan News Agency Khaama Press is reporting.
Nabi Jan Mullahkhil, police chief of southern Helmand province has told Mashaal Radio during an interview that he has received documents in which both the terrorist groups have announced Jihad against each other.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which holds vast swaths of land in Iraq and Syria, has made moves into Afghanistan in recent months. In March, CNN obtained video of ISIS recruiting in the country, and on Saturday, the group claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing in Jalalabad, according to The Atlantic.
In an extensive joint operation, Mali’s armed forces, working with the French military, killed 100 jihadist terrorists and captured 20 more according to a statement released by the Malian military. “One hundred terrorists were neutralized, about 20 captured and several motorbikes and war equipment were seized” during the joint operation with France’s troops, which aims to root out Islamic jihadists in the arid Sahel region, the Malian army said on its website.
The army said the extended operation lasted from January 2nd to the 20th. It targeted areas along the border with Burkina Faso where jihadist groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) control large remote areas of the desert. The national government has little influence in those areas and the jihadists regularly carry out raids on small army outposts and civilians.
“The purpose of this operation was to force the enemy out of its areas of refuge,” the Malian army added.
Mali has struggled with an insurgency since 2012 when Taureg separatists rebelled against the national government. Their insurgency was quickly hijacked by Islamic terrorist groups which saw an opening and seized the chance to spread their vision of an Islamic caliphate in the region as they were being squeezed in the Middle East.
Soon, the Islamist insurgency spread into the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Niger, and Chad. The four countries, along with Mali, comprise the G5 Sahel group, which coordinates in battling the insurgency and promoting security in the region.
The tri-border region joining Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, known as the Liptako Gourma region, has become a hub for a range of security threats perpetrated by armed state and non-state religious and political groups. Such groups include criminal organizations, bandits, and kidnappers.
France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, came to the aid of the country by moving 4,100 troops into the West African nation in 2013. It pushed the insurgents, who were closing on the capital of Bamako, back into the country’s outlying regions. But the insurgents reorganized, regrouped, and have since continued to threaten security in the region. Read Next: French Airstrikes Kill Fifty al-Qaeda Jihadists in Mali
Last year, France sent an additional 1,000 troops into the country. It has also created the Special Operations Task Force – Takuba. The task force is comprised of special operations troops from Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. They advise, assist, and accompany troops from the G5 Sahel nations.
France is holding a summit of French and Sahel leaders in Chad in February, where the French are expected to announce a troop reduction. The French had held a similar meeting in France a year ago.
President Emmanuel Macron has publicly stated that he plans to “adjust French efforts.” Defense Minister Florence Parly has issued similar statements. It is expected that the French will at least withdraw the additional 1,000 troops that they had deployed last year.
Public sentiment in France is against the country’s long military commitment in Mali. So far, this year, five French soldiers have been killed by IEDs.
Doctors Without Borders, a humanitarian NGO, reported on its website that the deteriorating security situation has resulted in the massive forced displacement of the civilian population. Across Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger 1,930,482 people have been internally displaced and 851,338 have fled to other countries as of November 2020.
And the violence has spread south to Nigeria. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that almost three million people are displaced across the four countries, with more than two million people displaced in Nigeria alone.
The Nazis had plans to blow up the Hoover Dam during World War II, in an effort to cripple aircraft manufacturing in Los Angeles.
Born out of the Great Depression and completed in 1935, the dam was the largest ever built and stood as a symbol of America’s ability to overcome adversity. It fueled Southern California’s incredible growth – its large cities, its industrial base, its massive agricultural industry, and the nation’s biggest defense plants, according to the National Archives.
This video from American Heroes Channel gives an idea of what happened:
Fortunately, the government was tipped off to the plot and upped security in the area. But it kept fears of the plot secret for more than 60 years, until a historian unearthed documents while doing research at the National Archives, according to Mental Floss.
The scenes of John Rambo wasting bad guys with an endless supply of ammunition isn’t so unrealistic after all.
While military blog Task and Purpose nailed it with its recent article on what military movies get wrong, the U.S. Army is actually fielding a new backpack that will give soldiers 500 rounds to fire downrange.
The Rapid Equipping Force (REF) has created the IRONMAN backpack, which bring soldiers closer to the infinite ammo Rambo status. It holds 500 rounds of ammo connected to a feeder that attaches directly to the M240B or Mark 48 machine gun. It eliminates the need for an ammunition bearer, although hiking with that much ammo could get pretty rough.
This video explains how the apparatus works, with the firing demonstration beginning at 5:00. Check it out:
United States Coast Guard personnel live by this credo: “You have to go out; you don’t have to come back.” Here’s a WATM salute to the United States Coast Guard for being “Semper Paratus” for 225 years:
April 2021 marks one year since the Air Force’s first two F-35A Lightning II advanced stealth fighters arrived at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska. Twenty-five of the Air Force’s fifth-generation fighters are now at Eielson, part of the service’s overall plan to turn Alaska into a “fifth-gen powerhouse,” according to an Air Force press release.
“We have come a long way since the arrival of the first aircraft in April 2020 to now,” Air Force Maj. Jarod DiGeorge of the 354th Fighter Wing said in the release. “Flying 24 sorties in one day barely eight months after first wheels down at Eielson. We are currently on track to achieve initial combat capability this spring and full combat capability next winter.”
Former Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James issued a 2016 “record of decision,” effectively establishing Eielson as the home for the service’s Alaska-based F-35s. Additionally, the measure reactivated the 354th Fighter Wing and placed it at Eielson. The wing is slated to receive 54 F-35As in total and is on track to reach full capacity by March 2022.
A strong deterrent in Alaska is quickly becoming a focal point of a renewed “great power competition” between China, Russia, and the US. In January 2018, Beijing’s so-called Polar Silk Road Arctic strategy declared China to be a “near-Arctic state” — even though China’s nearest territory to the Arctic is some 900 miles away. Additionally, Moscow and Beijing have agreed to connect the Northern Sea Route, claimed by Russia, with China’s Maritime Silk Road.
By 2022, Alaska will be one of most heavily defended airspaces on earth. When Eielson’s F-35 fleet is at full strength, Alaska will have more of America’s advanced, fifth-generation fighters than any other US state.
“America cannot afford to fall behind as other nations devote resources to the Arctic region to secure their national interests. America’s very real interests in the Arctic will only increase in the years to come,” authors Luke Coffey and Daniel Kochis wrote in a March 2020 report for The Heritage Foundation.
As Eielson AFB gets more F-35As, it gets closer to being fully combat capable. “It allows our aircrew to be able to train realistically without limitations and to accomplish their specific airborne requirements to be fully proficient in the mission and fly at a combat mission ready rate,” DiGeorge said. “Each and every aircraft we receive is also a projection of the wing’s airpower and furthers our ability to strike in a moment’s notice.”
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.
As we prepare to scale down our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Military is rapidly shifting its focus from regional kinetic engagements to theater-level strategic positioning. In many ways, this new posture will leave the military looking a lot like it did before the wars in the Middle East. In short, it means a renewed reliance on our Naval and Air Force deterrent technologies: think stealth bombers and nuclear submarines.
The Navy and Air Force represent two parts of the United States’ nuclear defense triad. The Navy’s SSBN submarines silently swim the world’s oceans waiting for a first or second strike command. Likewise, Air Force bombers are positioned worldwide, ready to drop munitions on our enemies. But the backbone of the nuclear triad has always been our land-launched nuclear missiles.
Now, new reports from the Pentagon and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) suggest that the standby strategy for nuclear deterrence is getting a technological facelift in the form of the Hypersonic Air-Breathing Weapon Concept, or HAWC.
HAWC is essentially an inter-continental ballistic missile that can be launched from an aircraft. Traveling at hypersonic speeds, the HAWC would provide “longer ranges with shorter response times and enhanced effectiveness compared to current military systems,” according to Andrew Knoedler, Program Manager of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.
“Such systems could provide significant payoff for future U.S. offensive strike operations, particularly as adversaries’ capabilities advance,” Knoedler added.
To put that in perspective, consider that the top speed for your standard-issue Tomahawk cruise missile is about 550 miles per hour; this is slower than mach 1. The Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept will travel at five times the speed of sound. It will be capable of hitting any target on the planet within one hour from launch.
DARPA and the U.S. Air Force have been working on HAWC for a while, and today the Pentagon announced that the program will be joining forces with its Australian counterpart Southern Cross Integrated Flight Research Experiment, or SCIFiRE. According to the press release, by joining the two programs, the Pentagon is hoping to “advance air-breathing hypersonic technologies into full-size prototypes that are affordable and provide a flexible, long range capability, culminating in flight demonstrations in operationally relevant conditions.”
The latest concepts of the HAWC offer much more than simple warhead delivery. In fact, the newest system, nicknamed Mayhem, will be able to be launched from a much smaller aircraft — like a strike fighter jet — and will be able to be fitted with a series of different payloads. In addition to munitions, the Mayhem will be able to carry sensors, surveillance equipment, or communications devices.
According to a September report from Defense News, both Lockheed Martin and Ratheon have completed prototypes; both prototypes are currently being tested. These flight tests will evaluate whether the weapons’ propulsion and thermal management systems will be able to withstand hypersonic cruise speeds, according to DARPA.
“These tests provide us a large measure of confidence – already well informed by years of simulation and wind tunnel work,” said Knoedler.
“That gives us faith [that] the unique design path we embarked on will provide unmatched capability to U.S. forces.”
This article was originally published on November 30, 2020.
Russia almost blew the United States away with a nuclear strike in 1995 after mistakenly thinking it was under attack. If it weren’t for Russia’s then-president Boris Yeltsin, America as we know it wouldn’t exist. Under the “launch-on-warning” policy used by both nations, Russia had 30 minutes to decide to nuke us but Yeltsin only had five.
Here’s how this monumental mistake almost took place:
A country who doesn’t have nuclear weapons isn’t necessarily just adhering to its treaty obligations with the United Nations. Just ask Iran and North Korea, who both signed the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty by 1968.
But it was what North Korea figured out how to do better than Iran that keeps most countries from attempting to get nuclear weapons: creating Uranium-235.
Why would a country want nuclear weapons? They’re expensive to create and maintain, and they cause a huge headache for you once the world discovers you’re trying to build them. After that, your country is a social pariah state and crippling sanctions bring down every other aspect of your economy.
For the answers, we can look to President George W. Bush’s Axis of Evil. North Korea has nuclear weapons and isn’t worried about being invaded. Saddam Hussein is dead, killed almost four years after the United States invaded Iraq. With those two facts in mind, you can make a pretty good guess why the Iranian regime would want to pursue them.
With nuclear weapons so widespread and the earliest nukes being built during World War II, you might think that building a deployable nuclear weapon would be easy to figure out, if your spies got you all the classified information. Well, if we’re talking about how to assemble the individual parts, building a nuke could almost like reading an Ikea assembly booklet, considering how much classified info is for sale out there.
The problem comes when creating those individual parts. Sure, you can assemble the parts of your new Bjorksnas bedframe in your apartment. But could you grow, cut and refine the birchwood required to create the parts? Fashion the leather from an animal hide? Create the metal fasteners from ore? No. And you would have to build all the facilities required to fashion those parts first.
That’s what Iran is facing in its nuclear program. While much of it would be pretty easy to do for any country with all the information required (which Iran probably has), the U-235 is the hard part. They have to separate two nearly-identical parts of Uranium.
Most Uranium is Uranium-238, the isotope more commonly found in nature. But Uranium-235 is the isotope that allows for the chain reaction that will set off a nuclear blast. Separating the two out of Uranium ore is called “enrichment” and it’s a lengthy process even when the Israelis aren’t bombing your research facilities or assassinating your scientists.
The only physical difference between U-238 and the explosive U-235 is in their weight. During the Manhattan Project, researchers used gaseous diffusion plants and centrifuges that spun the two isotopes. Since U-238 weighs more than U-235, the two isotopes separated, either through the use of different pressure zones or through a series of thousands of centrifuges.
Each method comes with its own set of problems. The gaseous diffusion method requires hundreds of miles of tubing and enormous amounts of energy to keep the diffusion going. The centrifugal method requires very specific rotor configurations, difficult to manufacture under the best of circumstances.
Even more difficult is to maintain them when the CIA sends a computer virus to your facility to destroy all the rotors. No wonder the ayatollahs were so pissed.