The US is tracking people's movements with phone data, and it's part of a massive increase in global surveillance - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

Governments across the world are galvanizing every surveillance tool at their disposal to help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Countries have been quick to use the one tool almost all of us carry with us — our smartphones.


A live index of ramped up security measures by Top10VPN details the countries which have already brought in measures to track the phones of coronavirus patients, ranging from anonymized aggregated data to monitor the movement of people more generally, to the tracking of individual suspected patients and their contacts, known as “contact tracing.”

Samuel Woodhams, Top10VPN’s Digital Rights Lead who compiled the index, warned that the world could slide into permanently increased surveillance.

“Without adequate tracking, there is a danger that these new, often highly invasive, measures will become the norm around the world,” he told Business Insider. “Although some may appear entirely legitimate, many pose a risk to citizens’ right to privacy and freedom of expression.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

“Given how quickly things are changing, documenting the new measures is the first step to challenging potential overreach, providing scrutiny and holding corporations and governments to account.”

While some countries will cap their new emergency measures, otherwise may retain the powers for future use. “There is a risk that many of these new capabilities will continue to be used following the outbreak,” said Woodhams. “This is particularly significant as many of the new measures have avoided public and political scrutiny and do not include sunset clauses.”

Here’s a breakdown of which countries have started tracking phone data, with varying degrees of invasiveness:

The US is reportedly gathering data from the ads industry to get an idea of where people are congregating

Sources told The Wall Street Journal that the federal, state, and local governments have begun to gather and study geolocation data to get a better idea of how people are moving about.

In one example, a source said the data had shown people were continuing to gather in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and this information had been handed over to local autorities. The eventual aim is to create a portal for government officials with data from up to 500 US cities.

The data is being gathered from the advertising industry, which often gains access to people’s geolocation when they sign up to apps. Researcher Sam Woodhams says using the ad industry as a source poses a particular problem for privacy.

“Working closely with the ad tech industry to track citizens’ whereabouts raises some significant concerns. The sector as a whole is renowned for its lack of transparency and many users will be unaware that these apps are tracking their movement to begin with. It is imperative that governments and all those involved in the collection of this sensitive data are transparent about how they operate and what measures are in place to ensure citizens’ right to privacy is protected,” Woodhams told Business Insider.

The US’ coronavirus economic relief bill also included a 0 million for the CDC to build a “surveillance and data collection system.”

South Korea gives out detailed information about patients’ whereabouts

South Korea has gone a step further than other countries, tracking individuals’ phones and creating a publicly available map to allow other citizens to check whether they may have crossed paths with any coronavirus patients.

The tracking data that goes into the map isn’t limited to mobile phone data, credit card records and even face-to-face interviews with patients are being used to build a retroactive map of where they’ve been.

Not only is the map there for citizens to check, but the South Korean government is using it to proactively send regional text messages warning people they may have come into contact with someone carrying the virus.

The location given can be extremely specific, the Washington Post reported a text went out that said an infected person had been at the “Magic Coin Karaoke in Jayang-dong at midnight on Feb. 20.”

Some texts give out more personal information however. A text reported by The Guardian read: “A woman in her 60s has just tested positive. Click on the link for the places she visited before she was hospitalised.”

The director of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Jeong Eun-kyeong, acknowledged that the site infringes on civil liberties, saying: “It is true that public interests tend to be emphasized more than human rights of individuals when dealing with diseases that can infect others.”

The map is already interfering with civil liberties, as a South Korean woman told the Washington Post that she had stopped attending a bar popular with lesbians for fear of being outed. “If I unknowingly contract the virus… that record will be released to the whole country,” she said.

The system is also throwing up other unexpected challenges. The Guardian reported that one man claiming to be infected threatened various restaurants saying he would visit and hurt their custom unless they gave him money to stay away.

Iran asked citizens to download an invasive app

Vice reported that Iran’s government endorsed a coronavirus diagnosis app that collected users’ real-time location data.

On March 3, a message went out to millions of Iranian citizens telling them to install the app, called AC19, before going to a hospital or health center.

The app claimed to be able to diagnose the user with coronavirus by asking a series of yes or no questions. The app has since been removed from the Google Play store.

Israel passed new laws to spy on its citizens

As part of a broad set of new surveillance measures approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on March 17, Israel’s Security Agency will no longer have to obtain a court order to track individuals’ phones. The new law also stipulates all data collected must be deleted after 30 days.

Netanyahu described the new security measures as “invasive” in an address to the nation.

“We’ll deploy measures we’ve only previously deployed against terrorists. Some of these will be invasive and infringe on the privacy of those affected. We must adopt a new routine,” said Netanyahu.

TraceTogether: Community-driven contact tracing to stop the spread of COVID-19

www.youtube.com

Singapore has an app which can trace people within 2 meters of infected patients

Singapore’s Government Technology Agency and the Ministry of Health developed an app for contact tracing called TraceTogether which launched on March 20.

Per the Straits Times, the app is used: “to identify people who have been in close proximity — within 2m for at least 30 minutes — to coronavirus patients using wireless Bluetooth technology.”

“No geolocation data or other personal data is collected,” TraceTogether said in an explanatory video.

Taiwan can tell when quarantined people have left the house

Taiwan has activated what it calls an “electronic fence,” which tracks mobile phone data and alerts authorities when someone who is supposed to be quarantined at home is leaving the house.

“The goal is to stop people from running around and spreading the infection,” said Jyan Hong-wei, head of Taiwan’s Department of Cyber Security. Jyan added that local authorities and police should be able to respond to anyone who triggers an alert within 15 minutes.

Even having your phone turned off seems to be enough to warrant a police visit. An American student living in Taiwan wrote in a BBC article that he was visited by two police officers at 8:15 a.m. because his phone had run out of battery at 7:30 a.m. and the government had briefly lost track of him. The student was in quarantine at the time because he had arrived in Taiwan from Europe.

Austria is using anonymized data to map people’s movements

On March 17 Austria’s biggest telecoms network operator Telekom Austria AG announced it was sharing anonymized location data with the government.

The technology being used was developed by a spin-off startup out of the University of Graz, and Telekom Austria said it is usually used to measure footfall in popular tourist sites.

Woodhams told Business Insider that while collecting aggregated data sets is less invasive than other measures, how that data could be used in future should still be cause for concern.

“Much of the data may remain at risk from re-identification, and it still provides governments with the ability to track the movement of large groups of its citizens,” said Woodhams.

Poland is making people send selfies to prove they’re quarantining correctly

On March 20 the Polish government announced the release of a new app called “Home Quarantine.” The point of the app is to make sure people who are supposed to be quarantining themselves for 14 days stay in place.

To use the app first you have to register a selfie, it then sends periodic requests for geo-located selfies. If the user fails to comply within 20 minutes, the police will be alerted.

“People in quarantine have a choice: either receive unexpected visits from the police, or download this app,” a spokesman for Poland’s Digital Ministry said.

The Polish government is automatically generating accounts for suspected quarantine patients, including people returning from abroad.

Belgium is using anonymized data from telcos

The Belgian government gave the go-ahead on March 11 to start using anonymized data from local telecom companies.

Germany is modeling how people are moving around

Deutsche Telekom announced on March 18 it would be sharing data with the Robert Koch Institute (Germany’s version of the CDC).

“With this we can model how people are moving around nationwide, on a state level, and even on a community level,” a spokesperson for Deutsche Telekom told Die Welt.

Italy has created movement maps

Italy, which has been particularly hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak, has also signed a deal with telecoms operators to collect anonymized location data.

As of March 18 Italy had charged 40,000 of its citizens with violating its lockdown laws, per The Guardian.

The UK isn’t tracking yet but is considering it, and is reportedly working on an opt-in contact tracing app

While nothing official has been announced yet, the UK is in talks with major telecoms providers including O2 and EE to provide large sets of anonymized data.

Google has also indicated it is taking part in discussions.

Sky News also reported the NHS and NHSX (the digital wing of the NHS) have been working on an opt-in contact tracing app. The app would work similarly to Singapore’s, using Bluetooth and self-reporting to establish whether you’ve been near someone with suspected coronavirus.

According to Sky, alerts will be sent out on a delay to stop individuals from being identified. The app will be released either just before or just after Britain’s lockdown is lifted.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US begins troop withdrawal from Syria but vows to kill ISIS

The United States has started bringing home troops from Syria as it moves to a new phase in the campaign against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, the White House says.

The militant’s “territorial caliphate” had been defeated, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement on Dec. 19, 2018, amid media reports saying that the United States was preparing to withdraw all its troops from Syria.


“These victories over [the IS group] in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign. We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign,” Sanders said.

Earlier, President Donald Trump tweeted the IS group had been defeated in Syria and that was his “only reason for being there.”

There are currently around 2,000 American troops in Syria, many of them special operations forces working with an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias battling the IS group.

Most U.S. soldiers are based in northeastern Syria, where they had been helping to rid the area of IS fighters, but pockets of militants still remain.

CNN quoted a defense official as saying on Dec. 19, 2018, that the planning was for a “full” and “rapid” pullout.

And CBS said it was told that the White House ordered the Pentagon to “begin planning for an immediate withdrawal.”

The coalition has “liberated” the IS-held territory, but the campaign against the group “is not over,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

“For force protection and operational security reasons we will not provide further details. We will continue working with our partners and allies to defeat ISIS wherever it operates,” White said in a statement, using an acronym for Islamic State.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria creates prospects for a political settlement of the conflict there, according to the TASS news agency.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

Marines fire an 81mm mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Hajin, Syria, Aug. 4, 2018. The training is a portion of the building partner capacity mission, which aims to enhance the capabilities of Coalition partner forces fighting ISIS in northeast Syria.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

Russia has repeatedly asserted that U.S. forces have no right to be in Syria because Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has not approved their presence.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said a decision by Trump to withdraw troops from Syria at this time would be “a mistake” and a “big win” for the IS group, Assad, and its allies — Russia and Iran.

Both Moscow and Tehran have given Assad crucial support throughout the Syrian conflict, which began with a government crackdown on protesters in March 2011 and has left more than 400,000 people dead, displaced millions, and devastated many historical sites across the country.

In 2014, IS fighters seized large swaths of Syrian and Iraqi territory in a lightning offensive and proclaimed a so-called Islamic “caliphate.”

IS militants have lost virtually all the territory they once controlled in Iraq, but still carry out sporadic attacks.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These 4th of July memes are real firecrackers

Nothing says America like a great sense of humor. Here are our favorite memes for you to view and distribute far and wide across the internet. Be safe and happy 4th of July!


The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

1. Freedom rings

Hahaha, you can use this ALL day today. You’re welcome! And yes, we know it should be “there.” We don’t make the memes folks, we just share them.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

2. Will Smith

If you don’t watch Independence Day this weekend, is it even 4th of July?

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

3. Call the doc

What do doctors know? Just kidding. We love you.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

4. ‘Merica!

That’s right, bro. Wear those jean shorts with pride!

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

5. They’re coming

At least it will be a nice break from politics on social media.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

6. Videos

It’s so true. And yet, we’re all guilty.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

7. BREXIT

We started it!

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

8. What else is there?

Add in a hot dog eating contest and you’re all set.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

9. War

Make sure you try to spell U.S.A. with them.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

10. Pick up line

You can use this at today’s bbq, too.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

11. Michael Scott

Obviously if it’s declared it’s true.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

12. Doggies

Poor things. Extra cuddles for you!

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

13. Brace yourself

(Insert your own inappropriate rocket between legs joke here).

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

14. You got this

Happy 4th of July! Here’s to ‘MERICA!

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Top Gun’ bows to China by changing Maverick’s jacket

The sequel to “Top Gun,” a film that boosted US Navy aviation recruitment by 500%, appears to have bowed to China’s powerful Communist party by changing the jacket of its titular character, Maverick, played by Tom Cruise.

In the trailer for “Top Gun: Maverick,” which came out on July 18, 2019, Tom Cruise’s character can be seen wearing his signature leather jacket, but something isn’t the same anymore.

An eagle-eyed Twitter user pointed out that Maverick, whose entire character and name suggest a fierce independence, now wears a jacket that appears changed to appease China, the US’s current chief military adversary.


Maverick’s old jacket had a large patch that read “Far East Cruise 63-4, USS Galveston,” commemorating a real-life US battleship’s tour of Japan, Taiwan, and the Western Pacific. Fittingly, the patch displayed the US, UN, Japanese, and Taiwanese flags.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

Maverick is not such a maverick that he’d stand up to China in the new Top Gun.

(Paramount Pictures)

In the new movie, the patch now has the US and UN flags, but not the Japanese or Taiwanese flags, and makes no mention of the Galveston.

Now Maverick’s patch has flags that look conspicuously like the Japanese and Taiwanese flags, but Business Insider could not identify them.

Business Insider reached out to Paramount Pictures for comment on the alteration and will update this story with any comments.

China frequently boycotts and retaliates against any organization that recognizes Taiwan or refers to it as a country. China threatened multiple airlines not to refer to Taiwan as a country, and they all buckled under the pressure. The US responded, calling it “Orwellian nonsense.”

Top Gun: Maverick – Official Trailer (2020) – Paramount Pictures

www.youtube.com

Japan occupied China during World War II and the countries still have bad blood from the brutal fighting seven decades ago. China frequently funds propaganda films featuring Chinese protagonists killing Japanese occupiers.

While the US still formally maintains that Taiwan is a breakaway province of China, a recent defense paper referred to Taiwan as a country, prompting an angry response from Beijing.

The new film, a big-budget major-studio effort on a hot property, may have sought to maximize revenues by making the movie palatable to Chinese censors and audiences.

China heavily censors foreign films and television and is increasingly catered to by filmmakers as it’s set to displace the US as the top consumer of film.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US doesn’t know what to do with Turkey’s undelivered F-35s

Congress is offering the Defense Department the option to purchase Turkey’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and giving the defense secretary discretion to spend up to $30 million to store the fifth-generation jets until a plan for their use is formalized, according to the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2020.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been given the green light to spend funds “to be appropriated for fiscal year 2020 for the Department of Defense to conduct activities associated with storage, preservation, and developing a plan for the final disposition of such F-35 aircraft and Turkish F-35 aircraft equipment, including full mission simulators, helmet-mounted display systems, air system maintenance trainers, and ancillary mission equipment,” the bill states.


That money would fund storage for up to six jets and associated materials. F-35 deliveries to Turkey had originally been slated to occur between late summer and the end of this year.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

(photo by Tom Reynolds)

Lawmakers will not allow the F-35As once destined for Turkey to be transferred unless that country gets rid of its S-400 surface-to-air-missile systems and associated equipment and promises never to purchase or use the Russian-made weapon again, according to the bill.

“Turkey’s possession of the S-400 air and missile defense system adversely affects the national security of Turkey, the United States, and all members of the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance,” lawmakers said.

In a joint statement provided with the bill Tuesday, Congress said it would “support” the U.S. purchase of all jets originally meant for Turkey. The aircraft have been stationed at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, where international pilot training is conducted.

“The conferees also encourage the Secretary of Defense to maximize the procurement quantity of Turkish F-35A aircraft associated with Lots 12, 13, or 14 during fiscal year 2020 using the additional funds authorized in section 4101 of this Act,” according to the statement.

Esper has 90 days from the bill’s passage to provide congressional defense committees a report outlining a long-term plan for Turkey’s F-35s, “which includes options for recovery of costs from Turkey and for unilateral use of such assets,” the bill states.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

Hill Air Force Base F-35A Lightning IIs fly in formation.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

Despite months of efforts to sway the NATO ally from purchasing the S-400, known to Moscow as the “F-35 killer,” Pentagon officials have been steadily phasing Turkey out of the JSF program.

The Pentagon in July officially booted Turkey from participating in the program over its purchase of the Russian-made S-400 and asked students — pilots and maintainers — attending F-35 training in the U.S. at Luke and at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, to leave.

The DoD also began phasing out aircraft parts manufactured by Turkey. Turkish industries produce 937 parts for the F-35, including items for the landing gear and fuselage.

“We’re on the path to March 2020 to transition all of those parts out. … The U.S. absorbed about a 0 million bill for that,” Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said in October.

Lord at the time said top brass estimates that Turkey’s surface-to-air missile systems will be ready to track aircraft in the region by the end of 2019.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Should elected officials be allowed to serve in the military?

Jessica D. Blankshain is an assistant professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. All views expressed are the author’s own and do not represent the views of the United States government, Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or U.S. Naval War College.

One of the things most people agree on regarding U.S. civil-military relations is that the military should stay out of politics. But how do we keep the military out of politics when politicians are in the military?


Adam Kinzinger, representative for Illinois’ 16th Congressional District and a lieutenant colonel in the Wisconsin Air National Guard, is facing scrutiny for tweets and media appearances in which he criticized Wisconsin’s governor, Tony Evers, for deciding to withdraw Wisconsin National Guard troops from the southern border.

Ultimately the Wisconsin Guard determined Kinzinger’s remarks were not a problem, announcing March 7, 2019, that a review had found he was speaking in his capacity as a Congressman, not a military officer.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

Adam Kinzinger, representative for Illinois’ 16th Congressional District.

But this dustup also highlights broader issues raised by members of the National Guard (and service reserves) serving concurrently in political office.

Members of the National Guard and reserve serving in Congress has been relatively uncontroversial for nearly 200 years. In the early 1800s, the House took action against a member who joined the militia between congressional sessions, arguing that it violated the Incompatibility Clause (Article 1 Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution), which prohibits individuals from serving in the executive and legislative branches simultaneously.

The law defining “employees” has since been reworded to avoid this issue but, in recent years, the question of legislators serving in the Guard and reserve has begun to draw attention from those who study American civil-military relations. This interest may be driven in part by the effects of the “Abrams Doctrine,” which moved many critical capabilities into the Guard and reserve after Vietnam. [There are, of course, significant differences between the National Guard and service reserves, both in terms of force structure and relationship to state and federal government, but for present purposes I consider them together.]

Beginning roughly near the end of the Cold War and accelerating after 9/11, the United States has shifted from having a largely strategic reserve component — “weekend warriors” who did not expect to deploy unless there was a crisis — to having an operational reserve in which members of the Guard and reserve expect to deploy regularly in support of ongoing operations overseas, from the peacekeeping missions of the 1990s to combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s and beyond.

As a result, members of the Guard and reserve may now be perceived less as civilians who take up arms in time of need and more as part-time professional soldiers who have more in common with their active-duty counterparts than with average Americans.

Given the professional military’s strong apolitical ethic, whether and when we view members of the Guard and reserve as members of the military profession has important implications for how we evaluate their political activity (similar to discussions of political participation by retired officers).

There can, of course, be benefits to having members of the Guard and reserve serving in Congress or other political offices. Their military experience may inform their lawmaking and oversight. And as we were somberly reminded by the death of Brent Taylor, a Utah National Guard major and mayor of North Ogden, in Afghanistan in 2018, they may also serve as a link between civilian communities and the military fighting on their behalf.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

Utah National Guard major Brent Taylor (left) and Lt. Kefayatullah.

(Facebook photo)

But there are challenges, too, as Rep. Kinzinger’s case makes clear. When an officer who is also a politician publicly criticizes orders from his commander in chief, who belongs to a different political party, it raises concerns about good order and discipline within the military and, perhaps most significantly, it makes it harder to keep clear separation in the public mind between the military and politics. As the reserve component’s role in the military has shifted, so too has the balance of these pros and cons.

Kinzinger’s personal criticism of the governor highlights that concerns about good order and discipline are linked with concerns about politicization. On Twitter, Kinzinger questioned whether Evers visited to the border himself to understand the deployment or instead made a “political” decision. In a Fox News interview, he said that he was breaking the news of the withdrawal because he believed the governor didn’t have the courage to do so. While these comments would not be particularly remarkable coming from a member of the opposing political party, they look very different coming from an officer in that state’s National Guard. Kinzinger, of course, is both. How will his fellow Wisconsin Guard members, whom he will continue to serve alongside, perceive these comments?

Kinzinger’s remarks also raise concerns about public perceptions of the politicization of the military. One of the main reasons Kinzinger’s comments held weight was that he had just returned from a deployment to the border and drew on his experience there to support his criticism of the withdrawal. In the Fox appearance in particular, the hosts and Kinzinger all position him as a neutral expert drawing on his two-week deployment to the border to make a policy judgment, in contrast to partisan politicians who oppose the president’s declaration of national emergency for political reasons.

Kinzinger is explicitly critical of Democrats, both in Congress and in state government. He might be perceived as trying to have it both ways — using his apolitical military credibility to go after political opponents — which could have implications for the public’s view of the military as an institution. This last point is perhaps of most concern, given the high level of confidence the American public has in the military compared to elected officials, as well as indications that this confidence is increasingly taking on partisan dimensions.

Kinzinger’s situation is by no means unique. There were at least 16 members concurrently serving in the Guard or reserve and the 115th Congress, and the intention of this piece is not to single him out for scrutiny. The shift from a strategic to an operational reserve component has changed the relationship between the reserve component and society, and we should be cognizant of those changes when thinking about how members of the Guard and reserve balance their military service with their political service.

Such a reassessment wouldn’t require a ban on concurrent service, but might mean developing either explicit regulations or implicit norms around which issues such members should recuse themselves on, what boundaries they draw on their partisan political speech, or to what degree they invoke their service while campaigning and governing.

The opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Military.com. If you would like to submit your own commentary, please send your article to opinions@military.com for consideration.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

A letter to the spouses of the mission essential personnel

Dear spouses of the mission essential:

There’s been so much written lately about the heroes on the front lines. The selfless men and women bravely going to their jobs to serve their country and their communities. The ones who are knowingly going to work with patients or customers who could infect them. Yes, we rightfully applaud the truck drivers hauling supplies to replenish depleted stores. We extol the cook at our favorite restaurant who keeps making meals and the employees whose tips have been practically eliminated but still run our orders out to our cars. We watch with sheer amazement and horror as our doctors, nurses and medical staff go into the line of fire lacking basic, necessary protective equipment. We honor you all. We salute you all. We love and respect and are grateful For You All.

But this letter isn’t about that. Nope.


This letter is to you — the spouses of the mission essentials.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance
Returning home

You are the ones left behind each morning. The ones left to deal with homeschool and meals and kids unable to play with their friends or understand their math homework that they didn’t quite grasp in a packet.

You are the ones left to carry the emotional burdens of children who are frustrated at a Zoom classroom and don’t understand why they can’t have a sleepover or go see grandma or even play at the park. You are the ones who field countless requests for snacks, a thousand utterings of, “I need help,” and even more declarations of, “I can’t do this.”

You put your own work on hold, your own health, your own sanity to muster one more ounce of patience, one more hug, one more deep breath, all while balancing that other nasty, invisible weight: the burden of your own anxiety. Anxious about the world. Anxious about your spouse. Anxious about their health and your health and your parents’ health and your kids’ health and their screen time and your elderly neighbor’s health and the teachers’ health and your job and your neighbor’s job and the economy and your kids’ education, and given your one hour of free time a week, why you suddenly identify with a character on Tiger King.

Here’s the thing: It’s all too much. And it’s going to feel like you’re failing.

Failing by definition means, “a weakness, especially in character; a shortcoming.” But if we’ve seen anything in this time of pandemic, we’ve seen your strength. Your resolve. Your gracious heart. We’ve seen you stay home and help flatten the curve. We’ve seen you take on additional responsibilities so your mission essential spouse could keep being mission essential. We’ve seen you offer encouragement to your friends on FaceTime when you have none to give yourself. We’ve seen you reassure your exhausted partner that everything will be okay, all the while knowing you will lie awake in the dark in the middle of the night, the echoes of your own fears so deafening you can’t fall back asleep.
The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

We see you. You’re going to be okay. Reframe your measure of success to include a bar that allows for just getting by. Find time for gratitude. Make space for prayer or meditation or simply a silence that isn’t broken by fear or anxiety. We are all in this together and your best is good enough. As my seven year old reminded me yesterday, this is his first global pandemic. Ours too, bud. Ours too.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS may have obtained anti-tank missiles from the CIA

Amid the chaos of the Syrian Civil War, it looks like armaments manufactured from around the globe and supplied to different factions eventually fell into the hand of Islamic State militants.


A new report from Conflict Armament Research (CAR) sheds light on the amount and type of weapons and ammunition ISIS forces obtained in Syria and Iraq. From 2014 to 2017, CAR has documented the origins and supply chain of over 40,000 items, including rifles, missiles, and improvised explosive devices.

Around 97% of weapons and 87% of ammunition used by ISIS is assumed to have originated primarily from China, Russia, and eastern European states, as evidenced by their 7.62mm caliber.

Also Read: This is why the U.S. military uses 5.56mm ammo instead of 7.62mm

According to the report, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia purchased much of the arms from European Union countries in eastern Europe, which were distributed, without authorization, from the supplying country to Syrian rebel forces battling President Bashar al-Assad’s army.

“At the very least, the diversion of weapons documented in this report has eroded the trust that exporting authorities placed in the recipient governments,” the report said. “At worst, the diversions occurred in violation of signed agreements that commit recipient governments not to retransfer materiel without the exporter’s prior consent.”

In one such case, CAR found that an advanced anti-tank guided weapon that was manufactured in the European Union was sold to the U.S., only to be given to a party involved in the Syrian conflict, which then found its way to ISIS militants in Iraq — a process that took two months.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance
The FGM-148 Javelin Anti-tank Guided Missile. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Thomas Duval 1/25 SBCT PAO)

Judging by its serial number, the report stated, the anti-tank guided missile found in Iraq is believed to have been part of the same supply chain as the ones provided to a U.S.-supported rebel group in Syria. In the same year, sources with knowledge of the Syrian conflict reportedly said that the CIA was establishing small rebel units capable of taking down tanks and had received anti-tank missiles, a BuzzFeed News report said.

Although the exact process through which the militants obtained their arms from groups involved in the Syrian conflict remain unclear, it has been previously reported that members of rebel groups, such as the Free Syrian Army, were believed to have joined ISIS forces amid the sectarian violence in the country.

“These findings are a stark reminder of the contradictions inherent in supplying weapons into armed conflicts in which multiple competing and overlapping non-state armed groups operate,” the report said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Apparently Russia can’t even afford Putin’s problematic nuclear cruise missile

Russia can’t afford its Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, which still doesn’t work right and may not be combat ready for another decade, CNBC reports, citing US intelligence assessments.

Russian President Vladimir Putin proudly boasted last year that the weapon could skirt enemy defenses and fly indefinitely, giving it unlimited range, but the farthest this missile has ever flown in testing is 22 miles.

The most recent test took place in late January 2019, The Diplomat reported in early February 2019, noting that Russia had decided to restart testing after a pause last summer.


The test was apparently only “partially successful,” The Diplomat explained, indicating that the weapon still doesn’t function as intended. No country has ever fielded a nuclear-powered cruise missile, although the US briefly flirted with the idea many years ago.

US intelligence currently assesses it might be another decade before the Burevestnik cruise missile is ready for combat, but even then, Russia is expected to only produce a few of these potentially powerful missiles because they are too expensive for the country to develop, CNBC reports.

This certainly isn’t the first superweapon Russia has hyped up that turned out to be unobtainable due to budget limitations.

Russia unveiled its hard-hitting T-14 Armata tank at the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade, where one embarrassingly broke down and had to be towed away during rehearsal.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

Russian T-14 Armata tank.

Russia had initially planned to mass produce and field as many as 2,300 Armatas by 2025, but that number was reduced to 100, as the cost of this state-of-the-art tank, which includes an unmanned turret and other expensive features, was way over budget.

Instead of buying more Armatas, Russia opted to upgrade and improve its older T-72, T-80, and T-90 tanks, capable armor units but definitely nothing like what Russia promised for the Armatas.

The country decided to do the same with its fifth-generation Su-57 stealth fighter.

Rather than mass produce the aircraft, which was built to take down the US F-35s, Russia instead chose to purchase only a limited number and focus on improving its fourth-generation fighters.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy on deadly collisions: We have to be better

The chief of Naval Operations said today that the collisions in the Pacific that killed 10 sailors aboard the USS Fitzgerald and seven sailors aboard the USS McCain were entirely preventable, and the service is committed to correcting the actions that led to the accidents.


Navy Adm. John Richardson told Pentagon reporters that many aspects combined to cause the accidents, including lack of training, hubris, sleep deprivation, failures in navigation, and failures in leadership.

The guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain sailed when they shouldn’t have, he said, and that decision falls on the commanders, who are responsible for conducting risk assessments.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) sits in Dry Dock 4 at Fleet Activities Yokosuka to continue repairs and assess damage sustained from its June 17 collision with a merchant vessel. This view shows damage above the waterline to the outside skin of the ship. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christian Senyk/Released)

The demand for ships, or any military capability, is defined by the security environment, Richardson said, adding that the Pacific has been a very demanding environment of late.

The demand of the security environment must match against the resources that can be applied. “When you have a gap between those two, that’s risk,” the admiral said. “It’s all part of that … day-to-day assessment. Every commander has to wake up each day at their command level and say, what has changed in my security environment? What is my new risk posture? And how am I going to accommodate or mitigate that risk?”

Cultural Change

At some point, commanders cannot mitigate the risk, and they should say no to the mission, he said, but the present culture is such that commanders will assess the risk to be acceptable when it is not.

Changing that culture is one goal for the chief — he wants commanders to be honest about assessments and the shortfalls they have.

While the changes are in the 7th Fleet area, the Navy is on all the seas. “A review of your Navy today shows that this morning there are 100 ships and 64,000 sailors and Navy civilians who are deployed,” Richardson said.

“This includes three carrier strike groups and their embarked air wings, three amphibious readiness groups, and their embarked Marine expeditionary units, six ballistic missile defense ships on station, 11 attack submarines, five [ballistic missile submarines],” he said. “The vast majority of these ships are conducting their missions, some of them extremely difficult, effectively and professionally, protecting America from attack, promoting our interests and prosperity, and advocating for the rules that govern the vast commons from the seafloor, to space, and in cyberspace.”

Read More: Bad training and fatigue to blame for Navy deaths

The Navy and its sailors are busy, and they have been integral to the wars America has fought since 9/11. “Recent experience has shown that if we’re not careful, we can become overstretched, overextended. And if we take our eye off the fundamentals, we become vulnerable to mistakes at all levels of command,” the admiral said.

To address this, the Navy has taken some immediate actions, including restoring a deliberative scheduling process in the 7th Fleet, conducting comprehensive ready-for-sea assessments for all Japan-based ships, establishing a naval service group in the Western Pacific — an independent body in Yokosuka, Japan that will keep their eye on readiness generation and standards for the Pacific Fleet commander — establishing and using a near-miss program to understand and disseminate lessons learned, and establishing policies for surface ships to routinely and actively transmit on their automatic identification system, Richardson said.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance
The guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain sits on heavy lift transport MV Treasure in Changi, Singapore, Oct. 6, 2017. The USS McCain will be transported to Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan, for repairs following a collision with a merchant vessel on Aug. 21. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Fulton

Midterm actions will emphasize training, establishing comprehensive policies on managing fatigue and accelerating some of the electronic navigation systems upgrades, he said.

“Long-term actions include improving individual and team training skills, with an emphasis on basic seamanship, navigation and integrated bridge equipment; evaluating core officer and enlisted curricula with an emphasis on fundamentals [and] navigation skills,” the admiral said.

“I have to say that fundamental to all of this is how we prepare leaders for command,” Richardson said. “We will deeply examine the way that we prepare officers for increasing leadership challenges, culminating in assumption of command with the capability and the confidence to form, train and assess warfighting teams on the bridge, in the combat information center, in engineering and throughout their command.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This B-17 survived one of the most infamous mid-air collisions of WW2

There are many versions of All American’s journey — in some, the crew used “parts of the German fighter and their own parachute harnesses” to keep the B-17 Flying Fortress together. In others, she hobbles home to England from battle in Africa.

The legends circulate but the truth is just as mind-blowing — as the pictures can well attest.

The story begins, as all good war stories do, in the shit…


B17 All American ~ (Rev. 2a) (720p HD)

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On Feb. 1, 1943, Lt. Kendrick R. Bragg and his crew from the 414th Bomb Squadron, 97th Bomb Group received orders to attack German-controlled seaports at Bizerte and Tunis, Tunisia from Biskra, Algeria. After a successful bombing run in spite of enemy flak, they proceeded to return to base when they were attacked by German Messerschmitt Me 109 fighters.

One of the fighters attacked the lead bomber while the other went for All American. Her crew fought off both attacks, firing at their own Me 109 with their nose turret and supporting the lead bomber with shots from the right side nose gun. The dual attack against the lead fighter took the enemy bird down, while the fighter attacking All American began evasive maneuvers.

According to the crew, they must have killed or incapacitated the pilot before he could complete his movement. The Messerschmitt tore through All American, ripping a jagged gash in the rear fuselage and tearing off the left horizontal stabilizer.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

“I rammed the controls forward in a violent attempt to avoid collision… I flinched as the fighter passed inches over my head and then I felt a slight thud like a coughing engine. I checked the engines and controls. The trim tabs were not working. I tried to level All American but she insisted on climbing. It was only by the pressure from knees and hands that I was able to hold her in anything like a straight line,” recalled Bragg.

Miraculously, All American was still airborne.

Her wingmen remained aloft, slowing to escort the injured bird through enemy territory.

“As we neared the field we fired three emergency flares, then we circled at 2000 feet while the other planes in our formation made their landings and cleared the runways… I lowered the landing gear and flaps to test the reaction of All American. They seemed to go reasonably well, considering,” Bragg recounted. “I made a long, careful approach to the strip with partial power until the front wheels touched the leveled earth and I could feel the grating as she dragged without a tail wheel along the desert sands. She came to a stop and I ordered the co-pilot to cut the engines. We were home.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Citadel steps in to support Marine Recruit Training

New Marine recruits destined for Parris Island will spend two weeks at the Citadel before moving into training.

The United States Marine Corps has begun placing incoming recruits into two weeks of isolation where they are regularly monitored by medical staff to identify any potential symptoms of COVID-19 infection, but the temporary tent housing these recruits stay in has been deemed insufficient as America’s southeast braces for this year’s hurricane season.

In order to ensure the safety of recruits awaiting training, the Marine Corps reached out to the Citadel, a public military college in South Carolina where aspiring military officers attend classes alongside civilians. The president of the Citadel, retired Marine General Gen. Glenn M. Walters, was happy to support.

“The Secretary of Defense charged each military service to develop strategies to maintain basic training, and The Citadel is proud to be part of the solution for the Marine Corps,” said Gen. Glenn M. Walters.

“Since The Citadel campus is currently closed due to the pandemic, the college is positioned to quickly assist as a mission-capable site in this effort that supports national security.”

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Recruits will be housed in the campus’ empty barracks beginning on May 4, where they will remain for a two-week period of monitored isolation. During their time on the campus, they’ll be given access to the college mess hall, infirmary, laundry, and tailor shop. They will also utilize some classrooms for periods of instruction.

“While meeting our mission, the health and safety of our Marines, all civilians and our families are a primary concern,” said Brig. Gen. James F. Glynn, USMC commanding general, Marine Corps Recruit Depos Parris Island and Eastern Recruiting Region.

“With high school graduations happening now, this is one of our busiest times of the year. We are grateful to have this temporary arrangement so near to Parris Island.”

The benefits of this agreement aren’t one-sided either. While the Marine Corps gets a safe and well equipped place to house recruits in isolation, the contract established between the Corps and the Citadel will help offset the significant economic impact the college has suffered due to closures amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“This partnership is reminiscent of the Second World War, when The Citadel campus supported over 10,000 military personnel training in various programs before shipping overseas,” Walters said.

“This is an historic partnership at a time of need, and it is a privilege to be a part of it.”

You can learn more about what each branch is doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at basic training here.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Salt Lake City lost a hero and a Veterans’ champion

World War II Veteran and 75-year legionnaire William E. Christoffersen will be remembered as a man who fought for his country and his fellow Veterans. It was his life’s mission.

“We’ve lost one of our greatest champions,” Terry Schow said. “We lost a guy who was a beacon to many of us in the Veteran community. He was beloved.” Schow is a long-time friend and former Utah Department of Veterans Affairs executive director.

“He was a great mentor, great advisor and just a great man. We will never see his likeness again.”


Christoffersen died May 31 at the Utah state Veterans home named in his honor. The Cache Valley native was just days shy of his 94th birthday.

Christoffersen served as an Army infantryman, fighting throughout the Philippines in WWII. He returned home and founded a Logan-based construction business. But his real calling, Schow said, was serving Veterans.

Veteran nursing home was his mission

Soon after leaving the military, Christoffersen joined the American Legion and became department commander in 1959. A born leader and tireless advocate, Christoffersen served on the American Legion’s National Executive Committee – the highest state post within the Legion and part of its national board of directors – just four years later.

He made it his mission to bring a Veterans’ nursing home to Utah.

The US is tracking people’s movements with phone data, and it’s part of a massive increase in global surveillance

World War II Veteran William E. Christoffersen leads a group of Veterans in a parade.

Describing him as “an impressive man with an imposing stature,” Schow first met Christoffersen over 30 years ago. Schow pressed governor Mike Leavitt to add Christoffersen to the home’s construction advisory committee. The state built the first Veterans nursing home in 1998.

But Christoffersen did more than bring a Veterans home to Utah. He brought three national conventions to the Beehive State, and with them, roughly 10,000 visitors, including dignitaries, senators, and in 2006, President George W. Bush.

“Bill was a legend,” Schow said. “There wasn’t an elected official at the federal level who did not know Bill Christoffersen.”

He also used his clout to better Utah’s Veteran landscape. One of his initiatives rose to the level of federal law. He was one of the promoters of the Transition Assistance Program. The program provides service members leaving the military with a weeklong course on how to create resumes, apply for benefits and more.

“Is it worth it? Yes it is.”

Even in his 80s, he continued advocating for Veterans. In March 2013, VA renamed the facility he helped create the William E. Christofferson Salt Lake Veterans Home.

After serving the Legion for more than a half-century, Christofferson retired in August 2013. Schow recalled how Christoffersen apologized for not doing more.

“There are times when you ask, ‘Is it worth it?'” Christoffersen then told the Legion. “I say yes, it is.”

In tribute for his decades of service, the flags outside the William E. Christofferson Salt Lake Veterans Home flew at half-staff June 5 – in honor of Christofferson’s 94th birthday.

Read more at at https://veterans.utah.gov/longtime-veterans-advocate-william-e-christoffersen-passes-away/.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.


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