The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again

Six years ago, Dutch intelligence agents reportedly infiltrated a malicious group of hackers working out an office building not far from the Kremlin. Dutch agents hacked into a security camera that monitored people entering the Moscow building, according to the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant; they also reportedly monitored in 2016 as the hackers broke into the servers of the U.S. Democratic Party.

The hackers came to be known as APT-29 or The Dukes, or more commonly, Cozy Bear, and have been linked to Russia’s security agencies. According to the report, the Dutch findings were passed onto U.S. officials, and may have been a key piece of evidence that led U.S. authorities to conclude the Kremlin was conducting offensive cyberoperations to hack U.S. political parties during the 2016 presidential campaign.


Fast forward to 2020: the Cozy Bear hackers are back — though for those watching closely, they never really went anywhere.

British, American, and Canadian intelligence agencies on July 16 accused Cozy Bear hackers of using malware and so-called spear-phishing emails to deceive researchers at universities, private companies, and elsewhere.

‘Totally Unacceptable’

The goal, the agencies said, was to steal research on the effort to create a vaccine for the disease caused by the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

“APT-29 is likely to continue to target organizations involved in COVID-19 vaccine research and development, as they seek to answer additional intelligence questions relating to the pandemic,” the British National Cyber Security Center said in a statement, released jointly with the Canadian and U.S. agencies.

“It’s totally unacceptable for Russian intelligence services to attack those who are fighting the coronavirus pandemic,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the accusations “unacceptable.”

“We can say only one thing: that Russia has nothing to do with these attempts,” he told reporters.

The advisory did not name which companies or organizations had been targeted, nor did it say whether any specific data was actually stolen. The head of the British National Cyber Center said the penetrations were detected in February and that there was no sign any data had actually been stolen.

The advisory did say the hackers exploited a vulnerability within computer servers to gain “initial footholds” and that they had used custom malware not publicly associated with any campaigns previously attributed to the group.

Russia’s main intelligence agencies are believed to all have offensive cybercapabilities of one sort or another.

Sophisticated Techniques

Cyber-researchers say Cozy Bear most likely is affiliated with Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, known as the SVR, possibly in coordination with the country’s main security agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB).

According to researchers, the group’s origins date back to at least 2008 and it has targeted companies, universities, research institutes, and governments around the world.

The group is known for using sophisticated techniques of penetrating computer networks to gather intelligence to help guide Kremlin policymakers.

It is not, however, known for publicizing or leaking stolen information, something that sets it apart from a rival intelligence agency whose hacking and cyberoperations have been much more publicized in recent years — the military intelligence agency known widely as the GRU.

GRU hackers, known as Fancy Bear, or APT-28, have been accused of not only hacking computer systems, but also stealing and publicizing information, with an eye toward discrediting a target. U.S. intelligence agencies have accused GRU hackers of stealing documents from U.S. Democratic Party officials in 2016, and also of leaking them to the public in the run-up to the November presidential election.

“The GRU had multiple units, including Units 26165 and 74455, engaged in cyber operations that involved the staged releases of documents stolen through computer intrusions,” Special Counsel Robert Mueller wrote in a July 2018 indictment that charged 12 GRU officers. “These units conducted large-scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

Three months later, U.S. prosecutors in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, issued a related “Fancy Bear” indictment accusing some of the same officers of conducting a four-year hacking campaign targeting international-sport anti-doping organizations, global soccer’s governing body, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and other groups.

A GRU officer named in the Mueller indictment has also been named by German intelligence as being behind the 2015 hack of the Bundestag.

But unlike the GRU and the Fancy Bear hackers, there has never been any public identification of specific Cozy Bear hackers or criminal indictments targeting them.

The U.S.-based cybersecurity company Crowdstrike, which was the first to publicly document the infiltration of the Democratic National Committee, said in its initial report that both the Cozy Bear and the Fancy Bear hackers had penetrated the committee’s network, apparently independently of each other.

Unclear Motives

It’s not clear exactly what the motivation of the Cozy Bear hackers might be in targeting research organizations, though like many other nations, Russia is racing to develop a vaccine that would stop COVID-19, and stealing scientific data research might help give Russian researchers a leg up in the race.

Russia has reported more than 765,000 confirmed cases. Its official death toll, however, is unusually low, and a growing number of experts inside and outside the country say authorities are undercounting the fatalities.

In the past, Western intelligence and law enforcement have repeatedly warned of the pernicious capabilities of Russian state-sponsored hackers. In the United States, authorities have sought the arrest and extradition of dozens of Russians on various cybercharges around the world.

As in the Mueller indictments, U.S. authorities have used criminal charges to highlight the nexus between Russian government agencies and regular cybercriminals– and also to signal to Russian authorities that U.S. spy agencies are watching.

For example, the Mueller indictment identified specific money transfers that the GRU allegedly made using the cryptocurrency bitcoin to buy server capacity and other tools as part of its hacking campaigns.

As of last year, those efforts had not had much effect in slowing down state-sponsored hacking, not just by Russia, but also by North Korea, Iran, China, and others.

“[I]n spite of some impressive indictments against several named nation-state actors — their activities show no signs of diminishing,” Crowdstrike said in a 2019 threat report.

Gleb Pavlovsky, a Russian political consultant and former top Kremlin adviser, downplayed the Western allegations.

“We are talking about the daily activities of all secret services, especially regarding hot topics like vaccine secrets,” he told Current Time. “Of course, they are all being stolen. Of course, stealing is not good, but secret services exist in order to steal.”

In the U.S. Congress, some lawmakers signaled that the findings would add further momentum to new sanctions targeting Russia.

“It should be clear by now that Russia’s hacking efforts didn’t stop after the 2016 election,” Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

There’s a new battle brewing in the Atlantic

The National Defense Strategy issued by the Defense Department in 2018 declared a new era of great power competition with “revisionist powers” — namely, China and Russia.

A new period of tension and competition with Russia has been evident in Europe since 2014, when Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine.

In the years since, NATO has sought to improve its position in Europe, while Russia has displayed new naval capabilities in the waters around the continent.


In an email interview, Magnus Nordenman, a NATO expert and author of “The New Battle for the Atlantic: Emerging Competition with Russia in the Far North” who was previously director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, explained what this new era of competition in the Atlantic looks like, what each side brings to it, and how the conditions continue to change.

Christopher Woody: As mentioned in the title of your book, there have been several battles for the Atlantic, namely during World War I and II and the Cold War. How does the present situation resemble those battles and how does it differ?

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again

Coast guardsmen aboard the US Coast Guard cutter Spencer watch the explosion of a depth charge, blasting a German submarine attempting to break into the center of a large US convoy in the Atlantic, April 17, 1943.

(Public domain)

Magnus Nordenman: During each great conflict in Europe during the 20th century the Atlantic has served as the crucial bridge that allowed the flow of war-winning supplies and reinforcements from America to Europe.

If a conflict between Russia and NATO erupted in the coming years, the Atlantic would serve that role again.

But it would not be a re-run of previous battles for the Atlantic. Changes in technology, a new-style Russian navy, and the context of global great-power competition would all help shape a future battle for the Atlantic.

Woody: Russia has made an effort to rebuild its navy in recent years. What capabilities does that force, its submarines in particular, have now that it didn’t have in the years after the end of the Cold War?

Nordenman: Unlike during Cold War days, the Russian navy is going for quality rather than quantity. And given that it has relatively limited resources it must focus its investments where they can make the biggest difference, and that is with its submarine force.

Russia has also focused on giving its navy a long-range strike capability with Kalibr missiles, which have been used to great effect in Syria. The use of long-range strike missiles from submarines was nearly an exclusive US domain until relatively recently.

Russia fires six Kalibr missiles at IS targets in Syria’s Hama

www.youtube.com

All this suggests that Russia would not try to halt shipping coming across the Atlantic from the US but would instead seek to attack command-and-control centers and ports and airfields in Northern Europe to disrupt US efforts to come to the aid of its European allies.

Woody: On the Center for a New American Security podcast in August, you mentioned that when it comes to dealing with Russia, you think there’s less an “Arctic problem” and more of a “Kola Peninsula problem.” Can you elaborate on the difference between the two and what that distinction means for NATO?

Nordenman: Arctic security is a growing theme, but I think it often confuses the debate rather than enlightens it.

The North American, European, and Russian Arctics are three very different places in terms of politics, accessibility, operating environment, and international relations. To place it all under the rubric “Arctic security” is not always helpful.

In the case of NATO and its mission to provide deterrence on behalf of its member states it comes down to the Kola Peninsula, where Russia’s northern fleet is based.

Woody: The Arctic remains a challenging region for navies to operate in, but climate change is altering the environment there. What changes do you expect naval forces to have to make in order to keep operating there effectively?

Nordenman: NATO member navies need to get familiar again with operating in the broader North Atlantic.

The last two decades have seen those navies primarily operate in places such as the Mediterranean, the [Persian] Gulf, and Indian Ocean. Those are very different domains in comparison to the Atlantic. And while the far North Atlantic is warming, it is not a hospitable place. It still remains very remote.

In terms of climate change, there are, for example, indications that warmer waters are changing the patterns of sound propagation in the far North Atlantic, which means that they must be measured and catalogued anew in order to conduct effective anti-submarine warfare.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

A World War II vet wants cards for his birthday – here’s how to send him one

World War II veteran Recil Troxtel turns 93 years old on April 17, 2019. He stares longingly out the window for much of the day, excited for the mail to arrive. When it finally does, he hops up in the hopes that there might be a personal letter or two, just for him.

With his birthday coming up, all he really wants is more mail. His fellow veterans and members of the military community are sure to step up and drop their friend Recil a line – right?


He sits here in his chair looking out the window every day,” his daughter, Liz Anderson told KSWO, an Oklahoma ABC affiliate. “When the mail is here, he’s like the mail is here, we better go get the mail.”

Unfortunately, there’s not often anything in there for Recil. Now, the soon-to-be 93-year-old Oklahoma man is undergoing cancer treatment. His days of watching for the mail may be short, so maybe we shouldn’t wait for April 17th to roll around. Maybe we should send out greetings, letters, and good wishes to Recil right away. Send them to:

Recil Troxtel
2684 North Highway 81
Marlow, Oklahoma 73055


The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again

“I don’t get mail anymore,” Recil said. That’s about to change, buddy.

It’s exciting when he gets it because he will sit there and hold it,” his daughter said. “Sometimes he won’t open it for an hour or two. Other times, he has a knife in his pocket, and he rips that knife out and rips that letter open to see what it is.

His family tells KSWO that he didn’t always enjoy the mail, but he’s at an age now where receiving something doesn’t mean he’s getting a bill. It’s more likely a personal message.

Articles

China just deployed troops to its first overseas base alongside US outpost

China dispatched members of its People’s Liberation Army to the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti July 11 to man the rising Asian giant’s first overseas military base, a key part of a wide-ranging expansion of the role of China’s armed forces.


The defense ministry said on its website that a ceremony was held at a naval peer in the southern Chinese port of Zhanjiang presided over by navy commander Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong.

It said the personnel would travel by navy ship but gave no details on numbers or units. Photos on the website showed naval officers and marines in battle dress lining the rails of the support ships Jingangshan and Donghaidao.

China says the logistics center will support anti-piracy, U.N. peacekeeping and humanitarian relief missions in Africa and western Asia. It says it will also facilitate military cooperation and joint exercises as the PLA navy and other services seek to expand their global reach in step with China’s growing economic and political footprint.

Djibouti is already home to the center of American operations in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, while France, Britain, Japan and other nations also maintain a military presence in the small but strategically located nation.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again
Chinese special operations forces raid a civilian ocean transport during a counter-piracy mission. (Photo from Chinese Ministry of Defense)

Multinational anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden that China joined in 2008 have also given its navy ready access to the Mediterranean, and, in 2011, it took the unprecedented step of sending one of its most sophisticated warships together with military transport aircraft to help in the evacuation of about 35,000 Chinese citizens from Libya.

In 2015, China detached three navy ships from the anti-piracy patrols to rescue Chinese citizens and other foreign nationals from fighting in Yemen. The same year, it took part in its first Mediterranean joint naval exercises with Russia.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Army family raises $42,000 for children in honor of son

While many children dislike being the middle child, Bryce Caldwell saw it as the best of both worlds.

He loved the attention of being younger and once he was thrust into the role of big brother, it sort of became his calling.

Right from when the Caldwell family’s third son was brought home from the hospital, Bryce adored and protected him.


“Bryce was always hovering over him, kissing him, hugging him,” said Maj. Jeremy Caldwell, his father. “He was just so proud to be an older brother.”

Almost a year ago on Dec. 14, 2017, Bryce, a 6-year-old boy who not only loved his brothers but also football, died from a brain tumor called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again

A photo of the Caldwell family. Bryce Caldwell, lower left, had his wish come true when he visited the Denver Broncos headquarters in 2017.

Earlier that summer, through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Bryce visited Denver Broncos players and had the chance to play on a real football field with his brothers.

Although his life was short-lived, Bryce’s smile and personality often drew people to him.

“He would have this incredible light about him,” Jeremy said in a phone interview. “He was so warm and caring even at such a young age.”

Shortly after their son’s death, Jeremy’s wife, Suzy, found information on a 14-week hiking and fundraising challenge sponsored by the nonprofit organization.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again

Bryce Caldwell, left, takes a photograph with Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller during his wish trip to the Broncos headquarters in 2017.

(MakeAWish Foundation photo)

The culminating event was a 26.3-mile strenuous hike through the Talladega National Forest that is completed in one day.

With help from their friends, Will and Kate Searcy, the Caldwells were able to raise more than ,000 for the challenge — enough to grant five wishes from children with life-threatening illnesses.

For their efforts, the Caldwells were awarded the Lori Schultz-Betancourt Indomitable Spirit Award last at the nonprofit’s annual conference in Phoenix.

The Caldwells were left speechless when they found out they were considered for the award among the other nominees.

“We never expected when we went on this journey to get an award,” Jeremy said.

They also never expected to raise so much.

Dealing with the frustration and grief of losing a child, the Caldwells thought the challenge would help channel those emotions into something positive.

“It was a good way to focus all of that energy,” said Jeremy, who is currently a student at the Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell Air Force Base. He has also deployed to Iraq twice to fly UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again

From left to right, Maj. Jeremy Caldwell, his wife, Suzy, and their friends Kate and Will Searcy participate in a hiking challenge to raise more than ,000 for a non-profit foundation in memory of their son, who received a wish trip to visit the Denver Broncos headquarters in 2017.

Their initial goal was to raise ,500, the minimum pledge needed for one person to take part in the challenge.

But the outpouring of support they received from the local community and the military community across the world was much more.

“All I can say is that we are blessed we had so many good people behind us, lifting us up at such a difficult time in our lives,” Jeremy said.

After seeing their son’s joy during his wish trip to the Denver Broncos headquarters in June 2017, Jeremy and Suzy just wanted other families to have the same opportunity.

The trip provided some welcome relief from all the weight put on their shoulders at a time when they constantly worried about medications, doctor appointments and MRI scans.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again

Maj. Jeremy Caldwell, right, accepts the Lori Schultz-Betancourt Indomitable Spirit Award in October at the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s annual conference in Phoenix.

(MakeAWish Foundation photo)

“You can just focus on your family and enjoy the moment and the happiness that you see in your kid’s face,” he said. “That’s the incredible, almost healing, factor of these wish trips and that was an inspirational part of why we kept pushing to raise the amount of money that we did.”

The Caldwells have also raised nearly ,000 for another nonprofit that supports research to cure pediatric brain cancer like DIPG.

There are even plans to tackle the hiking challenge for a second time.

“I don’t know if we’ll get to the 40-something thousand dollars again, but maybe we’ll just focus on getting to one wish,” Jeremy said. “That’s the initial goal and we’ll see where it goes.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

New stunning documentary shows the reality of the drone war through the eyes of the operators

A new documentary, “National Bird,” exposes the secret drone war being carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and elsewhere from the ground level of the strike and from the perspective of three military operators who used to pull the trigger.


“When you watch someone in those dying moments, what their reaction is, how they’re reacting and what they’re doing,” Heather Linebaugh, a former drone imagery analyst, says in the film. “It’s so primitive. It’s really raw, stripped down, death.”

Also read: Osprey crash shows how dangerous Marine aviation can be

Though unmanned systems have been used for many years to carry out surveillance, it wasn’t until after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks — on February 4, 2002 — that a drone was armed and used for targeted killing. That 2002 strike apparently killed three civilians mistaken for Osama bin Laden and his confidantes, a theme that went on to play out again and again.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again
US Air Force photo

Armed drones have operated since in Afghanistan and many other countries in which the U.S. is not at war, including Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. They have been used to strike militants and terror leaders over the years — a program accelerated under the Obama administration — but it has come at a deadly cost, with thousands of innocent civilians killed, to include hundreds of children.

“I can say the drone program is wrong because I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” Linebaugh says.

Linebaugh and two others, introduced only by their first names Daniel and Lisa, tell equally compelling stories from their time in the military’s drone program. The film gives them a chance to shine a light on what is a highly secretive program, which officials often describe as offering near-surgical precision against terrorists that may someday do harm to U.S. interests.

Instead, the three offer pointed critiques to that narrative, sharing poignant details of deaths they witnessed through their sophisticated cameras and sensors. The most disturbing thing about being involved with the drone program, Daniel said, was the lack of clarity about whom he killed and whether they were civilians.

“There’s no way of knowing,” he says.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again
Screenshot via www.liveleak.com

Though the testimony of the three operators is compelling, the documentary’s most important moments come from a visit to Afghanistan, where the documentary showcases a family that was wrongly targeted by a strike. It was on February 21, 2010, when three vehicles carrying more than two-dozen civilians were hit by an Air Force drone crew.

“That’s when we heard the sound of a plane but we couldn’t see it,” one victim says.

Filmmaker Sonia Kennebeck mixes witness statements with a reenactment of overhead imagery and voices reading from the transcript prior to the strike. A later investigation found that the operators of the Predator drone offered “inaccurate and unprofessional” reporting of what they saw.

During the incident, the drone operators reported seeing “at least five dudes so far.” Eventually, they reported 21 “military-age males,” no females, and two possible children, which they said were approximately 12 years old.

“Twelve, 13 years old with a weapon is just as dangerous,” one drone operator says. The operators never got positive identification of the people below having weapons.

That’s because the group consisted only of innocent men, women, and children, according to the documentary. Twenty-three Afghan civilians were killed, including two children aged seven and four.

“We thought they would stop when they saw women, but they just kept bombing us,” the mother of the children says.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of U.S. forces in the country, apologized for the strike. Four officers involved were disciplined.

The documentary cuts through the defense of drones as a “surgical” weapon that only kills the bad guys. As many reports have made clear, the US often doesn’t know exactly who it is killing in a drone strike, instead hazarding an “imperfect guess,” according to The New York Times, which is sometimes based merely on a location or suspicious behavior.

That imperfect guess has often resulted in the death of innocent locals — or, as was the case in 2015, the death of two men, an American, and an Italian, who were being held hostage by militants.

As Daniel points out in the documentary, the presence of drones on the battlefield has only emboldened commanders, who no longer have to risk military personnel in raids and can fire a missile instead. That viewpoint only seems to be growing, as the technology gets better and drones continue to proliferate around the world.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again
Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen | US Air Force

The drone may continue to be the “national bird” of the U.S. military for a long time, but perhaps the documentary can start a conversation around their use and whether they create more terrorists, as has been argued, than they are able to take out.

“Not everybody is a freakin’ terrorist. We need to just get out of that mindset,” says Lisa, a former Air Force technical sergeant, in the documentary. “Imagine if this was happening to us. Imagine if our children were walking outside of their door and it was a sunny day, and they were afraid because they didn’t know if today was the day that something was going to fall out of the sky and kill someone close to them. How would we feel?”

MIGHTY TRENDING

US warns that drones made in China pose spying risk

The US Department of Homeland Security is concerned that Chinese-made drones and the data they can collect could get into the hands of the Chinese government, according to a DHS alert obtained by CNN.

The alert, which CNN reported was sent out on May 20, 2019, said Chinese-made drones have the ability to share information and data to a server that isn’t exclusively controlled by the drone manufacturer.

It’s unlikely that live video feeds from Chinese-made drones could be shared with the Chinese government, and audio feeds aren’t usually available as many drones don’t come with microphones. With that said, some drone software saves snippets of video and images that could be saved on a drone company’s servers. Information such as flight and operations data, too, could reveal where, when, who, and why a drone is being used.


As part of a 2017 national-intelligence law, China expects its citizens and companies to support its national-intelligence activities. The alert reportedly suggests that Chinese drone companies could share — or be forced to share — data collected from their drones abroad, including to people in the US.

While the alert didn’t single out any specific manufacturers, the Chinese drone manufacturer DJI holds a significant majority of the drone market share in North America — up to 80%, according to an industry analysis from CNN.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again

(DJI)

In 2017, the US Army issued a ban of DJI drones after alleging that the company shared critical infrastructure and law-enforcement data with the Chinese government.

DJI said in a statement to Business Insider that it has total control over how the data stored in its servers is handled and that its technology has been independently verified by the US government and US businesses. The company also said customers can enable options that would protect their data, as per the DHS’s reported recommendations. As for corporate or governmental use of DJI drones, the company said it offers models that don’t transfer data to DJI directly or over the internet at all.

DJI’s full statement is below:

At DJI, safety is at the core of everything we do, and the security of our technology has been independently verified by the U.S. government and leading U.S. businesses. DJI is leading the industry on this topic and our technology platform has enabled businesses and government agencies to establish best practices for managing their drone data. We give all customers full and complete control over how their data is collected, stored, and transmitted. For government and critical infrastructure customers that require additional assurances, we provide drones that do not transfer data to DJI or via the internet, and our customers can enable all the precautions DHS recommends. Every day, American businesses, first responders, and U.S. government agencies trust DJI drones to help save lives, promote worker safety, and support vital operations, and we take that responsibility very seriously. We are committed to continuously working with our customers and industry and government stakeholders to ensure our technology adheres to all of their requirements.

The DHS alert comes a week after an executive order from President Donald Trump effectively banned the sale of Huawei telecoms equipment in the US.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why taking care of people is key to success on battlefield

Gen. James McConville smiled as he reminisced of when he was chosen to lead the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), before he became its longest-serving commander.

It was the same week in 2011 he commissioned his eldest son into the Army after he graduated as an ROTC cadet from Boston College.

But perhaps the most proud was his father, a former enlisted sailor who had served in the Korean War and then spent nearly 50 years working at the Boston Gear factory.

At the ceremony, his father, Joe, was asked by a local newspaper how he felt about his family’s generations of military service.


Sixty years ago, he told the reporter, he was a junior seaman on a ship. And today, his son was about to command a famed Army division and his grandson was now a second lieutenant.

“‘What a great country this is,'” McConville recalled his father saying. “I don’t think I could have said it better.”

McConville, who was sworn in as the Army’s 40th chief of staff on Aug. 9, 2019, said he credits his father for inspiring him to join the military.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again

(Photo by Spc. Markus Bowling))

After high school, McConville left Quincy, a suburb of Boston, and attended the U.S. Military Academy, where he graduated in 1981. Since then his 38-year career has been marked with milestones and key assignments.

McConville has led multiple units in combat before most recently serving as the 36th vice chief of staff under Gen. Mark Milley, who will be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He also oversaw the Army’s G-1 (personnel) and legislative liaison offices.

The idea of serving the country was sparked by his father, who, now nearing 90 years old, still passionately shares stories of his time in the military.

“I was always amazed that a man who I had tremendous respect for, who had tremendous character, just really loved his time serving in the Navy,” the general said.

Currently with three children and a son-in-law in the Army, McConville and his wife, Maria, a former Army officer herself, are continuing the family business.

People first

The sense of family for McConville, though, extends beyond bloodlines.

As a father and a leader, McConville understands the importance of taking care of every person in the Army, which he calls the country’s most respected institution.

“People are the Army,” he said of soldiers, civilians and family members. “They are our greatest strength, our most important weapon system.”

Fine-tuning that weapon system means, for instance, providing soldiers with the best leadership, training and equipment through ongoing modernization efforts.

As the vice chief, McConville and current acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy supervised the development of Army Futures Command’s cross-functional teams.

Designed to tackle modernization priorities, the CFTs revamped how the Army procures new equipment. The teams allow soldiers to work directly with acquisition and requirements experts at the start of projects, resulting in equipment being delivered faster to units.

Modernization efforts are also changing how soldiers will fight under the new concept of multi-domain operations.

“When I talk about modernization, there are some that think it is just new equipment,” he said. “But, to me, it is much more than that.”

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again

The family of Gen. James McConville poses for a photo during a promotion ceremony in honor of his son, Capt. Ryan McConville, in his office at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., May 2, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Dana Clarke)

He believes a new talent management system, which is still being developed, will help soldiers advance in their careers.

As the Army pivots from counterinsurgency missions to great power competition against near-peer rivals, the system could better locate and recognize soldiers with certain skillsets the service needs to win.

“If we get them in the right place at the right time,” he said, “we’ll have even a better Army than we have right now.”

The talent of Army civilians, which he says are the “institutional backbone of everything we do,” should also be managed to ensure they grow in their positions, too.

As for family members, he said they deserve good housing, health care, childcare and spousal employment opportunities.

“If we provide a good quality of life for our families, they will stay with their soldiers,” he said.

Winning matters

All of these efforts combine into a two-pronged goal for McConville — an Army that is ready to fight now while at the same time being modernized for the future fight.

“Winning matters,” he said. “When we send the United States Army somewhere, we don’t go to participate, we don’t go to try hard. We go to win. That is extremely important because there’s no second place or honorable mention in combat.”

Readiness, he said, is built by cohesive teams of soldiers that are highly trained, disciplined and fit and can win on the battlefield.

“We’re a contact sport,” he said. “They need to make sure that they can meet the physical and mental demands.”

To help this effort, a six-event readiness assessment, called the Army Combat Fitness Test, is set to replace the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, which has been around since 1980.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again

Gen. James McConville, the Army vice chief of staff, swears in recruits during a break in the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, Dec. 8, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

The new strenuous fitness test, which is gender- and age-neutral, was developed to better prepare soldiers for combat tasks and reduce injuries. It is expected to be the Army’s fitness test of record by October 2020.

Soldiers also need to sharpen their characteristic traits that make them more resilient in the face of adversity, he said.

Throughout his career, especially in combat, McConville said he learned that staying calm under pressure was the best way to handle stress and encourage others to complete the mission.

In turn, being around soldiers in times of peace or war kept McConville motivated when hectic days seem to never end.

“Every single day I get to serve in the company of heroes,” he said. “There are some people who look for their heroes at sporting events … or movie theaters, but my heroes are soldiers.

“My heroes are soldiers because I have seen them do extraordinary things in very difficult situations,” he added. “I’m just incredibly proud to serve with them.”

And given his new role overseeing the entire Army, he is now ultimately responsible for every single one of those “heroes.”

“I know having three kids who serve in the military that their parents have sent their most important possession to the United States Army,” he said, “and they expect us, in fact they demand, that we take care of them.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Whistle-blower Snowden seeks extension Of Russian residence permit, says lawyer

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who was granted asylum in Russia, is preparing to apply for the extension of his Russian residence permit which expires in April, his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told Russian media on February 7.


Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013 after he revealed details of secret surveillance programs by U.S. intelligence agencies.

“At Edward’s request, I am drawing up documents for the Russian Interior Ministry migration service to extend his residence permit,” Kucherena said.

Snowden was charged under the U.S. Espionage Act for leaking 1.5 million secret documents from the NSA on government surveillance, prompting public debate about the legality of some of the agency’s programs, on privacy concerns, and about the United States snooping on its neighbors.

If convicted, Snowden faces up to 30 years in prison.

In September, Snowden called on French President Emmanuel Macron to grant him asylum. The French presidency did not comment.

Snowden had unsuccessfully applied for asylum in France in 2013 and several other countries.

“Everything is okay with him. He is working. His wife is with him,” Kucherena said.

Asked if Snowden plans to apply for Russian citizenship, Kucherena said, “I haven’t discussed this matter with him so far.”

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

Articles

This is what it looks like when ISIS traps an Iraqi army unit for 20 hours

Whatever criticism is leveled at CNN, some of the network’s international reporters are as badass as they come. They may wield a pen, pad, and camera instead of an M4 rifle, but they face danger just like many troops on the frontline — and keep going back despite the risk.


One of those war journos is Arwa Damon, a fluent Arab speaker and a senior international correspondent for CNN based in Istanbul. She’s covered the bloody civil war in Syria — a fight that’s taken the life of over 100 journalists since 2011 — and was recently embedded with Iraqi troops during their assault on the ISIS stronghold in Mosul.

It’s one thing to embed with U.S. troops in a combat zone — with its professionalism, training and sheer firepower embedding with American forces offers a lot of extra protection when the sh*t hits the fan. But when you’re staking your life on the effectiveness of a rebuilt military like the Iraqi army, it’s an entirely different danger equation.

During a patrol in Mosul late last year, Damon finds herself in the nightmare scenario many American troops knew well to avoid. A slow-moving convoy of up armored Humvees weaving through ever-tightening streets and alleys with bad guys maneuvering on all sides. An explosion disables the lead vehicle, another targets the trailing one. Grenades and rockets hit the MRAP, VBIDs stream in from the sides.

A veteran of many hairy combat situations herself, Damon can sense things are about to go pear shaped and when they do, it’s the CNN reporter who has to tell the Iraqis to take a strong point and get the hell off the “X.”

What follows is a nerve-wracking 20 hours of waiting for backup. No call for fire, no QRF, no gun runs are going to un-as$ this cluster. The only respite comes at daybreak when, under fire, the crew makes a break for it and barely maneuvers it out of the kill zone.

What she brought home, however, is a harrowing look at what it’s like to be at the mercy of ISIS in an enemy-controlled city relying on a military that’s got a long way to go before it can hold its own in a complex urban fight.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The reason Robert Mueller volunteered to fight in Vietnam

Robert Swan Mueller III is perhaps best known as the former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who is now responsible for the Special Counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections.


But before he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the position of FBI Director, Mueller served as a Marine Corps officer during the Vietnam War. As the Washington Post attested, Mueller’s service was brief but remarkable. He studied politics at Princeton University, where he met lacrosse teammate, David Spencer Hackett, who would be killed by enemy fire in Quang Tri Province on April 30, 1967.

Also read: 24 photos that show the honor and loyalty of the Marine Corps

Mueller has cited Hackett’s death as his motivation for joining the Marines.

“One would have thought that the life of a Marine, and David’s death in Vietnam, would argue strongly against following in his footsteps,” Mueller said in a speech for the College of William and Mary’s May 2013 commencement ceremony.  

“But many of us saw in him the person we wanted to be, even before his death. He was a leader and a role model on the fields of Princeton. He was a leader and a role model on the fields of battle as well. And a number of his friends and teammates joined the Marine Corps because of him, as did I.”

Mueller applied for Officer Candidate School and would train at Parris Island, Army Ranger School, and Army Airborne School. As a Marine, Mueller’s attendance in elite Army training was a testament to his proficiency — the positions were highly competitive and reserved for the best.

Mueller deployed to Vietnam with H Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, a unit that was decorated for two particularly intense battles. In December 1968, Mueller, then a 2nd lieutenant, would receive the Bronze Star Medal with the “V Device” for his valor during combat.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again
2nd Lt. Robert S. Mueller III’s Bronze Star citation obtained by The Washington Post.

According to his citation, Mueller was the lead element in a patrol that fell under attack when he “skillfully supervised the evacuation of casualties from the hazardous area and… personally led a fire team across the fire-swept terrain to recover a mortally wounded Marine who had fallen.”

Vietnam War: Now you can read about every single fallen troop from the Vietnam War

In April 1969, Mueller was shot in the thigh during an ambush, but maintained his position and ensured fire superiority over the enemy and defeated the hostile forces. For his actions that day, he received the Purple Heart and a Navy Commendation Medal for valor. He remained in Vietnam despite his wounds, however, and continued to serve after his recovery.

Mueller separated as a captain in 1970, and would be inducted into the Army Ranger Hall of Fame in 2004, where he was credited with leading the FBI “through the dramatic transformation required in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks.” 

“I do consider myself fortunate to have survived my tour in Vietnam. There were many – men such as David Hackett – who did not. And perhaps because of that, I have always felt compelled to try to give back in some way,” Mueller said in his 2013 commencement speech. “The lessons I learned as a Marine have stayed with me for more than 40 years. The value of teamwork, sacrifice, and discipline – life lessons I could not have learned in quite the same way elsewhere.”
Articles

This Blackwater shootout in Baghdad might not have gone down like the prosecution claimed

Four contractors with the security firm formerly known as Blackwater may have come under fire before they shot and killed more than a dozen Iraqis in 2007, federal prosecutors admitted in a hearing before the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.


According to a report by Circa.com, the government lawyers’ admission could result in the convictions of the contractors over the deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians being overturned by the appellate court. The contractors had claimed they opened fire in self-defense during their 2014 trial.

The incident drove a deeper wedge between the American and fledgling Iraqi governments over the perception of trigger-happy security contractors running roughshod over Iraqi civil rights. Five Blackwater contractors were involved in the incident, which took place in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Three were given 30-year sentences, one was given a life sentence and one had the charges dropped.

The prosecution’s main witness, Jimmy Watson, testified during the trial that there was incoming fire, according to an August 2014 report by Bloomberg News.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again
A Blackwater contractor in Afghanistan (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

“In fact, what [Watson] thought he heard was enemy fire,” Demetra Lambros, the federal prosecutor arguing the case in front of a three-judge panel, allegedly admitted during the oral arguments. “[Watson is] very clear about it. Those first shots did not come from the convoy.”

The contractors had been sent to secure the area in Nisoor Square where an employee of the Agency for International Development was holding a meeting after an improvised explosive device, or IED, had been detonated nearby. A vehicle that approached a convoy under their protection may have reinforced the perception that they were under attack, reports say.

“So for all these years the federal government has been painting this case as cold blooded, a cold-blooded shooting,” Blackwater founder Erik Prince told Circa.com. “Here they are acknowledging, yes indeed, there is incoming fire. We’ve known that all along.”

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again
A Blackwater Security Company MD-530F helicopter aids in securing the site of a car bomb explosion in Baghdad, Iraq, on December 4, 2004, during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. A similar bombing in 2007 lead to the incident that resulted in Blackwater contractors facing charges of manslaughter. (USAF photo)

“This could be a major boon to the defense,” Jeffrey Addicott, director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s Law School, told Circa.com. “The appellate court could throw the entire conviction out based on that alone.”

This would not be the first time that claims of an unprovoked massacre were debunked.

Eight Marines faced charges in the aftermath of a Nov. 15, 2005, firefight in Haditha, Iraq that resulted in civilian casualties. Then-Democrat Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, a former Marine, claimed the killings were “cold-blooded murder,” according to CNN.

In the end, Reuters reported that one Marine plead guilty to negligent dereliction of duty. The Associated Press reported that the other seven Marines charges had their cases dismissed or were exonerated.

MIGHTY GAMING

US Army simulation will prep teachers for school shootings

Two government agencies have teamed up to provide teachers with a unique education in the wake of increased school shootings.


The United States Army and Homeland Security Department are in the midst of creating a virtual reality experience they hope will help train educators on how to react in the event of a school shooting, according to Gizmodo.

Users can take on three roles in the virtual reality experience: teacher, shooter, and officer.

Teachers in the simulation must gather nervous pupils and find shelter. Those playing as the shooter are able to navigate the virtual school and kill at random. Officers in the virtual reality simulation must aim to find and kill the shooter.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again
Someone dazzled by VR goggles. (Photo from Flickr user Maurizio Pesce)

The simulation is being developed as part of the $5.6 million Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE) initiative, which is an “online training environment for first responders.”

In 2016, the Army and HSD released a similar virtual reality experience aimed to train first responders to handle hostile situations.

They’ve created simulations for both fire and police departments regarding school shooting response.

Related: New virtual reality lets operators simulate jumps into combat

“The more experience you have, the better your chances of survival are,” Tamara Griffith, a chief engineer for EDGE, told Gizmodo.

“So, this allows you to practice and have multiple experiences (and) know what works and what doesn’t work.”

To create the most realistic scenario possible, EDGE engineers listened to dispatch audio from both the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings. This allowed them to incorporate the most gruesome realities into the simulation.

The Return of Cozy Bear: Russian hackers in the crosshairs of Western intelligence agencies — again
Students at Virginia Tech hold a candlelight vigil after the Virginia Tech massacre (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

It also helped them zero in on specific survival tactics and best practices for such scenarios, including locking doors, avoiding windows, ordering students to line up against walls, and finding items to use as barricades.

According to Gizmodo, administrators in the simulations can enable different tools, including an intercom system and automated locks.

Griffith told the publication she’s hopeful that using the simulation in varying roles within the school will allow educators to stay calm should such a real-life situation arise.

“With teachers, they did not self-select into a role where they expect to have bullets flying near them. Unfortunately, it’s becoming a reality,” she said.

“And so we want to give them the chance to understand what options are available to them and what might work well for them.”

The updated virtual reality simulation aimed at teachers will be released in the spring.

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