Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled

European and U.S. police have dismantled an international crime gang that used malware to steal $100 million from tens of thousands of victims, Europe’s police agency says.

Europol said on May 16, 2019, that the operation involved investigations in the United States and five European countries — Bulgaria, Germany, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine.


It said the gang used GozNym malware to infect the computers and capture online banking details of more than 41,000 victims, primarily “businesses and their financial institutions.”

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled

(Photo by Markus Spiske)

The network laundered the funds it stole through accounts held by its members in the United States and elsewhere, according to Europol.

Ten gang members are facing charges in the United States, including stealing money and laundering those funds.

Five Russians charged by U.S. authorities remain on the run.

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

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13 funniest military memes for the week of Jan. 13

Look, nobody get ninja punched this weekend and maybe we’ll stop getting these safety briefs every Friday. But who are we kidding? Someone is going to be on the carpet first thing Monday.


Oh well. Here are some funny military memes before the festivities start:

1. It’s gonna be out of this world (via U.S Army W.T.F! moments)

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
The tape plays at three times the speed of sound.

2. No such thing as a “touch” of food poisoning (via The Salty Soldier).

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
But the chili mac was good.

3. Stalin, you’re holding your fist wrong (via Military Memes).

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled

ALSO READ: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

4. Come on. Push ups and flutter kicks are just good physical training (via Lost in the Sauce).

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
Guess I’ll just have him practice individual movement techniques for the next few hours. Mostly just the low crawl.

5. What the —!? Don’t do it! Think of the bad juju!

(via Coast Guard Memes)

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
Y’all acting like you want the terrorists to win.

6. You’re about to get eviscerated, buddy (via Air Force Memes Humor).

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
Maybe try to play dead or something.

7. “My friends and I are here for the violence.”

(via Military Memes)

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
I wonder if he laughs more or less when it’s not a rehearsal.

8. The USS New York is ready to visit freedom on everyone who seeks to destroy it (via Navy Crow).

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
Maybe don’t aim at skyscrapers anymore.

9. Just pray that it’s a late sunrise and all the NCOs are hungover (via The Salty Soldier).

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
But maybe save some of your strength for the smoke session, just in case.

10. Yeah, seems about right.

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
If you stay in long enough, you get to be the bear.

11. New Air Force tattoo policy be like:

(via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
Hope some of you had money invested in tattoo parlors near Air Force bases.

12. Remember: profiles are just suggestions until the commander signs off on them (via U.S Army W.T.F! moments).

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
Looks like someone is going to spend the next few months driving the command and staff vehicles.

13. Recruiters are like D.A.R.E. officers. “Just say no.”

(via Devil Dog Nation)

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled

Special bonus meme 1:

(via The Salty Soldier)

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled

Special bonus meme 2:

(via Devil Dog Nation)

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled

MIGHTY TRENDING

How a Cold War sex scandal toppled the British government

The model at the center of a scandal, which rocked the British political and social establishment, and ended an age of deference in British culture, has died.


Christine Keeler, a young woman catapulted into British history through a scandal involving UK Cabinet Minister John Profumo in the 1960s, was confirmed dead yesterday by her family. She was 75.

Keeler was a model and showgirl who spent time in London dance clubs, where she came into the orbit of British high society along with other young women in her position. She was 19 at the time.

Related: Corps to update social media rules in wake of scandal

Her life became the object of a Cold War political scandal when it became public knowledge that she had been sexually involved with Profumo — then Britain’s minister for war — while doing the same with a Soviet diplomat based in London.

Opposition MPs alleged that having such a close link between a senior government minister and a rival power presented a security risk, predicated on the idea that Keeler could be a conduit to leak secrets to the Russians.

Attempts by Profumo to distance himself from Keeler led to him lying to parliament, saying there was “no impropriety whatsoever” in his relationship with her. When it the lie was found out, he resigned from his position.

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
John Profumo in 1960, at his desk as Secretary of State for War (Image from Wikimedia Common)

An official government report into the affair concluded that there had been “no security risk,” though Keeler herself later said that some of her activities effectively constituted spying.

The scandal was seen as a watershed moment in British public life, when a long-standing tradition of deferring instinctively to those in positions of power came to an end.

Since then, it has become a cultural norm in Great Britain for revelations about the personal lives of ministers to end careers and change the shape of the government.

Also Read: Chances are the hot model that added you to her social feed is a Russian spy

In a fiery exchange after his resignation, Labour leader Harold Wilson said the affair “shocked the moral conscience of the nation,” and then Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, agreed.

Meanwhile, Keeler gave an interview to the tabloid press and reportedly received thousands of pounds in exchange.

photograph of her posing nude while straddling a chair, released shortly after Profumo’s resignation, became the iconic image of the scandal.

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
The iconic photo of Christine Keeler. (Image from Flickr user hydRometra)

Profumo’s resignation was a major blow to Macmillan’s government, and was one of several factors which led to his resignation later that year and a loss for the Conservative Party in 1964 to Harold Wilson.

Keeler went on as a minor celebrity in the UK, appearing in interviews and in newspapers based on the scandal, which produced books, the 1989 film “Scandal,” and the West End musical, Stephen Ward.

Some official papers relating to the case are due to remain classified until 2046, 100 years after the birth of Mandy Rice-Davies, Keeler’s roommate and the youngest figure in the scandal.

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First female Marine applies for infantry

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
(Photo: Stars and Stripes)


A female lance corporal has requested a lateral move into an infantry “military occupational specialty,” the first to do so of more than 200 enlisted female Marines who have successfully completed training for combat jobs, according to a report by Marine Corps Times.

The female Marine’s name hasn’t been released, however. “Since this recent request is still being processed, that’s all the information we can offer at the moment,” Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Philip Kulczewski told the Times.

“These requests take time, and to help put things in perspective, lateral-move processes involve counseling, reviewing physical readiness, completing resident Professional Military Education, individual performance, competiveness in MOS and ultimately needs of the Marine Corps,” Kulczewski said in an email to Marine Corps Times. “This process ensures the Marine Corps will adhere to its standards and will continue its emphasis on combat readiness.”

Meanwhile the Corps is deploying a Mobile Training Team in May to explain to units how the service’s gender integration plan is going to be executed. “This isn’t sensitivity training,” Kulczewski said.

All of this comes on the heels of edicts laid down by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus regarding eliminating whatever barriers remain to females serving throughout the military, regardless of warfare specialty.

Earlier this week while speaking at Camp Pendleton in California Mabus addressed concerns that standards will be lowered to accommodate females, but as he did he seemed to hedge his bet by saying that change could be a function of “circumstances in the world.”

“I will never lower standards,” Mabus said. “Let me repeat that: Standards will not be lowered for any group. Standards may be changed as circumstances in the world change, but they’ll be changed for everybody.”

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DoD extends online military exchange shopping privileges to veterans

The Department of Defense announced a policy change that will extend limited online military exchange shopping privileges to all honorably discharged veterans of the military.


The veterans online shopping benefit will be effective this Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

Also read: The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

While shopping privileges exclude the purchase of uniforms, alcohol and tobacco products, it includes the Exchange Services’ dynamic online retail environment known so well to service members and their families. This policy change follows careful analysis, coordination and strong public support.

“We are excited to provide these benefits to honorably discharged veterans to recognize their service and welcome them home to their military family,” said Peter Levine, performing the duties for the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

“In addition, this initiative represents a low-risk, low-cost opportunity to help fund Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in support of service members’ and their families’ quality of life. And it’s just the right thing to do,” Levine added.

The online benefit will also strengthen the exchanges’ online businesses to better serve current patrons. Inclusion of honorably discharged veterans would conservatively double the exchanges’ online presence, thereby improving the experience for all patrons through improved vendor terms, more competitive merchandise assortments, and improved efficiencies, according to DoD officials.

“As a nation, we are grateful for the contributions of our service members. Offering this lifetime online benefit is one small, tangible way the nation can say, ‘Thank you’ to those who served with honor,” Levine said.

NOW WATCH: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange system for vets

MIGHTY CULTURE

Embracing a new culture at Army Futures Command

When Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby first interviewed to be Army Futures Command’s enlisted leader, he had no idea what to expect.

The command was still in its nascent stages with no headquarters building and he could only find a brief description of its vision to modernize the Army.

Instead, Crosby was focused on the battlefield, observing his troops defeat ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. The prospect of the new job seemed like a 180-degree departure from his post overseeing Operation Inherent Resolve’s Combined Joint Task Force.

He then reflected on the coalition troops he had lost during his tour. Then of the soldiers who never returned home from his other deployments, including back-to-back tours to Iraq from 2005 to 2008.


He decided he wanted to help change how future soldiers would fight, hopefully keeping them safer and more lethal.

“It’s something bigger than myself,” he said in a recent interview. “I’m fired up about this. This is a bold move by the Army.”

Embedded with industry, academia 

Inside a high-rise office building in the heart of Texas, the command’s headquarters bustled on a weekday in late June.

Unlike other Army units, the office space felt more like that, an office, rather than a typical military workplace.

The command had a low profile in its upper-floor nest inside the University of Texas System building, overlooking downtown and the domed state capitol.

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled

Sgt. 1st Class William Roth, right, assigned to Army Futures Command’s Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team, conducts a live demonstration of new Army equipment at Capital Factory in Austin, Texas, April 11, 2019.

(Photo by Luke J. Allen)

Among the rows of cubicles, soldiers wore no uniforms as they worked alongside federal employees and contractors. Many soldiers went by their first name in the office, often frequented by innovators, entrepreneurs and academic partners.

The lowest-ranked soldier was a sergeant and up the chain were senior executive service civilians and a four-star general.

A few blocks down 7th Street, another group of soldiers and federal employees from the command were embedded in an incubator hub to get even closer to innovators.

The Army Applications Laboratory occupies a corner on the eighth floor of Capital Factory, which dubs itself the center of gravity for startups in Texas. The lab shares space with other defense agencies and officials call it a “concierge service” to help small companies navigate Defense Department acquisition rules and regulations.

“They’re nested and tied in with industry,” Crosby said.

The command also provides research funding to over 300 colleges and universities, he added

Those efforts include an Army Artificial Intelligence Task Force at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh that activated earlier this year.

In May, the University of Texas System also announced it had committed at least million to support its efforts with the command, according to a news release.

More recently, the command agreed to a partnership with Vanderbilt University in Nashville. As part of it, soldiers with 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team would work with engineers to inspire new technology.

Soldiers up the road at Fort Hood may also soon be able to do the same at UT and Texas AM University.

“That is what we’re looking to replicate with other divisions in the Army,” Crosby said. “It will take some time.”

In on the groundfloor

Since October 2017 when the Army announced its intent to create the command to be the focal point of modernization efforts, it wasted no time laying its foundation.

It now manages eight cross-functional teams at military sites across the country, allowing soldiers to team with acquisition and science and technology experts at the beginning of projects.

The teams tackle six priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, future vertical lift, network, air and missile defense, and soldier lethality — all of which have since been allocated billion over the next five years.

The next step was to place its headquarters in an innovative city, where it could tap into industry and academic talent to develop new technologies that give soldiers an edge against near-peer threats.

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled

Gen. John Murray, left, commander of Army Futures Command, and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, the command’s senior enlisted leader, participate in a command synchronization session at the University of Texas at Austin, April 26, 2019.

(Photo by Luke J. Allen)

After an exhaustive search of over 150 cities, the Army chose Austin. The move marked the start of the Army’s largest reorganization effort since 1973, when both the Forces Command and Training and Doctrine Command were established.

The location away from a military post was intentional. Rather than surrounded by a security fence, the command is surrounded by corporate America.

“We’re part of the ecosystem of entrepreneurs, startups, academia,” Crosby said. “We’re in that flow of where ideas are presented.”

As it nears full operational capability this summer, Futures Command has already borne fruit since it activated August 2018.

Its collaborative efforts have cut the time it takes project requirements to be approved from five or seven years to just three months or less.

Once prototypes are developed, soldiers are also more involved in testing the equipment before it begins rolling off an assembly line.

By doing this, the Army hopes to learn from past projects that failed to meet soldier expectations.

The Main Battle Tank-70 project in the 1960s, for instance, went well over budget before it was finally canceled. New efforts then led to the M1 Abrams tank.

Until the Army got the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, it spent significant funding on the Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle in the 1960s, which never entered service.

“So we’re trying to avoid that,” Crosby said. “We’re trying to let soldiers touch it. Those soldier touchpoints are a big success story.”

Culture change

Futures Command is not a traditional military command. Its headquarters personnel, which will eventually number about 100 soldiers and 400 civilians, are encouraged to think differently.

A new type of culture has spread across the command, pushing many soldiers and federal employees out of their comfort zone to learn how to work in a more corporate environment.

“The culture we really look to embrace is to have some elasticity; be able to stretch,” Crosby said. “Don’t get in the box, don’t even use a box — get rid of the box.”

Crosby and other leaders will often elicit ideas from younger personnel, who may think of another approach to remedy a problem.

“I’m not going to somebody who has been in the uniform for 20 to 30 years, because they’re pretty much locked on their ideas,” he said. “They don’t want to change.”

A young staff sergeant once told the sergeant major the command could save thousands if they just removed the printers from the office.

The move, which is still being mulled over, would force people to rely more on technology while also saving money in paper, ink and electricity.

While it may annoy some, Crosby likens the idea to when a GPS device reroutes a driver because of traffic on a road. The driver may be upset at first, not knowing where the device is pointing, but the new route ends up being quicker.

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled

Lt. Gen. Eric Wesley, center, deputy commanding general of Army Futures Command and commander of Futures and Concepts Center, talks with Josh Baer, founder of Capital Factory, during a South by Southwest Startup Crawl on March 8, 2019, in Austin, Texas.

(Photo by Anthony Small)

“You have to reprogram what you think,” he said. “I’m not used to this road, why are they taking me here? Then you come to find out, it’s not a bad route.”

For Sgt. 1st Class Kelly Robinson, his role as a human resources specialist is vastly different from his previous job as a mailroom supervisor at 4th Infantry Division.

As the headquarters’ youngest soldier, Robinson, 31, often handles the administrative actions of organizations that continue to realign under the budding command.

Among them are the Army Capabilities Integration Center that transitioned over to be the command’s Futures and Concepts Center. The Research, Development and Engineering Command then realigned to be its Combat Capabilities Development Command.

Research elements at the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command have also realigned to the Army’s new major command.

“The processes and actions are already in place,” Robinson said of his old position, “but here you’re trying to recreate and change pretty much everything.”

Since he started in November 2018, he said he now has a wider view of the Army. Being immersed in a corporate setting, he added, may also help him in a career after the military.

“The job itself and working with different organizations opens up a [broader perspective],” he said, “and helps you not just generalize but operationalize a different train of thought.”

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled

Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Crosby, left, Army Futures Command’s senior enlisted leader, participates in the command’s activation ceremony in Austin, Texas, Aug. 24, 2018, along with Gen. Mark Milley, chief of staff of the Army; Army Secretary Mark Esper; and its commander, Gen. John Murray.

(Photo by Sgt. Brandon Banzhaf)

While chaotic at times, Julia McDonald, a federal employee who handles technology and futures analysis for the commander’s action group, has grabbed ahold of the whirlwind ride.

“It moves fast around here,” she said of when quick decisions are made and need to be implemented at a moment’s notice. “Fifteen minutes seems like an hour or two.”

Building up a major command is not without its growing pains. Even its commander, Gen. John Murray, has referred to his command as a “startup trying to manage a merger.”

“Everybody is just trying to stand up their staff sections and understand that this is your lane and this is my lane,” McDonald said. “And how do we all work together now that we’re in the same command?”

The current challenges could pay off once the seeds planted today grow into new capabilities that help soldiers.

For Crosby, that’s a personal mission. In his last deployment, nearly 20 coalition members, including U.S. soldiers, died in combat or in accidents and many more were wounded as they fought against ISIS.

“We have to get it right, and I know we will,” he said. “Everybody is depending on us.”

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

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ISIS is so worried about the coming Mosul invasion they’re cutting off the Internet

A top Pentagon spokesman said Aug. 3 that U.S. and coalition pressure against the ISIS stronghold in Mosul, Iraq, has taken such a toll on militant commanders that they’ve cut off most communications from the city, including Internet access for civilians there.


Army Col. Chris Garver, the spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve which is battling ISIS in Syria, Iraq and Libya, told reporters that morale among the ISIS fighters and the civilians being held in Iraq’s second largest city is cracking.

“We know that [ISIS] has started cutting off Internet access and really access to the outside world for the citizens inside Mosul,” Garver said. “We know that they’re afraid that Iraqi citizens inside Mosul are going to communicate with the Iraqi Security Forces.”

“We’ve seen that fear in ISIS in Ramadi, and in Fallujah and we’re seeing those indicators inside Mosul as well,” he added.

It’s so bad, Garver said, that ISIS leaders are ordering the execution of local militant commanders in Mosul for “lack of success or failure on the battlefield.”

The crumbling situation for rebel forces inside Mosul comes as U.S., Iraqi and Syrian Democratic forces continue to squeeze ISIS in the east of Iraq and to the north in Syria, with nearly half of the critical junction town of Manjib, Syria, taken from ISIS and troops flowing into the newly recaptured Q-West airfield near Mosul.

Top defense officials have hinted the assault on Mosul could launch as soon as the fall and could deal a crushing blow to ISIS worldwide.

“We know that [ISIS] considers Mosul one of the two capitals of the so-called caliphate … and clearly all eyes are focused on Iraq,” Garver said. “So not only would it be a significant physical loss, but the loss of prestige … their reputation as they try to manage it is going to take a big hit when Mosul does fall.”

Garver added that commanders believe there are about 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul, with the net tight enough that only small numbers of fighters can get in but not convoy-loads of them.

“At the heyday we saw 2,000 foreign fighters a month coming through Syria,” Garver said. “Now we have estimates of between 200 and 500.”

As Iraqi forces build out the Q-West airfield to support troops there, the noose will tighten around the city and the takedown will begin, Garver added.

 

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This is the inside story behind the F-18 Super Hornet’s first enemy jet kill

On June 18, a US Navy pilot shot down a Syrian fighter jet south of Tabqah after it dropped bombs near US-backed forces, also known as Syrian Democratic Forces, according to US Central Command.


It was the first time a US pilot made an air-to-air kill since the Kosovo conflict in 1999.

And now, for the first time since the incident, pilot Lt. Cmdr. Michael Tremel, explained to savetheroyalnavy.org exactly what happened that day.

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Ignacio D. Perez

“The whole incident lasted about eight minutes,” Tremel told the site. “I did not directly communicate with the Syrian Jet but he was given several warnings by our supporting AWACS aircraft.”

Central Command said that after pro-Syrian fighter jets bombed the SDF-held town of Ja’Din around 4:30 p.m., they called Russia on the ‘de-confliction line’ to get them to stop the air raids. At 6:43 p.m., a Syrian Su-22 dropped more ordnance, and in response, Tremel, flying an F/A-18E Super Hornet, shot the fighter jet down.

Here’s the rest of Tremel’s story:

“So yes, we released ordnance and yes it hit a target that was in the air, but it really just came back to defending those guys that were doing the hard job on the ground and taking that ground back from ISIS … I didn’t see the pilot eject but my wingman observed his parachute … When you think about the shoot-down, in the grand scheme of things … we [our squadron] flew over 400 missions in support of friendly forces on the ground … [Russia] behaved with great professionalism at all times.”

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
A Polish Su-22 Fitter at the 2010 Royal International Air Tattoo. Photo from Wikimedia commons

Tremel also said that he first shot at the Su-22 with an infrared guided AIM-9X Sidewinder short range air-to-air missile, but the Syrian jet released decoy flares, and the missile missed.

He then fired a second radar-guided AIM-120 AMRAAM missile, which destroyed the Su-22.

Tremel made the call himself to shoot down the Su-22 in accordance with the rules of engagement, according to Military.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hawaii emergency agency password photo shows why OPSEC is actually important

On Jan. 13, people in Hawaii were awakened by a terrifying false alert about an inbound missile. Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency has said a worker clicked the wrong item in a drop-down menu and sent it, and that its system was not hacked.


“It was a mistake made during a standard procedure at the changeover of a shift, and an employee pushed the wrong button,” Gov. David Ige said.

But an Associated Press photo from July that recently resurfaced on Twitter has raised questions about the agency’s cybersecurity practices.

In it, the agency’s operations officer poses in front of a battery of screens. Attached to one is a password written on a Post-it note.

 

Computer, enhance:

 

An agency spokesman told Hawaii News Now that the password is authentic, and had been used for an “internal application” that he believed was no longer being used.

While these computers are unrelated to the system that sent the false missile alert, the photo raises questions about the approach to information security at the agency. (On the other screen, another note reminds the user to “SIGN OUT.”)

Writing down passwords isn’t a strict security no-no. Some experts say that keeping a hard copy of a password in your wallet is defensible — if you can keep the piece of paper secure. But a note on a monitor is not secure, especially if it’s for computer systems dedicated to keeping people safe.

Also Read: The Hawaii worker who ‘pressed the wrong button’ has been reassigned

The photo has already drawn some ridicule from those in the operational-security industry.

Here’s what the system that sent the false alert on Jan. 13 looks like:

 

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How Iran-backed militias are running around in M-1 Abrams tanks

Several years ago, the United States debated supplying Syrian rebels with high-tech armaments such as anti-tank and surface-to-air missiles. Critics contended that the weapons might fall into the hands of US-designated “terrorist organizations.”


But it is in Iraq that the fear has become real: the US has armed American-killing Iranian proxies and terrorist groups with its best tank, the M1 Abrams.

The Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella organization of Iranian-backed Shia militias fighting the Islamic State group, have acquired M1 Abrams tanks given to the Iraqi army. Two PMF militias – the Badr Organization and Kataib Hezbollah – have posted pictures and videos of their fighters alongside M1 Abrams tanks draped with their banners and flags.

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
A US-made M1 Abrams tank can be seen with the flag of the Iranian-backed militia Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada. Image from the Long War Journal.

The tanks once belonged to the 9th Armored Division, the only Iraqi Army unit that operates the M1 Abrams. It remains ambiguous whether the militiamen in the videos are controlling the tanks themselves or just posing with them under the supervision of tank crews from the 9th.

“In the videos, the passengers in the tanks are wearing the 9th’s uniforms,” Iraqi Army spokesman Colonel Muhammad Baidani told The New Arab. “Taking pictures and placing flags on the tank alone is not proof of ownership.”

Baidani added that the Iraqi Armed Forces and the PMF conduct combined operations “in most battles,” calling allegations that the 9th had loaned the M1 Abrams to the PMF “untrue.”

But sources in the PMF told The New Arab a different story, explaining that the militias obtained the M1 Abrams in two ways: “Sometimes, the PMF asks for American tanks from the Iraqi Army, if Russian-made tanks are unavailable,” said Hussam al-Mayahi, a Badr engineer specializing in military technology and remote weapons stations.

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
Logo of Popular Mobilization Forces. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

“The PMF also seized some after the fall of Mosul and the second Battle of Tikrit, taking them from IS.”

During IS’ campaign across the east and north of Iraq, the militants managed to seize numerous M1 Abrams tanks, including at least ten during the Battle of Ramadi in 2015.

Jafar al-Husseini, a spokesman for Kataib Hezbollah, confirmed this story: “We captured the American tanks and other military vehicles from IS, who, in turn, [had] seized them from what was left by the Iraqi army. Now, they are under our control, and we are seeking more.”

He claimed that Kataib Hezbollah and other Shia militias now held all IS’ M1 Abrams tanks.

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
USAF Airmen load an M1A1 Abrams Tank into an Air Force C-5M Super Galaxy cargo aircraft. USAF photo by Roland Balik.

Other tanks appear to come straight from the 9th: “Tanks are provided to us according to the circumstances of the battles and offensives, before being returned to the Defense Ministry,” Karim al-Nuri, a ranking Badr commander, told The New Arab.

Al-Nuri says he has never seen the PMF directly use an American tank but, when shown the pictures and videos that Badr had posted, replied: “It’s important to take any tanks – whether Russian or American.”

If the US delivered M1 Abrams tanks to Iraq’s Defense Ministry despite knowing that they could be given to the PMF, the Pentagon might have violated the Leahy Law – which prohibits the US Defense and State Departments from providing military aid to security forces guilty of abusing human rights.

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerman

Human rights defenders accuse the PMF, including Badr and Kataib Hezbollah, of ethnic cleansing, summary executions, and other war crimes.

Iraq remains on the State Department’s list of countries with the most child soldiers, because of these militias who continue to recruit minors.

Kataib Hezbollah presents a wider dilemma. In 2009, the State Department designated it a “terrorist organization” for killing American soldiers, and the US Treasury Department labelled its founder, the Iraqi warlord Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a “specially designated global terrorist.”

Al-Muhandis works as an operative for the Quds Force, the sub-unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps responsible for extraterritorial operations on Iran’s behalf.

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Photo from CounterExtremism.com

“We have heard these reports and we are looking into them,” said a spokesman for the US-led anti-IS coalition, who emphasized in an email, “Department of Defense policies on the provision of military assistance to foreign military forces require that Iraqi Security Forces receiving equipment or training are strictly vetted in accordance with the Leahy Act as well as for associations with terrorist organizations and/or the government of Iran.”

These policies appear to have failed.

A State Department official admitted, “not all US-provided defense articles are under the control of the intended recipient ministry/unit. We are concerned that a small number of M1A1 tanks may be in the possession of forces other than the Ministry of Defense and Iraqi Army.”

“The United States has not provided these or other defense articles to the PMF.”

“Nevertheless, we understand that some equipment has come into the possession of the PMF, which are part of the Iraqi Security Forces by law, and have been used in the fight against ISIS. We will continue to press the Government of Iraq to act as quickly as possible to return these defense articles to their intended recipient ministry/units.”

Cybercrime gang that stole $100 million dismantled
US Army photo by Sgt. Aaron Ellerma

Despite acknowledging that the PMF had seized many M1 Abrams tanks in one way or another, the State Department declined to estimate just how many. It could not confirm whether it had lost track of how many tanks may be under the militias’ control.

The ranking Democrats and Republicans on the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which oversee the sale of M1 Abrams tanks and other weapons to Iraq, failed to reply to repeated requests for comment by email and phone for this article.

In December 2014, several months after the Iraqi army had lost many of its M1 Abrams tanks to IS, the State Department agreed to sell it another 175, once the Defense Department notified the US Congress, which has spent much more time deliberating over tanks sold to Saudi Arabia than to Iraq.

For now at least, Iraq appears to have a continuous supply of the M1 Abrams for years to come. Al-Husseini, the Kataib Hezbollah spokesman, may just get his wish.

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

Memes, memes, memes! Glorious memes! Well, funny memes. Not sure they’re glorious, but they’re worth laughing at.


1. If you’re not sure there’s PT, your first-line leader failed you.

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But if there is PT and you don’t show up, it will still be your first-line destroying you.

2. Army logic (via Team Non-Rec).

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Duh, that’s why they wear reflective belts that can only be seen by friendly forces. Wait. They can only be seen by friendly forces, right?

SEE ALSO: Me as ‘vibe coordinator’ and other stories from military transition hell

3. Projecting American force across the gazebo(via Sh*t My LPO Says).

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Keeping the quad safe for barbecues.

4. Good job, airman. Good damn job.

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5. The struggle is real.

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6. Crew chief is mad about cleaning all the glass (via Military Memes and Humor).

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He should be careful sticking his hand out like that. Devil Dogs bite.

7. Chaos 6 was knife-handing before he saw his first knife (via Marine Corps Memes).

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He considered his movement from the womb to the hospital room to be his first amphibious landing.

8. If you wanted to look impressive in PTs, you should’ve joined the Marine Corps (via Coast Guard Memes).

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If you wanted to look sexy on a moped, you were out of luck in the first place.

9. Yeah. Your last unit did everything differently (via Coast Guard Memes).

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Luckily, we don’t care about your last unit

10. See? The Air Force does get dirty.

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They only got dirty because they thought it was a mud spa, but they did get dirty.

11. Yeah, yeah, yeah. “Army strong. Har. Har.”

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Really though. It is kind of embarrassing. They could at least make him wear a girdle or something.

 12. The Navy defends their bases with whirling metal blades of death (via Sh*t My LPO Says).

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They’re defending the base against tall grass, but they’re still defending it.

13. Thought you’d make it out without one more NJP? (via Marine Corps Memes)

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Too bad.

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AND: 11 steps to turning a puppy into a badass military working dog

Articles

Trump proposes budget cut from already-besieged Coast Guard

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget guidance is asking for $1.3 billion in funding cuts to the U.S. Coast Guard at a time when the service is doing more than ever, and is already severely under-resourced.


Trump’s budget would cancel a $500 million ship that is already in production, and would likely hit other areas of the Guard, which specializes in interdicting drugs, human trafficking, and keeping a close eye on what Russia is doing in the Arctic.

“Last year, we removed more cocaine than any other year in history — well over 200 metric tons — and by all accounts, it looks like this year we are on target to at least reach, if not exceed, last year’s total,” Adm. Paul Zukunft, the commandant of the Coast Guard, told Business Insider in a phone interview, adding that even with its success and consistent operational tempo, the service is strained.

“With all the success we had last year, there were over 500 events that we had great information on, but we just did not have enough planes, enough ships, to target all 500-plus events,” Zukunft said. “We are really besieged down there,” he added, referencing Coast Guard operations off the coast of Colombia.

Also read: The state of Coast Guard icebreakers

In addition to its operations targeting drug smugglers and human traffickers, the Coast Guard has been in and out of the Arctic region with its ice-breaking ships, especially as Russia attempts to claim parts of the region, and its rich resources, for itself.

The Arctic, which has roughly 13% of the world’s oil and about one-third of its natural gas, could potentially turn into a South China Sea-like situation. That’s because, like China has done with its creation of artificial islands in that region to gain control of shipping lanes, Russia and its fleet of 40 icebreakers has exerted itself in the Arctic to become the dominant player.

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The Polar Start icebreak. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

“We’re starting to see militarization of some of their outposts,” Zukunft said.

The Coast Guard has only two icebreakers, one medium and one heavy — the latter being nearly 40 years-old.

“We’re challenged in our ability to exert leadership when, you’re the world’s most prosperous nation, yet we can only seem to afford two icebreakers,” Zukunft said. He said that ideally, the service would need a fleet of 3 heavy and 3 medium icebreakers to remain competitive.

Cuts to the budget are likely to strain other parts of the Guard, such as its coastal maritime security teams, which help to the protect the president when he’s near the shore in Mar-a-Lago, and the service’s inland fleet that maintains navigational aides and markers on waterways and in ports.

“That’s been neglected probably for a half-century,” he said of infrastructure which sees roughly $4.5 trillion in commerce pass through.

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Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory Langston fights the boat fire from the Coast Guard 29-foot response boat in Hopkins Point Marina in Jonesport, Maine on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. The was no one aboard at the time of the fire. (Photo by U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephanie Horvat)

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said in a letter to President Trump that such cuts “egregiously” conflict with his stated goals to strengthen national security.

“These proposed cuts … will guarantee negative consequences,” Hunter wrote, adding that it would “create exposures that will most certainly be exploited by transnational criminal networks and other dangerous actors.”

The Coast Guard occupies a unique role as a military branch within the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump is seeking to up the Pentagon’s budget by $54 billion by taking money from non-defense areas, such as the State Department.

Since the budget has not been finalized, a spokesman for the Coast Guard declined to comment on the matter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD aids victims of violence in South America, Yemen

Progress is being made to assist civilians in several parts of the world, including in Colombia and Yemen, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said.

The USNS Comfort, a hospital ship, is now docked in Colombia as part of an 11-week voyage to ports of call that have so far included Peru and Ecuador, said Mattis, speaking at a Pentagon press briefing on Nov. 21, 2018.

Thus far, 14,500 people have been treated by a team of doctors and other health providers aboard the ship from 10 partner nations, he said, adding that it’s an international mission.


Colombia, in particular, needs the aid because there are over a million refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis and violence in neighboring Venezuela, Mattis said. Other countries such as Brazil, have also taken in a number of refugees.

Mattis said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is “creating a refugee crisis of enormous proportions for our friends and partners … and destabilizing neighboring nations.”

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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Fighting in Yemen

Meanwhile in Yemen, progress is being made to end the fighting, Mattis said. In recent days, the level of fighting has decreased considerably.

Peace talks will take place in Sweden in early December 2018, with representatives present from the Houthi rebel side; the government of Yemen, under the leadership of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi; and Martin Griffiths, the United Nations special envoy.

Mattis credited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for being “fully onboard” with this effort.

Also, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are providing relief supplies to feed about 10 million Yemenis for a 30-day period. The aid will be distributed by local and international nongovernmental organizations. This is just the initial effort, he added.

The Saudis also approved moving wounded Houthi rebels to hospitals for treatment.

In Afghanistan, the Saudis, assisted by the UAE, Qatar and others are also working to get reconciliation talks going with the government and the Taliban, he added.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

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