ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

With the Islamic State group almost defeated on the ground in Iraq and Syria and its territorial hold dramatically reduced, the terror group and its sympathizers continue to demonstrate their ability to weaponize the internet in an effort to radicalize, recruit and inspire acts of terrorism in the region and around the world.


Experts charge that the terror group’s ability to produce and distribute new propaganda has been significantly diminished, particularly after it recently lost the northern Syrian city of Raqqa, its self-proclaimed capital and media headquarters.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
ISIS fighters have been surrendering en masse after the fall of Raqqa.

But they warn that the circulation of its old media content and easy access to it on social media platforms indicates that the virtual caliphate will live on in cyberspace for some time, even as IS’s physical control ends.

“Right now we have such a huge problem on the surface web — and [it’s] really easy to access literally tens of thousands of videos that are fed to you, one after the other, [and] that are leading to radicalization,” Hany Farid, a computer science professor at Dartmouth College and adviser for the group Counter Extremism Project (CEP) in Washington, said Nov. 20.

Little headway

Speaking at a panel discussion about the rights and responsibilities of social media platforms in an age of global extremism at the Washington-based Newseum, Farid said the social media giants Facebook, Google and Twitter have tried to get radical Islamist content off the internet, but significant, game-changing results have yet to be seen.

Farid said social media companies are facing increasing pressure from governments and counterterrorism advocates to remove content that fuels extremism.

Earlier this year, Facebook announced it had developed new artificial intelligence programs to identify extremist posts and had hired thousands of people to monitor content that could be suspected of inciting violence.

Twitter also reported that it had suspended nearly 300,000 terrorism-related accounts in the first half of the year.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
February 15, 2015 – Libya: A group of 21 Egyptian Christians, who were seized by ISIS fighters while working in Libya, shown in a new video before they were purportedly killed. ISIS (Daesh), released a video claiming to have killed 21 Egyptian Christians who were captured in Libya. (News Pictures/Polaris)

YouTube on Nov. 20 said Alphabet’s Google in recent months had expanded its crackdown on extremism-related content. The new policy, Reuters reported, will affect videos that feature people and groups that have been designated as terrorists by the U.S. or British governments.

The New York Times reported that the new policy has led YouTube to remove hundreds of videos of the slain jihadist Anwar al-Awlaki lecturing on the history of Islam, recorded long before he joined al-Qaida and encouraged violence against the U.S.

The World Economic Forum’s human rights council issued a report last month, warning tech companies that they might risk tougher regulations by governments to limit freedom of speech if they do not stem the publishing of violent content by Islamic State and the spread of misinformation.

IS digital propaganda has reportedly motivated more than 30,000 people to journey thousands of miles to join IS, according to a report published by Wired, a magazine published in print and online editions that focuses on how emerging technologies affect culture, the economy and politics.

An ongoing struggle

Experts say measures to restrict cyberspace for terrorist activities could prove helpful, but they warn it cannot completely prevent terror groups from spreading their propaganda online and that it will be a struggle for some time.

According to Fran Townsend, the former U.S. homeland security adviser, terrorist groups are constantly evolving on the internet as the new security measures force them onto platforms that are harder to track, such as encrypted services like WhatsApp and Telegram and file-sharing platforms like Google Drive.

Read Also: Iraq to ISIS: surrender or die

She said last month’s New York City attacker, Sayfullo Saipov, used Telegram to evade U.S counterterrorism authorities.

“This guy was on Telegram in ISIS chat rooms. He went looking for them, he was able to find them, and he was able to communicate on an encrypted app that evaded law enforcement,” Townsend said during the Nov. 20 panel on extremism at the Newseum.

U.S. officials said Saipov viewed 90 IS propaganda videos online, and more than 4,000 extremism related images were found on his cellphones, including instructions on how to carry out vehicular attacks.

As the crackdown increases on online jihadi propaganda, experts warn the desperate terror groups and their lone wolf online activists and sympathizers could aggressively retaliate.

Last week, about 800 school websites across the United States were attacked by pro-IS hackers. The hack, which lasted for two hours, redirected visitors to IS propaganda video and images of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Similar attacks were also reported in Europe, including last week’s hacking of MiX Megapil, a private radio station in Sweden where a pro-IS song was played for about 30 minutes.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
Image from VOA.

A global response

Experts maintain that to counter online extremism and terrorism, there is a need for a coordinated international response as social media platforms continue to cross national borders and jurisdictions.

Last month, Facebook, Twitter, Google and the Group of Seven advanced economies joined forces against jihadi online propaganda and vowed to remove the content from the web within two hours of its being uploaded.

“Our European colleagues — little late to this game, by the way — have come into it in a big way,” Townsend said.

She said the U.S-led West had given more attention to physical warfare against IS at the expense of the war in cyberspace.

“We have been very proficient in fighting this in physical space. … But we were late in the game viewing the internet,” she said.

Townsend added that the complexity of the problem requires action even at the local level.

“The general public can be a force multiplier,” she said, adding, “As you’re scrolling through your feed and you see something … it literally takes 50 seconds for you to hit a button and tell Twitter, ‘This should not be here and it’s not appropriate content.’ And it will make a difference.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis orders a halt on cluster bomb ban

Well, it looks like cluster bombs won’t be riding off into the sunset any time soon. The Pentagon has officially decided to hold off on enforcing a planned ban on the weapon system, which previously set to take effect on January 1, 2019.


ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
CBU-105 at the Textron Defense Systems’s trade booth, Singapore Airshow 2008 in Changi Exhibition Center. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to a report by the Washington Post, the decision was made by “senior Pentagon leadership” and ensures that the systems will continue to be purchased. This same ban would have also restricted rockets used by the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, as well as versions of the BGM-109 Tomahawk, AGM-154 Joint Stand-Off Weapon, the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), and the MGM-164 ATACMS II.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
A ZSU-23 is hit by BLU-97 sub-munitions like those used on the BGM-109D Tomahawk. (DOD photo)

A Nov. 30 memo, signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, stated that “adversaries and potential adversaries have developed advanced capabilities and operational approaches specifically designed to limit our ability to project power.” As a result, the DOD decided to reverse the ban to avoid “military and civilian casualties” caused due to “forfeiting the best available capabilities.” It should be noted that, under certain circumstances, cluster bombs can do things that “smart bombs” can’t.

The decision drew criticism from Senator Patrick Leahy, who said, “on the eve of that deadline, the Pentagon has decided to go back on its commitment, just as it did after pledging to develop alternatives to antipersonnel landmines more than two decades ago.” Leahy and Senator Dianne Feinstein had sponsored legislation to codify policy from the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions into law.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
The Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) is a highly mobile automatic system that fires surface-to-surface rockets from the M270 and M270A1 weapons platform. Twelve MLRS rockets can be fired in less than one minute by the three-man crew, as well as two Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles. Both the MLRS rockets and ATACMS have cluster munition variants. (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

We won’t get into politics here, but it should be noted that neither Senator Leahy’s nor Senator Feinstein’s official congressional biographies show military service. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, by contrast, has 42 years of military service and is the first general or flag officer to serve as Secretary of Defense since George C. Marshall.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kremlin denies arrested Marine vet being used as ‘Pawn’

Russia has rejected a British suggestion that it might use a former U.S. Marine detained in December 2018 in Russia on espionage charges as a pawn in a diplomatic game, saying that Moscow reserves the right to conduct counterintelligence activities.

Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine who also holds British, Canadian, and Irish citizenship. was detained by Russia’s Federal Security Service on Dec. 28, 2018.


His family have said he is innocent and that he was in Moscow to attend a wedding.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said, in remarks about the case, that individuals should not be used as pawns of diplomatic leverage.

Asked about Hunt’s comment, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: “In Russia we never use people as pawns in diplomatic games. In Russia we conduct counterintelligence activity against those suspected of espionage. That is done regularly.”

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Peskov also said that he was not aware of statements on a possible swap of Whelan in exchange for Russian citizen Maria Butina, held in the United States.

Butina has pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin and has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, leading to speculation of a possible swap.

On Jan. 5, 2019, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that discussing a swap involving Whelan would be premature because Whelan hasn’t been formally charged.

“As to the possibility of exchanges of one sort or another, it’s impossible and incorrect to consider the question now when an official charge hasn’t even been presented,” Ryabkov was quoted as saying by the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency.

The Russian outlet earlier reported that Whelan had been indicted on spying charges that carry a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘America’s Tall Ship’ makes first visit to Norway since 1963

It’s not necessarily the ship that comes to mind when you think about America flexing its muscles abroad to project seapower and dominance.

But when the U.S. Coast Guard’s Barque Eagle, known as “America’s Tall Ship,” came into port here [Oslo, Norway] May 5, 2019, for the first time since 1963, the locals were eager to see it. More than 1,300 people visited the ship May 5, 2019; the vessel sees 90,000 tourists each year, officials said.

The ship trains hundreds of cadets each summer on the basics of navigation and seamanship — something the service believes can still make a tough and ready Coastie despite the emergence of a near-peer power competition.


It’s not always about learning on the newest technology. The Coast Guard thinks some things are just meant to be done old school.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

As the sun sets, a crew member acts as lookout aboard Barque Eagle in the North Atlantic, April 2, 2014.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone)

“They don’t come here to learn how to sail, although that is a bonus,” said Chief Petty Officer Kevin Johnson, the training cutter’s command chief, master-at-arms and food service officer for the last three years.

“We’re teaching you how to work as a team,” he said during an hour-long tour of the ship. “And it’s tradition.”

Two groups of 150 cadets each will soon embark on the service’s 12-week summer program. The first group is comprised of third-class cadets, the second of first-class cadets.

The cutter will likely hit its max capacity of 234 crew with each group; 50 enlisted and eight officers man the ship year round. Roughly 40 percent of the trainees are women, Johnson said.

The ship, which has only basic radars for navigation, will also host a number of international cadets during the training program. Members “from as far as Micronesia” have come to learn team building and leadership on the Eagle, designated WIX-327, he said.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Coast Guard Academy cadets learn how to furl sail on the Eagle‘s bowsprit under the tutelage of a petty officer while sailing among the British Virgin Islands in 2013.

(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Life onboard the ship is meant to give cadets the “life as an enlisted person” experience, demanding strength and discipline, he said. They’ll climb to the top of the mainmast, which towers above the deck at 147 feet. Most cadets know that “someone still has to put the flag up” and furl the sail by hand.

“They still climb the rigging,” Johnson said, adding that the small boats need to be lowered by hand.

He said two cadets have gone overboard during his tenure: one while touching up the hull en route to Ireland and another who lost balance on the rigging and fell into the water.

“They’re both OK,” said Johnson, a 19-year veteran of the service.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Helm station on the U.S. Coast Guard’s Barque Eagle.

The cadets will take their meals in five shifts, retire to the berthing quarters to sleep, and leave the ship to explore cities when “there isn’t work that needs to be done,” he said.

The 295-foot vessel is rooted in training. Built in 1936, it was formerly known as the Horst Wessel and operated by Germany for its cadet training program during World War II before it was captured by the British in 1945. It was then traded to the U.S. a year later.

During a four-year service life extension program, completed last year, more than 1,500 square feet of original German hull plate was removed and replaced, Johnson said. The ship was home-ported in Baltimore, Maryland, while the upgrades were being finished.

The Eagle requires “constant maintenance,” and the cadets and crew know it, he said. During its 19-day trip across the Atlantic en route to Portsmouth in the United Kingdom last week, two sails split during bad weather. One split more than once.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

The New York Fire Department vessel, Firefighter, honors the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle as it rests anchored at the Statue of Liberty, Friday, Aug. 5, 2011.

“I think they even got the sewing machines out” to fix them, Johnson said. There are layers of baggywrinkle — old, fringe-like rope — meant to protect the sails from chafing.

The ship has been largely Atlantic-based, sailing to the Caribbean and various European locations. The Eagle has visited Australia, but otherwise hasn’t made its way to other parts of the Pacific Rim. “Not yet, anyway,” Johnson said.

The Eagle, which can hit 17 knots max speed under sail, heads next to Kiel, Germany, to pick up the first summer class of cadets. It will then sail to Copenhagen, Denmark; Antwerp, Belgium; the Netherlands; the Azores; and finally back to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, which will be its homeport after this summer.

The German-turned-American trainer will also participate in events marking the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings and the Battle of Normandy on June 6, 2019

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 photos show how the battle in ‘Avengers: Endgame’ looks without visual effects

“Avengers: Endgame” was one of the biggest films of 2019, earning more than $1 billion at the box office.

The film, which was a culmination of a decade of Marvel movies, featured time travel, heartbreaking moments, and a major battle sequence. Larger-than-life moments were made possible through the use of computer-generated imagery (also known as CGI) and other special effects. And oftentimes, the most exciting scenes in the movie were filmed in front of a green screen.

In a new video shared by Marvel Entertainment, “Endgame” visual effects supervisor Dan DeLeeuw broke down the film’s major battle sequence with Ryan Penagos.

Keep reading to see how different “Endgame” looks without special effects.


ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

The superheroes returned after stepping through portals.

(Marvel/Disney)

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

The portals were created using special effects.

(Marvel Entertainment)

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

The Avengers prepare for their final “Endgame” battle.

(Walt Disney Studios)

2. The Avengers ran straight toward Thanos and his army.

They assembled once everyone returned.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Thanos’ army was much smaller.

(Marvel Entertainment)

When the stars filmed the scene, they were just running toward six men in motion capture suits.

DeLeeuw said that having the six people facing the actors helped them figure out where their eyes should move during the scene.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Spider-Man giving Captain Marvel the gauntlet.

(Marvel)

3. In the movie, Spider-Man passes the infinity gauntlet to Captain Marvel, with Scarlet Witch, Valkyrie, Okoye, Pepper Potts, Shuri, and Mantis nearby.

Captain Marvel meets all the Avengers for the first time in “Endgame.”

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Brie Larson stars as Captain Marvel.

(Marvel Entertainment)

The scene was actually filmed without Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and her winged horse.

Holland and his stunt double wore motion capture suits to film. Special effects were later added to create the iron suit that’s seen in the movie.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Captain America wielded Thor’s hammer in “Endgame.”

(Marvel/Disney)

4. Captain America finally get his hands on Thor’s hammer.

He was always worthy.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Chris Evans stars as Captain America.

(Marvel Entertainment)

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Korg and Drax attacked an alien.

(Marvel/Disney)

5. Drax and Korg teamed up to take down one of the aliens from Thanos’ army.

Drax is portrayed by Dave Bautista and Korg is played by Taika Waititi.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Dave Bautista stars as Drax.

(Marvel Entertainment)

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Hulk is played by Mark Ruffalo.

(Marvel/Disney)

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Dave Bautista, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Evans filming.

(Marvel Entertainment)

Ruffalo wore a motion capture suit and headpiece while filming.

The Hulk that appeared on screen was made possible thanks to CGI technology.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Captain America threw his shield at Thanos.

(Marvel/Disney)

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Chris Evans stars as Captain America.

(Marvel Entertainment)

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Elizabeth Olsen and Tessa Thompson.

(Marvel/Disney)

8. One scene in the film showed Scarlett Witch and Valkyrie jumping into the action.

Elizabeth Olsen plays Scarlet Witch and Tessa Thompson stars as Valkyrie.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Valkryie was introduced in “Thor: Ragnarok.”

(Marvel Entertainment)

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts.

(Disney/Marvel)

9. Pepper Potts wore a suit designed by Tony Stark.

The suit also included wings.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Gwyneth Paltrow has been part of the MCU since “Iron Man.”

(Marvel Entertainment)

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Benedict Wong stars as Wong in the MCU.

(Marvel/Disney)

10. Wong used his sorcery to open portals.

Peter Parker referred to the rings as “yellow sparkly things.”

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Benedict Wong and Evangeline Lilly.

(Marvel Entertainment)

Obviously, there were no fiery rings used in the making of the scene.

The character was first introduced in “Doctor Strange.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

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Articles

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

You’d think that employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs would be spending every bit of their time on the job helping America’s veterans. But that may not be case — some of them may instead be working on “union business.”


Worse, there may be no way to know how much time they have spent on their outside work for federal employee unions.

According to a report by Government Executive, the VA has no standardized method of tracking how much “official time” is spent by government employees on union activities like mediation. The Office of Personnel Management website defines “official time” as “paid time off from assigned Government duties to represent a union or its bargaining unit employees.”

The report noted that 350 of those employees are working full-time on union activities, and that almost 1.1 million man-hours were spent on official time in Fiscal Year 2012.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
The Tomah, Wisconsin VA hospital.

A 2015 Government Accountability Office report done at the request of House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) casts doubt on those reported figures.

The GAO said, “the data VA provided were not sufficiently reliable to determine the amount of official time used by VA employees and the purposes for which it was used for the period of our review.”

The biggest reason for the lack of reliability was due to the fact that the VA had no standardized means to track the amount of “official time” used by employees of that agency.

The report noted that the VA had arrangements with five unions: the National Association of Government Employees; the American Federation of Government Employees; National Nurses United; the National Federation of Federal Employees; and the Service Employees International Union.

Government Executive reported that the VA had agreed to resolve the time-tracking issues.

The VA has been hit with a number of scandals, including one case where a deceased veteran was left lying around for nine hours in a Florida VA facility and another case in a Wisconsin VA hospital where a dentist may have infected hundreds of veterans with HIV and hepatitis.

Those cases came on the heels of a VA hospital using “separate waiting lists” to conceal a backlog of cases, a practice that is believed to have lead to over 200 deaths.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Florida incident drew the wrath of Rep. Gus Biliakis (R-FL), who angrily noted that nobody had been fired over the improper treatment of a veteran’s corpse.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force awards Boeing $1.2 billion for 8 F-15EX fighters

The U.S. Air Force has awarded a contract to acquire its first fourth-plus-generation F-15EX fighter aircraft from Boeing Co.

The service said Monday that the nearly $1.2 billion contract will cover eight jets, including initial design, development, test and certification, plus spare parts and support equipment, training and technical data, and delivery and sustainment costs.


“The F-15EX is the most affordable and immediate way to refresh the capacity and update the capabilities provided by our aging F-15C/D fleets,” Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, said in a release. “The F-15EX is ready to fight as soon as it comes off the line.”

In January, officials posted a presolicitation notice with the intent of awarding two sole-source contracts, one for the F-15EX and the other for its F110 engines. The move initiated the Air Force’s first fourth-generation fighter program in more than 20 years.

Last month, the Air Force awarded General Electric a 1.4 million contract for the first, unspecified number of engines; however, Pratt Whitney — which makes the current F-15 Eagle engine — can also submit designs at its own expense after the company pushed back on the service’s sole-source objective.

According to Boeing, the F-15EX will be able to “launch hypersonic weapons up to 22 feet long and weighing up to 7,000 pounds.” The company has said the fighter will be equipped with better avionics and radars and could carry more than two dozen air-to-air missiles.

“The F-15EX is the most advanced version of the F-15 ever built, due in large part to its digital backbone,” said Lori Schneider, Boeing’s F-15EX program manager. “Its unmatched range, price and best-in-class payload capacity make the F-15EX an attractive choice for the U.S. Air Force.”

The service said the aircraft’s most significant upgrade will be its open mission systems architecture, allowing the plane’s software to be upgraded and installed more easily compared to its aging F-15C/D cousin, which the service has been on a quest to replace.

Officials voiced concerns in 2017 about the older Eagle model’s longevity.

“We are already having serious problems with that airframe, with metal fatigue within the longerons on the side of the aircraft,” then-Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said during a forum in May 2019.

Senior defense officials with the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office told reporters that they arrived at the Boeing-made F-15EX decision because the aircraft would help keep a “robust industrial base” and provide “a higher-capacity” combination alongside Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Air Force expects to keep a well-rounded mix of fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft through the 2030s, including the F-35A, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-22 Raptor, A-10 Thunderbolt II and F-15 Eagle/Strike Eagle, officials have said.

“One of the considerations was the diversity of the industrial base,” a senior defense official said at the Pentagon on March 22, 2019. “Maintaining a diverse industrial base is in the best interest of the Department of Defense. The more diversity, the more competition … and the better prices we have.”

The Air Force plans to purchase a total of 76 F-15EX aircraft over the five-year Future Years Defense Program, known as the FYDP, officials said Monday. It intends to build an inventory of at least 144 aircraft over the next decade.

The first eight F-15EX aircraft will be based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, for the testing wing at the base. The first two aircraft are expected to be delivered in fiscal 2021, and the remaining six in fiscal 2023, the release states.

“When delivered, we expect bases currently operating the F-15 to transition to the new EX platform in a matter of months versus years,” Holmes said.

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

Articles

NCIS investigating Camp Pendleton base housing eviction notices amid scandal

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
Residents of San Onofre II housing aboard Camp Pendleton allege that Lincoln Military housing is threatening them with eviction notices if they don’t pay extremely high electric bills that they are contesting. (Photo courtesy of Kristine Schellhaas.)


The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is reportedly looking into allegations that a company which runs military housing at one of California’s largest bases is scamming its residents out of money they don’t owe.

Lincoln Military Housing has reportedly been trying to get military residents to pay hundreds of dollars more than they owe for energy bills, according to statements from families obtained by We Are the Mighty. And if the residents don’t pay up, the Lincoln Military Housing’s San Onofre district office allegedly threatens to have the service members and their families evicted, these families claim.

The exact number of families who have received these eviction notices is unknown, though WATM spoke with multiple military spouses and service members who had been notified by their commands that Lincoln was ordering them out of their homes just before the Christmas holidays.

The residents, all of whom claim they are paid up on rent, all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from the housing office in question.

According to one couple who spoke to WATM, an eviction notice was sent to them in early December in response to an article that appeared on the website USMC Life, which is run by military spouse Kristine Schellhaas.

“This program has been hurting our military families since its inception,” Schellhaas told WATM in a statement. “Our families should be able to live on base without the financial burden and threat of eviction from poorly executed billing.”

Schellhaas wrote about the couple on her site in December, calling for the housing office to look into its exorbitant energy bills over the previous two months. Though Schellhaas declined to use their real names, the couple had posted about their frustrations in a Facebook neighborhood group page after being threatened with eviction.

Schellhaas indicated that NCIS was investigating the allegations. When reached for comment, NCIS said it was “unable to comment on an ongoing investigation.”

The residents of the San Onofre II district aboard Camp Pendleton claim that, until roughly two months prior, their bills had been at or below the grace period, meaning they were not billed for utilities.

According to documents obtained by WATM, the residents all saw extreme hikes that had nothing to do with increased power usage.

Lincoln Military Housing declined to respond to multiple requests for comment on these allegations.

Lincoln Military Housing takes part in a program where, if residents manage to conserve energy, they can receive money back from the housing office. If they go over the allotted amount, they pay extra.

The energy bills are managed by a company called Yes Energy Management. The premise behind the company is simple — they are essentially a paid middleman for the middleman. Basically, Lincoln Military Housing — who is contracted by the Department of Defense to manage the housing on some military installations — pays Yes Energy Management to send an electric bill to the base residents.

Rather than having the actual electric company send the bill directly to the residents, both Lincoln Military Housing and Yes Energy Management oversee these bills privately — effectively eliminating any contact between the resident and the electric company.

Each of the homes is fitted with a third party Yes Energy meter that the company uses to determine how much electricity has been used.

The way the system works is that each neighborhood gets their energy usages during a trial period combined and an average is determined by Yes Energy. Those who are above that average get penalized. Those who are below it get rewarded.

Once the residents pay their bills every month, Yes Energy pays the actual energy company, takes its fee from the remainder, and sends what’s left back to Lincoln Military Housing, according to residents.

One of the problems, according to the residents of San Onofre II, is that the neighborhoods they live in weren’t built to have their energy usage measured individually. The residents say that an unnamed employee at their housing office explained that things like Camp Pendleton street lights are wired into their houses, which means that the residents are responsible for paying much more than just their own electric bill.

One resident told We Are the Mighty, “It’s just me and my husband, so when we received the outrageous bills we said something about it and come to find out, our house was hooked up to several street lights.”

Other residents allege that, in addition to paying for the streetlights, empty houses around them drive their monthly usage allotments down. Because there are no residents in those homes, according to neighbors, there is no usage – severely impacting the average usage in that community.

That isn’t a hard thing to imagine, considering Yes Energy has this on its website:

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
Yes Energy Management boasts on their website an ability to recover lost payments due to vacant homes.

Neither of these theories exactly explain why an entire group of residents suddenly saw a significant increase in their bills despite not having changed anything in their homes, residents say.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
Residents of the housing community fear retaliation from the housing office if they talk too much, but they say that not addressing the problem doesn’t fix it, either.

Several residents say they questioned their bills, first going directly to Yes Energy; they claim that Yes Energy told them that the issue was not with them or the energy provider and that they should be speaking with the housing office regarding the way the communities were built.

These same residents allege that they then took their concerns to base housing, where it took months for just a handful of them to receive any type of response. Those that were fortunate enough to get a response also received messages that hinted Yes Energy was to blame for the outrageous bills.

Chelsea Levin, a service coordinator for Lincoln’s San Onofre Housing office, wrote in an email to a resident dated Dec. 7, “I am e-mailing as a follow up regarding the issues you have been having in the home with the Yes Energy account. I wanted to let you know that we are now waiting on the utility company to make the changes.”

The email is in response to a phone call placed to the housing office in September, according to the resident who provided the original email.

So where does that leave the residents?

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
Residents who lived both off base and aboard other military installations know that this isn’t how the program is supposed to work, nor does it work this way elsewhere. But they love their community, so they’re at an impasse.

Right where they were, for now.

The resident who originally spoke with Schellhaas alleges that they were served an eviction notice the day after Schellhaas’s post went live. According to that resident and the resident’s active duty spouse, the housing office contacted the service member’s command to deliver the notice.

In a Facebook post, the resident said that Lincoln cited the resident’s use of salty language in a phone call with the office as the reason they were being evicted.

The resident claimed that the office gave that reason directly to the service member’s command.

“They’re saying I was verbally abusive,” the resident wrote.

When We Are the Mighty reached out to the couple, the resident responded, “I feel as if the housing office saw the article that was posted in USMCLife and that is what caused them to call this morning as well as tell us we were being evicted.”

Other residents who spoke with us cited a fear of retaliation after it became public information that the original residents in Schellhaas’s story were being evicted. One resident wrote: “If you wouldn’t mind, could you please not mention our names or resident IDs? He’s a Marine.”

And another resident wrote to us regarding her husband’s concern about her speaking with us, “He’s terrified we will get evicted. I kept trying to reassure him, but the longer I was looking [at our bill] the more he started to freak out. … He says he’d rather get screwed than be homeless.”

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
Residents are legitimately afraid of retaliation from the housing office for speaking to We Are the Mighty.

Recently, Schellhaas was tasked with updating Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford’s wife Ellyn on “hot-button” issues facing the military community.

In preparation for that meeting, she collected energy data from 17 base homes and four off base homes. What she found was that base residents were charged nearly 45 percent more for comparable energy usage off base. An entire breakdown of her findings can be reviewed here.

Schellhaas issued this statement to We Are the Mighty in regards to the entire energy program:

“I believe there hasn’t been enough due diligence in its implementation and no one authority has demonstrated that the organizations can be made accountable for their actions,” she said. “Privatized housing blames Yes Energy and vice-versa, meanwhile our families are suffering.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Did the Pentagon just drone the top ISIS drone makers?

The US military says it has killed three men who played key roles in developing, building, and modifying Islamic State drones.


Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the US-led military coalition in Baghdad, told reporters at the Pentagon Sept. 28 that the three were killed in a series of US airstrikes in Syria in mid-September.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
Wikipedia

Dillon says two of the men were responsible for manufacturing and modifying commercially produced drones. The other man was described as a drone developer, who was killed when his research workshop near Mayadin, Syria, was hit by two airstrikes.

The Islamic State group has used drones for surveillance and to fire small weapons, in both Syria and Iraq.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how enlisted airmen can become pilots

Noncommissioned and senior noncommissioned officers interested in transferring to the Air Force’s newest enlisted aviation Air Force Specialty Code have until Nov. 15, 2017, to submit their applications to meet the next selection board.


More than 800 applicants submitted for the program last year; those who were not selected by the inaugural board are highly encouraged by officials to apply again this cycle.

Also Read: Air Force announces first 30 enlisted drone pilots

“This is an opportunity for active-duty Airmen in the ranks of staff sergeant-select through senior master sergeants who meet and complete the application requirements to be considered for the 1U1X1, Enlisted Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot, career field,” said Master Sgt. Mark Moore, Air Force’s Personnel Center Career Enlisted Aviator Assignments Manager. at the Air Force’s Personnel Center.

Moore stressed that the new AFSC is not part of the formal Air Force Retraining Program, but rather a career opportunity for qualified NCOs to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

“Just like officers from other career fields apply to become pilots, AFPC will conduct annual selection boards every January to select qualified enlisted Airmen for entry into this new, exciting career field,” he said. “Applicants have no need to be in their retraining window or be concerned about the end date of an overseas assignment.”

Candidates will be evaluated based on their entire military personnel record and pilot candidate selection method, or PCSM, test score. The average PCSM score for those selected by the inaugural board in February 2017 was 73, with overall select scores ranging from 55 to 96.

Airmen who have already amassed off-duty flying hours are also able to apply the experience toward their PCSM, which Moore said is the same scoring system used to select Air Force officer pilots.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
An RQ-4 heads back to its hangar. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

Integrating enlisted pilots into RQ-4 Global Hawk flying operations is one of many ways the Air Force is tapping into the talent of its skilled, diverse and innovative enlisted force as a part of the deliberate approach to enhance the Air Force’s Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance mission. The Air Force plans for the number of enlisted RPA pilots to grow to 100 within four years.

For more information on the enlisted RPA pilot selection process, visit the active duty enlisted Assignments page on myPers from a CAC-enabled computer, or select “Active Duty Enlisted” from the myPers dropdown menu and search “Enlisted Pilot.”

For more information about Air Force personnel programs, go to myPers. Individuals who do not have a myPers account can request one by following these instructions.

Articles

Israel is buying copter drones bristling with machine guns

The Israeli military has bought some copter drones that can carry some serious firepower – up to and including 40mm grenade launchers.


According to a report from DefenseOne.com, the Israeli Defense Forces are buying a number of TIKAD drones from Duke Robotics. The company, founded by Raziel “Razi” Atuaran — an Israeli special forces veteran who still serves as a reservist — is also pitching this drone to the U.S. military.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
(Photo from Malloy Aerospace)

“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in,”Atuar explained. “Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt.”

Sick of seeing civilians and fellow Israeli troops get killed, Atuar sought a way to deal with enemy forces in urban areas that would greatly reduce the risks. One way to do that is not to send a person in to clear a building, but to instead send a robot.

This has been done before. Last year, the Dallas Police Department used a modified bomb disposal robot to take out a mass shooter who had killed five police officers. The Marines have also begun to use robots to replace humans as “door kickers” in urban operations.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war
An armed tracked drone with 40mm grenade launchers and a machine gun. (Photo from Qinetiq)

The use of a helicopter drone to carry firepower isn’t a new idea. A viral Youtube video showed how a typical drone one buys from Amazon can be rigged to carry a pistol.

But accuracy from such a platform is dubious at best. Payload from a drone can be an issue. The Israelis have used an off-the-shelf drone to haul a sniper rifle that had a maximum of five minutes of flight time. That’s not very useful in a pitched urban fight.

The TIKAD drone, though, fixes those problems by setting up a gimbaled platform that can hold up to 22 pounds. This provides a stable platform that ensures accurate fire.

The Israelis have not revealed how many TIKAD drones they are buying. The company, though, has moved to Florida, where U.S. Special Operations Command and Central Command are both headquartered.

You can see a jury-rigged armed drone using a pistol — an example of how not to arm a drone — below.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Meet the LAPD detective who specialized in hunting cop killers

As a rookie with the Los Angeles Police Department, Charles Bennett was sitting in his squad car with his white partner when the senior officer turned to Bennett and said, “You’re not black, I’m not white — we’re blue. And trust me; if something ever happens to you at 3 o’clock in the morning, they’re going to call guys, and they’re not going to care what color or nationality you are. They’re going to roll out here and solve the problem and win. We’re going to find out whoever hurt you, and we’re going to arrest them and do what we have to do.”


Those words resonated with Bennett 10 years later when he found himself answering the call to bring justice after a fellow officer’s death.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world warCharles Bennett retired in 2010 after serving 33 years on the LAPD. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.

Bennett started with the LAPD in 1977 and spent his last 10 years as a supervisor within the LAPD’s elite Special Investigation Section (SIS). The SIS completed surveillance on suspected criminals for all of the LAPD’s units and sometimes neighboring departments. Bennett said that his unit had a 99% conviction rate because of the airtight cases they built by observing the suspects planning the robbery, and sometimes watching the crime happen and making an arrest immediately after.

During his 33-year career, he rose through the ranks to detective three, which is a specialized detective who is considered a subject matter expert within the LAPD. He specialized in robbery and tracking down cop killers. One case in particular has always stood out in his mind.

Mylus Mondy was a US Customs and Border Protection agent who was murdered March 9, 2008. Mondy had just left his shift at the Los Angeles International Airport and had stopped by a Bank of America ATM in Ladera Heights, an unincorporated area in Los Angeles.

A robber was holding someone at gunpoint at the ATM location when Mondy went to withdraw from the ATM. When he saw Mondy, the robber struck him on the head with the pistol and demanded money. When Mondy tried to get away, he was shot and killed him.

Bennett’s team was called in to bring the murderer to justice. The team spent approximately a day and half chasing down leads, gathering evidence, and identifying different addresses to surveil.

Bennett supervised while one of his rookies in SIS sat “on the point,” gathering information on traffic to and from one of the locations, scanning for their suspect, and collecting every little detail that might lead to an arrest. Suddenly, the rookie broke radio silence to report, “Boss, it’s No. 1, and he’s on the move.”

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world warFootage from the security camera footage at the ATM where US Customs and Border Protection agent Mylus Mondy was shot and killed. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.

Bennett asked if he was absolutely sure.

“I’m 1,000% sure,” the new officer fired back. Bennett ordered his man to let the suspect turn the corner and avoid alerting him of their presence in front of his house. Bennett knew others might be inside the suspect’s house and, if alerted, would destroy any evidence the SIS unit would need to finalize charges against him.

As 23-year-old McKenzie Carl Bryant turned the corner, the SIS team waited patiently. Once there was a good cushion of distance between Bryant and his house, they brought down the hammer and arrested him.

“That guy is doing life without possibility of parole now, and you know, it was a really good feeling,” Bennett said of Bryant’s arrest. “You understand that you just got justice for a fellow officer who you didn’t know. You didn’t need to know him because you knew he was out there doing his job the best he could, and he didn’t deserve what happened to him.”

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world warFootage from the security camera footage at the ATM where US Customs and Border Protection agent Mylus Mondy was shot and killed. Photo courtesy of Charles Bennett.

The all-hands-on-deck approach to cases like Mondy’s murder is what Bennett enjoyed most about working within SIS, as well as their ability to remain silent professionals. He said there were officers who worked on tracing leads and then fed verified information to the officers conducting ground surveillance. Though some LAPD units knew what SIS was doing, the unit largely remained anonymous. The LAPD command handled press conferences regarding the work of the SIS unit but never named them.

“We always go to the fallen officer’s funeral, which is always sad,” Bennett said.

In another case, Bennett helped arrest three of the five men responsible for the death of an officer.

“There were a lot of people quietly slapping us on the back, including the chief,” he said.

In those times of sadness, the quiet slaps on the back brought back that “good feeling.” While they couldn’t change what happened, at least they had achieved some kind of justice for the fallen officer and their family.

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Real declassified CIA docs provide guidance for ‘UFO Photographers’

The past few years have seen a massive resurgence in UFO research and discussion, both throughout the media and, publicly speaking, from elements of the nation’s own defense apparatus. From 2017’s revelation that the Pentagon had been directly funding investigations into unusual sightings (along with a litany of other unusual phenomena) to last month’s announcement that the U.S. Navy was formalizing UFO reporting procedures, it seems clearer now than ever that something unusual is going on in the skies above our pale blue dot, and that Uncle Sam wants to know what it is.


Of course, for those that have served in high ranking positions throughout America’s defense and intelligence apparatus over the decades, that comes as no revelation at all, as the U.S. Government actually has a long and illustrious history of covert and semi-covert investigations into the unknown.

Some of these efforts, like Project Blue Book, aimed to explain away sightings of strange lights in the skies, while others, like these declassified documents from the CIA’s archive, had a different aim. These documents were meant to serve as a how-to manual to capture the best possible images of flying saucers (or whatever they may be) for further examination. These documents may not prove the existence of alien visitors, but they certainly prove that even America’s foreign intelligence service has long had their eye on the skies.

The CIA readily acknowledges its involvement in UFO investigations dating all the way back to its very inception in 1947, which UFO buffs will be quick to note was the same year as the now-legendary Roswell incident. According to the CIA, they closely monitored Defense Department UFO initiatives throughout this era, even going so far as to draft up the document shown below offering ten tips to UFO investigators who had been struggling to capture clear images of the strange phenomena. This included an attached “UFO Photographic Information Sheet” to be filled out by the photographer whenever a sighting occurred.

The CIA’s guidance for UFO Photographers was, according to the CIA, first published in 1967 and remained classified until December of 2013, though it wasn’t until three years later that the document was uploaded to the CIA’s digital archive, making it readily available to readers from all over the world.

According to the CIA, these are the tips you need to follow in order to get the best possible evidence of your UFO encounter:

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

“Guidance to UFO Photographers” was first published in 1967 and declassified in 2013.

(Courtesy of the CIA Archive)

1. Have camera set at infinity.

2. Fast film such as Tri-X, is very good.

3. For moving objects shutter speeds not slower than one hundredth of a second should be used. Shutter and f-stop combination will depend upon lighting conditions; dusk, cloudy day, bright sunlight, etc. If your camera does not require such settings, just take pictures.

4. Do not move camera during exposure.

5. Take several pictures of the object; as many as you can. If you can, include some ground in the picture of the UFO.

6. If the object appears to be close to you, a few hundred feet or closer, try to change your location on the ground so that each picture, or few pictures are taken from a different place. A change in position of 40 or 60 feet is good. (This establishes what is known as a base line and is helpful in technical analysis of your photography.) If the object appears to be far away, a mile or so, remain about where you are and continue taking pictures. A small movement here will not help. However, if you can get in a car and drive l/2 to a mile or so and-take another series of pictures this will help.

ISIS may focus on a virtual caliphate after losing real-world war

Single images of UFOs don’t offer much in the way of context (the photographer of this UFO believes it may be a bird)

(Image captured by James Havard on Flickr)

7. After pictures of UFO have been taken, remain where you are: now, slowly, turning 360 degrees take overlapping, eye level, photography as you turn around. By this technique the surrounding countryside will be photographed. This photography is very valuable for the analysis of the UFO you have just photographed.

8. Your original negative is of value. Be sure it Is processed with care.

9. If you can, have another negative made from the original.

10. Any reproductions you have made for technical study and analysis should be made from the original negative and should be printed to show all the picture including the border and even the sprocket holes, if your film has them.

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