The formation of a sixth branch of the United States Armed Forces for a space domain is all but official now. After months of floating the idea through Washington, President Donald Trump directed the Pentagon and the Department of Defense to begin the process of creating what will be called, in his words, the “Space Force.”
With all due respect — and believe me when I say I am in support of this endeavor — it should be called the “Space Corps,” as was proposed by the House Armed Services Committee almost a year ago. This is entirely because of how the proposed branch will be structured.
The “Space Force” is said to fall underneath the Air Force as a subdivision. Its Pentagon-level leadership and funding will come directly from the Air Force until both the need and ability to put large amount of troops into the stars arises. The soon-to-be mission statement of the space branch will be to observe the satellites in orbit, unlike the hopes and dreams of many would-be enlisted astronauts. Essentially, this new branch will take over the things currently done by the Air Force Space Command.
Who already have the whole “giving recruits’ false hopes of going into space” thing covered.
(Graphic by Senior Airman Laura Turner)
This would put them on the same footing as the Marine Corps, who receive their Pentagon-level leadership, funding, and directives from the Navy. The word “corps” comes from the Old French and Latin words cors and corpus, which mean body. In this context, it means it’s a subdivision.
Corps is also found in the names of many of the Army’s own branches, like the Signal Corps, the Medical Corps, and the Corps of Engineers. The most famous of these corps was the once Army Air Corps, which later became today’s Air Force.
They earned the term “Force” — it wasn’t just given to them because it sounds cool.
At the very start of World War I, when aviation was just a few years old, all things airborne were handled by the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps. It was soon changed to the “Army Air Service” when it was able to stand on its own. It was again changed to the “Army Air Corps” between the World Wars.
When it blossomed into its own on the 20th of June, 1941, its name was changed to Army Air Forces — informally known as just the Air Force. The name stuck permanently when it became so far removed from the day-to-day operations of the Army that it needed to become an entirely new and completely distinct branch of the Armed Forces.
Many years down the road, such a “Space Force” may earn its name. Until it is no longer a subdivision of the Air Force, the name is etymologically incorrect.
Let’s just say that the benchmark should be when they can actually reach space without the aid of the Air Force.
Russian special forces staged a mock invasion of an island in the Gulf of Finland just days before President Donald Trump is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Finnish capital.
The Russian forces parachuted onto the island of Gogland, which is part of Russia but located roughly 70 miles from Helsinki, from a Mi-8AMTSH helicopter at an altitude of 2,500 meters. The soldiers used satellite equipment to steer themselves to the landing site, according to a July 10, 2018 press release from the Russian Defense Ministry.
Once on the ground, the Russian forces camouflaged their parachutes and headed into the interior of the island to destroy a series of mock communications stations, radars, and ASM batteries, Defense One reports.
The island is equipped with a helipad, but after destroying the targets the soldiers prepared a landing site for the helicopter for their escape.
The soldiers who participated in the mock invasion had “not less than a hundred jumps with parachutes of various types,” according to the Russian Defense Ministry statement.
This exercise comes amid increasing concern from many European countries about Russian agression in the region in the wake of the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Meanwhile, as Trump prepares to meet with Putin, some NATO member states seem to be concerned he’s too soft on the Russian leader and doesn’t fully value the historic alliance.
Trump was widely criticized for his rhetoric and demeanor at the summit. Nicholas Burns, a former US ambassador to NATO, accused the president of “diplomatic malpractice” and expressed concern over Trump’s disposition toward Putin.
“You cannot imagine any American president all the way back 75 years deciding to become the critic-in-chief of NATO,” Burns said on July 11, 2018. “I mean, it’s Orwellian. He’s making our friends out to be our enemies and treating our enemies, like Putin, as our friends, and he’s misrepresenting the facts.”
Trump is scheduled to meet with Putin in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) had what one report described as a “close encounter” with an Iranian vessel on April 24.
According to a report by Fox News, the Iranian vessel was a “fast attack craft” used by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy. USS Mahan was forced to change course, the crew manned weapons, fired flares, and sounded a danger signal. The Iranian vessel stayed over 1,000 yards from the Mahan, but its weapons were manned.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Iran has over 100 “fast attack craft” of varying types. The most notorious of these are roughly 30 Boghammers, which can reach speeds of up to 45 knots, and are armed with .50-caliber machine guns or twin 23mm anti-aircraft guns and either a 12-round 107mm rocket launcher, a 106mm recoilless rifle, or a RPG-7. American forces destroyed at least five of these vessels during naval clashes with Iran in 1987 and 1988.
This is not the first time USS Mahan has had a close call with Iranian vessels. In January, 2017, the Mahan had to fire warning shots at similar craft that came within 900 yards. The Iranian vessels backed off.
“We are also dealing with a range of malign activities perpetrated by Iran and its proxies operating in the region,” said Votel, citing Iran’s support for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Bashir Assad’s regime in Syria. “It is my view that Iran poses the greatest long-term threat to stability for this part of the world.”
There have been plenty of stories where people get stranded in the middle of nowhere and go to insane lengths to survive. Since the majority of the population doesn’t prepare for getting get stuck out in the elements, they typically don’t find themselves with extensive survival kits.
If you find yourself marooned in an area that doesn’t get good cell-phone service and you’re unable to contact a lifeline, things can start getting a little stressful. Luckily, most people can find the right material in their surroundings to at least start a fire, but may not know how to go about creating the one.
Well, we’re to teach you how to create the spark you’ll need without burning through tons of energy to achieve that warm fire. Introducing the bow-drill.
First, you need to gather a few things.
A small piece of flat wood that can fit inside the palm of your hand (the socket), a longer but thin piece of wood (the fire board), a wooden peg (spindle), a curved piece of wood, and a cord make up the bow-drill.
Fasten the ends of the cord to the tips of the curved piece of wood, then single-wrap the cord around the spindle. Place the tip of the spindle onto the fire board and start moving the bow-drill in a sawing motion while continuing to secure the spindle in your hand with the socket.
Note: all these materials need to be as dry as possible.
After easily rotating the spindle with the bow-drill, the wooden peg will create a noticeable notch in the fire board. Shortly after, friction will cause smoke to build. Once the smoke starts to billow, add some very dry tinder into the mix as well as plenty of oxygen. Once the tinder ignites, lightly blow on the flame and feed it with the additional dry brush.
Quickly feed the fire with more dry wood and secure the burning area with rocks to prepared unwanted spreading. The fire can also be seen from far away, so that will only aid in your rescue.
Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan and Staff Sgt. David Wyatt were posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal, the highest non-combat award, at Ross’s Landing Riverside Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee, May 7, 2017.
Sullivan and Wyatt were awarded the medal for their actions during the July 16, 2015 shooting that occurred at the Naval Reserve Center Chattanooga and also killed Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith.
“We talk about these men so that we do not forget their sacrifice,” said Maj. Chris Cotton, former Inspector-Instructor for Battery M, 3rd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, the unit that Sullivan and Wyatt were assigned to.
According to eye witness statements and 911 transcripts during the event, Sullivan and Wyatt took charge in the evacuation of unit personnel and contacting authorities. They also returned to the scene of the incident when personnel were unaccounted for, risking their lives in the process.
“This is a day to celebrate the heroic, exemplary, and selfless service of two great Marines, who were by all counts great human beings, devoted Marines, and wanting nothing more than to take care of their Marines,” said Maj. Gen. Burke W. Whitman, commanding general of 4th MARDIV, who attended the ceremony along with Sgt. Maj. Michael A. Miller, sergeant major of 4th MARDIV.
During the ceremony, Cotton presented the medal to Jerry and Betty Sullivan, parents of GySgt Sullivan; and to Lorri Wyatt, wife of SSgt Wyatt.
“It’s a great honor and we’re humbled by it, it’s something you don’t want to receive but it’s good to have him recognized for the actions he took that day,” said Jerry Sullivan.
The Navy and Marine Corps Medal is awarded to members of the Navy and Marine Corps who perform an act of heroism at great personal and life-threatening risk to the awardee.
The Reserve Center, the Chattanooga community, and across the nation people have all been sending their support and condolences, said Jerry Sullivan.
“We take care of our Marines and families,” said Cotton, “No man gets left behind.”
The ceremony was also attended by members of the local Government, including Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger and Tennessee’s Congressman Chuck Fleischmann.
“This is truly a touching moment,” said Fleischmann. “As a member of congress, it makes me remember the men and women who serve us in the United States Marines and all our branches, are truly our very best and willing to put on the uniform and make the ultimate sacrifice for their country. These fallen Marines did that and they are being justly honored today.”
Fleischmann also took part in ensuring all the service members who died in the 2015 shooting received Purple Hearts and a permanent memorial at Ross’s Landing Park.
“I hope this does bring a little closure to the families,” said Fleischmann. “But I also hope it forever honors and serves and memories of these fallen heroes, and they are heroes to America.”
Al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate in Afghanistan maintains “close ties” to the Taliban and has an “enduring interest” in attacking U.S. troops, the Pentagon says in a new report.
Under a February deal between the Taliban and the United States, the insurgents agreed to stop terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a safe haven to plot attacks.
But in a report published on July 1, the Department of Defense said Taliban militants have continued to work with Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).
AQIS “routinely supports and works with low-level Taliban members in its efforts to undermine the Afghan government, and maintains an enduring interest in attacking US forces and Western targets in the region,” the department said in a semiannual security assessment compiled for Congress.
Citing Al-Qaeda statements, the report said the group’s regional affiliate also “assists local Taliban in some attacks.”
The Pentagon report, titled Enhancing Security And Stability In Afghanistan, said that despite “recent progress” in the peace process in Afghanistan, AQIS “maintains close ties to the Taliban in Afghanistan, likely for protection and training.”
It said that any “core” Al-Qaeda members still in Afghanistan are focused mainly on survival, and have delegated regional leadership to AQIS.
“AQIS’s interest in attacking US forces and other Western targets in Afghanistan and the region persists, but continuing coalition [counterterrorism] pressure has reduced AQIS’s ability to conduct operations in Afghanistan without the support of the Taliban,” according to the report, which covers events during the period between December 1, 2019, to May 31 this year.
It comes after a United Nations report released a month ago said that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban “remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy, and intermarriage.”
The UN report added that the Taliban “regularly consulted” with Al-Qaeda during negotiations with the United States and “offered guarantees that it would honor their historical ties.”
However, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad downplayed the findings, saying the report largely covered a period before the U.S.-Taliban agreement.
The deal is at a critical stage at a time violence in Afghanistan has continued since a three-day cease-fire at the end of May. The Afghan National Security Council said June 30 that, since February, the Taliban had on average staged 44 attacks per day on Afghan security forces.
Under the accord, the United States agreed to reduce its forces in Afghanistan from 12,000 troops to 8,600 by mid July. If the rest of the deal goes through, all U.S. and other foreign troops will exit Afghanistan by mid-2021.
Russian state media said on April 25, 2018, that Syria had “captured” a US Tomahawk cruise missile from the strike on suspected Syrian chemical weapons sites on April 14, 2018 — and they will study it to advance their own missiles.
Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute told Business Insider that Russia and Syria likely only have fragments of detonated Tomahawks, and that they wouldn’t be much use.
“I don’t know whether Russia or Syria have ‘captured’ at Tomahawk although I’m sure they have plenty of fragments to study from weapons which hit their targets,” Bronk told Business Insider.
Unlike other areas of technology where Russia lags far behind the US, Russia’s cruise missiles are actually pretty capable, according to Bronk. Russia has used cruise missiles fired from navy ships and submarines to strike targets in Syria before, and they displayed a similar range and ability in doing so.
Cruise missiles are “not exactly an area where Moscow desperately needs access to Western technology,” said Bronk, though Russia would “would love to examine an intact Block 4 Tomahawk to have a look at the sensor and guidance package nonetheless.”
Overall, if Russia or Syria had actually found an intact Tomahawk missile, that flew at hundreds of miles an hour armed with a large explosive and yet somehow managed to land on the ground without breaking up, they could have shown it off by now to back up their claims that the US strike partly failed.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Later this month, our nation will mark a full calendar year since the COVID-19 pandemic upended the lives of millions of our fellow citizens and people around the world. The U.S. Armed Forces, being a cross-section of America, have not been spared from the effects of the coronavirus. Across the military, COVID-19 has left a deep mark: PCS moves were delayed, school and childcare has been disrupted, promotion ceremonies and weddings have been put off – and, tragically, many lives have been lost.
In addition to the impact of the pandemic, the U.S. has also dealt with domestic unrest, social change, economic struggles not seen in generations, and the start of a new administration. To say that the last 52 weeks have been challenging and historic would be an understatement. However, March 2021 also marks another milestone, and a fresh opportunity to showcase the best of the ideals of selfless service and teamwork that is the foundation of America’s military: the launch of the Army’s Annual Campaign on behalf of Army Emergency Relief (AER).
Most soldiers and their families are familiar with AER, the Army’s own financial assistance organization. Since 1942, AER has been 100% focused on helping soldiers and their families when they face financial challenges. Each year, we support over 40,000 Soldiers with nearly $70 million in grants, zero-interest loans, and educational grants for Army spouses and children. All told, that comes to more than $2 billion in support since our founding, with more than $1 billion of that since 9/11. Chances are, whether you are a single soldier or part of an Army family, you’ve either contacted AER for help yourself or personally know someone that has.
How can AER help? In 2019, we provided $9 million to more than 5,000 soldiers who were impacted by hurricanes, fires, floods, and other natural disasters. Last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit our nation hard, we established new relief programs to help Soldiers and their loved ones navigate childcare, remote education, PCS moves, and other critical financial needs caused by the pandemic, including expanded eligibility for U.S. Army Reserve & National Guard Soldiers. Overall, we have more than 30 categories of assistance; whether it’s personal vehicle repair, emergency travel, damage to your house from natural disasters, or funeral expenses caused by the loss of a loved one, we help soldiers deal with life’s unexpected costs. What’s more, all of our financial assistance is provided either as a grant or a zero-interest loan – unlike the payday lenders near Army installations that prey on soldiers, charging up to 36% interest (and sometimes higher) on short-term loans.
Even though our mission supports the global Army team, AER receives no funding from taxpayer dollars. Every dollar we provide to those in need is from donations by soldiers (active duty and retired), the American public, and industry partners. That’s where the Annual Campaign comes in— the main goal of the campaign is to raise awareness across the Army Team of AER’s benefits, while offering soldiers the opportunity to support their fellow brothers and sisters in arms by making a donation.
The many difficulties we’ve faced as a nation over the past year has re-emphasized the importance of supporting those who practice selfless sacrifice on behalf of others. That’s why the theme of this year’s Annual Campaign is “A Hand-Up for Soldiers”. Details on the campaign, which kicked off March 1 and runs through May 15, can be found at https://www.armyemergencyrelief.org/campaign. Donations can be made online, through an installation’s AER Officer, or your Unit Campaign Representative.
AER isn’t a giveaway program; it’s a hand-up for soldiers and Army families experiencing temporary financial need. We help soldiers get back on their feet and back in the fight; as the Chief of Staff of the Army, General James C. McConville says, “People First – Winning Matters”. Remember, asking for help is a sign of strength! Let’s work together these next two months and make the 2021 Annual Campaign a success.
Retired Lt. Gen Raymond V. Mason is the Director of Army Emergency Relief. The Army’s Annual Campaign runs from March 1st through May 15th across all installations.
Earlier this month, Fort Benning’s United States Army Infantry School (USAIS) announced its plan to retire the “shark attack”, an approach unleashed on fresh recruits during their first moments at basic combat training. Headlines and critics would have you believe that the Army’s decision to eliminate this tactic from the basic training experience represents a move to make the training ‘nicer,’ ‘easier’ or ‘softer’ on recruits. But the truth is that the “shark attack” is outdated, ineffective and likely does more harm than good in the long run; Its retirement is long overdue.
The “shark attack” is a purposeful stress-inducing attack on a single recruit that is carried out by several drill sergeants. It is typically marked by intense yelling, the issuing of contradicting commands and verbal denigration and is designed to assess the trainee’s ability to handle stress. According to Command Sergeant Major Robert K. Fortenberry, Command Sergeant Major for USAIS, the “shark attack” was designed to create a “chaotic environment that centered around applying physical exertion under stress.”
Sgts. 1st Class Alec Donahoe and Todd Owen, drill sergeants with the Mississippi National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion, motivate a warrior in the Recruit Sustainment Program during a “shark attack” Oct. 7, 2017, in Senatobia. (U.S. National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Tynes)
In a video articulating the new USAIS approach, CSM Fortenberry explains that this weeding-out technique is outmoded due in large part to the fact that we have an all-volunteer force. In other words, volunteer recruits likely already have attributes favorable for military service and don’t need to be thinned by the extreme technique which was used to “establish dominance and authority using intimidation and fear to weed out the weak of heart.”
In truth, Army basic training techniques haven’t evolved much since the 1970s and in some cases since the early 20th century. The majority of the core training techniques are designed to reinforce blind obedience and reactiveness to commands. While making sure soldiers are able to follow orders is critical, modern warfare requires soldiers who are adept at, say, reading the mood of a marketplace in a foreign city versus going “over the top” or charging machine gun emplacements.
The Army Vision for 2028, which was announced in June of this year and is co-authored by Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, then Secretary of the Army, outlines a stark evolution of the U.S. Army’s battle stance. In addition to increasing the Army to 500,000 soldiers, the memo outlines the increased use of “autonomous systems, artificial intelligence and robotics” on a battle stage of “high-intensity conflict, with emphasis on operating in dense urban terrain, electronically degraded environments, and under constant surveillance.”
Getting rid of the “shark attack” is, in fact, just one way the Army is modernizing its approach to preparing a modern fighting force. The retooling of infantry One Station Unit Training, or OSUT, also serves as the introduction of a new program dubbed ‘The First 100 Yards.’ According to CSM Fortenberry, the program builds a “critical foundation” by “professionally introducing the soldiers to the spirit of our great branch” and introducing drill sergeants as “leaders willing to share in the hardship.” The goal of The First 100 Yards is to “develop teamwork, identify informal leadership, establish trust, and build esprit de corps,” explained Fortenberry.
But removing the “shark attack” isn’t just about modernizing training, but removing the vestiges of the hand-me-down era of training that was preoccupied with spitting out bonafide soldiers as quickly as possible. Late last year, USAIS announced its plans to extend OSUT from 14 to 22 weeks. The extension is intended to give recruits more exposure to weapons systems and small-unit and individual skills in a less pressurized, hurried training environment.
But the OSUT extension is also a nod to how the military has had to evolve to accommodate the level of preparedness of incoming would-be soldiers. In a press release around the announcement of the new 22-week OSUT program, Colonel Dave Voorhies, 198th Infantry Brigade commander said the extension is geared toward establishing “firmer training fundamentals: marksmanship, physical training, land navigation, the ability to medicate, combat lifesaver skills, combat water survival, Soldier discipline, and more.” The extended OSUT allows for more time for soldiers to get up to Army standards while adequately preparing them for a faced-paced, technologically advanced battlefield.
Attrition among recruits is a perennial problem for initial training facilities like USAIS. According to recent reports, attrition rates across the Army training centers fall somewhere around 12-15%, a number that comes at a huge price tag. A study of Army retention published in 2020 by the Rand Corporation, suggests that the total sunk cost for a single enlistment — including outlays for training, wages, and other benefits given to recruits — is roughly ,000. This equates to a loss of roughly 0 million dollars annually.
Training centers like USAIS also have to contend with new reports that link post-traumatic stress and anxiety to the heavy-handed methods often used in basic training, especially tactics like the “shark attack.” And while the induction of stress and anxiety into training scenarios has always been seen as a crucial element to preparedness, methods like the “shark attack” may not have that effect, especially on a green volunteer looking to serve their country. In fact, it “betrays the innate trust between teammates,” said CSM Fortenberry. “And worse — betrays the crucial bond of trust with our leaders.”
U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Sgt 1st Class. Aleman assigned to Foxtrot 1st Battalion 34th Infantry Regiment participates in the “Shark Attack” or fear stage of the discipline process, as trainees arrive to the First day of Basic Combat Training on 12 June 2017 at Fort Jackson, SC. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Darius Davis/Released).
That breakdown of trust may prove to stick with soldiers long after they have left the training world. According to the American Institute of Stress, basic training environments which teach soldiers ’emotional numbing’ may in fact be unknowingly laying the foundation for PTSD. “Emotional numbing,” it states, “allows for the person to put aside feelings and do whatever it takes to survive or help others survive.” While this is, at face value, a positive trait for a soldier to have on the battlefield, it’s often that it remains as the mode of dealing with any stressors.
“Later such numbing may include a sense of not really being a person, feelings of not fitting in, that no one can understand, feeling or being told that one has no emotions, and not being able to feel emotions in situations calling for intimacy, tenderness, sexuality or grief. Efforts to avoid thoughts or feelings associated with the trauma may include isolating, substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, food, cigarettes), and other compulsive behaviors,” the report states.
Essentially, the “shark attack” may be a cornerstone of a training approach that has been pre-conditioning soldiers to manage their military-related stress through ‘mental numbing.’ This ‘mental numbing’ may then lead soldiers to suppress subsequent feelings of stress that arise from combat scenarios which could exacerbate the effects of COS — Combat Operational Stress — and lead to permanent patterns of PTSD. In short, there is no basic ‘un-training.’
Interestingly, the rate of PTSD among veterans since Vietnam has been fairly consistent. According to information from the Veterans Administration, roughly 15% of Vietnam veterans were diagnosed with PTSD resulting from combat service. That number was slightly lower in the Gulf War at 12%. For OIF and OEF, the amount of service-connected PTSD ranges from 11-20% year to year. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to PTSD. Further, the three aforementioned wars were markedly different in just about every aspect. That said, they all shared a common trait: the basic training doctrine.
Without further study into the relationship of the “shark attack” style training in basic training units and its long term effects on PTSD, it’s impossible to know if the two are connected. What is certain, however, is that the new approach ushered in by USAIS is a positive one, if only because it does away with the outdated training modules of a long-extinct type of warfare and refocuses on the needs of today’s soldiers to fight today’s battles.
Amid rampant discussion about Russian election interference and espionage, FBI Director Christopher Wray has deemed China the largest, most concerning threat to the US.
Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum on July 18, 2018, Wray was asked whether he saw China as an adversary and, if so, to what level.
“I think China, from a counterintelligence perspective, in many ways represents the broadest, most challenging, most significant threat we face as a country,” Wray answered.
“And I say that because for them it is a whole of state effort. It is economic espionage as well as traditional espionage; it is nontraditional collectors as well as traditional intelligence operatives; it’s human sources as well as cyber means.
FBI Director Christopher Wray at the Aspen Security Forum.
“We have economic-espionage investigations in every state, all 50 states, that trace back to China. It covers everything from corn seeds in Iowa to wind turbines in Massachusetts and everything in between. So the volume of it, the pervasiveness of it, the significance of it, is something I think this country cannot underestimate.”
The comments follow a 2017 report by the US trade representative that accused China of “trade secret theft, rampant online piracy and counterfeiting, and high levels of physical pirated and counterfeit exports.” The report found intellectual-property theft by China was costing the US up to 0 billion annually.
It seems a far more strategic and wide-ranging effort than Russia’s ongoing interference efforts, which dominated headlines in the US in July 2018 amid President Donald Trump’s widely panned summit with President Vladimir Putin.
Wray said Russia needed to be dealt with “aggressively,” but he seemed far more concerned with what he called China’s efforts to position itself as “the sole dominant superpower, the sole dominant economic power.”
“They’re trying to replace the US in that role, and so theirs is a long-term game that’s focused on just about every industry, every quarter of society in many ways,” Wray said. “It involves academia, it involves research and development, it involves everything from agriculture to high tech. And so theirs is a more pervasive, broader approach but in many ways more of a long-term threat to the country.”
This isn’t the first time China’s patience and willingness to play the long game have been described as reasons its interference campaigns are more successful than those of Russia.
Early 2018 John Garnaut, who led a secret government inquiry into China’s political influence in Australia, told the US House Armed Services Committee that Russia preferred “focused, sharp strikes,” while Beijing’s actions were more incremental.
“Unlike Russia, which seems to be as much for a good time rather than a long time, the Chinese are strategic, patient, and they set down foundations of organizations and very consistent narratives over a long period of time,” Garnaut told the committee.
It’s this widespread shift toward a consensus on China’s influence and interference attempts that Wray described as “one of the bright spots” since he became FBI director just over 10 months ago.
“It’s one of the few things I’ve seen that, in a country where it feels like some people can’t even agree on what day of the week it is, on this I think people are starting to come together,” Wray said.
“I see it in the interagency, I see it up on the Hill when I’m talking to the intelligence committees across the spectrum. I think people are starting to wake up and rub the cobwebs, or sleep, out of their eyes. And my hope is we’re in a moment where we can pivot and start to take this much more seriously.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In the movies, secret agents face their adversaries with guns, weapons, and flashy cars. And they’re so proficient in hand-to-hand combat that they can bring enemies to their knees with the right choke hold or take them down with a well-placed aimed shot. As much as I’d like to think I was that cool, in reality, life in the CIA is much more pedantic.
What most people don’t know is that the CIA is really a massive sorting agency. Intelligence officers must sift through mountains of data in an effort to determine what is authentic and useful, versus what should be discarded. We must consider the subtleties of language and the nuance of the nonverbal. We must unwind a complicated stream of intelligence by questioning everything. In the counterterrorism realm, this process has to be quick; we have to weed out bad information with alacrity. We can’t afford to make mistakes when it comes to the collection, processing, dissemination, and evaluation of terrorism intelligence. As we say in the CIA, “The terrorists only have to get it right once, but we have to be right every time.”
Contained in that massive flow is an incredible amount of useless, inaccurate, misleading, or fabricated information. The amount of bad reporting that is peddled, not only to the CIA but to intelligence agencies all over the world, is mind-boggling.
That’s precisely why one of the greatest challenges we faced as counterterrorism experts was figuring out who was giving us solid intelligence and who wasn’t. And when we were dealing with terrorists, getting it wrong could mean someone’s death.
In early 2007 when Iraq was awash with violence, many Iraqis who had formerly counted the United States as the Great Satan for occupying their country switched sides and were willing to work with Coalition Forces against Iraqi terrorists. Brave locals were rebelling against al-Qa’ida’s brutal tactics and were doing whatever they could to take back the streets from these thugs. This was a turning point in the war. Our counterterrorism efforts became wildly successful, fueled by accurate and highly actionable intelligence.
In one such case, we were contacted by one of our established sources, who was extremely agitated. Mahmud had come from his village claiming that he had seen something that sent chills down his spine. As Mahmud was driving not far from his home, he saw an unknown person exit a building that one of his cousins owned. The building was supposed to be empty and unoccupied. For reasons Mahmud could not explain, he thought that something bad was going on and that maybe the man he saw was a member of Al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI).
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)
Up until this point, Coalition Forces had found Mahmud’s information extremely reliable. Of course, they did not know his name or personal details, but they made sure we knew that his information had checked out. They contacted us on numerous occasions to praise us for the source’s reporting, explaining that it had allowed them to disarm IEDs and detain insurgents who were causing problems in his village.
Mahmud had a solid track record. But the bits he provided this time were sketchy and lacked sufficient detail. You can’t just disseminate intelligence reports saying that a location “feels wrong,” “seems wrong,” or that some random dude you just saw “looked like a bad guy.” That kind of information does not meet the threshold for dissemination by the CIA. In this case, however, the handling case officer and I went against protocol and put the report out.
Within the hour, we were contacted by one of the MNF-I (Multi-National Force-Iraq) units with responsibility for that AOR. They regularly executed counterterrorism operations in that village and wanted to know more about the sourcing. They were interested in taking a look at the abandoned building because they had been trying to locate terrorist safe houses they believed were somewhere in the vicinity of the building mentioned in our report. They had a feeling that nearby safe houses were being used to store large amounts of weaponry and a few had been turned into VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) factories. But there was one big problem: Military units had acted on similar intelligence reports before, but the reports had been setups—the alleged safe houses were wired to explode when the soldiers entered.
A spate of these types of explosions had occurred east of Baghdad in Diyala Governorate, and while we had not yet seen this happen out west in al-Anbar Governorate, one could never be too careful. Basically, the military wanted to know: How good is your source? Do you trust him? Do you think he could have turned on you? Could this be a setup?
This was one of the hardest parts of my job. While I had to protect the identity of our sources when passing on intelligence, I had to balance this with the need to share pertinent details that would allow the military to do their job. It was critical to give them appropriate context on the sources, their access, and their reporting records, and to give them a sense of how good the report may or may not be. Given our positive track record with these military units, I knew that they would trust my judgment, and therefore, I needed to get it right. Lives were at stake.
My mind was spinning.
What do I think? Is this a setup? He’s usually such a good reporter, but what if someone discovered he was the mole?
Even if Mahmud was “on our side,” the insurgents could turn him against us by threatening the lives of his wife and kids. Similar things had happened before. I prayed, “Please, Lord, give me wisdom.”
(Courtesy Tyndale House Publishers)
The bottom line was, I didn’t know anything for sure, and I told the military commander that. But I also remembered that just the week before, Mahmud had provided a report that MNF-I units said was amazingly accurate regarding the location of an IED in his village. They found the IED and dug it up before the Coalition Humvee rolled over it. So as of then, he was definitely good, and I told the commander that as well.
The next day, the case officer came to my desk and said, “Did you hear?”
“Mahmud’s information was spot on!”
“Really?” What a relief, I thought. “What happened?”
“When the soldiers entered the abandoned building, they found seven Iraqis tied up on the floor, barely clinging to life. It was more than a safe house. It was a torture house. There were piles of dead bodies in the next room.”
Mahmud’s intuition about the stranger he saw exiting that building had been correct. Something about the unidentified man’s behavior or appearance—the look on his face, the posture of his body, the way he walked or the way he dressed—had hit Mahmud as being “off” or “wrong.” It turned out that local AQI affiliates had commandeered the building and were using it as a base to terrorize the local population.
My colleague pulled out copies of the military’s photographs that captured the unbelievable scene. The first images showed the battered bodies of the young men who had just been saved from certain death. According to the soldiers, when they entered the building and found the prisoners on the floor, the young men were in shock. Emaciated and trembling, they kept saying, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” They could barely stand, so the soldiers steadied them as the young men lifted up their bloodstained shirts for the camera, revealing torsos covered in welts and bruises. If that unit hadn’t shown up when they did, those men would have been dead by the next day.
I swallowed hard as I flipped through the photographs of the horrors in the next room, and my eyes welled up with tears. The terrorists had discarded the mutilated bodies of other villagers in the adjacent room, leaving them to rot in a twisted mound. I could hardly accept what I was seeing. It reminded me of Holocaust photos that were so inhumane one could not process the depth of the depravity: men and women . . . battered and bruised . . . lives stolen . . . eyes frozen open in emptiness and horror.
My stomach began to churn, but I made myself look at the pictures. I had to understand what we were fighting for, what our soldiers faced every day. As much as I wanted to dig a hole and stick my head in the sand, I needed to see what was really happening outside our cozy encampment in the Green Zone.
They say war is hell; they don’t know the half of it.
Michele Rigby Assad is a former undercover officer in the National Clandestine Service of the US Central Intelligence Agency. She served as a counterterrorism specialist for 10 years, working in Iraq and other secret Middle Eastern locations. Upon retirement from active service, Michele and her husband began leading teams to aid Christian refugees.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A third Russian intelligence agent went to England to plan the nerve agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in early 2018, The Telegraph has reported, casting further doubt on the Kremlin’s claims that it had no knowledge of the attack.
UK counter terrorism police and the security services identified the third agent, and say the person visited Salisbury to prepare for the attack on Sergei Skripal before two of his colleagues arrived, The Telegraph reported on Sept. 27, 2018.
Authorities believe the third agent visited Salisbury ahead of the attack, and reported the layout of Skripal’s neighborhood and property to the two agents who later carried out the attack, the newspaper said.
Skripal and his daughter Yulia collapsed in March 2018 after being exposed to novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, which was smeared on his front door.
A British couple who lived nearby were also exposed to the same batch of nerve agent in July 2018, which led to the death of one woman.
Surveillance camera footage of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, the two suspects in the Skripal attack, at Salisbury train station the day before Skripal’s collapse.
Bellingcat’s findings suggest that Putin was in fact aware of the suspect’s legal identity, which would seem to disprove the Russian president’s claim that he didn’t know who Boshirov and Petrov were, that they were civilians, and that the Kremlin had no knowledge of the Skripal attack.
The findings are also in line with the British government’s claim, citing security and intelligence agencies’ investigations, that Boshirov and Petrov were officers from Russia’s intelligence services.
Prime Minister Theresa May in early September 2018 also said that authorization for the attack “almost certainly” came from senior members of the Russian government.
The Skripal poisoning caused a large diplomatic rift between the UK and Russia. London accused Moscow of being behind the attack, which the Kremlin repeatedly denied. More than 20 countries also joined the UK in expelling Russian diplomats as punishment.
The British Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, on Sept. 27, 2018, suggested that Russia was not expecting such a large international response to the attempted assassination.
Remember the greatest scene in Iron Man in 2008? No, it’s not when Tony Stark says “I am Iron Man” and it’s not when he first tests the suit. It’s the part when Jeff Bridges yells at that random dude: “Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave!! With a box of scraps!” And now that bizarrely specific diss has created the entire evil scheme from Spider-Man: Far From Home.
Pretty much everyone — including the audience — misses Tony Stark in Spider-Man: Far From Home. Iron Man, the world’s premiere superhero and young Peter Parker’s mentor, sacrificed himself to save the world at the end of Avengers: Endgame and the new Spider-Man film sees Spidey, along with everyone else, dealing with a post-Blip, post-Iron Man world. However, there are some characters from Iron Man who make appearances in Far From Home, including one character whose inclusion is much, much more surprising than Happy Hogan or Nick Fury’s — especially once you realize who plays him.
The big twist in Far From Home comes when Quentin Beck, a.k.a. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) reveals that he’s not actually a superhero from an alternate dimension. Instead, he’s a disgruntled ex-employee with a grudge against Tony Stark. He’s aided by other former employees, including a face who only appeared once in the MCU, 11 years ago, but it was a very, very memorable and meme-able moment.
Tony Stark was able to build this in a cave…with a box of scraps
Yes, it’s the “Box of Scraps” guy, or to be more accurate, the guy that Jeff Bridges’ Obadiah Stane was screaming at because he couldn’t miniaturize Tony’s Arc reactor in order to power the Iron Monger suit. William Ginter Riva was a scientist at Stark Industries in 2008 when Stane, growing increasingly power-mad, ordered him to do what Tony did.
“I’m sorry I’m not Tony Stark,” Riva squeaks back.
That one scene was all viewers ever saw of Riva, whose name they didn’t even know at the time, and chances are, nobody expected to see him again. That’s why it was such a shocker that he appeared by Mysterio’s side, having also adopted a grudge against Tony Stark.
Perhaps more than anybody except for Beck, Riva was responsible for Mysterio. Beck’s hologram technology — which Tony rechristened B.A.R.F. to Beck’s dismay — provided the illusions and visuals, but Riva’s drones provided the destruction. It was Riva who programmed most of the provided choreography for the Mysterio fights, and it was his drones that actually destroyed parts of Mexico, Venice, Prague, and London. For a character who appeared in one minor scene, Riva is incredibly important to Far From Home, and the MCU at large.
Stark Foundation Presentation | Captain America Civil War (2016) Movie Clip
Riva is clearly a bad guy, which means he should be getting coal for Christmas. That’s a tragedy since the character is, amazingly, played by Peter Billingsley, who is best known for playing Ralphie in A Christmas Story.
Yes, the kid from the 1983 holiday classic A Christmas Story grew up to become a Stark Industries employee, and later, a weapons designer who aided a supervillain in killing and deceiving people.
In the real world, Billingsly has been acting here and there in the decades since his most iconic role (Christmas movie fans might recognize him as Buddy the Elf’s superior in the Will Ferrel-led Elf), but he’s mostly moved behind the camera. Billingsley has numerous production, writing, and directing credits for film and especially TV. He was actually an executive producer for 2008’s Iron Man, which might explain why he popped in for that small little role. (He’s not listed as a producer for Far From Home, however).
So, there you have it. A minor character from one of the MCU’s most beloved moments 11 years ago appeared unexpectedly more than a decade later to be a surprisingly important villain in Spider-Man: Far From Home, and he was played by the Christmas Story guy a whole time. Heck, he almost shot Spider-Man’s eye out!
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.