A U.S. intelligence worker who pleaded guilty to sending a secret report on Russian election cyberattacks to a news website was sentenced on Aug. 23, 2018 to five years in prison by a federal court in Georgia.
Reality Winner, 26, a U.S. Air Force veteran with a top-secret clearance who was working for an intelligence contractor, admitted to leaking secrets to The Intercept, which published details of the National Security Agency document in June 2017.
The revelation dealt with Russian hacking targeting a company that supplies election technology.
The U.S. Justice Department said Winner printed out and mailed the report in May 2017 to the website, which specializes in investigative reporting on national security topics.
She was arrested in June 2017 and reached a plea agreement two months ago, admitting one count of unlawful retention and transmission of national defense information.
A federal judge in Augusta, Georgia, accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Winner to five years and three months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release.
The sentence is the longest ever given to someone for illegally disclosing government information, Winner’s attorneys said, and it comes amid efforts by the White House to crack down on leaks to the press.
John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said Winner’s leaks “put our nation’s security at risk” and he hoped that her jail sentence “will deter others from similar unlawful action in the future.”
Betsy Reed, editor in chief of The Intercept, said that Winner should be honored and that her sentencing and other prosecutions of whistle-blowers are attacks on freedom of speech and of the press.
“Instead of being recognized as a conscience-driven whistle-blower whose disclosure helped protect U.S. elections, Winner was prosecuted with vicious resolve by the Justice Department,” Reed said.
Featured image: Reality Winner is seen in a photo released by the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office in the U.S. state of Georgia.
Army Capt. Rebecca Murga had the same goals as anyone else at gear turn-in after deployment: get rid of this sh*t and get back home. But she made a rookie mistake when she left Afghanistan without double-checking her gear against her clothing list.
That’s how she ended up at the Central Issue Facility with a desperate need to go home and no Gore-Tex. And since Army property values never match civilian price points, she’s left with the option of paying hundreds of dollars or weaving a Gore-Tex from cobwebs and unicorn dreams.
Anyone who has dealt with DoD civilians knows that it’s a recipe for frustration, but Murga manages to smooth talk her way through the facility only to find herself faced with something worse.
See how Murga’s conscience clouds her homecoming in the No Sh*t There I Was episode embedded at the top.
The process the President has to go through to launch the U.S.’s nuclear weapons isn’t as simple as pressing a button, but the key component of that process — the codes needed to authorize the launch — are never far from the president.
At least they’re never supposed to be.
According to Gen. Hugh Shelton, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 1997 to September 2001, the number of redundancies in the nuclear-launch process “is staggering.” All of steps are “dependent on one vital element without which there can be no launch,” he wrote in his 2010 autobiography, “Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior.”
That element, the president’s authorization codes, is supposed to remain in close proximity to the president at all times, carried by one of five military aides, representing each branch of the military. The codes are on a card called the “biscuit” carried within the “football,” a briefcase that is officially known as the “president’s emergency satchel.”
However, around 2000, according to Shelton, a member of the department within the Pentagon that is responsible for all pieces of the nuclear process was dispatched to the White House to physically look at the codes and ensure they were correct — a procedure required to happen every 30 days. (The set of codes was to be replaced entirely every four months.)
That official was told by a presidential aide that President Bill Clinton did have the codes, but was in an important meeting and could not be disturbed.
The aide assured the official that Clinton took the codes seriously and had them close by. The official was dismayed, but he accepted the excuse and left.
When the next inspection took place the following month, that official was on vacation, according to Shelton, and another official was dispatched to the White House. The new official was met with the same excuse — the president is very busy, but takes the codes very seriously and has them on hand.
“This comedy of errors went on, without President Clinton’s knowledge I’m sure, until it was finally time to collect the current set and replace them with the new edition,” Shelton writes.
“At this point we learned that the aide had no idea where the old ones were, because they had been missing for months,” he added. “The President never did have them, but he assumed, I’m sure, that the aide had them like he was supposed to.”
Shelton and then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen were alarmed. The problem of missing codes had been resolved by changing the codes, but they quickly acted to change the process itself, mandating that the Defense Department official visiting the White House physically see the codes — waiting there to do so if necessary.
Shelton and Cohen feared the saga would reach the press and become an embarrassing story. But word of the missing codes never made it out, and Shelton’s recounting of it in his 2010 book was, to his knowledge, the first time it had been shared publicly.
“This is a big deal — a gargantuan deal — and we dodged a silver bullet,” Shelton writes, adding: “You do whatever you can and think you have an infallible system, but somehow someone always seems to find a way to screw it up.”
Israel has begun construction on a massive underwater barrier with the Gaza Strip which it is calling “impenetrable.”
Israel and the Gaza Strip are both located along the Mediterranean Sea, and are separated by several land borders. But no barrier has ever been erected at sea.
Israel’s Defense Ministry said in a statement that building of the “impenetrable” barrier has begun at Gaza’s northern border, along the beach of a small agricultural community, or kibbutz, called Zikim. The barrier is designed to withstand harsh sea conditions for many years, according to the ministry.
A defense official said the massive barrier will consist of three security layers, which include a layer below sea level, a layer of armored stone, and a top layer of barbed wire. An additional fence will surround the entire area.
Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the “one-of-a-kind” security project will “effectively block any possibility of infiltrating Israel by sea.”
Leiberman added that the barrier serves to limit militant group Hamas’ strategic capabilities as tensions continue to flare along the border. At least 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 injured during violent clashes with Israeli soldiers early May 2018. On May 29, 2018, more than 27 rockets were reportedly fired from Gaza into Israel.
The decision to build the barrier was prompted by a thwarted attack by Hamas militants at sea in July 2014, during Israel’s Operation Protective Edge. Four Hamas naval operatives, referred to as frogmen, swam ashore at Zikim beach and attempted to cross into Israeli territory. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said the men were armed with automatic weapons and explosives, and sought to carry out a terror attack. The four men were later killed in combined sea, air, and land attacks by the IDF.
The IDF posted aerial footage of the thwarted attack:
The Russian defense ministry claims to have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a May 28 airstrike in Raqqa, Syria.
Russian forces in Syria launched the airstrike after receiving intelligence that ISIS leaders were planning a meeting in the outskirts of Raqqa.
“According to the information that is being verified through various channels, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also attended the meeting and was killed in the airstrike,” the ministry said in a statement Friday, according to the Associated Press.
In addition to several senior ISIS leaders, Russia estimates around 30 field commanders and 300 personal guards were killed in the strike.
The ministry claims it informed the U.S. of the airstrike in advance. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman of the U.S.-led coalition, said he could not confirm the Russian report of Baghdadi’s death.
Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, questions the report as intelligence indicates Baghdadi was in a different part of Syria at the time of the strike.
“The information is that as of the end of last month Baghdadi was in Deir al-Zor, in the area between Deir al-Zor and Iraq, in Syrian territory,” Abdulrahman told Reuters.
Other high-ranking ISIS leaders killed in the airstrike include Abu al-Khadji al-Mysri, Ibrahim al-Naef al-Khadj and Suleiman al-Shauah, according to Russia.
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Finland is facing the possibility that Russia will eventually come for some of its territory like it seized South Ossetia from Georgia and Crimea and sections of Donbass from Ukraine.
To prepare for their own possible conflict, the Finnish armed forces and other agencies are holding exercises to prepare for Putin’s hybrid warfare.
Russia’s forays into Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, Georgia, relied on cyber warfare, special operations forces, and an aggressive information campaign.
But Europe has gotten to see Russia’s playbook in action, and Petri Mäkelä of Medium.com reports that Finland is preparing to counter it with everything from their own special operators to firefighters and airport administrators.
In 14 photos, here’s how Finland is doing it:
1. First, by looking cool as they run through smoke. (Ok, that’s probably not the training objective, but come on, this looks cool.)
2. Finland held three major training events in March, each of which required that federal and local security forces worked together to counter specific threats.
3. For instance, response teams converged on an airport that was under simulated attack, seeking to eliminate the threat as quickly and safely as possible.
4. This allowed security forces to practice operating in the high-stress environment and also allowed administrators to see how they can best set up their operations to keep passengers safe in an attack.
5. The exercises required soldiers and police to fight everything from angry individuals to enemy sniper and machine gun teams.
6. Of course, no training exercise is complete without practicing how to treat the wounded.
7. That’s where the firefighters and paramedics got involved.
8. In field hospitals, medical professionals treated simulated injuries sustained in the fighting.
9. Police forces assisted in re-establishing order and protecting the local populace.
10. But the exercises also allowed the military to practice conventional operations.
11. Finnish forces took on enemy elements in the woods and snow.
12. Helicopters ferried troops to different areas. They also helped move reservists, police, and other first responders when necessary.
13. The conventional exercises included some pretty awesome weaponry.
14. Of course, even with increased conscription, new equipment, and tailored training, Finland would face a tough fight with Russia. The Russian military is one of the largest in the world and it has been training for this and other fights.
The United States has conducted a “defensive” air strike against Taliban fighters in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province after a checkpoint manned by Afghan forces was attacked.
“The US conducted an airstrike on March 4 against Taliban fighters in Nahr-e Saraj, Helmand, who were actively attacking an #ANDSF checkpoint. This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack,” U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesman Sonny Leggett said in a tweet.
The strike came just hours after Taliban militants killed at least 20 Afghan security officers in a string of attacks and on the heels of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “very good” chat with the Taliban’s political chief.
The wave of violence is threatening to unravel a February 29 agreement signed in Doha between the United States and the Taliban that would allow allied forces to leave Afghanistan within 14 months in return for various security commitments from the extremist group and a pledge to hold talks with the Afghan government — which the Taliban has so far refused to do.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has warned he was not committed to a key clause in the deal involving the release of up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
The Taliban said it would not take part in intra-Afghan talks until that provision was met.
And on March 2, the militant group ordered its fighters to resume operations against Afghan forces, saying that a weeklong partial truce between the Taliban, U.S., and Afghan forces that preceded the Doha agreement was “over.”
“Taliban fighters attacked at least three army outposts in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz last night, killing at least 10 soldiers and four police,” said Safiullah Amiri, a member of the provincial council.
All jobs in the military carry real risks, but some jobs are much riskier than others. Here are 10 of the most dangerous:
Pararescue jumpers are basically the world’s best ambulance service. They fly, climb, and march to battlefields, catastrophic weather areas and disaster zones to save wounded and isolated people during firefights or other emergencies.
2. Special operations
While this is lumping a few separate jobs together, troops such as Navy SEALs, Army green berets, Air Force combat controllers and others conduct particularly risky missions. They train allied forces, hunt enemy leaders, and go on direct action missions against the worst of America’s adversaries. They get additional training and better equipment than other units, but the challenging nature of their mission results in a lot of casualties.
3. Explosive ordnance disposal
The bomb squad for the military, explosive ordnance disposal technicians used to spend the bulk of their time clearing minefields or dealing with dud munitions that didn’t go off. Those missions were dangerous enough, but the rise of improvised explosive devices changed all that and increased the risk for these service members.
Not exactly shocking that infantry is one of the most dangerous jobs on the battlefield. These troops search out and destroy the enemy and respond to calls for help when other units stumble into danger. They are the primary force called on to take and hold territory from enemy forces.
The cavalry conducts reconnaissance and security missions and, if there is a shortage of infantry soldiers, is often called to take and hold territory against enemy formations. Their recon mission sometimes results in them fighting while vastly outnumbered.
6. Combat Engineers
Combat engineers do dangerous construction work with the added hazard of combat operations going on all around them. When the infantry is bogged down in enemy obstacles, it’s highly-trained engineers known as Sappers who go forward and clear the way. The engineers also conduct a lot of the route clearance missions to find and destroy enemy IEDs and mines.
Artillery soldiers send massive rounds against enemy forces. Because artillery destroys enemy formations and demoralizes the survivors, it’s a target for enemy airstrikes and artillery barrages. Also, the artillery may be called on to assume infantry and cavalry missions that they’ve received little training on.
Medics go forward with friendly forces to render aid under fire. While medics are protected under the Geneva Convention, this only helps when the enemy honors the conventions. Even then, artillery barrages and bombing runs can’t tell which troops are noncombatants.
9. Vehicle transportation
Truck driving is another job that became markedly more dangerous in the most recent wars. While driving vehicles in large supply convoys or moving forward with advancing troops was always risky, the rise of the IED threat multiplied the danger for these soldiers. This was complicated by how long it took the military to get up-armored vehicles to all units in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Aircraft provide a lot of capabilites on the battlefield, but that makes them, their crews, and their pilots targets of enemy fire.
11. Artillery observers
Like medics, these soldiers go forward with maneuver forces. They find enemy positions and call down artillery strikes to destroy them. The enemy knows to take them out as quickly as possible since they are usually carrying radios.
Leno picked Laberge at random out of a number of wounded soldiers to show his appreciation for those who serve. The former late night host may not be able to do something for everyone in uniform, he said, but he wanted to introduce the world to just one of them.
“Hopefully it expresses what we want to do for all soldiers,” Leno said.
In the video, Leno takes Laberge and some of his fellow soldiers out and shares some common ground around cars. Then, he takes him for a ride in the insanely fast Hellcat. As you would imagine, it was a pretty fun ride.
But the drive doesn’t end there. Over lunch, Leno talks with Laberge about what led him to join the Army, and how his recovery is going. “I can’t imagine what it’d be like,” Leno said.
And then, the best part. Getting out of the vehicle, Laberge comments that he wouldn’t mind having the Hellcat, to which Leno responds: “It’s yours. It’s yours.”
“Really?” the shocked soldier asks. “Oh man. That is awesome. Thank you.”
“America loves you,” Leno tells him. “Thank you buddy. Have a lot of fun. Don’t get any tickets.”
The Air Force Chief Scientist said F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.
In the future, drones may be fully operated from the cockpit of advanced fighter jets such as the Joint Strike Fighter or F-22, Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” he said.
This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaisance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.
In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.
“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,” he said.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.
The early phases of this kind of technology is already operational in the F-35 cockpit through what is called “sensor-fusion.” This allows the avionics technology and aircraft computer to simultaneously organize incoming information for a variety of different sensors – and display the data on a single integrated screen for the pilot. As a result, a pilot does not have the challenge of looking at multiple screens to view digital map displays, targeting information or sensory input, among other things.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.
Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.
“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.
As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.
“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.
Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.
For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.
This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.
“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.