These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers unveiled legislation on Oct. 4 that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program in an effort to install additional privacy protections.


The bill, which will be formally introduced as soon as Oct. 5, is likely to revive debate in Washington over the balance between security and privacy, amid concerns among some lawmakers in both parties that the US government may be too eager to spy on its own citizens.

The legislation, written by the House Judiciary Committee, is seen by civil liberties groups as the best chance in Congress to reform the law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before its expiration on December 31.

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans
US Air National Guard photo illustration by Staff Sgt. Kayla Rorick.

Senior US intelligence officials consider Section 702 to be among the most vital tools they have to thwart threats to national security and American allies.

Foreign suspects

It allows US intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on and store vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.

But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans, including those with targets living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans
Edward Snowden speaks to a crowd via video conference. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A discussion draft of the legislation, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to access American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime.

That limit would not apply, however, to requests of data that involve counterterrorism or counterespionage.

The narrower restriction on what some have called a “backdoor search loophole” has disappointed some civil liberties groups. Several organizations sent a letter this week saying they would not support legislation that did not require a warrant for all queries of American data collected under Section 702.

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans
Photo from Wikimedia Commons user Colin

Renewal for six years

The legislation would also renew the program for six years and codify the National Security Agency’s decision earlier this year to halt the collection of communications that merely mentioned a foreign intelligence target. But that codification would end in six years as well, meaning NSA could potentially resume the activity in 2023.

The spy agency has said it lost some operational capability by ending so-called “about” collection due to privacy compliance issues and has lobbied against a law that would make its termination permanent.

Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this year to renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent, a position backed by the White House and intelligence agencies.

But that effort is expected to face major resistance in the House, where an influential conservative bloc of Republicans earlier this year said it opposed renewal unless major changes were made, reflecting disagreement within the majority party.

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans
Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. Photo from Senator Feinstein’s website.

Separately, Senators John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California are working on Section 702 legislation that may also be introduced this week and include fewer reforms.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky are also planning to introduce a bill that would require a warrant for any query of Section 702 involving data belonging to an American.

Articles

Navy investigators say Pendleton housing accusations ‘unfounded’

Navy investigators say they found no evidence to support allegations that a management company running military housing on a major California base overcharged residents on their energy bills.


Several military families who lived in base housing on Camp Pendleton in California — which is managed by the private company Lincoln Military Housing — told We Are The Mighty they were threatened with eviction notices over energy bills they didn’t owe.

The residents alleged they were being intimidated into not fighting the overages, and sources told WATM Navy investigators were looking into the issue.

But according to a Feb. 14 statement from Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Ed Buice, Navy officials closed the inquiry into accusations of over billing “after it became evident the allegations being made were unfounded.”

“No criminal misconduct was discovered,” Buice added in the email statement to WATM.

Buice did not reply to a request for additional comment.

Residents of the San Onofre II neighborhood at Camp Pendleton say they were within the margins for monthly electricity use that would preclude an overage charge.

Military families there pay a lump sum rent that includes a certain amount of energy usage. When they consume less electricity than the allotted amount, they are refunded; when they go over, they receive bills, officials say.

Several residents told WATM that they had seen sudden sharp increases in their electric bills and were threatened with eviction if they didn’t pay up. Many claimed they were rebuffed when they approached base housing officials about the alleged billing problems.

Marine Corps Installations West spokeswoman 1st Lt. Abigail Peterson told WATM in a Feb. 16 email that “all of the official complaints received regarding this situation were addressed and resolved,” adding that Lincoln Military Housing had “implemented a new process to monitor requests to ensure all concerns are addressed in a timely manner.”

“We take feedback very seriously and want to ensure responsible measures are followed to alleviate any issues for our Marines, sailors and their families living here on base,” Peterson said.

Military family advocate Kristine Schellhaas — who originally brought the billing allegations to light — wasn’t satisfied Pendleton’s response, arguing base residents aren’t simply misreading their bills.

“There are systematic flaws with how this program has been implemented,” Schellhaas told WATM. “The facts are that this program needs to get audited.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

US & Canadian jets scrambled to intercept Russian nuclear-capable bombers

U.S. and Canadian fighter jets were scrambled to escort two Russian nuclear-capable bombers away from the North American coastline in the Arctic region, military officials say.

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) on Jan. 26, 2019, said two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack strategic bombers were identified entering an area patrolled by the Royal Canadian Air Force on Jan. 25, 2019.

It said two U.S. F-22 and two Canadian CF-18 fighter jets flew to the location and escorted the Russian bombers out of the zone. The U.S. jets flew out of a base in the U.S. state of Alaska, the military said.


The reports did not specify the exact location of the encounter. The military monitors air traffic in the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone, which extends 320 kilometers off Alaska.

Russian state-run TASS news agency on Jan. 27, 2019, cited U.S. officials as saying the Russian jets did not enter “sovereign territory.”

It quoted the Russian Foreign Ministry as saying the two strategic bombers “completed a scheduled flight over neutral waters of the Arctic Ocean [and] practiced refueling” during a 15-hour flight.

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A Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor fighter jet.

There were no reports of conflict between the Russian and the U.S. and Canadian warplanes.

“NORAD’s top priority is defending Canada and the United States,” General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, the NORAD commander, said in a statement.

“Our ability to protect our nations starts with successfully detecting, tracking, and positively identifying aircraft of interest approaching U.S. and Canadian airspace.”

NORAD, a combined U.S.-Canadian command, uses radar, satellites, and aircraft to monitor aircraft entering U.S. or Canadian airspace.

U.S. officials have reported several incidents of U.S. and Canadian jets scrambling to intercept Russian warplanes and escorting them from the region.

In September 2018, the Pentagon issued a protest after U.S. Air Force fighter jets intercepted two Russian bombers in international airspace west of Alaska.

In that incident, the jets followed the Russian craft until they left the Alaska Air Defense Identification Zone.

In April 2017, Russian warplanes flew near Alaska and Canada several times, prompting air defense forces to scramble jets after a two-year lull in such activity.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the incident, saying the bombers were performing “scheduled flights over neutral waters” when they were escorted by the U.S. F-22 warplanes.

Encounters between Russian and NATO warplanes in various parts of the world have increased in recent years as Moscow demonstrates its resurgent military might.

Moscow said it scrambled a jet in June 2017 to intercept a nuclear-capable U.S. B-52 bomber it said was flying over the Baltic Sea.

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

The Chinese Communist Party’s ‘People’s War’ on COVID-19

The novel coronavirus first appeared in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It spread throughout the nation in January, and then across the world. Now, there are over 1.2 million confirmed cases across more than 183 countries and regions.

The Chinese state’s slow response to the outbreak and its lack of transparency have led some to claim that Covid-19 will be China’s ‘Chernobyl moment’. These criticisms remain valid despite China’s later mobilisation to contain the virus’s spread, which was largely the result of work by medical professionals and a strong community response. The Chinese Communist Party’s ineffective command and control mechanisms and its uncompromising restrictions on information in the early stages of the crisis helped transform a localised epidemic into a global pandemic.


Chinese authorities only confirmed the outbreak three weeks after the first cases emerged in Wuhan. As the virus spread, the CCP’s crisis-response mechanisms slowly kicked into gear. On 20 January, President Xi Jinping convened a politburo meeting, which put China on an effective war footing. Wuhan and all major Chinese cities were locked down and the People’s Liberation Army assumed command over disease control efforts.

Shortly after the politburo met, an order was issued to the National Defence Mobilisation Department (NDMD) of the Central Military Commission to launch an emergency response to combat the epidemic. The order required the ‘national defence mobilisation system to assume command of garrison troops, military support forces, and local party committees and governments at all levels’.

As ASPI’s Samantha Hoffman has noted, the NDMD ‘creates a political and technical capacity to better guarantee rapid, cohesive, and effective response to an emergency in compliance with the core leadership’s orders’. To that end, the NDMD has subordinate departments at the provincial level responsible for mobilising economic, political and scientific information and equipment and organising militia, transport readiness and air defence.

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans

The CCP’s defence mobilisation system is based on the Maoist ‘people’s war’ doctrine, which relies on China’s size and people to defend the country from attack. The aim is to lure the aggressor deep into the battlefield, wear them down and then strike decisively. In this whole-of-society approach, civilians, militia and the PLA all play a part.

On 26 January, the World Health Organization reported 1,985 Covid-19 cases in China. One day later, premier Li Keqiang, by then in charge of containing the outbreak, visited Wuhan to inspect its disease control measures. On 2 February, Li and Wang Huning (a member of the politburo and one of the top leaders of the CCP) chaired a meeting of the Central Leading Small Group for Work to Counter the Coronavirus Infection Pneumonia Epidemic (新型冠状病毒感染肺炎疫情工作领导小组). Chinese authorities were starting to develop situational awareness as Covid-19 spread to all provinces.

The number of confirmed cases more than doubled from 11,821 on 1 February to 24,363 on 5 February. On 6 February, Chinese state media reported that Xi had referred to a ‘people’s war‘ in a telephone call with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman. News of Xi’s declaration reached Western media, which had earlier noted his public absence. On 7 February, Li Wenliang—the doctor detained by police for alerting the public to the virus in November 2019—died of Covid-19, triggering significant public anger and frustration at the Chinese authorities.

The CCP attempted to neutralise this anger by having officials and public figures express sympathy for Li Wenliang on social media. As public discontent waned, Xi took a more prominent role in the national response. His visit to Beijing’s disease control centre was covered by state media outlets, indicating that his ‘people’s war’ declaration was intended to garner public support for his campaign.

The CCP’s next step was to shore up support within the PLA. On 11 February, the PLA’s official newspaper, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, ran an editorial explaining the urgency and achievability of the mission and followed that with numerous articles that sought to boost the PLA’s morale. The messaging was intended to ensure that the party had the military’s absolute cooperation.

China’s leadership took an early step by constructing the Huoshenshan Novel Coronavirus Specialist Hospital in Wuhan, modelled on the Xiaotangshan Hospital that was built to treat SARS in 2003. First to be mobilised were state-owned enterprises, which erected the hospital in 10 days starting on 23 January. Next, militia units installed medical equipment and beds while others disseminated propaganda via social media to publicise the hospital and other CCP initiatives between 25 January and 1 February.

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans

The deployment of state-owned enterprises, the militia and the PLA was a major test for the CCP’s mobilisation system. While it proved effective in the middle and later stages of the pandemic, the lack of transparency and poor command and control systems in the early stages heightened the risk to international public health to unacceptable levels.

Effective crisis management requires more than whole-of-society mobilisation. A senior WHO official, Michael Ryan, observed that Covid-19 ‘will get you if you don’t move quickly’. If there’s anything to learn from the CCP’s response, it’s that decisiveness, transparency and rapid response are crucial to effective disease control in a crisis.

It appears that Xi did too little before it was too late.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

Articles

Wounded warrior to get first US penis transplant

Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital have said that an American soldier wounded by an explosion will be the first person in the U.S. to receive a penis transplant. They also said that up to 60 more injured veterans may undergo the procedure.


For privacy reasons, the hospital has not identified the patient beyond describing him as “a soldier injured by an explosion.”

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans
Photo: Department of Defense Kristopher Radder

IEDs do a lot of damage to lower extremities, including the penis. The New York Times reported in Dec. 2015 that almost 1,367 men were wounded in the genitals in Iraq and Afghanistan. The team at Johns Hopkins hopes to pioneer the treatment for them.

The donor organ will be taken from a recently deceased man with similar skin color and age to the patient, according to Business Insider. After the surgery, the patient will need a few months before they have full use of the organ. Sensation, urination, and sexual arousal are all possible over time.

Only one successful penis transplant has ever been performed. A South African team worked for nine hours to complete the surgery, and the patient was able to conceive his first child less than a year later.

Since the testicles are not transplanted, any baby conceived by a penis transplant patient would be the biological child of the patient, not the donor.

While the testicles will not be transplanted, other parts of the body may have to be. Blast patients may need scrotum, groin, abdominal, and inner thigh tissue transplanted, Business Insider reported.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This American ally is increasingly isolated in a pro-China world

Taiwan lost one of its largest diplomatic allies when the Dominican Republic cut ties to officially establish relations with China instead.

Within the communique to create diplomatic relations with China, which was signed by the Dominican foreign minister in Beijing on May 1, 2018, was the declaration that “the Government of the Dominican Republic severs ‘diplomatic relations’ with Taiwan as of this day.”


Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu said his government is “deeply upset” about the two countries new ties.

Taiwan’s political situation is highly contentious as the democratic island is self-ruled, and a pro-independence party has been in power since 2016.

But Beijing considers Taiwan to be a province of China that will eventually be fully reunified.

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans
Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu

As a result, China refuses to have diplomatic relations with nations that deal diplomatically with Taiwan, as that treats the island like an independent country. And if Taiwan’s global recognition increased, that could jeopardize China’s claim to the island.

A statement released by the Dominican Republic confirmed the nation’s changed allegiances.

“The Dominican Republic recognizes that there is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory,” the statement read.

Without the Dominican Republic, there are only 19 remaining countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, notably Guatemala, Burkino Faso, and Haiti.

Dollar diplomacy may have been a factor

The statement released by Taiwan’s foreign ministry hints at the nation’s growing frustration at China.

While being headlined and initially formatted the same as similar statements in the past, it’s roughly twice the normal length and overtly calls out China’s method of picking off Taiwan’s allies.

“We strongly condemn China’s objectionable decision to use dollar diplomacy to convert Taiwan’s diplomatic allies,” the statement read. “Developing nations should be aware of the danger of falling into a debt trap when engaging with China.”

China has a pattern of picking off Taiwan’s allies when a democratic party is in power, and using what’s commonly called “debt trap diplomacy” to offer aid and loans for infrastructure to poorer countries in an effort to build its global Belt and Road Initiative.

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans
Belt and Road Initiative:u00a0China in Red, the members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank in orange, and the 6 proposed corridorsu00a0in black.

But it appears Beijing may be using the same techniques to now lure countries away from Taiwan, with what the island calls “false promises of investment and aid.”

“This was the result of China’s efforts in offering vast financial incentives for the Dominican Republic to end their 77 years of diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It also follows China’s actions last year in establishing diplomatic relations with Panama.”

Taiwan’s foreign ministry warned that former allies Costa Rica and Sao Tome and Principe have yet to receive more than $1 billion worth of assistance from China.

May 1, 2018, The Australian reported that the Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan’s six allies in the Pacific, is looking to China for investment for an airport, a move that could worry Taipei.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the new helicopter guarding America’s nukes

In what many have defined as an upset victory, the United States Air Force announced the selection of the MH-139, to replace its fleet of UH-1N “Huey” helicopters. A 375M USD firm-fixed-price contract for the non-developmental item integration of four aircraft was awarded on Sept. 14, 2018. If all options are exercised the programme is valued at $2.4 billion for up to 84 helicopters, training devices, and associated support equipment until 2031.


The new choppers, based on the Leonardo AW139 and offered by Boeing as prime contractor, are expected to reach the IOC (initial operational capability) in 2021 (this is what Leonardo claims in its press release even though it appears a bit optimistic considered that the Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada, both offering UH-60 Black Hawk variants, may contest the award) when they will replace the old Huey taking over the role of protecting the America’s ICBM missile silos as well as VIP transportation and utility tasks.

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MH-139 demonstrator.

(Boeing / Leonardo)

The MH-139 leverages the market-leading Leonardo AW139 baseline, a modern, non-developmental, multi-mission helicopter that is in service with 270 governments, militaries and companies across the world. According to Leonardo, over 900 AW139s are already in service with 260 assembled and delivered from Philadelphia, where the U.S. Air Force’s MH-139 will be assembled.

The U.S. Air Force MH-139 will be equipped with sensor turret under the nose with electro-optical and infrared cameras, provisions for machine gun mounts and possibly hoists: in other words the new AW139 variant will be not too different from the HH-139A, a military variant in service with the Italian Air Force we have often talked about here at The Aviationist.

The HH-139A is a multirole chopper equipped with an integrated NVG-compatible glass cockpit, 4-axis digital Digital AFCS (automatic flight control system) with SAR modes FMS SAR patterns, weather/search radar, TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) II, FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red), Health and Usage Monitoring System (HUMS), Digital video recorder, Video downlink, Moving map on flat display, Auto-Deployable ELT (ADELT) and Enhanced Ground Proximity Warning System (EGPWS).

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MH-139.

(Boeing photo)

The HH-139A also features a secure communications suite, integrated defensive aids suite, hoist, search light, wire cutters, cargo hook, loudspeaker system, and emergency floatation gear and any other equipment required to perform “convetional” search and rescue, as well as Combat SAR missions.

The helicopter features provisions two wing-mounted pods for 70 mm unguided rockets as those presented by AgustaWestland at Farnborough International Airshow in 2012.

The Italian Air Force helicopter can do also something else. Since they can carry a bambi bucket they can perform aerial firefighting activity. Beginning in 2018, the Italian HH-139A belonging to the 82° Centro CSAR (Combat SAR Center) from Trapani have carried out firefighting tasks in Sicily.

Feature image: Boeing MH-139.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

Articles

Nate Boyer climbing Kilimanjaro with wounded warrior to help thousands get clean water

Just one day after Nate Boyer entered the Guinness World Record book for the longest football long snap, former Texas Longhorn, Seattle Seahawk, and U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer embarks on a mission to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with disabled veteran Blake Watson to help 10,000 people gain access to clean water.


These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans
Nate Boyer

The charity is called Waterboys. It was started by Chris Long, a former defensive end for the Rams who rallied NFL players to digging clean water wells in Tanzania,” Boyer says. “His initial goal was to find thirty-two players from thirty-two teams and to have thirty-two wells dug.”

The effort now has 21 NFL players involved, including the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, the Steelers’ Lawrence Timmons, and the Eagles’ Sam Bradford, who currently has raised the most money for the campaign.

“Chris went out there a couple years ago and did Kilimanjaro himself,” Boyer recalls. “But he was leaving and he felt like he wanted to do more for those people. They walk five miles a day for clean water for their villages; they can cook and drink water and try to live healthy.”

Tanzania is currently suffering from a devastating water crisis. In a country where one-third of the land is semi-arid, access to clean, sanitary water is a daily struggle. Many of the country’s current wells are dug near toxic drainage systems and are contaminated by runoff. Water-borne illnesses, such as malaria and cholera, account for over half of the diseases affecting the population.

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans
Aid agencies struggle to build clean water wells like this UN-built well in Tanzania. (UN photo)

“Long went out there last year and dedicated the first clean water well” says Boyer. “It’s pretty cool because the people, they come out of the woodwork for this thing. It’s a huge deal to them.”

That’s what brings Boyer to Kilimanjaro. When Long recruited him for the charity, Boyer was at the gym, working a stair climber machine, on the “Kilimanjaro” setting. Boyer spoke with Dave Vobora, who runs Dallas, Texas’ Performance Vault Inc., a sports performance training center for elite athletes and U.S. Special Forces.

“I told him I’m doing this climb and asked if he had anybody in mind that would be a good counterpart,” Boyer said. “I wanted to go with a guy who was going to spend the next four months working towards this goal and grinding. He’s like, ‘I got just the guy.'”

Vobora linked Boyer up with Marine veteran Blake Watson, a single leg amputee. During Watson’s first deployment he accidentally knelt down onto an IED. Watson lost his leg and his pulse rate went to zero on the helicopter during the flight to the hospital, but the medics were able to resuscitate him.

“I approached Blake and started explaining what we were doing, what I wanted to do with him and why,” Boyer remembers. “I talked about the clean water wells and before I could even finish my pitch he was like, ‘I’m in, dude. I’m in.’ He was excited about was not only the challenge and the climb and all that but what we would be doing for those people.”

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Watson training for Kilimanjaro

Blake struggled for three years with dependency, depression, and thoughts of suicide. With the help of others and his Marine mindset, he pulled himself out of a rut, started training again, and got back in shape. Got involved at this gym called Adaptive Training Foundation in Dallas, also run by Vobora. A gym for adaptive athletes, many of them amputees. They all have a goal they’re pursuing.

“It’s not just, ‘I want to work out. I want to get in shape,'” Boyer says. “It’s like, ‘I want to go climb Kilimanjaro,’ or ‘I want to be on the Paralympic bobsled team.’

Those wounded warriors led Boyer to another goal. The clean water initiative is important, but for Nate Boyer and Blake Watson, it’s also about inspiring veterans and current service members who might be struggling back home.

“We’re people of service. Whether we joined because we had no other options or because we wanted to serve our country, at the end of the day, we became men and women of service. If we don’t have that element in our life moving forward, working towards a mission, something bigger than us, then it’s really easy to get lost and feel like you’re never going to do anything as important as what you did when you served. That’s the impetus behind this whole thing.”

To help Boyer and Watson raise money and awareness for the people of Tanzania and American wounded warriors donate here. Donations will go toward digging more clean water wells for the people of an important U.S. friend and ally.

Intel

4 reasons why you shouldn’t give candy to kids while on patrol

The idea of winning hearts and minds dates back decades. Higher command believes that if allied forces do favors for and give material gifts to the enemy, they’ll be influenced by the acts of kindness and, perhaps, change their way of thinking.


Since that plan rarely works, many ground troops will appeal to the enemies’ children, thinking they can steer them over to the good side while they’re impressionable. In America, the idea of strange men giving candy to little kids is reprehensible, but on deployment, it’s cool.

However, in a country like Afghanistan, where most of the population is dirt poor, little kids have no problem with walking up to a patrol and asking an infantryman for “chocolate,” which means they’ll take any candy you have.

Sure, the kids usually have good intentions, but there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t give them those sugary snacks from your MRE.

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Lance Cpl. Randy B. Lake talks to some children during a foot patrol.

(Photo by Marine Cpl. Adam C. Schnell)

It might piss off their parents

Some Afghan parents don’t want their kids socializing with American troops because they don’t want the bad guys to see it happening — or they just flat-out hate America.

The last thing a grunt wants to hear is a potential Taliban member screaming at them.

What if the kids have allergies?

Some kids are allergic to chocolate, coconuts, or peanuts — and you can be sure that they won’t read the nutritional facts to see what’s in the small treat you gave them. Most of the kids think all candy is called chocolate and they want that piece you have stowed away in your cargo pocket. Once they get it, they just pop it in their mouth.

If they eat that bite-sized Snickers bar you gave them, suddenly go into anaphylactic shock, and their airway closes, you’ve just made the local populous even more pissed off than they already are at you for being in their country.

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It’s hard to learn a little trust, but easy to place an explosive in a poorly placed dump pouch.

A friendship going bad

Grunts are people, too, and they have one or two strands humanity floating around in their bloodstreams — somewhere. Frequently, the infantryman will notice a little kid who reminds him of someone back home. In this moment, they might “bro down” a little and give them some candy.

However, Marines wear dump pouches that they use to put things in, like empty magazines or extra bottles of water. There could be a time where their new little friend sneaks up to them, discreetly steals something out of the dump pouch (or puts a ticking grenade in there) and takes off running.

That troop could die because he trusted that little sh*t. We’re speaking from experience here.

They might sell it for drugs

Countless kids we encountered on patrol while in Afghanistan were high off their asses. They were entertaining as hell, yes, but doped out of their minds. It’s possible that the piece of candy you gave them was what they need to sell to get the cash to buy their next fix.

We could put a photo of some Afghan kids getting lit below, but this article isn’t supposed to depress anyone… right?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian mercenaries want revenge after getting whooped in Syria

France 24 published an interview with a man it described as a Russian paramilitary chief who provides Russian citizens access to mercenary work in Syria in which he said his countrymen had been galvanized by reports that they were taking an embarrassing loss to US forces.


“Each week I receive five or six new requests,” the man said. “Some call me by phone; others come to see me.”

He said that about 100 people in Russia’s Yekaterinburg region, where he is based, were “planning to go to Syria.”

Related: Why Russia is hiring mercenaries to fight in Syria

The man said that after reports that US forces in early February 2018 crushed an advance of fighters loyal to the Syrian government — troops said to have contained hundreds of Russians — he had seen a change in the volunteers.

“Now it’s more about getting revenge than it is about money,” he said.

What it’s like to be a Russian mercenary in Syria

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A Russian-made tank in the crosshairs of a US drone. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Patrick Wyatt)

Russia is believed to use military contractors in Syria rather than its military. Some experts speculate it’s to conceal Russia’s true combat losses in Syria while it uses its state-run media to tell citizens the operation is cheap and effective.

Also read: Russia sent its most advanced fighter to Syria

For Russian military contractors, the work promises brutal and dangerous conditions in which they can expect to be asked to kill to protect business or political interests. They stand to make a decent wage, but the man said many of them don’t live that long.

“If you sign up with a private military company, you have sold yourself to them for money,” the man said.

He added: “The company can use you however it wants. What will happen to you after your death? If you’ve been turned into mincemeat, so what? They put you in a bag, close the coffin and — in the best-case scenario — send you home. In the worst, they bury you there. If you are ready to earn money by killing people and defending the commercial interests of others, then that’s fine.”

One factor contributing to the losses of Russian contractors in Syria is a lack of air cover provided by Russia’s or Syria’s military, the man said.

In the battle on Feb. 7, 2018, US airstrikes, artillery, and Apache helicopters strafed and decimated the pro-government forces, who are said to have had no anti-aircraft weaponry.

Without air power or any ability to combat aircraft, it’s unclear how Russian military contractors on the ground could do any better against US-aligned forces.

The man told France 24 that 218 Russians died in the battle, while news reports have indicated as many as 300 were killed or wounded. Russia has said five citizens may have died while “several dozens” were wounded.

How is the Kremlin playing the story?

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Vladimir Putin and Bashar al-Assad. (Image via Moscow Kremlin)

But just because Russia’s military, which has considerable airpower nearby, didn’t protect the Russians involved in the battle doesn’t mean it didn’t know about the advance.

Citing US intelligence reports with intercepted communications, The Washington Post reported last week that a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin told a senior Syrian official he had “secured permission” from the Kremlin before the advance.

More: US was told no Russians were involved in deadly Syria attack

Reuters has reported that the advance on US-backed forces was intended to gauge the US’s response, which may have been stronger than anticipated.

The paramilitary chief told France 24 that one Russian contractor had 150 men in freezers who were described to him as “minced meat.” According to the man, the families of Russians killed in the battle won’t be informed until after Russia’s election — if at all.

“We all know why,” the man said. “There’s no problem keeping the deaths secret.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy is struggling to stop Chinese theft of military secrets

US Navy defense contractors and subcontractors have reportedly suffered “more than a handful” of disconcerting security breaches at the hands of Chinese hackers over the past year and a half.

“Attacks on our networks are not new, but attempts to steal critical information are increasing in both severity and sophistication,” Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer said in an internal memo in October 2018, The Wall Street Journal, which reviewed the memo, reported Dec. 14, 2018.


“We must act decisively to fully understand both the nature of these attacks and how to prevent further loss of vital military information,” he added.

Although the secretary did not mention China specifically, evidence indicates that Beijing is responsible for what is considered a debilitating cyber campaign against the US.

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer.

In 2018, Chinese government hackers stole important data on US Navy undersea-warfare programs from an unidentified contractor. Among the stolen information were plans for a new supersonic anti-ship missile, The Washington Post, citing US officials, reported in June 2018.

China has been striving to boost its naval warfighting capabilities, and there is evidence that it is relying on stolen technology to do so.

And it’s not just the US Navy. Adm. Philip Davidson, the head of US Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2018 that Beijing is “stealing technology in just about every domain and trying to use it to their advantage.”

China is believed to have been behind multiple cybersecurity breaches that facilitated the theft of significant amounts of data on the F-22 and the F-35, among other aircraft. That information is suspected to have played a role in the development of China’s new fifth-generation stealth fighters.

Beijing denies that it engages in any form of cyberespionage.

A senior US intelligence official warned Dec. 11, 2018, that concerning Chinese cyberactivity in the US is clearly on the rise, and there is evidence that China is targeting critical infrastructure to lay the groundwork for disruptive attacks, Reuters reported.

These US lawmakers want to restrict Internet surveillance on Americans

National Security Agency official Rob Joyce, a former White House cyber advisor for President Donald Trump.

(USENIX Enigma Conference)

And US officials say Chinese state hackers are responsible for a data breach at Marriott that affected 500 million customers, according to recent reports. The Trump administration has repeatedly criticized Beijing for the alleged theft of US intellectual property that’s worth several hundred billion dollars a year, one of several sticking points in the ongoing trade spat.

The breaching of US defense contractor networks is particularly problematic as China modernizes its force, building a military capable to challenge the US.

“It’s extremely hard for the Defense Department to secure its own systems,” Tom Bossert, the former homeland security adviser in the Trump administration, told The Journal. “It’s a matter of trust and hope to secure the systems of their contractors and subcontractors.”

Contractors and subcontractors across the entire military lack the desired cybersecurity capabilities and regularly suffer serious breaches, an intelligence official said.

The most active Chinese hackers are reportedly a group known as Temp.Periscope or Leviathan, which is focused on maritime interests but also hits other targets.

One defense official told The Journal that China was targeting America’s “weak underbelly,” calling cybersecurity breaches “an asymmetric way to engage the United States without ever having to fire a round.”

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

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