US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks - We Are The Mighty
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US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks

Senior U.S. military officials said April 7 that they were looking into whether Russia aided Syrian forces in this week’s deadly chemical attack on civilians in Idlib province.


“We think we have a good picture of who supported them as well,” one senior military official told reporters at the Pentagon, adding that the Pentagon was “carefully assessing any information that would implicate the Russians knew or assisted with this Syrian capability.”

The officials said that at a minimum, the Russians failed to rein in the Syrian regime activity that has killed innocent Syrian civilians. They said Russia also failed to fulfill its 2013 guarantee that Syria’s chemical weapons would be eliminated.

The U.S. military officials noted that they had not seen evidence of Russian involvement in the chemical attack. However, the officials said the Russians had an aviation unit based at the airfield where the attack originated and have “chemical expertise in country.”

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
The U.S. commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Syria says a Russian air strike in northern Syria accidentally struck U.S.-backed Syrian Arab forces who are part of the fight against so-called Islamic State (IS) militants. (YouTube screenshot: Kurdistan24.net)

U.S. military officials have shown reporters the Syrian aircraft flight path that was taken April 4 from al-Shayrat airfield to the town of Khan Sheikhoun, where more than 80 people were killed in the attack that local doctors said involved sarin nerve gas.

On April 7, U.S. military officials said that after the attack, they watched a small drone, also called a UAV, flying over the hospital in Khan Sheikoun where victims of the chemical attack were being treated.

“About five hours later, the UAV returned, and the hospital was struck by additional munitions,” one official said.

The senior military official said the U.S. did not know why the hospital was struck or who carried out the strike, but had determined that it was potentially done “to hide the evidence of a chemical attack.”

Meanwhile, senior military officials said the United States and Russia would maintain a line of communication aimed at preventing midair collisions of their warplanes in Syrian airspace. That contradicted Moscow’s earlier assertion that it had suspended those communications in protest against the Tomahawk cruise missile strike on al-Shayrat airfield.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
In early 2017, a Russian plane buzzed a U.S. destroyer. (Dept. of Defense image)

The communication line is primarily used to ensure that Russian and U.S. planes conducting combat missions in Syria do not get into unintentional confrontations. The U.S. is using the airspace to conduct strikes against Islamic State terrorists.

The U.S. used the line to inform the Russians of the intent to strike in order to warn any Russians who were at the base, officials said.

The April 6 U.S. strike used 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit targets on the Syrian airfield, including about 20 aircraft, aircraft storage facilities, ammunition supply bunkers, and radars, officials said.

A U.S. military official told Voice of America there was an area on the airfield known to have been used as a chemical weapons depot. The source said that the U.S. military did not know whether chemical weapons were still in that area, but out of an abundance of caution to avoid potential casualties, the missiles did not strike that area.

Other U.S. military officials told Voice of America the strikes did not target the airfield runways so as to not threaten Russians, adding that the Tomahawk type used was for “precision strikes, not cratering.”

One military official deemed the strikes as “appropriate, proportionate, precise, and effective.”

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 (local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

The office of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad described the strikes in a statement on April 7 as “reckless” and “irresponsible.” The statement added that the attacks were “shortsighted” and a continuation of a U.S. policy of “subjugating people.”

Russia, which is providing troops and air support to the Assad government, condemned the U.S. military action, calling it “aggression against a sovereign state,” and said it was suspending a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. for flight safety over Syria.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on April 7 that the United States “took a very measured step last night.” She added, “We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary.”

VOA’s Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

Articles

Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

National VFW Honor Guard in dress whites.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
U.S. Air Force photo

Airmen in their dress blues during a Veterans Day ceremony.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
U.S. Air Force photo

ARMY:

Soldiers assigned to 10th Special Forces Group, maneuver through a shooting range during a weapons training exercise at the Panzer Range Complex, Boeblingen, Germany, Nov. 08, 2016.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
Free to enter. 5 will win. Ends November 30, 2016

A US Army Golden Knights Soldier lands after jumping into the Girls’ Science and Engineering Day at UAHuntsville in Huntsville, Ala., Nov. 5, 2016.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
U.S. Army photo

NAVY:

PEARL HARBOR (Nov. 3, 2016) Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73) render honors to the Battleship Missouri Memorial as Decatur prepares to moor at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. Decatur, along with guided-missile destroyers USS Momsen (DDG 92) and USS Spruance (DDG 111) are deployed in support of maritime security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific as part of a U.S. 3rd Fleet Pacific Surface Action Group (PAC SAG) under Commander, Destroyer Squadron 31 (CDS 31).

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Gerald Dudley Reynolds

PACIFIC OCEAN (Nov. 11, 2016) A Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 78 MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter prepares to take off from the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) flight deck. Carl Vinson is currently underway conducting Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) in preperation for an upcoming deployment.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Sean M. Castellano

MARINE CORPS:

The sun sets over the USS Green Bay (LPD-20) at White Beach Naval Base, Okinawa, Japan, August 21, 2016.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Darien J. Bjorndal

Marines with the Maritime Raid Force, 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conduct combat marksmanship and close-quarters tactics training during a “deck shoot” aboard the USS Makin Island, while afloat in the Pacific Ocean, Nov. 2, 2016.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Devan Gowans

COAST GUARD:

Servicemembers from all five branches participated in the New York Giants vs. the Philadelphia Eagles Military Appreciation Game at MetLife Stadium today. More than 100 service members from the New York and New Jersey area volunteered to represent their branch of service during the pre-game and halftime ceremonies.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sabrina Clarke

They say practice makes perfect, which is exactly why our crews are always training. A crewmember aboard the USCG Cutter Active, a 210-foot medium-endurance cutter homeported in Port Angeles, Wash., fires a 25mm gun during underway training.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Photo submission:

Lt. Colonel Shannon Stambersky takes a selfie with her UCLA Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadets after completion of an annual field training exercise (FTX) at Camp Pendleton and filming of the first ROTC Virtual Reality recruitment video.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
Photo by Sgt. Dae McDonald, Sgt. Derek Sherwood, Brian L. Tan

MIGHTY TRENDING

Gen. Martins just enacted a media blackout at Guantánamo

The Pentagon’s chief war crimes prosecutor, who, for six years, has been the most public booster of the military commissions, has decided to abandon a years-long practice of briefing reporters and holding news conferences.


“This is a principled decision based on the law and the posture of these cases,” prosecutor Brig. Gen. Mark Martins said Oct. 29. “And it’s the right time.”

More restrictions may be to come. In a 2014 court filing in the Sept. 11 terror attacks case, prosecutors suggested to the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, that he may want to impose a gag order on all lawyers in the high-profile tribunal.

They argued that lawyers offering commentary or other information outside of court could prejudice the possibility of “a fair trial by impartial members” — a jury of US military officers, yet to be chosen — in the death-penalty case against accused plot mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four other alleged accomplices. No trial date has been set.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
FBI photo of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed from 2001, used in several FBI wanted posters.

Pentagon spokesman Maj. Ben Sakrisson described Martins’ decision as part of an overall rethinking of public affairs strategy by the overseer of the war court, Convening Authority Harvey Rishikof. Throughout the Obama administration, the Pentagon regularly staged news conferences that gave the prosecutor, defense attorneys and families of terror victims a podium at the close of war court hearings.

Now, according to Sakrisson, “this is just the prosecution stepping away from engaging with the media directly. I wouldn’t characterize this change as extending to the defense teams.”

Read Also: Released Gitmo detainees implicated in terror attacks on Americans

Family members and victims of terror attacks — chosen by Pentagon lottery and brought to the base as guests of the prosecution — will still be permitted to talk to reporters if they want, he said. “Going forward I expect there will be press conferences of some manner. But the final forum of participants is still under discussion.”

When Martins first started doing press conferences in a wooden shed built for $49,000 to look like a Pentagon briefing room, dozens of reporters would travel to Guantánamo. Broadcasters in particular needed the question-and-answer session because recording is forbidden at the post-Sept. 11 court.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
Lead prosecutor for the government Brig. Gen. Mark Martins answers questions from reporters during a post military commissions session Jan. 29, 2015 at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay. Army Photo by Sgt. Adrian Borunda.

For reporters who couldn’t make the trip to Cuba, the Pentagon would broadcast the news briefings to a viewing site at Fort Meade outside Washington, DC.

Under the Pentagon’s war court rules, the prosecutor needs explicit permission from the convening authority to speak with reporters about the hybrid military-civilian justice system set up in response to the 9/11 attacks.

Defense lawyers don’t. Many of them are civilians paid by the Pentagon, and the Manual for Military Commissions lets them talk freely with reporters about unclassified information, guided by their professional ethics.

The Pentagon “has a lot of restrictions around publishing or speaking to the press, designed to give a unitary message from the Department of Defense,” said defense attorney Jay Connell. The manual essentially waives a defense attorney’s obligation to puppet a US government talking point.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
Defense Attorney Jay Connell. Photo from Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

Connell, who regularly briefs reporters, represents Mohammed’s nephew, Ammar al Baluchi. He argues the rules recognize his duty “to inform the public about what’s going on in military commissions.”

Related: The controversy surrounding Guantanamo Bay has existed longer than you think

For example, while Martins would recite how many legal motions were argued, how many hours of court were held, and how many pages of evidence were turned over, Connell would try to contextualize what happened in court from the defense point of view.

“So many things which happen in the military commissions relate to larger themes of secrecy, larger themes of torture, and larger themes of unfairness,” he said. “My goal in a press conference is to explain what happened that week in the larger context of Guantánamo.”

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse.

For now, soldiers record the briefings and the videos are posted on a Pentagon war court website set whose motto is Fairness * Transparency * Justice.

If the managers of media policy no longer host news conferences in the shed, Connell said, they’ll brief elsewhere. And, “if they get rid of the video recordings, then we would probably go to Facebook Live.”

Martins decided to pull the plug on press conferences soon after the Army postponed his Nov. 1 retirement until 2019. He has had the job for six years, and serves as both the chief overseer of war court cases and a case prosecutor in the Sept. 11 and USS Coledeath-penalty trials. Neither trial has a start date.

Articles

Watch this F-16 blow the crap out of a drone with air-to-air missiles

When it comes to unmanned aerial vehicles, there’s clearly a love-hate relationship within the military.


The Air Force is scrambling to find and train new pilots to fly the robot warriors, which hunt down high-value targets and fire missiles with relentless precision. But military planners are also concerned about increased access to the technology by America’s enemies, with ISIS using booby-trapped drones as IEDs and some groups actually dropping grenade-sized bombs on U.S. and allied targets in Iraq and Syria.

But one thing everyone can agree on is that the unmanned planes make for great aerial targets. They’re relatively inexpensive, can be programed to maneuver like a manned fighter and are tougher to acquire and track than a full-sized plane.

That’s why America and its allies in Europe are using the technology to help train their pilots, launching them in swarms and throwing up top-tier fighters to do battle. In this video, Danish F-16s fire advanced missiles — including the AIM-9x Sidewinder and AIM-120 Sparrow — at drone targets to hone their skills.

It’s an amazing look at how the advanced missile technology makes for an “unfair fight” in the future battle for the skies.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdWBjhUrw5U
Articles

The Punisher revealed its episodes via Morse Code

On Twitter this morning, the official twitter handle for the upcoming “Punisher” series on Netflix released a series of cryptic tweets.


Quick translation into the regular alphabet gives you: “3am, two dead men, and Kandahar.” Kandahar, Afghanistan, is more than likely where Frank Castle was deployed, since he mentioned to an old Marine veteran back in Daredevil Season 2 that he was in Afghanistan.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
…and definitely where this scene takes place, given the headgear (Screengrab via Marvel)

The name of all of the episodes are:

  1. “3 AM”
  2. “Two Dead Men”
  3. “Kandahar”
  4. “Resupply”
  5. “Gunner”
  6. “The Judas Goat”
  7. “Crosshairs”
  8. “Cold Steel”
  9. “Front Toward Enemy”
  10. “Virtue of the Vicious”
  11. “Danger Close”
  12. “Home”
  13. “Memento Mori”

Following the standard 13 episode format for all of the series, this seems to make sense. The series of tweets ends with a very cryptic video meant to invoke the feeling of something being classified by the military.

The video ends with an ambiguous date in 2017. However, I have my own personal theory on this.

One of the directors on The Punisher accidentally revealed the show’s premiere month. The director said Netflix was planning to release his episode in November. Knowing the structure of every Netflix’s television show, this basically means that every episode drops with the whole season for maximum binging results. Netflix also releases a lot of their shows on a Friday, once again for maximum binging results.

If Marvel and Netflix were to drop it on any Friday to get the best results, it would be over Veteran’s Day weekend. The day before Veteran’s Day is also the Marine Corps’ Birthday. What better way to celebrate the anniversary of the Corps than by having its favorite fictional son’s television show released on the same day?

I’m open to criticism if I’m wrong, but if I’m right this could be one of the best birthday gifts ever.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Treaty fight threatens a more important nuclear agreement

At the time, the treaty was landmark, deemed a new cornerstone of strategic stability.

The 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) agreement for the first time eliminated an entire class of missiles and set up an unprecedented system of arms control inspections — all hailed as stabilizing the rivalry between the keepers of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

Now, that treaty between Washington and Moscow, known as the INF, is on the rocks, with U.S. President Donald Trump announcing plans to abandon the accord, and national-security adviser John Bolton saying in Moscow on Oct. 23, 2018, that the United States will be filing a formal notification of its withdrawal.


What’s next may be the demise of an even bigger, more comprehensive bilateral arms treaty called New START. And experts suggest that if that deal were to become obsolete, it would all but guarantee a new arms race.

“If the [INF] treaty collapses, then the first new START treaty (signed in 2010) and the follow-on New START treaty will probably follow it into the dustbin of history,” Aleksei Arbatov, a negotiator of the 1994 START I treaty, said in a commentary for the Carnegie Moscow Center.

Signed in 2010 in Prague by U.S. President Barack Obama and then-Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, New START built on the original START I by effectively halving the number of strategic nuclear warheads and launchers the two countries could possess. In February, each country announced it was in compliance.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks

U.S. President Barack Obama (left) and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, sign the New START treaty in Prague on April 8, 2010.

Though the treaty is due to expire in 2021, the two sides could agree to extend it for another five years.

From Moscow’s side, there is interest. During their meeting in July 2018, President Vladimir Putin suggested to Trump that they extend the pact. From Washington’s side, it’s unclear if there is any interest in doing so.

“If the INF treaty goes under, as appears likely, and New START is allowed to expire with nothing to replace it, there will no verifiable limits on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces for the first time since the early 1970s,” says Kingston Reif, a nuclear analyst at the Arms Control Association, a Washington think tank. “The risk of unconstrained U.S.-Russian nuclear competition, and even more fraught relations, would grow.”

After simmering quietly in classified intelligence discussions, the INF dispute moved to the front burner in 2014 when the U.S. State Department formally accused Russia of violating the treaty by developing a ground-launched cruise missile with a range that exceeded treaty limits.

Russia denied the accusations, even as Washington officials stepped up their accusations in 2017, accusing Moscow of deploying the missile.

In November of that year, Christopher Ford, then a top White House arms control official, for the first time publicly identified the Russian missile in question as the 9M729.

Trump has pushed the line that, if Russia is not adhering to the INF, then the U.S. won’t either.

Ahead of Bolton’s meeting with Putin on Oct. 23, 2018, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied that Russia had violated the INF, saying that “Russia was and remains committed to this treaty’s provisions.”

Following Bolton’s meeting with the Russian president amid two days of talks with Russian officials, the U.S. national-security adviser downplayed suggestions that the demise of the INF treaty would undermine global stability. He pointed to the U.S. decision in 2002 to withdraw from another important arms control agreement: the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, also known as the ABM.

As a top arms control official in President George W. Bush’s administration, Bolton was a vocal advocate for pulling out of the ABM treaty.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks

National-security adviser John Bolton.

“The reality is that the treaty is outmoded, outdated, and being ignored by other countries,” Bolton said, referring to the INF agreement. “And that means exactly one country was constrained by the treaty” — the United States.

In an interview with the newspaper Kommersant published ahead of his arrival in Moscow, Bolton suggested that Trump administration officials didn’t see any urgency in deciding New START’s fate.

“I’m a veteran arms control negotiator myself, and I can tell you that many, many of the key decisions are made late in the negotiations anyway, so I don’t feel that we’re pressed for time,” Bolton said.

“One of the points we thought was important was to resolve the INF issue first, so we knew what the lay of the land was on the strategic-weapon side. So, we’re talking about it internally…. We’re trying to be open about different aspects of looking at New START and other arms control issues as well,” he said.

All indications to date are that the Trump administration is lukewarm at best on the need to extend New START. When the administration in February2018 released its Nuclear Posture Review—- a policy-planning document laying out the circumstances under which the United States would use its nuclear arsenal — there was no mention of extending the treaty until 2026.

In testimony September 2018 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, David Trachtenberg, the deputy U.S. undersecretary of defense for policy, said the administration’s review of whether to extend New START was ongoing.

Matthew Bunn, who oversees the Project On Managing the Atom at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, suggests that instead of pulling out of the INF, the Trump administration should push for a bigger deal that includes not only dismantling the Russian missile in question but also extending New START and ensuring it covers the new generation of Russian weaponry under development.

“Letting the whole structure of nuclear arms control collapse would bring the world closer to the nuclear brink, roil U.S. alliances, and undermine the global effort to stem the spread of nuclear weapons,” he said.

“Both sides are now complying with New START and benefit mutually from its limits, verification and the predictability — all the more so while the viability of INF is in question,” Ernest Moniz, U.S. energy secretary under Obama, and Sam Nunn, a former Republican senator and arms control advocate, wrote in an op-ed article. “Losing either one of these agreements would be highly detrimental; without both, there will be no arms control constraints on nuclear forces, which will exacerbate today’s already high risks.”

Ford and other U.S. officials had already signaled that the United States was moving more aggressively to push back on the alleged Russian missile deployment.

Asked whether Washington planned to develop and deploy its own intermediate-range missiles — similar to what happened in the 1980s before the INF treaty was signed — Bolton said the Trump administration “was a long way” from that point.

Still, the prospect prompted the European Union’s foreign office to release a statement that criticized both Washington and Moscow.

“The world doesn’t need a new arms race that would benefit no one and on the contrary would bring even more instability,” it said.

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

Articles

The top 8 ways to throw an epic barracks party

Being a member of the lower-enlisted community means you’re not going to make a lot of cash, so you’re probably living in the barracks.


On the weekends, you just want to have a little fun before the work week starts up again. Since most troops don’t have cars, they hang out at the barracks and drink.

We call these epic social gatherings “barracks parties.”

Some parties can be dull while others can be freaking awesome — and military life is all about making memories.

So we compiled a list of ways to make your next barracks party that much better.

1. Have a theme

The easy way out is to have a video game tournament, but we know you can do better than that. Use your creativity and come up with some themes like Vegas or “Nerf gun night.” It’ll bring those in attendance closer together and may even improve your tactical skills.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
It’s on like Donkey Kong!

2. Get someone to step out of their comfort zone

You know that guy or gal in your unit who doesn’t fit in too well? A barracks party should be a judgment-free zone, so encourage the introverted homeboy or girl to let their guard down a little and break loose.

Surprises during a party are a good thing. Write that down.

3. It’s all about the location

Barracks rooms are typically pretty small and squeezing a dozen or so people inside can get super congested. To maximize the fun, consider choosing a room on the first floor that has easy access to a community courtyard.

It will extend the party area, and therefore increase the life of the fiesta. You’ll thank us later.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
A barrack’s courtyard at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Ca.

4. Know where the duty is

As the saying goes, “The Duty Has No Friends.”

That statement is kind of true. Since there are different levels (ranks) of duty each day, make sure you’re on good terms with them. They can alert you before the MPs show up unannounced because of a reported disturbance.

Make sure you pay them back in the future when you’re on duty, and they’re the ones throwing a barracks party.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
You can tell this lance coolie would rather be at a barracks party.

5. Have good lighting

Since barracks rooms are small, look into getting a few black or strobe lights to enhance the positive atmosphere. Consider breaking out your glow belts (because they do glow) and put them to good use.

SlimEddie, YouTube

6. Develop a new drinking game

Beer pong is fun, and everyone knows how to play it. But consider creating a new game to draw people’s attention. You never know, your new “upsidedownquarterspong” game could take off.

7. Invite those you trust

Party “buzzkills” suck. No one likes exiting the fun to take care of the sick drunk or a prick that wants to start a fight. So invite the people who have good drinking track records.

8. Record that sh*t! Edit that sh*t! Then screen that sh*t!

It’s a lot of fun to see yourself act like a fool. Just be safe. The footage could turn into evidence.

That is all.

What were your barracks parties like? Comment below.
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Preserving liberty while harnessing the power of data in the age of COVID-19

As COVID-19 spreads across the planet, humanity faces a difficult and deadly trial. Here in the U.S., the best science available predicts hundreds of thousands of Americans will contract the disease. Government officials have already reported that thousands of patients with COVID-19 have died and projected that between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans will eventually die from the virus.

Facing this grim diagnosis will bring out the best in the American people. Character is displayed under pressure. We’re under pressure, and America’s character is strong. We have the discipline and determination to do what is right for our families and communities, even when it is difficult. We have the caring and compassion to help those who are suffering. We have ingenious entrepreneurs and innovative tools – including the ability to gather and process large amounts of data.


And we have the wisdom to know that our character must guide how we use tools, including data-gathering tools, to help us overcome this monumental challenge.

Countries around the world are combatting the spread of coronavirus by collecting and using the location of peoples’ smartphones. This government use of location data – i.e., surveillance – appears to be a powerful tool in the fight against the disease, but also raises a host of privacy concerns. The U.S. shouldn’t blindly copy other countries’ practices. Instead, we can and should find ways to harness the power of big data to protect public health while also protecting the rights of all Americans.

Governments use location data to combat COVID-19 in two ways. They use it for “contact tracing,” to identify all the people a sick person has encountered. Most do this by assembling a massive database of the movements of every person, sick or healthy. South Korea has been especially aggressive on this front, collecting data from infected citizens’ credit cards, GPS systems, and cellphones to determine their location and interactions with other citizens. Singapore has created an app that collects information about nearby phones over Bluetooth, focusing on who the user has been near, rather than where. No comprehensive database of locations is required.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks

The other purpose for which countries are using location data is to enforce social distancing or quarantine requirements. The South Korean government mandates that quarantined individuals download an app that tracks their location, enabling the government to detect when individuals break their quarantine restrictions. Governments in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Russia also use smartphone apps, geofencing, and facial-recognition technology to enforce quarantine restrictions on individuals.

While we don’t have comprehensive data on the effectiveness of these various approaches, it does appear that digital surveillance can help governments “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of COVID-19.

But when governments use these tools, they do so at the cost of their citizens’ privacy. This tradeoff is not surprising. Because information about people is useful for many purposes, tradeoffs between privacy and other values are common. Privacy values often clash with openness, competition, and innovation. But rarely are the tradeoffs so dramatic.

Calibrating these tradeoffs in advance is difficult. There is evidence that existing U.S. privacy laws hindered the use of valuable medical information, slowing the initial response to the virus. Specifically, university researchers in Washington state were delayed by weeks in their efforts to repurpose already-gathered patient data to study the growing COVID-19 pandemic. This is one reason laws that restrict private sector use of data should allow beneficial uses, including using data to improve health and save lives.

But even when fighting real, tangible harms like death and disease, unwarranted government surveillance without due process unacceptably threatens liberty. That’s why our Constitution and our values limit what government can do even when pursuing important goals. These privacy-protecting institutions are our country’s antibodies against government overreach and abuse.

Fortunately, we don’t have to give up our liberties to use big data tools in the fight against COVID-19. Rather than assemble giant databases of personal information like South Korea or China has, U.S. government public health experts should use anonymized location data not linked to individuals. Such data can help researchers assess how well populations are practicing social distancing, identify hotspots of activity that raise the risk of spreading the disease, and study how the disease has spread. (Reports indicate that health officials are already using anonymized mobile advertising data for these purposes and some private companies are offering free-to-use tools to help decisionmakers). We should also explore decentralized approaches to contact tracing, like the Singaporean app. Civic-minded individuals who want to volunteer their data for research purposes should be encouraged to do so, perhaps through public education campaigns.

In any case, U.S. health officials must protect our privacy by ensuring that any data collected for use in this current health crisis isn’t repurposed for other government uses. And both businesses and governments involved in this effort must tell the public how data is being collected, shared, and used.

The U.S. has the world’s best innovators in using data to improve Americans’ lives. We can, and should, empower those innovators to fight the spread of COVID-19 consistent with our strong American values and character.

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

Articles

Trainees get shot in the chest for this insane Russian special forces training

The Russian military isn’t really known for having a gentle touch, so it should come as no surprise that their counterterrorism operations training is really tough. But just how tough is borderline insane.


Russia’s Federal Security Service, called the FSB – and successor to the KGB – shoots their agents center mass to give them confidence in a terrorist-controlled situation where bullets might be flying by their heads.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks

The trainees, wearing body armor, absorb a few round before fire shots back at the target. In the video below, the guy in front of the target is Andrei, an FSB operator, who doesn’t flinch as three rounds zing by his head.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks

Andrei has clearly been through this confidence training before. As a member of the FSB Alpha Team, he’s part of Russia’s dedicated counterterrorism task force. If you’ve ever heard about how the Russians respond to terror attacks, you know they don’t mess around. And they train like they fight.

The ammo is standard ball ammunition; the vest appears to be a standard soft vest with ceramic plates. The host of the show, Larry Vickers, is a retired American special operator who is now a firearms consultant and the star of TAC-TV on YouTube.
Articles

Bombs away! Here are the 13 worst military movies in Hollywood history

Not all war movies are created equal. While box office returns don’t necessarily mean the movie was good or bad (for example, Iron Man 3 is the 10th highest grossing movie ever), they are an indication of what does or doesn’t pique people’s interest – although you might personally find a correlation between the two in this list.


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You can blame Colin Farrell for both. (Warner Bros.)

Here are 13 military movies Hollywood probably wishes it could take back in order of the least to the worst offenders. (Loss estimates include marketing costs and adjustments for inflation.)

13. Battleship (2012)

Box Office Loss: $60 million

How could Director Peter Berg have known casting Rihanna was not the best idea? When the audience and critics think the movie is “not fun,” “crushingly stupid,” and would prefer to spend the time actually playing the game instead. And word of mouth didn’t save it at the box office.

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Somebody thought this was a good idea. (Photo: Universal)

Peter Berg told The Hollywood Reporter that his 2013 film “Lone Survivor” would allow him to “buy back his reputation.”

12. Gods and Generals (2003)

Loss $61 million

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These are actually Civil War reenactors… and probably the only people who paid to see the movie. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Roger Ebert called “Gods and Generals” a film “Trent Lott would enjoy,” referring to the Senator’s praise of segregationist Strom Thurmond. Noted author Jeff Shaara, whose Civil War-based books are highly praised and widely read, said the movie is nothing like his book and he has no idea how he could “let them butcher the book like that.” (But that didn’t keep him from holding onto the money he was paid for the film rights to the book).

11. Revolution (1985)

Loss: $62 million

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Pacino is seen here being escorted off of the ship and out of movies altogether. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

This movie is so bad, Al Pacino quit acting for four years.

10. Aloha (2015)

Loss: $65 million

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Which is worse: Chris Kyle at the Democratic Convention or Chris Kyle in an Air Force uniform? (Columbia Pictures/20th Century Fox)

Air Force movies don’t do well at the box office. No one has expressed a desire to see an Air Force movie since Gene Hackman and Danny Glover in “BAT*21,” and that was 1988. Someone should have told Cameron Crowe to make this movie about Marines … and not to cast Emma Stone as an Asian woman.

9. The Finest Hours (2016)

Loss: $75 million

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If everyone in the Coast Guard bought a ticket, then bought the DVD twice, they might make another Coast Guard movie. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

This movie was a true story, so just making the Coast Guard into Marines wouldn’t work. But traditionally, Coast Guard movies aren’t a box office draw either. Ask Ashton Kutcher.

8. K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

Loss: $88 million

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They really don’t belong on this list. (Paramount)

This might be the exception on this list. “K-19” was actually well-received, even by Russian submariners who were part of K-19’s crew. The only thing the Russian Navy veterans didn’t like was being portrayed as a bunch of drunken, incompetent Russian stereotypes.

7. Alexander (2004)

Loss: $89 million

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Awkward family photo. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Like the great general himself, “Alexander” enraged people from Greece all the way to India. Historians and critics both agree that this movie is both way too long and needs more fighting — unless those critics and moviegoers are American, in which case, the biggest concern seems to be that Alexander the Great might have been gay.

6. The Great Raid (2005)

Loss: $91 million

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You know, this movie is also too good to be on this list. (Miramax)

This is the story of the Raid at Cabanatuan on the island of Luzon in the Philippines during WWII. General Roger Ebert praised the film, saying “Here is a war movie that understands how wars are actually fought.”

Of course, Ebert was never a general, he’s just referring to the realistic depiction of combat in the film. He also said, “it is good to have a film that is not about entertainment for action fans, but about how wars are won with great difficulty, risk, and cost.”

5. Inchon (1982)

Loss: $100 million

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And the movie poster looks like a bad Choose Your Own Adventure book or a good Atari game.

There’s no movie magic like a Korean War epic funded by a cult. The film’s star told the world he did it for the money, the actress portraying the love interest decided to quit being a movie star after shooting wrapped, and the movie’s Washington, D.C. premiere was picketed by anti-cult activists.

“Inchon” was never released on video or DVD. When Ronald Reagan screened it at the White House, all he could say was “For once we’re the good guys and the Communists are the villains.” It’s the little things.

4. Windtalkers (2002)

Loss: $107 million

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This is how you feel watching this movie. (Photo: MGM)

Called one of the most inaccurate war movies ever made, “Windtalkers” also tries to tell the story of WWII Navajo code talkers through the eyes of a white guy. (Come to think of it, it’s actually surprising that here’s only one Nicolas Cage movie on this list).

3. Stealth (2005)

Loss: $116 million

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A robot plane (stop laughing) is based in downtown Rangoon (which hasn’t been called that since 1989). After it’s hit by lighting, it becomes more alive (stop laughing, this is serious) and one of the pilots trying to stop it gets shot down over North Korea. Some more stuff happens, and then they discover the plane has feelings.

2. The Alamo (2004)

Loss: $118 million

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Donald Trump’s vision (Photo: Touchstone Pictures)

The marketing for this movie used the line “you will never forget.” And you won’t. You’ll remember how great this movie could have been if every character had been played by Billy Bob Thornton. “The Alamo” is number 2 on this list, but number 1 in terms of epic disappointment.

1. Hart’s War (2002)

Loss: $125 million

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He the one behind the fence, but the viewer is the one who feels trapped during this movie. (MGM/Fox)

Colin Farrell strikes again. Even Bruce Willis couldn’t create any interest in this WWII movie. Basically, a captured American officer is punished in the POW camp by having to bunk with the enlisted. The prisoners use a trial to distract the guards from a coming attack on an ammo factory.

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The 2016 Mighty Movie Awards

This year is almost over but 2016’s military movies are all available for the world to see. They came and went like so many celebrity deaths. Some were better than others.


We wanted to honor the ones who stood out with awards, and present them with statues.

We don’t have any to give but we wanted to.

Best Film North Korea Should Have Been Pissed About: “Operation Chromite”

Yeah, “The Interview” made Kim Jong-Un look like a twerp but “Operation Chromite” makes the entire country look stupid.

 

A sub-Award goes to Liam Neeson, who looks and acts so much like General MacArthur, you’ll be afraid he might kill you for asking for your veteran’s benefits.

Best Last Stand: Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan, “Anthropoid”

Operation Anthropoid was the Czech government-in-exile’s plot to kill SS General Reinhard Heydrich – the man who designed Hitler’s extermination of Europen Jews. Two Czech agents do the job and are tracked down in a cathedral by what seems like a battalion of Nazi soldiers. They and other members of the Resistance opt to not surrender.

Best Depiction of a Veteran Who Still Fits in his Old Uniform: Hugo Weaving, “Hacksaw Ridge”

Weaving plays Tom Doss, father of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who earned the medal of honor as a medic in WWII. In the film, he uses his status as a WWI veteran to get access to a general, but first he has to get in his old uniform. You know, for dramatic effect.

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(Summit Entertainment)

The elder Doss was at the Battle of Belleau Wood in 1918. Since Hacksaw Ridge takes place in 1942 when the younger Doss enlisted, we have to give credit to Tom Doss for being able to fit in that thing 24 years later.

I’ve only been out for eight years and I doubt I could get my blues pants up to my waist.

Best Trailer: “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk”

No military movie was as anticipated as “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk,” the film adaptation of Ben Fountain’s book of the same name. Ang Lee’s movie looked spectacular but was received to mixed reviews.

Viewers may disagree but the one thing you can’t argue about is how great this trailer is.

 

So if you don’t like the movie, think of this as a trailer for the book. The book is really good. Really, really good.

Best Acting: Steven Lang, “Beyond Glory”

Most actors get an award nod for playing one role, but if WATM were handing out actual statues, we’d give Steven Lang eight of them for “Beyond Glory.” The actor travels around the world, for troops and civilians, telling the story of 8 Medals of Honor, as the guys who received them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gG4Alda6A_U
 

Go ahead, try to watch this movie without getting goosebumps. If you can, then check yourself into the nearest psych ward, because you might not be capable of feelings.

Breakout Performance by a Duo: John Krasinski and David Denman, “13 Hours”

The two men from the NBC series “The Office” reunited on the silver screen in 2016 as Jack Silva and Dave ‘Boon’ Benton in this obscure indie hit. They portray two security contractors working for the U.S. State Department in Libya in a plot to bring down Hillary Clinton. Or something. I don’t know, I don’t follow politics.

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They look awesome though. (Paramount Pictures)

Krasinski’s career as an operator clearly began while he was an Air Force pilot at Joint Base Hickam-Pearl Harbor, when he asked Chris Kyle to teach him how to be operator AF.

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Best Villain: The Sharks, “USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage”

It’s hard to blame the Japanese submarine for sinking the Indianapolis. the Pacific War was still a war, after all (besides, the skipper of the Japanese boat came to Capt. McVay’s defense at his court-martial). What you can blame are the sharks who ate the survivors of the ship’s sinking.

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Sharks are assholes. (Saban Films)

For the days they spent waiting to be rescued, the sailors of the Indianapolis just hung out, waiting to be gnawed on like some shark’s pickled chum.

Best Combat Action Sequence: Mel Gibson “Hacksaw Ridge”

Leave it to the guy who brought you a medieval combat scene where someone gets hit in the face with a hammer to bring you World War II combat that tosses body parts around like confetti.

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(Summit Entertainment)

Nothing says “war is terrible” like showing the worst parts of it. Mission complete, Mel Gibson. On that note…

Best On-Screen Improv: This guy from “Hacksaw Ridge”

Using what’s left of your Battle Buddy like Captain America uses his vibranium shield isn’t exactly in the Army field manual, but the guys who wrote that weren’t writing it at Okinawa. If your Battle is supposed to save your life, then this guy did the right thing.

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks
At least he didn’t throw his shield at the enemy. (Summit Entertainment)

Best “Eat Pray Love”-style war movie: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot”

That movie would have been waaaaaaaay different if Julia Roberts went to Afghanistan instead of, say, Italy.

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Marines radically altering someone’s worldview… not just the guys in that truck, either. (Paramount Pictures)

“Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” even calls itself “the most American white lady story I’ve ever heard” in the middle of the movie. Special props to WTF for having Margot Robbie explain the “Desert Queen” principle, a longtime staple of deployment lore.

Best Director Who Actually Looks Like He’s In Combat: Michael Bay, “13 Hours”

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(Paramount Pictures)

I’m starting to believe everything Michael Bay does features explosions. Like, when he goes to get coffee or to the post office, a car down the street explodes. Most of us will never have a work photo take that looks this cool.

Drill Sergeant of the Year: Vince Vaughn, “Hacksaw Ridge”

Many cinematic instructors have come and gone over the years, from ones as memorable as Gunny Hartman to the less memorable Merwin Toomey.

You can decide where Vince Vaughn’s Sgt. Howell falls in the pantheon, but for 2016, he’s tops.

[dailymotion //www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x5395jo expand=1] 
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What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet


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New York Times best-selling author of “American SniperScott McEwen joined us to discuss Ryan Zinke, the co-author, and subject of his latest book “American Commander.”

McEwen teamed with Zinke — a former SEAL Team Six Commander and the only US Navy SEAL in Congress — to write a book about the now-politician’s life.

Zinke is also Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Interior.

Zinke’s military career began in 1985 when he graduated from Officer Candidate School and attended SEAL training (BUDS class 136). He was first assigned to SEAL Team One in Coronado, California, then was later selected for SEAL Team Six where he was a Team Leader and a commander.

As McEwen tells it, after a decade of service, Zinke was assigned as Deputy and Acting Commander of Combined Joint Special Operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom where he led a force of over 3,500 Special Operations personnel. In 2006 he was awarded two Bronze Stars.

An author experienced in telling the stories of high-level special operators, McEwen goes on to explain how Zinke retired from active duty 2008 after serving 23 years as a Navy SEAL. Zinke later ran for Congress and was sworn into the House of Representatives on January 6, 2015, and became the first Navy SEAL in the House.

Hosted by:

Selected links and show notes from the episode:

  • [04:40] The general who wanted special operators to find out how many dogs were neutered before carrying out an operation.
  • [07:35] What the process for clearing a book through the Department of Defense is like.
  • [09:25] Why the book does not say “SEAL Team Six” even though it is referring to SEAL Team Six.
  • [11:50] Military family sacrifice.
  • [15:30] Common threads of special operators.
  • [17:30] The differences in Navy SEAL operators.
  • [19:30] Zinke and Gen. Mattis.
  • [25:35] What military veterans —like Zinke and Mattis— bring to U.S. politics.
  • [30:15] Defining Zinke through his relationship with his family.
  • [36:10] That time Navy SEALs were chastised by upper leadership for nabbing a bad guy.

Music license by Jingle Punks

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MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what basic training in the French Foreign Legion is like

If the idea of spending 12 weeks in boot camp is what keeps people from joining the Marine Corps, they should be thankful that it’s only that long. It could always be worse — like in the French Foreign Legion’s four month basic training.

The first four weeks are an introduction to military life. They train at the 4th Foreign Infantry Regiment near Castelnaudary, a country town in Southern France. They also call it “The Farm.”


At the end of this, recruits receive the iconic white Kepi hat that is synonymous with the Foreign Legion in a special ceremony. But basic is far from over. From there, they move on to field training for three weeks, both in and out of the barracks. New Legionnaires spend a week in mountain training as well, high in the French Pyrenees.

Next, the newly-minted Legionnaires will finish a final 75 mile march that must be completed within three days. From there, they take basic educational courses and learn to drive military vehicles. On top of the rigorous training schedule, the non-French speakers will also have to learn basic French every day during training.

As far as the physical demand, the Legion’s rigorous training schedule can take its toll on a recruit. One Quora user, Kjell Saari, who joined the Legion in 1993, said he lost 22 pounds at the Farm, even though he had just been in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets — and he wasn’t eating much there.

“I was at the farm during the late fall/ early winter you realize that hell did freeze over and you died and ended up in hell. I like everyone else got sick as hell well guess what too damn bad, get up and become what you signed up for,” he wrote.

Mentally it can be just as rigorous. Due to the international nature of the group, few of the recruits can communicate at first — and forget about communicating with the instructors. But a “slap in the head makes you remember 100% of the time.” Former Legionnaires say it is important to not give up on yourself and to remember why you came to the Legion in the first place.

The Legion does not get hung up on the things people argue about in the U.S. military. Their tattoo policy actually welcomes tattoos. The only forbidden tattoos are Nazi and other racist art, as well as anything “stupid on your face.”

They don’t care if you’re gay or straight, trans, or married. They don’t care about your race, education, or religion. They don’t even care if you speak French. Once you’re in and past basic training, you can expect that food, clothing, and shelter will be provided, along with a salary on par with American soldiers and 45 days of leave per year.

From there, Legionnaires are shipped off to join the 8,000-plus others deployed throughout France, Africa, Afghanistan, and the Balkans to finish their five-year contract.

The FFL has its own culture — not French culture, Legion culture, as Saari puts it.

“Being in the legion was like being bipolar for 5 years,” Saari says. “Wild highs and bottom of the sea lows. Oh you better like to drink and you better be man enough to get your ass up the next morning and do what’s expected of you no matter how hung over or still drunk you are.”

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