This past weekend, Kaplan University invited WATM to join them at Radio Row for some of the Super Bowl 50 festivities. Kaplan was there in support of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Flag Football Team in their celebrity game with NFL alumni.
Adding their support to the event were such NFL greats as Rocky Bleier, Bob Golic, Tim Krumrie, Jackie Slater, Bill Romanowski, and Ed “Too Tall” Jones – just to name a few. Veterans from every branch came together in an inspiring display of solidarity, sportsmanship, and the drive to overcome all.
Since Russia’s incursion in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea in 2014, the US and its NATO partners have worked to reverse the drawdown of forces that took place in the decades after the fall of the Soviet Union.
“After the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany, everybody, including the United States, had hoped for this period of partnership with Russia and a significant reduction in the threat of a conflict. It really was a lot of optimism,” said Ben Hodges, a former Army lieutenant general who led the US Army in Europe between 2013 and his retirement in 2017.
“But also one of the side effects was that everybody began to significantly disarm, including the United States,” Hodges said.
The tendency to reduce forces after a conflict is “understandable,” Hodges said. “The problem with that is because there was a widespread belief that Russia was going to be a partner, that we could start disassembling a lot of the infrastructure that was needed” for military operations in Europe.
Polish Brig. Gen. Jaroslaw Gromadzinski, left, and Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, commander of the US Army Europe, at Grafenwoehr Training Area in Germany, Jan. 31, 2017.
(US Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)
The US Army alone saw its presence in Europe fall from about 300,000 troops during the Cold War to about 30,000 today. Bases were shuttered, and units were withdrawn or deactivated. In early 2013, the Army pulled its last 22 Abrams tanks from Europe, ending its 69-year run of having main battle tanks on the continent.
“So that left us with no armor force in Europe, and then of course … the maintenance and sustainment and all the things that are required to keep armored vehicles functioning was also dismantled,” said Hodges, who is now the Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Policy Analysis.
But the absence of armor was short-lived. In January 2014 — two months before Crimea was annexed — 29 upgraded Abrams tanks returned to Germany to be part of a pre-positioned equipment set for use in training areas there and across Europe.
A Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle completes an uncontested wet-gap crossing near Chełmno, Poland, June 2, 2018.
(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)
Since April 2014, land forces on the continent have taken part in Operation Atlantic Resolve , which the US Army in Europe has led “by conducting continuous, enhanced multinational training and security cooperation activities with allies and partners in eastern Europe.”
The US and its NATO partners have focused on redeveloping many of the capabilities they had during the Cold War — “so increased artillery and air interaction, maneuver, river crossings, all of these things,” Hodges said.
The change in focus “started under the Obama administration, after the Wales summit and in the Warsaw summit, where the alliance said we’ve got to transition to a deterrence posture vs. just assurance,” Hodges said, referring to NATO meetings in the UK in late 2014 and in Poland in summer 2016.
“So that meant increasing capabilities and capacities and regaining some of … what we call joint and combined warfighting skills that we used to have.”
Tanks, helicopters, and logistical units have all returned to Europe over the past four years, carrying out scores of joint exercises along NATO’s eastern flank. The Army has also launched nine-month, back-to-back rotations of armored brigade combat teams.
US Army vehicles conduct a tactical road march in Germany during Combined Resolve X, April 22, 2018.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Sharon Matthias)
“We no longer have an armored brigade in Europe, so we have to depend on the rotational brigade, and so you had to relearn how to maneuver, which by the way we used to do back during the Cold War quite a bit,” Hodges said.
“In Iraq and Afghanistan, [for] everything we were doing you had individuals or units come over and fall in on the equipment that’s already in place,” he added. “So this is a different [approach.] We’ve had to practice the deployment.”
A NATO internal report seen by German news outlet Der Spiegel at the end of 2017 found that the alliance’s ability to rapidly deploy throughout Europe had “atrophied since the end of the Cold War.” NATO forces would be unable to move troops fast enough and lacked sufficient officers and supplies in Europe, the report said.
NATO’s bureaucratic and logistical obstacles were highlighted in January 2017, when a convoy of US Army Paladin self-propelled howitzers traveling from Poland to southern Germany was stopped by German border police because the Polish contractors transporting them did not have the proper paperwork and had violated several regulations.
Locals in Nachod, Czechia, watch US Army vehicles cross the Czech-Polish border en route to Lithuania during Exercise Saber Strike 18, May 30, 2018.
(US Army Reserve photo by Capt. Jeku Arce)
Over the past year, NATO has made a number of organizational and operational changes to address these problems.
The NATO internal report recommended setting up two new commands to streamline military operations. One would oversee operations in the Atlantic Ocean , supporting the movement of personnel and material. The other would manage logistical operations on the ground in Europe, facilitating movements across an alliance that has grown considerably since the Cold War.
The latter, called Joint Sustainment and Enabling Command, was approved in June 2018 by NATO defense ministers. German officials have already said it would be based in the southern German city of Ulm.
“This command is going to be responsible for the rapid reception and responsiveness and reinforcement of NATO forces to the eastern flank, or anywhere, actually,” Hodges said.
Germany’s location and transportation capacity makes it the ideal location for the command, Hodges added, calling it an “important step to improve our ability to not just move, but to reinforce and to further develop the logistics infrastructure that’s needed.”
M1A2 Abrams tanks and other military vehicles are unloaded at the port in Bremerhaven, Germany, Jan. 6, 2017.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke)
“Some people have asked me, ‘Well, didn’t we do this for like 40 years during the Cold War?’ and the answer is yes, we did, except it was all in West Germany,” Hodges said.
“So the inter-German border was as far east as we had to go. Now with the alliance including the Baltic countries, Poland, Romania, the distance to go from our main logistical hub in central Germany to Estonia, for example, is the same thing as going from St. Louis to Bangor, Maine,” he said. “So it’s huge challenge logistically, and the infrastructure has got to be further developed to enable that.”
Several recent “firsts” for NATO forces in Europe illustrate that renewed focus on mobility.
US Army vehicles, including M1 Abrams tanks and Paladin self-propelled howitzers offload in Gdansk, Poland, Sept.14, 2017.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob A. McDonald)
When that unit disembarked in Gdansk, it was “the first time two armored brigades transition[ed] within the European theater, sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” a US Army spokesman said at the time.
The 2nd ABCT also finished its nine-month stint with a first. In late April 2018, the unit carried out a tactical road march with over 700 vehicles on public roads between the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in southeast Germany — the first time the exercise has been done at the brigade level in 15 years.
A few weeks later, the next force arriving for a nine-month rotation in Europe — the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team from the 1st Cavalry Division — disembarked at the port of Antwerp in Belgium, across the continent from its base in Germany.
“Sometimes what is old is new again, and that is coming in here,” Maj. Gen. Steven Shapiro, head of 21st Theater Sustainment Command, said at the time. “Antwerp and Rotterdam were major ports when we were operating during the Cold War … We are coming back to Antwerp in a big way.”
A US soldier guides an M1 Abrams tank off a ship at the port of Antwerp, Belgium, May 20, 2018.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob A. McDonald)
NATO began adding ports to its repertoire about three years ago, Hodges said, and doing so had several benefits.
“One was to reestablish capabilities in all these ports, because the port labor force, they had to relearn how to unload Abrams tanks and helicopters and all, so we needed them to get back in the game, and we also frankly wanted to demonstrate that we could come in in a variety of different places,” he said.
“We’ve focused on Bremerhaven” in Germany, Hodges added.
“That would obviously communicate a vulnerability to the Russians or other potential adversaries, so we’ve used Gdansk. We’ve used Bremerhaven. We’ve used Klaipeda in Lithuania. We’ve used Thessaloniki and Alexandropulis in Greece, and Constanta in Romania,” he said. “Back in the Cold War, Antwerp and Rotterdam were important ports for us, and so I’m glad to see that US Army has touched that one again.”
But obstacles to NATO’s ability to move around Europe are still largely political, and it will require political action to resolve them, Hodges noted.
Latvians view US Marine Corps HMMWVs during an event demonstrating military vehicles and gear involved in Exercise Saber Strike, in Liepaja, Latvia, May 30, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Adwin Esters)
“The ultimate way that this improvement in military mobility will happen is through cooperation and coordination between NATO and the European Union,” he said.
The EU has the right infrastructure — roads, bridges, and railways — as well as the mechanisms to encourage members to act and to apportion resources for them to do so. Hodges pointed to the EU’s recent formation of Permanent Structured Cooperation, or PESCO, for defense and security issues.
Identifying what needs to be done and what is needed to do it will still take time, however.
“This is just like a highway project in the States,” Hodges added. “This is going to take a lot of time in Europe, but at least now it feels like all of the nations have grasped the significance of it, and when you’ve got at the top level of NATO and the European Union addressing that … that’s encouraging.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Military Saves Week kicked off at U.S. military installations worldwide on Monday.
Every year, America Saves, a non-profit foundation designed to help Americans make smarter financial choices, hosts Military Saves Week, a military oriented campaign observed aboard military installations and sponsored by various financial institutions and other organizations.
Military Saves Week focuses on helping to educate military service members and their families on healthy saving and spending habits as well as assessing their own savings status, reducing their debt, and increasing their wealth.
Military Saves Week offers events and classes across all branches of service at over 100 installations worldwide during the week. Some of the events include luncheons, workshops, youth focused savings discussions, and prizes.
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Military Saves Week runs from Feb. 27 to March 3. The Financial Readiness Program is offering financial counseling, classes, and other events to help service members and their families manage their money. (U.S. Army photo by Kristen Wong)
Most of the events will focus on benefits and how best to use them, with nearly every installation hosting at least one event focused on the new Blended Retirement System.
Military Saves Week works alongside the Department of Defense’s Financial Readiness Campaign.
General Dunford wrote in a memo for the chiefs of the military services on Oct. 7, 2015, in preparation for last year’s Military Saves Week:
“Military Saves Week is an opportunity for our military community to come together with federal, state, and local resources, to focus on the financial readiness of military members and their families and help them reduce debt and save their hard-earned money.”
Dunford went on to write, “We are asking our military members to commit to feasible financial goals.”
Participants in Military Saves Week are asked to sign a pledge that reads “I will help myself by saving money, reducing debt, and building wealth over time. I will help my family and my country by encouraging other Americans to Build Wealth, Not Debt.” The pledge goes on to help the participant set goals for savings, with the option to receive text message updates for savings tips and financial advice.
The phone call Tom Mattis got from Jim Mattis on Dec. 23, 2018 wasn’t a pleasant one, but he said his younger brother was “unruffled” by President Donald Trump’s decision to force him out early, the elder Mattis told The Seattle Times.
“He was very calm about the whole thing. Very matter of fact. No anger,” Tom Mattis told The Seattle Times. “As I have said many times in other circumstances, Jim knows who he is … many more Americans (now) know his character.”
Jim Mattis announced his resignation as defense secretary on Dec. 20, 2018, reportedly prompted in large part by Trump’s decision to withdraw the roughly 2,000 US troops deployed to Syria.
Mattis went to the White House that day in an effort to get Trump to keep US forces in the war-torn country. Mattis “was rebuffed, and told the president that he was resigning as a result,” The New York Times said at the time.
Trump initially reacted to Mattis’ resignation gracefully, tweeting that the defense chief and retired Marine general would be “retiring, with distinction, at the end of February,” echoing Mattis’ resignation letter.
But Trump reportedly bridled at coverage of Mattis and his letter, which was widely interpreted as a rebuke of Trump and of the president’s worldview.
On Dece. 23, 2018, Trump abruptly announced that Mattis would leave office two months early, sending Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to tell Mattis of the change. Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will take over the top civilian job at the Pentagon in an acting capacity.
Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.
Trump’s sudden move to push Mattis out was reportedly a retaliatory measure, but Mattis evinced no ire over it when he told his older brother on Dec. 23, 2018.
The Mattises are natives of Richland, Washington. Tom, who was also a Marine, still lives there, as does their 96-year-old mother, Lucille.
Tom said his brother was faithful to the Constitution and would always speak truth to power “regardless of the consequences.”
“No one should assume that his service to his country will end. And the manner of his departure is yet another service to the nation. It is the very definition of patriotism and integrity,” Tom Mattis added.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.
(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
Jim Mattis — who checks in with their mother almost daily, Tom Mattis said — had no plans to return home from Christmas, according to the elder Mattis, hoping instead to visit troops in the Middle East.
But Trump’s announcement appeared to forestall that trip.
On Dec. 19, 2018, a day before his resignation, Mattis released a holiday message to US service members, telling them “thanks for keeping the faith.”
On Dec. 24, 2018, Mattis signed an order withdrawing US troops from Syria, the Defense Department said, though a timeline and specific details are still being worked on. On Christmas Day, Mattis was reportedly in his office at the Pentagon.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Days after winning the prestigious Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, the excitement had not left John Cruise’s voice.
“The biggest fish I caught before this tournament was an 849-pound giant Atlantic bluefin tuna,” said Cruise, a major in the Marines. “I’ve caught many bluefin in the 600- to 700-pound range over the years, but that marlin is a special breed. What a feat, I’ll leave it at that.”
Cruise, 47, is the captain of the Pelagic Hunter II, a 35-foot outboard. He and mates Riley Adkins and Kyle Kirkpatrick won with a 495.2-pound marlin that they battled for 5½ hours Friday. That catch was only two-tenths of a pound heavier than the second-place fish and earned Cruise’s boat more than $223,000 in winnings.
The Big Rock tournament began June 8 and concluded Saturday in Morehead City, North Carolina. It attracted more than 200 entrants, including Catch 23 — a yacht owned by Michael Jordan. The Hall of Fame basketball player’s crew brought in a 442.3-pound marlin early in the tournament.
The Pelagic Hunter II was one of the smaller boats in the field.
“We have boats up to 85, 90, 100 feet that fish the tournament that have crews of eight or 10 people,” said Crystal Hesmer, the tournament’s executive director. “For a 35-foot boat … to bring the winning fish to the dock is just heartwarming and wonderful.”
Cruise, a major stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, has run a charter-boat company for 12 years. He followed his father, who fought in the Vietnam War, and his uncle into the Marines and has served for 22 years.
Growing up in New Jersey, his love of fishing was sealed about the time he received his first rod when he was 5 years old.
“The buzz has been beyond belief,” Cruise said of winning Big Rock.
The Pelagic Hunter II competed against boats with far wealthier owners, larger crews and access to greater technology. Because of their sheer size, bigger vessels can handle unfavorable weather or ocean conditions better.
Still, despite being a first-time entrant who said he had not fished for marlin before the tournament, Cruise did not lower his crew’s expectations. He told Adkins and Kirkpatrick that he expected to win.
“I don’t play around, man,” he said.
Shortly after the winning marlin hit the lure, Cruise said it jumped between seven and 10 times. The big fish was on the surface, about 50 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, when another boat almost ran over it. Just as the crew got the marlin close to the boat, it suddenly turned and went deep underneath the water.
The fish came up and went down a few times before the Pelagic Hunter II boated her.
“It was an exciting battle,” Cruise said.
Cruise said his crew lost a much larger fish earlier in the tournament when it snapped the line. They measured the marlin they brought to the docks and knew it did not meet the tournament’s 110-inch requirement to qualify.
They were unsure whether it would exceed the 400-pound minimum until the official weight was announced.
“She looked thick,” Cruise said. “She looked big, but we weren’t sure.
“We were just in shock, and we’re still on Cloud 9. We’re stunned, and we’re enjoying the moment.”
Well, there’s no two ways about it, ladies and gents: this has been a hell of a week. The situation in Syria escalated and the one in Korea calmed. We came together to pay our respects to the most beloved figure in the veteran community only to have a t-rex puppet come and fracture us in two again.
Can’t we all just get along again and remember how much we miss being deployed because the tax-free income was beautiful? Probably not.
Just don’t do anything stupid today if you’re still on active duty. Five bucks says that there will be a 100-percent-accountability urinalysis on Monday.
(Decelerate Your Life)
(Untied Status Marin Crops)
(Untied Status Marin Crops)
(Army as F*ck)
(The Salty Soldier)
Soon, this won’t be a joke.
When that moment comes, you know my ass will be first in line at the prior service recruiter’s office.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has ordered separate reviews of the Pentagon’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Air Force One programs in hopes of restructuring and reducing program costs, an official announced Friday.
In two memorandums signed and effective immediately, Mattis said Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work will “oversee a review that compares the F-35C and F/A-18E/F operational capabilities and assess the extent that the F/A-18E/F improvements [an advanced Super Hornet] can be made in order to provide a competitive, cost effective fighter aircraft alternative,” according to a statement from Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis.
For the Presidential Aircraft Recapitalization program, known as Air Force One, Mattis said Work’s review should “identify specific areas where costs can be lowered,” such as “autonomous operations, aircraft power generation, environmental conditioning [cooling], survivability, and military [and] civilian communication capabilities,” the memo said.
The memos didn’t specify if the review will reduce the planned number of aircraft.
“This is a prudent step to incorporate additional information into the budget preparation process and to inform the secretary’s recommendations to the president regarding critical military capabilities,” Davis said in an email statement.
“This action is also consistent with the president’s guidance to provide the strongest and most efficient military possible for our nation’s defense, and it aligns with the secretary’s priority to increase military readiness while gaining full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense,” he said.
Both the F-35 stealth fighter and Air Force One presidential aircraft acquisition programs have been in President Donald Trump’s crosshairs in recent weeks.
Trump has criticized the high cost of the $4 billion Air Force One being developed by Boeing and the nearly $400 billion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter being manufactured by Lockheed Martin Corp.
On Dec. 6, Trump tweeted “cancel order!” in reference to the Air Force One program. He brought up the issue again during a Dec. 16 speech in Pennsylvania, and also called the F-35 program a “disaster” with its cost overruns.
“Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!” Trump tweeted on Dec. 22.
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is expected to cost nearly $400 billion in development and procurement costs to field a fleet of 2,457 single-engine fighters — and some $1.5 trillion in lifetime sustainment costs, according to Pentagon figures. It’s the Pentagon’s single most expensive acquisition effort.
Trump has met with Lockheed Martin Corp.’s CEO Marillyn Hewson on multiple occasions and last week with Boeing’s CEO Dennis Muilenburg.
The company heads have vowed — in what they said were productive conversations with the president — to drive down costs on both programs.
“We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices,” Muilenburg said just days after Trump met with Hewson.
“All of that is going to provide a better airplane at a lower cost, so I’m pleased with the progress there,” he said. “And similarly on fighters, we were able to talk about options for the country and capabilities that will, again, provide the best capability for our warfighters most affordably.”
Forget business in the front, party in the rear. Iran is all business. There’s no party around back. At least, not for the most American of all possible hairstyles: the mullet. The mullet is so American, in fact, that it’s banned in Iran for precisely that reason. Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance said goodbye to the haircut for being “un-Islamic.”
The haircut was on a list of “decadent Western haircuts” that were banned, alongside ponytails, spiked hairstyles, and long hair in general in 2010.
The year was a difficult one for Iran, coming on the heels of the Green Movement, which protested the 2009 Presidential election and pushed for the removal of the Iran’s much-reviled (but reelected anyway) Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The countrywide protests were the largest since the 1979 Iranian Revolution that saw Imperial Iran transformed into the Islamic Republic.
“…from my cold, dead head.”
It’s fun to laugh at the idea of banning an American hairstyle that itself has been the butt of thousands of jokes for decades, but the reality is a little less funny. The hairstyle ban is part of a series of punishments from the anti-Western Cultural Ministry and part of the reprisals against the Iranian people for the Green Movement protests.
Raids, arrests, and human rights violations came immediately after the protests, but bans like the one on un-Islamic hairstyles are the enduring legacy of such knee-jerk reactions. Iranian police would start shutting down barber shops offering such hairstyles and fine the owners.
Causing Achy Breaky Hearts.
It’s a strange notion that the mullet is considered a part of the Western cultural invasion of Iran, considering it’s a hairstyle that may have emerged in the ancient Middle East anyway. At first glance, the look that made Billy Ray Cyrus a cultural icon (for the brief time he was) should seem ridiculous to Iranian Morality policemen, but it’s not the only Western cultural trend to endure in the country.
Iranian men forego beards (even as beards are very much in back in the United States) while embracing neckties and European designer brands. These trends are hard to ignore, but the mullet should hardly seem comparable to the appeal of Prada and Givenchy.
“The proposed styles are inspired by Iranians’ complexion, culture and religion, and Islamic law,” said Jaleh Khodayar, who is in charge of the Modesty and Veil Festival. It was there that acceptable hairstyles were revealed. Also out are things like eyebrow plucking for males and excessive hair gel.
Failure to comply with the new hair regulations for men would result in a forced, bad haircut, courtesy of Iran’s Morality Police. The clerics who run Iranian society believe the looks will ultimate cause their way of life to disappear. But they also believe that sexy, revealing clothing causes earthquakes.
Earthquakes are definitely because of Niloofar Behboudi and Shabnam Molav and not the 1,500-km long fault line running through Iran.
This week marked the 18th anniversary of the September 11th attacks and the beginning of the longest war in American history. Chances are, you’ve probably had the same conversation with your comrades, coworkers, friends, or whomever about where you were when you heard about the attacks.
Now that it’s been 18 years, that means that if you’re still in the military, you could now have that same conversation with a young private/airman/seaman and be greeted with the response of, “Oh, I wasn’t even born yet!”
Man — now I feel old when I tell people I was skipping some middle school class to play Pokemon on my Gameboy in the bathroom and came back to everyone watching the news. I can honestly say that I’ve never skipped class since that day.
Don’t worry. I get it. You’re now probably thinking about how old you are because you were doing something much more mature than I was seven years before I could enlist. Just wait for a few weeks when kids who were just sent off to Basic/Boot Camp on their 18th birthday graduate. There’s going to be some serious dog and pony shows for them and I bet it’ll be all over the news. Then you’ll really feel old!
Anyways, now that I’ve given you some existential dread about your own aging — here are some memes!
The anti-tank rifle is largely absent from modern combat because today’s tanks have advanced armor that can shrug off many tank rounds, let alone rifle rounds. But that wasn’t always the case.
Anti-tank rifles wreaked havoc on World War I tanks, and most World War II tanks had at least a few weak spots where a good anti-tank rifle could end the fight.
YouTube channel FullMag decided to see what one of these awesome weapons would do to a series of 1/4-inch thick steel plates — and the result is pretty great.
The shooter was using a 20mm anti-tank rifle with its original tungsten ammo. One of the best things about the video is that you can see what made an anti-tank rifle so dangerous for the crew.
When the 20mm round punches past the first few plates, it doesn’t just pass harmlessly through. Instead, shards of metal split off and turn white-hot thanks to the kinetic energy in the round changing to heat.
For the crew inside the tank, the white-hot slivers of metal and larger chunks of steel would be lethal, potentially getting rid of the crew even if none of them were hit by the round itself.
These awesome weapons saved the day for the Allies in a few battles, including Pavlov’s House in the Battle of Stalingrad, where a platoon of Soviet troops held off a Nazi siege for approximately two months thanks to their skillful use of an anti-tank rifle.
See FullMag’s entire video in the embed below. You can skip to 4:15 to just watch the shot and the effect on the steel plates:
By now you’ve seen (ad nauseam) the results of FaceApp, a Russian-based photo filter app that realistically adds wrinkles, grey hairs, and, well, years to faces. Further investigation to the origins of the app — and its Terms & Conditions — has prompted a demand for a federal investigation into the company behind the app and the potential security risks it poses to Americans.
“FaceApp was developed by Russians. It’s not clear at this point what the privacy risks are, but what is clear is that the benefits of avoiding the app outweigh the risks,” read a security alert from DNC chief security officer Bob Lord, as reported by CNN.
In a letter to the FBI and the FTC, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) stated, “FaceApp’s location in Russia raises questions regarding how and when the company provides access to the data of U.S. citizens to third parties, including foreign governments. I ask that the FBI assess whether the personal data uploaded by millions of Americans onto FaceApp may be finding its way into the hand of the Russian government, or entities with ties to the Russian government.”
See the full letter right here:
BIG: Share if you used #FaceApp:
The @FBI @FTC must look into the national security privacy risks now
Because millions of Americans have used it
It’s owned by a Russia-based company
And users are required to provide full, irrevocable access to their personal photos datapic.twitter.com/cejLLwBQcr
NPR reported that FaceApp had topped Apple’s and Google’s app download charts by Wednesday, July 17, attracting big celebrities and your roommate and that guy you went to high school with alike. While it can be fun to see what forty years can do to a face, there are a number of potential risks involved.
First there’s the matter of privacy. In order to use the app, you give FaceApp access to your device and some personal information. According to NPR, data privacy experts warn against these kinds of apps, especially after Facebook reported up to 87 million of its users’ personal information was compromised by a third party analytics firm.
Second, we are in a new age of facial recognition software, which can be used to target certain groups or individuals, potentially putting innocent people at risk.
Multiple US residents are reportedly detained in China’s prison-like detention camps for Muslims, where inmates have to pledge allegiance to President Xi Jinping in exchange for meals.
“A few” American residents or citizens are being detained in those camps, CNN cited unnamed State Department sources as saying.
It comes after Sam Brownback, the US’s Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, told reporters on March 28, 2019, that a man in California had emailed him to say that his 75-year-old father, who has legal residency in the US, had disappeared after traveling to Xinjiang, a region on China’s western frontier.
China is waging an unprecedented crackdown on the Uighurs, a mostly-Muslim ethnic minority who mainly live in Xinjiang.
Beijing is accused of detaining at least 1 million Uighurs in prison-like centers, where inmates are required to memorize Chinese Communist Party doctrines and shout patriotic phrases like “Long live Xi Jinping!” to receive small amounts of rice for meals, according to recent testimonies reported by The Telegraph.
China is waging an unprecedented crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Those who refuse to do so are reportedly electrocuted with a cattle prod, The Telegraph reported. Past detainees have also described being shackled to a chair, strung up, deprived of sleep, and being psychologically tortured.
China refers to these camps as “boarding schools” and “free vocational training” as part of its counterterror measures. Geng Shuang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said on March 29, 2019, “the overall situation is stable” in Xinjiang, according to CNN.
Geng added in response to Brownback’s comments that Beijing “is firmly opposed to the US attempt to use the Xinjiang issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”
Referring to the unnamed California man who emailed him, Brownback said: “He’s not been able to reach him [his father] for months … doesn’t know whether — where he is and whether he’s still alive.” He added that this account has not yet been verified.
“This gentleman that I just was reading the email about has legal status in the United States,” he added. “He’s not a U.S. citizen, but he had legal status being here, traveled back to Xinjiang after being here with his son in California, and then has not been heard from since.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang.
Brownback added that this man is “an intellectual” and has “a number of chronic illnesses,” and that it’s not clear whether he is receiving any treatment. Scholars and activists have warned of Beijing’s efforts to eradicate Uighur culture.
Many Uighurs in Xinjiang have actively cut off communications with relatives living abroad for fear of China’s retribution. Talking to people outside China — regardless of the content of the conversation — can get Uighurs arrested and imprisoned.
Relatives of Uighurs in Xinjiang have previously told Business Insider of their anguish at being blocked by their families on social media and messaging apps.
The US government has repeatedly criticized China over the Xinjiang crackdown, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meeting with several Uighurs and describing Beijing’s actions as a sort of “shameful hypocrisy” late March 2019.
Democratic and Republican members of Congress have for months called on the Trump administration to punish Beijing for its actions towards Uighurs in the form of sanctions against those involved. The White House has yet to respond to those requests.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.