North Korea caught smuggling missiles though Panama Canal?

**Posted by Phineas

"I've got some bad news, boss..."

“I’ve got some bad news, boss…”

Couldn’t be. I’m sure there’s an innocent explanation:

A mystery with potential international ramifications is unfolding in Panama, where authorities discovered military equipment hidden inside a North Korean-flagged ship that originated in Cuba.

Cuba has long been at odds with the United States, and North Korea is banned by the United Nations from importing and exporting most weapons because of its nuclear ambitions. Suspicions were further raised when the ship’s captain suffered an apparent heart attack, and then tried to commit suicide, Panama’s president said.

These facts were sufficiently intriguing for President Ricardo Martinelli to travel to the port and examine the ship himself.

The president tweeted a photo of what he saw — a green octagon-shaped tube with a cone at its end and another similar-looking piece of equipment behind it.

Is it a missile, a reported asked?

“Maybe,” Martinelli said. “I am not familiar with that, but it would be good if such things didn’t pass through Panama, which is a country that loves peace and not war.”

The Panamanians originally became suspicious when they heard there was a load illegal drugs on the ship (North Korea regularly raises money through the drug trade). Boarding the ship, instead of heroin under all those bags of brown sugar, they found something a lot more worrisome. President Martinelli has asked the UN to examine the cargo to determine what it really is (I suppose they could be massive cigar humidors), but you can bet the CIA will be all over it, too, working quietly in the background. Don’t be surprised of this cargo spends a long time in a Panamanian warehouse because of “customs irregularities”  –long enough for us to dismantle and examine the missiles– before the rest of the cargo and the ship are released back to North Korea. This happens whenever the weapons of one power fall into the hands of another.

(And can you imagine what will happen to that crew when they do get back to North Korea? Consider this guy’s fate.)

Aside from the likely intelligence boon for us, though, this discovery raises several questions: Where were the missiles headed? North Korea? Iran? What was Cuba’s role: a transit point, or are they cooperating with the Norks on missile development, something that would concern us greatly? How long has this been going on, and is anyone else, such as Cuba’s client Venezuela, in on the operation?

This incident has given us a brief glimpse of the deadly-serious game being played behind the scenes between the United States and its adversaries, something we don’t often see because the MSM is covering what’s truly important, such as Kim Kardashian’s baby and Wendy Davis’ shoes. It’s a game the other side is playing for keeps.

Which makes it a good thing we have President Lead-From-Behind in charge.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Forest Jihad: Islamic terror group claims responsibility for Arizona fires

**Posted by Phineas

"...can prevent forest jihad."

“…can prevent forest jihad.”

A while back, when it seemed like all Colorado was afire, I wrote about the possibility of “forest jihad,” a form of war against the West advocated by al Qaeda as part of a death by a thousand cuts strategy — destroying resources, morale, etc. And while acts of forest jihad were suspected in Europe, Israel, and Australia, there were no claims of responsibility for wildfires in the Great Satan, that is, us.

Until now:

A Palestinian jihadist group known as Masada al-Mujahideen took credit for the [Arizona] fires in a statement that was obtained and translated by Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE) Intelligence Group, according to the Clarion Project.

The terror group claims that the fires are a reprisal for Israel’s “occupation” of what they say are Palestinian lands.

Nineteen firefighters have been killed while fighting the blaze.

“We had previously announced an unconventional war against the occupation state of Israel, and then we escalated this war to reach its main supporter, America, so that it receives a major share of it, which will destroy their flora and fauna, with permission from Allah and then with our hands,” the group said, according to Clarion and SITE.

Masada al-Mujahideen is apparently a legitimate jihadist group, not a cut-out for another organization. The Long War Journal has this to say about them:

Masada al Mujahideen announced its formation in April 2008 and said its leader is Abu Omar al Ansari, according to SITE. The terror group has claimed numerous attacks against Israel, including rocket and mortar attacks. The group has also claimed credit for setting numerous fires inside Israel, and even an arson attack in Nevada.

Masada al Mujahideen also eulogized Osama bin Laden immediately after he was killed by US Navy SEALs in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011. “Although Sheikh Osama has been killed, his creed will not be killed, and the whole Ummah, Allah willing, is Osama bin Laden. We do not say that as hyperbole, for you see with your own eyes and acknowledge with your own mouths that most of the jihadi groups in the world have come to follow his example, method and creed,” the group said in statement that was translated by SITE.

Masada al Mujahideen also eulogized Atiyah Abd al Rahman, a top al Qaeda leader who was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan, in August 2011. “He was truly one of the well-known people of jihad and a bright star in the sky of knowledge,” the group said in statement translated by SITE.

It’s possible, of course, that these holy warriors refugees from a medieval insane asylum are lying about Arizona and are just claiming credit to up their standing in the world of brave knights of Islam medieval psychos. America seems a long way to come for a small terrorist outfit, when Israel is right next door.

But when you read the United Nations report on the porous US-Mexican border, “A Global Pathway to the USA;” when you recall that Hizbullah, Hamas, and al Qaeda are all trying to set up operations in the Western hemisphere; and when you keep in mind geography

Well, the possibility that Masada al Mujahideen really did set the fires that killed 19 American firefighters and destroyed dozens of homes and businesses doesn’t seem so inconceivable after all, does it?

If we can establish to our satisfaction they did do this, then we should hunt them down and kill them all. This isn’t a criminal matter; by their own declaration, this is jihad fi sabil allah, “holy war.” And in that case, we should show them exactly how real war is fought.

Meanwhile, this news demonstrates again why border security is more than just an immigration issue — it’s a matter of national security.

UPDATE: Reader Crosspatch reports that the cause of the Arizona fire was described as lightning.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Paging John LeCarre! #NSA leaker a Chinese agent?

**Posted by Phineas

"Would you believe..."

“Would you believe…?”

This is getting weirder and weirder, but, at the same time, tantalizingly plausible:

Former CIA case officer Bob Baer revealed on CNN Sunday evening that intelligence officials were possibly considering Edward Snowden’s case as Chinese espionage, after Snowden came forward this afternoon from an undisclosed Hong Kong location.

“Hong Kong is controlled by Chinese intelligence,” Baer said. “It’s not an independent part of China at all. I’ve talked to a bunch of people in Washington today, in official positions, and they are looking at this as a potential Chinese espionage case.”

“On the face of it, it looks like it is under some sort of Chinese control, especially with the president meeting the premier today,” Baer said. “You have to ask what’s going on. China is not a friendly country and every aspect of that country is controlled. So why Hong Kong? Why didn’t he go to Sweden? Or, if he really wanted to make a statement, he should have done it on Capitol Hill.”

When you think about it, the possibility of Snowden being used by Chinese intelligence is not at all unreasonable: the US news had been filled for months with items about Chinese hacker attacks and complaints about stolen data, and Obama was expected to bring this up at their summit here in California. Could he have been used by a Chinese “handler” to release this information when it would be both embarrassing to Obama and useful to China by cutting O’s legs out from under him at the summit? “Shut up, you guys are spying, too?” I’ve got no firm opinion about Snowden, himself, though, from what I’ve read, he does strike me as a immature narcissist who could be played by skilled operators. And what free-speech and civil liberties advocate who donates to Ron Paul would take refuge in China, of all places? (1)

There’s something really, really odd about this.

via Legal Insurrection

PS: I haven’t written much about these NSA revelations, the phone metadata collection and the information culling from Internet providers (PRISM), because there is so much to absorb and it has such profound implications for a free society that I think silence, on my part and for now, is better. I’ve seen too many outraged knees jerking, too much heat and not enough light, too much reaction and not enough reading; it makes me worry that, traumatized as we are by the IRS and Rosen scandals, etc., we may throw the “national security baby” out with the bathwater. For now, though, let me leave you with an article by Jonah Goldberg that best captures my thinking at the moment: healthy skepticism.

Footnote:
(1) Yeah, I know he is/was in Hong Kong, which is very free market and capitalist, but if you don’t believe Beijing pulls the strings of what goes on there, especially in an intelligence matter, I have a bridge for you.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Deval Patrick: “You guys can handle the terrorists, I’m catching some Zs.”

**Posted by Phineas

You’re the Governor of Massachusetts. Islamic terrorists have just blown up a major sporting sporting event in your state’s capital city, killing several and wounding hundreds.  Boston is on lock-down, the police have done everything except declare martial law, and the terrorists are on the loose. No one knows where they are or if they’ll strike again. What do you do, O Chief Executive of the Commonwealth?

What. Do You. Do?

Simple. You take a nap:

On the controversial Greater Boston lockdown: “In the afternoon … I went back to the offices in the State House … and I took a nap. (Then) the phone rang. It was the president. … And he said, “Deval, I’m briefed. … What are you going to do about the city? You can’t keep it locked down indefinitely.’

“I said, ‘Mr. President, I know that. … I’m trying to sort that out now.’ … Basically the state police had said we should end this … when we finish the door-to-door in Watertown. So if we haven’t found him, we should say to people, ‘Look, live your lives, but please be careful because he’s still at large.’”

Yes, you read that right. It took a call from Barack Obama, not the most hands-on president ever, to rouse “Governor” Patrick from his slumber and ask him just what he planned to do about the psychos terrorizing his city. While the people of Boston were in fear for their lives, Deval Patrick was bravely… snoring.

And he admitted it.

That sound you hear is what was left of any national ambitions he had being taken out back and shot.

via Hot Air

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

The Obama admin’s current national security “priorities” – summed up in one tweet

Fox News’ Martha MacCallum gets right to the heart of the matter – short, sweet, to the point (via Twitchy Team):


Any questions? Let’s all say a little prayer that Ms. MacCallum does not become a target of Obama’s DOJ – or the IRS – herself.

On a related note, the Atlantic Wire’s Connor Simpson writes about how a New York Times reporter was recently targeted by Obama’s DOJ, too – referencing a Times article on the matter that talks about just how “wide the net” is that the DOJ is casting on journalists (hat tip). William Teach at the Pirate’s Cove blog wonders about the potential for a chilling effect this may have on both MSM journalists and government officials going forward:

What all this does is create a chill on media contact. Government employees will clam up even when there is no threat. And it will make the Press worried that The Government will come after them if they publish a story. This is intimidation. Let’s not forget how the Obama admin treats many reporters which are critical and publish unflattering stories. Sharyl Attkinson is the poster child for how the Obama admin abuses reporters. The O admin is saying “toe the line, do what we tell you, or we’re coming after you”, which may not violate the letter of the 1st Amendment, but surely violates the spirit.

The question for The Press now is “do you continue to act mostly like little lapdogs, or do you all refuse to be intimidated and finally decide to do you job in keeping government honest?”

Decisions, decisions …

Obama's lapdogs

”Change” coming …?
(Image via Weasel Zippers)

Boston Marathon bombing: terrorism on the cheap, financed by us?

**Phineas

I wrote yesterday about questions regarding the Tsarnaev brothers’ financial resources and how they could afford what at first glance appeared to be a comfortable lifestyle and prepare their atrocities without some outside support.

Well, it appears they had some help: the taxpayers of Massachusetts.

Marathon bombings mastermind Tamerlan Tsarnaev was living on taxpayer-funded state welfare benefits even as he was delving deep into the world of radical anti-American Islamism, the Herald has learned.

State officials confirmed last night that Tsarnaev, slain in a raging gun battle with police last Friday, was receiving benefits along with his wife, Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, and their 3-year-old daughter. The state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services said those benefits ended in 2012 when the couple stopped meeting income eligibility limits. Russell Tsarnaev’s attorney has claimed Katherine — who had converted to Islam — was working up to 80 hours a week as a home health aide while Tsarnaev stayed at home.

In addition, both of Tsarnaev’s parents received benefits, and accused brother bombers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan were recipients through their parents when they were younger, according to the state.

The news raises questions over whether Tsarnaev financed his radicalization on taxpayer money.

Gee, ya think?

Meanwhile, his younger brother financed his “lifestyle” not only through scholarships, but also, per The Globe, dealing drugs:

Tsarnaev’s younger brother never seemed strapped for cash, according to people who knew him at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where he was a sophomore. But Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a scholarship student who earned spending money by selling marijuana, say three people who bought drugs from the 19-year-old.

None of this was enough to finance the “lifestyles of the rich and terroristic,” but the globe goes on to point out just how little it would take to carry out the Marathon attacks:

If the brothers had outside financial or technical support for their deadly attack on the Marathon, it certainly isn’t reflected in their lifestyle or their weapons. The picture that is emerging is more like terrorism on a budget, consistent with reports that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told interrogators from his hospital bed that he and his brother acted alone.

“There is no barrier here to two men doing this on their own,” said Brian Michael Jenkins, a Rand Corp. adviser who focuses on terrorism. “You could easily do this for under $100 per bomb. . . . This is an investment even someone with modest means can make.”

So, it looks more and more like these walking, talking pustules did this on their own… with help from the older brother’s exploited wife, sponging off family, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the potheads of Cambridge.

I hope the younger brother remembers to thank them at his execution.

To paraphrase what Lenin said about capitalists, “We’re going to give them the money to build the bombs to kill us.” And it reminds me of Britain, though they’re much further down the path of subsidizing their own destroyers.

Way back in 1838, Abraham Lincoln made a speech at the Young Men’s Lyceum in which he made an observation I think fitting for this situation:

“At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it?– Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.

At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Only we seem to be paying for assisted suicide.

PS: Back to the question of outside assistance, the Tsarnaevs seemed to greatly admire a radical Lebanese-Australian imam, Sheik Feiz Mohammed, and the elder brother is reported to have met with another jihadist imam while visiting Dagestan. This makes me suspect their situation is similar to that of the traitorous Major Hassan and his al Qaeda imam, Anwar al-Awlaki: they received theological support and encouragement from these preachers, but were left to come up with their own attacks. Still, I’d like to know where they tested their bombs, if they did.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Breaking: Canadians foil Iranian/al Qaeda New York-Toronto train attack

**Posted by Phineas

They love hitting mass transportation. Breaking in The Washington Examiner:

Canadian security officials announced today that they thwarted a terrorist attack on a passenger train reportedly traveling from New York City to Toronto, planned by two men allegedly tied to al Qaeda.

“I commend our Canadian counterterrorism partners, particularly the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, for their efforts in stopping a major terrorist plot which was intended to cause significant loss of human life including New Yorkers,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said in a statement today.

The attack had Iranian backing. “They are elements of al Qaeda in Iran,” a Canadian police official told reporters during the press conference while identifying the al Qaeda affiliate that was involved in the attack. “What the investigation has demonstrated is that the support being received was in the form of direction and guidance.”

Emphasis added. Say it after me, folks:

This is war, and they’re still trying to kill us.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Honey trap: US missile defense contractor sold secrets to the Chinese for sex

**Posted by Phineas

"Would you believe..."

“Would you believe…”

It’s amazing how stupid we get when our hormones and feelings are involved: a 59 years old former Army officer, who now works on missile defense, has thrown his career, his honor, and his life away for a woman half his age… who also happened to be a Chinese spy.

“According to the affidavit, the national defense information that [Benjamin Pierce] Bishop passed to [the woman] included information relating to nuclear weapons; information on planned deployment of U.S. strategic nuclear systems; information on the ability of the United States to detect low- and medium-range ballistic missiles of foreign governments; and information on the deployment of U.S. early warning radar systems in the Pacific Rim,” the Justice Department announced yesterday.

The alleged leaks took place between May of 2011 and December 2012, according to DOJ, while the “romantic relationship” supposedly began in June 2011.

Interesting that this comes soon after the Obama administration reversed plans to end Bush-era missile-defense deployments.

Bishop faces up to 20 years for his treason; I think it’s a shame he’s not liable for hanging.

So-called “honey traps” are not at all uncommon in espionage, though I think the Soviets/Russians and other Communist agencies used them far more than we did or do. And men are not the only ones to fall for them: though it’s fiction, the excellent “The Americans” TV show on FX shows an FBI confidential secretary being seduced by an undercover KGB agent.

Stupidity is a universal constant.

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

Obama Treasury Dept. to open bank records to US intelligence agencies?

**Posted by Phineas

"Watching you."

“Watching you.”

Under things that make me a bit uncomfortable, we find:

The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters.

The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates.

Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of “suspicious customer activity,” such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).

The FBI already has access to FinCEN, and intelligence agencies can make requests to get access on a case-by-case basis. There’s no doubt this kind of information is useful in our war with Islamic terrorists: they need money to carry out their operations, and suspicious transactions can be an early warning that something’s afoot, as well as revealing how they’re getting their funds. In fact, the US and its allies have had great success disrupting terrorist finance since 9/11 by data mining international bank records, at least until the operation was exposed by the press in 2006. (Don’t worry. The revelation came under a Republican president, so the press was only doing its duty.)

And the fact is we are still at war against an enemy who’d dearly love to give us another 9/11; in such times, the boundaries between liberty and security shift a bit toward security. Trust me, I’m a national security conservative, not a doctrinaire “Big L” libertarian on this issue. I remember how the failure to share information was one of the big weaknesses that let al-Qaeda’s plan work.

BUT…

More than 25,000 financial firms – including banks, securities dealers, casinos, and money and wire transfer agencies – routinely file “suspicious activity reports” to FinCEN. The requirements for filing are so strict that banks often over-report, so they cannot be accused of failing to disclose activity that later proves questionable. This over-reporting raises the possibility that the financial details of ordinary citizens could wind up in the hands of spy agencies.

Emphases added. In other words, the financial institutions, to avoid trouble with Washington, shovel all they can at the Feds and tell them to sort it out.

I’m sure we can all imagine the problems arising from that, such as database errors leading to people being misidentified as possible terrorists or their bag-men. We’ve heard enough stories about “no fly” list mistakes to know it’s bound to happen. Imagine waking up one day to find all your accounts frozen while investigators paw through your life. And this is without even considering the broader Fourth Amendment implications inherent in intelligence agencies searching through all the information the financial institutions dump on them, in order to find the worthwhile material.

“Privacy? What’s that?”

So, like I said: “uncomfortable.” This is a case where Congress could very usefully fulfill its investigatory functions by hauling the relevant officials before a couple of committees and letting some skeptics of central government power (Hello, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul!) ask some pointed questions to make sure proper safeguards are in place.

via Bryan Preston

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

@SenRandPaul receives “assurances” on domestic drones in letter from Eric Holder

I love it:

Sen. Rand Paul declared victory Thursday after Attorney General Eric Holder assured him that the president cannot use a drone to kill a noncombatant American on U.S. soil — an assurance Paul had sought during his 13-hour filibuster the day before.

“Hooray!” Paul responded when the letter was read to him for the first time during an interview with Fox News. “For 13 hours yesterday, we asked him that question, so there is a result and a victory. Under duress and under public humiliation, the White House will respond and do the right thing.”

During his dramatic filibuster, which delayed a vote on CIA director nominee John Brennan, Paul had demanded the administration clarify the government’s authority to kill on U.S. soil. The filibuster ended past midnight early Thursday morning. The Senate voted, 63-34, to confirm Brennan later Thursday afternoon.

Shortly before the vote, Holder sent a terse letter to Paul that read: “It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question: ‘Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?’ The answer to that question is no.”

In response, Paul said Thursday that “we’re proud to announce that the president is not going to kill unarmed Americans on American soil.” He later took to the floor to promote the attorney general’s response, as the Senate moved to confirm Brennan.

Good for Paul for standing his ground on this.  The only reason  he stopped his near-13 hour filibuster shortly before 1 a.m. ET was because he had to go to the bathroom.

I should note that just because he has “assurances” from the administration, it’s not set in stone, but at least now if it happens this administration and perhaps future ones will have a have a little less wiggle room when it comes to legal proceedings and Congressional investigations in the aftermath.

Meanwhile, if you imagined you couldn’t get any madder at the Duncetastic Duo of John McCain and Lindsey Graham, think again.  The way they talked down to Paul on the floor of the Senate today, suggesting his very serious concerns about Presidential power were “ridiculous” and an “abuse of the filibuster”,  should go down in the books as some of the most shameful moments in the history of the United States Senate.  Of course they, along with NC GOP Senator Richard Burr and several other “key” Republican Senators, were wined and dined by Obama last night in grand fashion and didn’t lift one finger or say one word in support of Paul’s dramatic floor speech. Senator Paul, on the other hand, dined on a … candy bar …  during his filibuster.

I think I’ve finally figured out what “establishment Republican” means and Graham, McCain, and Burr pretty much fit the bill. Disgraceful.