Archive for the ‘Espionage’ Category
Architecture is a language, one used by institutions to say something about themselves.
The same basic principle is true for the world’s spy agencies. All show their secrecy in their buildings, while some may appear starkly utilitarian, and some may even be frightening and alienating. But they also have their quirks and differences, whether it be an isolated complex hidden by trees, in a location that’s never been officially disclosed, or a prominent complex built by superstar architects and put on prominent display in the middle of a capital city.
From Virginia to Berlin to Moscow, here are nine of them.
United States: Central Intelligence Agency
If John Brennan becomes the next CIA director — a likely event — he’ll be working from inside a complex that could blend into a business park anywhere in America. But this park contains the headquarters of America’s foreign intelligence agency.
Protected from prying eyes by a wooded belt in suburban Langley, Virginia, just northwest of Washington, D.C., the complex is actually two sets of buildings connected to a central core, with each set built at different times. The first half of the building and designed by New York architecture firm Harrison and Abramovitz — who had a role in designing the United Nations headquarters — dates back to 1963. It’s a sign of its times, and built from sterile pre-fabricated concrete. But by the 1980s, the agency was running out of space. Today, the complex is much larger, with an added west wing of two glass office towers, designed by Detroit architects Smith, Hinchman & Grylls in the 1980s.
The CIA also has a penchant for art and assorted knick-knacks. The agency has a chunk of the Berlin Wall on display, and an A-12 Oxcart spy plane. There’s a museum inside the building with all sorts of weird memorabilia inside, from a robotic fish to a Cold War-era mini-submarine. Outside the cafeteria on the grounds of the headquarters’ new wing is the copper sculpture Kryptos, containing 869 encrypted characters on four plates. The final plate, with its 97 characters, is still unbroken. The cafeteria is remarkably pleasant and airy for a government building, actually, with enormous windows and green views. (The food, however, is not quite as pleasing.)
United States: National Security Agency
There are clear views of the National Security Agency’s headquarters off the Patuxent Freeway, just skirting Fort Meade, Maryland, about 15 miles southwest of Baltimore. But we wouldn’t advise getting any closer, as the NSA is the highly secretive agency responsible for the U.S. government’s codebreaking and collecting communications from around the world. The NSA’s headquarters also fits the part, rising blank and expressionless above a desert of parking lots. Completed in 1986, it resembles a collection of stubby, black, reflective monoliths like from 2001: A Space Odyssey. And according to the Center for Land Use Interpretation, the complex has an estimated 10 acres of underground space.
But like the CIA during the Cold War, the NSA in recent years has outgrown its own building. Fort Meade altogether has grown extremely rapidly as defense agencies relocate there and the NSA boosts its Cyber Command headquarters. Defense and government contractors now have offices surrounding the place, and contract and government jobs have surged, largely due to growth at the base more generally, and partly because of growth at the NSA. The Baltimore Business Journal reported that the base is expected to add an eye-popping 42,500 jobs by the end of the decade. The Defense Department even paved over part of the base’s golf course for the headquarters of the Defense Media Activity organization, the Pentagon’s media wing. Hopefully the Pentagon and the NSA will include a lot more parking.
United Kingdom: Secret Intelligence Service
There’s perhaps no spy headquarters more recognizable than the SIS Building, headquarters of the British Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6. It’s not only smack-dab in the middle of London, but has been featured in six James Bond movies, and blown up in two of them. Designed by architect Terry Farrell, the structure has been compared to a cross between a Babylonian ziggurat and a power plant. And it’s built like a veritable fortress, capable of withstanding bomb attacks. There are also reportedly extensive underground areas.
It’s also put its defenses to use. In September 2000, militants suspected to be from the Real Irish Republican Army — a splinter faction of the Irish paramilitary group — fired a rocket-propelled grenade round at the building’s eighth floor, causing no injuries. In a demonstration of just how heavily armored the building is, the rocket reportedly bounced off a glass window.
Russia: Federal Security Service
The Lubyanka building — the yellow, neo-Baroque former headquarters of Russia’s spies — is still the most recognizable symbol of Russian secrecy, even if the bulk of their office space has moved elsewhere. Dating to 1897, the building once housed an insurance company before becoming the headquarters for the feared Soviet spy agency KGB. It was remodeled by Stalin. (The basement contained a KGB prison.) The building was then transferred to the KGB’s successor agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), after the collapse of the USSR.
According to cybersecurity analyst Jeffrey Carr’s book Inside Cyberware: Mapping the Cyber Underworld, the building today houses the FSB’s Communications Security Center, which oversees and encrypts Russian government computer security systems; and the Center for Licensing, Certification, and Protection of State Secrets, which handles export licenses for cryptographic and surveillance technology. Twin suicide bombing attacks in 2010 also came close to the building — one of the blasts exploded at the nearby Lubyanka metro station.
Afghanistan: National Directorate of Security
There’s a reason why Afghanistan’s domestic spy agency (NDS) is headquartered at an armored compound that is “big … and very, very sensitive, with a very high-security installation and system,” as one agency official phrased it to the Daily Times. As U.S. troops withdraw from the country, the agency is expected to play a great role against the Taliban. It’s also increasingly come under attack. On Wednesday, the headquarters compound in central Kabul was assaulted by a suicide bomber in a minivan, who detonated himself and his vehicle at the front gate. The Wall Street Journal‘s Nathan Hodge and Habib Khan Totakhil reported the blast was followed by a team of armed men who “then tried to assault the compound, but were shot dead by security forces.” At least one guard was reportedly killed, and injuries are said by news outlets to number at least 33 people.
Tucked inside a high-security zone in Kabul near several embassies, the Afghan interior ministry and the national police headquarters, it’s mixed in with a number of street-level shops, some wrecked by the blast. Wednesday’s assault was also not the first time the NDS facilities and agents have come under attack. Agents have been targeted by the Taliban and killed. And in December, the agency’s director was put into the hospital after a suicide bomber blew himself up at a guesthouse while the director was there greeting visitors.
Photo: The aftermath of a Jan. 16, 2013 suicide attack against the National Directorate of Security. AP.
The Israeli Institute for Intelligence and Special Operations, known around the world as Mossad, is one of the most difficult spy agencies to locate. In Israel, it’s a closely guarded state secret, and attempts by amateur sleuths on the internet have frequently misidentified its headquarters. But there are some indications its location has been figured out. An apparent former Mossad agent claimed to have revealed its location in at a highway intersection called Glilot Junction in 1987. In journalist Patrick Tyler’s 2012 book Fortress Israel, he located Mossad’s headquarters as a “partially hidden campus of low-slung office buildings sandwiched between the Glilot highway junction, a Cineplex, and a shopping center.” The buildings seen above appear to fit the location and description, and the building at top is indeed a Cineplex, but it’s not for certain whether it’s really Mossad.
Germany: Federal Intelligence Service
Germany’s chief spy agency, which in German goes by the name Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), is proud of its spiffy new headquarters. ABC has reported that it’s “set to be one of the most technologically sophisticated buildings in the world” once it opens in 2014. Located within walking distance of the Reichstag building in Berlin and on the site of a former East German soccer stadium, the BND has even gone online to show off of its facades of “natural stone, render, fair-faced concrete, brick or metal.” It has room for 4,000 employees, and has weird blob art. The agency is also touting its architect, Jan Kleihues, the son of famous architect Josef Paul Kleihaus, who was known for museums in Germany and Chicago.
But the design is also perhaps more open than the Germans would like. In July 2011, Munich news magazine Focus reported that the building’s blueprints were stolen from the construction site. According to Focus, the blueprints contained “the exact function of every single room, the thickness of each wall, the exact position of every toilet and every emergency exit and every security checkpoint.” The theft hasn’t ended Berlin’s plans. However, it was reported to have forced an estimated $1.8 billion interior redesign.
France: Directorate-General for External Security
This walled compound doesn’t stand out — because it’s not supposed to. It would be an ordinary and undistinguished complex of buildings, that is, if you ignore the high walls topped with spikes and a tall sensor tower. Located on the eastern edge of the Paris city limits is the headquarters for the French Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE), the agency responsible for France’s overseas intelligence works. It’s headquarters also nicknamed “the swimming pool” for its proximity to a facility used by the French Swimming Federation, and Google Maps has even blurred its image in satellite photographs.
China: Ministry of State Security
The building seen above is not the main headquarters for the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS), but a regional office in China’s central Hubei Province. The official headquarters is a little harder to spot. Attempts to track it down have led to frequent — but mistaken — associations with the Ministry of Public Security: the giant Borg-like structure in downtown Beijing which houses China’s national police command. A closer bet for the main MSS offices is a low-key compound in Beijing’s northwest.
The MSS is also different from many Western intelligence agencies because it handles both foreign and domestic intelligence, instead of splitting them up like the CIA and FBI. Hence the reason why it has regional offices inside China, in addition to carrying out Chinese espionage overseas. The Hubei office also sends something of a statement, with its imposing columns, wedding cake facade, sensor dishes and observation perch. Another photo shows what appears to be a police officer on duty, in case anyone gets the wrong idea and wanders a little too closely.
Bring in CSI Ramallah
Yasser Arafat’s remains exhumed in murder inquiry
The remains of Yasser Arafat have been exhumed as part of an investigation into how the Palestinian leader died.
Swiss, French and Russian experts were given samples to establish whether his death in Paris in 2004 at the age of 75 was the result of poisoning before the tomb was resealed.
France began a murder inquiry in August after Swiss experts found radioactive polonium-210 on his personal effects.
Arafat’s medical records say he had a stroke resulting from a blood disorder.
Many Palestinians continue to believe Arafat was poisoned by Israel, which saw him as an obstacle to peace and had put him under house arrest.
There has also been speculation that Arafat was suffering from HIV or cancer at the time of his death.
Arafat, who led the Palestine Liberation Organisation for 35 years and became the first president of the Palestinian Authority in 1996, fell violently ill in October 2004 inside the Muqataa.
Two weeks later he was flown to a French military hospital in Paris, where he died on 11 November.
A murder inquiry was launched by French prosecutors in August after an investigation by al-Jazeera TV, working with scientists at the Institute of Radiation Physics (IRA) at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, found “significant” traces of polonium-210 present in samples taken from Arafat’s personal effects, including his trademark keffiyeh headdress.
In some cases, the elevated levels were 10 times higher than those on control subjects, and most of the polonium could not have come from natural sources, the scientists said.
But the institute also said that Arafat’s symptoms – as described in his medical records – were not consistent with polonium poisoning.
The former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko died of exposure to polonium-210 in London in 2006. The UK authorities have accused Andrei Lugovoi, an ex-KGB officer, of poisoning his tea.
Former C.I.A. director General David Petraeus had to resign because of an extra-marital affair. A juicy sex scandal, exactly what the U.S. media loves.
According to Petraeus associate Steven A. Boylan, Petraeus began an affair with Paula Broadwell, principal author of his biography, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, in late 2011 when he was no longer an active duty military officer. Petraeus reportedly ended the affair in the summer of 2012, around the time that he learned that Broadwell had been sending harassing emails to a longstanding family friend of the Petraeuses, Jill Kelley.
Kelley, a Florida socialite who frequently entertained senior military personnel at her and her husband’s Tampa mansion, had approached an acquaintance who worked for the FBI Tampa Field Office in the late spring about anonymous emails she considered threatening. The Bureau traced the emails to Broadwell and noted that Broadwell appeared to be exchanging intimate messages with an email account belonging to Petraeus, which instigated an investigation into whether that account had been hacked into or was someone posing as Petraeus. According to an Associated Press report, rather than transmit emails to each other’s inbox which would have left a more obvious email trail, messages were left in a draft folder which were then read when the other person logged into the same account.
Although US Attorney General Eric Holder was aware early on that the FBI had discovered an affair, it was not until November 6, 2012, that Petraeus’ nominal superior, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, was advised. That same evening Clapper called Petraeus and urged him to resign. Clapper notified the White House the next day, November 7. After being briefed on November 8, President Obama summoned Petraeus to the White House where Petraeus offered his resignation. Obama accepted the resignation on November 9, and Petraeus cited the affair when announcing that same day that he would be resigning as CIA Director.
Mad Magazine’s take on it
General David Petraeus and his biographer turned mistress Paula Broadwell in July 2011
Iranian TV has shown footage of what purportedly is a downed U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone.
US officials have acknowledged the loss of the unmanned RQ-170 Sentinel, saying it malfunctioned near the Afghan border during a reconnaissance flight in western Afghanistan last week.
But Iranian officials say an “electronic warfare unit” of the Revolutionary Guard electronically hijacked the drone and steered it to the ground.
Guard commander General Amir Ali Hajizadeh said Iran was now studying the technology in the captured drone.
“With God’s assistance, we were able, through joint work by the military and the Revolutionary Guard corps, to catch one of the most advanced American planes, which has special features, in a trap of the Islamic Republic,” he said.
“It fell into the trap of [the Guard's] electronic warfare unit who then managed to land it with minimum damage.”
It is highly unlikely that the Iranians “hijacked” the drone by electronic means. They would not have known the codes to control the craft. The Sentinel is controlled by American operators at bases in Nevada. All satellite communication. Therefore a glitch along the line caused the operators to lose contact with the RQ-170.
The RQ-170 Sentinel is designed to look for flat terrain and land itself when control is terminated with the operators. It may have been a better idea to have the drone nose dive from 50,000 feet, thereby destroying sensitive equipment. The Iranians are renown for bogus propaganda, and this more than likely is another case.
The Iranians may have lucked out on this one. They have access to state of the art stealth technology and highly valuable computer and sensor electronics. However they have almost no experience with such stealth aircraft. It will take them years to reverse engineer and develop and deploy a copy of the RQ-170. And by that time the Americans will unveil the newest and even more advanced stealth reconnaissance drone.
The RQ-170 Sentinel is a high altitude and long endurance unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed and manufactured by Skunk Works, a division of Lockheed Martin Corporation, for the United States Air Force (USAF).
The UAV can capture real time imagery of the battlefield and transfer the data to the ground control station (GCS) through a line of sight (LOS) communication data link.
The vehicle was deployed to Afghanistan for the operation enduring freedom. It is also known as the Beast of Kandahar.
Flying at an altitude of 50,000ft, the RQ-170 can offer its operators with real time intelligence data by executing surveillance and reconnaissance operations over a large area.
The RQ-170 was deployed in Pakistan during the maraud on Osama bin Laden’s compound in May 2011. Live coverage of the raid was broadcasted to the US President Barrack Obama by the vehicle.
The sentinel is being operated by 432nd wing of air combat command (ACC) at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, and 30th reconnaissance squadron at Tonopah Test Range, Nevada.
The RQ-170 can be controlled either manually from the GCS or through autonomous mode. An automatic launch and recovery (ALR) system facilitates the aircraft to land safely when communication with the control station fails.
An electro-optic and infra-red sensors are incorporated in the upper surface of the RQ-170 wings.
The RQ-170 Sentinel is fitted with an active electronically scanned array radar, synthetic aperture radar and signal intelligence in its belly fairings.
The RQ-170 is powered by a single General Electric TF34 turbofan engine which produces 9,275lbs of thrust.
The GCS of the RQ-170 displays the real time imagery or videos captured by the vehicle’s payload cameras onboard. The data supplied by the vehicle is retrieved, processed, stored and monitored at the control station which was designed and built by Skunk Works.
The GCS tracks, controls and monitors the RQ-170 by transferring commands to the vehicle via LOS SATCOM data link.
China has always been a very secretive nation. Especially in terms of military and technological programs. These pictures from Google Maps would make anybody wonder, What are the Chinese up to?
New photos have appeared in Google Maps showing unidentified titanic structures in the middle of the Chinese desert. The first one is an intricate network of what appears to be huge metallic stripes. Is this a military experiment?
This structure seems to be some kind of giant targeting grid, north of the Shule river.
Thousand of lines intersecting in a titanic grid that is about 18 miles long. Another targeting grid?
Miles and miles of huge metallic strips. What are they up to?
This one seems like another target, this time arranged radially, with planes and obstacles.
Here is a weird airport-like structure. Except it’s bright cyan. Seems full of water or made of a weird material. And look at the other airport-like structure next to it. Perhaps a decoy?
The Chinese have been building huge structures in the desert for a long time. Back in 2006, they built this 1:20 scale model of disputed border region between China and India. That’s a terrain model 0.7 kilometer wide by almost 1 kilometer tall. Uncanny. Why would they build such a model of a terrain? To play a 1:20 scale war with 1:20 scale tanks? Mind boggling.
I’m sure The National Reconnaissance Office that operates the super powerful American spy satellite system has zoomed in on these locations and the C.I.A analysts have poured over the images. These intelligence analysts must have a good idea as to what is going on here. But they won’t tell.
Update November 16, from Space.com
It turns out that they are almost definitely used to calibrate China’s spy satellites. So says Jonathon Hill, a research technician and mission planner at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University, which operates many of the cameras used during NASA’s Mars missions. Hill works with images of the Martian surface taken by rovers and satellites, as well as data from Earth-orbiting NASA instruments.
The grids of zigzagging white lines seen in two of the images — the strangest of the various desert structures — are spy satellite calibration targets. Satellite cameras focus on the grids, which measure approximately 0.65 miles wide by 1.15 miles long, and use them to orient themselves in space.
The existence of these calibration targets may seem suspicious or revelatory, but Hill said it really isn’t; China was already known to operate spy satellites, and many other countries (including the United States) do so as well. In fact, the U.S. also uses calibration targets. “An example I found just now is a calibration target for the Corona spy satellites, built back in the 1960s, down in Casa Grande, Ariz., [at coordinates] 32° 48′ 24.74″ N, 111° 43′ 21.30″ W,” Hill told Life’s Little Mysteries.
The 65-foot-wide white lines that make up China’s grids are not made of reflective metal as many news sites have suggested. “They have gaps in them where they cross little natural drainage channels and the lines themselves are not perfectly filled in, with lots of little streaks and uneven coverage. I think it’s safe to say these are some kind of paint,” Hill said, noting that if they were made of white dust or chalk, the wind would have caused them to streak visibly.
The calibration targets are larger than might have been expected, he said, suggesting that the satellite cameras they are being used to calibrate have surprisingly poor ground resolution.
Another strange image taken not far away shows a Stonehenge-like arrangement of objects radiating outward, with fighter jets parked at its center. “This is almost certainly a calibration/test target for orbital radar instruments,” Hill said. “Since a significant amount of radar return is due to differences in surface roughness, they’re probably testing ways of making the areas around planes ‘bumpy’ enough that the planes are partially masked.”
In other words, the Chinese military probably uses radar instruments to send signals down at the target from above, and determine how much radar bounces back to the instruments from the fighter jets, and how much gets scattered by the Stonehenge-like arrangement of bumps surrounding them. From this, the country’s radar experts can learn how best to hide China’s military operations from other countries’ satellites, and possibly get clues for how to find carefully hidden objects in other countries. However, the fact that the planes are made out of metal will increase their radar return and make it very hard to completely mask them, Hill said.
Since the initial reports of these structures became widespread, industrious readers of the gadget blog Gizmodo have spotted a few more interesting structures in China. One, Hill said, appears to be a weapons testing zone, perhaps for evaluating explosives. Elsewhere, a giant grid resembles a Yagi antenna array. Instruments like this can be used for any number of things, such as weather tracking, space weather tracking and high-altitude atmospheric research.
Hill noted that most of these structures are quite closer to each other. “I think we’re seeing some sort of military zone/test range, which explains the large amount of equipment and technology in an otherwise remote area,” he said. “Sometimes the truth can be just as interesting, if not more so, than the conspiracies that people come up with.”
The Alley From Hell
By Marc Ambinder and Jeffrey Goldberg
Pakistan lies. It hosted Osama bin Laden (knowingly or not). Its government is barely functional. It hates the democracy next door. It is home to both radical jihadists and a large and growing nuclear arsenal (which it fears the U.S. will seize). Its intelligence service sponsors terrorists who attack American troops. With a friend like this, who needs enemies?
Peshawar, northwest Pakistan, February 8, 2011: Set ablaze by roadside bombs, oil trucks bearing fuel for NATO forces burn, as bystanders react. (Fayaz Aziz/Reuters)
Shortly after American Navy SEALs raided the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May and killed Osama bin Laden, General Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani chief of army staff, spoke with Khalid Kidwai, the retired lieutenant general in charge of securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Kidwai, who commands a security apparatus called the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), had been expecting Kayani’s call.
General Kayani, the most powerful man in a country that has only a simulacrum of civilian leadership, had been busy in the tense days that followed the bin Laden raid: he had to assure his American funders (U.S. taxpayers provide more than $2 billion in annual subsidies to the Pakistani military) that the army had no prior knowledge of bin Laden’s hideout, located less than a mile from Pakistan’s preeminent military academy; and at the same time he had to subdue the uproar within his ranks over what was seen as a flagrant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by an arrogant Barack Obama. But he was also anxious about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and he found time to express this worry to General Kidwai.
Much of the world, of course, is anxious about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and for good reason: Pakistan is an unstable and violent country located at the epicenter of global jihadism, and it has been the foremost supplier of nuclear technology to such rogue states as Iran and North Korea. It is perfectly sensible to believe that Pakistan might not be the safest place on Earth to warehouse 100 or more nuclear weapons. These weapons are stored on bases and in facilities spread across the country (possibly including one within several miles of Abbottabad, a city that, in addition to having hosted Osama bin Laden, is home to many partisans of the jihadist group Harakat-ul-Mujahideen). Western leaders have stated that a paramount goal of their counterterrorism efforts is to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of jihadists.
“The single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short-term, medium-term, and long-term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon,” President Obama said last year at an international nuclear-security meeting in Washington. Al-Qaeda, Obama said, is “trying to secure a nuclear weapon—a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using.”
Pakistan would be an obvious place for a jihadist organization to seek a nuclear weapon or fissile material: it is the only Muslim-majority state, out of the 50 or so in the world, to have successfully developed nuclear weapons; its central government is of limited competence and has serious trouble projecting its authority into many corners of its territory (on occasion it has difficulty maintaining order even in the country’s largest city, Karachi); Pakistan’s military and security services are infiltrated by an unknown number of jihadist sympathizers; and many jihadist organizations are headquartered there already.
“There are three threats,” says Graham Allison, an expert on nuclear weapons who directs the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard. The first is “a terrorist theft of a nuclear weapon, which they take to Mumbai or New York for a nuclear 9/11. The second is a transfer of a nuclear weapon to a state like Iran. The third is a takeover of nuclear weapons by a militant group during a period of instability or splintering of the state.” Pakistani leaders have argued forcefully that the country’s nuclear weapons are secure. In times of relative quiet between Pakistan and India (the country that would be the target of a Pakistani nuclear attack), Pakistani officials claim that their weapons are “de-mated”—meaning that the warheads are kept separate from their fissile cores and their delivery systems. This makes stealing, or launching, a complete nuclear weapon far more difficult. Over the past several years, as Pakistan has suffered an eruption of jihadist terrorism, its officials have spent a great deal of time defending the safety of their nuclear program. Some have implied that questions about the safety of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal are motivated by anti-Muslim prejudice. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former army chief and president, who created the SPD, told The Atlantic in a recent interview: “I think it’s overstated that the weapons can get into bad hands.” Referring to Pakistan’s main adversary, India, he said, “No one ever speaks of the dangers of a Hindu bomb.”
Still, General Kidwai promised that he would redouble the SPD’s efforts to keep his country’s weapons far from the prying eyes, and long arms, of the Americans, and so he did: according to multiple sources in Pakistan, he ordered an increase in the tempo of the dispersal of nuclear-weapons components and other sensitive materials. One method the SPD uses to ensure the safety of its nuclear weapons is to move them among the 15 or more facilities that handle them. Nuclear weapons must go to the shop for occasional maintenance, and so they must be moved to suitably equipped facilities, but Pakistan is also said to move them about the country in an attempt to keep American and Indian intelligence agencies guessing about their locations.
Nuclear-weapons components are sometimes moved by helicopter and sometimes moved over roads. And instead of moving nuclear material in armored, well-defended convoys, the SPD prefers to move material by subterfuge, in civilian-style vehicles without noticeable defenses, in the regular flow of traffic. According to both Pakistani and American sources, vans with a modest security profile are sometimes the preferred conveyance. And according to a senior U.S. intelligence official, the Pakistanis have begun using this low-security method to transfer not merely the “de-mated” component nuclear parts but “mated” nuclear weapons. Western nuclear experts have feared that Pakistan is building small, “tactical” nuclear weapons for quick deployment on the battlefield. In fact, not only is Pakistan building these devices, it is also now moving them over roads.
What this means, in essence, is this: In a country that is home to the harshest variants of Muslim fundamentalism, and to the headquarters of the organizations that espouse these extremist ideologies, including al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and Lashkar-e-Taiba (which conducted the devastating terror attacks on Mumbai three years ago that killed nearly 200 civilians), nuclear bombs capable of destroying entire cities are transported in delivery vans on congested and dangerous roads. And Pakistani and American sources say that since the raid on Abbottabad, the Pakistanis have provoked anxiety inside the Pentagon by increasing the pace of these movements. In other words, the Pakistani government is willing to make its nuclear weapons more vulnerable to theft by jihadists simply to hide them from the United States, the country that funds much of its military budget.
The nuclear shell game played by Pakistan is one more manifestation of the slow-burning war between the U.S. and Pakistan. The national-security interests of the two countries are often in almost perfect opposition, but neither Pakistan nor the U.S. has historically been able or willing to admit that they are locked in conflict, because they are also dependent on each other in crucial ways: the Pakistani military still relies on American funding and American-built weapons systems, and the Obama administration, in turn, believes Pakistani cooperation is crucial to the achievement of its main goal of defeating the “al-Qaeda core,” the organization now led by bin Laden’s former deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. The U.S. also moves much of the matériel for its forces in Afghanistan through Pakistan, and must cross Pakistani airspace to fly from Arabian Sea–based aircraft carriers to Afghanistan. (In perhaps the most bizarre expression of this dysfunctional relationship, Osama bin Laden’s body was flown out of Pakistan by the American invasion force, which did not seek Pakistani permission and was prepared to take Pakistani anti-aircraft fire—but then, hours later, bin Laden’s body was flown back over Pakistan on a regularly routed American military flight between Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, in the Arabian Sea.)
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technology for use by the military. DARPA has been responsible for funding the development of many technologies which have had a major effect on the world, including computer networking, as well as NLS, which was both the first hypertext system, and an important precursor to the contemporary ubiquitous graphical user interface.
WikiLeakers may have to think twice before clicking on that “classified” document. It could be the digital smoking gun that points back at them. Darpa-funded researchers are building a program for “generating and distributing believable misinformation.” The ultimate goal is to plant auto-generated, bogus documents in classified networks and program them to track down intruders’ movements, a military research abstract reveals.
“We want to flood adversaries with information that’s bogus, but looks real,” says Salvatore Stolfo, the Columbia University computer science professor leading the project. “This will confound and misdirect them.” (You can make your own fake doc on the research lab’s website, too.)
The program aims to scare off uninvited riff-raff as well as minimize insider threats, one of the greatest vulnerabilities in military networks. Fake “classified” documents, when touched, will take a snapshot of the IP address of the intruder and the time it was opened, alerting a systems administrator of the breach.
With that trail of digital breadcrumbs, agencies can track down prying eyes more easily. It’s not only a way to stop the new “systemic threat” demonstrated by “the recent disclosure of sensitive and classified government documents through WikiLeaks,” as a summary of the project notes. The deeper goal is to make hackers and whistleblowers jittery about whether the data they’ve stumbled on is actually real.
With Congress demanding the Defense Department work on eliminating insider threats, feds have been in overdrive trying to prevent another document-dump at the scale of WikiLeaks, even going to the extremes of threatening to prosecute airmen who let their families read the site.
This decoy-detecting project is funded as part of Anomaly Detection at Multiple Scales, a program to design ways of sniffing out “malicious” insider threat behavior. It’s not the only Pentagon program aimed at weeding out disloyal troops. Led by Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, former hacker-rockstar of the freewheeling Boston’s L0pht collective, Darpa is dreaming ways to detect signs of subversion or infiltration as part of a program called Cyber Insider Threat.
Under this plan, the decoy docs would undermine hackers’ trust in the integrity of data, make them question whether releasing it in the public domain would be worth it, and force WikiLeakers to do more work verifying their authenticity.
“If we implant lots of decoys in a system, the adversary has to expend own resources to determine what’s real and what’s not,” Stolfo tells Danger Room.
If a bogus document is actually released online, it would shatter the credibility of the whistleblowing website that published it, said Stolfo. So even after an attacker has hacked through firewalls, tricked intrusion detection technology and gained unfettered access into a system, he’ll hesitate before making away with the goods.
Columbia University has a pending patent application on the decoy-creating technology. Stolfo co-founded Allure Security Technology in 2009 to make products based on that technology.
“I don’t know who has the patent for the concept of deception, though,” he joked. “It possibly dates back to the time of Adam and Eve. Now we’re trying to automate the process.”
Some of the most sophisticated aircraft and weapons systems ever developed by the United States were tested at Area 51 in Nevada. The top-secret base is located about 90 miles north of Las Vegas. A couple new photos have emerged recently showing tests conducted on a prototype of the A-12 reconnaissance aircraft.
This strange set-up was constructed to test the radar signature of the A-12.
When the Russian spy satellites took pictures of this upside down aircraft the Soviet generals must have wondered, “what in the hell are those Americans up to now?”
After some major tinkering the A-12 eventually evolved into the SR-71 Blackbird.
New York Times
WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency has inserted clandestine operatives into Libya to gather intelligence for military airstrikes and to contact and vet the beleaguered rebels battling Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces, according to American officials.
While President Obama has insisted that no American military ground troops participate in the Libyan campaign, small groups of C.I.A. operatives have been working in Libya for several weeks as part of a shadow force of Westerners that the Obama administration hopes can help bleed Colonel Qaddafi’s military, the officials said.
In addition to the C.I.A. presence, composed of an unknown number of Americans who had worked at the spy agency’s station in Tripoli and others who arrived more recently, current and former British officials said that dozens of British special forces and MI6 intelligence officers are working inside Libya. The British operatives have been directing airstrikes from British jets and gathering intelligence about the whereabouts of Libyan government tank columns, artillery pieces and missile installations, the officials said.
In addition, the American spies are meeting with rebels to try to fill in gaps in understanding who their leaders are and the allegiances of the groups opposed to Colonel Qaddafi, said United States government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the activities. American officials cautioned, though, that the Western operatives were not directing the actions of rebel forces.
A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment.
The United States and its allies have been scrambling to gather detailed information on the location and abilities of Libyan infantry and armored forces that normally takes months of painstaking analysis.