5,000 Covert ‘Boots on Ground’ in Syria by Year’s End

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Former CIA Director, Gen. Michael Hayden

Hat/Tip to Greg Richter at Newsmax.

Even though we’re not going to put boots on the ground in Syria, we’re, uh, well – we’re gonna have boots on the ground in Syria.

Yeah, the most transparent administration on earth strikes again…

Despite pledges from the White House that no American ground troops will be sent to fight the Islamic State (ISIS), Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and NSA, thinks that up to 5,000 Americans will be on the ground by the end of the year.

“It might be through covert action rather than more overt activity,” Hayden said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Hayden said those won’t be regular combat troops, but intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, logistics, advice, command and control assistance and tactical air control parties. He said that even if America is successful, it can expect a three- to five-year battle.

And while President Barack Obama promised in a speech on Wednesday that the United States would be relying on Syrian and Iraq ground troops, Hayden said there is a long way to go toward training Syrian rebels, known as the Free Syrian Army.

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Obama referred to FSA members just months ago as pharmacists and doctors who have taken up arms more than an adequately trained army. They will need “an awful lot of help” to become the force the United States now says it expects them to be, Hayden said.

“We’ve turned on the dime as far as our expectation for them,” he said.

Gen. Hayden also believes that it will take more than airstrikes and drone attacks to stop ISIS.

Hayden says he has spent 39 years as an airman and that air attacks will “punish the Islamic State,” but he doesn’t believe air power alone can defeat ISIS.

“The reliance on air power has all of the attraction of casual sex: It seems to offer gratification but with very little commitment,” he told U.S. News & World Report on Thursday.

Hayden said that Obama’s commitment to air power alone might have made Americans feel comfortable, but it also made ISIS feel comfortable. And, he said, it made our allies uncomfortable.

“When you make air power the centerpiece of what you’re going to do, people don’t doubt your strength, they doubt your intention, they doubt your will,” he said. “Are you all in this or not?”

 

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Obama’s Folly: Iran replicates American drone

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American drone in forefront, Iran's drone in background
American drone in forefront, Iran’s drone in background

Hat/Tip to The Christian Science Monitor.

Remember back in the early part of 2013 when Iran announced that they had captured one of our military drones?

Earlier this month, Iran said that it had decoded and released footage from a U.S. drone that it downed more than a year ago.

The black and white aerial footage, which Iran claims was from a RQ-170 spy plane, was aired by Iranian news agencies and placed on YouTube.

Iran said it downed the drone on December 4, 2011, near Kashmar in the country’s northeast, some 225 kilometers (140 miles) from the border with Afghanistan.

And do you remember the forceful way that President Obama stood up to Iran, even though it was one of those “tiny little countries,” and demanded on the world stage the safe return of our drone?

“Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don’t pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us,” Obama said. – Barack Obama, 2008

Yeah, me neither.

At the time, U.S. officials acknowledged that the drone was missing and President Barack Obama asked Iran to return it.

I heard that he even said, “Pretty please, with sugar, err make that no-calorie sweetener on top (Michelle vetoed the sugar).

Read the embarrassing full story here.

Well, fast forward to present day, and it seems Iran is announcing that they’ve reversed engineered one of our stealth drones. Yes, Iran is running to the microphone faster than Obama did when our Navy Seals killed Bin Laden.

Iran has unveiled its own copy of an American stealth drone it captured in late 2011, claiming to have cracked the “secrets” of the bat-wing craft and added weapons capabilities. Today, Fars News Agency reported that while Iran’s duplicate of the US RQ-170 Sentinel drone was smaller, it also had a “bombing capability to attack the US warships in any possible battle.” The story in Persian was headlined: “America’s nightmare has become reality.”  State television showed footage on Sunday it said was of a US aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf filmed by an Iranian drone.

~~~~

An Iranian engineer tasked with decoding the drone’s memory told The Christian Science Monitor in December 2011 that Iran had incrementally “spoofed” the drone’s GPS system, causing it to land in Iran instead of its home base in western Afghanistan. Just months before, the US military had approved two $47 million contracts to find ways to replace vulnerable military GPS systems.

The US government and intelligence community claim that the RQ-170 drone was not electronically “hijacked” by Iran, and say it crash-landed instead. The stealth drone’s existence was never officially acknowledged until Iran exhibited it on television, largely intact.  

~~~~

Engineers with the IRGC  were ordered to reverse engineer the captured US drone, which was on a CIA mission to spy on nuclear and military sites in Iran when it was brought down in Iran largely intact. Iran reacted with euphoria, trumpeting the capture in an “electronic ambush” showed Iran’s technical prowess.

“And thus the Iranian-RQ [project] was designated,” said an IRGC aerospace officer, according to Fars News. “To achieve this, considering the difficulties and flight dynamics, we designed a bird with a smaller size that would be cheaper and simpler, and that we have done now. We have done ground tests already, and after this fair, we will do air tests too.” 

“Here we didn’t know what type of information we were looking for. There was an issue of encoding and passwords, which thanks to God’s help we have overcome,” said the officer. He said data included video and advanced imaging and was “completely recovered.”

One can only wonder if the Iranians might be interested in intercepting and reverse-engineering some from this administration… I was just kidding Secret Service, don’t come knocking on my door at 3:00 am.

 

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Once Upon A Time, Americans Had A Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy

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The right to privacy is not addressed directly by the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. However. …

The U. S. Constitution contains no express right to privacy.  The Bill of Rights, however, reflects the concern of James Madison and other framers for protecting specific aspects of privacy, such as the privacy of beliefs (1st Amendment), privacy of the home against demands that it be used to house soldiers (3rd Amendment), privacy of the person and possessions as against unreasonable searches (4th Amendment), and the 5th Amendment’s privilege against self-incrimination, which provides protection for the privacy of personal information.  In addition, the Ninth Amendment states that the “enumeration of certain rights” in the Bill of Rights “shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people.”  The meaning of the Ninth Amendment is elusive, but some persons (including Justice Goldberg in his Griswold concurrence) have interpreted the Ninth Amendment as justification for broadly reading the Bill of Rights to protect privacy in ways not specifically provided in the first eight amendments.

You can read more about the history of the concept of privacy in America and Supreme Court decisions that have upheld a rather broad definition of our right to privacy at the source of the above quote. Unfortunately, the Bill of Rights and the Supreme Court are no match for technology, which like the proverbial genie, once out of the bottle, there is no putting it back. Let’s look at some of the technology being used for national security and/or crime control that will end any reasonable expectation of privacy in what is rapidly becoming a post 9/11 police state.

NSA’s Utah Data Center

It is no secret that our government is building a super secret data collection center in Utah. Precisely because it is super secret, we are not likely to get straight answers from our government on how that dat will be used and more importantly how it might be abused. Here is some of what Wikipedia says about the data center:

It is alleged to be able to capture “all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Internet searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital ‘pocket litter’.”

{…}

n August 2012 The New York Times published short documentaries by independent filmmakers entitled The Program,[10] planned for release in 2013, based on interviews with a whistleblower named William Binney, a designer of the NSA’s Stellar Wind project. The program he worked on had been designed for foreign signals intelligence (SIGINT) collection but, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Binney alleged that controls which limited unintentional collection of data pertaining to United States persons were removed, prompting concerns by him and others that the actions were illegal and unconstitutional. Binney alleged that the Bluffdale facility was designed to store a broad range of domestic communications for the purposes of data mining without warrants.[11]

However, the primary mission of the National Security Agency is not domestic espionage, but rather protecting sensitive or classified US information from adversaries, sometimes called Information Assurance (IA), as well as collecting, processing, and disseminating intelligence information from foreign signals for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and to support military operations, or Signals Intelligence (SIGINT).[12] NSA may monitor foreign communications, the collection of which do not require a warrant, including for those foreign communications which enter the United States and traverse US networks.[13][14][15] This mission does not include monitoring communications of Americans in the United States. An NSA spokesperson said, “Many unfounded allegations have been made about the planned activities of the Utah Data Center,” and further said that “one of the biggest misconceptions about NSA is that we are unlawfully listening in on, or reading emails of, U.S. citizens. This is simply not the case.”[16]

I particularly like the part about the “primary” mission not being domestic espionage.

From this year old article at Wired, we learn:

But “this is more than just a data center,” says one senior intelligence official who until recently was involved with the program. The mammoth Bluffdale center will have another important and far more secret role that until now has gone unrevealed. It is also critical, he says, for breaking codes. And code-breaking is crucial, because much of the data that the center will handle—financial information, stock transactions, business deals, foreign military and diplomatic secrets, legal documents, confidential personal communications—will be heavily encrypted. According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

{…}

…  To those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.

The Drone Age

John W. Whitehead has an interesting article on The Coming Micro-Drone Revolution.

America will never be a “no drone zone.”

That must be acknowledged from the outset. There is too much money to be made on drones, for one, and too many special interest groups – from the defense sector to law enforcement to the so-called “research” groups that are in it for purely “academic” reasons – who have a vested interest in ensuring that drones are here to stay.

{…}

Modeled after birds, insects, and other small animals, these small airborne surveillance devices can remain hidden in plain view while navigating spaces off limits to conventional aircraft. Able to take off and land anywhere, able to maneuver through city streets and hallways, and able to stop and turn on a dime, these micro-drones will still pack a lethal punch, equipped with an array of weapons and sensors, including tasers, bean-bag guns, “high-resolution video cameras, infrared sensors, license plate readers, [and] listening devices.”

In the article, Whitehead describes a number of micro-drones being developed. Here are just three:

Dragonfly drone. First reportedly spotted in 2007 hovering over protesters at an anti-war rally in Washington, DC, it turns out that the government’s dragonfly drones are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to small aerial surveillance devices designed to mimic nature. Just a year later, the US Air Force “unveiled insect-sized spies ‘as tiny as bumblebees’ that could not be detected and would be able to fly into buildings to ‘photograph, record, and even attack insurgents and terrorists.’”

Spy-butterfly drone. In 2012, Israel unveiled its new insect-inspired drone which they dubbed the “spy-butterfly” because of its two sizable wings. Weighing in at only 20g, this drone was developed for indoor surveillance, including public places such as “train stations and airport terminals – or office buildings.” The size and muted sound of the “virtually noiseless” machines makes them unnoticeable and therefore ideal for intelligence gathering. The spy-butterfly is so realistic that, when tested, “birds and flies tended to fall behind the device arranging into a flock.”

Mosquito drone. More lethal than its real-life counterpart, the mosquito drone, while an engineering marvel, is also a privacy advocate’s nightmare with its potential to land on someone and use a needle-like-pincer to extract DNA from its victims or, alternatively, inject drugs or other foreign substances.

Smile! You’re on Candid Camara

Businesses have used security cameras for years. More recently cities have put cameras at key street corners or intersections for “security” reasons. With the advent of facial recognition software, this technology has played an important role  in criminal investigations and in the War on Terror. This was brought home to us in the last few days as this technology was how the Boston Bombers were identified. And articles supporting more cameras appeared almost immediately in the news.

Conclusion

The technology I’ve described today will without doubt make Americans safer from terrorist attacks and from criminals. But, there is a price to pay for that added security. The technology will be abused no matter the “good” intentions of our governments. As Americans, you no longer have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?

Original Post:  Asylum Watch


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Battle Lines Drawn

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Mr. Paul’s filibuster was a big deal for reasons other than the obvious.  Sure, it’s great that he forced the Attorney General to admit that what they had previously condoned was actually illegal.  It’s excellent that he got some face time for a very important issue that otherwise wouldn’t have been talked about.  I’m happy that it has garnered support from the left and the right (that’s the first bit of bipartisanship I’ve seen in ages).  Still, that’s not what is most important to me.

What has me excited is that two GOP senators, who were eating with the President at the time of the filibuster, ended up being the only people to strongly oppose Rand’s actions.  Sen. McCain and Sen. Graham were quick to support the “we are at war” mantra as their excuse to bypass the 5th Amendment.  Even Eric Holder had to eventually cave to Rand’s argument, but not so with these two.  Of course, Graham is the “Free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war” senator.

McCain and Graham’s righteous anger that burns for terrorists blinds them to a potentially greater threat, the erosion of our first principles.  What purpose does fighting those who hate freedom serve if we sacrifice freedom to defeat them?  Rand’s point was clear to everyone spare the old guard; if we know an American is on American soil and we know where he is, why is it that we don’t apprehend him instead of kill him with a drone?  “No American should ever be killed in their house without warrant and some kind of aggressive behavior”.

Graham argues, however, that the 5th Amendment gives the President leeway in times of war to hold enemies subject to crime.  The problem is that we’re not in a real war.  President Bush may have used war-like language and rhetorically declared war on “terror”, but the actions behind this are diffuse.  How do you determine if someone is guilty of terror?  Are there different levels of terror?  What are justified national reactions to these actions of terror?  For instance, is one guilty of terror if they supply propaganda for terrorists?  If so, can we kill you in your home for this action?  Anwar al-Awlaki and his dead teenage son would like to know the answer to that question.

Do I sympathize with people like Awlaki?  Of course not!  My problem is that the actions we are taking are done so by powers that no government should have.  This is the reason that our founders established a clear way of declaring war.  These requisites aren’t easy and they can be constraining, but that’s the nature of our Constitution.  Perhaps that also explains the nature of our politicians.  They dodge the restrictions of our Constitution by redefining terms or sidestepping legal opposition.

Unfortunately Congress gave President Bush the authorization to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

Is this a declaration of war?  Of course not, perhaps because it is hard to declare war on a non-nation entity.  I can sympathize with politicians met with this dilemma in the aftermath of 9/11.  Still, this authorization has led to warrantless wiretaps against Americans, illegal military tribunals, and until Rand’s speech, an assumed authorization for the President to kill anyone considered a terrorist.  We’ve created a nearly unlimited enemy, and a limitless time frame that expands the war powers of the executive.  But Mr. McCain thinks this is just a political stunt that shouldn’t be given any attention.  Let the pols do what they will and trust them with this power.  I’m sorry guys, but I don’t trust you.

The silver lining to this encroachment of trust with power is that we are redrawing our political discourse.  Just when the GOP looked 6 feet under, a resurrection has emerged from those who deem liberty our greatest asset and protector.  This stark contrast between Rand and Cruz verses the antithesis duo of McCain and Graham is hopefully a sign of things to come.  Let there be a clear line of demarcation on the parchment of our Constitution.  Let the Supreme Law of the land echo in the chambers of Congress as it did Wednesday and whitewash the tainted walls.

Original Post:  The Sentry Journal

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Benghazi Update: Drone Overhead During Attack

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It seems that the more that comes out about Benghazi, the worse it looks for the Obama Administration.  Yesterday, we learned that while the attack was ongoing, there was drone coverage overhead.  It was being watched, and there was obviously real-time information in the hands of the administration.  CDN Has more…   

On the eve of the final Presidential debate, CBS reported the US had drones overhead watching the attack at Benghazi.  ”Watched” is the key word here, “watched” for seven hours.   This attack was not over in minutes.  So what if anything, did the “powers that be” do during these seven hours?  The answer seems to be “what they didn’t do”.  According to Retired CIA officer Gary Berntsen, who commanded CIA counter-terrorism missions targeting Osama bin Laden:

“You find a way to make this happen,” Berntsen says. “There isn’t a plan for every single engagement. Sometimes you have to be able to make adjustments. They made zero adjustments in this. They stood and they watched and our people died.”

The “new & improved” spin coming out of the Obama Administration, (yes they are changing the “story again”), goes something like this: “we are gonna stand by this narrative– this attack is somewhere between a spontaneous event where well armed and well trained “individuals” (don’t call them terrorists!) capitalized on heightened protests in the region whereas these individuals took to the streets with military grade weapons and  stormed our Consulate, whereas four Americans were killed.”

Let’s stress the fact that this was going on for SEVEN FREAKING HOURS!  That was seven hours in which some intervention could have been launched.  That was seven hours in which something…ANYTHING could have been done. Could you imagine the coverage if Obama had an “R” after his name?  It would lead every news broadcast, and be at the top of the front page of every liberal newspaper.  It would dominate coverage for days.  While CBS reported this, there hasn’t been massive coverage on the other networks. With every gaffe, with every blunder, and with all of the negative consequences of this administration, not only do we see the liberalism, but we also see the complete dishonesty and worthlessness of the media.

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Drone and Cyber Technology : Moral, Leagal and Privacy Issues- Part I

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Technological advancements often bring with them moral and ethical issues. Two such technologies that are often in the news today have to do with drones and the cyber world of the internet. Part I will deal with drone technology and Part II will deal with cyber technology.

Drones and  the War on Terrorism: Abroad and at Home

The inspiration for today’s subject came from a recent thought-provoking  post at Freedom By The Way where she discusses what has become known as Obama’s personal hit list and asks the question: “Is murder by drone constitutional?” This is an excellent article and includes a short video where Judge Andrew Napolitano weighs in on the subject Here is a thought-provoking quote from the article:

“According to published estimates, US agencies have conducted at least 27 strikes against Yemeni targets in the last three years, killing some 250 people.”

Were all 250 killed actually plotting against the US? Does it matter? Does it matter that Yemen, like Pakistan is a sovereign nation against whom the US has not officially declared war, in fact we give financial aid, and yet we sneak in our unmanned, armed drones and target individuals in those countries?  Including the attack last September killing US citizen and terror suspect Anwar al-Awlaki?

The stealth unmanned drones equipped with high-tech cameras with facial recognition software and very deadly weaponry have changed the face of war as we have known it.

 Charles Krauthammer writes

A very strange story, that 6,000-word front-page New York Times piece on how, every Tuesday, Barack Obama shuffles “baseball cards” with the pictures and bios of suspected terrorists from around the world and chooses who shall die by drone strike. He even reserves for himself the decision of whether to proceed when the probability of killing family members or bystanders is significant.

This technology and the way it is being used raises many question that Americans should ponder.

  • The question raised by Freedom By The Way is fundamental. Is what the President is doing constitutional? Is this war or is this murder? The “War on Terror” brought to us by G. W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center covers a lot of sins. It is a war not against any nation rather against anyone anywhere that may be planning to do harm to our nation or our people anywhere in the world. It is a war that can never end. Our constitution says that only Congress has the right to declare war. But our Congress abdicated that authority to the Executive Branch after World War II.
  • In as much as our Congress abdicated its authority over war, is the use of drones nothing more than an evolution in the way America conducts war? Since WWII, our presidents have sent our troops to war many times with the mission to kill as many of the designated enemy as possible. The enemies, of course, did their best to kill as many of our troops as possible. Now, with drone technology, our presidents can isolate individual enemies or groups of enemies and kill them without putting our troops in harm’s way. Isn’t that something we should celebrate? Or, are there other issues that should concern us.
  • Who are our enemies? What is the criteria for someone being put on the presidential hit list? Do they have to have committed and act of violence against America or does belong or associating with groups that “think” about doing harm to America a sufficient reason to appear on the hit list? Why is there not, at least, some Congressional over sight on the President’s power to kill?
  • In as much as it is human nature to push the edge of the envelope, how long will it be before the enemy list is expanded to include persons close to top officials in rogue nations like Iran, North Korea or, Syria with the intention of putting the “fear of God”, sort of speak, in the heads of those rogue nations?
  • As far as we know, the United States is the only country using drone technology to spy and to kill in foreign countries. But, mysteriously, one of our drones made a soft landing in Iran a while back. So, how long will it be before China, Russia and, Iran have use of that technology to use against the United States?
  • Recently the FAA and DHS approved the use of some 30,000 drones to fly the skys of America. We are told they will be unarmed and will not be used to spy on Americans but to protect Americans. Do you really trust all the approved agencies will not abuse this technology? How long will it take before a drone operator is corrupted to use it for nefarious purposes? How will we know if the drones are doing something illegal? If a drone spots suspicious activity, will the agency get a court order before using technology to see inside of homes and cars? What information will be recorded and how will that information be used?
  • If the stealth technology is as good as we are told, could enemy drones invade our skys undetected? If so, what is to prevent them from carrying out terrorist attacks on US soil? If, for example, an US agency was using drones to patrol our border  with Mexico, what would stop an enemy drone based in Mexico (think Hamas) from crossing the border and intentionally killing some illegal immigrants and making it look like the US was responsible?

Obviously there is no end to these questions. What would you suggest to control the moral and legal issues of this drone technology? The problem is that once the genie is out of the bottle, it is impossible to put it back.

Well, that’s what I’m thinking. What are your thoughts?

Original Post:  Conservatives on Fire

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