Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Execution without blindfolds

(NEWSER) – "Breathtaking" is probably not a word you'd usually associate with the executions of eight people, but that's exactly how a pastor describes the scene in Indonesia just after midnight local time. Seven foreigners and a local man refused blindfolds as they stood in front of a firing squad over drug-smuggling convictions and broke out into a chorus of "Amazing Grace" while staring down their executioners. A second song, "Bless the Lord O My Soul," began but was cut short by gunfire, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. "They were praising their God," says a pastor who witnessed the executions, adding it was the most beautiful experience of her life: "It was breathtaking. This was the first time I witnessed someone so excited to meet their God."

Murders in Mexico fall

From USA Today Murders in Mexico fall for 3rd straight year

Monday, April 27, 2015

RyPul Threat Assessments are experts in school, business and residential safety

RyPul Threat Assessments has taken on several clients in Southern California, in the U.S. and around the world since opening for business. RyPul Threat Assessments has also partnered with many internationally recognized bulletproof fabrication companies and self defense OEMs to help provide cost effective bulletproof products, blast mitigation products and smash resistant glass product for clients at all levels and financial means.  As the owner of RyPul Threat and Site Assessments, Pulley has also appeared as an ballistic and threat assessment expert on television broadcast news, in print publication, at local speaking events and Pulley is also currently a featured security and law enforcement expert writer for a Riverside County, CA published newspaper. Pulley is frequently tapped to speak with business owners, students, teachers, stake holders and administrators about the importance of being aware of security threats that may affect their environment. “

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

The FBI faked an entire field of forensic science.

The Washington Post published a story so horrifying this weekend that it would stop your breath: “The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.”

What went wrong? The Post continues: “Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far.” The shameful, horrifying errors were uncovered in a massive, three-year review by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Innocence Project. Following revelations published in recent years, the two groups are helping the government with the country’s largest ever post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence.

Chillingly, as the Post continues, “the cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death.” Of these defendants, 14 have already been executed or died in prison.

The massive review raises questions about the veracity of not just expert hair testimony, but also the bite-mark and other forensic testimony offered as objective, scientific evidence to jurors who, not unreasonably, believed that scientists in white coats knew what they were talking about. As Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, put it, “The FBI’s three-decade use of microscopic hair analysis to incriminate defendants was a complete disaster.”

This study was launched after the Post reported that flawed forensic hair matches might have led to possibly hundreds of wrongful convictions for rape, murder, and other violent crimes, dating back at least to the 1970s. In 90 percent of the cases reviewed so far, forensic examiners evidently made statements beyond the bounds of proper science. There were no scientifically accepted standards for forensic testing, yet FBI experts routinely and almost unvaryingly testified, according to the Post, “to the near-certainty of ‘matches’ of crime-scene hairs to defendants, backing their claims by citing incomplete or misleading statistics drawn from their case work.”

It was later revealed that one of the hairs presented at trial came from a dog.
NACDL executive director Norman Reimer said in an interview with Associations Now that the flaws in the system had been known for years now. “What we were finding was that the examiners … wouldn’t just simply say that there was a microscopic similarity [between the two hairs], but they would go beyond that and say it was a 100 percent match, essentially misleading the jury into concluding that the evidence had a certain value that it didn’t actually have,” Reimer said.

This problem doesn’t stop with the FBI labs or federal prosecutions. The review focuses on the first few hundred cases, involving FBI examiners, but the same mistakes and faulty testimony were likely presented in any state prosecutions that relied on the between 500 and 1,000 local or state examiners trained by the FBI. Some states will automatically conduct reviews. Others may not. Much of the evidence is now lost.

Systemic change, in other words, is being left to the discretion of the system itself.

U.S. drone strike killed al-Qaeda hostages, including American

2013 video message from Warren Weinstein(1:31)
This video showing Warren Weinstein, a U.S. contractor held by al-Qaeda militants, was released in 2013. The full 13-minute video was sent anonymously by e-mail to several journalists who have reported from Afghanistan. (As-Sahab/AFP)
 April 23 at 1:40 PM    
A CIA drone strike in January that was aimed at a suspected al-Qaeda compound in Pakistan accidentally killed two hostages, including a kidnapped American, U.S. officials acknowledged Thursday.
U.S. officials said they did not realize until weeks later that two civilians had died in the attack — kidnapped aid workers Warren Weinstein of Maryland and Giovanni Lo Porto of Italy — despite assurances from the CIA at the time of the operation that only al-Qaeda fighters were present.
The CIA had been conducting surveillance on the site near the Afghan border for hundreds of hours, U.S. officials said.
But the spy agency later discovered the strike had also killed a second U.S. citizen, Ahmed Farouq, who U.S. officials said had joined al-Qaeda years earlier and was among the suspected militants at the compound.
After the CIA slowly pieced together what had happened, the spy agency’s director, John Brennan, delivered the news to President Obama last week. On Thursday, in brief remarks from the White House, a grim and downcast Obama informed the nation of the botched operation.
“As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations, including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni,” Obama said. “I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.”
Weinstein, 73, had been held since 2011 after being kidnapped in Lahore, Pakistan. Lo Porto, 39. had been in al-Qaeda captivity since 2012.
Obama said he spoke Wednesday with Weinstein’s wife, Elaine, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to inform them.
In a statement, Elaine Weinstein said Thursday that she and her family were “devastated” by the news and “do not yet fully understand all of the facts surrounding Warren’s death.”
“We were so hopeful that those in the U.S. and Pakistani governments with the power to take action and secure his release would have done everything possible to do so and there are no words to do justice to the disappointment and heartbreak we are going through,” she said.
Earnest said the families of the two hostages will receive U.S. government compensation, but he declined to provide details.
A U.S. government contractor kidnapped by al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan in 2011 called on the Obama administration to negotiate with his captors and says he feels “totally abandoned and forgotten.”
Obama said that the operation was “fully consistent with the guidelines” he has established for counterterrorism strikes against al-Qaeda but that he has ordered “a full review of what happened.”
“It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, can occur,” the president added. “But one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional, is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.”
Obama provided only limited details about the operation. He did not specify how or where the hostages were killed, or which arm of the U.S. government was responsible.
A CIA spokesman declined to comment.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials, both of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they believe Weinstein, Lo Porto and Farouq were killed during a Jan. 15 drone strike in the Shawal Valley in North Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s tribal belt.
A statement released earlier this month by al-Qaeda’s media arm also reported that Farouq had been killed on Jan. 15 in the Shawal Valley, but it did not identify the little-known figure as an American or make any mention of the hostages.
The CIA has been conducting drone strikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan for more than a decade under a covert program first authorized by President George W. Bush and substantially expanded by Obama. The strikes have caused widespread public anger in Pakistan for inflicting civilian casualties but have been tolerated by the Pakistani government as part of an unspoken arrangement with the U.S. government.
Although Obama did not mention it in his remarks, another American was killed in a separate counterterrorism operation in January, the White House acknowledged in a statement Thursday.
Adam Gadahn, 36, a California native who converted to Islam and joined al-Qaeda more than a decade ago, was killed in a CIA drone attack in Pakistan within a week of the strike that killed the hostages, U.S. officials said.
Gadahn, who called himself “Azzam the American” and helped run al-Qaeda’s propaganda department, was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2006 on charges of treason.
As with the strike that killed Farouq and the hostages, U.S. officials said they were targeting a suspected al-Qaeda compound and did not realize that an American citizen was there.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama had not personally approved the operations but that U.S. counterterrorism officials had the authority to conduct them.
Earnest described Gadahn and Farouq as al-Qaeda leaders but said the U.S. government had not classified either man as a “high-value target,” meaning they were not considered an imminent threat and otherwise would not have been singled out for a lethal attack.
Al-Qaeda had listed Farouq as a leader of its branch in the Indian subcontinent. U.S. officials said he was born in the United States and moved to Pakistan as a child.
It is not the first time that the U.S. government has killed Americans in drone strikes overseas. In 2011, a CIA drone in Yemen targeted and blew up Anwar al-Awlaki, a New Mexico-born cleric who was a key figure in al-Qaeda’s franchise on the Arabian Peninsula.
Four other Americans, including Awlaki’s teenage son, have died in drone attacks. In each of those cases, however, U.S. officials said they were unaware of the Americans’ presence beforehand and described them as incidental casualties.
In December, a failed rescue attempt carried out by U.S. Special Operations forces inadvertently led to the death of Luke Somers, an American held hostage in Yemen.
Thursday’s disclosure of the accidental deaths was sure to bring increased pressure on Obama to curtail or scale back drone strikes, a signature tactic of his presidency.
The bungled operation will also force the White House to confront lingering questions about its policies for responding to the kidnapping of Americans by extremist groups in the Middle East and South Asia.
“I’m saddened, disappointed and outraged that our government was not able to bring Warren home,” said Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), Weinstein’s representative in Congress. “Today’s news is a personal tragedy for Warren’s family but also a sobering national security and government failure.”
Although Obama has insisted that the CIA and U.S. military take every precaution to avoid civilian casualties, drone strikes have resulted in numerous deaths of Pakistani, Afghan and Yemeni civilians.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the panel had already been secretly reviewing the January strike that killed Weinstein, Lo Porto and Farouq but would now “review that operation in greater detail.”
Feinstein added that more information should be made public about U.S. counterterrorism strikes, including an annual report on the number of combatants and civilians who are killed.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the January attacks in Pakistan raised doubts about the reliability of the intelligence used to justify drone strikes.
In both operations, he said, “the U.S. quite literally didn’t know who it was killing. These and other recent strikes in which civilians were killed make clear that there is a significant gap between the relatively stringent standards the government says it’s using and the standards that are actually being used.”
U.S. officials confirmed that the strike that killed the hostages was a “signature strike” — a category in which the CIA has authority to attack based on suspicious patterns of activity even when it cannot identify the individuals being targeted.
The sequence suggests the hostages had been held at the compound over a long period. Current and former U.S. officials said that analysts watching drone footage can typically detect the movement of hostages by al-Qaeda captors.
It’s not clear how CIA drones, presumably equipped with infrared sensors, would have failed to recognize the presence of two additional people at the compound before it was hit. But officials said al-Qaeda has adapted to the drone campaign by taking extensive measures to obscure its facilities from drone cameras.
The number of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan has gradually declined since reaching a peak in 2010, when there was, on average, one attack every three days. This year, there have been seven reported drone strikes in Pakistan, but only two since January.
Although Obama said such counterterrorism operations were under review, other U.S. officials said the CIA drone program has not been suspended.
Tim Craig in Mingora, Pakistan, Aamir Iqbal in Peshawar, Pakistan, and Julie Tate, Karen DeYoung, Dan LaMothe and Dan Morse in Washington contributed to this report.

Connecticut ranks high in number of school threats

Three weeks after Connecticut was ranked as the state with the 10th most threats to schools between August and December 2014, Hamden High School evacuated its corridors Friday morning in response to a bomb threat.
Hamden Police Department arrested 18-year-old Dyshawn Silva, who called the police Friday morning to say there was a bomb in the school. The Hamden police did not locate any bombs in the school, and classes resumed Friday afternoon, the HPD reported on their Twitter account on Friday. Silva has been charged with first-degree threatening, second-degree breach of peace and falsely reporting an incident.
Ken Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, directed a study on the number of threats to schools across the country, calling the national rise of violent school threats an “epidemic.” His report was released on Feb. 9.
“School threats are a fast growing problem,” he said in a press release. “They send fear and panic through a community.”
His reports said school threats have increased by 158 percent since the same survey was conducted in 2013.
He added in an email to the News that the quick spread of communication via social media is presenting school administrators with added challenges in dealing with school threats. Social media can create widespread anxiety that puts intense pressure on a school’s administration to manage not only the threat but also the communication with students, staff and parents.
Thirty-seven percent of the threats Trump studied were sent electronically, and 28 percent of those communications were sent using social media.
According to Trump’s report, high schools received 70 percent of threats, middle schools received 18 percent and elementary schools received 10 percent. Yet, despite the smaller percentage of elementary schools that receive threats nationwide, the discussion of school threats in the state of Connecticut is focused around the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
On Feb. 12 — two years and two months after 26 people were killed by a gunman at the elementary school — a task force released a report analyzing the shooting and offering a list of recommendations to legislators.
“The initial, and entirely natural, reaction to a tragedy like the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School is to consider steps that would make it virtually impossible for such a violent event to occur at a school ever again,” the report reads.
Dora Schriro, the commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, told the Connecticut Post that the state is ready to invest in gathering more data on school threats.
As of March 2015, over $43 million of state funding has been allocated to ensuring improved school safety since the events of December 2012. Gov. Dannel Malloy has expanded the School Security Grant Program. Since November 2013, funding has increased to provide reimbursement for school districts purchasing security infrastructure including surveillance cameras, penetration resistant vestibules, ballistic glass, panic alarms and computer-controlled electronic locks.
“It is unfortunate we have to prepare for these situations, but a well-crafted plan is essential if we are to minimize risks to the lives and safety of students, teachers and school staff during times of crisis,” Malloy said in a December 2014 press release.

Former Blackwater guards to be sentenced for 2007 shooting of Iraqi civilians

WASHINGTON –  Four former Blackwater security guards face decades in prison when they are sentenced Monday for their roles in a 2007 shooting of Iraqi civilians.

Three of the guards -- Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty and Paul Slough -- face mandatory, decades-long sentences because of firearm convictions. A fourth, Nicholas Slatten, faces a life sentence after being found guilty of first-degree murder.

The men were charged in the deaths of 14 Iraqis at Nisoor Square, a crowded traffic circle in downtown Baghdad. The killings caused an international uproar, and the men were convicted in October after a legal fight that spanned years.

Prosecutors have described the shooting as an unprovoked ambush of civilians, though defense lawyers countered that the men were targeted with gunfire from insurgents and Iraqi police, and shot back in self-defense.

The lawyers are expected to argue for mercy Monday by saying that decades-long sentences would be unconstitutionally harsh punishments for men who operated in a stressful, war-torn environment, and who have proud military careers and close family ties.

The sentencing hearing arrives with much at stake for the men, given the heavy punishments the government is seeking. The firearms convictions alone carry mandatory minimum sentences of 30 years in prison. But the government is seeking sentences far beyond that, partly because they say the men have never shown remorse or accepted responsibility. The murder conviction against Slatten carries a life sentence.

Regardless of the sentences, the hearing certainly won't bring an end to the legal wrangling, which began even before the guards were first charged in 2008. A judge later dismissed the case before trial, but a federal appeals court revived it and the guards were indicted again in October 2013.

Even before the trial began, defense lawyers had identified multiple issues as likely forming the basis of an appeal, including whether there was proper legal jurisdiction to charge them in the first place.

The statute under which they were charged, the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, covers the overseas crimes of Defense Department civilian employees, military contractors and others who are supporting the American war mission. But defense lawyers note that the Blackwater defendants worked as State Department contractors and were in Iraq to provide diplomatic, not military, services.

The legal fighting continued in the days leading up to sentencing, too, with defense lawyers seeking Friday to postpone the hearing after receiving new information -- a victim impact statement from a trial witness -- that they said was favorable to the defense.  But a judge denied the request, saying there was no need to delay the sentencing.


‘Welcome To The Future’ – American business magnates, investors and Billionaires don’t let their age affect any of their decision making or business solutions. Instead, they rely on a lesser known “secret” to aid them where they are now today. The secret? A brain pill. Other business moguls admitted to using this product to help keep their minds intact. We’re not saying you can be rich like these billionaires instantly, but it will enhance your memory, critical thinking, analyzing/interpreting ability, and creation of new ideas, which will lead you to the right path of success. It’s called Neuroflexyn™(medical name: E-Huperzine).
There’s already been previous controversy around the memory-enhancing pill which was the inspiration for the movie Limitless. Heavily praised by Scientists as ‘the missing link in human evolution’ in their report as ‘Boosting the Brains Potential’, when released, the use of Neuroflexyn™ became widespread amongst young professionals.
Neuroflexyn™ soon became known as the ‘most powerful self-development trick on earth’. Not long after, everyone from quiz show contestants to university students were taking the pill to get better grades, triple their salary and achieve peak performance in little time. Neuroflexyn™, which has no recorded side effects in any trials, was soon the target of several major pharmaceutical companies who claimed it gave people an unfair advantage over anyone who was unaware of its existence. The pill was eventually banned on shows like Jeopardy! and at top universities such as Cambridge before production of the limitless pills were halted.

Meet the most fascinating part of the F-35: The $400,000 helmet

A fighter pilot helmet with 360 degrees of sky(2:34)
The F-35 fighter jet, developed by Lockheed Martin, has a fascinating accessory. The pilot’s $400,000 helmet enables him or her to see through the jet’s skin, using a number of specially positioned cameras. (Zoeann Murphy/The Washington Post)
The F-35 Lightning II is one of the most complicated weapons systems ever developed, a sleek and stealthy fighter jet years in the making that is often called a flying computer because of its more than 8 million lines of code. The Joint Strike Fighter comes in three versions, including one that is designed to take off and land on an aircraft carrier and another that lands vertically, as if it were a helicopter.
But to truly understand the most expensive weapons program in the history of the Pentagon, forget the plane for a minute. Consider the helmet.
It’s designed to protect the pilot’s head, of course. But compared to everything the helmet does, protection becomes something of an afterthought.
The helmet sees through the plane. Or rather it helps the pilot see through the plane. When the pilots look down, they don’t see the floor of the plane; they see the world below them. If the pilots look back, they see the sky behind them. Embedded in the skin of the aircraft are six cameras, and when the pilots move their heads to look in a particular direction, they are actually seeing through the corresponding camera, which sends an image to projectors inside the helmet that beam an image of the outside world on the helmet’s visor.
Which makes the visor not really a visor. It’s a screen that posts information the way some cars are now posting fuel and gas mileage on the windshield in what’s called a heads-up display. But beyond speed and altitude, F-35 pilots would see things such as the location of enemy aircraft or weapons on the ground.
“When the helmet’s tuned correctly to the pilot’s eyes, you almost step into this other world where all this information comes in,” said Al Norman, an F-35 test pilot for Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor. “You can look through the jet’s eyeballs to see the world as the jet sees the world.”
Like the plane, the helmet is enormously expensive. The cost of each custom-made helmet is more than $400,000. And like the plane, which is years behind schedule and millions over its original budget, the helmet has encountered problems.
Earlier versions were jittery when the plane hit turbulence. There was a latency in the video, which caused pilots motion sickness. The night vision technology didn’t work as well as it should have. There was a “green glow” that obscured the pilots’ view. Things got so bad that in 2011 the Pentagon hired BAE Systems to build a back-up helmet in case the one in development couldn’t be rescued.
Two years later, it decided to go with the one being built by Rockwell Collins, saying that the competition helped get the program back on track and solve the problems. The program’s executive officer, Air Force Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, recently told reporters that the helmet, once a concern, was no longer “on my top 10 worry list.”
Pilots have recently started flying tests with the third iteration of the helmet, which has a new night vision camera and software improvements. But there have also been problems with the software that gathers information and then shares it among the F-35s flying together in formation, Bogdan said.
If one or two jets are flying together, they have been able to share information seamlessly, he said. But when there are four jets, communication problems emerge, which can “create an inaccurate picture for the pilot,” he said.
The issue won’t affect the jet’s delivery date or combat readiness, he said, and should be fixed shortly. But it will cost prime contractor Lockheed Martin a portion of its $300 million incentive fee.
Recent flights have shown that progress on the helmet is continuing as well, Norman said. Many of the previous issues have been resolved, but there are still issues with the green glow, and the way the pilots see the images projected on the visor.
“There’s still a little bit of tweaking we might want to do with how we stitch together the imagery,” he said. “Testing is an ongoing process. And if you find problems we try to fix them and look ahead.”

Navistar has developed the SOTV-B, a purpose-built tactical vehicle

If you’ve ever seen videos from an African or Asian warzone, you’ve probably noticed most of them have something in common: midsize pickups. Lots of them.
Usually Toyotas, but increasingly Chinese, the typically white, crew cab trucks are a favorite mode of transportation for both combatants and folks just going about their business in developing nations.
So, if you’re from out of town and looking to fit in, say on a secret recon mission with your special ops team, they’re a good way to go, but not exactly military spec. That’s why Navistar has developed the SOTV-B, a purpose-built tactical vehicle that was designed to look like your average pickup, but isn’t.
Based on the SOTV-A, which wears a more official uniform, the SOTV-B is fitted with the most generic bodywork imaginable. There’s nothing distinguishing about it at all, but if you’re still concerned the locals have gotten wise to your presence, the body panels are modular and can be easily swapped out for a quick change in appearance.
Regardless of what it’s wearing, the SOTV-B skin hides some serious equipment underneath. While it sports the profile of a regular truck, it rides on a chassis that features an armored safety cell, C4ISR electronics suite, fully-independent Dynatrac independent suspension, 4x4 system with transfer case, Allison 6-speed transmission, and a 4.5-liter 4-cylinder Cummins turbo diesel engine with 250 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque.
That’s heavy duty hauling power, and with a 3,000-pound payload capacity and gross vehicle weight rating of 12,500 pounds, the SOTV-B needs it. It can also ford two feet of water and climb up a 60 degree slope. And if that’s still not enough to get into or out of a sticky situation, the 78-inch wide truck fits inside a Chinook helicopter, so just call HQ for an airlift and you’re good to go.
Believe it or not, Navistar isn’t the only company competing in this segment. A couple of years ago, Battelle scored a contract to supply Special Operations Command with 200 modified Toyota trucks like the ones SOTV-B is trying to imitate. So you might want to think about putting one of those antenna balls on your team's truck to make it easier to pick out in the top secret motor pool.
Or, maybe not.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Operation Second Chance releases powerful video PSA

Here’s a look at a powerful new video PSA from the good folks at Operation Second Chance.  As stated in the PSA: “It’s the hottest fires that make the strongest steel.”

The stats on veteran suicides — 22 per day — are staggering.  Please show them your support.

Anarchists attack police with petrol bombs after Athens demo

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Rioting youths have clashed with Greek police in central Athens, damaging vehicles and property, following a demonstration by hundreds of anarchists seeking the abolition of a maximum security prison.
Dozens of rioters threw petrol bombs and stones at police, who responded with tear gas. Four people were detained in Tuesday's clashes, while no injuries were immediately reported.
At least two cars were burnt and one shop front was smashed.

Anarchists have stepped up protests since Greece's new radical left-led government was elected in January. They want authorities to close a maximum-security prison where many convicted militant anarchists are held — and have continued their protests despite government pledges to do so soon.
Opposition parties have criticized the government for failing to take a tough stance on the protests.

Court mulls revealing secret government plan to cut cell phone service

A federal appeals court is asking the Obama administration to explain why the government should be allowed to keep secret its plan to shutter mobile phone service during "critical emergencies."

The Department of Homeland Security came up with the plan—known as Standing Operating Procedure 303—after cellular phones were used to detonate explosives targeting a London public transportation system.

SOP 303 is a powerful tool in the digital age, and it spells out a "unified voluntary process for the orderly shut-down and restoration of wireless services during critical emergencies such as the threat of radio-activated improvised explosive devices."

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in February sided (PDF) with the government and ruled that the policy did not need to be disclosed under a Freedom of Information Act request from the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The court agreed with the government's citation of a FOIA exemption that precludes disclosure if doing so "could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any individual."

EPIC asked the court to revisit its ruling, arguing that the decision, "if left in place, would create an untethered 'national security' exemption'" in FOIA law. On Friday, the court ordered (PDF) the government to respond—a move that suggests the appellate court might rehear the case.

EPIC originally asked for the document in 2011 in the wake of the shut down of mobile phone service in the San Francisco Bay Area subway system during a protest. The government withheld the information, EPIC sued and won, but the government then appealed and prevailed.

In its petition for rehearing, EPIC argued that the appellate court's decision "created a catch-all provision that would allow federal agencies to routinely withhold records subject to disclosure where the agency merely asserts a speculative security risk."

Under the direction of the so-called National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, SOP 303 allows for the shutting down of wireless networks "within a localized area, such as a tunnel or bridge, and within an entire metropolitan area."

There have been no publicly disclosed instances when SOP 303 has been invoked, but the telecoms have agreed to shutter service when SOP 303 is invoked.

Local governments, however, have the power to shutter wireless service regardless of SOP 303.

The last known time mobile phone service was cut by a government agency was the San Francisco example from 2011. That's when the Bay Area Rapid Transit System took heat for disabling service to quell a protest in four downtown San Francisco stations. The three-hour outage was done after BART cut service without the assistance of the telcos.

In the aftermath, BART produced a new policy that said service could only be cut off when "there is strong evidence of imminent unlawful activity that threatens the safety of district passengers, employees, and other members of the public."



PANAMA CITY (AP) -- From Mexico to Brazil, leaders in Latin America have largely kept silent amid charges of human rights abuses in Venezuela and are unlikely to speak out against their neighbor at this week's Summit of the Americas.

Many Latin American heads of state gathering in Panama City are bound to oil-rich Venezuela by business dealings if not ideology, and are put off by recent U.S. sanctions against some of the country's officials. Others do not want to be seen as doing Washington's bidding, particularly as they face protests and plunging approval ratings at home.  "Venezuela has successfully played the history of U.S. imperialism and U.S. heavy-handedness cards, in a way that has made people want to back away from public criticism," said Geoff Thale, an analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America.

AP Photo

The Obama administration last month froze the U.S. assets and revoked visas for seven senior officials accused of human rights violations related to protests last year against President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government. The unrest is blamed for more than 40 deaths and triggered a crackdown on criticism that led to the jailing of several opposition leaders, including February's surprise arrest of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma.  Human Rights Watch and other advocacy groups issued a statement on Tuesday asking the countries attending the summit to call Maduro's administration to task for its alleged harassment of rights defenders.

But rather than highlight alleged abuses, the U.S. sanctions have drawn widespread condemnation in Latin America, denying Obama a hoped-for diplomatic victory lap at the summit for his decision to restore ties with Cold War nemesis Cuba. A reference to Venezuela as a threat to U.S. national security included in the sanctions declaration is standard bureaucratic language for the United States, but disturbing to a region with a long history of U.S. interference, from support for past military regimes to efforts to topple leftist governments.

Host Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela said that while regional leaders are concerned about the situation in Venezuela, both the government and the opposition, which has been calling for Maduro's resignation, bear responsibility. Safeguarding the results of congressional elections later this year is the best way to resolve the impasse, he said.

"As a democratic country, for sure, we defend human rights, we defend the right of the Venezuelan opposition to participate in democratic elections," he said in an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press. "But we also have to defend the right for President Maduro to finish his term."

Ricardo Zuniga, the U.S. National Security Council's senior director for Latin America, said Tuesday during a press briefing on Obama's upcoming visit that the situation in Venezuela is a concern of all governments around the region. But he played down the language labeling Venezuela a national security threat.

"We don't have any hostile designs on Venezuela," he said. "We are Venezuela's largest trading partner. We have an extensive and deep history between our countries, including a lot of family connections."  The U.S. action has been breathing new life into Maduro's government just as a plunge in oil prices looked set to deepen economic turmoil marked by widespread shortages and soaring 68 percent inflation. He has promised to deliver Obama a petition signed by 10 million Venezuelans calling on the U.S. to repeal the sanctions.  The pushback from the region seems to have caught the U.S. off guard.

"I was a bit, I will confess, disappointed that there weren't more who defended the fact that clearly this was not intended to hurt the Venezuelan people or the Venezuelan government even as a whole," Roberta Jacobson, the top State Department official for Latin America, said last week about the sanctions.  It was no surprise that leftist allies such as the governments of Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua would leap to defend Caracas. All have a history of vocal opposition to Washington. But even more moderate governments and traditional U.S. allies in the region have been reluctant to criticize Maduro.  Some governments are protective of deep economic ties to Venezuela, including Argentina and more than a dozen nations that have received subsidized oil under the Venezuelan-led Petrocaribe alliance.

Others worry about instability spilling over. In Colombia, President Juan Manuel Santos is trying to protect important trade with Venezuela, repair relations that nearly collapsed under his combative conservative predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, and retain Venezuelan support for complicated peace talks with leftist rebels.  Meanwhile the presidents of regional heavyweights, Mexico, Brazil and Chile are dealing with their own domestic crises brought on by slumping economies and government corruption charges, so are reluctant to antagonize left-wing constituents who still revere the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Mexico's Enrique Pena Nieto has been forced to slash spending and partially rein in much-touted energy reforms due to plummeting oil prices. He is also fighting scandals over alleged cronyism and the disappearance of 43 students who authorities say were detained by police, handed over to a drug gang and murdered last September.  Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's slumping approval ratings rival those of Maduro, with just 12 percent of citizens saying in a recent poll that they viewed her government's performance as "good" or "excellent." Driving voters away are a sputtering economy and a spreading corruption scandal at state oil company Petrobras. While her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was a regional powerbroker, Rousseff has not developed a clear foreign policy or a leadership role beyond Brazil.  Both leaders have been the target of protests calling for their resignation.  Rousseff and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet are former political prisoners who would seem natural candidates to speak out about human rights concerns. But Bachelet's popularity also has dropped over allegations her son used his influence to secure a bank loans - a corruption scandal that threatens her agenda to combat inequality in Chile.

With the exception of comments this week by Uruguay's foreign minister expressing concern over the jailing of opposition leaders and use of force against protesters, Latin America's most public criticism of Venezuela has come from those outside the halls of power.  In a letter released Monday, 19 former leaders from Latin America and Spain called on Maduro's government to release jailed activists and urged respect for "constitutional principles and international standards."  Latin diplomats like to say they can be more effective raising concerns privately with Venezuelan officials rather than airing dirty laundry in public. They point to mediation efforts by the South American regional bloc Unasur, which last year briefly brought the government and opposition to the negotiating table, and say they may exercise this leverage again should things spin out of control around legislative elections later this year.

Maduro has promised to deliver to Obama a petition signed by 10 million Venezuelans calling for the U.S. sanctions to be revoked, but Panama's president said regional leaders won't allow the tensions to dominate the conference.  "The summit isn't about the bilateral relationship between the United States and Venezuela," Varela said. "But if they (Obama and Maduro) have to meet, Panama is a good place to meet, Panama is a good place to talk, Panama is a good place to solve differences. That's the tradition of our country."  Associated Press writer Joshua Goodman reported this story in Panama City and Peter Orsi reported from Mexico City. AP writers Hannah Dreier in Caracas, Venezuela, and Jim Kuhnhenn in Washington contributed to this report.

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How the U.S. thinks Russians hacked the White House

How the U.S. thinks Russians hacked the White House
By Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz, CNN
Updated 7:06 PM ET, Tue April 7, 2015

Washington (CNN)Russian hackers behind the damaging cyber intrusion of the State Department in recent months used that perch to penetrate sensitive parts of the White House computer system, according to U.S. officials briefed on the investigation.

While the White House has said the breach only affected an unclassified system, that description belies the seriousness of the intrusion. The hackers had access to sensitive information such as real-time non-public details of the president's schedule. While such information is not classified, it is still highly sensitive and prized by foreign intelligence agencies, U.S. officials say.

The White House in October said it noticed suspicious activity in the unclassified network that serves the executive office of the president. The system has been shut down periodically to allow for security upgrades.  The FBI, Secret Service and U.S. intelligence agencies are all involved in investigating the breach, which they consider among the most sophisticated attacks ever launched against U.S. government systems. ​The intrusion was routed through computers around the world, as hackers often do to hide their tracks, but investigators found tell-tale codes and other markers that they believe point to hackers working for the Russian government.  A spokesman for the National Security Council declined to comment. Neither the U.S. State Department nor the Russian Embassy immediately responded to a request for comment.  Ben Rhodes, President Barack Obama's deputy national security adviser, said the White House's use of a separate system for classified information protected sensitive national security-related items from being obtained by hackers.

"We do not believe that our classified systems were compromised," Rhodes told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday.  "We're constantly updating our security measures on our unclassified system, but we're frankly told to act as if we need not put information that's sensitive on that system," he said. "In other words, if you're going to do something classified, you have to do it on one email system, one phone system. Frankly, you have to act as if information could be compromised if it's not on the classified system."  To get to the White House, the hackers first broke into the State Department, investigators believe.

The State Department computer system has been bedeviled by signs that despite efforts to lock them out, the Russian hackers have been able to reenter the system. One official says the Russian hackers have "owned" the State Department system for months and it is not clear the hackers have been fully eradicated from the system.  As in many hacks, investigators believe the White House intrusion began with a phishing email that was launched using a State Department email account that the hackers had taken over, according to the U.S. officials.  Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, in a speech at an FBI cyberconference in January, warned government officials and private businesses to teach employees what "spear phishing" looks like.  "So many times, the Chinese and others get access to our systems just by pretending to be someone else and then asking for access, and someone gives it to them," Clapper said.

The ferocity of the Russian intrusions in recent months caught U.S. officials by surprise, leading to a reassessment of the cybersecurity threat as the U.S. and Russia increasingly confront each other over issues ranging from the Russian aggression in Ukraine to the U.S. military operations in Syria.  The attacks on the State and White House systems is one reason why Clapper told a Senate hearing in February that the "Russian cyberthreat is more severe than we have previously assessed."  The revelations about the State Department hacks also come amid controversy over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server to conduct government business during her time in office. Critics say her private server likely was even less safe than the State system. The Russian breach is believed to have come after Clinton departed State.

But hackers have long made Clinton and her associates targets.

The website The Smoking Gun first reported in 2013 that a hacker known as Guccifer had broken into the AOL email of Sidney Blumenthal, a friend and advisor to the Clintons, and published emails Blumenthal sent to Hillary Clinton's private account. The emails included sensitive memos on foreign policy issues and were the first public revelation of the existence of Hillary Clinton's private email address​ now at the center of controversy: The address is no longer in use.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Trigger Reset: Don't Waste Your Time

Posted by William Starnes on Mar 30, 2015 8:30:00 AM

As a firearms instructor, I wonder about some of the things that are taught on the range; trigger reset is one of them.


While going through Firearms Instructor school and the related armorer’s class, I was introduced to trigger reset. (It’s amazing how many years I had been shooting without knowing this bit of information). For those who are not familiar, trigger reset refers to releasing the trigger just enough after a shot has been fired for the sear to re-engage with the hammer or striker. At this point, the shooter can press the trigger again for a follow-up shot. In the class, we were instructed to fire a shot and to hold the trigger all the way to the rear afterwards. We were then told to slowly release the trigger until such time as we heard the “click” and felt it in our trigger finger. When that happened, we knew that the sear had reset, and another shot could be fired by pulling the trigger to the rear again.

The theory was that if we learned this trick and practiced it, it would cut down on movement of the gun, since we didn’t have to release the trigger all of the way and then begin pulling it through its full length again. It might also allow quicker follow-up shots. Before I go further, I must clarify that my shooting practice is done for one reason - to better prepare me for an actual SHTF (Stuff Hits the Fan) situation where I may have to use my firearm defensively. Though I have shot competitively and enjoy it, that’s not my purpose.

What I think about trigger reset and why some instructors teach it is that it’s a nice bit of information, and it certainly conveys that they know something that many shooters do not. When I teach, I’m not interested in just showing how much I know. I want my students to survive, so trigger reset is not something that I waste my time teaching.

Let me explain… Deadly force situations force your body to dump adrenalin into your blood stream. The best analogy that I’ve read is that it is like having numerous shots of expresso delivered to your body instantly. It provides you with the energy and speed that you don’t normally have. Your body provides you with what is needed to instantly handle the deadly situation that you’re dealing with. But with all things, you pay a price for it. While there are a lot of negative consequences to this energy dump, I’m going to draw out just a few to illustrate my point.
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Most every person who survives a deadly encounter reports one or more of the following:

Time Distortion - Time slows down or speeds up. For many it’s described as a “slow motion” experience. They see the events happen to them as if they are happening very slowly.

Visual Distortion/Visual Exclusion - Your vision focuses almost entirely on the threat. As such, the threat appears larger and more menacing Some also refer to tunnel vision and report not being aware of what others were doing at the time or even if others were present.

Auditory Exclusion - Your hearing may shut down completely. Many people report not hearing their own firearm firing, or shots being fired at them - no matter how close they occur.

Fine Motor Skills Decay - As your body shuts down capillaries in your extremities and forces blood to your body’s core, your sense of touch may go away (or be greatly diminished). Often, people begin shaking violently and can only perform very basic tasks.

There are many more, but these four are the main reasons I use to argue against worrying about trigger reset. The average person isn’t likely to be aware of it in a deadly force encounter.

Need proof? Read the accounts of the Miami Shootout between FBI agents and two highly motivated and trained ex-soldiers. This is probably the most well-known and highly analyzed account of a deadly force encounter. You’ll be amazed to know that a former special forces soldier stood right over a fallen FBI agent and emptied a six-shot revolver at him without hitting him once. You’ll also read about the agents’ reactions during the encounter and how many shots they fired. All of the above comes through in full detail. It is a great example of why the accuracy rate in police-involved shootings is only about 25%? Yep, only one in four shots even hit the target, and that’s not even saying it was an effective hit - only that it made contact.

I recall reading one officer’s recounting of a different shooting in which he was involved. He emptied one full magazine at his opponent without stopping him. As he reloaded his handgun, he consciously thought about why none of his rounds stopped the bad guy. It occurred to him that he had to slow down and focus on the front sight. His next two rounds ended the encounter and the bad guys life. That’s why I focus on trigger pull and sight alignment above all else. If I can’t count on a skill being available to me because I can’t see, hear, or feel it…well…I’ve got more important skills to develop and refine.

Remember - learn all you can and…

Carry On!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Evolution and Downfall Of Our Police Departments

By Warren Pulley, CEO, RyPul Threat Assessments
Since the early 1700s, populations in the United States have had some form of “Night Watch”, “Town Watch” or Constable to help provide gaps in protection that the locally armed citizenry could not do. Early Americans did not depend on their police departments to protect them from each and every ill in the society of the day; they instead wanted their police officers to maintain the class systems that were in place with early settlers and help with the protection of private property when the citizenry could not.
The use of police-type organizations such as the Pinkerton's, the Mint Police, US Parks Police, and U.S. Marshall's helped establish law and order in the early days, and provided the established respect for law enforcement officers and the dangers they faced in our untamed early country and westward settlements.
Fast forward to the 21st Century, and take a long and hard look at any police or sheriff’s department in this country and you will find it under siege. And when I say under siege, I mean just that.  They have constant pressure applied to them by race-baiting attorneys and news organizations that fail to do their due diligence and seek the truth of any given police situation.  Internal Affairs departments – that in their haste to calm what is seen as racial tension – go after law abiding, policy minding police officers with a vengeance for the sake of perceived fairness, along with the Monday morning quarterbacking public that gobbles up the downfall of one of its protectors with a pizza and a soda.
I spent the better part of 12 years patrolling the streets of Los Angeles in the divisions of Rampart and Southeast, and constantly walked the line of being a perceived racist cop.  Although I was a black police officer, I watched untold numbers of officers adopt the drive and wave approach to police work due to the harsh, unbalanced and out of whack internal investigations that could and did derail their careers – often times based on a mis-perception of a police officer’s authority and the department’s lack of ability and unwillingness to explain such to the general public.
The downfall of our police departments will be swift and permanent, and will leave a whole class of people defenseless and unprotected if, as Americans, we don’t collectively take steps to defend our officers when they are in the right.  They have the absolute authority to conduct the kind of policing they are sworn to do, and call out any officer that is failing to protect and serve citizens with the zeal that they would protect their own families with.
Let’s get something straight, not every black person shot by a white officer is a victim.  There are black males that carry guns illegally on our streets, and they do fight with police officers when confronted with arrest – and then look to illicit the sympathy of the general public by crying foul when injured or killed by the police for their aggressive and illegal actions.  This exact chain of events occurs in the white community also, but the visceral, negative reaction to the same events in different neighborhoods is the main cause of the downfall of our police departments.
Mark my words, if we as a society continue to scapegoat our police, prop up our most vile criminals and violators, and scatter reasonable discussion and discourse to the wind, then we may wake up one morning to find the disbanding of police departments nationwide and the return to self-preservation, self-protection and self-governance. How many of you are really ready for that?
Warren Pulley is a military veteran, former law enforcement officer, and current CEO of RyPul Threat Assessments (a global threat assessment company).