Iranian Hackers Attack State Dept. via Social Media Accounts

WASHINGTON — Four months after a historic accord with Tehran to limit its atomic ambitions, American officials and private security groups say they see a surge in sophisticated computer espionage by Iran, culminating in a series of cyberattacks against State Department officials over the past month.

The surge has led American officials to a stark conclusion: For Iran, cyberespionage — and the power it gives the Iranians to jab at the United States and its neighbors without provoking a military response — is becoming a tool to obtain the influence that many in Iran hoped the nuclear program would give the country.

Over the past month, Iranian hackers identified individual State Department officials who focus on Iran and the Middle East, and broke into their email and social media accounts, according to diplomatic and law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation. The State Department became aware of the compromises only after Facebook told the victims that state-sponsored hackers had compromised their accounts.

“It was very carefully designed and showed the degree to which they understood which of our staff was working on Iran issues now that the nuclear deal is done,” said one senior American official who oversees much of that operation and who requested anonymity to discuss a continuing investigation. “It was subtle.”

Iran’s cyberskills are not yet equal to those of Russia or China. But the attack against the State Department by using the social media accounts of young government employees to gain access to their friends across the administration — a focus that had not been seen before — showed an ingenuity beyond the Russian brute-force attack that infiltrated the State Department’s unclassified email system a year ago.

Secretary of State John Kerry, second from left, with members of the American delegation in Vienna during nuclear talks with Iran in July. Over the past month, Iranian hackers identified individual State Department officials who focus on Iran and the Middle East and broke into their email and social media accounts.

In the aftermath of the nuclear accord, American intelligence officials have warned senior officials that they expected Iran to ramp up its use of cyberespionage.

The director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., has told Congress in closed sessions that he believes state-sponsored Iranian hackers are not attempting big attacks that could threaten their ability to reap the financial rewards of complying with the nuclear accord, according to two officials familiar with those briefings. But he said they are stepping up traditional cyberespionage, and getting better at it.

“The Iranians have not been as destructive as they could be, but they are getting far more aggressive in cyberespionage, which they know is less likely to prompt a response from the United States,” said James Lewis, who runs the cyberprogram at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “They seem very attuned to every stage of implementing the nuclear agreement.”

Congress is responding. In the defense bill lawmakers passed this month, United States Cyber Command, which runs the military’s offensive and defensive Internet activities, is instructed to conduct computer war games next year. The games are intended to replicate the threats from China, Iran, North Korea and Russia.

Iranian cyberattacks are hardly new: They arose after the American cyberattacks on Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz, a covert operation that destroyed upward of a thousand Iranian centrifuges and drove home to the Iranian leadership the destructive power of computer weapons. The American attacks began toward the end of the Bush administration.

Since then, American government officials and private security researchers say Iranian hackers have been behind a series of powerful attacks against American banks that took their websites offline, as well as a destructive attack at Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil producer, that replaced data on employee machines with an image of a burning American flag.

American government officials also blame Iran for a similarly destructive attack at RasGas, the Qatari natural gas giant, and for an attack at the Sands Casino in Las Vegas, where a large number of computers were destroyed.

(The casino, while a seemingly odd target, is controlled by Sheldon Adelson, a major funder of Republican candidates, and the attack followed Mr. Adelson’s suggestion that the United States detonate a nuclear weapon in the Iranian desert to force the country to give up its nuclear technology.)

But starting last year, private security researchers say, Iranian hackers began using cyberattacks for espionage, rather than for destruction and disruption.

Beginning in May 2014, researchers found evidence that Iranian hackers were targeting Iranian dissidents, and later policy makers, senior military personnel and defense contractors in the United States, England and Israel, according to a report by iSight Partners, a computer intelligence firm in Dallas.

By December, the list of victims had expanded to include intelligence targets in other countries including Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands and Georgia.

For the most part, researchers said, the attacks were basic “spear phishing” attempts, in which attackers tried to lure their victims into clicking on a malicious link, in this case by impersonating members of the news media. Iranian hackers were successful in more than a quarter of their attempts.

The number of spear phishing attacks reached a climax in May — just ahead of the nuclear talks in Vienna in July — reaching more than 1,500 attempts, according to researchers at Check Point, the Israeli cybersecurity company.

Some researchers witnessed an even more troubling trend: In the months leading up to the talks, Iran’s hackers began probing critical infrastructure networks in what appeared to be reconnaissance for cyberattacks meant to cause physical damage, said John Hultquist, the director of cyberespionage analysis at iSight Partners.

And then something curious happened: In June and July, as American and Iranian negotiators gathered in Vienna to cut a deal on Iran’s nuclear program, attacks against targets in the United States stopped. Not a single phishing attempt was logged by Check Point. And the critical infrastructure probes went silent as well, according to iSight Partners, and have not resumed to this day.

Instead, iSight’s researchers saw Iran’s hackers switch focus. Between June and July, the attackers largely ceased their assault on targets in the United States and began targeting victims in Israel as well as members of the Islamic State, known as ISIL or ISIS, in July as Islamic State militants began expanding their territory across Iraq.

And then, in August, just two weeks after the nuclear accord was reached, the trickle of cyberattacks against the group’s usual targets resumed. Check Point’s researchers were able to hack the attackers’ target list, which included 1,600 individuals, from scholars, scientists, chief executives and ministry officials to education institutes, journalists and human rights activists across the globe.

The victims may have never learned of the compromises were it not for a decision by Facebook last month to use a new alert system to notify users when Facebook’s security team believed state-sponsored hackers had hijacked their accounts. Just weeks into the new alert system, State Department officials began to see a troubling new message pop up on their Facebook accounts:

“We believe your Facebook account and your other online accounts may be the target of attacks by state-sponsored actors,” the message read.

Some details of the espionage on State Department employees were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

State Department officials say none of this will affect the coming turning points in the nuclear deal. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported last week that Iran is already beginning to dismantle some of its centrifuges — at the same site the United States and Israel attacked with cyberweapons. When that and other dismantlement is completed, the United States will unfreeze billions of dollars in Iranian assets, and it is already reopening a dialogue with Iran on the future of Syria.

Source: The New York Times

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The Prince is a Pauper: Britain’s Prince Charles Claims Climate Change is Root Cause of Syrian War

Prince Charles has pointed to the world’s failure to tackle climate change as a root cause of the civil war in Syria, terrorism and the consequent refugee crisis engulfing Europe.

The heir to the British throne is due to give a keynote speech at the opening of a global climate summit in Paris next week where 118 leaders will gather to try to nail down a deal to limit rising greenhouse gas emissions.

The prince said in an interview with Sky News, to be aired on Monday and recorded before the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, that such symptoms were a “classic case of not dealing with the problem”.

“Some of us were saying 20 something years ago that if we didn’t tackle these issues, you would see ever greater conflict over scarce resources and ever greater difficulties over drought, and the accumulating effect of climate change which means that people have to move,” he said.

“And in fact there’s very good evidence indeed that one of the major reasons for this horror in Syria, funnily enough, was a drought that lasted for about five or six years, which meant that huge numbers of people in the end had to leave the land but increasingly they came into the cities.”

Britain’s royal family is expected to stay out of politics, and the 67-year-old prince has faced accusations of meddling in the past when he has spoken out about climate change and sustainability.

Asked in the interview, which Sky said was filmed three weeks ago, whether there was direct link between climate change, conflict and terrorism, Charles said: “Absolutely.”

“We never deal with the underlying root cause which regrettably is what we’re doing to our natural environment,” he said, noting that far greater problems lay ahead if climate change was not addressed immediately.

Even in a time of austerity, the world could not afford not to act, he said.

“I mean the difficulties in 2008 with the financial crash – that was a banking crisis. But we’re now facing a real possibility of nature’s bank going bust,” he said.

Source: Reuters

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Obama actions shield most illegals from deportation even as courts stall amnesty

Publisher’s warning: Liberal bias ahead. Commentary supplied as needed. –PBN

President Obama’s marquee deportation amnesty has been stalled by the courts, but the rest of his executive actions on immigration, announced exactly a year ago, are moving forward — including his move protecting more than 80 percent of illegal immigrants from any danger of deportation.

The amnesty, dubbed Deferred Action for Parental Accountability was supposed to grant full tentative legal status — including work permits, Social Security numbers and driver’s licenses — to more than 4 million illegal immigrants. It has been halted by a federal appeals court, and its fate will soon rest with the Supreme Court.

 But the rest of the dozen actions Mr. Obama announced on Nov. 20, 2014, are still advancing, including a far-reaching set of priorities that effectively orders agents not to bother deporting nearly all illegal immigrants.

Only 500,000? Child’s play.

“There are 7 or 8 or 9 million people who are now safe under the current policy. That is a victory to celebrate while we wait for the Supreme Court,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, an Illinois Democrat who was among the chief cheerleaders pushing Mr. Obama to go around Congress and take unilateral steps last year.

The actions — often mislabeled by the press as executive orders (Funny how the author calls them executive actions at the beginning of the article. There is a difference between an action and an order, but they both essentially boil down to using the bully pulpit. –PBN) — also included changes to the legal immigration system, such as making it easier for spouses of guest workers to also find jobs; allowing foreigners who study science and technology at U.S. universities to remain and work in the country longer; pushing legal immigrants to apply for citizenship; and waiving the penalty on illegal immigrant spouses or children of legal permanent residents so they no longer have to go to their home countries to await legal status.

On enforcement, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, called for a more coordinated approach to border security (Read: Ignoring “non-violent illegal immigrants.” –PBN), and that paid off with a major drop in arrests of illegal immigrants in the Southwest. Apprehensions were at their lowest levels since the 1970s.


At Mr. Obama’s direction, Mr. Johnson announced changes that would let most rank-and-file illegal immigrants off the hook and instead focus deportation efforts on serious criminals (Because breaking into the country isn’t a serious crime. –PBN), gang members and other security threats, and only the most recent of illegal border crossers.

“Immigration and Customs Enforcement is doing what I told them to do — to reprioritize and focus on convicted criminals,” Mr. Johnson said this month as he took stock of the changes. “This is the general direction that the president and I want to go when it comes to how we enforce immigration law — focusing on threats to public safety and border security for the American public.”

The changes are already having a major effect. Deportations, which peaked at nearly 410,000 in fiscal year 2012, dropped to about 230,000 in fiscal year 2015, which ended Sept. 30. But Mr. Johnson said more of those being deported are the serious criminals and safety threats he wants his agents to worry about.

Indeed, if agents adhere strictly to his priorities, some 9.6 million of the estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the country have no real danger of being deported, according to an estimate this year by the Migration Policy Institute.

“The enforcement priorities announced last year, if strictly enforced, do protect the vast majority of unauthorized immigrants from being deported, because most immigrants have been here a long time and haven’t committed a serious crime,” said Marc Rosenblum, deputy director of the institute’s U.S. immigration policy program.

The number could go even higher, depending on how agents follow some of Mr. Johnson’s other instructions. The secretary had said even some illegal immigrants with serious criminal offenses on their records should be allowed to stay if they had mitigating factors, such as deep family or community ties (it’s okay, you can commit serious crimes all you want if you have a family. But only if you’re an illegal. –PBN).

Immigrant rights activists said they are still waiting for those special circumstances to be applied more broadly.

Mr. Johnson also has been pushing, with some success, to try to get sanctuary cities to buy into limited cooperation with his deportation agents (Go back and read that again. He’s asking sanctuary cities to ignore HIS deportation agents. –PBN). He scrapped the Secure Communities program that trolled state and local prisons and jails for illegal immigrants and replaced it with the Priorities Enforcement Program, which targets only serious criminals.

“It is tremendously harder now to deport even criminals, much less garden-variety illegal aliens. They have truly dismembered the immigration enforcement system, from the Border Patrol to the immigration courts,” said Jessica Vaughan, policy studies director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for stricter immigration controls.

But the jewel of the executive actions (There’s that phrase again. –PBN) was the deportation amnesty, which was delayed first by a federal district court in Texas and last week by an appeals court.

All sides in the debate agree that was a huge blow to Mr. Obama.

“Without being able to give away a benefit, like a work permit, these changes are less permanent, and easier to undo in some ways, than would have been the case had the president been able to implement DAPA,” Ms. Vaughan said.

Mr. Obama said he took the series of steps in response to inaction from Congress, where his push for a broad bill granting illegal immigrants a path to citizenship stalled in 2013 (Ah yes, blocking a dangerous bill is now a qualification for “inaction.” –PBN). Frustrated by Republicans, Mr. Obama waited until after the 2014 elections, then announced his go-it-alone approach.

Many of the steps are works in progress.

Homeland Security has issued proposals to carry out the leniency program for illegal immigrant spouses and children of green-card holders and to allow foreign students in science and technology to stay longer. Both of those still need to be finalized, as does a proposal expanding hardship waivers.

Other moves were easier to accomplish: Homeland Security now accepts credit card payments for citizenship fees.

Source: The Washington Times

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Congressman now threatens to subpoena commerce secretary over global warming report

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) opened another front in his war with federal climate researchers on Wednesday, saying a groundbreaking global warming study was “rushed to publication” over the objections of numerous scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In a second letter in less than a week to Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Smith urged her to pressure NOAA to comply with his subpoena for internal communications. Smith says whistleblowers have come forward with new information on the climate study’s path to publication in June. The study refuted claims that global warming had “paused” or slowed over the past decade, undercutting a popular argument used by those who refute the scientific consensus that man-made pollution is behind global warming.

The research, considered a bombshell in the climate change debate, set off alarms among skeptics. Smith, a prominent congressional skeptic, claimed that scientists manipulated data to advance President Obama’s agenda and timed the study’s release to coincide with the administration’s new limits on emissions from coal plants.

He is seeking NOAA’s internal communications and e-mails among its researchers, and in October subpoenaed Administrator Kathryn Sullivan for the documents. But she has refused to turn them over, saying that deliberative communications between scientists should be protected.

Smith told Pritzker that the whistleblowers’ allegations make it more crucial that he be provided with the scientists’ internal e-mails and communications. If NOAA does not produce the e-mails he is seeking by Friday, the chairman said, “I will be forced to consider use of compulsory process,” a threat to subpoena the commerce secretary herself.

Whistleblowers have told the committee, according to Smith’s letter, that Thomas Karl — the director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information, which led the study — “rushed” to publish the climate study “before all appropriate reviews of the underlying science and new methodologies” used in the climate data sets were conducted.

“NOAA employees raised concerns about the timing and integrity of the process but were ignored,” he wrote.

NOAA Communications Director Ciaran Clayton, one of the officials whose communications the committee has subpoenaed, said in an e-mail:

“The notion that this paper was rushed to publication is false. In December 2014, the co-authors of the study submitted their findings to Science — a leading scientific journal.  Following a rigorous peer review process, which included two rounds of revisions to ensure the credibility of the data and methodologies used, Science informed the authors that the paper would be published in June.

“The notion that NOAA is ‘hiding something’ is also false. We have been transparent and cooperative with the House Science Committee to help them better understand the research and underlying methodologies. … We stand behind our scientists who conduct their work in an objective manner.”

An aide to the Science Committee told The Post that the committee “has been in continual contact with whistleblowers for some time and received new information as recently as yesterday.”

Related Article: The Ann “G.W.” Curry Global Warming Dog and Pony Show

Source: The Washington Post


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The Democrat’s National Voter Fraud Strategy


The time to vote again will be here sooner than we think, and We the People must take our country back from the progressives and socialist who willfully and illegally stole it. so I thought we should republish this May 2012 piece. Voter fraud is real, it’s roots are deep and have worked into many concealed places. Cloward & Piven are alive and well and thoroughly deceptively controlling as much as they can through the Saul Alinsky tactics they hold dear.  Please be sure to visit our youtube channel

This report reveals the Left’s vote fraud strategy for the 2012 elections. Like a KGB operation, it is thorough, multi-faceted and redundant. It has overt and covert, illegal and legal elements, the latter of which are designed, at least in part, to facilitate illegal activities later. It is a deliberate, premeditated, comprehensive plan to win the 2012 presidential election at all costs, and is in keeping with the organizational methods, associations and ethics of the Community-Organizer-in-Chief, Barack Obama.

The Left seeks fundamental structural change to our entire form of government. In keeping with their amoral, means-justifies-ends philosophy, they will register any voters, dead or alive, legal or illegal, who will then vote as many times as possible, in order to establish a “permanent progressive majority.” As two New York Democrats recently caught in a vote fraud scandal told police, “voter fraud is an accepted way of winning elections…”

Low income individuals are the perfect dupes for this strategy. An expanding welfare state makes them increasingly dependent on government benefits, a development that guarantees their vote for liberal-left candidates. At the same time, people with marginal attachment to society may be less inclined to report illegal activity at the polls—or actually participate. The “victim” narrative promoted in popular culture and press may even encourage such behavior. Meanwhile, a growing tax burden and public debt suck private enterprise dry—pushing ever more people onto the dole.
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Life at the New and Improved Mizzou Campus: White Students Asked to Leave “Black-Only Healing Space”

It’s been quite a week at the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, Missouri.
From hunger strikes by rich kids, to poop swastikas, to black football players boycotting games, to the resignation of of the president and chancellor, to beating preachers in a safe speech zone…

To this…
White students at the University of Missouri were told to leave the “black only healing space” and meet in a different room.
black space mizzou
The segregated black only healing space at Mizzou

The Daily Caller reported:

In an ironic development, to say the least, protesters at the University of Missouri (MU) segregated themselves by race Wednesday night, having white students leave a gathering in order to create a “black-only healing space.”

Supporters of the group Concerned Students 1950, which has spearheaded the protest movement at MU, assembled at the school’s student center Wednesday night for a meeting after a planned protest march was canceled due to bad weather. And then, according to activist Steve Schmidt, whites were asked to leave:

The seven groups amounted to six breakout groups for black (or at least non-white) students and one for the remaining white students. The deliberately segregated arrangement was confirmed by local reporter Jared Koller, who was there on behalf of local KOMU-TV news:

Source: The Gateway Pundit

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Thank you for your service Veterans, God bless you this and everyday!

by Ian Thompson, USMC

“I wish that you were here”
My wife whispers on the phone
Too many times
She has realized
That freedom is not free

“No go away, Daddy”
My little girl says
She’s barely two
But already knows
That freedom is not free

I have a little boy
Born three months ago
When I return
He’ll be near one
Since freedom is not free

My parents often worry
When I am away
They mourn for me
And what I miss
Since freedom is not free

There are children in this world
Rich and poor alike
Whose parents do
Not understand
That freedom is not free

There are men who face evil
For the sake of all
By their stand
We realize
That freedom is not free

There is a God Almighty
Nailed upon a cross
He paid the price
That we might live
For freedom is not free

Many days I am away
From those I love most
Yet I thank God
And carry on
For freedom is not free.

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Donald Trumps: Hillary Running for POTUS ‘Because she wants to stay out of jail’

emailOn Monday at a Springfield, Illinois rally, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump said that Hillary Clinton in running for president to avoid going to jail.

“People are in jail right now for doing five percent of what she did and the Democrats are not gonna to prosecute her, and it’s frankly a disgrace,” Trump said. “And you know it and so do I and so do these people right here—they know it.”

Regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State and mishandling of classified information, Trump said that “and you better remember that there’s a six-years statute of limitations on that crime.”

“Hillary is running for a lot of reasons—one of ‘em is because she wants to stay out of jail.”

Trump added that, “if we had honest government, Hillary wouldn’t be allowed to run.”

Trump mentioned that General David Patreaus got two years probation for sharing classified information with his mistress “and he was somebody that everybody liked, everybody respected.”

“What [Hillary Clinton] did is so much worse,” Trump said. “If I win, we’re going to look into that crime very, very seriously folks.”

Trump said that Clinton’s email scandal is a “real problem” and mentioned that Hillary is probably “watching right now” and saying to herself, “man, I better win.”

Trump later asked, “can you imagine Hillary being president?”

He observed that Clinton recently “got a little burst of energy because she figures she is not going to indicted” and got through the Benghazi hearings. Trump said he blamed House Republicans for the “ridiculous” Benghazi hearings that may have arguably benefited Clinton.

But Trump said that Hillary’s “energy is not a natural energy” and is “not going to last long.”

“There’s always problems with Hillary,” Trump said. “It’s always a problem.”

Source: Breitbart

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China Tests Anti-Satellite Missile

China recently conducted a flight test of a new missile capable of knocking out U.S. satellites as part of Beijing’s growing space warfare arsenal.

The test of a Dong Neng-3 exoatmospheric vehicle was carried out Oct. 30 from China’s Korla Missile Test Complex in western China, said two defense officials familiar with reports of the test.

A Chinese press report also provided details of what was said to be a missile defense interceptor flight test carried out Nov. 1. Photos of the missile’s contrails were posted online.

DN-3 test contrails

However, the defense officials said the DN-3 is primarily a direct-ascent missile designed to ram into satellites and destroy them, even if intelligence assessments hold that the weapon has some missile defense capabilities.

The DN-3 flight test was the eighth time China carried out an anti-satellite missile test. An earlier test occurred in July 2014, which China also asserted was a missile defense test.

State Department and Pentagon officials declined to comment on the anti-satellite test.

A Chinese Embassy spokesman said: “I don’t have detailed information about the missile test you mentioned.”

“China advocates for the peaceful use of outer space, and opposes space weaponization or arms race in space,” the spokesman said in an email.

A State official referred to a speech from February by Frank Rose, assistant secretary of State for arms control, verification and compliance, who commented on the 2014 test.

“Despite China’s claims that this was not an ASAT [anti-satellite] test; let me assure you the United States has high confidence in its assessment, that the event was indeed an ASAT test,” Rose said.

“The continued development and testing of destructive ASAT systems is both destabilizing and threatens the long-term security and sustainability of the outer space environment,” he added.

China’s most disruptive ASAT test occurred in January 2007 when a direct ascent missile destroyed a Chinese weather satellite, creating tens of thousands of debris pieces that pose a continuing danger to both satellites and manned spacecraft, like the International Space Station.

Rose said the secrecy surrounding China’s ASAT program is preventing any U.S. cooperation with Beijing on space. Cooperation will only possible after “China changes its behavior with regard to ASATs,” he said.

Documents disclosed by Wikileaks revealed that the United States and Asian allies issued protests to China over a January 2010 flight test of an anti-satellite missile from an SC-19 rocket booster.

DN-3 test contrails

It could not be learned if protests were lodged over the Oct. 30 test.

China’s reported Nov. 1 that the unusual contrails near the city of Korla, in Xinjiang province, that appeared to be signs of a spacecraft launch or possibly “a midcourse anti-missile test.”

“In recent years, similar clouds have appeared over the skies of Xinjiang many times,” the report said. “A few of them have been linked to land-based midcourse anti-missile interception tests.”

Hong Kong’s Ming Pao then reported Nov. 4 that the test appear to be a “final-phase missile interception test had been conducted in the upper atmosphere.”

“The capability to intercept was one of the capabilities of the PRC Hongqi-19 missile, and may be employed to intercept high supersonic gliding targets on the offensive,” Ming Pao stated.

A forthcoming report by the congressional U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission contains an entire chapter on China’s military and civilian space capabilities.

The report discusses two anti-satellite missiles, the SC-19 and the larger DN-2, which are meant to be fired in pre-determined flight paths as a satellite passes over Chinese territory.

The report suggests that China disguised its anti-satellite tests in 2010, 2013, and 2014 as missile defense interceptor tests. It stated that each test involved a high-speed intercept of a mock warhead launched by a ballistic missile and not a satellite as a way to avoid debris.

“Although China has called these tests ‘land-based missile interception tests,’ available evidence suggests they were indeed antisatellite tests,” the report said.

The May 2013 DN-2 anti-satellite test involved “nearly geosynchronous orbit” where most intelligence and navigation satellites are located. The commission described that test as demonstrating “a new high-altitude anti-satellite capability” that could be deployed as early as 2020.

The 2013 test, which reached 18,600 miles into space, was first reported by the Washington Free Beacon.

Since 2005, China has conducted seven anti-satellite direct-ascent missile tests, according to the commission report. The report did not include the latest DN-3 test.

U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission

“China is pursuing a broad and robust array of counterspace capabilities, which includes direct-ascent anti-satellite missiles, co-orbital anti-satellite systems, computer network operations, ground-based satellite jammers, and directed energy weapons,” the report said.

Air Force Lt. Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, said at a House hearing in March that “we are quickly approaching the point where every satellite in every orbit can be threatened.”

Rick Fisher, a military analyst with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said if the DN-3 interceptor test is confirmed, “this is the first mention of the DN-3, apparently either a modified version of the DN-2 or a new anti-satellite weapon.”

Fisher said the missile designated as the DN-1 was based on the SC-19 anti-satellite missile first tested in 2007, and that the DN-1’s booster appeared to be based on the KT-1 solid-fueled space launch vehicle, produced by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation. “It would follow that the DN-2 and DN-3 may also be [the corporation’s] products,” he said.

Rand Corporation

China recently developed two new and more powerful space launchers called the KZ-1 and KZ-11.

A DN-3 weapon based on the KZ-11 launcher would be capable of hitting targets at higher orbits.

If the recent test involved missile defenses, “China may be developing [anti-ballistic missile] ABM systems capable of intercepts at much longer ranges than U.S. Ground-Based Interceptors based at Fort Greely in Alaska,” Fisher said.

China has been harshly critical of U.S. missile defenses and has said it opposes all space weapons.

However, the development of both missile defenses and anti-satellite missiles by China has been underway since the early 1990s, Fisher said.

“The United States so far has not developed very high-altitude ASAT systems like the DN-2 and DN-3, also proving that China has little intention to follow the example of American restraint,” he said.

A report by the Rand Corporation published in September concluded that the Chinese threat to U.S. satellites is increasing.

“The risk to most U.S. space functions appears to be growing faster than the U.S. ability or effort to mitigate them,” the report said, noting that Chinese space warfare capabilities “are increasing across the board.”

“In a number of areas, the U.S. military is taking steps to mitigate the threat,” the report said. “Whether these efforts succeed in making U.S. systems safe or, at least, unattractive targets should a U.S.-China conflict occur will depend on what investments the United States makes in space defense in the coming years and whether it can find ways to reduce its systems’ vulnerabilities.”

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of the Air Force Space Command told CBS’s 60 Minutes in April that U.S. weapons are being developed to counter China’s space arms.

Hyten said if U.S. satellites are threatened, “we have the right of self defense and we’ll make sure we can execute that right.”

On the possible future use of military force in space, Hyten bluntly said: “That’s why we have a military … I’m not NASA.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter told sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt last week that the Pentagon is closely watching Chinese weapons developments. “And so, we see them building a system that’s new, we make sure we have countermeasures to that and actually, we’re making new substantial investments, new investments,” he said, noting electronic warfare, cyber defenses, air defenses, cruise missile defenses.

“All that’s really important because we’ve got to make sure the balance doesn’t change here, qualitatively or quantitatively, and we’re not going to let that happen,” Carter said.

Source: Washington Free Beacon

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Obama rejects Keystone XL pipeline

Washington (CNN)President Barack Obama on Friday rejected the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, ending the political fight over the Canada-to-Texas project that has gone on for much of his presidency.

Secretary of State John Kerry concluded the controversial project is not in the country’s national security interest, and Obama announced from the White House that he agreed.

“America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change, and frankly approving this project would have undercut that leadership,” Obama said.

The massive project has been a seven-year political football during presidential and congressional elections that has pitted oil companies and Republicans against environmentalists and liberal activists. The State Department has been reviewing the project for much of Obama’s time in the White House.

The proposed pipeline would span nearly 1,200 miles across six U.S. states, moving more than 800,000 barrels of carbon-heavy petroleum daily from Canadian oil sands through Nebraska to refineries in the Gulf Coast.

Obama’s move comes as the White House continues to promote its environmental agenda and efforts to fight climate change. The Environmental Protection Agency this summer put forward new regulations limiting greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. And next month, Obama will attend the Paris climate talks run by the United Nations, he announced Friday. The White House is hoping to broker an international agreement committing every country to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and enact other policies to curb global warming.

The President has also stepped up his rhetoric on the need to address global warming, pushing back against Republicans and climate skeptics fighting his agenda.

“We know that human activity is changing the climate,” Obama said during a visit to Alaska in late summer. “We know that human ingenuity can do something about it. We’re even starting to see that we might actually have the political will to succeed. So the time to heed the critics and cynics is past. The time to plead ignorance is surely past. The deniers are increasingly alone, on their own shrinking island.”

In a statement Friday, Kerry said the climate impact was the key factor. “The critical factor in my determination was this: moving forward with this project would significantly undermine our ability to continue leading the world in combatting climate change,” he said.

Liberals and environmentalists, including top donors such as California’s Tom Steyer, who has committed tens of millions of dollars to fighting pro-pipeline political candidates, protested Keystone and made it a cause celebre among Democrats.

The project was a major issue during the 2012 presidential campaign, when GOP candidate Mitt Romney said he would approve the pipeline. Republican candidates in the 2016 race have also pledged to let the project go forward.

House Speaker Paul Ryan didn’t mince words in criticizing Obama’s action. “This decision isn’t surprising, but it is sickening,” Ryan said in a statement.

In his speech, Obama said that he believed Keystone has had an “over-inflated role in our political discourse, and said the project’s potential to create jobs and the potential environmental threats were exagerrated.

“All of this obscured the fact that this pipeline would neither be the silver bullet to the U.S. economy proclaimed by some, or” the death knell to climate proclaimed by others,” Obama said.

Obama also cited falling gasoline prices as another argument against the project.

“While our politics have been consumed by a debate about whether or not this pipeline would create jobs or lower gas prices, we’ve gone ahead and created jobs and lowered gas prices.”

The average price of regular gasoline hit $3.94 per gallon in April 2012 and stayed well above $3 for the rest of that election year. But this year, prices have been steadily below $3 per gallon.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has also been caught up in Keystone politics. In October 2010, Clinton indicated she was “inclined” to approve the project but has since backed away from that stance, and in September said she opposes it. Fellow Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley also oppose the pipeline, and Clinton faced criticism from the left for not taking a firm stance.

Related: Hillary Clinton’s 5 takes on the Keystone Pipeline

Sanders noted his long-standing opposition to the project in a statement Friday. “It is insane for anyone to be supporting the excavation and transportation of some of the dirtiest fuel on earth,” he said. “As someone who has led the opposition to the Keystone pipeline from Day 1, I strongly applaud the president’s decision to kill this project once and for all.”

Canadian PM Trudeau ‘disappointed’

New Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he is “disappointed by the decision,” but said he is looking forward to building his relationship with Obama.

“The Canada-U.S. relationship is much bigger than any one project and I look forward to a fresh start with President Obama to strengthen our remarkable ties in a spirit of friendship and co-operation,” Trudeau said in a statement. “We know that Canadians want a government that they can trust to protect the environment and grow the economy. The Government of Canada will work hand-in-hand with provinces, territories and like-minded countries to combat climate change, adapt to its impacts, and create the clean jobs of tomorrow.”

The lobbying fight over Keystone has been expensive, with all sides spending millions of dollars in an attempt to influence the White House and Congress. The Canadian and Alberta governments in particular have pushed Obama to approve the project, and Obama and Kerry noted the sensitivity of their decision. The President spoke with Trudeau before the White House made the verdict public.

Kerry, in his official determination rejecting the project, said the U.S. government understands the impact it would have.

As Secretary of State, I fully recognize the importance of this project to Canada, one of our closest strategic allies and energy trading partners,” Kerry wrote. “We consulted with our Canadian friends and I spoke with Foreign Minister Dion today regarding this decision. While we understand the impact of this decision on Canada, I am confident that our close and long-standing relationship with Canada will continue to grow stronger in the years ahead.”

TransCanada to re-apply?

Friday, TransCanada, the firm behind the $8 billion project, said it will “review all of its options” in light of Obama’s decision. “Those options include filing a new application to receive a Presidential Permit for a cross border crude oil pipeline from Canada to the United States,” the company’s statement said.

“Today, misplaced symbolism was chosen over merit and science – rhetoric won out over reason,” company President and CEO Russ Girling said. “TransCanada is reviewing the decision and its rationale. We believe KXL is in the best interest of the United States and Canada.”

Earlier this week, Kerry rejected a request by the company to halt its review of the pipeline as it awaits a separate process at the state level. TransCanada said it could take up to 12 months for the Nebraska process to be completed, adding further delay to the already lengthy approval process. But such a move would have pushed the final decision on Keystone past 2016 and left it to Obama’s successor.

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said “there may be politics at play” in TransCanada’s request, suggesting it was an attempt to orchestrate such a scenario.

TransCanada, which has spent at least $2.5 billion on the project thus far, first applied for a permit to build the pipeline in 2008.

Obama vetoed legislation green-lighting the construction of the pipeline in February. At the time, the White House said it opposed the bill because it would have usurped the President’s authority to approve or deny the creation of the pipeline and short-circuit the State Department analysis.

Republican candidate reaction

Proponents of the project, including Republican presidential candidates, say the pipeline would advance energy independence in North America and construction of it will create jobs. Reaction condemning Obama’s decision came swiftly on Friday, with many accusing Obama of catering to the green lobby and political left.

“When I’m president, Keystone will be approved, and President Obama’s backward energy policies will come to an end,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said in a statement.

“The Obama Admin’s politically motivated rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline is a self-inflicted attack on the U.S. economy and jobs,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tweeted.

“President Obama is bowing to radical environmentalists and snubbing thousands of high quality, high paying energy sector jobs,” Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tweeted.

“Obama’s rejection of #KeystoneXL will flush American jobs down the drain… all to appease the agenda of science denying radicals,” Jindal said in another tweet.

Keystone also split a key Democratic constituency — organized labor.

Terry O’Sullivan, the general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, blasted the decision. “After a seven-year circus of cowardly delay, the President’s decision to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline is just one more indication of an utter disdain and disregard for salt-of-the-earth, middle-class working Americans,” O’Sullivan said.

Source: CNN

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Gun Sales Set Record for Sixth Month in a Row

APThe Federal Bureau of Investigation processed a record number of background checks in the month of October, indicating that gun sales were at an all time high for the sixth month in a row.

The FBI’s National Instant Background Check System processed 1,976,759 firearms related checks in October. That is a 373,290 increase in checks over last year and a new record for the month. It also makes October the sixth consecutive month to see a record number of checks.

Since every purchase of a new gun in the United States requires a background check the metric is considered a reliable proxy for how many overall gun sales there have been, even though the number does not represent a one to one calculation for gun sales. The federal government and most states do not require background checks on gun sales made between private parties. Additionally, some states request FBI background checks on their citizens who apply for gun carry permits.

So far in 2015 the FBI has performed 17,584,346 firearms related checks. Currently, 2015 is on pace to beat 2013’s record 21,09,273 checks.

Gun rights activists have pointed to Democrats’ calls for new gun control measures as one reason why gun sales have increased. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton has said that the Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment, that Australian style mandatory gun buybacks should be considered in the United States, and that she would implement new gun control through executive action.

“Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton are the best gun salespeople on the planet. The more they scream for new gun control laws the more guns walk off the shelves at gun stores,” said Alan Gottlieb, the head of the Second Amendment Foundation. “To quote the lyrics of Peter, Paul and Mary, ‘When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn.’”

Source: Washington Free Beacon

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Chinese Submarine Stalked U.S. Aircraft Carrier

The USS Ronald Reagan / AP

A Chinese attack submarine stalked the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan near Japan last month in the closest encounter between a carrier and a People’s Liberation Army Navy submarine since 2006, according to American defense officials.

The Chinese submarine sailed very close to the Reagan during the weekend of Oct. 24, said defense officials familiar with reports of the incident.

The incident occurred as the Reagan sailed from its home port to the Sea of Japan around the southern end of Japan.

Days later, in the Sea of Japan, the Reagan was targeted for a close flyby by two Russian Tu-142 bombers that flew within a mile of the ship at an altitude of 500 feet. U.S. Navy jets were scrambled to escort the bombers away from the carrier group.

The submarine encounter also occurred days before the USS Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, carried out a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea.

The Lassen’s passage within 12 miles of a disputed island in the South China Sea on Oct. 26 was fiercely denounced by the Chinese government. Chinese spokesmen, both military and civilian, said the passage was a violation of Beijing’s territorial sovereignty, a claim rejected by the United States, which said the ship was sailing in international waters.

Disclosure of the Chinese submarine encounter comes as Adm. Harry Harris is visiting China for the first time as the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific.

Pacific Fleet and Pacific Command spokesmen declined to comment on the submarine encounter but did not deny that the incident occurred.

Additional details of the encounter—such as the type of submarine involved, whether it surfaced or remained submerged, and how close it came to the ship—could not be learned.

The nuclear-powered carrier is a symbol of U.S. power projection capabilities. China’s military has been attempting to drive the U.S. military out of Asia as part of efforts to assume the sole leadership role in the region.

One defense official said the detection of the submarine set off alarm bells on the Reagan, although it could not be learned whether anti-submarine warfare aircraft were launched to locate and track the vessel.

Other defense officials said the Reagan’s recent submarine encounter appeared similar to China’s stalking of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in 2006.

During that incident, a Song-class attack submarine surfaced undetected within torpedo range of the Kitty Hawk on Oct. 26, 2006—nearly nine years to the day of the recent Reagan encounter.

The 2006 incident also was disclosed during the visit to China by Adm. Gary Roughead, then-commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

China is known to use its military forces to send political messages and it appears that the Reagan incident also was timed to the expected navigation operation in the South China Sea and to Harris’ visit.

Harris has been a forceful advocate within the military for challenging China’s claims to vast areas of the South China Sea. He told a Senate hearing in September that “the South China Sea is no more China’s than the Gulf of Mexico is Mexico’s.”

Harris visited U.S. troops in South Korea over the weekend and took part in the annual U.S.-South Korea Military Committee Meeting and Security Consultative Meeting in Seoul.

On Monday, Harris traveled to Beijing for a three-day visit and talks with Chinese military leaders. He was scheduled to speak at Peking University on Monday.

“Sustained military-to-military dialogue between the U.S. and China is designed to maximize cooperation on areas of mutual interest while candidly addressing and managing disagreements,” the Pacific Command statement said.

Harris’ last visit to China took place in April 2014 when he took part in talks with the Chinese military on a Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea in Qingdao, China. The code, which covers submarine-ship encounters, was approved in 2014.

It is not known whether the Chinese submarine followed safety guidelines outlined in the code during the Reagan encounter. The code is designed to prevent collisions at sea.

The Reagan and four other warships were on the way to conduct joint naval exercises with South Korean naval forces at the time of the Chinese submarine stalking.

The exercises were held Oct. 26 to Oct. 29 in waters around the southern end of the Korean peninsula. The carrier arrived Friday in Busan, South Korea, for a port call.

Accompanying the Reagan are the Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville and the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS Mustin.

A Pacific Command statement issued Saturday said the Reagan is one of two carrier groups operating in the region. The second is the USS Roosevelt, which departed Singapore Oct. 28 on its way to San Diego.

The Reagan was “operating off the east coast of the Korean peninsula conducting routine bilateral training with the Republic of Korea navy,” the command statement said, adding that anti-submarine warfare training was part of the exercises.

“The U.S. routinely conducts carrier strike group operations in the waters around the Republic of Korea to exercise maritime maneuvers, strengthen the U.S.-ROK alliance, and improve regional security,” the statement said.

“The U.S. Navy maintains a presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to help preserve peace and security and further our partnerships with friends and allies,” said Rear Adm. John Alexander, the Reagan’s commander. “Our forward presence contributes to freedom of navigation and lawful use of the sea, as well as furthers operational training and enables an exchange of culture, skills, and tactical knowledge.”

Rick Fisher, a Chinese military affairs analyst, said China’s willingness to use submarines to harass U.S. large warship demonstrates that the Navy needs more submarines for escort missions.

It also highlights the need for additional U.S. attack submarines as Los Angeles-class submarines are retired and are not replaced quickly enough by newer Virginia-class vessels.

“The importance of our aircraft carriers was just demonstrated in the South China Sea,” said Fisher, with the International Assessment and Strategy Center.

“While most press attention focused on the freedom of navigation exercise of the destroyer USS Lassen, the larger story was the fact that the destroyer was covered by the presence of the aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt,” he added. “The carrier was deployed to ensure that China was deterred from attacking or substantially harassing the destroyer.”

Fisher said that he expects China’s attack submarine fleet to begin increasing in size.

“The PLA may build up to 14 of their third-generation Type 095 SSN, which might add up to a total SSN fleet of about 20,” he said, using the military designation for attack submarine.

“Inasmuch as the U.S. may only be able to spare about 30 SSNs for its Pacific-based forces, this could greatly stress the U.S. submarine fleet absent new construction,” he added.

A fleet of 30 attack submarines may limit continuous deployment of submarines to around 10, given the need for maintenance and for crew rotations.

Chinese state-run media and military commentators have denounced the deployment of the Reagan, which replaced the carrier group led by the USS George Washington.
“The United States intends to strengthen its military superiority in order to frighten the neighboring countries of the disputed region, such as China, [North Korea], and Russia,” retired Chinese Rear Adm. Yin Zhuo told state television in September.
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