Wednesday :: November 12, 2014

Obama Reviewing Syrian Stance as Stalemate Seems Likely

President Obama wants Congress to fund his request for additional training and weapons in Iraq. What will he have to give up to get it, from those in Congress and at the Pentagon who think his plan isn't hawkish enough? Without Congressional approval, apparently there will be no funding for arming and training since executive authority doesn't cover that. That may not be easy:

Some Democrats have said they’re concerned that U.S. forces will become mired in ground combat in Iraq, despite Obama’s pledge that won’t happen. Some Republicans say Obama should take more aggressive action, such as moving more quickly to arm non-Islamic State rebels in Syria and enforcing a no-fly zone over Syria near the Turkish border.

From news reports, it sounds like Obama is under pressure to modify his "Iraq first" policy, under which helping the rebels fight Assad takes a back seat to defeating ISIS in Iraq. Obama is asking his advisers to review U.S. policy on Syria. But the two cited unnamed sources seem to say different things:

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Michael Baden to Testify Before Ferguson Grand Jury

Forensic pathologist Michael Baden, who conducted an autopsy on Michael Brown at the request of his family's attorney, has been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury investigating Brown's shooting death.

According to the lawyer for Brown's parents:

Baden had only limited access to information and has asked to review several other pieces of evidence before he testifies.

Among the items Baden did not have access to when he performed his autopsy:

Baden said there was no gunpowder residue on Brown's body, indicating he was not shot at close range, though he said at the time he wasn't given access to Brown's clothing and the residue could be there.

It's not known when the grand jury will be finished. The prosecutor has said "sometime this month."

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New NarcoDrama: En La Boca del Lobo

Monday night, Unimas began airing the Colombian narcodrama "En La Boca del Lobo" (In the Mouth of the Wolf.) It's the story of the guy who took down the Cali Cartel in Colombia and is based on the book with the same name, written by Cali cartel journalist William C. Rempel.

Ricardo is known as Richard in the world of the mafia and became Chief of security of one of the kingpins of the Cali Cartel. After the death of his best friend and his family, Ricardo has nothing more to lose. In search of redemption in a very corrupt world, he is willing to give the Cali Cartel to the CIA. But when the operation fails, Ricardo is seen 'in the mouth of the Wolf' and must fight for their survival, "reads a statement from the chain.


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Wednesday Open Thread

It's a jail day for me, which means an open thread for you. All topics welcome.

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Tuesday :: November 11, 2014

Iraq (not U.S.) Provides Arms to Anbar Tribes

Iraq's Speaker of the Council of Representatives, Salim Al-Jabour, traveled to the Ain Asad military base in Anbar and gave a speech to the assembled tribal leaders and members. Shorter version: We gave you the arms you asked for, now do your part.

"We have honored our promise by providing you with arms as we are also confident of your abilities to free Anbar within days," Al-Jabouri said in a special conference held at Ain Asad military base in Anbar. "We are also confident of your solidity and resilience in using these weapons to defend yourselves, your country, and the world from this evil group, and avenge the innocent who were killed by IS, particularly victims of Al-Bunimr tribe and others.

50 U.S. military personnnel arrived at the Ain Asad base in Anbar yesterday. They are not there to fight ISIS, but to assess the facility's capabilities for future "assist and training" operations. They do have the means to defend themselves, if attacked.

The U.S. says it is not arming the tribes in Anbar: [More...]

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Veteran's Day Open Thread

We've got snow!
Good thoughts go out to all the vets. Even when we don't like the war, we still appreciate their sacrifice and thank them for their protecting our country.

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Monday :: November 10, 2014

Monday Open Thread

President Obama backed net neutrality today.

It's been 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

President Obama on November 11, 2011:

"My fellow Americans, our troops are coming home..."After a decade of war, the nation we now need to build is our own."

This is an open thread, all topics welcome.

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Saturday :: November 08, 2014

UK Launches Mission to Find ISIS Executioner

The Daily Mail reports Britain's elite members of the Special Air Services (SAS) have been sent to the Middle East to locate the black-clad ISIS executioner in the hostage killing videos of British citizens David Haines and Alan Henning (who also appeared in execution videos of Americans John Foley and Steven Sotloff, and most recently threatened Peter Kassig.) It is reportedly the SAS' largest mission since 9/11.

In August, the British press reported the formation of a joint task force of the SAS and US Navy Seals to take out ISIS leadership.

Elite British and US special forces troops are forming a hunter killer unit called Task Force Black – its orders: “Smash the Islamic State.”


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Dubious Reports U.S. Air Strikes in al Qaim Target ISIS Leaders

Update: Via CNN: CENTCOM confirms air strikes hit the convoy near Mosul, and that it was aimed at ISIS leaders. It said it doesn't know whether al Bagdadi was in it. CNN says 15 militants died. CENTCOM would not confirm conducting airstrikes in al Qaim in the Anbar province (not surprising, since according to reports of locals, the strikes hit a market near an ISIS checkpoint killing only civilians.)

Personally, I tend to doubt al Baghdadi travels in a convoy of ten trucks, especially knowing the U.S. is conducting air strikes. Also, as I mention in my original post below, al Qaim is 170 miles from Mosul. These were two separate events, and there's no evidence other than the original dubious report (updated here)that al Baghdadi or his chief deputy or Anbar military commanders were present, taken out or injured.)

Original Post

All day there have been unconfirmed reports of a U.S. airstrike in al Qaim that targeted ISIS leaders and that ISIS leader al-Baghdadi was seriously wounded or killed. [More...]

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ISIS Recruits Take to the Sea

At an Interpol conference this week, outgoing Chief Ron Noble said European ISIS recruits are facing stepped up airport and bus station checks in Turkey, making it harder to get to Syria. Their solution: Book a cruise to Turkey, and exit at a port close to the Syrian border, like the coastal town of Izmet, and from there make their way into Syria.

Interpol is calling for the expansion of its I-Checkit program in the private sector. It already gets airline passenger information. Now it is is hoping to get passenger and customer information from cruise operators, banks, hotels and others. [More...]

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Marysville Shooting: 5th Teen Dies From Injuries

15 year old Andrew Fryberg passed away Friday evening. He is the fifth teen to die in the Marysville school shooting. Predeceasing him were his girlfriend Zoe, friends Shaylee and Gia, and his cousin Jaylen Fryberg. Jaylen's death has been ruled a suicide, but some witnesses say he didn't intend to kill himself, the gun went off when a teacher tried to disarm him and a bullet struck him in the neck.

Nate Hatch, Jaylen's 14 year old cousin who was shot in the jaw, is the only survivor among those who were shot. He was released from the hospital Thursday, and attended a memorial for Shaylee on Friday evening.

Jaylen's motive is still unknown.

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Friday :: November 07, 2014

Friday Open Thread

Our last open thread is full. Here's a new one, all topics welcome.

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White House to Seek $5.6 Billion for Miltary Operations in Iraq

President Obama has authorized 1,500 additional military personnel to go to Iraq and advise and train the Iraqi forces and Peshmerga in the fight against ISIS. He will ask Congress to approve for $5.6 billion in overseas contingency funds and $1.6 million to train Iraqi and Pershmerga forces.

Two groups will be going. The first will "advise and assist" Iraqi forces at the brigade level from command operations centers near Baghdad and Erbil. The second will do the military training. 9 Iraqi army and 3 Peshmerga brigades will be trained in northern, western and southern Iraq. Many of the new personnel will be deployed to the Anbar province.

Here is the Pentagon's statement. It confirms the personnel will act in a "non-combat role." It is an expansion of our "advise and assist mission" and the beginning of the training initiative. It doesn't mention Syria.

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Global Deep Web Take-Down

There's much more to the yesterday's story of the "Deep Web" (aka "Dark Web") takedown of Silk Road 2 and arrest of San Francisco programmer Blake Benthall. (The Complaint in Benthall's case is here.)

WIRED reports today Operation Onymous was global in scope. The FBI press release is here. From WIRED:

On Friday, the European police agency Europol along with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security announced that the operation has now arrested 17 people in as many countries and seized hundreds of Dark Web domains associated with well over a dozen black market websites.


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FBI Director Justifies Agency's Impersonation of Media

A few weeks ago I wrote about the DEA and FBI recently catching flak for some of its deceitful investigation techniques. One instance was the FBI's remote installation of spyware on the computer of a teen suspected of making bomb threats to his school in 2007. The purpose was to track the location of the teen and his computer. To pull it off, the FBI wrote a fake AP news article about the suspect and sent it to his my space account. When the teen clicked on it, the spyware was unleashed, allowing the FBI to locate his computer and get a search warrant for his house. The teen confessed and ultimately pleaded guilty. The matter came to light as the result of a reporter's FOIA Request.

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