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Monday Morning: Let’s Mambo

When your Monday begins to drag — and you know it will at some point — put on a little mambo.

Especially Perez Prado‘s Mambo Number 5 and Mambo Number 8. They’ll spice up your day, get it back on track. There are some more recent covers and mashups of Prado’s mambos, but they just aren’t the same as the originals.

Be careful where you play this stuff; it’ll make your mother or grandmother move in ways you may not want to watch.

Let’s cha-cha-cha…

“Damn it Jim, what the hell is the matter with you?”*
FBI-Comey_TakeADeepBreath_21FEB2016
FBI was still trying to dig itself out of a hole on Saturday evening, resorting to damage control mode yesterday. Note, though, Director James Comey’s statement at Lawfare and subsequent coverage at the Los Angeles Times don’t mention at all the screwed up handling of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone. Take that deep breath, then save it to cool your soup, eh?

So I’m following the map that leads to you
Nope, not Maroon 5, but Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, building a map of the network it claims will help it understand how best to reach populations with poor to no internet. A map, to people not on the map? Creepy, like a stalker ex-boyfriend with global reach. Can’t wait for the conditions by which the U.S. government claims it needs access to that.

Radioactive materials gone walkabout in Iraq now found
This is a strange story. Not the part about a testing device containing radioactive Ir-192 used by a Turkish oil pipeline inspection services company that went missing in November but not reported by media until last week, or the part where the device turned up this weekend, dumped by a gas station. Nor even the odd description of the discovery:

“A passer-by found the radioactive device dumped in Zubair and immediately informed security forces,” the chief of security panel in Basra provincial council, Jabbar al-Saidi, said.
“After initial checking I can confirm the device is intact 100 per cent and there is absolutely no concern of radiation.”

What’s strange is the coverage of this story: picked up by mostly conservative outlets, not widely covered in large news outlets. Huh. Weird. Pick out some key words from the story and do a search yourself, compare to coverage on other stories. Heck, it doesn’t even show up on Reuter’s Middle East and Africa site this morning, though they first broke the story.

Not-so-happy anniversary, Q-1 Predator drone
15 years now this death-from-the-sky has been in use. Sadly, it’s become embedded in our culture now.

All right, time to set this aside and put on my dancing shoes. ¡Vamonos! ¡Baile!

* gratuitous Star Trek quote, Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy to Captain James T. Kirk.

Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, geek since birth. Opinions informed by mixed-race, multi-ethnic, cis-female condition, further shaped by kind friends of all persuasions. Sci-tech frenemy, wannabe artist, decent cook, determined author, successful troublemaker. Mother of invention and two excessively smart-assed young adult kids. Attended School of Hard Knocks; Rather Unfortunate Smallish Private Business School in Midwest; Affordable Mid-State Community College w/evening classes. Self-employed at Tiny Consulting Business; previously at Large-ish Chemical Company with HQ in Midwest in multiple marginalizing corporate drone roles, and at Rather Big IT Service Provider as a project manager, preceded by a motley assortment of gigs before the gig economy was a thing. Blogging experience includes a personal blog at the original blogs.salon.com, managing editor for a state-based news site, and a stint at Firedoglake before landing here at emptywheel as technology’s less-virginal-but-still-accursed Cassandra.

Did Pakistan Carry Out Its Own Drone Strikes?

Falco drone, which about half the size of a Predator.  GAO reports that Pakistan has the Falco. (Image via Wikipedia)

Falco drone, which about half the size of a Predator. GAO reports that Pakistan has the Falco. (Image via Wikipedia)

While his nomination is pending as Director of CIA, His High Holiness of Moral Rectitude John Brennan has seen fit to pause his wanton destruction via drones in both Pakistan and Yemen. Mysteriously, though, there appears to be some confusion over the last two strikes in Pakistan. The New York Times is now reporting that the US disavows strikes that were reported February 6 and February 8 in Pakistan:

When news of the two latest drone strikes emerged from Pakistan’s tribal belt in early February, it seemed to be business as usual by the C.I.A.

/snip/

Yet there was one problem, according to three American officials with knowledge of the program: The United States did not carry out those attacks.

“They were not ours,” said one of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the drone program’s secrecy. “We haven’t had any kinetic activity since January.”

But, as noted by the Times, contemporaneous reporting of both of these strikes followed the usual descriptions that assume US drones were responsible. Here is how Long War Journal described the February 6 attack:

The US launched an airstrike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan today, killing five “militants” in an area known to host al Qaeda and other foreign terror groups. The drone strike is the first recorded in Pakistan in nearly four weeks.

The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired upwards of six missiles at a compound in the Spin Wam area of North Waziristan. The airstrike leveled the compound and killed five people and wounded several more, according to reports from the region.

Significantly, Long War Journal did note at that time that the pause in strikes was already underway:

Today’s strike broke a 26-day pause in the attacks in Pakistan; the last strike was on Jan. 10. The US has launched eight drone strikes in Pakistan so far this year.

Similarly, the February 8 strike was assumed to be carried out by the US. Here is an account from the Express Tribune from a link I retweeted that day:

A US drone strike in South Waziristan on Friday evening killed at least eight people and left two wounded, Express News reported.

Two missiles struck a house in the village of Babar Ghar, a tribal district bordering Afghanistan which is a stronghold of Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants.

So, if the US denial is to be believed (although the Times article quotes Chris Woods of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism warning us to take the disavowal “with a pinch of salt”), who did carry out the strikes? Returning to the Times article:

Two senior United States officials said there had been no American involvement in the attacks. A third official said the C.I.A. had not paid the reports much attention because no American forces had been involved. But that official said American intelligence pointed to the Pakistan Air Force as having conducted the first strike, probably as part of a military operation against Pakistani Taliban militants in the neighboring Orakzai tribal agency.

The second attack was more mysterious. “It could have been the Pakistani military,” the official said. “It could have been the Taliban fighting among themselves. Or it could have been simply bad reporting.”

Getting accurate news out of Pakistan’s tribal area is notoriously difficult, but since there have been so many drone strikes there, one would think the locals can distinguish between drone strikes and other sorts of attacks such as missiles fired from jets or mortars launched from nearby cover. Going especially to the February 6 strike, where the anonymous US official tells the Times that they believe Pakistan’s Air Force is responsible, the question then becomes whether the strike was missiles fired from a jet or from a drone.

Does Pakistan have drones? Remarkably, the GAO has reported (pdf) that they indeed do:

In addition, an Italian manufacturer has produced and exported the Falco UAV system to Pakistan.

The website AirForce-Technology.com reports that Pakistan has 50 Falco drones and they appear to be roughly half the size of the Predator drones used so commonly in Pakistan by the US. It also appears that they can be armed although as initially delivered to Pakistan they were not:

Though the Falco UAV is large enough to accommodate both a missile and targeting system, it will currently be used for only reconnaissance and surveillance applications. Falco will be equipped with laser-guided missiles in the future to carry out offensive operations. The Falco UAV has one hard point on each wing and will carry a load capacity of up to 25kg.

Recall also that Pakistan evicted the US from the Shamsi Air Base in December, 2011 in response to the border incident in which the US killed 24 Pakistani troops the previous month. That base had been the primary location from which the US launched drones into Pakistan’s tribal area until then, so Pakistan inherited a base ready for offensive drone use.

It will be very interesting to see whether new reports of drone strikes in Pakistan surface with the US claiming not to have been involved. Pakistan will find it difficult to maintain its current cynical political position on US strikes where it is believed by most that Pakistan privately permits the US to carry out strikes (and occasionally may provide target locations) but publicly protests the strikes once they are carried out. If they are shown conclusively to have armed their Falco drones and to have used them to carry out their own strikes, the politics will have to shift dramatically.

Update: Dawn is now reporting that Pakistan’s military denies any role in these two strikes:

Commenting on the report published in the New York Times on Tuesday, a spokesman for the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) said “such an accusation is a distortion of the facts and seems to be aimed at diluting Pakistan’s stance on drone strikes.”

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.

One By Land If None By Sea?

Iran is claiming once again to have captured a US drone. The YouTube above consists of a boring eleven minutes broadcast by PressTV of Iranian military types doing a poor impression of Vanna White running their hands over what is claimed to be a US ScanEagle drone. If true, this would be the second drone captured by Iran in just over a year. Early last December, Iran first claimed to have shot down and then changed their wording to claiming to have “brought” down a much larger RQ-170 Sentinel drone, prompting the question of whether Iran managed to hack the drone.

There has been considerable additional drone action of late regarding Iran, with Iran firing on a Predator drone in November over the Gulf (perhaps in Iranian airspace, perhaps not). Iran then said later in November that they were reporting the US to the UN for violating Iranian airspace at least 8 times during October, presumably with drones.

Interestingly, it appears that Iran is claiming once again to have hacked this drone. From Fars News Agency:

Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi announced that his forces hunted a US Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) over the Persian Gulf after the drone violated the country’s airspace.

The UAV which had conducted several reconnaissance flights over the Persian Gulf general zone in the past few days was caught and brought under control by air defense units and control systems of the IRGC Navy.

We are now in the denial phase of the US response to this incident. The next bit in the Fars News article sets it up:

The IRGC navy commander announced that the haunted [sic] UAV was a ScanEagle drone, adding that “such drones are usually launched from large warships.”

Seizing on this bit, the US has quickly trotted out a US Navy spokesman to say that all ScanEagles are accounted for and none are missing. This same article also suggests that other countries in the region have ScanEagles and posits that Iran may have salvaged a ScanEagle that went down in the Gulf long ago.

[Heh. I missed the Fars typo saying the drone was “haunted” instead of “hunted” on my first several readings. That puts an entirely different spin on the situation…]

Interstingly, at the end,  the AP article does get around to pointing out that the US eventually changed its story on the RQ-170 [and see the update below the fold]: Read more

Many years ago, Jim got a BA in Radiation Biophysics from the University of Kansas. He then got a PhD in Molecular Biology from UCLA and did postdoctoral research in yeast genetics at UC Berkeley and mouse retroviruses at Stanford. He joined biosys in Palo Alto, producing insect parasitic nematodes for pest control. In the early 1990’s, he moved to Gainesville, FL and founded a company that eventually became Entomos. He left the firm as it reorganized into Pasteuria Biosciences and chose not to found a new firm due a clash of values with venture capital investors, who generally lack all values. Upon leaving, he chose to be a stay at home dad, gentleman farmer, cook and horse wrangler. He discovered the online world through commenting at Glenn Greenwald’s blog in the Salon days and was involved in the briefly successful Chris Dodd move to block the bill to renew FISA. He then went on to blog at Firedoglake and served a brief stint as evening editor there. When the Emptywheel blog moved out of Firedoglake back to standalone status, Jim tagged along and blogged on anthrax, viruses, John Galt, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is now a mostly lapsed blogger looking for a work-around to the depressing realization that pointing out the details of government malfeasance and elite immunity has approximately zero effect.