Saturday, December 29, 2012

China wants to have sex with U.S?

I was reading an article in the Chinese press about how China is buying Russian Backfire bombers (the Russian equivalent of the B-1B) and began to laugh uncontrollably. I was using Google Translate and apparently something got added in translation.



Friday, December 28, 2012

Pentagon shifting stealth Air Force to counter China's military growth

Shifting its military power to the Asia-Pacific region, the United States has started a five-year process of deploying its three types of stealth warplanes to bases near China.

Air Force F-22s and B-2s and Marine Corps F-35s will be stationed at bases around China as Beijing tests its own radar-evading jet fighters, Wired magazine reported Dec. 26. Earlier this year, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration unveiled a new defense strategy that envisages a shift of focus from Iraq and Afghanistan toward the Pacific while addressing the increasing threats from China. Washington also announced in June the repositioning of its Navy fleet with the majority of its warships, 60 percent, to be assigned to the Asia-Pacific by 2020.

The announcements of new Pacific deployments of three warplanes have come in recent weeks starting with the 8th Air Force Cmdr. Maj. Gen. Stephen Wilson’s remarks on redeployment of B-2s, most probably to the Guam air base of the Pentagon.

‘Guam as strategic hub’

Wilson, who controls the Air Force’s 20 B-2 fleet normally based in Missouri, said “small numbers” of B-2s would begin rotating into the Pacific and other regions starting next year, speaking to Air Force magazine in early November. “Our B-2s will rotate to forward operating locations all over the world in small numbers for a few weeks at a time, a couple of times a year,” Wilson said in a Nov. 7 interview.
F-22s, normally based in Florida, Virginia, Alaska and Hawaii, are already regular visitors to Andersen Air Force Base in Guam and, more frequently, the Pentagon’s Kadena base in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture, the report said. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also said recently there would be “new deployments of F-22s … to Japan.”

READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE

Global Response Staff exposed due to BeghaziGate scandal

DARK GOVERNMENT: The rapid collapse of a U.S. diplomatic compound in Libya exposed the vulnerabilities of State Department facilities overseas. But the CIA’s ability to fend off a second attack that same night provided a glimpse of a key element in the agency’s defensive arsenal: a secret security force created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Two of the Americans killed in Benghazi were members of the CIA’s Global Response Staff, an innocuously named organization that has recruited hundreds of former U.S. Special Forces operatives to serve as armed guards for the agency’s spies.

The GRS, as it is known, is designed to stay in the shadows, training teams to work undercover and provide an unobtrusive layer of security for CIA officers in high-risk outposts.

But a series of deadly scrapes over the past four years has illuminated the GRS’s expanding role, as well as its emerging status as one of the CIA’s most dangerous assignments.

Of the 14 CIA employees killed since 2009, five worked for the GRS, all as contractors. They include two killed at Benghazi, as well as three others who were within the blast radius on Dec. 31, 2009, when a Jordanian double agent detonated a suicide bomb at a CIA compound in Khost, Afghanistan.

GRS contractors have also been involved in shootouts in which only foreign nationals were killed, including one that triggered a diplomatic crisis. While working for the CIA, Raymond Davis was jailed for weeks in Pakistan last year after killing two men in what he said was an armed robbery attempt in Lahore.

The increasingly conspicuous role of the GRS is part of a broader expansion of the CIA’s paramilitary capabilities over the past 10 years. Beyond hiring former U.S. military commandos, the agency has collaborated with U.S. Special Operations teams on missions including the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and has killed thousands of Islamist militants and civilians with its fleet of armed drones.

CIA veterans said that GRS teams have become a critical component of conventional espionage, providing protection for case officers whose counterterrorism assignments carry a level of risk that rarely accompanied the cloak-and-dagger encounters of the Cold War.

Spywork used to require slipping solo through cities in Eastern Europe. Now, “clandestine human intelligence involves showing up in a Land Cruiser with some [former] Deltas or SEALs, picking up an asset and then dumping him back there when you are through,” said a former CIA officer who worked closely with the security group overseas.

Bodyguard details have become so essential to espionage that the CIA has overhauled its training program at the Farm — its case officer academy in southern Virginia — to teach spies the basics of working with GRS teams.

The security apparatus relies heavily on contractors who are drawn by relatively high pay and flexible schedules that give them several months off each year. In turn, they agree to high-risk assignments in places such as Benghazi and are largely left on their own to take basic precautions, such as finding health and life insurance.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said the GRS has about 125 employees working abroad at any given time, with at least that many rotating through cycles of training and off-time in the United States.

At least half are contractors, who often earn $140,000 or more a year and typically serve 90- or 120-day assignments abroad. Full-time GRS staff officers — those who are permanent CIA employees — earn slightly less but collect benefits and are typically put in supervisory roles.

The work is lucrative enough that recruiting is done largely by word of mouth, said one former U.S. intelligence official. Candidates tend to be members of U.S. Special Forces units who have recently retired, or veterans of police department SWAT teams.

Most GRS recruits arrive with skills in handling the weapons they will carry, including Glock handguns and M4 rifles. But they undergo additional training so they do not call attention to the presence or movements of the CIA officers they are in position to protect.

Although the agency created the GRS to protect officers in war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan, it has been expanded to protect secret drone bases as well as CIA facilities and officers in locations including Yemen, Lebanon and Djibouti.

In some cases, elite GRS units provide security for personnel from other agencies, including National Security Agency teams deploying sensors or eavesdropping equipment in conflict zones, a former special operator said. The most skilled security operators are informally known as “scorpions.”

“They don’t learn languages, they’re not meeting foreign nationals and they’re not writing up intelligence reports,” a former U.S. intelligence official said. Their main tasks are to map escape routes from meeting places, pat down informants and provide an “envelope” of security, the former official said, all while knowing that “if push comes to shove, you’re going to have to shoot.”

The consequences in such cases can be severe. Former CIA officials who worked with the GRS still wince at the fallout from Davis’s inability to avoid capture as well as his decision to open fire in the middle of a busy street in Pakistan. The former security contractor, who did not respond to requests for comment, said he was doing basic “area familiarization” work, meaning learning his surroundings and possibly mapping routes of escape, when he was confronted by two Pakistanis traveling by motorcycle.

Davis became trapped at the scene, and his arrest provoked a diplomatic standoff between two tense allies in the fight against terrorism.

The CIA took heavy criticism for the clumsiness of the Davis episode, temporarily suspending the drone campaign in Pakistan before U.S. payments to the families of the men Davis had killed helped secure his release.

By contrast, the CIA and its security units were praised — albeit indirectly — in a report released last week that was otherwise sharply critical of the State Department security failures that contributed to the deaths of four Americans in Libya three months ago.

In Benghazi, a GRS team rushed to a burning State Department compound in an attempt to rescue U.S. diplomats, then evacuated survivors to a nearby CIA site that also came under attack. Two GRS contractors who had taken positions on the roof of the site were killed by mortar strikes.

Among those killed was Glen Doherty, a GRS contractor on his second CIA assignment in Libya who had served in about 10 other places, including Mexico City, according to his sister, Kathleen Quigley.

“Was he aware of the risks? Absolutely,” Quigley said in an interview, although she noted that “he wasn’t there to protect an embassy. He was there to recover RPGs,” meaning he was providing security for CIA teams tracking Libyan stockpiles of rocket-propelled grenades.

Doherty took the CIA job for the pay and abundant time off, as well as the chance to continue serving the U.S. government abroad, Quigley said.

When Doherty died, he left debts that included loans on two houses in California, Quigley said. He had no life insurance. CIA officials told Doherty’s family that they had recommended companies willing to underwrite such policies, but that agency coverage was not available for contractors.

Quigley did not criticize the agency, but added: “It’s so sad for a guy like that to go out and have nothing to show for it, except, frankly, a lot of debt.”

The CIA declined to comment.

Quigley said her family has started a foundation in Doherty’s name to help other families of current and former U.S. Special Operations troops who have been killed. A separate organization performs a similar function for families of slain CIA officers.

The CIA Memorial Foundation pays college costs for children of CIA officers who were killed and recently began providing payments of about $5,000 to families to help pay for funeral-related costs.

The organization is paying tuition and other costs for 28 dependents of slain agency employees, and an additional 77 will be eligible when they reach college age, said Jerry Komisar, a CIA veteran who is president of the foundation.

The organization’s obligations have grown in recent months, a stretch that ranks as among the deadliest for the CIA since the attack on Khost. After Doherty and Tyrone Woods were killed in Benghazi, three other CIA officers — all staff employees — were killed in Afghanistan.

The foundation covers contractors who work for the GRS. “I often wonder why people take those kinds of risks,” Komisar said. “It’s got to be an opportunity for them to bring in more cash. But the downside is, you put yourself at great risk. My heart goes out to them.”

Via:washingtonpost

How America was caught off guard by North Korean missile launch


CNN: North Korea likely engaged in a deliberate campaign of deception before a December 12 long-range missile launch, catching the United States and its Asian allies "off guard," according to a U.S. official with direct knowledge of analysis of the incident conducted by U.S. military and intelligence agencies.
The official told CNN that American and Japanese military ships and missile defenses were fully operational and protecting land, sea and airspace on December 12, but that the launch was a surprise when it actually happened.
"We had our dukes up, operationally, but we were caught off guard," the official said.
"The clues point to a concerted effort to deceive us," the official said. The analysis was ordered in the wake of the launch to determine what exactly happened and how much the U.S. intelligence knew at the time.

The official said one conclusion was that while missile defenses can fully protect against a North Korean attack, the North Koreans have shown they can counter U.S. measures to gather intelligence about what they are up to.
"Look, they know when our satellites are passing overhead," the official said. It's believed the North Koreans essentially manipulated the launch so U.S. intelligence satellites simply would not be overhead and able to see what was happening.
The most likely scenario, the official said, was that North Korea wasn't telling the truth when it announced several days before the launch that there were technical problems with the missile.
According to the official, the intelligence analysis found that:
– The United States observed the North Koreans beginning to take apart the three-stage rocket and move parts of it away from the launch pad, then observed what were believed to be so-called replacement parts being moved in.
– In retrospect, those parts appear to have been from a second, older-generation long-range missile that were in storage. Those parts most likely were never used in the December 12 launch.
During this time, when the United States did not have total visibility of the launch site, it's believed the North Koreans either quickly reassembled the original rocket and fired it.
– It's also possible the U.S. miscalculated and the North Koreans never took it apart at all.
Earlier this week, South Korean defense officials warned that the latest North Korean missile had the capability to travel more than 6,000 miles, meaning this type of rocket could strike the United States. However, experts do not believe Pyongyang has a nuclear warhead small enough to fly on the kind of missile.
North Korean officials claimed that the rocket launch succeeded in putting a satellite in orbit.
CNN's Paula Hancocks and Greg Botelho contributed to this report.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Two State Department heads resigning wake of Benghazi investigation


THE WASHINGTON POST : By Anne Gearan, Karen DeYoung and Debbi Wilgoren, Updated: Wednesday, December 19, 2:18 PM

The State Department’s chief of security and two other officials have resigned from their positions, the Associated Press and CNN are reporting, following an independent investigation of the fatal attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Libya that found that “grossly” inadequate security and reliance on local militias left U.S. personnel vulnerable.

Unidentified administration officials told AP and CNN that that Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, and Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, have stepped down. The third official who resigned worked for the bureau of Near East Affairs, but wasn’t immediately identified, AP and CNN said.

Boswell, a retired career foreign service officer, was assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security from 1996 to 1998, during the administration of President Bill Clinton, and again as part of the administration of President George W. Bush in 2008. He remained in the job when President Obama took office.

For several years after he initially retired from government in 1998, he worked as an administrator for the Pan American Health Organization. In 2005, Boswell began a three-year stint as assistant deputy director for security in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, responsible for development of security policies throughout the intelligence community.

Lamb, Boswell’s deputy in charge of international programs, drew the lion’s share of criticism from lawmakers during hearings on Benghazi security held in October. It was Lamb, according to testimony, who denied requests from the U.S. Embassy inTripoli for an extension of temporary security forces that were withdrawn in the months prior to the Benghazi attack.

The review of the assault on the mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans faulted systemic failures of leadership and management deficiencies at senior levels within two bureaus of the State Department, according to an unclassified version posted on the department’s Web site Tuesday night.

The review by the Accountability Review Board said the temporary, lightly defended compound where Stevens died lacked disciplined oversight of its security operations. The diplomatic post’s ad hoc nature, with inexperienced staff members working there for short periods, “resulted in diminished institutional knowledge, continuity, and mission capacity,” the report said.

Finally, the report said State Department officials in Washington ignored requests from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, for additional guards and better security for the Benghazi compound, which served as a temporary U.S. consulate for eastern Libya. It also said that there had been worrisome incidents in the weeks before the attack that should have led to increased security, but the report did not identify any specific threats to the compound on Sept. 11.

The report said State Department security personnel on the scene and CIA officers at a nearby annex used as an operations base had responded in a timely and appropriate manner, and it absolved the U.S. military of any blame, saying there was not enough time for a military response that would have made any difference.

Despite the broad security failures, the report did not single out any individual officials as violating procedures and did not recommend any disciplinary action.

The report concluded that, contrary to initial reports by the Obama administration and by media outlets, there was no protest outside the outpost ahead of the attack and that the assault on the diplomatic compound and the CIA annex was carried out by terrorists.

Stevens and another diplomat, Sean Smith, were killed inside the compound. Two other Americans, CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, died in the attack on the annex. Ten people were injured in the assault.

The panel’s report “provides a clear-eyed look at serious, systemic challenges,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote in letters to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She said that the State Department had already begun to address the lapses and that she accepts “every one” of the recommendations for improvement.

Officials said Clinton will ask Congress to transfer $1.3 billion in money allocated to Iraq. The funds would be used for additional Marine guards, diplomatic security personnel and security improvements at U.S. missions overseas.

The report called on Congress to fully fund the request for additional security funds. “For many years the State Department has been engaged in a struggle to obtain the resources necessary to carry out its work with varying degrees of success,” the report said. The result, it said, has been inefficiencies that sacrifice security for savings.

An unclassified summary of the report was posted on the State Department’s Web site. A copy of Clinton’s letter was provided to reporters. More-detailed classified versions were made available earlier Tuesday to congressional leaders and the two committees in preparation for testimony by Deputy Secretaries William J. Burns and Thomas R. Nides on Thursday.

The Benghazi attack became a major issue in the presidential campaign, with GOP candidate Mitt Romney and numerous Republicans in Congress criticizing the Obama administration for what they viewed as poor security at the compound. Republicans also have been critical of initial administration reports that said the attack grew out of protests outside the Benghazi outpost over a U.S.-made anti-Islam video.

The report describes a somewhat loose and confusing arrangement for security and accountability at the site. It notes that everyone involved in Stevens’s trip to Benghazi from Tripoli for a week of meetings with local officials was aware of the potential for increased risk associated with the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. As a result, Stevens was confined to the post on that day.The panel faulted Libyan guards who had been hired to protect the compound, saying that they may have abandoned their posts at the front gate and allowed the attackers to overrun the facility. The report also said that the response of the Libyan government was “profoundly lacking on the night of the attacks, reflecting both weak capacity and a near total absence of central government influence in Benghazi.”

But the report also suggests that Stevens put himself in danger. It notes that he did not perceive an outsize risk created by traveling to Benghazi and that his deep experience in Libya and his management style meant that he made many decisions himself.

“His status as the leading U.S. government advocate on Libya policy, and his expertise on Benghazi in particular, caused Washington to give unusual deference to his judgments,” the report said.

The report found significant lapses in judgment and oversight by a few unidentified State Department employees but said no mistake amounted to a dereliction of duty. It did not recommend that anyone be fired.

First among the recommendations in the report is a general improvement in security for front-line posts in conflict zones and other dangerous countries. The United States cannot rely so heavily on the security forces of host countries, the report said.

“The department should urgently review the proper balance between acceptable risk and expected outcomes in high risk, high threat areas,” the report said.

Abandoning such posts is not acceptable, but neither is sending people to them without adequate support and forethought, the report said. It recommends a cost-benefit analysis of the mission, the risk and the responsibilities.

The five-member panel was led by former ambassador Thomas R. Pickering and included retired Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The two men are scheduled to present their findings in closed-door, classified meetings on Wednesday with the Senate and House foreign affairs panels.

North Korean satellite - be dead.


Astronomers from Harvard have confirmed that the North Korean satellite launched into space last week is tumbling in orbit and that no transmission has been received from it, signals that the spacecraft is almost certainly inactive. Experts have denied the possibility that the satellite could fall quickly back to Earth.

North Korean media has not commented on the spacecraft’s dysfunction, instead it has been focusing on describing its launch as a triumphal achievement of their leader.

The Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite is approximately the sixe of a washing machine and it is supposed to carry a camera on board for Earth-observation objectives. If this is true, that the satellite is tumbling in orbit, inflames suspicions that it is not working at all because it would need to be still so that the camera always points toward the planet.

Experts indicate that tumbling is a sign that stabilization on-board systems have failed. Optical astronomers have observed the satellite brightening and dimming as it slowly rotates through space end over end. a

Thursday, December 13, 2012

North Korean satellite orbit blankets US

Predicted passes for North Korea's "earth observation" satellite shows it blanketing the USA. It's not that it can't see much anything more different then anyone can on Google Earth as it is a finger in the eye of the PENTAGON - with the thought being they can now put a nuclear platform over any part of the CONUS.

SOURCE: N2YO.COM 

-Steve Douglass 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

North Korean satellite/NORAD 39026/KWANGMYSONG 3 first photos taken over Texas

Photographed as it passed just west of Amarillo, Texas tonight. Satellite tracking via N2YO.com

Yeah, I know it isn't much to look at - but it is proof that it is in stable LEO. Next task is to try and find out if it is transmitting. Time to break out the satellite antenna and the spectrum analyzer and listen for it on the next few passes.

This was a "dim" pass - but I spotted it with my night vision lens then set up the camera in it's path. Exposure was 2.5 seconds at 240mm, ISO 1600. I really had to pull up the brightness and contrast in Photoshop to bring it out of "the muck." I also saw lots of meteorites during my search but they looked nothing like this dim dirty snowball. This moved much slower than a meteor. I tracked the satellite on my laptop, which was quite accurate - just about half a minute off - but that could have been due to internet lag time.

Note the time of exposure differs from the orbital data by one hour because I have not reset my camera once we went off daylight savings time.

 I think the little curve on the left of the trail is either shutter bump or accidental movement of the tripod moving just a hair during exposure.

 RAW IMAGE on request by qualified MEDIA.

That bright point of light is a star (don't know which) that became my focus point. I'm guessing it was only illuminated by earthshine. - Steve Douglass

Click to enlarge. 




CAMERA EXIF DATA: 

PHOTO (C) Steve Douglass
E-mail webbfeat@gmail.com 


Photo (C) Steve Douglass RAW image available on request.

UPDATE: A satellite that North Korea launched on a long-range rocket is orbiting normally, South Korean officials say, following a defiant liftoff that drew a wave of international condemnation.
Washington and its allies are pushing for punishment over the launch, which they say is a test of banned ballistic missile technology.
The launch of a three-stage rocket similar in design to a model capable of carrying a nuclear-tipped warhead as far as California raises the stakes in the international standoff over North Korea's expanding atomic arsenal. As Pyongyang refines its technology, its next step may be conducting its third nuclear test, experts warn.
The UN security council, which has punished North Korea repeatedly for developing its nuclear programme, condemned Wednesday's launch and said it would urgently consider "an appropriate response". The White House called the launch a "highly provocative act that threatens regional security", and even the North's most important ally, China, expressed regret.
In Pyongyang, however, pride over the scientific advancement outweighed the fear of greater international isolation and punishment. North Koreans clinked beer mugs and danced in the streets to celebrate.
"It's really good news," Jon Il-gwang told the Associated Press as he and scores of other Pyongyang residents poured into the streets after a noon announcement to celebrate the launch by dancing in the snow. "It clearly testifies that our country has the capability to enter into space."
South Korea's defence ministry said on Thursday that the satellite was orbiting normally at a speed of 4.7 miles (7.6km) per second, though it is not known what mission it is performing. North Korean space officials said the satellite would be used to study crops and weather patterns.
The defence ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said it usually took about two weeks to determine whether a satellite worked successfully after liftoff. He cited data from the North American Aerospace Defence Command.
Wednesday's launch was North Korea's fifth attempt since 1998. An April launch failed in the first of three stages, raising doubts among outside observers whether North Korea could fix what was wrong in eight months, but those doubts were erased on Wednesday.
The Unha rocket, Korean for "galaxy", blasted off from a launchpad north-west of Pyongyang just three days after North Korea indicated that technical problems might delay the launch.
South Korean navy ships found what appeared to be debris from the first stage rocket in the Yellow Sea and were trying to retrieve them on Thursday, defence officials said. The debris is believed to be a fuel container of the first stage rocket.
The officials said South Korea had no plans to return it to North Korea because the launch violated UN council resolutions.
The North American Aerospace Defence Command confirmed that "initial indications are that the missile deployed an object that appeared to achieve orbit".
The launch could leave Pyongyang even more isolated and cut off from much-needed aid and trade.

North Korean satellite may be tumbling - unstable orbit.



By Barbara Starr

There were preliminary signs on Wednesday that North Korea may not be in total control of a satellite less than 24 hours after it was blasted into orbit, a U.S. official told CNN.

"There are some initial indications they might not have full control," the official said of the device that was the payload for North Korea's first successful long-range rocket launch.

The official, who has access to the latest U.S. assessment, declined to be identified by name due to the sensitive nature of the information.

The satellite, described by one U.S. defense official as a rudimentary communications satellite with limited capability, is on a Polar orbit, meaning it is moving between the North and South poles.

Since there are issues about control, the United States is not certain the satellite is in a fully stable orbit.

"We don't know. We are still trying to figure that out," the U.S. official said.

However, he also cautioned the satellite could stay in its relatively low altitude orbit for months before either burning up or falling back to Earth.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta alluded to the problem in an interview Wednesday that was to air on CNN's 'Erin Burnett OutFront."

"I think we still have to assess exactly what happened here," Panetta told Burnett in the interview.

Panetta said part of that scrutiny was to look at the final stage that launched the satellite into orbit "to determine whether or not that did work effectively or whether it tumbled into space."

The official cautioned that the North Koreans could resolve whatever technical issues they may be facing. While not necessarily fully handling the satellite, it is not thought to be spinning uncontrollably.

In a key indicator of a potential problem, there was no indication that North Korea's ground control had sent a crucial radio signal to the satellite, the official explained.

That type of signal is expected almost immediately as it is used to order the satellite to deploy solar panels that power its electronics.


UPDATE: By Jim Miklaszewski and Alan Boyle, NBC NewsBy Jim Miklaszewski and Alan Boyle, NBC News

The object that North Korea sent into space on Wednesday appears to be “tumbling out of control” as it orbits the earth, U.S. officials told NBC News.

The officials said that it is indeed some kind of space vehicle, but they still haven’t been able to determine exactly what the satellite is supposed to do.

In a statement, the White House said the rocket launch was a highly provocative act that threatens regional security and violates U.N. resolutions.

The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday condemned the launch, calling it a "clear violation" of U.N. resolutions. A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he "deplores" the launch.

READ MORE HERE

Track North Korea's Mystery Satellite in real time!



Orbital elements have been published for North Korea's KWANGMYONGSONG 3 satellite that was launched today and condemned by the Obama administration as provocative.

If you’re so inclined, you can actually track that satellite’s precise location at the Web site n2yo.com. The Kwangmyongsong-3 Unit 2 satellite (its name, which means “bright star,” comes from a Chinese-language poem by founding North Korean leader Kim Il Sung. 
The satellite has a reported orbital period of 96 minutes, meaning that it will circle the Earth in about the time it takes to watch “Team America: World Police.” 
Lets's all go out and blind it with a laser - shall we? 
Two Line Elements: 
1 39026U 12072A 12347.74205676 .00132649 00000-0 79618-2 0 63
2 39026 097.4079 036.6613 0060008 169.7339 190.5082 15.08803122 101

NORAD ID: 39026
Int'l Code: 2012-072A 
Perigee: 505.5 km 
Apogee: 588.5 km 
Inclination: 97.4 ° 
Period: 95.4 minutes 
Semi major axis: 6917 km 
Launch dateDecember 12, 2012 
Source: (NKOR) 
Comments: KWANGMYONGSONG 3 is a North Korean Earth "observation" satellite, which according to the DPRK is designed for weather forecast purposes, and whose launch is widely portrayed in the West to be a veiled ballistic missile test.

Here's a LINK to track it in real time.

Syria firing incendiary SCUDs on its own people



WASHINGTON — Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assadhave fired Scud missiles at rebel fighters in recent days, Obama administration officials said on Wednesday.

The move represents a significant escalation in the fighting, which has already killed more than 40,000 civilians in a nearly two-year-old conflict that has threatened to destabilize the Middle East, and suggests increased desperation on the part of the Assad government. A fresh wave of mayhem struck the Syrian capital Damascus on Wednesday, reports from the region said, including a deadly triple bombing outside the Interior Ministry. One American official, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing classified information, said that missiles had been fired from the Damascus area at targets in northern Syria.

“The total is number is probably north of six now,” said another American official, adding that the targets were in areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army, the main armed insurgent group.

It is not clear how many casualties resulted from the attacks by the Scuds — a class of Soviet-era missiles made famous by Saddam Hussein of Iraq during the first Persian Gulf war. But it appeared to be the first time that the Assad government had fired the missiles at targets inside Syria.

American officials did not say how they had monitored the missile firings, but American intelligence has been closely following developments in Syria through aerial surveillance and other methods, partly out of concern that Mr. Assad may resort to the use of chemical weapons in the conflict.

The Obama administration views the Assad government’s use of Scud missiles as a “significant escalation” of the conflict, said a senior official. It also shows, he said, the increasing pressure on Mr. Assad, since Scuds are primarily defensive weapons, being used by the government offensively against a counterinsurgency.

“Using Scuds to target tanks or military bases is one thing,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Using them to target rebels hiding in playgrounds at schools is something else.”

Among other repercussions the Obama administration fears is the possibility that Mr. Assad’s military could fire Scuds near, or over, the border with Turkey, which has become one of the Syrian president’s most ardent foes. That could result in Turkey firing its Patriot antimissile batteries, the administration official said.

Military experts said the Assad government’s use of Scuds might reflect worries that its aircraft have been vulnerable to rebel air defenses. In recent weeks, rebel forces have captured Syrian military bases, seized air-defense weapons and used some of them to fire at Syria warplanes. But one expert said that the government may have decided to use large missiles in order to wipe out military bases — and the arsenals they hold — that had been taken over by the opposition.

The Obama administration has yet to comment publicly on the missile attacks, but a senior administration official alluded to the development in a briefing for reporters on Tuesday.

“The Syrian regime has used aircraft,” the administration official said. “It has used artillery, and it appears that it has even used missile to attack the Syrian population and to attack what was a peaceful protest movement.”

There have been other indications of Syrian government use of missiles. The Local Coordinating Committees, an antigovernment activist network in Syria, reported from its Damascus office in an e-mail late Tuesday that “Regime forces are firing land missiles that are capable of carrying chemical warheads.” The group did not elaborate on what the missiles were or where the information had originated.

The developments came as representatives of more than 100 countries and organizations that support the anti-Assad movement met in Morocco and endorsed a newly formed insurgent coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. President Obama formally acknowledged that coalition, known as the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, in an interview on Tuesday with ABC News.

But the leader of the coalition took issue with a decision by the Obama administration to classify Al Nusra Front — one of several armed groups fighting Mr. Assad — as a foreign terrorist organization and urged the United States to review that decision.

The coalition leader, Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, said, “The logic under which we consider one of the parts that fights against the Assad regime is a terrorist organization is a logic one must reconsider.”


Real hero of bin Laden raid denied promotion - treated unfairly


By Greg Miller, Published: December 10
WASHINGTON POST


She was a real-life heroine of the CIA hunt for Osama bin Laden, a headstrong young operative whose work tracking the al-Qaeda leader serves as the dramatic core of a Hollywood film set to premiere next week.

Her CIA career has followed a more problematic script, however, since bin Laden was killed.

The operative, who remains undercover, was passed over for a promotion that many in the CIA thought would be impossible to withhold from someone who played such a key role in one of the most successful operations in agency history.

She has sparred with CIA colleagues over credit for the bin Laden mission. After being given a prestigious award for her work, she sent an e-mail to dozens of other recipients saying they didn’t deserve to share her accolades, current and former officials said.

The woman has also come under scrutiny for her contacts with filmmakers and others about the bin Laden mission, part of a broader internal inquiry into the agency’s cooperation on the new movie and other projects, former officials said.

Her defenders say the operative has been treated unfairly, and even her critics acknowledge that her contributions to the bin Laden hunt were crucial. But the developments have cast a cloud over a career that is about to be bathed in the sort of cinematic glow ordinarily reserved for fictional Hollywood spies.

The female officer, who is in her 30s, is the model for the main character in “Zero Dark Thirty,”a film that chronicles the decade-long hunt for the al-Qaeda chief and that critics are describing as an Academy Award front-runner even before its Dec. 19 release.

The character Maya, which is not the CIA operative’s real name, is portrayed as a gifted operative who spent years pursuing her conviction that al-Qaeda’s courier network would lead to bin Laden, a conviction that proved correct.

At one point in the film, after a female colleague is killed in an attack on a CIA compound in Afghanistan, Maya describes her purpose in near-messianic terms: “I believe I was spared so I could finish the job.”

Colleagues said the on-screen depiction captures the woman’s dedication and combative temperament.

“She’s not Miss Congeniality, but that’s not going to find Osama bin Laden,” said a former CIA associate, who added that the attention from filmmakers sent waves of envy through the agency’s ranks.

“The agency is a funny place, very insular,” the former official said. “It’s like middle-schoolers with clearances.”

The woman is not allowed to talk to journalists, and the CIA declined to answer questions about her, except to stress that the bin Laden mission involved an extensive team. “Over the course of a decade, hundreds of analysts, operators and many others played key roles in the hunt,” said agency spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood.

Friction over mission, movie

The internal frictions are an unseemly aspect of the ongoing fallout from a mission that is otherwise regarded as one of the signal successes in CIA history.

The movie has been a source of controversy since it was revealed that the filmmakers — including director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal — were given extensive access to officials at the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA.

Members of Congress have called for investigations into whether classified information was shared. The movie’s release was delayed amid criticism that it amounted to a reelection ad for President Obama.

The film’s publicity materials say that Maya “is based on a real person,” but the filmmakers declined to elaborate. U.S. officials acknowledged that Boal met with Maya’s real-life counterpart and other CIA officers, typically in the presence of someone from the agency’s public affairs office. The character is played by Jessica Chastain.

Her real-life counterpart joined the agency before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, officials said, and served as a targeter — a position that involves finding targets to recruit as spies or for lethal drone strikes — in the CIA’s station in Islamabad, Pakistan.

She was in that country when the search for bin Laden, after years of being moribund, suddenly heated up. After Obama took office, CIA operatives reexamined several potential trails, including al-Qaeda’s use of couriers to hand-deliver messages to and from bin Laden.

“After this went right, there were a lot of people trying to take credit,” the former intelligence official said. But the female targeter “was one of the people from very early on pushing this” courier approach.

Lashing out in an e-mail

This spring, she was among a handful of employees given the agency’s Distinguished Intelligence Medal, its highest honor except for those recognizing people who have come under direct fire. But when dozens of others were given lesser awards, the female officer lashed out.

“She hit ‘reply all’ ” to an e-mail announcement of the awards, a second former CIA official said. The thrust of her message, the former official said, was: “You guys tried to obstruct me. You fought me. Only I deserve the award.”

Over the past year, she was denied a promotion that would have raised her civil service rank from GS-13 to GS-14, bringing an additional $16,000 in annual pay.

Officials said the woman was given a cash bonus for her work on the bin Laden mission and has since moved on to a new counterterrorism assignment. They declined to say why the promotion was blocked.

The move stunned the woman’s former associates, despite her reputation for clashing with colleagues.

“Do you know how many CIA officers are jerks?” the former official said. “If that was a disqualifier, the whole National Clandestine Service would be gone.”

The targeter’s contacts with the “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmakers have also been examined as part of an inquiry, apparently by the CIA inspector general, into the information that agency officials shared with outsiders about the bin Laden raid.

Internal e-mails released this year under Freedom of Information Act requests showed how the agency set up repeated visits for Boal, allowing him to tour the “vault” where the raid was planned and even see a mock-up of the Abbottabad compound.

Former CIA officials said agency enthusiasm for the film has been tempered as details about it have surfaced, including the fact that the movie opens with a harrowing waterboarding scene in a secret CIA prison.



Joby Warrick contributed to this report.

Karzai says he has evidence Pakistan was behind bombing


ANKARA: Afghan President Hamid Karzai will submit evidence to Pakistan during a meeting in Turkey on Tuesday suggesting that the attack on Afghanistan’s spy chief was hatched in Pakistan, said Karzai’s spokesperson.
“President Karzai will submit all the documents and evidence in hand to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, which suggest the attack was hatched in Quetta in Pakistan, and follow this up seriously,” said Siamak Herawi, a spokesperson for Karzai.
Karzai was to hold talks with Zardari at a trilateral summit hosted by Turkish President Abdullah Gul in Ankara on Tuesday and Wednesday. Foreign ministers and senior officials from both countries will also meet at the summit, the seventh of its kind in Turkey.
The bomber, who hid explosives inside his underwear and posed as a peace messenger, wounded spy chief Asadullah Khalid last Thursday in a brazen attack that set back a nascent, already fragile reconciliation process.
Speaking after the attack, Karzai stopped short of directly blaming his neighbour but said he knew “for a fact” the bomber came from Pakistan and that Kabul would seek clarification from Islamabad during meetings in Turkey.
While the Taliban have claimed responsibility for the bombing, Karzai has said the raid was too sophisticated to have been carried out by the militant group.
“Bigger hands are involved,” said Herawi, repeating a phrase often used by the Afghan leader after high-profile attacks.
Pakistan has said it would assist in any investigation into the bombing, but also urged Karzai to provide evidence before “levelling charges”, and suggested Kabul look into any lapses in its own security arrangements that may have led to the raid.
Strained ties
While the latest spat is unlikely to cause any lasting damage – Karzai has issued more direct charges at Pakistan in the past and has said contacts between both countries would continue – ties between Kabul and Islamabad remain strained.
Afghanistan has been angered by cross-border raids by militant groups from Pakistan, and has repeatedly accused its neighbour’s intelligence agency of backing Afghan insurgent groups to advance its own interests in the country.
Pakistan denies the accusations and says it is committed to helping bring peace to Afghanistan.
The attack on Afghanistan’s top spy was almost a carbon copy of last year’s assassination of the country’s chief peace negotiator, Burhanuddin Rabbani, a killing in which Afghanistan said Pakistan was involved.
Pakistan has, however, sent recent strong signals it would support the Afghan government’s efforts to draw the Taliban into negotiations after more than a decade of war.
The United States and Western nations with troops in Afghanistan have long abandoned the notion of defeating the Taliban militarily and have reluctantly thrown their weight behind negotiating with the militants to end the fighting.
That the insurgents are capable of striking in the heart of the Kabul after more than 10 years of fighting highlights Afghanistan’s ongoing instability as US-led Nato troops prepare to withdraw by the end of 2014.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

North Korea successfully launch long range rocket


SEOUL/TOKYO, Dec 12 (Reuters) - North Korea successfully launched a rocket on Wednesday, boosting the credentials of its new leader and stepping up the threat the isolated and impoverished state poses to its opponents.
The rocket, which North Korea says was designed to put a weather satellite into orbit, has been labelled by the United States, South Korea and Japan as a test of technology that could one day deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting targets as far as the continental the United States.
"The satellite has entered the planned orbit," North Korea's state news agency KCNA said.
North Korea followed what it said was a similar successful launch in 2009 with a nuclear test that prompted the United Nations Security Council to stiffen sanctions against Pyongyang that it originally imposed in 2006 after the North's first nuclear test.
The state is banned from developing nuclear and missile-related technology under U.N. resolutions, although Kim Jong-un, the youthful head of state who took power a year ago, is believed to have continued the state's "military first" programmes put into place by his deceased father Kim Jong-il.
After Wednesday's launch, which saw the second stage of the rocket splash down in seas off the Philippines as planned, Japan's U.N. envoy called for a Security Council meeting. However, diplomats say further tough sanctions are unlikely to be agreed at the body as China, the North's only major ally, will opppose them.
The rocket was launched just before 10 a.m. Korea time (01000 GMT), according to defence officials in South Korea and Japan, and easily surpassed a failed April launch that flew for less than two minutes.
There was no independent confirmation it had put a satellite into orbit.
Japan's likely next prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who is leading in opinion polls ahead of an election on Dec. 16 and who made his name as a North Korea hawk, called on the United Nations to adopt a resolution "strongly criticising" Pyongyang.
There was no immediate official reaction from Washington, South Korea's major military backer, or from China.
China had expressed "deep concern" over the launch which was announced a day after a visit by a top politburo member to Pyongyang when he met Kim Jong-un.
On Wednesday, China's state news agency Xinhua said North Korea had the "right to conduct peaceful exploration of outer space."
But it added: "Pyongyang should also abide by relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 1874, which demands (North Korea) not to conduct 'any launch using ballistic missile technology' and urges it to 'suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile programme.'"
U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who heads the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, quickly condemned the launch and called for tougher sanctions.
"It is clear that Pyongyang is moving ever closer towards its ultimate goal of producing a nuclear ballistic missile in order to threaten not only our allies in the Asia-Pacific region but the U.S. as well," she said.
A senior adviser to South Korea's president said last week it was unlikely that there would be a meaningful set of sanctions agreed at the United Nations but that Seoul would expect its allies to tighten sanctions unilaterally

Monday, December 10, 2012

X-37B Robotic Spaceplane set for Tuesday launch



Published: 12/10/2012 07:42 AM EST on SPACE.com
The secretive U.S. Air Force X-37B robotic space plane has been cleared to lift off Tuesday (Dec. 11).
The X-37B vehicle and its cargo bay packed with a classified payload is set to make the third mission of the program. Also called Orbital Test Vehicle-3, or OTV-3, the unpiloted craft is slated to be hurled into Earth orbit by an Atlas 5 rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) at 1:03 p.m. EST (1803 GMT).
There's an interesting angle to the upcoming mission. This third flight will use the same X-37B spacecraft that flew the first test flight, the OTV-1 mission, back in 2010.
That maiden voyage of the miniature space plane lasted a little over 224 days, orbiting Earth from April 22, 2010 to Dec. 3 of that year, and finally landing on autopilot at a specially prepared runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. [Photos: U.S. Military's X-37B Space Plane]
A different X-37B vehicle made a similar Vandenberg touchdown this past June 16, after staying in orbit 469 days on its OTV-2 mission.
The X-37B program is being run by the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. The two space planes in the fleet — which are 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and 15 feet (4.5 m) wide, with a payload bay about the size of a pickup truck bed — were built by Boeing Government Space Systems.
The Air Force's Rapid Capabilities Office has a mission of expediting the development and fielding of select Department of Defense combat support and weapon systems by leveraging defense-wide technology development efforts and existing operational capabilities.
According to an Air Force factsheet, the Rapid Capabilities Office is working on the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle "to demonstrate a reliable, reusable, unmanned space test platform for the United States Air Force."
While both previous X-37B missions touched down at Vandenberg, the Air Force has been reviewing the prospect of landing future flights at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, next door to the Cape Canaveral launch site. Returning the robotic space plane to the KSC landing strip — which was used by NASA's now-retired space shuttle fleet — would lower costs, because the vehicle wouldn't have to be transported back from California to Florida after each mission.

READ THE REST OF THE STORY HERE



Saturday, December 8, 2012

Pearl Harbor F-22 tail scrape costs 1.8 million



An F-22 fighter jet used in a flyover during a remembrance ceremony at Pearl Harbor scraped its tail on a runway as it landed, causing $1.8 million in damage.

A Hawaii National Guard spokesman says nobody was hurt in the incident Friday morning on the 71st anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Lt. Col. Charles Anthony says the jet was coming back to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam from a training exercise after taking part in the ceremony. He says the "mishap" happened roughly 90 minutes after the flyover.

In jet terms, the damage to the F-22's horizontal stabilizers may be little more than a pricey fender-bender.

Anthony says it costs roughly $147 million to make one F-22 fighter. nThe Raptor belonged to the 199th and 19th Fighters Squadrons. It sustained damage to both horizontal stabilizers.

The initial cost estimate for repairs is $1.8 million. Each Raptor costs more than $400 million.  The tail of the plane scraped the runway during landing, according to a Hawaii National Guard spokesman.

The pilot of the aircraft was uninjured. The cause of the damage is under investigation.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Duh - yeah- they are unmanned!

NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE (KSNV MyNews3) – A U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper crashed on the Nevada Test and Training Range on Wednesday night, according to a news release.

No one was injured in the incident, which occurred around 7:15 p.m. in a remote location west of Hiko.
The remotely piloted aircraft, assigned to the 57th Wing here, was participating in a combat training mission as part of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School Mission Employment phase. 

A board of officers is being convened to investigate.

US Navy poised for North Korean missile launch


The Navy is moving some warships into position to monitor a possible upcoming North Korean launch of a long-range ballistic missile, U.S. Department of Defense officials said Thursday.
The USS Benfold and the USS Fitzgerald - both guided missile destroyers - are moving into positions, although the Navy declined to give their exact location. They are being sent to monitor for a possible launch and "provide reassurance to allies," according two Defense Department officials.
It's possible two additional ships will be sent in the next few days, the officials added.
North Korea appears to be working toward its goal of launching a rocket later this month, with a recent satellite image showing preparations continuing around the site.

The December 4 image provided to CNN by satellite imagery company GeoEye shows increased activity by workers on the launch pad, an imagery analyst told CNN.com's Security Clearance. The launch pad activity was not evident in an image from DigitalGlobe taken three days earlier.
The U.S. is also, “rapidly moving assets to pacific region because of the ballistic missile threat in the region,” the Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III told reporters at a Pentagon briefing Thursday morning in reference to the North Korean threat.
"I don't believe that a launch is imminently imminent, but what we are seeing is sort of what they call the beginning of the end of launch preparations," Allison Puccioni, an analyst with Jane's IHS who writes about North Korean imagery for Jane's Defense Weekly, said last week. "Prior to this, we had not seen much in the way of rocket launch pad activity, but now we are seeing some significant stuff happening," such as additional work on the rocket launch tower, she said.
North Korea says it intends to launch a rocket it claims is for science and research purposes sometime between December 10 and December 22. The United States has condemned the test because the launch employs the same technology that would be used in a test of ballistic missiles. The launch would also be a violation of two separate resolutions passed by the United Nations Security Council.

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