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30,000 missing emails from IRS' Lerner recovered | WashingtonExaminer.com

30,000 missing emails from IRS' Lerner recovered | WashingtonExaminer.com

Media Critic: Fox News 'Far Better Watchdog' on Obama Than 'Any Other' TV News Outlet

Media Critic: Fox News 'Far Better Watchdog' on Obama Than 'Any Other' TV News Outlet

Pentagon got duped, made ransom payment for Bowe Bergdahl to con man


 - The Washington Times
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
The Pentagon is under fire for making a ransom payment to an Afghan earlier this year as part of a failed bid to win the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, according to U.S. officials.
Sgt. Bergdahl was released in May after nearly five years in captivity as part of a controversial exchange for five terrorists held at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“Given the significance of this matter, as well as the fact that Pentagon officials have denied that a payment was even considered — and you also said you were unaware of any such attempt — I ask you to immediately inquire with JSOC to determine the specific order of events,” said Mr. Hunter, California Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee.

The ransom payment was first disclosed by Rep. Duncan Hunter in a Nov. 5 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck HagelMr. Hunter stated in the letter that Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) made the payment covertly as part of a release deal. But the money was stolen by the Afghan intermediary claiming to represent the Haqqani terrorist network.
Mr. Hunter also asked Mr. Hagel whether ransom payments are being considered for other captives.
Disclosure of the ransom payment undermines a key financial element of President Obama’s strategy to counter the Islamic State — pressuring foreign governments, corporations and families of captives not to pay ransom. In a speech in September, David S. Cohen, Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said the Islamic State made $20 million this year in ransoming hostages.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Tuesday that Mr. Obama “continues to believe, as previous presidents have concluded, that it’s not in the best interest of American citizens to pay ransoms to any organization, let alone a terrorist organization.”

“And the reason for that is simple: We don’t want to put other American citizens at even greater risk when they’re around the world,” he said.

Secretary of State John F. Kerry also said in a speech Tuesday that ransom payments will not be paid. Both officials spoke following the latest beheading of an American, Peter Kassig, by Islamic State terrorists.

Officials said the Bergdahl ransom was an unspecified large amount of money and that the exchange was handled by the Army’s elite Delta Force anti-terrorism squad. The FBI also was involved in the ransom payment attempt and was waiting inside Afghanistan’s border with North Waziristan when the release failed, confirming that it had been a scam.

The Pentagon’s spin on the payment is that the money was not technically a ransom. Instead, defense officials are claiming the cash was intelligence money paid to a source for information that would lead to the release of Sgt. Bergdahl.


Before the prisoner swap for Sgt. Bergdahl, which angered Congress because it violated promises of consultations prior to the freeing of Guantanamo inmates, special operations commandos had been preparing to conduct a rescue raid if Sgt. Bergdahl’s location was uncovered.
However, confusion and multiple lines of effort to win the American soldier’s release surrounded the entire affair. In addition to the JSOC ransom and rescue plans, the State Department held negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar, and Pakistani military and intelligence agencies also were involved. Also, the Bergdahl family was preparing to pay a $10 million ransom, according to BuzzFeed.
Sgt. Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in June 2009 along with a group of Afghan soldiers who were intoxicated. According to a person familiar with the capture, he was sold to the Haqqani network and moved to Pakistan, complicating any covert rescue attempt.
Before the prisoner swap for Sgt. Bergdahl, which angered Congress because it violated promises of consultations prior to the freeing of Guantanamo inmates, special operations commandos had been preparing to conduct a rescue raid if Sgt. Bergdahl’s location was uncovered.

A spokesman for Mr. Hunter said the Pentagon has not responded to the congressman’s letter but is said to be working on a response.
However, confusion and multiple lines of effort to win the American soldier’s release surrounded the entire affair. In addition to the JSOC ransom and rescue plans, the State Department held negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar, and Pakistani military and intelligence agencies also were involved. Also, the Bergdahl family was preparing to pay a $10 million ransom, according to BuzzFeed.
Sgt. Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in June 2009 along with a group of Afghan soldiers who were intoxicated. According to a person familiar with the capture, he was sold to the Haqqani network and moved to Pakistan, complicating any covert rescue attempt.
A spokesman for Mr. Hunter said the Pentagon has not responded to the congressman’s letter but is said to be working on a response.
Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/nov/19/inside-the-ring-ransom-paid-for-bergdahl/#ixzz3JgADeMET 

U.S. government thinks China could take down the power grid

By Jamie Crawford
National Security Producer

Washington (CNN) -- China and "probably one or two other" countries have the capacity to shut down the nation's power grid and other critical infrastructure through a cyber attack, the head of the National Security Agency told a Congressional panel Thursday.

Admiral Michael Rogers, who also serves the dual role as head of U.S. Cyber Command, said the United States has detected malware from China and elsewhere on U.S. computers systems that affect the daily lives of every American.

"It enables you to shut down very segmented, very tailored parts of our infrastructure that forestall the ability to provide that service to us as citizens," Rogers said in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.

Rogers said such attacks are part of the "coming trends" he sees based on "reconnaissance" currently taking place that nation-states, or other actors may use to exploit vulnerabilities in U.S. cyber systems.

 Cyber attacks hit State Dept. email, web Snipers attack U.S. electrical grid NYT: NSA bugged devices without internet

A recent report by Mandiant, a cyber-security firm, found that hackers working on behalf of the Chinese government were able to penetrate American public utility systems that service everything from power generation, to the movement of water and fuel across the country.
Related: Mandiant - China is sponsoring cyber espionage

"We see them attempting to steal information on how our systems are configured, the very 
schematics of most of our control systems, down to engineering level of detail so they can look at where are the vulnerabilities, how are they constructed, how could I get in and defeat them," Rogers said. "We're seeing multiple nation-states invest in those kinds of capabilities."

Admiral Rogers declined to identify who the other countries, beside China, because of the classified nature of their identities. Russia is generally regarded as also having an aggressive cyber program.

In addition to nation-state actors, Admiral Rogers noted the increasing presence of "surrogate" criminal actors in cyberspace that serve to obscure the hidden hand of criminal activity done on behalf of formal nation-states.

"That's a troubling development for us," Rogers said.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, the retiring chairman of the committee, called the groups "cyber hit men for hire" for nation-state actors in cyberspace.

The testimony also comes in the wake of a report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project that cited a prediction by technology experts that a catastrophic cyber-attack that causes significant losses in life and financial damage would occur by 2025.
Related: Catastrophic cyber attack looms

Admiral Rogers told the committee he did not disagree with the assessment.

In addition to the threats from specific nation-states, Admiral Rogers said there are already groups within the U.S. cyber architecture who seek to cause major damage to corporate and other critical sectors of the American economy.

"It is only a matter of the when, not the if, that we are going to see something traumatic." he said.

Harsh Cold to Freeze Northeast, Set Records in South



By Brian Lada, Meteorologist

The coldest air since last winter, now over the Plains and Midwest, will blast into the East during the first half of this week.
The core of the frigid air will focus over the northern Plains and the Great Lakes through at least Wednesday with overnight lows dipping down into the teens, single digits and even near zero F in the coldest spots.
Bone-chilling nights will be followed up by frosty cold days with highs struggling to reach the 20-degree mark over the regions on Monday and Tuesday. Some locations in the Central states are forecast to stay below 20 F until Wednesday afternoon, including Minneapolis.
Temperatures this low can make it dangerous for outdoors activities if you are not wearing the proper clothing.
While much of the Northeast escaped the cold on Monday, the arctic air will sweep through the region by Tuesday.
Highs temperatures from Washington, D.C., through New York City are forecast to stay near or below freezing on Tuesday, levels that would be considered below normal even during the heart of winter.
A biting wind from the northwest will make it feel even colder with AccuWeather.com RealFeel® staying in the teens throughout the day along the I-95 corridor.
significant lake-effect snow event will set up downwind of the Great Lakes as the arctic air blows over the comparatively warm waters of the lakes.
The stage is set for feet of snow to pile up in some communities downwind of the Great Lakes. In some cases, the heaviest snow squalls in these areas can produce thunder and lightning.
Gusty winds will blow around the fresh snow, creating large drifts and near-blizzard conditions at times.
This arctic outbreak will not only be limited to the northern Plains, Midwest and Northeast but will reach into the Deep South.
Record lows will be challenged on multiple occasions through midweek from eastern Texas to the Carolinas with lows near freezing along much of the Gulf coast.
Parts of northern Florida may even have their first freeze of the season as lows dip down into the 20s in cities such as Jacksonville and Tallahassee.
According to Southern Weather Expert Dan Kottlowski, "A freeze will not reach into citrus-growing areas of South Florida, but there may be some issues for other fruits and some vegetables grown in northern and north-central counties of the state."
The intensity of the cold is expected to lessen as temperatures begin to moderate heading into the second part of the week.
However, highs from Atlanta, Georgia, to Albany, New York, and westward through Aberdeen, South Dakota, will remain below normal until at least the weekend.

Google to test-fly balloons which transmit internet over Australia


Australian Associated Press
Company to team up with Telstra to fly 20 balloons over western Queensland in project designed to help connect remote regions of the world


Google is bringing its audacious internet-transmitting balloons to Australia.
The company will test-fly 20 balloons in western Queensland in December in partnership with Telstra.
It’s the latest step in Project Loon, Google’s plan to beam internet to remote parts of the world via helium balloons that circle the globe on stratospheric winds.
The balloons carry antennas that can beam 4G-like signals to homes and phones 20km below.
For the trial, Telstra will supply base stations to communicate with the balloons and access to space on the radio spectrum.
It follows initial trials above Christchurch in New Zealand in June last year. Google said at the time it was drawn to the area’s favourable stratospheric conditions.
The company’s ultimate goal is to have a ring of balloons circling the Earth, bringing internet to the estimated two-thirds of people who are presently unwired.
It’s also hoped the balloons could one day provide coverage to areas struck by natural disasters.
Project Loon has been in development since mid-2011 by scientists at Google X, the secretive lab also working on Google Glass and driverless cars.
The technology is especially attractive for developing countries because it might let them avoid having to lay costly underground fibre cabling.

How Project Loon works

1. Web-connected base stations bounce signals up to the balloons, which float at about twice the altitude of passenger jets.
2. The signals hop forward from one balloon to the next.
3. Each balloon transmits internet signals down to an area more than twice the size of Canberra.
4. Card table-sized solar panel powers on-board gadgetry. Balloons can stay airborne for about 100 days.
5. Plan is for a ring of balloons to circle the Earth on westerly stratospheric winds.


Fasten your seatbelts, Canada, and get ready for the battle for America | Column

Fasten your seatbelts, Canada, and get ready for the battle for America | Column