11/11/19

Iran’s Underground Enrichment Facility

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Under the Iran deal, Iran agreed to redesign, convert and limit its nuclear facilities.

Particular focus was put on Iran’s uranium-enrichment capabilities, putting serious limitations on uranium-enrichment facilities in Iran – Natanz and Fordow. Among other resolutions, Iran also agreed to allow inspection of all its nuclear facilities and the IAEA inspectors will be able to request visits to military sites. However, it doesn’t guarantee them access to military sites.

Fordow is Iran’s second fuel enrichment facility, buried under a mountain in the Great Salt Desert near the holy city of Qom. Before the Iran deal, the bunker was filled with 2,710 centrifuges that could enrich uranium to weapons-grade materials.

Under the nuclear agreement, Iran agreed to stop any uranium enrichment and uranium enrichment R&D at Fordow and turn the plant into a nuclear physics and technology center that will produce radioisotopes for use in medicine, agriculture, industry, and science.

Reported in part by Free Beacon:

U.S. State Department officials described Iran’s blocking of an international nuclear inspector from accessing key nuclear sites last week as an “outrageous and unwarranted act of intimidation” amid growing concerns Iran is hiding undeclared nuclear materials.

The administration suspects that Iran is trying to prevent international inspectors from confirming its work with prohibited nuclear materials.

“The United States is deeply concerned about the two issues the IAEA acting director general described in today’s special session of the IAEA Board of Directors,” the official said. “First, that the IAEA has detected evidence of potential undeclared nuclear material in Iran, and second, the detention of an IAEA inspector. Along with Iran’s expansion of proliferation-sensitive nuclear activity, this pattern of deception and intimidation is unacceptable. All nations should be concerned that Iran is not fully cooperating with the IAEA and should demand Iran immediately redress these serious problems.”

The diplomatic escalation comes as Iran breaches limits on the amount of enriched uranium it produces and the enrichment methods it uses. It escalated installations of advanced centrifuges in the past week and has vowed to continue doing so.

Nuclear experts told the Free Beacon that Iran’s behavior raises multiple questions and concerns about the nature of its ongoing work.

“Assuming the IAEA version of events is correct and she did not have explosive contamination on her person, then Iran may be testing what the reaction is to denying inspectors access to safeguarded sites,” David Albright, a former weapons inspector and president of the Institute for Science and International Security, told the Free Beacon.

“How long does it take for this episode to be reported to the board and media?” he asked. “Does the IAEA send a replacement quickly? How many countries and which ones believe the Iranian rationale? Is there outrage or are there divisions that delay a coordinated response?”

Andrea Stricker, a nonproliferation analyst and research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, described Iran’s actions as “highly provocative.”

It “gives the impression that Iran could be considering curtailing inspection authorities as a future step to draw down its JCPOA commitments,” Stricker said. “It’s a hostile sign for sure.”

11/11/19

Veterans Day: The Forgotten History of America’s Veterans Day and What It Commemorates

Ammo.com

Veterans Day: The Forgotten History of America's Veterans Day and What It CommemoratesVeterans Day, celebrated each year on November 11th, was first celebrated on this same date in 1919, under the name of Armistice Day. The holiday was named in remembrance of the temporary ceasefire that brought about the unofficial end to World War I when, the year before, the Allied forces entered into an armistice with the Germans, stopping live battle on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.

A year later, and nearly five months after the official end of the First World War (which occurred on June 28, 1918, with the Treaty of Versailles), President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed November 11th the first commemoration with the following:

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with the gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…”

He called for parades and public gatherings and a brief moment of silence at 11 a.m. Two years later, on November 11, 1921, an unidentified American soldier was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in what became known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Celebrating America’s Heroes: Armistice Day

It wasn’t just the United States that remembered the end of the great war; countries around the world celebrated Armistice Day in 1919, and many still do today. In Canada, they call it Remembrance Day, and Great Britain celebrates Remembrance Sunday on the second Sunday of each November.

In 1926, a Congressional resolution was passed, making Armistice Day a recurring federal holiday, stating that it should be “commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through goodwill and mutual understanding between nations.” As a side note, the federal government can’t force the states into celebrating a holiday, as it’s not within its jurisdiction, but most states adopt the federal holiday calendar.

Celebrating America’s Veterans: Veterans Day

Although the ceasefire – believed to have occurred on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 – was the end of the war to end all wars, history has shown the naivete of the era.

Perhaps the Allied forces showed too much sympathy with the Treaty of Versailles. By the time the war-ending document was signed, seven months after the armistice in November, much of the Allied troops had returned home. And no one, not the United States nor Britain nor France, wanted to remain in Germany or Austria to make sure the terms of the treaty were enforced. What’s more, the Treaty did not require an unconditional surrender; the German troops, although defeated, were not disbanded.

As the embittered Marshal Ferdinand Foch of France, supreme commander of the Allied forces, presciently concluded of the Versailles settlement: “This is not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.”

Foch was right. Twenty years after the 1919 settlement, the German army under Hitler – himself a decorated veteran of World War I who helped to spin the yarn that the German army hadn’t been defeated in the field, but instead betrayed by the Jews at home – invaded Poland to start World War II, which would cost the world roughly four times as many lives as World War I.

This time, over 16 million American soldiers, a whopping 42 percent of war-aged men, headed out to battle. And while we lost over 400,000 to the war, many of those men and women returned home. Shortly thereafter, tension began to rise in Korea, and by 1950, the Korean War began. Another 1.8 million troops were again sent across the sea.

By the end of the summer of 1953, after the Korean War ended, about one in every two service-age men were veterans and it was decided that Armistice Day would be officially be changed to Veterans Day – honoring all veterans from all wars.

Changing Throughout the Years: Veterans Day Today

Throughout the years, Veterans Day has changed, sometimes to its benefit and sometimes not. For instance, in 1968, the federal holiday – along with Memorial DayGeorge Washington’s birthday, and Columbus Day – was switched to a Monday celebration to help encourage travel and tourism in the country.

A few years later, in the brief period from 1971 to 1975, the date was changed again. Instead of the Monday closest to the original Armistice Day, the government opted to set Veterans Day as the fourth Monday in October.

This change wasn’t joyfully accepted by the American public, as many held emotional ties to the origins of Veterans Day. After a few years, the date was reverted back to November 11th.

Now, a century from the original remembrance of Armistice Day, the holiday is still celebrated on November 11th. If the 11th day of the 11th month falls on a Saturday, the day is observed on the previous Friday. If it falls on a Sunday, the holiday is observed on the following Monday.

Different areas celebrate Veterans Day in different ways. Most public schools close (normally on the Monday closest to the holiday), as do all federal buildings, most banks, and many businesses. There are parades and celebrations to honor veterans. Perhaps the most iconic is the annual wreath-laying ceremony that happens at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Many areas still observe a moment of silence at 11 a.m. to remember all veterans, those that are still here, those that have gone on, and those that never made it home. It’s also not uncommon to see the American flag flown at half-mast.

Regardless of political leanings, Veterans Day is about recognizing the dedication and sacrifice of America’s veterans. If you want to show support, attend a parade. Volunteer at your local VFW. Visit a VA hospital and spend some time talking to the men and women who are unable to attend such events. And when you see a vet, shake their hand, and thank them for their service.

10/29/19

The Secret X-37B Just Landed After 2 Years in Space

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Though the Air Force doesn’t disclose the X-37B’s precise orbit, keen-eyed amateur astronomers have managed to track the vehicle from the ground — and so can you, thanks to their efforts. Check out Space.com’s satellite tracker to see where the X-37B is overhead during a mission. The view won’t be dramatic; the space plane usually looks like a star of middling brightness moving across the sky. More here.

The U.S. Air Force’s top-secret spaceplane, the Boeing X-37B, landed in Florida early Sunday after 780 days—over 2 years and one month—in orbit around the Earth. And we still have no idea what it was doing while it was up there.

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle-5 (OTV-5) mission was the fifth time that the uncrewed vehicle has flown around the world, beating the duration of the fourth mission, which landed in May of 2017 after 718 days in orbit. This most recent mission launched from a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on September 7, 2017.

“The X-37B continues to demonstrate the importance of a reusable spaceplane,” Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said in a statement posted online. “Each successive mission advances our nation’s space capabilities.”

What are those capabilities? We don’t know the specifics. But according to the Air Force, the X-37B has the unique ability to “test new systems in space and return them to Earth” and the mission “successfully completed” all of its objectives.

Military leaders, many of whom were previously skeptical of the need for an entirely new branch of the armed services, appear to be excited about President Donald Trump’s Space Force and the way that the X-37B might play a role in that branch of the military. At least that’s the gist you get reading the Air Force’s press release.

“The safe return of this spacecraft, after breaking its own endurance record, is the result of the innovative partnership between Government and Industry,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in a press release. “The sky is no longer the limit for the Air Force and, if Congress approves, the U.S. Space Force.”

This latest mission launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and landed at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility on October 27, 2019, at 3:51 a.m. The last time this spaceplane came back to Earth there was video of the landing. This time, however, there was no video, perhaps because the landing took place in the predawn hours.

“This program continues to push the envelope as the world’s only reusable space vehicle. With a successful landing today, the X-37B completed its longest flight to date and successfully completed all mission objectives,” said Randy Walden, Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office director.

“This mission successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites.”

The Air Force says it plans to launch the sixth X-37B mission from CCAFS in 2020. And you can bet good money we won’t know much about that launch either.

What do you think they were doing up there? A couple of missions ago, something like “aliens” may have been a ridiculous guess. But we’ve sure learned a lot about U.S. military contact with unidentified flying objects since this mission first launched in September of 2017.

I’m not saying they’re flying aliens around in a super-secret Air Force spaceplane. But they’re probably flying aliens around in a super-secret Air Force spaceplane.

10/29/19

Big Warnings of China Military Expansion

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

McRaven, the former head of Joint Special Operations Command overseeing the U.S. Navy SEAL team that took down Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden at his Pakistan compound in 2011, noted that Chinese technologies such as 5G commercialization is already beating the United States.

The Chinese military displayed several weapons during its National Day parade, including a new supersonic jet that can reportedly reach speeds faster than Mach 3.3, at more than 2500 miles per hour.

The PLA’s Latest Strategic Thinking on the Three Warfares

The supersonic jet, called the DR-8, could play a key role in a potential conflict with the U.S. military in the South China Sea.

“China has invested a lot of resources into military science and technology development in a bid to enhance its nuclear deterrence capability over the past years, which Beijing believes represents a strategic measure in countering the global military hegemony [of the United States],” Hong Kong-based military analyst Song Zhongping said.

Additionally, China doubled its nuclear arsenal in the past decade and is set to double it again in the next, top U.S. Strategic Command (Stratcom) officials stated in August.

“China has long had a no-first-use policy, and yet they’ve doubled their nuclear arsenal in about the last decade, and they’re on track to double it again in the next decade,” said Rear Admiral Michael Brookes, director of intelligence for Stratcom.

As noted by Newt Gingrich:

Now, imagine that China launches a campaign against Taiwan with the help of Russian air forces.

This would entirely change the dynamic, making it much more difficult and costly (in blood and treasure) – and much less likely for any sort of U.S. victory. Now, instead of a focused conflict with China over a specific piece of territory, the U.S. would have to decide whether it wanted to risk engaging with a cooperative China and Russia at the same time.

For many years, China and Russia were like two estranged communist relatives, but that is changing. In recent years, China and Russia have cooperated in a number of military exercises – and their first long-range joint air patrol in the Asia-Pacific region this past summer.

Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping has met with Russian President Vladimir Putin 24 times since 2013, while he has only met with his U.S. counterpart 16 times during that period.

This activity creates a real potential for a China-Russia strategic alliance which would turn much of our national security planning and strategy on its head.

Republic of China, Taiwan | Operation World

China considers Taiwan one of its own provinces yet Taiwan is independent which China is fighting. Known as the ‘one-China policy’, Western nations including the United States are not to have any kind of relationship with Taiwan but the United States does and this is one of the causes in the trade negotiations.

After decades of China’s veiled threats to invade and a long-running campaign to get Taiwan’s allies to shift their diplomatic allegiance to Beijing, researchers, government officials, and lawmakers in Taipei all say that China is pursuing a new tactic in the runup to Taiwan’s Jan. 11 presidential vote: election meddling. “China is following the steps from Russia,” says Tzeng Yi-suo, head of cyberwarfare at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, which is advising Taiwan’s government on ways to counteract the interference. “In our election campaign periods, there is a most striking influence campaign coming from the Chinese Communist Party.”

China’s disinformation apparatus goes well beyond what it considers its borders, according to an analysis published by Harvard researchers in April. Using proxies around the world and some of the same social media platforms it bans at home, the government in Beijing posts 448 million comments a year aimed at promoting a pro-China agenda or sowing discord, the researchers found. In August, Twitter Inc. suspended 936 mainland Chinese accounts, part of a larger network of 200,000 spam accounts it disabled because of what it called a “significant state-backed operation” working to undermine Hong Kong’s pro-democracy demonstrations. On Sept. 20 it suspended an additional 10,000. Facebook Inc. and YouTube have disabled accounts for similar reasons. In December, new foreign-influence laws went into effect in Australia aimed at blocking China’s efforts to sway politics and key decision-makers in that country.

Chinese agencies have been launching an estimated 30 million cyberattacks against Taiwan a month, according to the government’s director general of cybersecurity, Jyan Hong-wei. The patterns indicate Chinese state involvement, he says. Read the full detailed summary here.

08/22/19

CBP Long Beach Chinese Weapons Seizure

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Three separate shipments full of parts were intercepted in recent weeks, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the matter, and were packed in their own cargo containers on three separate ships that were also carrying household items, apparel, toys, industrial machinery, and other imports.

With a Domestic Value of over $378,000 the seized items were found in violation of the Chinese Arms Embargo

LOS ANGELES — U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport in coordination with the Machinery Center of Excellence and Expertise (CEE), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), intercepted and seized 52,601 firearms parts in violation of the Chinese Arms Embargo. The seized items described as sights, stocks, muzzles, brakes, buffer kits, and grips which arrived in three shipments from China, had a combined domestic value of $378,225.00.

CBP officers referred the items to ATF investigators, who confirmed that the firearm parts were in violation of the Arms Export Control Act and International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), 27 CFR 447.52.

“This seizure is an exceptional example of CBP officers and import specialists vigilance, commitment and keen focus in enforcing complex arms embargo regulations,” said Carlos C. Martel, CBP Director of Field Operations in Los Angeles. “The Chinese Arms Embargo is just one of the hundreds of regulations CBP enforces, ensuring the safety and security of our country.”

Federal regulations impose importation restrictions to certain countries to which the United States maintains an arms embargo, and one of such countries is China.

“We work closely with our strategic partners to ensure import compliance while maintaining the highest standards of security at our nation’s largest seaport,” remarked LaFonda Sutton-Burke, CBP Port Director of the LA/Long Beach Seaport. “This interception underscores the successful collaboration between CBP officers, import specialists, and ATF investigators.” In fiscal year (FY) 2018, Office of Field Operations (OFO) seized 266,279 firearms, firearm parts, ammunition, fireworks and explosives at 328 ports of entry throughout the United States. These interceptions represent an increase of 18.4 percent from the previous year.

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08/22/19

About Those North Korean Miniature Warheads

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

Primer: North Korea could now have as many as 60 nuclear warheads in its inventory. The new number is more than double the maximum estimate of 20 to 25 weapons by Siegfried Hecker, former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and now a professor at Stanford University. Hecker was the last American scientist to visit North Korea’s nuclear weapons complex, in late 2010. Most estimates of the size of the North’s inventory have been far more conservative, generally in the range of 12 to 15 to 20.

Image result for north korea nuclear warheads

Japan defense white paper to concede North Korea has miniaturized nuclear warheads, report says

Reuters, Kyodo

TOKYO/BEIJING – Japan has upgraded its estimate of North Korea’s nuclear weapons capability in an upcoming annual defense white paper, saying it seems Pyongyang has already achieved the miniaturization of warheads, the Yomiuri newspaper said in an unsourced report Wednesday.

That compares with the assessment in last year’s report in which the government said it was possible North Korea had achieved miniaturization, the daily said without citing sources.

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08/20/19

Historical Look at Afghanistan, US in or Out?

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

As we hear the talks with the Taliban have concluded with the United States, we have no idea just yet whether the United States will keep troops in the country in an unknown quantity. Could it be that the Taliban have truly defeated coalition nations in Afghanistan… that victory for the Taliban is real?

What could happen next if the Taliban shares the rule of the nation? More Taliban, more al Qaeda, more ISIS? Or could there be another Russian invasion? How about other major conflicts in the future that include the Tajiks, the Uzbeks or maybe the Hazaras? Or China?

In particular, the analysis cites a local media report claiming that local militias of former Tajik Mujahedeen have started to remobilizing alongside the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in Afghanistan’s Panjshir province because of an uptick in threats against the province from the Taliban. The media report, published by TOLO News, claims the area has “changed to a hub for insurgents’ activities over the past few weeks.”

Afghanistan - Comintern (SH) - for a communist Afhjanistan ...

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08/20/19

35 North Korean Cyber Attacks In 17 Countries

By: Denise Simon | Founders Code

According to a South Korean politician, last fall North Korean hackers gained access to South Korea’s Defense Integrated Data Center and stole 235 gigabytes of classified military plansMore here.

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. experts say they are investigating at least 35 instances in 17 countries of North Koreans using cyberattacks to illegally raise money for weapons of mass destruction programs — and they are calling for sanctions against ships providing gasoline and diesel to the country.

Last week, The Associated Press quoted a summary of a report from the experts which said that North Korea illegally acquired as much as $2 billion from its increasingly sophisticated cyber activities against financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges.

The lengthier version of the report, recently seen by the AP, reveals that neighboring South Korea was hardest-hit, the victim of 10 North Korean cyberattacks, followed by India with three attacks, and Bangladesh and Chile with two each.

Thirteen countries suffered one attack — Costa Rica, Gambia, Guatemala, Kuwait, Liberia, Malaysia, Malta, Nigeria, Poland, Slovenia, South Africa, Tunisia, and Vietnam, it said.

The experts said they are investigating the reported attacks as attempted violations of U.N. sanctions, which the panel monitors.

The report cites three main ways that North Korean cyber hackers operate:

—Attacks through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication or SWIFT system used to transfer money between banks, “with bank employee computers and infrastructure accessed to send fraudulent messages and destroy evidence.”

—Theft of cryptocurrency “through attacks on both exchanges and users.”

— And “mining of cryptocurrency as a source of funds for a professional branch of the military.”

The experts stressed that implementing these increasingly sophisticated attacks “is low risk and high yield,” often requiring just a laptop computer and access to the internet.

The report to the Security Council gives details on some of the North Korean cyberattacks as well as the country’s successful efforts to evade sanctions on coal exports in addition to imports of refined petroleum products and luxury items including Mercedes Benz S-600 cars.

One Mercedes Maybach S-Class limousine and other S-600s, as well as a Toyota Land Cruiser, were transferred from North Korea to Vietnam for last February’s summit between the country’s leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump, the experts said, adding that Vietnam said it asked for but was never provided a list of vehicles being brought into the country.

The panel also said it obtained information that the Taesong Department Store in Pyongyang, which reopened in April and is selling luxury goods, is part of the Taesong Group which includes two entities under U.N. sanctions and was previously linked to procurement for North Korea’s ballistic missile programs.

The panel recommended sanctions against six North Korean vessels for evading sanctions and illegally carrying out ship-to-ship transfers of refined petroleum products.

Under U.N. sanctions, North Korea is limited to importing 500,000 barrels of such products annually including gasoline and diesel. The U.S. and 25 other countries said North Korea exceeded the limit in the first four months of 2019.

The panel also recommended sanctions against the captain, owner, and parent company of the North Korean-flagged Wise Honest, which was detained by Indonesia in April 2018 with an illegal shipment of coal.

As for North Korea’s military cooperation with other countries, the experts said Iran rejected an unnamed country’s allegation that two North Korean entities under sanctions maintained offices in Iran — the Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation known as KOMID, which is the country’s primary arms dealer and main exporter of goods and equipment related to ballistic missiles and conventional weapons, and Saeng Pil Company.

The experts said they have requested information from Rwanda on a report that North Koreans are conducting special forces training at a military camp in Gabiro. And they said they are also waiting for a response from Uganda “to multiple inquires” about reports indicating specialized training is being conducted in the country, and KOMID and North Korean workers maintain a presence.

As examples of North Korean cyberattacks, the panel said hackers in one unnamed country accessed the infrastructure managing its entire ATM system and installed malware modifying the way transactions are processed. As a result, it forced 10,000 cash distributions to individuals working for or on behalf of North Korea “across more than 20 countries in five hours.”

In Chile, the experts said, North Korean hackers demonstrated “increasing sophistication in social engineering,” by using LinkedIn to offer a job to an employee of the Chilean interbank network Redbanc, which connects the ATMs of all the country’s banks.

According to a report from one unnamed country cited by the experts, stolen funds following one cryptocurrency attack in 2018 “were transferred through at least 5,000 separate transactions and further routed to multiple countries before eventual conversion” to currency that a government has declared legal money, “making it highly difficult to track the funds.”

In South Korea, the experts said, North Korean cyber actors shifted focus in 2019 to targeting cryptocurrency exchanges, some repeatedly.

The panel said South Korea’s Bithumb, one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world, was reportedly attacked at least four times. It said the first two attacks in February 2017 and July 2017 each resulted in losses of approximately $7 million, while a June 2018 attack led to a $31 million loss and a March 2019 attack to a $20 million loss.

The panel said it also investigated instances of “cryptojacking” in which malware is used to infect a computer to illicitly use its resources to generate cryptocurrency. It said one report analyzed a piece of malware designed to mine the cryptocurrency Monero “and send any mined currency to servers located at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang.”