Daily Intelligence: Carnage, Anarchy in Egypt; NSA’s doormat; Moto-X; Upward Falling Payloads

While violence rages in Egypt, Administration influence wanes, Afghan civilian casualties grow, NSA debacle expands, DoD struggles with sexual assaults, and DARPA awards its Upward Falling Payload contract, all in today’s defense news headlines. 

collected by Ed Ledford

August 17, 2013

Surf’s up in Surveillance Summer



1.  Maryland – the kinder, gentler D.C.  Contributor Charles Simmins covers SatelliteToday.Com’s analysis of Maryland’s business boom: “The state’s access to Washington, D.C., is one of the greatest attractions for firms doing business in Maryland. Hughes’ Defense and Intelligence Systems told SatelliteTODAY that the quality of graduates produced by the University of Maryland has been a key factor in the four decades that the company has been in the state. A 2011 expansion by Boeing was cited by the state’s Secretary of the Department of Business & Economic Development as being based upon the local quality of life and the abilities of the local workforce.”

2.  Retrospective irony – we should have seen it coming.  In the wake and bow wave of NSA spying, remember how enamored many of us were with the intelligence community’s super computers.  Contributor D.B. Grady wrote, “The intelligence community doesn’t get enough credit for its contribution to the information age. When government and industry were still only tepidly considering the weird and alien concept of ‘computers,’ the IC was charging forward, having immediately recognizing the utility of processing power and its possible applications. Today, the spy world continues pushing the limits of what computers can do. Here are a few famous supercomputers used by the intelligence community.”


1.  Unraveling in Egypt.  Observers anticipate that the violence in Egypt will only grow worse – at least in the short term – and some analysts have uttered the words “civil war.”  NPR.Org reports, “At a mosque near Cairo’s Ramses Square . . . about 700 people have barricaded themselves inside, refusing to come out for fear of arrest and further violence . . . . Police and military forces have surrounded the area and the situation is tense. . . . The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a week of rallies against Morsi’s ouster. Meanwhile, groups that support the military government are calling for counter-demonstrations today.”  From Aljazeera, a few of the day’s images in “Bloodbath in Egypt.” From Reuters, “. . . after a day of carnage . . . . Egypt ever closer to anarchy.”

2.  In Afghanistan, they got him.  Australia avenges the green-on-blue attack in Uruzgan nearly two years ago.  LongWarJournal.Org’s Lisa Lundquist reports, “Yesterday the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, announced that Australian forces had tracked down and killed a former Afghan National Army soldier who was involved in an insider attack nearly two years ago in Uruzgan province. The rogue soldier, Mohammed Roozi, was hunted down earlier this week by a joint Afghan / Australian / International Security Assistance Force unit in the northern province of Takhar, far from the Australian base in Uruzgan where the green-on-blue attack took place in November 2011. . . . According to General Hurley, Australian troops never gave up searching for Roozi. Hurley also stated that his forces are still trying to track down other green-on-blue attackers, including Hek Matullah (or Hikmatullah), who killed three Australian soldiers at a base in Uruzgan in late August 2012.”

3.  Also in Afghanistan, civilian casualties risingVOANews.Com reports, “Officials in Afghanistan say militants have killed at least 17 people in three separate locations. . . . Civilian casualties have spiked this year because of the increased violence. The United Nations said in its mid-year report that casualties were up 23 percent compared to the first six months of 2012.”  Radio Free Europe adds, “The UN report said 1,319 civilians died and 2,533 were injured as a result of conflict in the country from January to the end of June.”

4.  AFRICOM’s CJTF-Horn of Africa trains Burundi National Defense Force troopers.  U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Timothy Norris from CJTF-HOA Public Affairs reports, “Marines and Sailors with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Africa 13 recently completed a four-week logistics operations engagement with more than 80 Burundi National Defense Force soldiers in preparation for future deployments supporting the African Union Mission in Somalia, an active, regional peacekeeping mission operated by the African Union with the approval of the United Nations in Somalia. . . . the exchange was successful because of the mentors’ experience and expertise and the Burundi soldiers’ dedication to learn new techniques.”


1.  $10 billion in the cloud on the Interior Department table.  Indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts leave the door wide open at the Interior Department.  NextGov.Com reports, “A slate of contracts to provide cloud computing services to the Interior Department could add up to $10 billion . . . . 10 vendors will compete with each other to win 10 specific contracts to provide cloud goods and services, Interior said in the statement Wednesday. Each of those contracts has a maximum value of $1 billion for a total possible value of $10 billion for the entire slate of contracts.”   At the trough, Verizon, AT&T, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Smartronix, Unisys, Aquilent, Automonic Resources, CGI, GTRI.  Let’s eat!

2.  Upward Falling Payloads?  DARPA’s on it.  DailyFinance.Com reports, “Sparton Corporation (NYS: SPA) was awarded a Phase 1 contract for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Upward Falling Payload (UFP) program. Sparton, under the UFP program, will design a system intended to live on the sea floor and release payloads. This enablement would represent a game changing capability for mission commanders.”  What, exactly, is an Upward Falling Payload?: “The Navy’s ‘Upward Falling Payloads’ could hide in the ocean depths until needed, then launch to quickly create a distributed presence across a maritime region.” Cool . . . unless you’re a whale.


1.  Audit reveals NSA’s innumerable privacy breachesWaPo’s Barton Gellman reports, “The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008 . . . . Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.”  Finally, Congress is stirred: “New revelations from leaker Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency has overstepped its authority thousands of times since 2008 are stirring renewed calls on Capitol Hill for serious changes to NSA spy programs, undermining White House hopes that President Barack Obama had quieted the controversy with his assurances of oversight.”

2.  No aliens named Roger at Area 51TheAtlanticWire.Com breaks the exciting news – there is an Area 51, but, unfortunately, no Martians.  Philip Bump writes, “Newly declassified documents, obtained by George Washington University’s National Security Archive, appear to for the first time acknowledge the existence of Area 51. . . . The project started humbly. In the pre-drone era about a decade after the end of World War II, President Eisenhower signed off on a project aimed at building a high-altitude, long-range, manned aircraft that could photograph remote targets.” See related from AP: “UFO buffs and believers in alien encounters are celebrating the CIA’s clearest acknowledgement yet of the existence of Area 51, the top-secret Cold War test site that has been the subject of elaborate conspiracy theories for decades.”

3.   Moto-X gets a hot, detailed review.  Finally, Google’s influence on Motorola comes through.  VentureBeat.Com’s Devindra Hardawar reports, “It offers the most comfortable Android phone experience I’ve seen yet, with hardware that shows iPhone levels of obsession and features that you can’t find anywhere else. And it’s readily accessible for just about anyone, even though it still manages to be plenty innovative. . . . Perhaps the most important thing about the Moto X is how it completely moves the conversation away from mere specs and toward how we actually use our devices.”


1.  Code name “Poppa Panda Sexy Pants.”  Brig. Gen. Jeff Sinclair joins mentors in the ongoing mockery-inviting parade of horribles.  WaPo reporter Craig Whitlock does a deep-dive into Sinclair’s court-martial: “Congress and President Obama have demanded a crackdown, alarmed by a recent string of scandals and frank admissions by military leaders that they have systematically failed to address the problem.”  PBS.Org’s “Newshour” transcript adds context: “there’s a focus on kind of care and support for the victims. What there needs to be a focus on is to lock up sexual predators. And nothing addresses that. They haven’t grappled with those issues at all.”

2.  NSA’s Un-witting Watusi.  World’s best intelligence agency claims ignorance – it’s an oxymoron, with emphasis on moronThe Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Gorman reports, “The NSA’s director of compliance, John DeLong, repeatedly said in a conference call with reporters that the 2,776 violations reflected no willful effort to violate Americans’ privacy. . . . however, ‘a couple’ of willful violations in the past decade. He didn’t provide details.”


1.  Get the NSA back to ChurchTheAtlantic.Com contributor Conor Friedersdorf argues, “The time is ripe for a new Church Committee, the surveillance oversight effort named for Senator Frank Church, who oversaw a mid-1970s investigation into decades of jaw-dropping abuses by U.S. intelligence agencies. . . . For more than a decade, the NSA has repeatedly engaged in activity that violated the law and the Constitutional rights of many thousands or perhaps millions of Americans.”

2.  “How Obama Lost His Influence in Egypt.”  TheDailyBeast.Com contributor Josh Rogin argues, “The Obama administration seems powerless in its effort to persuade the Egyptian military to halt the violence against civilians that has resulted in hundreds of deaths this week. The crisis lays bare the diminished U.S. influence on the Egyptian military compared to only two years ago.”

3.  Civil war in Egypt would be catastrophic.  Contra Costa Times editorial board argues, “Egypt is not just another country ‘over there’ in the Mideast; it plays a vital stabilizing role in a very unstable region. What happens there will have impact throughout the globe.”


1.  Hempfest 2013.  You missed it.

2.  No Tiananmen Square.

3.  Bat to the Future.

4.  Bloody path to democracy.


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