Saturday, January 21, 2006

GS(3) Intelligence Briefing 1-21-06

NOTE: GS(3) Intelligence Briefing is posted on a bi-weekly basis. As circumstances dictate, we may post special editions. The Briefing is organized into five sections: Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific, Americas, Global and Cyberspace. Each issue provides insight on terrorism, cyber crime, climate change, health emergencies, natural disasters and other threats, as well as recommendations on what actions your organizations should take to mitigate risks. “Words of Power" commentary is also posted on a bi-weekly basis. This commentary explores a range of issues in the interdependent realms of security, sustainability and spirit.

This issue of GS(3) Intelligence Briefing contains excerpts from 17 news items that deserve your attention. Here is a summary of each of the five sub-sections. The excerpts with links to full text follow below.
Europe, Middle East & Africa:
Although the spread of Bird Flu is a global danger, the outbreak of human bird flu cases in Turkey highlights the imminent threat to Europe. In the last two weeks, dozens of people have been acknowledged as suffering from it, and at least four children have died. The strain is showing, and the tension is rising. Consider these two stories from recent days: “Discussions questioning whether ‘bird flu could be a biological weapon’ marked the Justice and Development Party (AKP) group meeting held yesterday behind closed doors. Ankara Deputy Ersonmez Yarbay in a speech delivered at the session, at which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan did not attend, put forward the notion that bird flu could be a biological weapon.  ‘This could be some kind of smart virus that starts from our border regions and is seen in the Turkish cities of Agri and Igdir, but does not pass to Armenia and Iran. It appears to be heading towards the West. Perhaps this is some type of biological weapon; the issue’s military dimensions must be seriously analyzed,’ Yarbay said.”  (Zaman, 1-18-06). “The country has reported confirmed or suspected H5N1 outbreaks in poultry in 26 provinces, including areas a few miles away from the borders with Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Georgia. Turkey also borders Bulgaria and Greece. ‘We know through unofficial channels that the disease exists … in neighboring countries, which are ruled by closed regimes,’ Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker said during a meeting with governors of Turkey's 81 provinces. ‘These countries do not officially declare the existence of the disease.’ He did not name the countries.” (Associated Press, 1-20-06).  
The mounting human toll in Indonesia, China and Turkey, which have all suffered outbreaks within the last few months, is disturbing, and indicates acceleration and escalation, whether officially acknowledged or not. (You should also assume that the situations in Indonesia and China are worse than they appear.)
I have included four stories on preparations underway in the global financial services sector, which are both encouraging and worrisome. Encouraging because some global organizations are at least now coming around to where some of us were telling them they should be six months to a year ago. Worrisome because, with the financial services sector (typically ahead of the curve) just now kicking into gear, you can be sure that most global organizations in other sectors have done little to nothing. GS(3) can help you develop crisis management and business continuity capabilities.
Asia Pacific: Global warming, like Bird Flu, is a danger that impacts everyone everywhere, but this issue highlights the implications for India, Japan and the rest of the region: “Asia is reeling under the harshest winter for years. In China, temperatures have plunged as low as minus 43C and 100,000 people had to be evacuated when houses collapsed under the snow. A quarter of a million people have been snowed in. Japan has suffered its heaviest ever blizzards, with drifts up to 10 feet deep. The authorities have struggled to cope with the unprecedented snow, and have had to call out the army to try to clear roads and roofs. In Kashmir, the famous Dal Lake, where tourists stay in elegant houseboats in the summer months, has frozen over for the first time in 10 years… People have been dying of the cold right across Asia: at least 70 in Japan, and at least 47 in Pakistan, where in the north temperatures have dropped to around minus 25C…”(Independent, 1-11-06)
Americas: Bin Laden (if it is indeed Bin Laden) has issued a new audiotape, in which he boasts of terror operations underway inside the US. Unfortunately, the real Bin Laden does not boast idly. (Of course, Bin Laden's messages always include quotes from the Koran, and this one does not.) It has been 1587 days, as of 1-21-06, since US. President Bush vowed to capture Bin Laden “dead or alive.” But it has also been quite a while since, in March 2002 (less than one year after 9/11), Bush said that he didn’t spend much time thinking about Bin Laden anymore. And it has been five years since Sandy Berger, the Clinton-Gore administration’s National Security Adviser, told the incoming Bush-Cheney team that smashing Bin Laden had to be their No. 1 national security priority, as it had become for Clinton-Gore. In a few months, it will be five years since FBI counterterrorism expert John P. O’Neill resigned in frustration with the Bush-Cheney team’s obstruction of his Al Qaeda investigation. So the story really isn’t Bin Laden. The story is the failure of the Bush-Cheney national security team. Of course, the environmental security and economic security of the US have also gone in the tank over the last six years. But the situation is even worse. Overarching all of these causes for despair, there is the profound Constitutional crisis that the US is spiraling into…I have included four items, which should be of interest and concern to everyone everywhere – because if the military and economic superpower ceases to be a nation of laws (and it is on the verge of such a catastrophe), the spectrum of global risk will have to be significantly recalibrated in scope and intensity.
Global: If the US had not squandered the good will it received in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on its disastrous war in Iraq, if it had focused on killing Bin Laden and Zawahiri and crushing Al Qaeda, if it had not tortured at Abu Ghraib or dropped chemical weapons on Fallujah, if it had not abandoned the Middle East peace process, if it had responded to Khatami years ago, perhaps US power and influence would not have been so badly compromised, and that power and influence could have been used as leverage in some constructive way in the EU's so far futile diplomatic initiative, and in the UN Security Council's coming deliberations. But that is all pointless speculation now. Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons (or are they?). And how the situation is handled over the next few months may determine whether or not we are all plunged into another world war (a real world war). I have included four articles from European and Asian perspectives to provide some broader context than the jingoism of the so-called "neo-cons" ("neo-totalitarians" would be more apt) and those in the political opposition too afraid to confront them with the bitter fruits of their folly.
Cyberspace: I have included two stories, one from the US and one from India, which underscore the need for every global business to have a counterintelligence capability, either in-house or on retainer. It also highlights the need for awareness and education programs that empower and enlighten people to come to grips with the danger to their personal finances, their privacy and their family’s safety. GS(3) Intelligence can help your organization develop such programs.

Europe, Middle East & Africa

On a practical level, financial institutions are being forced to consider the possibility of large numbers of staff falling ill. "If there were a pandemic firms would need to take into account being without 10 per cent of their staff over a period of three months," says a spokesman for the UK's Financial Services Authority. One lesson from Sars is to encourage employees to keep clean, and to improve hygiene in offices in order to limit the spread of the disease. Among others, Citigroup, the world's largest bank, has already improved disinfecting regimes. In the event of an outbreak, banks are also preparing to limit the contact staff have with others, possibly by allowing them to work from home.
Investment banks such as Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley are even exploring with regulators the possibility of traders working from home.
Another question banks face is whether to start vaccinating employees and their families. Some reports have suggested banks are stockpiling vaccines, but most institutions say they have not done so, although they may be considering it.
"It is better for national governments to co-ordinate this and to make sure that supplies go to the people that really need it," says a spokesman for Standard Chartered, the emerging markets bank. But financial institutions must also consider the broader impact of an outbreak of flu on the economy. Banks would have to consider how they should respond if particular sectors of the economy, such as airlines or hotel operators, got into financial difficulty. Regulators are also monitoring the insurance industry's ability to absorb a large increase in health or life insurance claims. Banks are also planning for increased cash withdrawals, and for the possibility that there may be a sudden increase in phone and internet banking if more people stay at home. Indeed, during a recent meeting at the FSA, Britain's largest banks discussed their ability to handle a sudden increase in electronic banking volumes.
Banks and insurers prepare for avian flu outbreak, Financial Times, 1-9-06

THE world's third biggest bank, the London based HSBC, has drawn up plans to cope without up to half its staff if there is a bird flu pandemic, the Financial Times reported today. The newspaper quoted HSBC's head of group crisis management, Bob Piggott, as saying several other banks were "moving towards" similar estimates for staff absences during any pandemic lasting up to three months. "(Bird flu) is probably the single biggest challenge for the whole group," said Piggott… Piggott said many employees would stay at home with the flu, some would have secondary infections and others would be absent to care for family members or to avoid infection. He said London-based HSBC, which employs more than 250,000 staff in 77 countries, had devised plans to increase working from home and other ways to get over the impact of a pandemic.
Top bank has bird flu plan, Reuters, 1-10-06

Analyst Gartner is urging businesses to prepare continuity programmes so they can react in the event of an outbreak. Steve Bittenger, research director at Gartner, said: "Business continuity and IT leaders are ideally placed to plan for avian flu's threats…So how could IT help to keep a company running? Ritchie Jeune, group CEO for Evolution Security Systems, which works with banks in Hong Kong, said having small contingency teams already set up to work remotely is essential. He said: "Part of disaster recovery is to have a working solution. You do that by creating mini companies so people can work together. You make sub-teams so you can still run your business. These groups will work from home. Basically, you are splitting your work force.",3800010322,39155650,00.htm

Reserve Bank staff have been given medical face masks, hand gel, gloves and tissues in an "emergency bag" for use in the event of an influenza pandemic.  The backpacks were given to the bank's 210 staff last August and have now been updated to include the pandemic-related items.  Reserve Bank spokesman Mike Hannah said the emergency bags predated the bank's pandemic preparations.  "They're designed to assist us in the event of things like an earthquake, tsunami or severe floods where we are unable to leave the building or the Wellington CBD for one to three days," he said yesterday…The backpacks also contain a light stick, plastic sanitation bag, water bottle, whistle, wind and waterproof matches, survival blanket, water purification tables, a torch and survival instructions. Staff are expected to add their own shoes, food and any medicine they may need.  The Reserve Bank also holds food and water supplies …Meanwhile, a radio campaign promoting pandemic preparedness began yesterday. The advertisements have been created by Radio New Zealand, which is a "lifeline utility" under the Civil Defence and Emergency Act…RNZ had made the advertisements available to other radio stations. The advertisements stress that although there is no influenza pandemic at present, New Zealand health authorities are seriously planning for a possible pandemic in the future.  The campaign gives people basic information and practical steps to reduce the impact of a flu outbreak. Last year's television advertisements will be followed by a second campaign due to start in March.
Reserve Bank staff get bird flu kit, New Zealand Herald, 1-17-06

Asia Pacific

In the climate-change disaster movie "The Day after Tomorrow," a snowstorm in Delhi is one of the freak weather conditions that are depicted as portents of doom. It hasn't got quite that bad in real life yet, but this week there was frost in the Indian capital for the first time in decades…Asia is reeling under the harshest winter for years. In China, temperatures have plunged as low as minus 43C and 100,000 people had to be evacuated when houses collapsed under the snow. A quarter of a million people have been snowed in. Japan has suffered its heaviest ever blizzards, with drifts up to 10 feet deep. The authorities have struggled to cope with the unprecedented snow, and have had to call out the army to try to clear roads and roofs. In Kashmir, the famous Dal Lake, where tourists stay in elegant houseboats in the summer months, has frozen over for the first time in 10 years. Weather forecasters are warnings of heavy snowfalls and possible avalanches in the areas of Kashmir and Pakistan affected by last year's earthquake, where hundreds of thousands of people are living with nothing but flimsy tents to protect them.
    Compared to all that, Delhi may seem to be making an unnecessary fuss. It may be the lowest temperature in Delhi for 70 years - and the second lowest ever recorded - but it has only dipped below zero by the narrowest of margins: minus 0.2C….But for India's hundreds of thousands of homeless, the danger is very real. Every year, they die of the cold in Delhi and other cities across north India. And most years, it does not get anywhere near as cold as it has this year…People have been dying of the cold right across Asia: at least 70 in Japan, and at least 47 in Pakistan, where in the north temperatures have dropped to around minus 25C. India has not seen such extreme conditions. One of the highest death tolls has been in India's Uttar Pradesh state, where at least 102 people have died but temperatures have not dropped any lower than minus 1C. In Bangladesh, at least 40 people have died, although temperatures have not even dipped to freezing. Most South Asians are simply unable to cope with even these comparatively mild temperatures. They do not possess blankets or warm clothes. Their bodies are inured to withstand the searing heat of summer, not the cold…In this part of the world, even those with a roof over their heads rarely have heating. But for the homeless, the situation is even worse.
Justin Huggler, Extreme Weather in Asia: The Big Freeze, Independent UK, 1-11-06

Environmental problems such as global warming can be tackled only if the international community addresses the problem of population growth, a leading scientist warned today. Professor Chris Rapley, the director of the British Antarctic Survey, said the 76 million annual increase in the world's population threatens "the welfare and quality of life of future generations." But he said population growth was the "Cinderella" issue of the environmental debate, because its implications are so controversial that nobody dares to raise it. Scientific analysis suggests that the Earth can sustain around 2-3 billion people at a good standard of living over the long term, wrote Prof. Rapley in an article for the BBC News website. But the current global population of 6.5 billion - expected to rise to 8 billion by the middle of the century - means mankind is imposing an ever greater "footprint" on the planet. Advances made in the battle to rein in climate change, such as last month's Montreal agreement, threaten to be wiped out by the need of each additional person for food, shelter, transport and waste disposal facilities…Prof. Rapley acknowledged that population control and reduction was "a bombshell of a topic," raising profound moral and ethical issues.
    Consequently, the issue was rarely raised when politicians, scientists and campaigners discussed what needs to be done to protect the environment, he said. But he warned: "Unless and until this changes, summits such as that in Montreal which address only part of the problem will be limited to at best very modest success, with the welfare and quality of life of future generations the ineluctable casualty."
Andrew Woodcock, Booming Population 'Threat to Climate Change Fight', Independent UK, 1-6-06

We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma. She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years. We are responsible and will suffer the consequences: as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.
Much of the tropical land mass will become scrub and desert, and will no longer serve for regulation; this adds to the 40 percent of the Earth's surface we have depleted to feed ourselves.
Curiously, aerosol pollution of the northern hemisphere reduces global warming by reflecting sunlight back to space. This "global dimming" is transient and could disappear in a few days like the smoke that it is, leaving us fully exposed to the heat of the global greenhouse. We are in a fool's climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable…So what should we do? First, we have to keep in mind the awesome pace of change and realise how little time is left to act; and then each community and nation must find the best use of the resources they have to sustain civilisation for as long as they can. Civilization is energy-intensive and we cannot turn it off without crashing, so we need the security of a powered descent…We should be the heart and mind of the Earth, not its malady. So let us be brave and cease thinking of human needs and rights alone, and see that we have harmed the living Earth and need to make our peace with Gaia. We must do it while we are still strong enough to negotiate, and not a broken rabble led by brutal war lords. Most of all, we should remember that we are a part of it, and it is indeed our home.
James Lovelock, The Earth is About to Catch a Morbid Fever That May Last as Long as 100,000 Years, Independent/UK, 1-16-06


Say "fascism" to anyone you meet, and you will be greeted with the boilerplate response of the blithely overconfident: such a thing cannot happen here. This is the United States of America, land of the free and home of the brave. Ours is a nation of laws, of checks and balances, of righteousness and decency. Our laws and traditions stand as a bulwark against the rise of totalitarian madness. It cannot happen here. Thus we are indoctrinated into the school of our own assumed greatness…The core strength of our new fascism is that it speaks softly. It does not present itself in such an obvious way that those who subsist on the dogmas of our greatness can point and say there, there it is, I see it. This new fascism is not fed only by lies, though to be sure the lies are there in preposterous abundance. This new fascism is fed by myths, our myths, the myths by which we rock ourselves to sleep. This new fascism is in truth an elemental fascism, reborn today by a confluence of events; the diligent work of the few, in combination with the passivity of the many, have brought forth this new order. The writer Umberto Eco, in a 1995 essay titled "Ur-Fascism," delineated several core elements that have existed in one form or another in every fascist state in history: "Parliamentary democracy is by definition rotten, because it does not represent the voice of the people, which is that of the sublime leader. Doctrine outstrips reason, and science is always suspect. The national identity is provided by the nation's enemies. Argument is tantamount to treason. Perpetually at war, the state must govern with the instruments of fear. Citizens do not act; they play the supporting role of 'the people' in the grand opera that is the state." We must disenthrall ourselves from the idea that our institutions, our traditions, the barriers that protect us from absolute and authoritarian powers, cannot be broken down. They are being dismantled a brick at a time. The separation of powers has already been annihilated. It is a whispered fascism, not yet marching down your street or pounding upon your door in the dead of night. But it is here, and it is laying deep roots. We must listen beyond the whispered fascism of today to the shouted fascism of tomorrow. We must look beyond the lies and the myths, beyond the dogmas by which we sleep.
William Rivers Pitt, The New Fascism,, 1-17-06

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do? The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution." The fact that our normal safeguards have thus far failed to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is deeply troubling…Forty years have passed since the majority of Americans adopted television as their principal source of information. Its dominance has become so extensive that virtually all significant political communication now takes place within the confines of flickering 30-second television advertisements. And the political economy supported by these short but expensive television ads is as different from the vibrant politics of America's first century as those politics were different from the feudalism which thrived on the ignorance of the masses of people in the Dark Ages….One of the other ways the Administration has tried to control the flow of information is by consistently resorting to the language and politics of fear in order to short-circuit the debate and drive its agenda forward without regard to the evidence or the public interest…The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk. Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights. Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously? It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same…A special counsel should immediately be appointed by the Attorney General to remedy the obvious conflict of interest that prevents him from investigating what many believe are serious violations of law by the President…Second, new whistleblower protections should immediately be established for members of the Executive Branch who report evidence of wrongdoing -- especially where it involves the abuse of Executive Branch authority in the sensitive areas of national security. Third, both Houses of Congress should hold comprehensive-and not just superficial-hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads. Fourth, the extensive new powers requested by the Executive Branch in its proposal to extend and enlarge the Patriot Act should, under no circumstances be granted, unless and until there are adequate and enforceable safeguards to protect the Constitution and the rights of the American people against the kinds of abuses that have so recently been revealed. Fifth, any telecommunications company that has provided the government with access to private information concerning the communications of Americans without a proper warrant should immediately cease and desist their complicity in this apparently illegal invasion of the privacy of American citizens. Freedom of communication is an essential prerequisite for the restoration of the health of our democracy. It is particularly important that the freedom of the Internet be protected against either the encroachment of government or the efforts at control by large media conglomerates. The future of our democracy depends on it.
Al Gore, In Martin Luther King Day address, Gore compares wiretapping of Americans to surveillance of King, Raw Story, 1-16-06

For a constitutional confrontation at least five years in the making, the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee looked as prepared to confront Samuel Alito as FEMA chief Michael Brown did in responding to Hurricane Katrina.
As with the hurricane that zeroed in on New Orleans days before coming ashore, there should have been no surprise about Judge Alito. He was exactly what the Republican base had long wanted in a Supreme Court nominee, a hard-line judicial ideologue with a pleasant demeanor and a soft-spoken style.
Indeed, Alito has been such an unapologetic supporter of the Right’s beloved Imperial Presidency that Alito’s one noteworthy assurance – that George W. Bush was not “above the law” – was essentially meaningless because in Alito’s view Bush is the law. Yet the Democrats were incapable of making an issue out of Alito’s embrace of the “unitary executive,” a concept so radical that it effectively eliminates the checks and balances that the Founding Fathers devised to protect against an out-of-control President. Bush even gave the Democrats a news hook to make the peculiar phrase “unitary executive” a household word. Bush cited his “unitary” powers just days earlier in signaling that he would use his commander-in-chief authority to override the provisions of Sen. John McCain’s anti-torture amendment passed in December 2005.
Robert Parry, Alito Hearings: Democrats' 'Katrina', 1-14-06

Finally, it has started. People have begun to speak of impeaching President George W. Bush - not in hushed whispers but openly, in newspapers, on the Internet, in ordinary conversations and even in Congress. As a former member of Congress who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, I believe they are right to do so…Like many others, I have been deeply troubled by Bush's breathtaking scorn for our international treaty obligations under the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Conventions. I have also been disturbed by the torture scandals and the violations of US criminal laws at the highest levels of our government they may entail…These concerns have been compounded by growing evidence that the President deliberately misled the country into the war in Iraq. But it wasn't until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) - and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country's laws - that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate. As a matter of constitutional law, these and other misdeeds constitute grounds for the impeachment of President Bush. A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law - and repeatedly violates the law - thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors, the constitutional standard for impeachment and removal from office. A high crime or misdemeanor is an archaic term that means a serious abuse of power, whether or not it is also a crime, that endangers our constitutional system of government…
Elizabeth Holtzman, The Impeachment of George W. Bush, The Nation, 1-30-06


Iran has broken the seals at its nuclear research centers. The desired objective? To provoke, or rather, to force, the international community to live with the issue…Given the results, it's time for the players involved to agree that the work accomplished has proven to be a failure and to use the recourse available to them, i.e., the UN. Within that institution, Great Britain, France, and the United States will face a significant obstacle: the vetoes that China and especially Russia will brandish, the first because Iran is gorging it with oil, the second because Iran is a very important commercial partner. Russia supplies it with nuclear assistance, to the point of building a power plant, and has, moreover, endowed Iran with long-range missiles. As recently as December, Moscow agreed to sell almost thirty of these, capable of covering a distance that worries Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Pakistan. Moscow's leniency with regard to Teheran has one and only one explanation. For the masters of the Kremlin, Iran, as part of its sphere of influence, can be an ally in the geopolitical games that agitate the region. In that regard, certain facts must be emphasized. On account of the wars in Afghanistan and in Iraq, the American Army has based itself not only in those countries, but also in certain republics of central Asia once directed by Moscow…Now, we can contemplate the following: the members of the troika will find themselves back in the closet of fiascos, the United States will grumble, the Russians will rub their hands, and - above all - Iran will buy the so-precious time in which to pursue its ultimate objective: the bomb. The bomb in the hands of fascists and, moreover, of unstable fascists, at that…
Serge Truffaut, Iran Thumbs Its Nose at the World, Le Devoir, 1-11-06

Israel is updating plans for a pre-emptive strike on Iran's nuclear facilities which could be launched as soon as the end of March, according to military and intelligence sources…The Israeli raids would be carried out by long-range F-15E bombers and cruise missiles against a dozen key sites and are designed to set Tehran's weapons program back by up to two years. Pilots at the Israeli air force's elite 69 squadron have been briefed on the plan and have conducted rehearsals for their missions. The prime targets would be the uranium enrichment plant at Natanz, 150 miles south of Tehran, a heavy-water production site at Arak, 120 miles south-west of the capital, and a site near Isfahan in central Iran which makes the uranium hexafluoride gas vital to the arms manufacturing process…Although Western military strategists think an attack on Tehran's scattered sites would be fraught with difficulties and could not be carried out without loss to the attacking forces, few doubt Israel's commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear firepower.
Ian Bruce, Israelis Plan Pre-emptive Strike on Iran, The Herald UK, 1-10-06
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rightly acts like a man who has the upper hand. He is president (though not ruler) of a theocracy that has the world's second largest supply of gas in the middle of an energy crisis. This is a pretty strong starting point. He and his officials hurled derision at Blair and other Western leaders as they met last week to decide what to do about Iran's decision to break the seals off its nuclear research laboratory in defiance of the IAEA strictures.
Its claim to only want civil nuclear energy is risible. Russia has offered to process uranium for Iran and send it off, below the strength needed for a bomb. The European Union has made similar noises - but Tehran wants something more.
It has seen the prestige and clout which Pakistan acquired when it developed its nuclear bomb. Such countries tend not to be threatened as much, and will never be invaded. This is the status Iran wants, and it will eventually get there.
The severity of the threat lies in the nature of the regime. Iran is now the world's most active state paymaster of terrorism. Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are all its offspring - so, on a low level, it is already at war.
It is busy developing an intercontinental missile, the Saharb 3, with an 800-mile range that could hit Israel. Anti-semitism is the calling card of Ahmadinejad's government: he regularly denies the Holocaust and calls for Israel to move to Europe. Iran's nuclear ambitions have been obvious since it re-launched its uranium conversion programme last August. The EU thought it could sweet-talk Tehran out of them - Iran took them for the suckers they are and carried on regardless…As the world environment grows more tense than it has been since the end of the Cold War, the UN shows itself hopelessly inefficient at tackling such threats...The UN is losing a battle against murderers on camelback and horseback: no wonder Tehran is so unconcerned about Blair's threats. And if the 'great powers' cannot deal with today's Iran they stand no chance of dealing with a nuclear one. If there is no one to tame Iran, then there is no one to calm Israel. These are the stark facts of the Middle East at present - and Blair is more powerless to change them than he would dare admit.
FRASER NELSON, Let's admit it, Iran has the upper hand, The Scotmans, 1-15-06

Iran is a culturally vibrant, self-confident society with a strong economy, which now stands further boosted by high oil prices. It is a middle-level military power with a popularly elected government. It will not be easy to isolate Iran, unlike Iraq.
"In fact," said Hari Vasudevan, professor of international relations at Calcutta University, "Iran enjoys a unique strategic advantage because of the highly troubled situation in Iraq, which the US has failed to quell." He added: "Sixty percent of Iraq's population is Shi'ite, and Iran wields enormous influence in Iraq. It has so far desisted from fomenting further trouble in Iraq, but could do so if cornered and provoked by the US and its allies." Iran has two more advantages in its favor. It has been working closely with Russia in its civilian nuclear program. Russia is helping it build a power reactor at Bushehr, due to be commissioned this year. It also enjoys a degree of support and sympathy from the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and China…"All this might only frustrate US efforts to diplomatically isolate Iran," said Qamar Agha, a Middle East expert at the Center for West and Central Asian Studies at the Jamia Millia Islamia university in New Delhi. "Western Europe is far too dependent upon Iran's oil and gas to go to extreme lengths in sustaining sanctions that cripple Iran's energy generation. Therefore, the US might be tempted to use military force, jointly with Israel, to bomb select facilities in Iran." A number of US doctrinal pronouncements, and reports about a recently approved US "global strike plan", with a nuclear option, suggest that a preemptive US strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, either unilateral or jointly with Israel, cannot be ruled out…Any such attack would break the 60-year-old, very welcome, taboo against the use of nuclear weapons - with extraordinarily negative consequences for global peace and security. Such an outcome can only be prevented if the West moves away from coercive diplomacy to isolate Iran and opens serious talks with it, and if the nuclear weapons states rethink their own policies. As the West accuses Iran of nursing nuclear ambitions, it has itself no intention of reducing nuclear arms…Smaller nuclear states such as Israel, India and Pakistan have set negative examples
Praful Bidwai, RED LINES IN THE IRANIAN SAND, Asia Times Online, 1-13-06

The Chicago Police Department is warning officers their cell phone records are available to anyone -- for a price. Dozens of online services are selling lists of cell phone calls, raising security concerns among law enforcement and privacy experts. Criminals can use such records to expose a government informant who regularly calls a law enforcement official. Suspicious spouses can see if their husband or wife is calling a certain someone a bit too often. And employers can check whether a worker is regularly calling a psychologist -- or a competing company…In some cases, telephone company insiders secretly sell customers' phone-call lists to online brokers, despite strict telephone company rules against such deals, according to Schumer. And some online brokers have used deception to get the lists from the phone companies, he said…To test the service, the FBI paid $160 to buy the records for an agent's cell phone and received the list within three hours, the police bulletin said…How well do the services work? The Chicago Sun-Times paid $110 to to purchase a one-month record of calls for this reporter's company cell phone. It was as simple as e-mailing the telephone number to the service along with a credit card number. The request was made Friday after the service was closed for the New Year's holiday. On Tuesday, when it reopened, e-mailed a list of 78 telephone numbers this reporter called on his cell phone between Nov. 19 and Dec. 17. The list included calls to law enforcement sources, story subjects and other Sun-Times reporters and editors.

Ernie Rizzo, a Chicago private investigator, said he uses a similar cell phone record service to conduct research for his clients. On Friday, for instance, Rizzo said he ordered the cell phone records of a suburban police chief whose wife suspects he is cheating on her.
FRANK MAIN, Your phone records are for sale, 1-5-06

More than a week after Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh alleged that his phones were being tapped, Delhi Police on Sunday carried out raids at several places in neighbouring Haryana. Police has been raiding various places in an effort to nab those involved in forging documents and illegally tapping phones of Singh, who is the Samajwadi Party general secretary…Police have arrested Bhupendra and Anurag, both private detectives, and Kuldeep, an employee of Reliance Infocomm, in connection with the tapping of Amar Singh's phones over the last two months. Kumar added that these raids were being carried out on the basis of the information received during the questioning of these three people. Anurag is in the custody of the special cell sleuths till January 9. Members of the special cell had registered a case on December 30 last year against Bhupendra for forging letters in the name of R Narayan Swamy, principal secretary (Home) and Ranjit Narayan, joint commissioner (Crime Branch). Police have registered a case of forgery, cheating and criminal conspiracy against the three people.
Police raids in Haryana on phone tapping issue, Indo-Asian News Service, 1-8-06

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to