21 February 2013



  • W Scott Malone IV Is that a real flag? Or is that a Sears flag...to paraphrase Frank Zappa. Thanks for breaking it in! And don't eat no yellow snow...

Liked · 5 hours ago

U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4 Les McNellie (left), U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Seth Armstrong (center) and Maj. Joseph Minor (right), pose with a U.S. flag in front of an AH-64 Apache attack helicopter on Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, Jan. 24, 2013. Pilots of Troop C, 2nd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), provide critical and necessary aerial support to ground forces in Regional Command-East. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Anna Rutherford)

18 February 2013

CPJ - The Spy in Your Pocket: Mobile Journalism's Risk


CPJ - committee to protect journalists

By Danny O'Brien

In the days after Marie Colvin and Rémi Ochlik died in the Syrian city of Homs in 2012, fellow conflict reporters speculated on the role that satellite phones might have played. Colvin and Ochlik were working from a makeshift media center that was precisely targeted by rockets. Had the killers hunted them down using signals from the very phones with which the journalists reported their stories?
The risks of working in a war zone were familiar, but the apparent dangers of using a telecommunications device common among foreign correspondents represented a new uncertainty. 

Experienced journalists struggled to understand what the technology could reveal about their locations, and to grasp the possibility--raised by Libération journalist Jean-Pierre Perrin, who had been with Colvin in Homs--that Colvin and Ochlik were singled out by the Syrian army precisely for their ability to transmit news from a city deliberately denied communication links. Journalists' phones were being used to broadcast the atrocities taking place in the city, and for that reason, the authorities might have sought to trace and eliminate those transmissions at the source. 

While not every journalist is an international war correspondent, every journalist's cellphone is untrustworthy. Mobile phones, and in particular Internet-enabled smartphones, are used by reporters around the world to gather and transmit news. But mobile phones also make journalists easier to locate and intimidate, and confidential sources easier to uncover. Cellular systems can pinpoint individual users within a few meters, and cellphone providers record months, even years, of individual movements and calls. Western cellphone companies like TeliaSonera and France Telecom have been accused by investigative journalists in their home countries of complicity in tracking reporters, while mobile spying tools built for law enforcement in Western countries have, according to computer security researchers working with human rights activists, been exported for use against journalists working under repressive regimes in Ethiopia, Bahrain, and elsewhere. 

"Reporters need to understand that mobile communications are inherently insecure and expose you to risks that are not easy to detect or overcome," says Katrin Verclas of the National Democratic Institute. Activists such as Verclas have been working on sites like SaferMobile, which give basic advice for journalists to protect themselves. CPJ recently published a security guide that addresses the use of satellite phones and digital mobile technologies. But repressive governments don't need to keep up with all the tricks of mobile computing; they can merely set aside budget and strip away privacy laws to get all the power they need. Unless regulators, technology companies, and media personnel step up their own defenses of press freedom, the cellphone will become journalists' most treacherous tool.

To examine the center of the mobile phone revolution, one must go not to the labs of Silicon Valley or the iPhone factories of China, but to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Kenya's economic and political stability has grown hand in hand with its cellphone infrastructure. The World Bank reported in 2011 that the country's information and communications sector was contributing nearly a full percentage point to economic growth, driven by cellphone ownership that went from a fraction of 1 percent of the population in 1999 to more than 64 percent in 2011. The number using cellphones quickly leapfrogged those using traditional wired telephone and Internet connections, and the country is now held as a model and testing ground for the future of mobile worldwide. Kenya is the home of M-PESA, the first ubiquitous mobile-based payment and banking system, which lets Kenyan citizens use their cellphones to carry the equivalent of a cash balance and make safe, instant purchases of a wide spectrum of items such as electricity and roadside goods. It's also home to Ushahidi, a disaster mapping system first created to let mobile users record instances of election violence in 2007. 

Nairobi, with a population of almost 3.4 million, is also home to East Africa's large community of exiled journalists. Having fled oppression in Rwanda, Eritrea, Somalia, or Ethiopia, these reporters depend on Nairobi's cheap mobile phones to stay in contact with family and friends in the diaspora and at home. 

The phones also deliver death threats. As I sat in a Nairobi restaurant discussing digital security with an exiled Ethiopian journalist--one of more than 50 exiled for their work in the past decade--he told me how he receives texts telling him that the sender knows where he is and is going to catch him. If they can find my phone number, he asked, can they find me

The answer for reporters in dangerous situations is not reassuring. Every mobile phone is a tracking device, as Peter Maass and Megha Rajagopalan, reporters on digital privacy at ProPublica, have noted. Phones report their approximate location to the local cellphone company as part of the process of establishing which cell tower to use. The precision of the location mapping depends on how closely those cell towers are placed; in a crowded city like Nairobi, that can resolve to just a few feet. Many exiled journalists in this city scrape a living in the slums of Kibera and Mathare. While these shanty towns have little in the way of sewers, street lighting, or domestic electricity, cellphone towers rise above the shacks. 

Location data is retained by cellphone providers; just because someone has your phone number does not mean that person can also obtain your location. But as in most countries, cellphone companies in Kenya have an intimate relationship with the government. They depend on nationally negotiated contracts for radio spectrum, and are frequently the descendants of state-owned monopolies. (The Kenyan government held a majority stake in Safaricom, the country's largest phone provider, until its initial public offering in 2008; now the government stake is 35 percent.) 

Governments in other countries, especially those unfriendly to Kenya, are unlikely to get their hands on that tracking data. But within a country, be it Kenya or the United States, use of such data is remarkably unregulated. A person in Nairobi's police force, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told CPJ that cellphone data is regularly used to detect and catch street criminals. U.S. Rep. Edward Markey released data in July 2012 showing that domestic cellphone carriers in the U.S. responded to more than 1.3 million requests for subscriber information from law enforcement in 2011, many without subpoenas or warrants.

In Ethiopia, the entire telecommunications network, including mobile and Internet, is controlled directly by the government through the monopoly Ethio Telecom. Ethio Telecom is managed by France Telecom, but is required to comply with Ethiopian government orders, including the blocking of dozens of news sites (including CPJ's website). In May 2012, the country's mobile broadband system introduced deep packet inspection to identify and block users of the anti-censorship tool Tor. Ethio Telecom's chief executive at the time, Jean-Michel Latute, told La Croix that the decision had been made by the communications ministry, but the deep packet inspection was nonetheless "a very useful tool" for the company. 

France Telecom is not the only Western mobile phone company implicated in censorship and control of journalists. In April 2012, the Swedish investigative TV program "Uppdrag Granskning" detailed how the calls, texts, and location information of Agil Khalil, a reporter for the Azerbaijani newspaper Azadlyg, were handed over by Azercell, a subsidiary of the Swedish company TeliaSonera, to local security services in 2008. Khalil was assaulted several times during the period of surveillance. In response to the documentary, TeliaSonera said it would overhaul its compliance process, "start a dialogue" with the authorities in Azerbaijan, and provide employees with human rights training. 

The Finnish company Nokia Siemens Networks faced a lawsuit in 2010 by the family of Iranian journalist Issa Saharkhiz, alleging the company supplied equipment used to locate the journalist via his mobile phone after he went into hiding. While on the run, Saharkhiz told Der Spiegel, "I turn on my mobile phone only one hour each day, because they can trace me and arrest me." Just hours after that conversation, Saharkhiz was captured, his ribs and wrists were broken, and he was taken to Evin Prison, where he remained in late 2012. In public statements, Nokia said, "This capability [to locate and monitor cellphones] became a standard feature at the insistence of the United States and European nations. ... It is unrealistic to demand, as the Saharkhiz lawsuit does, that wireless communications systems based on global technology standards be sold without that capability." The lawsuit was voluntarily withdrawn by the family after a U.S. court held that a corporation cannot be subject to liability under the Alien Tort Act, upon which the case depended. Nonetheless, Nokia Siemens Networks has divested itself of its monitoring center business, and says that "with the exception of some technical contractual links," it no longer has "any involvement with it."

Though mobile phones have the built-in capacity to track a journalist's whereabouts, they can be even more lethal in undermining the privacy of reporters and their sources when coupled with malicious software

In the first few months of 2012, Bahraini activists reported receiving unsolicited email attachments, purportedly from the Al-Jazeera reporter Melissa Chan. The fake messages contained malware aimed at taking over the activists' desktop computers, and reporting back to a central command server in Bahrain. This sort of attack on journalists is increasingly common; Chan herself was a regular target of such malware when reporting in China. Computer security researchers Bill Marczak and Morgan Marquis-Boire discovered that this spyware was a product of a program called FinFisher--commercially produced software, made by the U.K.-based company Gamma Group, supposedly for law enforcement and government agencies. This was notable because spyware targeted at journalists and their sources is usually crafted from software built by criminal fraudsters, rather than code custom-built for government.
Subsequent samples obtained by the same researchers showed variants of FinFisher, such as FinSpy, were aimed not at desktop computers, but at iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, and Nokia mobile phones. 

The malware was variously capable of retransmitting text messages, recording phone calls, extracting details from address books, GPS tracking, and even silently calling a mobile phone and having it pick up and transmit conversations in its vicinity. Marczak and Marquis-Boire also discovered servers designed to receive reports from FinFisher products not only in Bahrain, but in Brunei, Ethiopia, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates. Gamma denied selling to these states, and suggested the software might be pirated copies. 

If governments have access to their own telecommunications infrastructure, why would they stoop to putting spyware on reporters' phones? One possibility, Marczak suggests, is to beat what protections activists and sources might already be using. "When a journalist sends emails, messages, etc., from his phone, they are encrypted over the network between his phone and the servers. If you as a government want to read these communications, you have to access them somewhere they are not encrypted. So the practical options are get a warrant or subpoena for the email provider (e.g., Gmail, Yahoo Mail), or read them ... on the journalist's phone. FinSpy allows you to do the latter." Other advantages include being able to spy on communications taking place outside the country. Exiled journalists or dissidents, for instance, could be tracked as easily as local reporters. 

Journalists facing digital threats online have become accustomed to defending themselves with anti-virus tools and encrypting their hard drives and other communications. But mobile smartphones are not designed to permit the same degree of configurability--compared with a PC or Mac, their design is sealed against tinkering by the user, and open to control by the manufacturer and network provider. The creators of the technology argue, with some justification, that this locking down increases security for the average cellphone user. But for a reporter with security risks, such lack of control can make matters much worse. Governments can install malware like FinSpy, while the users cannot detect or remove it. 

Even protective measures taken by companies can be abused by hackers. Mat Honan, a journalist with Wired magazine, was targeted in August 2012 by a hacker who obtained access to his online accounts, including his Apple iCloud login. The online logins permitted the hacker to take over a news site's Twitter feed; the Apple account allowed the hacker to power down his iPhone and remotely wipe it. 

The reason Honan's phone was vulnerable was Apple's intimate connection with every iPhone--a capability that allows the company to find lost phones, shut down stolen devices, and update the iPhone's operating system. Phone service providers wield similar power, generally for good, but with no veto power by the end user. Honan told CPJ last fall: "I'm completely freaked out by mobile security now in all sorts of ways that I wasn't two months ago. As reporters, our data is our most valuable asset. And while I can encrypt folders on my computer and transfer them to USB sticks, which I can then keep locked up in a safe, I can't begin to secure my phone in a similar fashion." 

Companies and governments may claim that cooperation to exchange intimate information on mobile subscribers is necessary for law enforcement. But the confidential and sensitive public service performed by reporters has, until now, been protected by the processes of court order and warrants, at least in countries operating under rule of law. 

Unfortunately, the laws controlling the release of phone company data have yet to be updated to take into account the far wider repositories of information now collected on users. The law that governs the handing over of this data to third parties in the United States is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. It was written in 1996, a time when phone companies could offer either records of who called whom or audio wiretaps. 

"It simply wasn't written for the mobile age," says Kevin Bankston, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a Washington-based Internet advocacy group. He says the authorities take advantage of the law's ambiguity to push for easier access to data. The standards for protection in the law are in great dispute, Bankston said, "and law enforcement consistently argues that the lowest standards be used." That means that location data can be obtained without a warrant in the United States because law enforcement claims it should be treated the same as billing data. Mobile phone providers in the U.S. are frequently asked to give cell tower "dumps"--mass data on subscribers who were near a certain tower during a certain period of time. That would scoop up reporters' contacts at a riot or disaster as effectively as it would scoop up data on the suspect in a crime, but the security services claim that such data is not protected by statute, and telecom companies do not, on the whole, contest such requests. Other countries largely follow the U.S. lead on such criteria.

Mobile experts say cellphones do not have to be built to act as pervasive spying devices, even when used under repressive regimes. Eric King is head of research at Privacy International, a U.K.-based advocacy organization. His group successfully lobbied the U.K. government to limit the export of FinFisher's tools to Middle Eastern countries where they might be used against journalists and dissidents. 

He says that the same Western technical standards--such as those developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)--that already include surveillance features could also include safeguards and limits against misuse of those features. 

"Why can't ETSI standards put in explicit limits on the number of simultaneous interceptions? Vendors would only be ETSI-compliant if [their networking equipment] cannot intercept more than a certain percentage of calls," King suggested. Another possibility would be for devices to create tamper-proof records whenever the surveillance features of a cellphone network are used. That would make faking telephone-related evidence against journalists harder, and leave permanent evidence of such surveillance (and who conducted it) available for future investigation by journalists or an independent judiciary. 

End-user software could help, too. Mozilla, the nonprofit creator of the Firefox browser, says it is building a privacy-protective mobile phone to compete with existing Android and Apple operating systems. Phil Zimmermann, the author of the definitive encryption program for desktop computers, Pretty Good Privacy, has recently launched a new service that, he says, protects mobile phone calls from interception. Other tools, like TextSecure from Whisper Systems, offer the same protections for text messaging, provided both sides of the conversation use the same tool. 

For now, while journalists can take some steps to protect themselves and their sources, they are limited by the nature of their cellphones. At a panel in May, investigative journalist Matthew Cole, who works on U.S. national security and intelligence issues, demonstrated how he conducts his work using an elaborate protocol taught to him by digital security expert Chris Soghoian. Cole uses two cellphones; they are bought anonymously; they are never used together; and one always has its battery removed, to prevent it from accidentally being activated and to ensure the two numbers are never linked. 

When I mentioned this protocol to another journalist covering similar topics, Amber Lyon, she showed me her new iPhone and pointed out the flaw: Its battery couldn't be removed. We need to make sure that in the future, when all journalism will be mobile journalism, that we can find an off switch for the worst flaws of mobile security.

Danny O'Brien, the San Francisco-based CPJ Internet advocacy coordinator, has worked globally as a journalist and activist covering technology and digital rights.

15 February 2013


5 TWEETS from 07 FEB 2013
US/1 BlackNET Intell
 ATTN: @BlackHoleNET
Predator Drones don't kill innocent AMERICAN civilian children, #alAwalaki, HELLFIRE Missiles DO #nationalsecuritygroup
Problem is, those strikes are considered, and are, cowardly, in the tribal places wherein upon the are being currently deployed, i.e...
...Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Iran, etc., as courageously pointed out a couple of days ago by Stan McChrystal.
Viet Cong remember warmly “high-tech” battlefield multiplier dployed by “primitive” locals--themselves--& cherished their SAM-7s and AK-47s
#nationalsecuritygroup @blackhole29
 DoD & OGA w/WH approval propose kill MORE US-CITS w/o due process Thot we kill foreigners for doing that...

11 February 2013

WHISKEY-TANGO-FOXTROT--SEAL who shot bin Laden speaks out



The Lookout
The Situation Room of the White House on May 1, 2011. (Pete Souza/White House) 

The U.S. Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden is speaking out for the first time since the May 1, 2011, raid on the al-Qaida leader's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

In an interview with Esquire, the former SEAL—identified as "The Shooter" due to what the magazine described as "safety" reasons—said he's been largely abandoned by the U.S. government since leaving the military last fall.

He told Esquire he decided to speak out to both correct the record of the bin Laden mission and to put a spotlight on how some of the U.S. military's highly trained and accomplished soldiers are treated by the government once they return to civilian life.

Despite killing the world's most-wanted terrorist, he said, he was not given a pension, health care or protection for himself or his family.

"[SEAL command] told me they could get me a job driving a beer truck in Milwaukee," he told Esquire.

Plus, he said, "my health care for me and my family stopped. I asked if there was some transition from my Tricare to Blue Cross Blue Shield. They said no. You're out of the service, your coverage is over. Thanks for your 16 years. Go f--- yourself."

The problem seems to be that "The Shooter" left the military well before the 20-year requirement for retirement benefits.


According to the magazine, the government provides 180 days of transitional health care benefits, but the Shooter was ineligible because he did not agree to remain on active duty in a support role or become a "reservist." Instead, the magazine noted, he will "have to wait at least eight months to have his disability claims adjudicated."

The SEAL also gave his account of the historic raid, including the moment he pulled the trigger and shot bin Laden.

“In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead," he told Esquire. "Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed. He was dead. I watched him take his last breaths. And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I've ever done, or the worst thing I've ever done?

"I'm not religious," he added. "But I always felt I was put on the earth to do something specific. After that mission, I knew what it was."

He also recalled watching CNN's coverage of the first anniversary of bin Laden's death.

"They were saying, 'So now we're taking viewer e-mails. Do you remember where you were when you found out Osama bin Laden was dead?' And I was thinking: Of course I remember. I was in his bedroom looking down at his body."

In September 2012, fellow former SEAL Team 6 member Matt Bissonnette published a controversial book, "No Easy Day," under a pen name about the raid, drawing the ire of both his fellow SEALs and the Pentagon.

A spokeswoman for Esquire told Yahoo News that the magazine did not pay the SEAL for the interview.

09 February 2013

STAR PHOENIX: Canadian Naval intelligence is missing the boat

It is scandalous enough that a Canadian navy intelligence officer stole and sold secrets to the Russians. What's even more scandalous is that Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle smuggled those secrets out of the Navy's Halifax intelligence headquarters on floppy discs.

Who uses floppy discs anymore? They only have been obsolete for about 10 years. Computers that accept floppies you don't even see any more at SARCAN's recycling depot.

Along with the stone tablet, the papyrus scroll and the computer punch card, the floppy disk is ancient history, I would have expected.

To learn, then, that floppies are still being used at naval intelligence headquarters is not encouraging. It's as if the navy was still arming warships with muzzle-loading cannon.

If nothing else, perhaps this spy scandal will finally provide the impetus for naval intelligence to replace its Commodore 64s.

It is scandalous, too, that Delisle was able to copy any secrets at all. Secure computer networks normally are set up to block illicit copying and flag any such attempts. Del-isle should have been caught in July 2007, the first time he clicked on "download."

He also should have been caught in the fall of 2011 when a Canadian border agent found $50,000 in cash and prepaid credit cards in his luggage when he returned from a trip to Brazil.

The agent would not have known Delisle had met there with his Russian handlers, but the cash in his bags, his lack of a suntan and his apparent ignorance of Brazil's most popular tourist sites were suspicious enough to warrant a report from the border agent. Almost unbelievably, it did not prompt any kind of investigation.

There could be a legitimate explanation for a junior naval intelligence officer returning from Brazil with $50,000 and no tan or snapshots, but you'd think that someone in the vast Canadian security apparatus would have wanted to hear it.

Red flags all over the place went unnoticed. Delisle was known by his superiors to have money problems, an unravelling marriage and, somehow, the means for international travel. Maxwell Smart would have ordered a security review on the strength of those warning signs, but the navy did not.

Canadian intelligence authorities were only alerted to Delisle's activities two months later by a tip from the FBI. We had to hear from the Americans what was going on in our own naval intelligence headquarters.

How unimpressed with our security apparatus the Americans must be, all the more so when their defence secrets, shared with Canada, were among those sold by Delisle to the Russians. Our allies will think twice before they share secrets with us again.

A senior military intelligence officer described as "exceptionally grave" the damage done by Delisle to Canada's national interest. It will not be undone by sending him to jail for 20 years.

What I would like to know is whether any effort was made to salvage something from the mess by using Del-isle as a double agent.

By feeding phoney secrets through Delisle to the Russians, they could have been steered in all kinds of wrong directions. We could have had Russian spies tramping through waist-deep snow in rural Quebec for a glimpse of our new, top-secret maple syrup bomb, say. We could have let the Russians think just before the looming Winter Olympics that their top hockey players are CIA spies.

We could have drummed up work for Ottawa dry-wallers by letting them think their embassy was bugged.

We could have fed the Russians tantalizing details and maybe even photographs of our new, invisible jet fighter.

"But Jeffrey, I don't see a jet fighter here."

"Of course you can't see it. It's invisible"

If we could convince the Russians we had invisible jet fighters, we could save a lot of money on actual jet fighters. We then could use that money to buy some modern computers for naval intelligence headquarters.

05 February 2013

WhoWhatWHY EXCLUSIVE – Petraeus: the Plot Thickens

US/1; ATTN  



EXCLUSIVE – Petraeus: the Plot Thickens

Paula Broadwell
All (Taken) In?

Was the ambitious General David Petraeus targeted for take-down by competing interests in the US military/intelligence hierarchy—years before his abrupt downfall last year in an adultery scandal?

Previously unreported documents analyzed by WhoWhatWhy suggest as much. They provide new insight into the scandalous extramarital romance that led to Petraeus’s resignation as CIA director in November after several years of rapid rise—going from a little-known general to a prospective presidential candidate in a stunningly brief time frame.

Among other revelations the documents show that:

-Petraeus was suspected of having an extramarital affair nearly two years earlier than previously known.

-Petraeus’s affair was known to foreign interests with a stake in a raging policy and turf battle in which Petraeus was an active party.

-Those providing the “official” narrative of the affair—and an analysis of why it led to the unprecedented removal of America’s top spymaster— have been less than candid with the American people.
According to internal emails of the Austin-based private intelligence firm Stratfor, General David Petraeus was drawing attention to his private life much earlier than previously believed. Because it was his private life that resulted in his being forced out as CIA director, alterations in our understanding of the time frame are significant.
Until now, the consensus has been that Petraeus began an affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, in the fall of 2011, after he retired from the military and took over the CIA.

Lt. Col. John Nagl, a friend of Petraeus, claims the Petraeus-Broadwell extramarital affair did not begin until after Petraeus became CIA director, which was in September 2011. And retired US Army Col. Steve Boylan, a former Petraeus spokesperson, says the affair did not begin until several months after August 2011, when Petraeus retired from the Army.

But documents—researched by WhoWhatWhy and published for the first time as part of an investigative partnership with WikiLeaks—suggest otherwise. These documents characterize Petraeus as having regular dinners in early 2010 with Abdulwahab al-Hajri, then Yemen’s ambassador to the US, and note that Petraeus brought to at least one of those dinners a woman “not his wife”—whom the Yemenis believed was “his mistress.” It’s possible—although not confirmed—that this woman was Paula Broadwell, Petraeus’s biographer and mistress, who sent allegedly threatening emails that spawned the strange FBI investigation that precipitated the former Army general’s resignation on November 9, 2012.

Stratfor has a longstanding position of not commenting on the emails obtained by WikiLeaks. The company’s boilerplate public response regarding the internal documents in WikiLeaks’ possession is that it “will not be victimized twice by submitting to questioning about them.”

Petraeus’s attorney, Robert Barnett, declined to comment.

According to the Stratfor emails, Petraeus brought a woman believed to be his mistress to at least one dinner at al-Hajri’s house as early as January or February 2010. It is known that by late 2010, after Petraeus took command for the Afghanistan war, Paula Broadwell had already established what has been called “unfettered” and “unprecedented” access to Petraeus, including lodging on his Kabul base.

By bringing to such a gathering a younger woman who aroused such suspicion, Petraeus was already exhibiting the kind of recklessness not uncommon to highly ambitious people on the rapid ascent. This was especially true given the stakes involved—and Petraeus’s own formidable enemies within the US government.

If the young woman was Broadwell, her willingness to accompany a top military official to such a closed-door, high-level event should draw additional attention to her thinking and motivations. Broadwell was a military intelligence reservist—and her take on what was discussed at precisely those kinds of dinners would have been of interest to her superiors.

By the date of these 2010 dinners, Broadwell had known Petraeus for four years—and had been working closely with him on his biography since the previous year. She says she first met him in the spring of 2006, when she was a graduate student at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and asked if she could write his biography. She began work on the biography in 2009 when he headed CENTCOM, the US Central Command. With the biography as her justification, she followed him to Afghanistan where he led the US forces.

Thus, if Stratfor’s Yemeni diplomat source is correct, and the woman was Broadwell, an attractive military intelligence reserve officer was far more deeply entwined than previously known with a controversial, fast-climbing figure at the center of some of America’s and the world’s hottest disputes—at the risk of compromising him and his future.

Stratfor’s Source: a Yemeni diplomat based in DC
Mohammed al-Basha, press attaché for the Yemen embassy in Washington DC, is one of Stratfor’s informants, referred to by DC-based Stratfor analyst Reva Bhalla as her “Yemeni diplomatic source.”

In an interview with us, al-Basha confirmed that Petraeus dined with Abdulwahab al-Hajri at the former ambassador’s house in DC for “an event or a party” while Petraeus was head of CENTCOM. Petraeus was CENTCOM commander from October 31, 2008 until July 18, 2011— which is within the scope of the Stratfor emails and before the dates Nagl and Boylan give for the start of the affair.

Al-Basha told WhoWhatWhy he had “no idea” whether Paula Broadwell attended a dinner with Petraeus and the Yemeni ambassador. “I have no idea. No, no, I have no idea,” he said. “That’s the first I’ve heard this.” He then denied being Stratfor’s source.

However, there are at least one hundred and twenty emails between the Yemen embassy’s al-Basha and Stratfor’s analyst Bhalla in the WikiLeaks cache; many consist of al-Basha answering her questions. In Email-ID 81508, sent January 15, 2010, Bhalla and al-Basha discuss Yemen’s terms for surrendering American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki; al-Basha tells Bhalla he is “not sure about the terms… I will assume a fair prosecution can be part of the plea”; in Email-ID 1098283, sent the same day, Bhalla forwards his exact words to other Stratfor analysts, telling them they came from her “Yemeni diplomatic source.”

In Email-ID 90306, sent February 5, 2010, Stratfor Watch Officer Michael Wilson tells the firm about a champagne party where he learned that Petraeus brought an intriguing woman to a dinner with al-Hajri. The email states that a Stratfor source, a “Yemeni diplomat based in DC” and handled by Bhalla, provided the information. 
Unless Stratfor has multiple Yemeni diplomat sources in DC handled by Bhalla, that source is al-Basha. Furthermore, the WikiLeaks cache appears to contain no email contacts with any other Yemeni diplomats.

Having acknowledged the Petraeus/al-Hajri dinner, al-Basha nonetheless requested that the event not be reported. Then, in a follow-up email exchange, he cited an unnamed former colleague’s assertion that “the General never came over with his biographer to any of our events public or private.” That statement is constructed in such a way that it does not actually deny Petraeus’s presence at the dinners with a woman who was not his wife, or even deny that the woman was Broadwell. 

Technically, it only excludes a scenario in which Petraeus arrived with Broadwell. We were unable to clarify further because repeated requests that al-Basha identify the former colleague went unanswered.

Why Champagne Hangovers Suck

Email-ID 90306 (with the droll subject line “Re: INSIGHT – YEMEN – why champagne hangovers suck”) contains Wilson’s report of “a hectic, late night” meeting occasioned by Abdulaziz bin Fahd, a son of Fahd bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, former king of Saudi Arabia, challenging “everyone to a champagne bottle drinking contest.”

Wilson, writing of what he learned that night, says:

“Petraeus has become BFF [slang for best friends forever] with the Yemeni ambassador here. Dinners every other week at the amb’s house. Last time he came with this woman, not his wife. The Yemenis think she was his mistress, but i seriously doubt that he’d be that stupid considering how high profile he is. You can see Petraeus taking a much deeper interest in Yemen these days though. Petraeus (after he drinks a few) says privately there is an Iranian link in Yemen, but it is not yet critical.”

A 2010 US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks reports that on January 2, 2010 — that is, around the time of Petraeus’s dinners with the ambassador — Petraeus met with then-president of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh, who, referring to secret US air strikes in Yemen, promised Petraeus “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.” Broadwell’s biography of Petraeus, All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, briefly mentions Petraeus trips to Yemen, but does not indicate if she went along.

The Turf War

Control over US policy in Yemen was at stake, and General Petraeus was right in the midst of it. The CIA and the Pentagon had competing objectives in Yemen. The CIA was pushing Obama to authorize the agency to deploy its pilotless drones against radical Islamist forces, while the military wanted to train and supply Yemeni special forces to handle the country’s problems. Debate raged over whether US drone operations—which often involve civilian casualties—were not just further alienating the local population and thereby playing into those Islamists’ hands. Both sides were leaking information to the press to try to influence the White House, and Petraeus himself was one of the leakers. (Later, as CIA director, Petraeus would advocate for increased use of drones.)

Email-ID 1204569, sent September 4, 2010, while Petraeus was CENTCOM commander, contains Stratfor analyst Bhalla’s report of a discussion over hookah (“sheesha”) with her “Yemeni diplomat source” and two younger sons of President Saleh.

She mentions “leaks from a couple weeks ago on CIA recommendations to the [Obama] administration to carry out drone strikes in Yemen,” and says: “There’s a huge turf war between CIA and JSOC over this, which is why all these leaks are coming out,” and notes that

CENTCOM leaked their rec for $1.2 billion assistance funding for Yemeni special forces (this was all Petraeus, who has a very good relationship with the Yemenis and goes to the Yemeni ambo’s house pretty regularly for dinner.) The Yemenis are nervous about [General James] Mattis taking over Centcom.  They could deal well with Petraeus, whom they consider a ‘diplomat.’ Don’t know yet how to read Mattis.

Why Yemen?

Powerful competing US (and international) interests and factions have stakes in Yemen that are not transparent to the public nor shared with it.  The political landscape in Yemen is complex and shifting (Saleh is no longer in power, and some reforms are underway), but certain realities must be understood. Some of these were noted nearly a year ago on the site Small Wars Journal, put out by ex-Marines with an interest in nuances that often get lost:

Over the last decade the US has viewed Yemen almost exclusively through a counterterrorism lens.  This has proven short-sighted and often counter-productive.  Some make a compelling case that Ali Abdullah Saleh kept the terrorism threat alive to secure both US funding and ultimately his regime, which was dubbed by Yemen expert Robert Burrowes as nothing short of a “kleptocracy.”


A careful look at the map reveals that Yemen is the hinge between East and West.  The Bab-el-Mandeb – which links the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean via the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden – highlights Yemen’s vital geostrategic location.  Most will be familiar with the strategic and economic importance of the area, particularly the Canal, which remains at the heart of world trade and commerce.


[A] restructured, well-led and well-equipped Yemeni Coastguard active in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden could be leveraged in support of Combined Task Force 150 and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) forces to counter piracy and also quell the aspirations of both Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  Additionally, the US would have a trusted ally acting across the CENTCOM – AFRICOM boundary.

That tracks with public discussions of regional policy. But what is the interest of Stratfor in Yemen, besides generating content for its subscription newsletters? According to its internal emails, in 2010 the private intelligence firm was providing custom analysis on Yemen for its clients National Oilwell Varco (a Houston-based multinational which builds oil rigs), and Hunt Oil (for more on Ray Hunt—a member of President George W. Bush’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board—and his Middle Eastern operations, including in Iraqi Kurdistan, see this.) Email ID 5300460, sent May 23, 2011, shows Stratfor’s work for Hunt Oil included creating a database of incidents of violence, with precise information such as GPS coordinates. This is yet another reminder that where political struggles play out, the pursuit of profit cannot be far afield.

Petraeus, a canny man, surely understood the factors besides pure military strategy that underlie foreign policy calculations. Also, it was during this period that he was being mentioned as a possible opponent to Obama (Listen here to a top Fox News executive repeating speculation to Petraeus that he was being brought into the CIA to derail a possible run against Obama—and how Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes and their Fox News team would get behind him if he chose to run. Petraeus deflected the talk about a presidential run, saying, with a laugh, “My wife would divorce me.”)

Who Gets Credit?

One of the more revealing aspects of the Stratfor memos is their candor about the narrow and self-serving behavior of agencies and departments whose official justifications are too seldom questioned by the media.

In Email-ID 1204569, coming a year before the US raid on Bin Laden’s haven in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Bhalla writes, with brutal cynicism:

There’s been a ton of media spin and leaks later about Anwar al Awlaki being the next bin Laden. OBL is becoming old news now. CIA and JSOC want a new target to claim success, so there’s a concerted campaign going on right now to play up al Awlaki as the #1 terrorist. Al Awlaki is much easier to target anyway and they have leads on him, so every agency wants to be the one to say they got him. [Emphasis added.]

The month before this September 4, 2010 email, the Obama Administration had placed Anwar al-Awlaki on a “kill or capture” list. A little over a year later, on September 30 2011, a US drone strike killed al-Awlaki in Yemen without his having been charged, given any due process or trial, and without any of the evidence against him being made public—an unprecedented attack on a US citizen.

That Stratfor analysts report a “turf war” between the CIA and JSOC also foreshadows what many see as the biggest fallout from installing a military general as head of what had been regarded as a civilian agency — the further militarization of the CIA’s mission. The fact that the general had a mistress in tow (or—if one assumes that the woman mentioned in Stratfor’s intelligence about that dinner in Yemen wasn’t Paula Broadwell—a series of mistresses) can only add to the disquiet.

It may be that Petraeus shared foreign policy secrets with Broadwell, possibly granting her unauthorized access to classified information. A speech Broadwell gave at the University of Denver near or within the time frame of the FBI investigation of her suggests she may have had inside information about the controversial response to the attacks on the US consulate and the CIA annex in Benghazi.

It is unfortunate how little interest the media has shown in Broadwell’s work as a military intelligence officer. She directed the Counterterrorism Studies Center at Tufts, which stresses advance planning and soft power over military efforts: “We’re playing chess, they’re playing poker.”  Clearly, she was not just an eager young scribe falling in love with a brave commander.

Ostensibly, Petraeus was toppled for his involvement in a secret extramarital affair— which became public knowledge with the revelation of Broadwell’s reportedly threatening behavior toward socialite Jill Kelley, whom Broadwell allegedly perceived as a romantic rival.

By agreeing to Broadwell’s original request that he admit her into his life as his biographer, the ambitious general may have unwittingly allowed himself to be set up. If he did invite her along to private dinners where confidential international strategy was discussed, she presumably was quite glad to go, and may even have suggested it. Their affair thus became a sub rosa time-bomb, the fuse of which was in her control.

General David Petraeus’s headlong fall from grace cannot be dismissed as the denouement of yet another peccadillo in an unforgiving moral climate. The plot is thicker than that—perhaps as thick as the often-unnamed heart of the story: oil.


CyBER-BlackSEC Debate

BlackNIGHT Target Practice

SEAL Team SIX - Iron Will from CBS News

The Devil's Advocate?

In 1991, [the late former Secretary of State Lawrence 'Just call me George'] Eagleburger explained to The Post why all of his sons were named Lawrence.

“First of all, it was ego,” he said. “And secondly, I wanted to screw up the Social Security system.”