Organized crime gangs keep trying to sell radioactive material to terrorists


In the last five years, criminal gangs in Moldova have been stopped four times from selling radioactive materials, including bomb-grade uranium, on the black market. You have to wonder if they have also succeeded one or more times, and we just don't know about it yet.

From AP:

In that operation, wiretaps and interviews with investigators show, a middleman for the gang repeatedly ranted with hatred for America as he focused on smuggling the essential material for an atomic bomb and blueprints for a dirty bomb to a Middle Eastern buyer.

In wiretaps, videotaped arrests, photographs of bomb-grade material, documents and interviews, AP found that smugglers are explicitly targeting buyers who are enemies of the West. The developments represent the fulfillment of a long-feared scenario in which organized crime gangs are trying to link up with groups such as the Islamic State and al-Qaida — both of which have made clear their ambition to use weapons of mass destruction.

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CIA boss John Brennan drafted this never-sent apology letter to senators over the CIA hacking

Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan.
“The CIA accidentally released a document to me under FOIA and then asked that I refrain from posting it,” says VICE reporter Jason Leopold. He declined their request.

Suspect in custody after 9 killed in gun massacre at church


A suspect is reportedly in custody after a gunman entered a church in Charleston, Carolina then shot dead nine worshippers. Read the rest

Turkey blocks Twitter and YouTube

The BBC reports that the courts want to prevent the spread of photos from last week's deadly siege which ended in the deaths of two terrorists and their hostage. Read the rest

Anita Sarkeesian cancels Utah campus appearance after threats of a "Montreal-style massacre"

Sarkeesian was willing to go on with the show at Utah State University -- as she's done after all the other death threats that she's received as a speaker -- but wanted attendees checked for firearms. Ogden, UT cops refused, citing Utah's open-carry firearms law. At least one of the threats cited Gamergate. Read the rest

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 reported shot down in Ukraine near Russian border

Around 11:00AM ET today, Interfax, CNN, and other news agencies began reporting that Malaysia Airlines flight 17, heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed in eastern Ukraine.

Some 280 passengers and at least 15 crew members, a total of 295 lives, are believed to have been on board the Boeing 777 passenger jet. This is the second crash involving Malaysia Airlines within the past few months.

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Obama administration proves why we need someone to leak CIA Torture Report

image: Reuters

It’s now been over a month since the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to force the Obama administration to declassify parts of the Committee’s landmark report on CIA torture, and the public still has not seen a word of the 6,000 page investigation. Read the rest

Will US condemn UK for using terrorism laws to suppress journalism?

Journalist Glenn Greenwald after being reunited with his partner, David Miranda, in Rio de Janeiro's International Airport after British authorities used anti-terrorism powers to detain Miranda. RICARDO MORAES/REUTERS

In a disturbing ruling for democracy, a lower court in United Kingdom announced today that the detainment of journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was lawful under the Terrorism Act, despite the fact that the UK government knew Miranda never was a terrorist. This disgraceful opinion equates acts of journalism with terrorism and puts the UK on par with some of the world’s most repressive regimes. Miranda has vowed to appeal the ruling.

Glenn Greenwald has much more on what this means for press freedom, but I’d like to expand on one particular point: Read the rest

Doctors were compelled by US military and CIA to harm detainees, report says

A guard walks through a cellblock inside Camp V, a prison used to house detainees at Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, March 5, 2013. Photo: Reuters.

Post-9/11 detainee interrogration policies of the US Defense Department and CIA forced medical professionals to abandon the ethical obligation to "do no harm" to the humans in their care, and engage in prohibited practices such as force-feeding of hunger strikers, according to a report out this week. "Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the War on Terror" [PDF Link] was produced by 19-member task force of Columbia University's Institute on Medicine as a Profession and the Open Society Foundations. The LA Times has a summary here. Read the rest

Why terrorist bosses are micro-managing dicks

Jacob N. Shapiro, author of The Terrorist's Dilemma: Managing Violent Covert Organizations , sets out his thesis about the micromanagement style of terrorist leaders in a fascinating piece in Foreign Affairs. It comes down to this: people willing to join terrorist groups are, by definition, undisciplined, passionate, and unbalanced, so you have to watch them closely and coordinate their campaigns. From the IRA to al Qaeda, successful terrorist leaders end up keeping fine-grained records of who's getting paid, what they're planning, and how they're spending. This means that in many cases, the capture of terrorist leaders leads to the unraveling of their organizations, but the alternative is apparently even worse -- a chaotic series of overlapping, self-defeating attacks and out-of-control spending.

Recall that Moktar Belmoktar was hounded out of the Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in part over his sloppy expense reporting, and that he went on to found the group that took more than 800 hostages in a gas plant in Algeria. This kind of budget-niggling is apparently common: Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of al Qaeda since 2011, was reportedly furious that Yemeni affiliates had bought a new fax machine, because the old one worked just fine. Read the rest

When all the cool kids were hijacking airplanes

Between 1968 and 1973, somebody hijacked a commercial airliner nearly every week. Read the rest

Why armed lockdown in Boston after the Marathon Bombings was a bad idea

"A large percent of the reaction in Boston has been security theater," writes Popehat. "'Four victims brutally killed' goes by other names in other cities. In Detroit, for example, they call it 'Tuesday.'...and Detroit does not shut down every time there are a few murders. 'But Clark,' I hear you say, 'this is different. This was a terrorist attack.' Read the rest

Report: Russia warned FBI in 2011 about Boston bombing suspect Tsarnaev

The Boston Globe is among many media outlets to report this weekend that Russia was surveilling suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011, and "warned the FBI of the alleged bomber’s radical shift" towards "suspicious activities." The FBI acknowledged Friday that it has investigated him in 2011, after that prompt, but "did not find any terrorism activity" in the behavior they observed online and in person, when they interrogated him at his home. The 26 year old was killed early Friday morning during a firefight with police in Watertown, MA. Bonus: The name of the boat his brother Dzhokhar was found hiding in, on Friday? "The Slipaway II." Read the rest

Why is it so hard to make a phone call in emergency situations?

When bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon on Monday, my Facebook feed was immediately filled with urgent messages. I watched as my friends and family implored their friends and family in Boston to check in, and lamented the fact that nobody could seem to get a solid cell phone connection. Calls were made, but they got dropped. More often, they were never connected to begin with. There was even a rumor circulating that all cell phone service to the city had been switched off at the request of law enforcement.

That rumor turns out to not be true. But it is a fact that, whenever disaster strikes, it becomes difficult to reach the people you care about. Right at the moment when you really need to hear a familiar voice, you often can't. So what gives?

To find out why it's frequently so difficult to successfully place a call during emergencies, I spoke with Brough Turner, an entrepreneur, engineer, and writer who has been been working with phone systems (both wired and wireless) for 25 years. Turner helped me understand how the behind-the-scenes infrastructure of cell phones works, and why that infrastructure gets bogged down when lots of people are suddenly trying to make calls all at once from a single place. He says there are some things that can be done to fix this issue, but, ultimately, it's more complicated than just asking what the technology can and cannot do. In some ways, service failures like this are a price we pay for having a choice and not being subject to a total monopoly. Read the rest

If you see something, say something: Liveblogging from a lecture about terrorism, security, and visual narratives

When bombs explode in a crowded city street, individuals and governments naturally ask themselves, "Could we have prevented this if we had been paying better attention to people and things that were out of place?" Trouble is, that question leads to a whole cascade of other questions — covering everything from personal privacy to racism.

M. Neelika Jayawardane is associate professor of English at SUNY-Oswego. She's giving a talk this afternoon on "If you see something, say something" and other campaigns aimed at getting average people involved in public security. I happened to be here on campus for a separate speaking engagement and thought this was something that BoingBoing readers would be interested in "sitting in" on, given the recent tragedy in Boston.

I'll be liveblogging this, updating regularly with key points and ideas from Jayawardane's talk. It's worth noting that her perspective is not the only way to think about these issues. I'm posting this in hopes that it will present some interesting information and spark good conversations. If you're interested in engaging with Jayawardane afterwards, she said that you can reach her via Twitter. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to seeing what she has to say — and what you all have to say about that. Read the rest

Interview with an expert in improvised explosive devices

At Scientific American, Larry Greenemeier has a piece about the science behind the three (possibly four) improvised explosive devices that killed at least three people yesterday in Boston. It might be easy to build bombs like these, but their DIY construction techniques also leave clues that help investigators find the people responsible. Read the rest

Twitter suspends account of Somali Islamist militants linked to Al-Qaeda

Two days after a group of Somali islamist militants vowed to execute Kenyan hostages, and tweeted a video of a captive pleading for the Kenyan government to help free them, the Al-Shabaab Twitter account @HSMPress was suspended. A Google cache is visible here. Warning: includes gruesome photos. The group took a French intelligence officer hostage, then apparently murdered him after an unsuccessful attempted raid by the French military which the US assisted). An @HSMPress press release about that killing is available on Twitlonger.

The Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen Twitter account has been around since 2011, promoting the group's vision of strict sharia law in Somalia, 140 characters at a time. The US State Department was reportedly looking in to shutting it down ages ago. Wonder what took them so long?

For its part, Al Shabaab blames its "Christian enemies" for suspending its Twitter account. And they do sound rather miffed about being blocked on the popular social networking platform.

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