The B2 Spirit Stealth Bomber looks like one of Batman's rides. In service since the mid-1990s, the B2's distinctive flying wing shape, even after decades in service, still looks like the future – and an expensive future, at that. Each B2 costs $2.1 billion. As such, only 21 of the stealthy aircraft were ever made.
Congress, even in the heyday of "what about potential war with Russia," refused to pay for any more. It's an aircraft with a mystique that comes both from its exotic design and how little information we have on the pilots who fly it, and their experience of flying one of them.
Recently, journalist William Langewiesche was given the opportunity to become familiar with the bomber and those that pilot it. More intriguingly, given that the bomber scarcely has space in its cockpit to accommodate a pilot and co-pilot, Langewiesche, by the sound of things, was allowed to join a B2 flight crew on a mission that would take them all the way from the United States to a bombing run on an ISIS camp in Libya.
From The Atlantic:
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Night came quickly after a short day. Once they passed into the Mediterranean, the pilots used their radar to find three tankers that had come from Germany to meet them for their second refueling, and to map some thunderstorms that were active in the area at the time. Because of its composite structure, the B-2 is particularly vulnerable to static discharges and lightning strikes, and is required to stay 40 miles away from thunderstorms—twice as far as other airplanes.
The UN's International Organization for Migration says that human traffickers paid to smuggle migrants out of sub-Saharan Africa are selling their "clients" to slavers in Libya, who ransom them to their families, starving them and working them to death while they wait for the money to come in. Read the rest
In 2006, western leaders decided that Gaddafi's oil was more important than his human rights record and complicity in terrorism and lifted sanctions against Libya, creating a massive pool of cash for the country that it turned into a sovereign wealth fund whose business was aggressively courted by Goldman Sachs. Read the rest
Reporters from Fairfax Media and The Huffington Post obtained a huge trove of email from Unaoil, a business run by a rich Monaco family, that reveal that the family ran a corrupt bribery empire that spanned the world's oil-producing states, and that they world with companies like Rolls-Royce, Halliburton, Leighton Holding, Samsung and Hyundai, to rig contracts through a system of bribes and kickbacks that looted the national treasuries of some of the world's poorest countries. Read the rest
James Bridle writes: "There's huge debate in the UK about the deaths of people in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, but we rarely see or hear the people themselves." Read the rest
Abdel Hakim Belhaj was a Libyan dissident who was kidnapped by the CIA and GHCQ and rendered to Gaddafi's Libya, along with his pregnant wife. He was brutally, savagely tortured and imprisoned for seven years. He's been trying to get justice in a British court since his release. Today, the court told him he would find no justice, because any trial on his rendition would embarrass the CIA, and that would damage the UK's national interest. Oh well, at least the judge was "horrified" as he pronounced his verdict. Read the rest
Zack Parsons, author and Something Awful moderator, writes,
Sean Smith was one of the four men tragically killed in the consulate
attack in Benghazi, Libya on September 11^th . He was a foreign
services officer for the State Department. He leaves behind a wife and
two young children. I knew him as “Vilerat” on the SA forums. He has
been a moderator there since 2008 and he has posted there since 2002.
He was also well-known in the EVE online gaming community.
I am trying to honor him and all of his contributions to our community
and to the world by giving his family a helping hand with their
expenses. I have started a fundraiser with the assistance of his
friend on EVE and the SA forums, and the input of his wife, Heather,
and I am trying to get the word out about it.
Farewell to Vilerat
(Thanks, Zack!) Read the rest
"Innocence of Muslims," the spectacularly crappy anti-Muslim movie trailer linked to recent violence in Libya, and the death of a US ambassador and others? The guy credited as its filmmaker, "Sam Bacile," has been outed as one Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.
Noah Shachtman at Wired News reports that "Bacile" was one of many pseudonyms used by Nakoula. Others include Matthew Nekola; Ahmed Hamdy; Amal Nada; Daniel K. Caresman; Kritbag Difrat; Sobhi Bushra; Robert Bacily; Nicola Bacily; Thomas J. Tanas; Erwin Salameh; Mark Basseley Youssef; Yousseff M. Basseley; Malid Ahlawi; and my favorite, P.J. Tobacco.
He first told news outlets he was an Israeli Jew; law enforcement authorities have since identified him as a Coptic Christian immigrant with a shady past. He reportedly has a criminal record including at least one narcotics conviction: an LA County District Attorney’s office source says he was arrested by the L.A. Country Sheriff's Department in 1997 and charged with intent to manufacture methamphetamine. Read the rest
An excellent long read in the new Wired magazine: Jamming Tripoli: Inside Moammar Gadhafi's Secret Surveillance Network. Matthieu Aikins examines how activists suffered "greatly at the hands of Gadhafi’s spy service, whose own capabilities had been heightened by 21st-century technology."
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By now, it’s well known that the Arab Spring showed the promise of the Internet as a crucible for democratic activism. But, in the shadows, a second narrative unfolded, one that demonstrated the Internet’s equal potential for government surveillance and repression on a scale unimaginable with the old analog techniques of phone taps and informants. Today, with Gadhafi dead and a provisional government of former rebels in charge, we can begin to uncover the secret, high tech spying machine that helped the dictator and his regime cling to power.
When the Qaddafi regime fell in Libya, the headquarters of the secret police were occupied by the rebel forces, who retrieved a large quantity of memos and documents detailing the cooperation between western governments and the Qaddafi regime, including the sale and maintenance of network surveillance equipment, and, notoriously, the use of Qaddafi's torturers on suspected terrorists who were secretly rendered to Libya by western intelligence agencies.
One set of documents show that the UK intelligence service worked to kidnap and render Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, for a horrific round of torture that was directly overseen by UK intelligence agents, with the knowledge of the CIA.
Now Tony Blair, who was prime minister of Britain at the time of the illegal kidnapping and torture, denies having any recollection of the programme, and insists that Libya was a fine partner in the war on terror.
A UK parliamentary committee is attempting to investigate the matter, and filed a freedom of information request with the US government for documents on UK participation in illegal rendition programmes. The CIA objected to the request, and a US judge denied it on the grounds that it had been made by a "foreign government entity" (the UK's all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition). Deputy committee chair Tony Lloyd called the ruling "odd" and "an abuse of the spirit of freedom of information." He noted that the judge had not rejected the proposal on the grounds of national security, but because "a parliamentary body that was part of the British state was 'not acceptable.'" Richard Norton-Taylor has more in the Guardian. Read the rest
After the fall of the Qaddafi regime, secret police documents were discovered linking the UK spy agency MI6 with the kidnap of two leading Libyan dissidents and their families, in order to deliver them to Qaddafi's torturers. The UK government has admitted that its spies are guilty of this crime, but point to a law that says that British spies can't be held liable for their crimes, provided that the secretary of state signs off on them, and the secretary did.
The "acts" can take place only overseas and remain illegal both under the laws of the country where they are committed and possibly under international law. But, section 7 says, with the stroke of a pen a secretary of state can rule that no UK law can be brought to bear.
The act had been drafted as a consequence of a series of European court judgments in the 1980s that forced Britain's ultra-secretive intelligence agencies to emerge into the daylight of the public domain.
How secret renditions shed light on MI6's licence to kill and torture
(via Warren Ellis) Read the rest
One wonders if a trial for crimes against humanity might have been a little more dignified—not because the deceased deserved it, but because the living deserved something better than perpetuation of the cycle of gore, brutality, and dehumanization. From Arab News:
In Misrata, residents crowded into long lines to get a chance to view the body of Qaddafi, which was laid out on a mattress on the floor of an emptied-out vegetable and onions freezer at a local shopping center. The body had apparently been stowed in the freezer in an attempt to keep it out of the public eye, but once the location was known, that intention was swept away in the overwhelming desire of residents to see the man they so deeply despised. Men, women and children filed in to take their picture with the body. The site’s guards had even organized separate visiting hours for families and single men.
“We want to see the dog,” some chanted.
Qaddafi’s 69-year-old body was stripped to the waist, his torso and arms streaked with dried blood. Bullet wounds in the chest, abdomen and left side of the head were visible.
(via @nytjim) Read the rest
An anti-Gaddafi fighter shows the media what they say was the golden pistol of Muammar Gaddafi, near Sirte October 20, 2011. Gaddafi was killed on Thursday as Libya's new leaders declared they had overrun the last bastion of his long rule, sparking wild celebrations that eight months of war may finally be over. Details of the death near Sirte of the fallen strongman were hazy but it was announced by several officials of the National Transitional Council (NTC) and backed up by a photograph of a bloodied face ringed by familiar, Gaddafi-style curly hair. (REUTERS/Thaier al-Sudani)
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Libyan leader Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was killed today when rebel fighters battling what was left of his regime took over his hometown of Surt.
Since no-one has created a "Hitler Finds Out Gaddafi is Dead" video yet, I dug up the strangest thing I could find: this raw footage of the despot relaxing at home at peace with his family; a simple experience his military prevented many thousands of innocent citizens from having.
The colonel and a few of his men are said to have run through a stand of trees and hid in two drainage pipes before they were killed. There are questions about the exact circumstances of his death—Al Jazeera has broadcast footage indicating he was alive when captured.
NYT, Reuters, Washington Post, Al Jazeera.
UPDATE: Hitler finds out Gaddafi has been killed. Read the rest
Mannequin parts, seen at the beach in Tripoli, Libya, on September 6, 2011. Photo: Anis Mili/Reuters. Read the rest
I know it doesn't look like much, but see that "1.44" off to the right? That means they are high density floppies.
First Look Inside Security Unit [WSJ. Photos: Edu Bayer] Read the rest
Amid reports that Gadaffi and his family have already fled, Libya's rebels reached Tripoli today and took control of a military airport there. Neighboring Tunisia recognized the rebellion as Libya's government hours ago. [Reuters] Read the rest