As the UK faces increasingly complex global threats, our defence and security organisations must work more collaboratively than ever. Gary Aitkenhead, chief executive of the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory gives an interview with CSW
The response to the incidents in Salisbury and Amesbury – the lab moved into a 24/7 operational footing for weeks with a large number of our people involved. Throughout this we had our challenges with significant, often adverse misleading information circulating online, which impacted on our reputation, public perception and on some of our staff. Of course, our support to the incide nts also impacted on our normal operations as we still needed to meet the ongoing requirements of our customers, but the commitment from our people was fantastic and everyone worked extremely hard to ensure Dstl responded effectively to this unprecedented event. The eyes of the world were on us, and I am incredibly proud of Dstl and the response at pace from across government, both local and national police and the military and the many others involved.
How is your organisation adapting to reflect Britain’s changing place in the world?
Our research is world-class in many areas and so we continue to work closely with many partner nations. We have a focus on the US, European bilateral collaborations (such as recent increasing work with Germany), and are broadening to new emerging areas with Japan and India. NATO and 5EYES (UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) remain key intelligence and collaboration partners with multiple joint cyber projects, and this is not expected to change as the UK exits the EU. We continually adapt to seek new opportunities, as demonstrated through the sharing of cyber defence experiences with Estonia, one of our NATO partners.
DSTL also continues to support Britain’s industry and academia through both research funding (approx £270m this year and expected to increase next year) to exploit their ideas, as part of the MoD’s “promote our prosperity” priority. We also licence our intellectual property to SME and large companies that attracts private funding resulting in UK exports and jobs.
What opportunities or innovations are you excited about in the coming years that will help you improve public outcomes?
Information technology is developing very quickly and defence is adapting to fully exploit these new opportunities for Information advantage, with initiatives being led by Dstl and our military customers. We are focused on protecting and exploiting both data and information to maximise their value for decision making and to sustain our advantage in future conflicts. Effort includes exploiting the best signal processing to extract more information from raw sensor data, and techniques like machine learning to exploit large information data sets.
What do you think your role will look like in 20 years’ time?
It’s always going to be a challenge for any organisation to predict the future, but this is where Dstl works best: working out where and when S&T – science and technology – is needed and at what time in the future. I would expect that in 20 years we will still be working, as we are now, to be ahead of the pace of change with S&T, with artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles being the norm and most likely quantum computing seeing real world applications.
About the author : Gary Aitkenhead is chief executive of the Ministry of Defence’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) this is from an article in CSW
The huge cyber-attack affecting organisations around the world, including some UK hospitals, can be traced back to the US National Security Agency (NSA) – raising questions over the US government’s decision to keep such flaws a secret.
Elements of the malicious software used in Friday’s attacks were part of a treasure trove of cyber-attack tools leaked by hacking group the Shadow Brokers in April.
One of the tools contained in the Shadow Brokers leak, codenamed EternalBlue, proved to be “the most significant factor” in the spread of Friday’s global attack, according to cyber-security firm Kaspersky Lab.
The tool was said to have been created by the NSA – though, as is typical, the agency has neither confirmed nor denied this.
EternalBlue was made public on 14 April, and while Microsoft had fixed the problem a month prior to its leak, it appeared many high-profile targets had not updated their systems to stay secure.
Friday’s attack has reignited the debate over whether or not governments should disclose vulnerabilities they have discovered or bought on the black market.
“It would be deeply troubling if the NSA knew about this vulnerability but failed to disclose it to Microsoft until after it was stolen,” said Patrick Toomey, a lawyer working for the American Civil Liberties Union.
“These attacks underscore the fact that vulnerabilities will be exploited not just by our security agencies, but by hackers and criminals around the world.
“Patching security holes immediately, not stockpiling them, is the best way to make everyone’s digital life safer.”
Edward Snowden, who famously leaked many internal NSA files in June 2013, criticised the NSA on Friday in a series of tweets.
“In light of today’s attack, Congress needs to be asking [the NSA] if it knows of any other vulnerabilities in software used in our hospitals,” he wrote.
“If [the NSA] had privately disclosed the flaw used to attack hospitals when they found it, not when they lost it, this may not have happened.”
However, others focused the blame at institutions for being too slow in updating their systems, given that this attack happened almost two months after a (free) fix was made available by Microsoft.
“Say what you want to say about the NSA or disclosure process,” said Zeynep Tufeki, a professor at the University of North Carolina.
“But this is one in which what’s broken is the system by which we fix.”
For the UK’s National Health Service, the problem is perhaps more acute.
Security firms have continually raised alarms about the NHS’s reliance on Windows XP, an operating system that is no longer supported by Microsoft.
“A UK security researcher has told the BBC how he “accidentally” halted the spread of the malicious ransomware that has affected hundreds of organisations, including the UK’s NHS.
The 22-year-old man, known by the pseudonym MalwareTech, had taken a week off work, but decided to investigate the ransomware after hearing about the global cyber-attack.
He managed to bring the spread to a halt when he found what appeared to be a “kill switch” in the rogue software’s code.
“It was actually partly accidental,” he told the BBC, after spending the night investigating. “I have not slept a wink.”
Although his discovery did not repair the damage done by the ransomware, it did stop it spreading to new computers, and he has been hailed an “accidental hero”.
“I would say that’s correct,” he told the BBC.
The Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani declared a national day of mourning after scores of soldiers were killed by Taliban fighters disguised as fellow soldiers, in the deadliest attack of its kind on an Afghan military base.
The defence ministry has said more than 100 died or were injured in the Friday attack in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, although no exact numbers have yet been released.
One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters news agency that at least 140 soldiers were killed with many others wounded and some officials stating that the figure may be even higher.
The attack starkly highlighted the difficulty of the long struggle by the Afghan government and its international backers to defeat the Taliban insurgency.
After arriving in Mazar-i-Sharif to visit the base on Saturday, Ghani ordered that flags be flown at half mast on Sunday in memory of the troops who died. President Ghani has called for a “serious” investigation into the attack. In a statement online, he condemned the attack as “cowardly” and the work of “infidels”.
As many as 10 Taliban fighters, dressed in Afghan army uniforms and driving military vehicles, made their way into the base and opened fire on mostly unarmed soldiers eating and leaving a mosque after Friday prayers, according to officials.
They used rocket-propelled grenades and rifles, and several detonated suicide vests packed with explosives, officials said.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Saturday the attack on the base was retribution for the recent killing of several senior Taliban leaders in northern Afghanistan.
The U.S. military command in Kabul said an American air strike had killed a commander, Quari Tayib, and eight other Taliban on April 17.
The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee launches an inquiry into the priorities for nuclear research and technologies.
In 2011 the Committee investigated whether the UK’s research and development (R&D) capabilities were sufficient to meet our nuclear energy needs in the future, ensuring a safe and secure supply of nuclear energy up to 2050.
This inquiry will now revisit some of the conclusions and recommendations of that report and investigate whether the Government’s actions in response have improved the UK’s nuclear R&D capabilities. It will also explore what more needs to be done to ensure the UK can meet its future nuclear energy requirements.
The Committee will look specifically at the upcoming decision by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on a small modular reactor (SMR) design for the UK; whether the roles and remit of the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) are appropriate; and if the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board (NIRAB) was successful.
The Committee invites submissions, with practical examples where possible, on topics including those mentioned below.
Chair of the Committee, Lord Selborne, said:
“It has been over 5 years since the Committee’s report into the future of nuclear energy which found that the Government was too complacent about the UK’s nuclear R&D capabilities.
Since its publication, the Government has accepted and acted on a number of the recommendations of the Committee, which saw the creation of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board.
This inquiry gives the Committee the opportunity to assess who should have responsibility for ensuring the UK has a coherent and consistent long term policy for civil nuclear activities.
We are keen to hear from people or organisations who can inform the Committee on the role and remit of the National Nuclear Laboratory or offer insight into how SMR’s will benefit the UK and what is needed to support the civil nuclear sector”.
The Committee is inviting written evidence on the issue, to be received by Friday 24 February 2017, and will start taking oral evidence on the inquiry in February.
Jean-Pierre Bemba the ex-rebel leader of DR Congo Army has received a jail sentence of 18 years following a landmark conviction at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague for his activity in war crimes and including sexual violence. He had been convicted earlier in March for crimes committed in the neighbouring Central African Republic (CAR) in 2002-2003 and also for failing to stop his rebel troops from carrying out crimes of rape and killing in that area. His Lawyers are planning to launch an appeal on his behalf against his conviction.
Judges announced sentences of between 16 and 18 years with the jail terms running concurrently over five counts of rape, murder and pillaging. Jean-Pierre Bemba has already spent 8 years in custody and this will be deducted from the sentence handed out to him.
It is a landmark ruling as it’s thought to be one of the first times the ICC had focused on rape as a weapon of war, and the first time a suspect had been convicted for crimes committed by others under his command.
Judge Sylvia Steiner passing her sentence at the Haugue said Bemba had failed to exercise control over his private militia sent into Central African Republic (CAR) where she described their actions in raping and pillaging as sadistic and cruel.
Two key issues remain however where Bemba will serve his sentence and what compensation compensation will be awarded to his victims.
Bemba was “extremely disappointed” with the sentence, his lawyer, Kate Gibson, told AFP news agency.
“Today’s sentence is by no means the end of the road for Mr Bemba, it merely signals that we are now moving to the next phase of the process which is the appeal,” she said.
In 2002 Bemba had sent more than 1,000 fighters to the CAR to help then president Ange Felix Patasse put down an attempted coup.
The court heard that his troops committed acts of extreme violence against civilians – crimes which the judge said Bemba was made aware of but did nothing to stop.
He had led the MLC (Congolese Liberation Movement) rebel group during DR Congo’s brutal civil war and after a 2003 peace deal he laid down his arms and joined an interim government.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the sentence offered “a measure of justice” for the victims.
Plans to deploy over 5,000 armed soldiers following a UK terror attack has caused a prominent peer to question the move as a ‘provocative’ act which could endanger the public. Baroness Jenny Jones, who sits on London’s Police and Crime Committee, called the revelations “absolutely shocking”. “Putting troops on the streets would be very controversial”,adding“I think it would be provocative and cause more problems than it would solve.”
The Peer conceded that although plans certainly had to be made for the event of a terror attack, she was curious about whether troops were being trained to deal with members of the public, she said, adding that “it would not be appropriate to use them” if they had not.
Minutes of a meeting of the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) were leaked and published as the Prime Minister, David Cameron has flown to South-East Asia for discussions with leaders of the area over the growing threat of ISIS. The minutes of the meeting called for “large scale military support” for the police and augmenting armed police officers engaged in protection and security duties.
The plans codenamed Operation Temperer, following the meeting of the NPCC in the reveal 22nd April were accidentally uploaded to the Mail on Sunday website. They were uploaded on Thursday, then removed and revised early on Friday morning when it was found that details from from the secret closed meeting had also been included a spokesperson for the NPCC confirmed.
Baroness Jones said that If the situation got to a point where the military where military intervention was necessary, then clearly the Government would have to have lost control, adding that “it would make them look weak and panicky” calling the proposals quite extraordinary,” she said. “I think the principle of this should be debated in Parliament.”
Simon Chesterman, Detective Chief Constable who led the Committee called for a “national lead” for armed policing, said that “discussions were on-going with Government” although the called for extra armed soldiers and police have not have never been debated in Parliament.
Last month more than 1,000 police and soldiers, including SAS troops, staged a mass exercise codenamed Strong Tower to test their response to a gun-attack on London.
One of Britain’s most senior officers in the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) told the BBC that Britain should be prepared to spend more on its defence budget to protect itself from the increasing threat of Russia’s aggressive position in support for the Pro-Russian rebel separatists in the Ukraine and it’s annexing of Crimea in the light of condemnation from authorities in Kiev; the West, and even Russian citizens who are accusing Moscow of sending troops to support the Pro-Russian rebels in the Ukraine, although the Russian Government has always denied these reports.
NATO has also been concerned and criticised any possibility of Russia engaging it’s forces or funding the situation in Ukraine.
John Sawers, who left the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) in November, added that greater dialogue should take place with Russia over it’s current stance, he said that Britain should have to have the capability to deal with the hybrid warfare that Russia is currently demonstrating in Crimea and in Donbas region of Ukraine after Pro-Russian rebels have seized territory in eastern Ukraine; he also stressed the need for dealing with a possible cyber-warfare arising out of the conflict.
Mr Sawers said “We’re going to have to spend more on our defence and our security because the threats are greater” ; he added that “Russia keeps reminding the West about it’s nuclear weapons, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that Russia is on a path to democracy because it isn’t.”
Last week as British forces had to scramble Typhoon fighter jets after reports of two Russian long-range Bear bombers were seen flying off the south coast of England, after a previous incident of Russian Jets seen flying in British airspace in recent months.
The Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon said that President Putin could also pose a “real and present danger” to other eastern such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and NATO was ready to repel any aggression may pose against these countries.
Two of Parliament’s most respected Members of Parliamen are tonight secretly filmed discussing how they would be prepared to use their contacts to benefit a private fictitious Chinese influential business a Channel 4 Dispatches and The Telegraph investigation reveals.
The two former government and cabinet statesmen of Westminster, Conservative MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind and the Labour MP Jack Straw, both feature in Politicians For Hire – Dispatches at 8pm.
During meetings with undercover reporters Sir Malcolm Rifkind described himself as ‘self-employed’ and claimed ‘nobody pays me a salary’.
In return for his services he discussed his usual fee of ‘somewhere in the region of £5,000 to £8,000’ for a half a day’s work.
Sir Malcolm also claimed he could write to a minister on behalf of our company without saying exactly who he was representing
Sir Malcolm added that he could see any foreign ambassador in London if he wanted, so could provide ‘access’ that is ‘useful’
Former Labour Home Secretary
Mr Straw invited the two reporters posing as lobbyists for a fictitious influential Chinese business concern looking for UK support and MPs to join their advisory committee and met at his Parliamentary office where he discussed fees of £5000 per day for having his name associated to a business.
He also explained that he normally charges a fee of this for consultancy work and how his lobbying as a senior politician is useful to a private company, he already works for.
Mr Straw says he wouldn’t take on the role while he remained an MP, but claimed he would be more helpful to our company if he were to become a Lord because of the different rules that apply.
The Dispatches programme follows the previous investigation, some years ago when Geoff Hoon was banned from Parliament for five years and former transport minister Stephen Byers banned for two years following political impropriety. The recent investigation reveals that even though there were inquiries and laws introduced five years on politicians are still prepared to sell their service and lobby government for a price and are short of public expectations?
Channel 4 Dispatches and The Telegraph program shown Monday 23rd February
We will be marching with our Climate Not Trident placards and encourage all CND supporters to be there.
The organisers of the event Campaign Against Climate Change are also looking for stewards for the day. If you can help steward the event contact Campaign Against Climate Change
We’ve had almost 10,000 emails sent to General Election candidates via our website. If you’ve already contacted your own, consider forwarding the link to local:
Monday 13th April Faslane North Gate, Helensburgh (transport from Glasgow)
The alleged leader of the cell, Abid Naseer, who is 28 and from Pakistan, was a studying in Britain in April 2009 and was arrested by British police along with 12 others for planning a series of suicide bombings in the city of Manchester. He was extradited to the US in 2012 to face changes of organising a suicide attack against the New York public transportation system.
The US prosecutors claim Naseer had received paramilitary training in Pakistan before moving to the UK, where he was planning to carrying out terrorist attacks in the UK .
Last year, the US prosecution asked the judge to allow six British intelligence officers (from MI5), who had been monitoring Naseer’s activities before he was eventually arrested to provide vital evidence in the US court in secrecy without disclosing their identities due to the security officers still remaining active in counterterrorism investigations. The judge agreed, and the first of the six MI5 officers gave evidence this week through a video link from an undisclosed location in the Britain.
One of the MI5 officers who appeared concealed his identity by wearing a false goatee beard, thick spectacles and what reporters described as “a long black wig”. He was also wearing heavy make-up and was identified in court only as “serial number 1603”, according to British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.
The operative informed the court that he was part of a team of MI5 surveillance officers who closely followed Mr. Naseer for over a month while he was allegedly planning suicide operations in Britain and the US. The surveillance included following the suspect as he was scouting targets in Manchester and monitoring his travel on public transport one one occasion when the suspect was traveling by bus from Manchester to Liverpool. Mr Naseer is defending himself in the trial and had the chance to cross-examine the MI5 officer, said The Telegraph.
The West is already supplying weaponry to Kiev, Russian President Vladimir Putin said when asked about Russia’s possible reaction to arms deliveries discussed by the West.
“According to our information, the arms are already being delivered,” Putin said at a press conference Tuesday after talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The Russian President has been keen to stress that the reduction of activity in south-eastern Ukraine in particular, Donbas, where he said Kiev forces have been fighting against independence supporters since last spring. “Regarding the hostilities [in Donbas], we [Russia] generally mark a significant, and I want to stress that, reduction of military activity there,” Putin said.
The new online state run news paper Sputnik is already covering stories that implicate President Obama is considering considering arming Ukraine in case the latest ceasefire is breached, but says that the US political analyst Stephen Lendman told Sputnik in an exclusive interview that the US has been supplying arms to Kiev from the very start of the military operation.
The Russian President added that the sooner the suspension of hostilities and withdrawal of artillery is implemented in Donbas, the sooner the Ukrainian conflict will be settled.
After the sycophantic tributes paid by various world leaders to the passing of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia , many people are angered (including this blog writer) that people such as David Cameron, the Queen and even President Obama have felt the need to offer “touchy feeling diplomacy” following the Monarch’s death.
The lowering of flags in the UK on Government Buildings; Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace have not only angered people who are genuinely appalled at Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights abuse for a monarch who’s countries laws meet out sadistic and barbaric sentencing but point to double standards when on one hand our governments over the years have deplored it’s laws and on the other our praising a man in passing because we wish to maintain our relationship with an oil rich country.
When actually asked as to confirm who is responsible in the government for the decision to lower the flags as to honour the late Saudi King (a gesture normally only befitting the passing of British royalty or heads of government for the Commonwealth countries and only world leaders at the discretion of the UK Government) Whitehall appears to be confused with both the FCO and the Department for Media and Culture both denying their respective authority and concurring each other for permitting the honour.
Labour leader Ann Clywd was the latest MPs to voice her anger at the tributes paid to the late King Abdullah, stating that the country had one of the worst human rights records in the world and said “People in countries such as ours should use every opportunity to protest because the public are appalled by such barbarity” adding “Lots of people die but I dont think flying the flags at half mast for a country which has such a human rights record is acceptable.” Her comments following similar outrage from others, such as Louise Mensch the former Corby Conservative MP, who on Friday erupted on Twitter condemning the ‘supine’ adoration of male leaders on Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women. Many wondered, as I did, what Tony Blair actually was referring to when he called the later King a ‘moderniser’ in light of the little he did in terms of the rights of women in Saudi Arabia.
Even the Council for Advancement for Arab and British Understanding are also baffled by the ‘dishonesty’ of the tributes paid; Chris Doyle it’s director saying that although Britain and Saudi Arabia need to maintain relations on a global stage that the tribute “..wont be taken seriously if we go over the top in paying respects” and highlighting the fact that British Muslims are being asked to accept British Values by our Government on the one hand and then watching our establishment blindly ignore and accept human rights abusewhere the Saudi’s flogs their own citizens – thus our diplomacy runs incompatible UK values Mr Doyle pointing to the sentence met of 1000 lashes said “what does that mean when there’s a completely non-critical reaction to the events in Saudi Arabia like the flogging of a blogger? This creates a sense of double standards”
Maybe the politicians in our country could learn from the Briton that was Winston Churchill, the audacious and insubmissive politician whose death the UK will soon be celebrating in terms of his passing 50 years ago. When in 1945 he met the then founder of Saudi Arabia, King Ibn Said (the father of King Abdullah) and was warned by both his own Government officials and interpreters and from Saudi Officials that the smoking and drinking alcohol in the presence of the Saudi King would not be tolerated he replied to his interpreter, in answer to the Saudi officials “If it was the religion of his Majesty to deprive himself of smoking and drinking alcohol, I must point out that my rule of life, prescribed as an absolute sacred rite, smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before; after and even during meals, and in the intervals between them.”
It is thus a tribute to a man who never fell short of actually saying what was on his mind and rarely conceded to the force of others. In 2002 Sir Winston Churchill was named as the greatest Briton that ever lived in a vote of 100 Great Britons including other prominent luminaries such as Darwin, Shakespeare and Elizabeth I. The case for him is a powerful one, of course. He was first a government minister in 1908, and occupied most of the top jobs in politics during half a century. He finally retired in 1955, having served as prime minister for a total of nine years.
His greatest triumph of course was his leadership and rallying of the British people in World War Two that marked him out and his brave and tireless in his resolve to take on Nazi Germany, even when at times it seemed that Britain may have fallen to the Nazis in a war torn Europe. He remained constantly resilient and this probably inspired the US to enter the war after Britain France and it’s other allies were teetering on defeat.
Even as a Sandhurst cadet, Churchill was defiant, his first speech and act of defiance was probably in 1894 when he was among a group of upper-class ‘hooligans’ who tore down a screen that was erected by the League for Social Purity, at the Empire in Leicester Square which was placed there to keep the West End’s prostitutes from their clients, many of whom were the gentry of the City by the London County Council. The vandals spokesperson shouted “Ladies of the Empire, I stand for liberty” this was none other than a young Winston Churchill and in a letter to The Times and the Bishop of London bemoaned the conduct of the young Churchill that he should ever see any of the Dukes of Marlborough ‘hailed by a flourish of Strumpets’
The sad fact is that politicians that speak out and are of Churchill’s nature would never get elected, even Boris Jonson, almost a devotee of Churchill’s manner and British values seems implausible in our corporate world of diplomatic, insincere and disingenuous politics
Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, has warned American Congress against imposing financial sanctions against Iran – this however runs contrary to the views expressed by Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu who is supporting a bill that calls for more sanctions imposed on Iran. Iran was treaty to signing the Joint plan of Action, known as the Geneva interim agreement in 2013 in Switzerland. The pact which would ease the economic sanctions that had previously been passed on Iran in exchange for Iran’s suspension of it’s Nuclear program. However two republican senators, Robert Menendez and Mark Kirk opposed the agreement, calling instead for a new bill in US Congress that imposes greater sanctions should Iran not make the substantive changes in it’s nuclear programme to the P5+1 countries by 30th June.
Bloomberg news agency has reported that the Israeli security and intelligence service Mossad has discreetly approached US officials and politicians and cautioning them that the Menendez-Kirk bill could completely ruin the Geneva agreement that Iran has signed to. The Obama administration and leading republican have already used this disagreement within the Israel government and it’s security forces to oppose greater sanctions and leading Republican Senators such as John McCain would like to see new legislation that doesn’t contain sanctions but would require that the Senate vote on any pact that is agreed upon in Geneva.
US President Barack Obama who opposed the bill, feared it could prompt Iran to accelerate its nuclear program, and has publicly said he would veto it. Meanwhile, his Secretary of State, John Kerry, quoted this week an Israeli intelligence official who allegedly told him that, if enacted, the Menendez-Kirk bill would “throw a grenade into the process”. Bloomberg says in it’s report that the the Israeli intelligence agency has warned US officials abroad, and also contacted a US delegation visiting Israel. It said that senior US officials were told by Mossad staff that any bill calling for more sanctions against Iran would collapse talks already inexistence.
Saudi Arabia is the top oil exporter and a member of the oil rich OPEC countries, the late King had a personal wealth himself of £18 billion. Saudi Arabia as a country is extremely important historically to the world’s Muslims as it’s believed to be the birthplace of Islam. However although many have been praising King Abdullah for his ‘modernisation’ within his rule, it’s still quite apparent that his country’s human rights practices are still abhorrent to many in the western world with public floggings been met to anyone who has fallen fowl of it’s extremely harsh Islamic teaching.
Only recently was Raif Badawi, a liberal Islamist and blogger sentenced to 1000 lashes of a cane and it has also stoned and beaten and even sentenced to death homosexuals and women accused of adultery or infidelity. Those who have praised him; including the former Prime Minister and Middle Eastern ‘Peace’ envoy, Tony Blair have pointed to more positive attitudes now adopted in Saudi Arabia such as the introduction of education for women in the country. However Saudi Arabia still is one of the countries that human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch regularly monitor, and it often calls on members to take urgent action on.
Following his inauguration the new King Salman has named his half-brother Muqrin as his crown prince and heir. Today the following announcement surrounding King Abdullah was made, “His Highness Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and all members of the family and the nation mourn the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who passed away at exactly 1 a.m. this morning.”
King Abdullah who was 90 years old and was suffering from illness for quite recently has ruled Saudi Arabia as King for the past 8 years (since 2006), but had run the country for 10 years prior to this as a de facto ruler after it’s previous King Fahd had become incapacitated following a stroke.
Countries throughout the world will be closely watching the new King’s progress amidst the turmoil across the Middle East, and also on the country’s direction in terms of it’s human rights of it’s citizens. King Salman is a self-appointed champion of Sunni Islam and the US hopes that the country will remain a close ally in the face of the ISIS threat that has engulfed other middle eastern countries such as Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia’s was a strong influence in the overthrow of President Mubarak’s Egyptian government in 2012 when they intervened militarily in support for it’s current government, they also have supported Syrian rebels against President Bashar al-Assad.
The new King, who is 79, was crown prince and the Saudi Arabian Defence Minister since 2012. He was governor of Riyadh province for five decades before that.
Saudi Arabia, holds more than a fifth of the world’s crude oil and is influential to the world’s 1.6 billion Muslim population, as the King is regarded as the “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques” in Mecca and Medina.
The inquiry said it did not see any “realistic prospect” of it’s publication of the report before elections are due to be held on the 7th May 2015 and the inquiry will probably face being questioned about it’s delay by a committee of MPs, while the chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, Sir Richard Ottaway asked Sir John Chilcott to explain why the publication of the report has been delayed.
The inquiry was initially set up in 2009, under Gordon Brown to examine not only Britain’s involvement and it’s initial decision to go to war but also any cases of misconduct of British troops amidst claims of torture by both US and British allied forces against Iraqis forces and civilian. The report was expected to reach it’s conclusion within about three years and held it’s last hearing in 2011, following an unprecedented call for Tony Blair to give evidence to the inquiry in 2010.
There was even speculation by many political observers and even MPs that delays of the reports findings may have occurred due to involvement or intervention from the former Prime Minister Tony Blair or those close to him pointing to a cover-up of the findings of the report following the invasion of Iraq by British and American forces after Tony Blair’s claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and after his decision to ignore, many people believe unlawfully, the United Nations Resolution 1441 in November 2002 that offered Iraq under Saddam Hussein one last final opportunity to comply with disarmament obligations.
Leaders within coalition British Government have expressed concern over the delays with Nick Clegg saying that the delay was “incomprehensible” and former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith saying the delay was “disappointing”. Sir John Chilcott had written to the David Cameron informing him that “substantial progress” had been made but that those criticised by the report needed an opportunity to respond to the criticism so far provided in the report. Mr Cameron in reply to Sir John has said he would have like to have seen the publication already and has criticised the former Labour Government for it’s delay in being published.
Cicero Lounge has a link to the Aitken Report (National Archives – MOD) which documented and examined allegations of the British Army’s conduct against the allegations of abuse against Iraqi soldiers and civilians loyal to Saddam Hussein
See also the War Report for information on other reports issued following the Iraq and Afghan wars
The U.S. Department of State has blocked the publication of a long-awaited documentary history of U.S. covert action in Iran in the 1950s out of concern that its release could adversely affect ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
The controversial Iran history volume, part of the official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, had been slated for release last summer. (“History of 1953 CIA Covert Action in Iran to be Published,” Secrecy News, April 16, 2014).
But senior State Department officials “decided to delay publication because of ongoing negotiations with Iran,” according to the minutes of a September 8, 2014 meeting of the Advisory Committee on Historical Diplomatic Documentation that were posted on the Department of State website this week.
Dr. Stephen P. Randolph, the Historian of the State Department, confirmed yesterday that the status of the Iran volume “remains as it was in September” and that no new publication date has been set. The subject was also discussed at an Advisory Committee meeting this week.
The suppression of this history has been a source of frustration for decades, at least since the Department published a notorious 1989 volume on U.S. policy towards Iran that made no mention of CIA covert action.
But the latest move is also an indirect affirmation of the enduring significance of the withheld records, which date back even further than the U.S. rupture with Cuba that is now on the mend.
The “no fly” list procedures that are used to prevent individuals who may present a security hazard from flying on commercial aircraft are being revised to make them more transparent and easier to challenge, government attorneys said Friday. They asked a court to suspend a lawsuit disputing the constitutionality of the “no fly” procedures for two months until the revisions are complete.
“The Government… is currently reviewing and revising the administrative redress procedures for denials of boarding,” Justice Department attorneys said in a November 14 memorandum in support of a motion for a stay of proceedings in the lawsuit Gulet Mohamed v. Eric Holder.
“The Government is revising current redress procedures to increase transparency of the process for certain persons denied boarding on commercial aircraft,” the memorandum said.
• The United States has led airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
• RAF Tornado GR4 and the Reaper remotely piloted air system (RPAS) have conducted airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq. Reaper and Rivet Joint aircraft have also been authorised to fly surveillance missions over Syria.
• France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia, Canada and Denmark have all conducted air strikes in Iraq.
• Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have all supported US strikes against ISIS in Syria.
• Combat troops have been explicitly ruled out by the UK and the other the countries involved, amid debate about the reliance on air power alone. However a number of British soldiers are training Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq, while further advisory personnel are expected to be deployed to Iraqi headquarters as part of a broader package of support announced on 5 November. The US also announced on 7 November the intention to deploy up to 1,500 additional military personnel in order to initiate a more comprehensive training package for Iraqi forces. Several Coalition partners have offered additional trainers as part of that initiative.
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Ukraine’s President. Olexander Turchynov said the airbase at Kramatorsk had been “liberated” from “terrorists”. Gunfire had been heard hours before at an airbase which had been previously seized by militia. He had previously said that the Ukrainian Government would be introduce a gradually stage by stage a “anti-terrorist operation” against pro-Russian separatists.
Pro-Russian rebels have seized buildings in about 10 towns and cities across Ukraine’s eastern provinces, which form the heartland of Ukraine’s industry.
The security operations undertaken by the Kiev government have been received by Russia with alarm. As the events unfolding in the Ukraine, officials in Moscow are already fearing the worse – or rather looking at the worse case scenario as one official has said “Events are beginning to develop under the worst case scenario,”.
At present there is no accuracy to the number of casualties, and reports on social media appear conflicting, but obviously it is the perception of what is happening that matters.
Russia’s has got favour with Russian-speakers in the east, and many separatists have taken over buildings in several Ukrainian cities, the Ukrainian Government effectively
challenged for responding – and the fear is if that response will be seized upon by Moscow as a pretext for military action.
Thousands of Russian troops are reported to be deployed along the border, kindling fears that any crackdown on the rebels could trigger an invasion.
Russia has already annexed the Ukrainian Crimea last month, after it broke away and held a controversial referendum on self-determination
Mr Singh is expected to write to Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, to explain why he will not be attending the summit which will put political pressure on other counties to take a stronger stance against the allegations of war crimes committed in the war the countries national party and the Tamil Tigers during the 25 year conflict.
The absence of the leader of the Commonwealth’s biggest member state may embarrass David Cameron who has defended his attendance in Sri Lanka because it would allow him to personally deliver a a “tough message” about its human rights record.
The Sri Lankan government has conducted a repressive regime that has silenced resistance to the national party but recent reports of deliberate targeting of civilians in the conflict and crimes committed by its armed forces against violent Tamil separatists in the north of the country.
A British parliamentary committee has noted “continuing human rights abuses” in Sri Lanka with the UN also critical over a lack of effort towards over reconciliation between the Sinhala majority and the Tamil minority.
Officials at the Indian foreign ministry have downplayed the decision to boycott the summit, which was reportedly taken by senior Congress party officials last Friday. They said it was not unusual for a prime minister to be unable to attend the meeting – however it will send a tough message on India’s Foreign policy against it’s neighbouring country.