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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Secret Service "catfishes" a Romanian hacker - and catches him ..

SOURCE: 

Being a Secret Service agent requires extraordinary bravery. But sometimes, it also requires flirting with a Romanian hacker.

Secret Service Agent Matt O'Neill did just that during a three-year undercover investigation that began in 2008 into the point-of-sale hacking at Subway sandwich franchises and other retailers.

He told the story in Washington on Monday during a joint Secret Service and FBI session with the Financial Services Roundtable on cybersecurity.

O'Neill said he contacted the suspected hacker by posing as a female casino employee in an effort to entice him to come to the United States for what he thought would be a gambling outing. That way, the Secret Service could arrest him on U.S. soil, rather than go to the trouble of extraditing him from Romania.

The Secret Service worked with an American hotel and casino to create a fictitious employee, "Sarah," who had an email address and direct phone line at the hotel and her name on the hotel's online directory. The fake employee would appear real if the suspected hacker tried to check out her story. Agents even photographed a young undercover female agent with a sign saying "hi!" inside the hotel's lobby, and sent the image to the Romanian.

O'Neill said over the next several months he developed a "quasi-romantic" relationship with the suspect, at times chatting online with him at 3 a.m. while he fed his newborn baby as his wife slept in another room at home.

"People say everyone has a gift," O'Neill joked. "And mine happens to be chatting with men."

The suspect, Iulian Dolan, flew to Boston to meet the supposed casino employee. When he arrived, investigators said, he was carrying a gold necklace for her as a gift, along with three boxes of grape-flavored condoms.

He was arrested and is now serving a seven-year sentence in federal prison in Mississippi.

Monday, October 6, 2014

2 killed at explosion at Iranian nuke site ...

SOURCE: Two workers were killed in an explosion that took place at a military explosives factory southeast of Tehran, near the suspected nuclear reactor in Parchin, IRNA, the official Iranian news agency, reported Monday.

The agency quoted Iran’s Defense Industries Organization, which said a fire occurred Sunday night, killing two people. The agency did not provide additional information.

The semi-official ISNA news agency also reported that an explosion occurred at a military base near Tehran, killing two people.

“Unfortunately, two workers were killed,” the defense organization’s spokesman was quoted as saying.

The Saham opposition website reported that a huge explosion occurred at the large facility in Parchin, located 30 km. southeast of Tehran.

According to the report, the powerful explosion blew out the windows of buildings located up to 15 km. away from the base, and eyewitnesses could observe the blast from a distance.

Parchin is a controversial military base where Israel and the International Atomic Energy Agency suspect the Islamic Republic is attempting to develop a nuclear explosive device. IAEA inspectors have not been permitted to enter the site since 2005.

A statement from Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, issued a day before Iranian President Hassan Rouhani – the architect of Tehran’s diplomacy with the big powers – was to address the UN General Assembly, said internal neutron sources such as uranium were used in nuclear implosion tests at Parchin.

Israel, his statement said, based its information on “highly reliable information,” without elaborating.

In May, a fire broke out in an oil storage facility in the northwestern Iranian city of Qazvin. There were conflicting reports of casualties, with state news agency IRNA reporting none and the Iranian Fars news agency reporting that there were around 50 people injured, some seriously.

Channel 2 News reported that in the past it was claimed that Qazvin hosted an “unreported nuclear site” that contained stored uranium. In January of last year, Israeli intelligence officials confirmed that an explosion damaged Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility, which is being used to enrich uranium.

Three years ago, Iran said a massive explosion at a military base 45 km. west of Tehran killed 17 Revolutionary Guards members, including the head of the elite force’s missile program. It said the blast was caused by an accident while weapons were being moved.

Jerusalem Post staff and Reuters contributed to this report.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Breaking: Secret Service director resigns ...

WASHINGTON — Julia Pierson, the director of the Secret Service, is resigning in the wake of several security breaches, according to administration officials.

The resignation came less than a day after lawmakers from both parties assailed Ms. Pierson’s leadership and said they feared for the lives of the president and others in the protection of the agency.

A 30-year veteran of the Secret Service, Ms. Pierson was supposed to have been the one to repair the agency’s reputation after scandals that raised questions about a culture that gave rise to incidents involving drinking and prostitution during overseas trips.

But her tenure has been rocked by more serious allegations that her agents and officers have not been performing their primary job competently. Under intense questioning on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Ms. Pierson admitted that those charged with securing the White House had failed to follow numerous security protocols, allowing a man armed with a knife to penetrate deep inside the mansion.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

BREAKING: Iraqi PM says terrorist plot to attack US/Paris subway uncovered.


NEW YORK (AP) — Iraq's prime minister said Thursday his country's intelligence operation has uncovered a plot for an imminent attack on subway systems in United States and Paris.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said he was told of the plot by Baghdad, and that it was the work of foreign fighters of the Islamic State group in Iraq. Asked if the attacks were imminent, he said, "Yes."

Asked if the attacks had been thwarted, he said, "No." Al-Abadi said the United States had been alerted.

He made the remarks at a meeting with journalists on the sidelines of a gathering of world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Khorasan Group terror plot exposed ... planned to blow up airliners.

WASHINGTON

By KEN DILANIAN

AP Intelligence Writer

The U.S. decision to strike the Khorasan Group to stop a possible terror attack represents a significant expansion of the largely secret war against core al-Qaida, a group President Barack Obama has proclaimed was "a shadow of its former self."

Administration officials said Tuesday they have been watching the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaida cell in Syria, for years. But Obama had resisted taking military action in Syria to avoid inadvertently helping President Bashar Assad, a leader the U.S. would like to see gone. That changed, officials said, because intelligence showed that the Khorasan Group was in the final stages of plotting attacks against the U.S. and Europe, most likely an attempt to blow up an airplane in flight.

On the same night that U.S. and Arab allies carried out more than 200 airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq, the U.S. on its own launched more than 20 Tomahawk cruise missiles and other ordinance against eight Khorasan Group targets near Aleppo in northwestern Syria, Pentagon officials said.

It's not clear yet whether the group's leader, identified by U.S. officials as Muhsin al-Fadhli, was killed in the strikes. He is a Kuwaiti who spent time in Iran and has long been identified as a significant figure in al-Qaida.

But regardless of the impact, the need for such an operation against the Khorasan Group dealt a blow to the notion, oft-repeated by Obama administration officials, that core al-Qaida has been significantly diminished as a threat to the United States.

The Khorasan Group, after all, is made up of core al-Qaida veterans.

"There are remnants of core al-Qaida still left that are still a very potent threat," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

"What this shows is that al-Qaida has not been decimated," said Seth Jones, a counterterrorism analyst at the Rand Corp. "This is a network that spans multiple countries."

The attacks add Syria to a long list of nations in which the Obama administration has taken lethal action against al-Qaida militants, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia.

The Islamic State has broken with al-Qaida, and, for all its brutality, is not believed to be plotting attacks against the West.

In contrast, the Khorasan Group is a cell of al-Qaida veterans of wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan who traveled to Syria to link up with the Nusra Front, the al-Qaida affiliate there. U.S. intelligence officials say the group has been working with bomb makers from al-Qaida's Yemen affiliate to perfect explosives that can fool Western airport security measures, including, one official said, a bomb in a toothpaste tube.

Obama presided over a dramatic expansion of secret CIA drone strikes in Pakistan that dealt significant blows to al-Qaida's leadership, and he ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. He expanded the drone campaign to Yemen and Somalia, all under a veil of secrecy.

For a time, the drone campaign seemed to have shattered al-Qaida. While Obama has been vocal about the threat from al-Qaida's affiliates, he said in his 2013 State of the Union address that "the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self."

But the shadow was growing. Even as Obama spoke, some veteran al-Qaida operatives had traveled from Pakistan to Syria, where officials say they linked up with the Nusra Front and began recruiting people from the West for attacks against the U.S. and Europe. In early 2013, the CIA began developing "targeting packages" on militants in Syria -- intelligence dossiers that could be used to target them for drone strikes.

In the end Obama opted to use the military, not the CIA, to attack the Khorasan Group, in keeping with his desire to move the CIA away from lethal drone strikes.

A senior administration official said the plan to strike the Khorasan Group "is something that has been on our radar for several months, and it is an action that we were contemplating separate and apart from" the airstrikes against Islamic State group positions in Syria.

Briefing reporters at the Pentagon on Tuesday, Lt. Gen. William Mayville, who directs operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Khorasan Group was nearing "the execution phase of an attack either in Europe or the (U.S.) homeland."

However, two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss classified assessments, said there was no particular location or target that had come to the attention of U.S. intelligence agencies.

In a memo released in February 2013, the Justice Department disclosed that in the view of government lawyers, "an 'imminent' threat of violent attack against the United States does not require ... clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future."

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