War on Terrorism

Friday, February 26, 2010

CBR Weapons and WMD Terrorism News, February 26, 2010

INTERPOL trains Asian and South Pacific officials in bioterror[ism] threat prevention
"A recent 'Train-the-Trainer' session for the prevention of bioterrorism presented by INTERPOL was attended by law enforcement, customs and public health officials from Asia and the South Pacific. The course, which carried a goal of enhancing the capacity of regional INTERPOL member countries to prevent and prepare for bioterror threats, was attended by 38 participants from 16 countries. [...] Trainers from INTERPOL, the World Health Organization, the Australian Federal Police, the United States Sandia Laboratories, the New South Wales Police in Australia, the FBI, the U.K. Metropolitan Police and the United States Center for Disease Control led the course, which was sponsored by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation." (Bio Prep Watch; 25Feb10; Tina Redlup)

Anthrax [spore attack response] drill to prepare agencies for real threats
"A powdery substance was found in one of the packages at the Berakas Mail Processing and Packaging building in Jln Airport Lama, yesterday morning. Suspected to be anthrax [spores], the postal services personnel contacted relevant authorities while the building was evacuated and cordoned off. This was the scenario of a drill conducted by the Postal Services Department yesterday to prepare the relevant agencies for any eventualities. Awang Haji Mahmud bin Hj Daud, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Communications oversaw the exercise. [..] The [HazMat] team removed the package and the situation was brought under control within half an hour during the drill." (Brunei FM; 25Feb10; James Kon) http://news.brunei.fm/2010/02/25/anthrax-drill-to-prepare-agencies-for-real-threats/

Procedures under review [after Brunei anthrax drill]
"An emergency drill staged in response to a simulated anthrax scare at the Old Airport's Mail Processing Centre, yesterday has sparked a review of the standard operating procedures (SOP) of the government agencies involved. Speaking to the media after the exercise, Ministry of Communications Deputy Permanent Secretary Hj Mahmud Hj Mohd Daud said that there was room for improvement. [...] At the suggestion of an early detection system, the deputy permanent secretary said that at this point in time 'it is something which needs to be discussed further.'" (Brunei FM; 25Feb10; Bandar Seri Begawan) http://news.brunei.fm/2010/02/25/procedures-under-review/

Springfield, MO scientists developing sensors for biological detection
"A group of scientists in Springfield are on the forefront in the fight against terrorism. Researchers at the Jordan Valley Innovation Center are trying to prevent biological warfare. It's a project five years in the making and is costing the Army about half a million dollars. Scientists in Springfield are contracted by the Army to help develop sensors which can detect materials like anthrax, ricin and E. coli to prevent a mass casualty event. 'There are over 100,000 sensors,' says [Jordan Valley Innovation Center scientist Rishi] Patel. The goal is to send the sensors to the Army. They will then be put into roving robots the size of a kitchen table." (Ozarks First; 26Feb10; Jennifer Denman)

Bill for more investigation of '01 anthrax case passes [U.S.] House [of Representatives]
"A measure requiring further federal investigation into the 2001 anthrax [spore] attack that killed five people was approved Thursday by the House of Representatives. It was proposed by two skeptics of a recently closed FBI probe that blamed the deadly attacks on Bruce Ivins, a microbiologist at the Army biodefense lab at Fort Detrick in Frederick. Maryland Republican Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, who represents Frederick, and Democratic Rep. Rush Holt, from the New Jersey district where the anthrax [spore containing] letters were mailed, want the director of National Intelligence to investigate potential foreign connections to the attacks. Ivins committed suicide in 2008 after coming under FBI scrutiny." (Baltimore Sun; 26Feb10; Paul West) http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bal-md.briefs261feb26,0,2361710.story

Md. firm to get up to $78.4m for anthrax vaccine
"A Maryland biodefense company says it will receive up to $78.4 million from the federal government to continue its development of an anthrax vaccine. Officials with Annapolis, Md.-based PharmAthene Inc., which works on the development of medical countermeasures against chemical and biological threats, announced Tuesday morning that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will provide the additional funding to support the company's work on SparVax. SparVax is a vaccine being developed for protection against anthrax infection before and after exposure." (National Broadcasting Company; 25Feb10; Source: AP)

Microbe managing [Former advisor calls for distribution of home medkits as part of countermeasure to biological attacks]
"Onetime adviser to George W. Bush and Weekly Standard contributor Tevi Troy suggests that the federal government is indecisive over the best way to distribute its stockpile of countermeasures to anthrax and smallpox to the population. Maybe the post office could deliver these potential life-savers, or they could be distributed from designated centers. How about handy 'home medkits'? The Food and Drug Administration has yet to even approve the labeling of the kits. 'As the Obama administration looks at options for improving its recent failing grade on rapid response to biological attacks, they should make sure to consider home medkits as part of their countermeasure distribution tool kit,' Mr. Troy tells the Beltway. 'Medkits let individuals prepare themselves and their families for possible biological incidents - be they naturally occurring or man-made - and they reduce the burden on federal officials who have to distribute desperately needed medications to thousands if not millions of people in a very short time frame,' he continues." (Washington Times; 25Feb10; Jennifer Harper)

Poll: hypothetical anthrax [spore] attack and antibiotics
"In a national poll aimed at helping with planning efforts for a public health response to a possible bioterrorism attack, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) have found that, in response to a fictional scenario describing a significant anthrax [spore] attack in their city or town, most Americans (89%) will likely follow public health recommendations to obtain prophylactic antibiotics. However, a significant minority of those likely to pick up antibiotics (39%) will hold on to them rather than take them right away, which public health experts believe may put them at greater risk of serious illness. Further, 21% of Americans are 'not at all familiar' with the term 'inhalation anthrax,' and an additional 25% hold the mistaken belief that inhalation anthrax is contagious - two factors that could compromise their following emergency instructions meant to protect them against this biological agent." (Science Centric; 22Feb10) http://www.sciencecentric.com/news/article.php?q=10022272-poll-hypothetical-anthrax-attack-antibiotics

OPCW director-general visits chemical weapons destruction facility in Anniston, USA
"At the invitation of the U.S. Government the OPCW Director-General, Ambassador Rogelio Pfirter, paid a visit to the chemical weapons destruction facility (CWDF) at the Anniston Army Depot in Alabama on 17 February 2010. He was accompanied on this visit by Ambassador Ahmet Uzumcu, who will succeed Ambassador Pfirter as Director-General in July. The Director-General and Ambassador Uzumcu were briefed by U.S. authorities on the U.S. chemical weapons destruction programme in general, and on the activities at the Anniston CWDF in particular, and were given a tour of the destruction facility." (OPCW News; 25Feb10) http://www.opcw.org/news/news/article/opcw-director-general-visits-chemical-weapons-destruction-facility-in-anniston-usa/

Annual drill helps keep units sharp [Pine Bluff, AR]
"Wednesday morning's training exercise involving the Pine Bluff Arsenal, Pine Bluff Chemical Activity, the state Department of Emergency Management and Jefferson and Grant counties, was rated a success by Karen Quarles, coordinator of the Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management. Arsenal and community sirens were sounded, giving emergency officials an opportunity to test their response plans. However, a number of residents took the warnings seriously, calling the OEM numerous times despite the advance notice of the exercise. [...] The exercise involved JRMC treating almost two dozen patients and the Red Cross demonstrating the ability to quickly establish a shelter at the Reynolds center following an imaginary 'incident' involving mustard agent in one-ton containers." (Pine Bluff Commercial; 26Feb10) http://www.pbcommercial.com/articles/2010/02/25/news/news1.txt

Statement to the executive council Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons fifty-eighth session
"I am pleased to report that as of February 14, the United States has completed the destruction of 70.8 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile which is a significant achievement. We are proud of our exemplary safety record in achieving this milestone. The United States is fully committed to its obligation under the Convention to destroy 100 percent of its chemical weapons stockpile as rapidly as possible and in a manner that is safe and environmentally sound. [...] Mr. Chairman, the United States welcomed resolution of the long-outstanding issue of declaration thresholds for low concentrations of Schedule 2A/2A* chemicals at our last session. While this was an important achievement, we remain concerned about the lack of progress on other issues within the industry cluster. In particular, the site selection methodology for Other Chemical Production Facilities and the frequency of inspections are too important to be allowed to continue to remain stagnant." (U.s. Department Of State; 26Feb10; Robert P. Mikulak) http://www.state.gov/t/isn/rls/rm/137332.htm

OPCW team to carry out routine industrial inspection of Pak-Arab Fertilizers [Ltd.] in Multan
"An inspection team of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) will visit Pakistan to carry out routine industrial inspection of Pak-Arab Fertilizers Private Ltd, Multan from February 24 to 28.The visit is in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). This is the 9th inspection of an Other Chemical Producing Facility (OCPF) in Pakistan, Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit said in a statement issued here on Monday." (Associated Press Of Pakistan; 22Feb10) http://www.app.com.pk/en_/index.php?option=com_content

Novel antitoxin strategy developed using 'tagged binding agents'
"Strategy proven for botulism; may lead to improved therapies for many toxins and some chronic diseases A study involving the world's deadliest substance has yielded a new strategy to clear toxins from the body--which may lead to more efficient strategies against toxins that may be used in a bioterrorist event, as well as snake bites, scorpion stings, and even some important chronic diseases. A Tufts-led team developed the new strategy to deliver small binding agents that seek out Botulinum toxin molecules and bind to them at several points. The binding agents each contain a common 'tag' that is recognized by a single, co-administered anti-tag antibody. Once the toxin molecule is surrounded by bound antibodies, it is flushed out of the system through the liver before it can poison the body." (Redorbit; 25Feb10) http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/1828349/novel_antitoxin_strategy_developed_usinnding_agents/

Two more men charged in plot to bomb [NY] subways
"Two men already in custody were indicted on Thursday on new charges of participating in a Qaeda plot to detonate explosives in the crowded New York subway system, and federal prosecutors suggested that more people would be charged in the case. The men, Adis Medunjanin and Zarein Ahmedzay, were accused of working with Najibullah Zazi to launch three coordinated bombings on Manhattan subways during rush hour. Standing side by side in loose-fitting prison garb and thick black beards, Mr. Medunjanin, 25, and Mr. Ahmedzay, 25, pleaded not guilty to new charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing material support for a terrorist organization. The arraignment occurred during a previously scheduled hearing at United States District Court in Brooklyn on Thursday. The men face life in prison if convicted of the new charges. [...] The charges come three days after Mr. Zazi pleaded guilty to those same charges. Mr. Zazi attended Flushing High School with Mr. Medunjanin and Mr. Ahmedzay, and traveled with the men to Pakistan -- where they were recruited and trained by Al Qaeda, prosecutors charged." (New York Times; 25Feb10; A.G. Sulzberger) http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/26/nyregion/26terror.html?sq=Two%20Men%20Face%20New%20Charges%20in%20Terror%20Plot

Nunn-Lugar [Cooperative Threat Reduction program] January 2010 update
"U.S. Sen. Dick Lugar announced the following progress in the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program in January. 3 Strategic nuclear warheads deactivated; 2 Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) destroyed; 3 ICBM mobile launchers destroyed; and, 1 Biological monitoring station built and equipped. On January 28, Lugar outlined important issues in arms control targets, treaty negotiations and the ability of the Nunn-Lugar program to achieve results in a speech to the Conference on Strategic Weapons in the 21st Century." (American Chronicle; 26Feb10)

Aum tip preceded attack: Kunimatsu
"A tip that Aum Shinrikyo might try to disrupt plans by police to probe its activities was received shortly before the cult attacked the Tokyo subway system with sarin in 1995, the national police chief at the time revealed in an interview. The account by former National Police Agency chief Takaji Kunimatsu, 72, during a recent interview with a woman who was widowed in the nerve gas attack raises new questions about whether the attack that killed 12 people and injured more than 5,000 could have been prevented." (Japan Times; 22Feb10) http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20100222a3.html

Australian report calls WMD attack 'feasible'
"Terrorists have the potential to use a weapon of mass destruction in an attack on Australia, the government in Canberra said in a report released yesterday. The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States 'highlighted how creative and ruthless terrorist attack planning can be. The potential for terrorist use of chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) weapons is of particular concern,' according to the report, Securing Australia: Protecting Our Community. 'We know that a small number of terrorists seek CBRN weapon capabilities and would use them if they could. While the risk is small, the consequences of any such attack would be devastating.'" (Global Security Newswire; 25Feb10) http://www.globalsecuritynewswire.org/gsn/nw_20100223_7520.php

Azerbaijan to host ad hoc meeting and training of Interpol
"Interpol's ad hoc meeting on nuclear terrorism will be held in Azerbaijan in April of this year, Chief of National Central Bureau of Interpol in Azerbaijan Major-General Sahib Mirzayev told APA. Ways of struggle against nuclear terrorism will be discussed at the event from April 26 till 30. 'Along with the Interpol's meeting, there will be held special trainings in Baku at that time', said Mirzayev." (Azeri Press Agency; 26Feb10)

Minrav to build emergency underground hospital
"The facility at Haifa's Rambam Hospital will provide protection from nuclear weapons. Minrav Holdings Ltd. has won the tender from Rambam Hospital in Haifa to build a three-floor underground car park, which can be used at short notice as an emergency hospital. The cost of the work will be [New Israeli Shekels] NIS 250 million." (Globes; 25Feb10; Michal Margalit)

[U.S.] Army food inspection team in Japan trains for ‘rapid testing’
"People shouldn't be too fearful of food products grown and manufactured in Japan and sold on U.S. military bases, say Army Veterinary Service personnel. They are being protected by teams of technicians charged with ensuring foods supplied to bases are free of harmful contaminants. And the inspections in Japan will soon be more immediate. The Army is setting up two laboratories -- on Camp Kinser and on Camp Zama in mainland Japan -- to perform more intensive testing of foods and beverages. [...] Part of the Army mission is to protect troops from any possible threats posed by terrorists, who might see the food supply as an easy target, said Lt. Col. Margery Hanfelt, a special projects chief with the Department of Veterinary Science." (Stars and Stripes; 22Feb10; David Allen)

Grant equips town with emergency mobile communications
"Thanks to the Department of Homeland Security, if there is ever a major emergency in the town, or a neighboring town, the Shrewsbury Fire Department is now equipped with the technical support to handle the situation. Shrewsbury Fire Department Captain Bill Cummins displayed for the Board of Selectmen at its Feb. 22 meeting a tactical communications package called the Tac-Pac. The Tac-Pac, which is also called a briefcase command center, will be used for communication and resource tracking, including manpower, at major emergencies such as an anthrax detection at the U.S. Post Office' s distribution center on Main Street, as well as in a hostage situation, or an incident where there is an active shooter at large. The Tac-Pac will also be employed to help in natural disasters such as hurricanes, blizzards and earthquakes, and at major fires." (Community Advocate; 26Feb10; Ken Powers) http://www.communityadvocate.com/news/2010-02-26/Front_Page/Grant_equips_town_with_emergency_mobile_communicat.html

PNNL [Pacific Northwest National Laboratory] installs 850 border radiation monitors
"Every car and truck that enters the U.S. through a customs station along the Canadian or Mexican borders now is screened for radioactive contraband thanks to Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. The Department of Energy national lab in Richland has completed installing 850 radiation portal monitoring systems along the northern and southern borders. The last one was installed in Trout River, N.Y. Cars and trucks drive at 5 mph or slower into the United States past a monitor that can detect neutron or gamma radiation in small amounts. The instruments have to be very sensitive to detect isotopes of concern, such as plutonium or uranium, and that means other radioactive materials also are detected." (Seattle Times; 25Feb10) http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2011183918_apwaborderradiation.html

CNS ChemBio-WMD Terrorism News is prepared by the Chemical and Biological Weapons Nonproliferation Program of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies in order to bring timely and focused information to researchers and policymakers interested in the fields of chemical, biological, and radiological weapons nonproliferation and WMD terrorism.

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. William C. Spencer, 40, of Tacoma, Wash., died Feb. 25 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, of wounds sustained Feb. 20 while supporting combat operations at Combat Outpost Marez, Iraq. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 146th Field Artillery Regiment, Olympia, Wash.

For more information, media may contact the Washington National Guard public affairs office at 253-512-8481.

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. Daniel T. O'Leary, 23, of Youngsville, N.C., died Feb. 23 in Fallujah, Iraq, of injuries sustained during a vehicle roll-over. He was assigned to the 307th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

For more information, media may contact the 82nd Airborne Division public affairs office at 910-432-0661, or 910-432-0662.

Assassin Captured

Iraqi Forces Capture Suspected Assassin

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 26, 2010 - Iraqi security forces arrested a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq member believed to be responsible for numerous assassinations during a joint security operation conducted southwest of the Iraqi capital yesterday.

Intelligence reports indicate terrorists increasingly are staging politically motivated assassinations and violent attacks in an attempt to undermine the Iraqi government and create a sense of chaos as national elections near, officials said.

Iraqi forces and U.S. advisors searched a home for the suspected assassin, who belongs to the terrorist cell believed to have conducted nearly 50 assassinations. Evidence and information collected during the operation led forces to identify and arrest the wanted man and two suspected criminal accomplices.

(From a U.S. Forces Iraq news release.)

Forces in Afghanistan Find Drugs, Weapons

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 26, 2010 - Afghan and international patrols found three weapons caches in Afghanistan's Helmand province yesterday. One cache, found in the Reg-e Khan Neshin district, contained eight rifle rounds, eight assault rifles, ammunition and an ammunition-filled vest.

Two caches were found in the Nad-e Ali district, containing seven illumination rounds, six high-explosive rounds, 80 pounds of ammonium nitrate, 51 pounds of homemade explosives, 100 pounds of shrapnel, and four large home-made bombs. One bomb contained 75 pounds of homemade explosives, the second contained five mortar rounds, and two others contained 10 mortar rounds each.

In operations yesterday:

-- A combined force found several caches of weapons and drugs in Daykundi province. The caches contained 1,100 pounds of ammonium nitrate, more than 100 pounds of opium, 2 pounds of pure heroin, a small bag of opium seeds, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a shotgun, two assault rifles, a bolt-action rifle and a substantial amount of ammunition. The security force arrested one suspected insurgent in the operation.

-- In Helmand province, a patrol found a substantial amount of ammonium nitrate in a compound. The patrol was involved in clearing the city in support of Operation Moshtarak when they found 5,500 pounds of the material along with bomb-making components.

(Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news releases.)

Homeland Security Daily Open Source InfrastructureReport for 26 February 2010

The Washington Post reported that the Washington Metro’s decision to mix different types of signaling equipment against strong warnings from the manufacturer could have caused the June 22 Red Line crash that killed nine people, a senior company engineer testified before a federal panel on February 24. (See item 17)

IDG News Service reports that on February 24 Microsoft, with the help of a U.S. federal judge, has struck a blow against one of the Internet’s worst sources of spam: the notorious Waledac botnet. Microsoft said it had been granted a court order that will cut off 277 .com domains associated with the botnet. (See item 45)

Read ON

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Marja Operations Move Toward 'Holding' Phase

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 25, 2010 - Operations in Marja, Afghanistan, are transitioning from the clearing to the holding phase, as today's turnover of the government center there marks a symbol of progress, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said today. Twelve days into Operation Moshtarak, the offensive in the former Taliban stronghold is "trending in a very positive direction," Morrell said, on both the military and governance fronts.

The new Afghan government raised its flag over Marja today, with Abdul Zahir Aryan installed as its administrator. Morrell called the transfer of the government center "symbolic of where we are in this operation."

Much of the city is now under Afghan and coalition control, and many of its citizens are returning to their homes, Morrell reported. Bazaars have reopened, and they're full of goods that demonstrate the freedom of movement needed to promote commerce.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government is extending its reach to ensure the clearing and subsequent holding phases of the counterinsurgency strategy successfully lead to building good governance and quality-of-life improvements.

"Yesterday, there were more shuras taking place in Marja than there were troops in contact," Morrell said, referring to government-sponsored citizens' meetings. "That's the kind of progress ... that we've been looking for and that we are heartened to see."

Morrell took care not to sugarcoat the operation. "Although signs point to progress, it is still clearly a very dangerous situation," he said. "We're still losing troops," with improvised explosive devices remaining the biggest threat.

"So we have to be very careful about how we progress into those areas that are not under Afghan and coalition control," he said. "We're doing so in a very thorough, methodical way so as to alleviate any potential for civilian or coalition force casualties."

The United States has suffered more casualties than Afghan security forces in the operation only because they tend to conduct high-risk missions such as route-clearing operations, and because enemy forces see them as more prized targets, Morrell said.

Morrell conceded that the Afghan security forces will need help "for some time," particularly in the intelligence and logistics arenas. But he dispelled reports that Afghan security forces aren't carrying their load in the fight.

"No one has ever questioned their willingness or their ability to fight," he said. "These guys are every bit in the midst of this operation. ... They match us one for one on the ground."

Meanwhile, across the border, the Pakistani government continues to show leadership in its own offensive on Taliban and al-Qaida leaders. Morrell said it's too soon to tell if these activities will prove to be game-changers. But he said there's hope among the Pakistanis that the dynamics are beginning to change in their country, as in Afghanistan, to favor the people rather than the Taliban.

"We are hopeful that our combined efforts on both sides of the border will undermine the confidence and the capability of the Afghan Taliban and of the Pakistan Taliban," Morrell said, with more of their members laying down their weapons and reintegrating into society.

The key, he said, is to reverse the downward slide that had become apparent in both countries to put the momentum with their governments and pressure the enemy to want to rejoin society.

While not addressing specific reports of high-value targets the Pakistanis have captured or killed, Morrell praised the ongoing effort and reiterated U.S. support to help as needed.

"We are here to help them in any way they are comfortable as they continue to pursue this enemy that's a threat not just to us and/or efforts in Afghanistan, but obviously to the Pakistani people as well," he said.

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Sgt. Marcos Gorra, 22, of North Bergen, N.J., died Feb. 21 at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, of wounds sustained while supporting combat operations. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.

For more information the media may contact the 82nd Airborne Division public affairs office at 910- 432-0661, or 910-432-0662.

Afghan Meeting in Marja Attracts 200 Residents

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 25, 2010 - Meetings of influential villagers have outnumbered military engagements over the last few days in Operation Moshtarak in the central portion of Afghanistan's Helmand province, military officials reported today. At the invitation of Helmand Gov. Gulab Mangal, the Nad-e Ali deputy district governor held such a meeting, called a "shura," in Marja that was attended by 200 residents.

Haji Zahir, the deputy district governor, spoke about improving security conditions and said that more Afghan National Police would be posted in Marja. He promised to ensure the opening of shops and clinics, and personally oversaw the distribution of rice, beans, cooking oil and sugar to the gathering.

New shops have opened at bazaars in Marja, with new products such as telephones, computers and other electronics being offered alongside fresh fruits and vegetables.

International Security Assistance Force Joint Command officials reported "a significant increase" in the number of local residents returning to the area, accompanied by a decrease in the number of residents registering as internally displaced persons.

Yesterday, officials said, only 144 families registered, down from 165 the day before.

Occasional small-arms engagements are still being reported, and roadside bombs remain as the greatest threat to civilians and security forces, officials said.

Tips from civilians reporting the locations of roadside bombs have increased by nearly 50 percent, officials said, and a greater number of homemade bombs being turned in by central Helmand residents. Both of these trends, officials said, are contributing to greater safety and security for civilians and combined forces in the area.

In other news, an Afghan-international security force found several caches of weapons and drugs in the Gizab district of Daykundi province today.

The caches contained more than a half ton of ammonium nitrate, more than 100 pounds of opium, more than 2 pounds of pure heroin, a small bag of opium seeds, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, a shotgun, two assault rifles, a bolt-action rifle and a substantial amount of ammunition.

The security force arrested a suspected insurgent in the operation, who is now in Afghan police custody.

In the Marja area of Helmand province, a security patrol found a substantial amount of ammonium nitrate in a compound. The patrol was involved in clearing the city in support of Operation Moshtarak when they found more than 5,000 pounds of the potentially explosive material along with bomb components.

Ammonium nitrate-based homemade explosives continue to be used in the production of the roadside bombs that cause the majority of civilian and military casualties in Afghanistan, officials said. The amount of ammonium nitrate in these caches could have produced more than 13,000 pounds of explosive material.

The Afghan government recently banned ammonium nitrate-based fertilizers, and farmers are encouraged to use fertilizers containing urea nitrate as an alternative.

Compiled from International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news releases.)

Two Charged with Terror Violations in Connection with New York Subway Plot

February 25, 2010 - The Justice Department announced that a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of New York has returned a superseding indictment charging Zarein Ahmedzay and Adis Medunjanin with terrorism violations stemming from, among other activities, their alleged roles in the plot involving Najibullah Zazi to attack the New York subway system in mid-September 2009. Ahmedzay and Medunjanin are scheduled to appear in federal court today in Brooklyn at 11:00 a.m.

Ahmedzay, 25, a U.S. citizen and resident of Queens, N.Y., was previously indicted on Jan. 8, 2010 in the Eastern District of New York on charges of making material false statements to the FBI about his travels to Pakistan and Afghanistan and about his conversations with a fellow traveler. Medunjanin, 25, a U.S. citizen and resident of Queens, N.Y., was previously indicted on Jan. 8, 2010 in the Eastern District of New York on charges of conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and receiving military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization, namely al-Qaeda.

The five-count superseding indictment unsealed this morning charges both Ahmedzay and Medunjanin with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction (explosive bombs) against persons or property in the United States. Specifically, they are charged with conspiring with Zazi to conduct an attack on Manhattan subway lines that would take place on Sept. 14, Sept. 15, or Sept. 16, 2009. The maximum statutory penalty for this offense is life in prison.

"The facts alleged in this indictment shed further light on the scope of this attempted attack and underscore the importance of using every tool we have available to both disrupt plots against our nation and hold suspected terrorists accountable for their actions," said Attorney General Holder. "This attack would have been deadly, and the many agents, prosecutors and intelligence professionals who worked together seamlessly to thwart it deserve our thanks."

Both defendants are also charged with conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country. Specifically, the superseding indictment alleges that on or about Aug. 28, 2008, both Ahmedzay and Medunjanin accompanied Zazi on a flight from Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J., to Peshawar, Pakistan, in furtherance of the conspiracy. The maximum statutory penalty for this offense is life in prison.

The superseding indictment also charges both defendants with providing material support, including currency, training, communications equipment and personnel, to a foreign terrorist organization, namely al-Qaeda. The maximum statutory penalty for this offense is 15 years in prison.

In addition, Ahmedzay and Medunjanin are charged with receiving military-type training from al-Qaeda. The maximum statutory penalty for this offense is ten years in prison.

Finally, Ahmedzay is further charged with making false statements to the FBI in a terrorism investigation. According to the indictment, Ahmedzay falsely told the FBI he had disclosed all the locations he visited during his trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan, when he had failed to disclose all these locations. The maximum statutory penalty for this offense is eight years in prison.

This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado and the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. The investigation is being conducted by the New York and Denver FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which combined have investigators from more than fifty federal, state and local law enforcement agencies .

The public is reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation of a crime, and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Iraqi Forces Arrest 9 in Separate Operations

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 25, 2010 - Iraqi police arrested nine terrorism suspects in combined operations with U.S. advisors in recent days, military officials reported. Police arrested three suspected terrorists yesterday in a rural area northeast of Baghdad during an operation conducted to capture a regional leader of Jaysh al-Mahdi, an Iranian-backed terrorist group.

Acting on a warrant issued by an Iraqi judge, the 3rd Emergency Response Unit and U.S. advisors searched two buildings for the suspected leader of several cells responsible for committing crimes such as kidnappings for ransom to raise money for weapons and supplies used in attacks against security forces operating in the area.

After preliminary questioning and assessment of the evidence at the scene, police arrested three suspected criminal associates of the wanted man.

In operations Feb. 23 and yesterday in Baghdad and Abu Ghraib, police arrested a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq assassination-cell leader and five suspected criminal accomplices.

Police and U.S. advisors stopped a vehicle on a public road and searched two buildings based on intelligence reports indicating that assassination cells were posturing for pre-election attacks in hopes of disrupting campaign efforts and deterring voters from participating in national elections.

In western Baghdad on Feb. 23, Iraqi police and U.S. advisors stopped a vehicle in which a suspected al-Qaida in Iraq assassination-cell leader was believed to be traveling. Information gathered at the scene led police to identify and arrest the wanted cell leader and two suspected criminal associates.

Following the arrests, the security team proceeded yesterday to search the wanted man's home in Abu Ghraib and a suspected weapons-cache site in western Baghdad belonging to the arrested man. In the Abu Ghraib building, police arrested two suspected criminal associates of the cell leader. Although no weapons or explosives were found during the search in western Baghdad, police identified and arrested an additional suspected criminal associate of the captured suspected cell leader.

(Compiled from U.S. Forces Iraq news releases.)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Forces in Afghanistan Arrest Bomb Maker

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 24, 2010 - A combined Afghan and international security force arrested a suspected bomb maker after discovering an explosives cache in Afghanistan's Helmand province yesterday as part of Operation Moshtarak.

The cache consisted of more than 100 pounds of explosive, 220 pounds of ammonium nitrate, an 8 2mm mortar fuse, three ammunition-filled vests, and various explosive components such as anti-tamper switches.

The bomb maker was found with blasting caps on his person. The explosives were destroyed on site.

In other operations yesterday:

-- A combined Afghan and international security force searched a vehicle in Helmand province after intelligence reports indicated militant activity. A search of the vehicle indicated a Taliban commander was possibly in a nearby village, which the combined force searched with the assistance of local elders. The security force detained several men for further questioning.

-- A combined patrol discovered a weapons cache consisting of 22 mortar rounds in Khost province. The ordnance was destroyed on site.

-- In Helmand province, a patrol discovered 15 bags of marijuana totaling more than 200 pounds. The drugs were destroyed.

-- A separate patrol discovered a weapons cache while searching an insurgent bunker in Helmand province as part of Operation Moshtarak. The cache consisted of three 107 mm rockets, five rocket-propelled grenades, two anti-personnel charges, an artillery fuse and a hand grenade. The ordnance was destroyed.

-- Afghan National Police defused four mines and discovered 110 pounds of explosive materials in Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Kunduz provinces yesterday.

-- In an operation conducted in Herat province, Afghan police discovered a machine gun, three mines, three hand grenades, five rocket rounds and 1,150 rounds of rifle ammunition.

-- A patrol discovered an explosives cache in Kandahar province. The cache contained nearly 90 pounds of ammonium nitrate, eight 155 mm shell casings, two radios, a dismantled radio, a circuit board and a large spool of wire. The materials were destroyed on site.

(From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news release.)

30 Days Through Afghanistan: The Lion of Panjshir, Mazer-e Sharif – Day 15

By U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nathan Gallahan
ISAF Joint Command Public Affairs

Today was our second travel day, which basically means Ken and I were stuck in air terminals all day. It did give us a chance to catch up on the Olympics though. Traveling Afghanistan is extremely difficult. I think the only thing more difficult is finding an internet connection.

One of the sayings in the military is “hurry up and wait”. This morning, Ken and I were in a mad dash to the terminal because we thought we were going to be late for the flight. We get to the terminal and sit for a few hours because the plane was late. Then they say “The plane is here! Everyone grab your kits!” So we again rush and throw our gear on and run to the bus, which speeds us to the other side of the airport. We discover a German cargo plane awaiting fuel and we sat on the flight line waiting for at least 90 minutes. The goal is to be ready for anything, not for anything to have to wait on you. It works, but it can be aggravating.

Ken told me before our journey north ever began that he was so glad to finally be moving again. I told him you’re never out of anywhere until you land where your supposed to. I think I jinxed the flight, because it was supposed to drop off some passengers in Kabul, who now have a free vacation here because they couldn’t land due to weather.

We’re now sitting in northern Afghanistan. While we were south, I was dreaming of the cold weather. Unfortunately, it’s pretty warm here. The first thing I noticed was the mountains. In the south, they also had them, but they were more single massive eruptions of earth from the desert. Here in the north, it’s an actual range from horizon to horizon.

We had an opportunity to chat a little bit with the experts tonight about counter insurgency up here, and it’s a very different stage than it is down south. Security isn’t nearly as big of a deal. There are five provincial reconstruction teams up here. The Germans run two, and the Norwegians, Hungarians and a Finish/Swedish team all run one each.

The good news about northern Afghanistan is this area was never completely held by the Taliban and their infrastructure is a little better than the rest of the country because of their proximity to it’s northern neighbors. It’s also a melting pot of various ethnicities. Not all Afghans are the same, there are a lot of different ethnic groups, such as Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek and Turkmen. As much as I would like to sit and write about each of these ethnic groups, I simply don’t know about them yet. But now that I’m in an area that has a rich ethnic diversity, I plan to find out.

Before we begin our journey throughout Northern Afghanistan, I want to mention someone who had a lot of influence in this area. Ahmad Shah Massoud, or “The Lion of Panjshir”, is well known in these parts. He was an Afghan military leader who fought against the Soviets and is credited by many for helping to drive them out.

He was also the leader of the Northern Alliance, a group of Afghans who fought against the Taliban. For context, he has been named a national hero here and he was also murdered two days before Sept. 11, 2001. Al Queida and the Taliban hated him. Ken also had a chance to talk with a Canadian who was here in the very beginning, and he fought side-by-side with the Northern Alliance, before the Afghan National Army was created. Massoud and the Northern Alliance definitely warrant some internet searching tonight to really come to grips with their effects on Afghan history.

Needless to say, in the north, Massoud is loved, but I’ve heard a lot in the south hate him due to his brutality in the south during the civil war. I did ask three Afghans I met in the south about him, and they like him. But another Pashtun interpreter I met months ago didn’t. He has mixed reviews, but definitely worthy of further reading. If anyone does do some research, it would be great to see some discussion on him and the Northern Alliance in the forums.

In a way, I feel as though the work the Northern Alliance did here to fight the Taliban and prevent the destruction of infrastructure has resulted in a relatively safe region today. I’ll be interested to see the progress being made here under these conditions.

While we’re out and about in the north, is there anything you want us to look into? Any questions you have? I’ll try my hand at more landscapes and maybe shoot a few panoramas for everyone because the country is absolutely gorgeous. Just let us know! I love working for all of you.

Terrorism and FBI

Statement of Glenn A. Fine Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice, before the

House Committee on the Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security on Recent Inspector General Reports Concerning the Federal Bureau of Investigation

February 24, 2010 - Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Gohmert, and Members of the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security:

Thank you for inviting me to testify about recent Office of the Inspector General’s (OIG) reports related to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The FBI faces significant challenges in handling its many critical duties. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the FBI has reoriented its focus to make counterterrorism its top priority, but at the same time it must continue to address its many pressing traditional law enforcement responsibilities.

As part of the OIG’s ongoing oversight work, we have reviewed a variety of important FBI programs. At the request of the subcommittee, I will mainly focus my testimony on three recent OIG reviews: (1) coordination between the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) in explosives investigations; (2) the FBI’s foreign language translation program; and (3) the FBI’s and the Department of Justice’s coordination of efforts to combat gang violence.

Within the past year we have also issued several other reports on important FBI programs. My testimony briefly summarizes the findings of some of these reviews. Finally, my testimony highlights several ongoing OIG reviews of FBI programs.

Explosives Investigation Coordination Between the FBI and ATF
In October 2009, the OIG issued an audit report that examined the coordination between the FBI and ATF in explosives investigations, and the Department of Justice’s oversight of these coordination efforts.

Our audit found that FBI and ATF were not adequately coordinating explosives related operations, and the Department’s management of the FBI and ATF’s coordination efforts was ineffective. We found that conflicts continued to occur throughout the country about whether the FBI or ATF would be the lead agency for federal explosives investigations and about their differing explosives-handling techniques.

Read On

Engineer Platoon Provides Route Security

By Sgt. Jon E. Dougherty
Public Affairs NCO
203rd Engineer Battalion

February 24, 2010 - When your primary mission as an engineer platoon is clearing routes of improvised explosive devices – the number one threat to U.S. and NATO forces here – you might not think most other missions are as challenging or rewarding.

But for Second Platoon, 211th Engineer Company (sappers), South Dakota Army National Guard, providing route security comes in more than one form. On a recent cold, windy February day, Second Platoon – known as “The Punishers” to their enemies – took on a different kind of route clearance mission.

While always on the hunt for IEDs, Second Platoon’s focal mission this time was to establish a TCP – traffic control point – along a well-traveled route, with the goal of interdicting insurgents and others who may be transporting explosives, weapons caches or anything aimed at conducting militant operations against the legitimate Afghan government.

The objective, according to Sergeant First Class Jon Albers of Madison, S.D., the Punishers’ platoon sergeant, would be to enhance security along the route, making passage safer for local Afghans. Crews would do so by conducting searches of passing vehicles and tactical questioning of their occupants.

And while that may sound mundane or even routine to some, there is nothing routine about such operations in a war zone.

As was customary before every mission, Albers brought his platoon to attention, then ordered them to “open ranks” so he could inspect them. He moved methodically down each of the three rows, making sure his Soldiers were prepared with the proper gear, ammunition load, and equipment.

Professionals to a man, it was obvious as Albers addressed each man that all were experienced, prepared, and brimming with mutual respect – the kind forged only in battle.

Today, though, it wasn’t a fight the Punishers were seeking – though they were, as always, ready for one if it came.

When Albers finished, 1st Lt. Chris Long of Sturgis, the leader of Second Platoon and who had been observing off to the side of the formation, called his men over to address them.

Today’s mission would, in most respects, be no different than their route clearance packages, in that everyone was expected to remain vigilant, he said. But rather than hunt IEDs, the Punishers would be setting up TCPs – traffic control points – and conducting a presence patrol.

And while it wasn’t an assignment Long and his crews undertook often, it was an “effective” and vital tactic in order to provide local Afghans both security and reassurance.

“We are in a direct support role so setting up a TCP is not something we typically do,” Long said. “I have done around five to this point and usually only for a short duration.”

The mere presence of U.S. forces, however, can have as much of a positive impact as superior firepower in a gunfight.

“TCP’s are effective if done in the right location at the right time,” said Long. “We try to set [them] up close to a known … village or location to raise the probability that we may find a person of interest.”

He says it’s also “common in these locations that the locals have little to no confidence in the Afghan government or us to protect them and enforce law and order,” so the TCPs and presence patrols are “a way to instill some confidence in the locals that the security situation is improving.”

For that reason, Long and his Punishers have a goal, if somewhat lofty: They would like to make it common for ordinary Afghans to be able to live in peace. So they aim to do their part.

Nine Nations Support Afghan Training Effort

By Ian Graham
Special to American Forces Press Service

Feb. 24, 2010 - Expanding the Afghan army and teaching it to become a force capable of defending Afghanistan in the air and on the ground is no small undertaking, and that's why nine nations are working together in that mission, a top officer in the effort said yesterday.

During a "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable, British army Brigadier Simon Levey, commander of Combined Training Advisory Group Afghanistan, described the coalition of trainers under his command, the training venues he oversees and the progress the Afghan army is making toward self-sufficiency.

The training advisory group's mission is to advise and monitor Afghan National Army Training Command in establishing a training system capable of developing a professional, modern army.

"I'm responsible for every part of growing the army and army training, along with the Afghan National Army Training Command," Levey said.

Levey said his organization focuses on three areas, or "lines." The first – the one they're currently working – is growing the army. After enough troops are recruited and given basic combat training, he said, his teams will work on developing – further specializing and training – the Afghan soldiers.

Levey said he's looking forward to the development portion, as officials expect easily to reach the 134,000-member target for Afghan army recruitment.

"The army will not be balanced," he said. "It will be an infantry-centric force, so we'll have to rebalance it and develop future parts of the army."

The final part, what Levey called "institution building," is the continued development of future army components and laying the groundwork for Afghans to take the reins and control the army and its programs.

"We want to make sure we've put into place something that will last long after we've all departed," Levey said.

The training effort requires great international collaboration, Levey said. In addition to the United States and Great Britain, France, Germany, Turkey, Romania, Mongolia, Canada and Estonia have provided trainers and mentors. Recently, NATO asked its member nations to provide 2,000 more trainers.

Levey said he asked for the new trainers to help in the development stage of training the army. The new trainers will open the various specialized schools needed to keep Afghan forces operating and competitive.

"All the schools we need to open that aren't open: armor, artillery, infantry school, logistics, human resources, finance, engineer, signal, military police, legal, health. ... I could go on; there are plenty of schools that need to be open," Levey said. "That's what I need the instructors for."

Levey said the plan is to have instructors come to handle the intellectual side of training in these specialized fields so that by October they're collectively ready to teach the 134,000 Afghan recruits and have the first classes graduated by December.

In the effort to grow an officer corps, three methods of entry are involved, Levey said. One is the National Military Academy of Afghanistan, which so far has received 3,000 applications for 600 seats.

The second source is an officer candidate school. Soldiers who are literate and pass physical tests -- and are vetted to make sure they aren't enemy infiltrators -- can learn leadership skills.

The third source for officers is what's called the "mujahedeen reintegration course," in which former paramilitary officers are brought up to speed on how the new, modern Afghan army works.

"They're extremely valuable to us, because as we're building the new army as quickly as we are, we have the senior officers and the junior officers we're training, but it's the middle-order officers that come in really handy," Levey said.

Levey said his organization continues to work to deliver what Afghanistan needs so that it can stand on its own and the NATO forces can leave the country. He said he's confident the training portion will be successful in creating a self-sufficient force to keep insurgents and international criminals at bay, providing a stabilizing factor to Afghanistan and the surrounding nations.

(Ian Graham works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

United States Transfers Three Guantanamo Bay Detainees to Albania

February 24, 2010 - The Department of Justice today announced that three detainees have been transferred from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the custody and control of the Government of Albania.

As directed by the President’s January 22, 2009 Executive Order, the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force conducted a comprehensive review of these cases. As a result of that review, which examined a number of factors, including security issues, the detainees were approved for transfer by unanimous consent among all the agencies involved in the Task Force. In accordance with Congressionally-mandated reporting requirements, the Administration informed Congress of its intent to transfer the detainees at least 15 days before their transfer.

Earlier today, Saleh Bin Hadi Asasi, a native of Tunisia, Sharif Fati Ali al Mishad, a native of Egypt, and Abdul Rauf Omar Mohammad Abu al Qusin, a native of Libya, were transferred to the Government of Albania. The United States is grateful to the Government of Albania for its willingness to support U.S. efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

These transfers were carried out under an individual arrangement between the United States and the Government of Albania. The United States coordinated with the Government of Albania to ensure the transfers took place under appropriate security measures and consultations regarding these individuals will continue.

Since 2002, more than 580 detainees have departed Guantanamo Bay for other destinations, including Albania, Algeria, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Belgium, Bermuda, Chad, Denmark, Egypt, France, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Palau, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Somalia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom and Yemen.

Today, 189 detainees remain at Guantanamo Bay.

Homeland Security Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report for 24 February 2010

Top Stories

WAFB 9 Baton Rouge reports that a tanker carrying more than 8,000 gallons of gasoline caught fire Monday near a school in Plaquemine, Louisiana, forcing the evacuation of 400 students. (See item 2)

USA Today reports that about 300 out of 1,800 passengers on the Celebrity Mercury cruise ship sailing in the Caribbean are suffering from a norovirus-like illness. A spokeswoman said the ship’s medical facilities have been overwhelmed. (See item 31)

Read On

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Army Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Pfc. JR Salvacion, 27, of Ewa Beach, Hawaii, died Feb. 21 at Senjaray, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.

For more information media may contact the Fort Carson public affairs office at 719- 526-7525; after hours 719-526-5500.

Army Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two soldiers who were supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. They died Feb. 21 in Qayyarah, Iraq, of wounds suffered when their OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter had a hard landing. The soldiers were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 230th Cavalry Regiment, Louisville, Tenn.

Killed were:

Capt. Marcus R. Alford, 28, of Knoxville, Tenn.
Chief Warrant Officer Billie J. Grinder, 25, of Gallatin, Tenn.

For more information, the media may contact the Tennessee National Guard public affairs office at 615-313-0662.

Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Matthias N. Hanson, 20, of Buffalo, Ky., died Feb. 21 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the II Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs office at 910-451-7200.

Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Eric L. Ward, 19, of Redmond, Wash., died Feb. 21 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the II Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs office at 910-451-7200.

Homeland Security Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report for 23 February 2010

Top Stories

DarkReading reports that attacks against the power grid are likely to rise and intensify during the next 12 months as smart grid research and pilot projects advance, according to utility security experts and a recently published report that analyzes threats to critical infrastructure. (See item 3)

According to Agence France-Presse, 18 people were injured when a United Airlines passenger plane carrying 245 people hit turbulence over Alaska en route from Washington to Tokyo, Japanese police said Saturday. (See item 25)

Read On

Attorney General Eric Holder Speaks at the Press Conference Announcing Guilty Plea by Najibullah Zazi

February 22, 2010 - Earlier this afternoon, Najibullah Zazi, a citizen of Afghanistan and permanent legal resident of the United States, pleaded guilty in New York to three criminal charges. He admitted to conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction against persons or property in the United States, conspiring to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing material support to Al Qaeda.

Zazi has admitted that he brought TATP explosives to New York on Sept. 10th, 2009, and that he and others intended to detonate them on board the New York subway system. This was one of the most serious terrorist threats to our nation since September 11th, 2001, and were it not for the combined efforts of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, it could have been devastating. This attempted attack on our homeland was real, it was in motion, and it would have been deadly. We were able to thwart this plot because of careful analysis by our intelligence agents and prompt actions by law enforcement. They deserve our thanks and praise.

Zazi traveled to Pakistan in August 2008 with plans to join the Taliban in fighting against the United States and our allied forces in Afghanistan. Shortly after arriving, however, he was recruited by members of Al Qaeda who transported him to the Waziristan region of Pakistan and urged him to launch a suicide attack in the United States, which he agreed to do.

While still in Pakistan, Zazi plotted extensively with members of Al Qaeda in planning this attack. Al Qaeda operatives trained him in how to construct the explosives he would use, and they discussed potential targets, including the New York subway system. Zazi took detailed notes during his training, and even emailed himself a summary of those notes so he could access them when he returned to the United States.

Zazi returned to the United States in January 2009 and moved to Denver, Colorado. In June, he began reviewing the notes from his training and researching where to buy the chemicals needed for the explosives. He then traveled to New York to meet with others, discuss the timing of the attack and where to make the explosives.

Zazi then returned to Denver and began constructing the explosives. In July and August, he purchased large quantities of components necessary to produce TATP and twice checked into a hotel room near Denver, where bomb making residue was later found.

On September 8th, he set the final stages of the plan into motion, renting a car and driving from Denver to New York with the explosives and materials necessary to build the bombs. He arrived in New York on Thursday, September 10th with plans to use the weekend to obtain the final components necessary, assemble the bombs, and then launch an attack on the Manhattan subway lines on September 14th, 15th, or 16th.

Zazi was under surveillance throughout his trip. Once he learned of the investigation, he and others disposed of the explosives and other bomb making materials and he returned to Denver, where he was arrested on September 19th.

In this case, the combined efforts of the law enforcement and intelligence communities disrupted a major plot, and there is no doubt that they saved American lives. This investigation is ongoing, and we will continue to work around the clock both to bring others involved to justice and to obtain intelligence that we can use to disrupt further plots. With today’s guilty plea, we have brought swift justice to one of the individuals involved in this plot, but we will not rest until everyone responsible is held accountable.

This plot is further evidence that Al Qaeda continues to plan attacks against the United States. We are at war against a dangerous, intelligent and adaptable enemy, and we must use every weapon available to win that war. In this case, as it has in so many other cases, the criminal justice system has proved to be an invaluable weapon for disrupting plots and incapacitating terrorists, one that works in concert with the intelligence community and our military. We will continue to use it to protect the American people from terrorism.

As I have stated on other occasions, the criminal justice system also contains powerful incentives to induce pleas that yield long sentences and gain intelligence that can be used in the fight against Al Qaeda. We will use all available tools whenever possible against suspected terrorists.

Finally, I would like to thank the members of the law enforcement and intelligence communities whose hard work disrupted this plot and continues to keep terrorists on the run both here and abroad, as well as the prosecutors and intelligence lawyers who have worked on this case. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for their service to this country.

30 Days Through Afghanistan: The Planes! The Planes! – Day 14

By U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nathan Gallahan, ISAF Joint Command Public Affairs

February 23, 2010 - It was another travel day for Ken and I and as we were flying over southern Afghanistan in a Canadian Chinook, I realized that now would be a good time to talk about my bosses. I’ve been intimately familiar with close air support for years now. I’ve been a public affairs journalist during three of my deployments and each time something would happen where I would have to learn a little bit more about it. Still, I’m not a pilot and I’m nowhere near an expert on the subject.

Every time I’ve visited with infantry the subject of close air support comes up, it must be my uniform or something. Since I’ve always seen the Air Force side, it’s always been intriguing for me to hear about how the soldiers see them.

Fast movers, a soldier term for aircraft, are sometimes frustrating but always loved.

Fast movers come in a very wide variety of shapes, sizes and uses. There’s no possible way for me to talk about all of the different aircraft out there, and if I mention one of them I have to mention all because if I don’t I’ll catch hell for the rest of my career. Although, I would have really liked mentioning the F-15s from RAF Lakenheath, England, my home station, because their incredibly awesome fighters and the B-1Bs at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, because I’m about to move there and those bombers are really cool. Finally, I would have really enjoyed telling you all about the wonderful aircraft and people at the 451st Air Expeditionary Wing, here, because they adopted Ken and me and really helped us out. The work they’re doing in Afghanistan is truly inspirational. I also snitched a bunch of their photos from their public Web site, because I didn’t have time to go out there and shoot my own today.

Although I would love to blog about all the Air Forces out there, this blog is from the ground perspective and I need to stick to that.

I went out on a mission in eastern Afghanistan in November, our MRAPs got separated in a little town because all of the houses were so close it was hard to keep track of where the mission was going. So Apache helicopters came in to save the day. They flew circles around us and actually gave us directions on how to get back to the lead vehicle. Then they stayed with us for a few hours while we did something interesting and I’m sure they saw me when I tripped over a small wall and combat rolled into a farmer’s field. They probably have some form of surveillance video of it, which I hope is classified for some reason.

While Ken and I were out at Strong Point Khyber, the U.S. Army was battling it out with some Taliban across the river from us. At sunset, I saw these little U.S. Army Kiowa helicopters and I could hear the “ppffftt” “pppffftt” of their guns hammering away.

Then there’s my favorite, show of force missions, which I would absolutely love to see and photograph, but I’ve never been in position to do so. Let’s say friendly forces are fighting the enemy and they just want to scare them a little bit and let them know we mean business. They can call in a show of force, which is basically a really scary air show. An aircraft comes roaring overhead at very low altitudes to say “Hello Taliban, the Air Force is here and if you don’t smarten up we’ll give you a little present.” Soldiers love these not only because it’s really cool, but because it works really well.

I have quite the list of fast mover experiences when you compare it to the amount of missions I’ve been on. Each time they were there.

With that said, Army Soldiers do get frustrated with them. It takes a long time to get approval to drop bombs. A lot of times, they see the enemy doing something, but then they’re gone before the bombs are approved. One soldier said he’s seen ten separate instances where the enemy got away because it only took the enemy five minutes to do something bad and it took longer than that to get approval.

The reasons for this do make sense. We’re not talking about dropping water balloons, but ordnance anywhere from 500 pound bombs to 2,000 pound bombs. This is a serious amount of destruction and you have to be really careful with it. The military says “scaled use of force.” Meaning if someone’s shooting at you with a rifle, you don’t drop a 2,000 pound warhead on their forehead.

Also, counter insurgency effects air power a lot. If the Taliban are shooting from someone else’s house, do you really want to blow that innocent person’s house up? What if the innocent people are still in there? There are so many questions to be asked and so many secondary and tertiary effects to something of this scale, I can’t even imagine it.

So although the Soldiers do get frustrated with airpower sometimes, when they hear them flying above and you ask them about it, they do smile a little bit.

Also, I have to note, that I’m absolutely and completely biased in this specific blog. I won’t deny the fact I love the service I joined. The times the fast movers came and helped made me so proud I would just beam and brag about them until I know the soldiers around me were sick of it.

There’s one other aircraft I want to mention before I close this up; those little drones that buzz around all the time watching everything that’s happening. Every time I am outside of the wire, I felt like I should look over my uniform for violations because someone in headquarters was watching me via live feed and would call our team leader to yell at me via satellite phone. It’s worth the risk though, because I know the Air Force always has eyes on and is there to save all of our butts if something goes down.

Officials Note Operation Moshtarak Progress

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 23, 2010 - Signs of steady progress in development and governance are evident in the central part of Afghanistan's Helmand province, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command officials said today. In a daily update on Operation Moshtarak, which began in the region Feb. 13, officials said bridges, roads and culverts are being repaired, bazaars are re-opening and attracting customers, and a variety of initiatives are being planned or implemented.

Officials said six projects are ongoing, and 18 are planned in northern Nad-e Ali under the Afghanistan Vouchers for Increased Production in Agriculture Plus program. Meanwhile, educators and school officials are discussing a training program that will promote reading, writing and arithmetic skills among young people who are addicted to drugs or have previous affiliations with the insurgency, officials added.

Afghan and combined forces continue to encounter "small, but determined pockets of resistance," often from bunkers or other fortified positions, officials said. Though roadside bombs remain the greatest threat to security forces, they added, the combined force continues to make headway in clearing operations to enable improved governance and development.

New patrol bases are being established as Afghan forces assert greater authority in Marja and Nad-e Ali. A new patrol base is operational at 5 Ways Junction and a new police base is being built in southeast Marja, officials said.

Clearing operations are on track and enabling greater freedom of movement for civilians and security forces alike, officials said. Task Force Helmand's engineers continue to upgrade roads in their area of operations, enabling more effective delivery of stabilization supplies.

(From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news release.)

U.S., Philippine Troops Fight Insurgent Bomb Threat

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 23, 2010 - Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Stutzke looked over the rock quarry from a distance as three explosions boomed. Gathered around him was a team of Philippine army explosive ordnance disposal soldiers gleaming with pride from their work that briefly charred the clear afternoon sky. Just minutes before, Stutzke completed a training session for his Philippine counterparts and some U.S. Army soldiers on how to properly construct dynamite for an electrically charged remote detonation. For the Philippine troops, the Feb. 20 exercise was a rare opportunity to conduct hands-on training with real explosives and basic EOD tools.

Though the Philippine troops train frequently to learn new techniques to dispose of roadside bombs and unexploded ordnance, they seldom have the tools to do so safely, Stutzke said. The Philippine military, including its EOD units here in central Mindanao, lack sufficient funding and fundamental equipment such as bomb suits, detection robots or expendable explosives to train with, he explained.

"I think we need to better equip [the Philippine forces], Stutzke said. "If you don't have any of the basic tools to work with, you can't do your job. Well, you can't do your job safely."

This is especially true for the Philippine EOD teams, as they are among the busiest and most at-risk soldiers in their force.

Forgotten ordnances -- or remnants of war, as U.S. troops from Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines here describe them -- are abundant after years of terrorist actions and past wars on Philippine soil. For this reason, competent and properly trained EOD troops are vital to the nation's decade-long counterinsurgency fight.

Philippine EOD teams have found terrorist cache sites of explosives used for roadside, motorcycle and car bombs. Two U.S. Army Special Operations soldiers lost their lives to a roadside bomb in September, which was the deadliest attack on the American military here since 2002. Philippine troops are targeted on a weekly basis, however, often resulting in injuries or death.

"[Improvised explosive devices] are a significant threat, because they're easy to make," Stutzke said. "And training [the Philippine EOD soldiers] is very important, because there's so much ordnance available in the region for insurgents to get their hands on. The best way to get rid of that threat is through joint training and disposals."

U.S. EOD troops spend as much time as possible assisting and training their Philippine counterparts, and often lend them equipment such as metal detectors, which has led to some recent successes in the area.

Both militaries also work together educating the local populace on how to identify and report bombs and unexploded ordnance, said Stutzke, a native of Midland, Ga.

Stutzke recalled a recent situation that could have been fatal to the Philippine EOD troops. A grenade was reported in a public building, and the Philippine soldiers disarmed and disposed of it without a bomb suit or protective gear.

"They went up and did their job, and that's how good they are," he said. "That's one thing not a lot of people realize: They're very confident and efficient, and they have the knowledge. But they could be better and much more safe if they had funding for equipment."

Filipino army Capt. Francis Senoron echoed Stutzke's sentiments.

"The problem with the Philippine army is we have very limited resources," Senoron said. "We have limited supplies and must come up with our own creative ways to disrupt IEDs."

Senoron and his troops have encountered more than 100 bombs and pieces of unexploded ordnance since 2008, he said. He and many of his comrades have been injured multiple times, he said, but he added that security and protecting innocent civilians is more important than his own safety.

"The local populace is very supportive to our efforts," he said. "We've conducted awareness programs for our civilians, so they know what to do if they find an IED. Because of our civilians, we're able to accomplish our mission, and I hope this will continue in the future."

Forces in Afghanistan Capture Taliban Leader

American Forces Press Service

Feb. 23, 2010 - Afghan soldiers, assisted by coalition forces, captured a Taliban leader and known weapons facilitator in the Bala Balouk district of Afghanistan's Farah province Feb. 21, military officials reported today.

After the mission, Afghan and coalition leaders met with village elders to assess security and distribute food and medical supplies. No civilian casualties or property damage were reported.

In other recent operations:

-- In Helmand province today, an International Security Assistance Force patrol in Nad-e Ali in found four mortar rounds, pressure plates and bomb-making materials. They later found an improvised explosive device made of a 55 mm illumination round packed with homemade explosives and another IED consisting of a pressure plate and six mortar rounds. An explosive ordnance disposal team destroyed the munitions.

-- An Afghan-international security force captured a Taliban sub-commander with links to several militant networks last night in the village of Zhawrah in the Chak-e Wardak district of Wardak province. He's believed to be responsible for planning attacks on coalition forces. During the operation, a militant was killed when he confronted the assault force with an imminent threat. Another insurgent also was detained.

-- A combined Afghan-international patrol found a weapons cache containing a rocket, grenades and ammunition in the Arghandab district of Kandahar province yesterday.

(From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command news release.)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Lance Cpl. Adam D. Peak, 25, of Florence, Ky., died Feb. 21 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the II Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs office at 910-451-7200.

Marine Casualty

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

Staff Sgt. Christopher W. Eckard, 30, of Hickory, N.C., died Feb. 20 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

For additional background information on this Marine, news media representatives may contact the II Marine Expeditionary Force public affairs office at 910-451-7200.

Homeland Security Daily Open Source Infrastructure Report for 22 February 2010

Top Stories
Fox News reports that on February 18 the U.S. Army is investigating allegations that soldiers were attempting to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. (See item 41)

ComputerWorld reports that one of the two Chinese academic institutions identified in a New York times report on February 18 is the apparent source of not only the recent attacks against Google, but has also been linked to a hacker who may have been involved with the takedown of whitehouse.gov in 2001. (See item 48)

Read On

Trainers, Advisors Help Philippines Fight Terrorism

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

Feb. 22, 2010 - Eliminating foreign terrorists and their safe havens in the southern Philippines is the No. 1 priority of U.S. forces deployed here, the region's top U.S. military officer said. But unlike counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. troops here work strictly in a supporting role to the Filipino armed forces and are not permitted to participate in kinetic operations, Army Col. Bill Coultrup, commander of Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines, said Feb. 20 in an interview with American Forces Press Service.

Since the return of U.S. forces to the Philippines in December 2001 -- the United States closed its bases here in 1991 -- troops have used their knowledge and expertise to empower the Philippine military and local population to stand against terrorist networks here, Coultrup said.

Terrorist organizations such as Abu Sayyef, Jamaah Islamiyah and other groups connected to al-Qaida had trained and found safe haven here prior to Sept. 11, 2001, and the U.S. military's subsequent arrival. Today, those groups maintain a strong presence in small numbers and have had some success with roadside-bomb and small-arms attacks against the Philippine forces. Still, Coultrup's troops only can provide support. The Philippine constitution prohibits U.S. troops from actively engaging in direct combat operations here.

"It's a very complicated fight, and what makes it more difficult is that we are not the ones doing the fighting," Coultrup said. "A lot of our troops, from their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places, are used to being able to go directly to the fight and engage with the enemy and deal with them, but we can't do that here."

Despite this challenge, Coultrup said, his 500-member task force has been successful in improving local civilian and military capacity through joint development projects and counterinsurgency training.

"The key is winning over the [local Filipinos] to let them know that [their] military is not down here to stomp on folks, but to bring a better life," Coultrup said.

About 80 percent of the task force's operations involve humanitarian assistance such as engineering projects and medical and veterinarian care. These operations also are led by Philippine forces to build support for the national government in troubled areas.

"Gaining support from the local leadership is absolutely critical in whatever is done out here," the colonel said. "We want the [Philippine military] and local populace to have a good relationship."

The remainder of their focus is training Philippine troops, which presents another set of challenges. The armed forces here are poorly financed and are under-strength in terms of what many may consider is needed for a successful counterinsurgency campaign, Coultrup said.

Also, counterterrorism operations in the south aren't even the national government's top priority for the Philippine military, he explained, noting the ongoing communist uprising here to overthrow the national government.

"There are a lot of threats and issues that they're working on, and they're stretched thin," he said. "Trying to deal with this when you don't have enough troops presents its problems."

Progress may not be coming along as quickly as many here would like, but it is being made, said Coultrup, who's been the task force commander here since October 2007. Doing the job right and empowering the Philippine army to be "out in front" is more important than how long it takes, he added.

"It does take time," he said. "You're trying to change an entire generation of people. All they've known is the lawlessness [and] the lack of security. And to help improve that security and the livelihood of these folks does take time. Has it gotten better? Absolutely it has, although it's not as fast as some folks here would like.

"As long as they're willing to continue to fight and allow us to help them, we're here. We don't want to let the situation fall back to where it was before 9/11."

Defense Deputy Discusses NATO in Afghanistan

By Ian Graham

February 22, 2010 - The North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s role has changed drastically in the nearly 61 years since it was created. What began initially as a device to “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down,” as the first NATO Secretary General famously said, has become a widely influential organization around the world. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Policy James Townsend said the change in NATO and U.S.-European relations over the 20 or so years he’s worked in the field has been tremendous. The organization continues to change and determine its role in the world, post-Cold War and post-9/11.

“In the 1990s, the conflict in the Balkans showed that NATO still has a role in providing stability within as well as outside of Europe,” Townsend said.

Currently NATO is involved in a number of missions, ranging from continued peacekeeping in the Balkans to anti-piracy activity off the coast of Africa and their biggest mission: managing the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Townsend said although it may seem unusual for NATO to be concerned with central Asia, there are a number of reasons, among them Pakistan and India, both nuclear states with tense relations. In addition, Iran borders Afghanistan to the west. Afghanistan is sort of a lynchpin in central Asia.

What happens in Afghanistan is key to peace and stability in the region, Townsend said. If things go badly, he continued, it creates the potential for instability that would easily and quickly affect European and American interests. International criminal groups, from terrorist organizations to human or drug trafficking organizations could have a safe place for their home base.

But as it is, the international effort in Afghanistan is producing positive results. The Taliban have been on the run in southern Afghanistan and Afghan military and police forces are taking over key jobs from ISAF.

“There are little green shoots coming up in Afghanistan,” Townsend said. “There’s a lot of work ahead to get these shoots to grow up, but there’s confidence in Kabul and NATO capitals that it will happen.”

But what happens after Afghanistan? Townsend isn’t sure, and neither exactly is NATO. In November, the heads of the NATO states will convene to put together a set of guidelines explaining the organization’s mission going into the future.

Townsend said NATO doesn’t want to be the world police, jetting around to solve problems globally. Rather, they want to determine what’s required of them to maintain security in the North Atlantic region.

“The big question is, ‘What will it require to make NATO take on another ISAF type mission?’” Townsend said.

He said there’s a big push to regain a sense of community between America and Europe. The only time Article Five was implemented was Sept. 11, 2001. Townsend said the U.S. wants to return to that feeling of unity and mutual support.

It’s paramount, he said, considering the borderless nature of terrorism and crime, especially cybercrime.

“In Iraq, we learned that without the political support from NATO, it was more difficult to carry out our mission. We’ve learned we have to act as a community – if we works with our allies, our mission will always be easier,” he said. “It will take our alliance, working as a community, to handle future threats.”

That community is on display currently in Afghanistan, he said. Many of the provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan are led by servicemembers from European nations, and troops from different nations are managing operations in different areas of the county.

For example, Townsend explained, while the effort in southern Afghanistan is primarily led by U.S. troops, operations in the western part of the country are handled by the Italian military.

“The allied effort [in Afghanistan] is something we stand in awe of,” Townsend said.