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The Military

How Nuclear Weapon Modernization Undercuts Disarmament 227

Posted by Soulskill
from the perfecting-the-planetcracker dept.
Lasrick writes: John Mecklin details exactly how nuclear weapons modernization is kick-starting a new arms race, and how modernizing these weapons to make them more accurate and stealthy puts the world at even greater risk of nuclear war: "[T]his is precisely why the U.S. Congress rejected the Air Force’s requests for low-yield, precision-guided nuclear weapons in the 1990s: Their very accuracy increases the temptation to use them." The issue is not getting very much attention, but the patience of the non-nuclear states is wearing thin, and a breakthrough in public awareness may be on the horizon: "The disarmament debate is likely to make this spring's NPT conference a contentious one and just might be loud enough to make the public aware that a new type of nuclear arms race is unfolding around the world."
Australia

Draconian Australian Research Law Hits Scientists 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the blunder-down-under dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Australian government is pushing ahead with a draconian law placing "dual use" science (e.g. encryption, biotechnology) under the control of the Department of Defence. The Australian ACLU, Civil Liberties Australia, warns the law punishes scientists with $400,000 fines, 10 years in jail and forfeiture of their work, just for sending an "inappropriate" e-mail.

Scientists — including the academics union — warn the laws are unworkable despite attempted improvements, and will drive researchers offshore (paywalled: mirror here).
Censorship

Feds Attempt To Censor Parts of a New Book About the Hydrogen Bomb 338

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can't-do-that-on-bookovision dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The atom bomb — leveler of Hiroshima and instant killer of some 80,000 people — is just a pale cousin compared to the hydrogen bomb, which easily packs the punch of a thousand Hiroshimas. That is why Washington has for decades done everything in its power to keep the details of its design out of the public domain. Now William J. Broad reports in the NY Times that Kenneth W. Ford has defied a federal order to cut material from his new book that the government says teems with thermonuclear secrets. Ford says he included the disputed material because it had already been disclosed elsewhere and helped him paint a fuller picture of an important chapter of American history. But after he volunteered the manuscript for a security review, federal officials told him to remove about 10 percent of the text, or roughly 5,000 words. "They wanted to eviscerate the book," says Ford. "My first thought was, 'This is so ridiculous I won't even respond.'" For instance, the federal agency wanted him to strike a reference to the size of the first hydrogen test device — its base was seven feet wide and 20 feet high. Dr. Ford responded that public photographs of the device, with men, jeeps and a forklift nearby, gave a scale of comparison that clearly revealed its overall dimensions.

Though difficult to make, hydrogen bombs are attractive to nations and militaries because their fuel is relatively cheap. Inside a thick metal casing, the weapon relies on a small atom bomb that works like a match to ignite the hydrogen fuel. Today, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States are the only declared members of the thermonuclear club, each possessing hundreds or thousands of hydrogen bombs. Military experts suspect that Israel has dozens of hydrogen bombs. India, Pakistan and North Korea are seen as interested in acquiring the potent weapon. The big secret the book discusses is thermal equilibrium, the discovery that the temperature of the hydrogen fuel and the radiation could match each other during the explosion (PDF). World Scientific, a publisher in Singapore, recently made Dr. Ford's book public in electronic form, with print versions to follow. Ford remains convinced the book "contains nothing whatsoever whose dissemination could, by any stretch of the imagination, damage the United States or help a country that is trying to build a hydrogen bomb." "Were I to follow all — or even most — of your suggestions," says Ford, "it would destroy the book."
Star Wars Prequels

Boeing Patents Star Wars Style Force Field Technology 126

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up-the-deflector-shield dept.
An anonymous reader was one of many to point out that Boeing doesn't want to rely on a sad devotion to an ancient religion to protect aircraft and conjure up the stolen data tapes, but plans on using force fields instead. "Boeing's new patent may let the force be with you even in real life. The aircraft and defense company has taken a cue from science fiction with its plan to develop a Star Wars style force field that would use energy to deflect any potential damage. Just liking the luminescent shields seen in the film, Boeing's "Method and system for shock wave attenuation via electromagnetic arc" could provide a real-life layer of protection from nearby impacts to targets. The downside: It won't protect from direct hits."
Government

Finland To Fly "Open Skies" Surveillance Flight Over Russia 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the fly-the-friendly-skies dept.
jones_supa writes Inspectors from Finland will conduct an observation flight on March 23-27 over the Russian territory within the framework of the Treaty on Open Skies. During the flight that will be conducted along the mutually agreed route, Russian specialists on board of the aircraft will ensure strict compliance with the agreed flight schedule and monitor the use of the equipment stipulated by the treaty. The flight will be conducted on a Swedish SAAB 340 observation aircraft that is not equipped with any weaponry. Both the plane and the equipment installed in it have been examined by the international inspection, including Russian specialists. The treaty on Open Skies is designed to enhance mutual understanding by allowing unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the territories of its 34 current member states.
Security

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Introduces the Doomsday Dashboard 91

Posted by samzenpus
from the for-your-viewing-pleasure dept.
Lasrick writes You probably know the hand on the Doomsday Clock now rests at 3 minutes to midnight. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has launched a pretty cool little interactive Dashboard that lets you see data that the Bulletin's Science and Security Board considers when making the decision on the Clock's time each year. There are interactive graphs that show global nuclear arsenals, nuclear material security breaches, and how much weapons-grade plutonium and uranium is stored (and where). The climate change section features graphs of global sea level rise over time, Arctic sea ice minimums. atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, and differences in global temperature. There's also a section for research on biosecurity and emerging technologies.
The Military

Islamic State Doxes US Soldiers, Airmen, Calls On Supporters To Kill Them 332

Posted by samzenpus
from the directions-to-a-murder dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with this story about the latest weapon used by ISIS: doxing. "Middle East terrorist organization Islamic State (ISIS) has called on its followers take the fight to 100 members of the United States military residing in the US. A group calling itself the 'Islamic State Hacking Division' has posted names, addresses, and photographs of soldiers, sailors, and airmen online, asking its 'brothers residing in America' to murder them, according to Reuters. Although the posting purports to come from the 'Hacking Division,' US Department of Defense officials say that none of their systems appear to have been breached by the group. Instead, the personal data was almost certainly culled from publicly available sources, a DoD official told the New York Times on the condition of anonymity."
Government

Government Spies Admit That Cyber Armageddon Is Unlikely 70

Posted by timothy
from the only-as-far-as-you-can-throw-them dept.
Nicola Hahn writes NSA director Mike Rogers spoke to a Senate Committee [Thursday], admonishing them that the United States should bolster its offensive cyber capabilities to deter attacks. Never mind that deterrence is problematic if you can't identify the people who attacked you. In the past a speech by a spymaster like Rogers would have been laced with hyperbolic intimations of the End Times. Indeed, for almost a decade mainstream news outlets have conveyed a litany of cyber doomsday scenarios on behalf of ostensibly credible public officials. So it's interesting to note a recent statement by the U.S. intelligence community that pours a bucket of cold water over all of this. According to government spies the likelihood of a cyber Armageddon is "remote." And this raises some unsettling questions about our ability to trust government officials and why they might be tempted to fall back on such blatant hyperbole.
The Military

New Compound Quickly Disables Chemical Weapons 52

Posted by Soulskill
from the breaking-things-that-break-people dept.
sciencehabit writes: In 2013, the Syrian military allegedly launched sarin gas rockets into a rebel-held town, killing hundreds. After diplomats brokered a deal to eradicate the weapons, international organizations began the dangerous job of destroying them. One roadblock to chemical weapons disposal is that heat and humidity quickly break down enzymes that can disable the deadly chemicals. Now, researchers have developed a highly stable compound that can inactivate nerve agents like sarin in a matter of minutes.
United States

Top-Secret US Replica of Iran Nuclear Sites Key To Weapons Deal 94

Posted by samzenpus
from the just-like-that dept.
Lasrick writes Paul Richter at the LA Times has a very cool article describing replicas of Iran's nuclear facilities that the U.S. operates in order to study what Iran's technical capabilities are. "Using centrifuges acquired when Libya abandoned its nuclear program in 2003, as well as American-built equipment, the government has spent millions of dollars over more than a decade to build replicas of the enrichment facilities that are the pride of Iran's nuclear program. Since negotiations with Iran began in earnest, U.S. nuclear technicians have spent long hours tinkering with the machines to test different restrictions and see how much they would limit Iran's ability to convert uranium into bomb fuel."
The Military

Laser Imaging Drone To Hunt Out Unexploded Bombs In War-Torn Nations 31

Posted by samzenpus
from the mapping-safety dept.
An anonymous reader writes Aerial imaging firm Arch Aerial has discussed its hopes to deploy drones to map out mine fields and locations littered with unexploded bombs from historical warfare. CEO Ryan Baker suggested that his company wants to start the program in Laos, the world's most heavily bombed country. The 'octocopter' technology will work using a remote laser imaging platform called LIDAR to analyze fields and identify sites where UXO is likely to be uncovered. The sensor technology LIDAR is a crucial system in the design as it can easily see through vegetation and creates detailed maps of the terrain. Surveyors will be then be able to use the maps to look for topographical signs which suggest past bombing activity.
The Military

US Asks Vietnam To Stop Russian Bomber Refueling Flights From Cam Ranh Air Base 273

Posted by timothy
from the well-it's-not-a-land-war-in-asia dept.
HughPickens.com writes Reuters reports that the United States has asked Vietnam to stop letting Russia use its former US base at Cam Ranh Bay to refuel nuclear-capable bombers engaged in shows of strength over the Asia-Pacific region. General Vincent Brooks, commander of the U.S. Army in the Pacific, says the Russian bombers have conducted "provocative" flights, including around the U.S. Pacific Ocean territory of Guam, home to a major American air base. Brooks said the planes that circled Guam were refueled by Russian tankers flying from the strategic bay, which was transformed by the Americans during the Vietnam War into a massive air and naval base. Russia's Defense Ministry confirmed that the airport at Cam Ranh was first used for staging Il-78 tankers for aerial refueling of Tu-95MS bombers in January 2014. Asked about the Russian flights in the region, the State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Washington respected Hanoi's right to enter agreements with other countries but added that "we have urged Vietnamese officials to ensure that Russia is not able to use its access to Cam Ranh Bay to conduct activities that could raise tensions in the region."

Cam Ranh is considered the finest deepwater shelter in Southeast Asia. North Vietnamese forces captured Cam Ranh Bay and all of its remaining facilities in 1975. Vietnam's dependence on Russia as the main source of military platforms, equipment, and armaments, has now put Hanoi in a difficult spot. Russia has pressed for special access to Cam Ranh Bay ever since it began delivering enhanced Kilo-class submarines to Vietnam. "Hanoi is invariably cautious and risk adverse in its relations with the major powers," says Carl Thayer. "The current issue of Russian tankers staging out of Cam Ranh pits Russia and China on one side and the United States on the other. There is no easy solution for Vietnam."
Businesses

Why Israel Could Be the Next Cybersecurity World Power 163

Posted by Soulskill
from the necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention dept.
jfruh writes: Beersheba is a small town in southern Israel, more than an hour's drive away from Tel Aviv and the bulk of the country's population. But the city is a hotbed of cybersecurity startups driven in part by a graduate program at the local university and the country's military and intelligence apparatus's keen interest in the subject. "To become such a cyber nexus, any place has to have several ingredients: A great university with a solid computer science department with a penchant for security research. Check. Several industry partners who have set up their own research and innovation laboratories nearby, to take advance of the cheap labor pool of graduate students. Check. An active venture capitalist operation that can fund startups is also essential, along with mentors who can help entrepreneurs along. Double check. And finally some solid support for local and national government to grease the wheels of progress. Check."
Books

Book Review: Data and Goliath 51

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
benrothke writes Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World, author Bruce Schneier could have justifiably written an angry diatribe full of vitriol against President Obama and the NSA for their wholesale spying on innocent Americans and violations of myriad laws. Instead, he was written a thoroughly convincing and brilliant book about big data, mass surveillance and the ensuing privacy dangers facing everyone. A comment like what's the big deal? often indicates a naiveté about a serious significant underlying issue. The idea that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear is a dangerously narrow concept on the value of privacy. For many people the notion that the NSA was performing spying on Americans was perceived as not being a big deal, since if a person is innocent, then what do they have to worry about. In the book, Schneier debunks that myth and many others, and defends the importance of privacy. Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.
The Internet

NSA Director Argues For "Red Button" Autonomy Against Unattributed Cyber-Attacks 107

Posted by samzenpus
from the candy-like-shiny-red-button dept.
An anonymous reader writes U.S. Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers — director of the National Security Agency and Commander of United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) — has suggested that cyber-attacks can begin and escalate so quickly that USCYBERCOM would need powers to retaliate immediately, without (as it is currently obliged) referring the matter to the United States Strategic Command. In testimony to the "House Armed Services Committee on cyber operations and improving the military's cybersecurity posture" on March 4th, Adm. Rogers argues for "development of defensive options which do not require full attribution to meet the requirements of law and international agreement."
The Military

Is Cyber Arms Control a Lost Cause? 47

Posted by timothy
from the gentlemen-do-not-read-each-other's-mail dept.
Nicola Hahn writes In light of a classified document regarding state-sponsored cyber ops, the editorial board at the New York Times has suggested that the most constructive approach to reducing the spread of cyber threats would be to "accelerate international efforts to negotiate limits on the cyberarms race, akin to the arms-control treaties of the Cold War."

While such advice is by all means well-intentioned there are significant differences between nuclear weapons and malware that would make treaty verification problematic. Not to mention that the history of the Cold War itself illustrates that certain countries viewed arms control treaties as an opportunity to secretly race ahead with their own covert weapons programs. Rather than take on the Sisyphean task of trying to limit the development of offensive cyber technology, why not shift national priorities towards creating robust, fault-tolerant, systems that render offensive tools ineffective?
Shark

Laser Takes Out Truck Engine From a Mile Away 274

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-it-needs-is-an-orbital-targeting-platform-and-we-can-make-popcorn dept.
MutualFun (1730480) writes Aerospace company Lockheed Martin has used a laser to obliterate the engine of a small truck from more than a mile away. (Finally, Star Wars is making a comeback!) The company says, "The demonstration marked the first field testing of an integrated 30-kilowatt, single-mode fiber laser weapon system prototype. Through a technique called spectral beam combining, multiple fiber laser modules form a single, powerful, high-quality beam that provides greater efficiency and lethality than multiple individual 10-kilowatt lasers used in other systems."
Space

How Activists Tried To Destroy GPS With Axes 247

Posted by samzenpus
from the here's-johnny dept.
HughPickens.com writes Ingrid Burrington writes in The Atlantic about a little-remembered incident that occurred in 1992 when activists Keith Kjoller and Peter Lumsdaine snuck into a Rockwell International facility in Seal Beach, California and in what they called an "act of conscience" used wood-splitting axes to break into two clean rooms containing nine satellites being built for the US government. Lumsdaine took his axe to one of the satellites, hitting it over 60 times. The Brigade's target was the Navigation Satellite Timing And Ranging (NAVSTAR) Program and the Global Positioning System (GPS). Both men belonged to the Lockheed Action Collective, a protest group that staged demonstrations and blockaded the entrance at the Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. test base in Santa Cruz in 1990. They said they intentionally took axes to the $50-million Navstar Global Position System satellite to bring the public's attention to what they termed the government's attempt to control the world through modern technology. "I had to slow the deployment of this system (which) makes conventional warfare much more lethal and nuclear war winnable in the eyes of some," an emotional Kjoller told the judge before receiving an 18-month sentence. "It's something that I couldn't let go by. I tried to do what was right rather than what was convenient."

Burrington recently contacted Lumsdaine to learn more about the Brigade and Lumsdaine expresses no regrets for his actions. Even if the technology has more and more civilian uses, Lumsdaine says, GPS remains "military in its origins, military in its goals, military in its development and [is still] controlled by the military." Today, Lumsdaine views the thread connecting GPS and drones as part of a longer-term movement by military powers toward automated systems and compared today's conditions to the opening sequence of Terminator 2, where Sarah Connor laments that the survivors of Skynet's nuclear apocalypse "lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines." "I think in a general way people need to look for those psychological, spiritual, cultural, logistical, technological weak points and leverage points and push hard there," says Lumsdaine. "It is so easy for all of us as human beings to take a deep breath and step aside and not face how very serious the situation is, because it's very unpleasant to look at the effort and potential consequences of challenging the powers that be. But the only thing higher than the cost of resistance is the cost of not resisting."
Government

Interactive Edition of the Nuclear Notebook 52

Posted by samzenpus
from the where's-the-boom dept.
Lasrick writes The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has just launched a very cool interactive graphic to go with their famed Nuclear Notebook, the feature that tracks the world's nuclear arsenals. Now you can see at a glance who has nuclear weapons, when they got them, and how those numbers compare to each other. A short introductory video gives some background on the success of the Notebook, which has been tracking nukes since 1987.
Space

20-Year-Old Military Weather Satellite Explodes In Orbit 253

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-boom dept.
schwit1 writes A 20-year-old U.S. military weather satellite apparently exploded for no obvious reason. The incident has put several dozen pieces of space junk into orbit. From the article: "A 20-year-old military weather satellite apparently exploded in orbit Feb. 3 following what the U.S. Air Force described as a sudden temperature spike. The “catastrophic event” produced 43 pieces of space debris, according to Air Force Space Command, which disclosed the loss of the satellite Feb. 27 in response to questions from SpaceNews. The satellite, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13, was the oldest continuously operational satellite in the DMSP weather constellation."