Under the Radar News…Vladimir Putin, North Koreans and Far-Right Intrigue in Austria

Folks,

If you want to take a good look at Russia’s actions over the past week or so, you’ll need to start in Austria. Austria, like much of Europe, is consumed with choosing the lesser of two evils between Islamism and Russian influence. For co-dependent (one might, uncharitably, say “emasculated”) EU countries like Austria, it does not appear politically, culturally or diplomatically strong enough to keep both evils at bay. And it has friendlier relations with Moscow than any Islamic entity — Putin had never even met Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl when he flew out to attend her wedding. But when the Putin-friendly Freedom Party directs raids on the Austrian “FBI” (technically the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counterterrorism, or Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung, or BVT) unit specializing in “extremism”, is pretty brazen. The raid was carried out by Austrian street cops and netted 19 gigabytes of data, including dirt on right-wing groups with ties to Vice Chancellor and Freedom Party leader Heinz Strache. For one thing, the Freedom Party is in charge of the BVT (which has led to speculation that this was a heavy-handed attempt to replace the BVT’s hierarchy with Freedom Party members). For another, the reasons for the search warrant appear to be rather flimsy — among them are the failure to properly dispose of information scheduled for deletion, and, um, working with the South Korean government to forge blank North Korean passports in Austria as part of a larger espionage operation against the Norks. Not sure what part of the latter was illegal. A court is deciding on it in the next few days and a parliamentary inquiry is scheduled for next month. Answers should be forthcoming.

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Under the Radar News…New Mexico Jihadists, Jedi Mind Tricks, and What Chinese Aggression Can Teach “Woke Charlotte”

Folks,

You may remember that last week, I led off with the New Mexico jihadist school shooting training compound (which really sounds like some newsworthy, supercharged SEO verbiage). I say that you “may” remember it because that story has disappeared from the landscape faster than neo-Nazis 25 through 50 trying to make it Unite the Right 2. It shouldn’t. The incident has farther reaching implications than most Americans will know or most reporters are willing to investigate. Radical jihadists squatting on their neighbor’s land, inexplicable FBI incompetence, Women’s March founder Linda Sarsour, rampant child abuse and brainwashing, the corpse of a four-year old boy, the failure to seize guns, video cameras and a laptop for the upcoming prosecution; a 21st Century Waco situation miraculously avoided. This story warrants every bit of investigation and transparency as the Las Vegas shooting, Flight MH370, and the Trump collusion case. It doesn’t seem to be getting it.

Speaking on politically incorrect threats, a British citizen was arrested in the UK for driving his car into Parliament Square, targeting cyclists and pedestrians during rush hour. He was in London to apply for a Sudanese visa. Who knows, he might still get it.

Can you handle one more outrage from the UK? It’s gotten a lot of press in the UK; not as much here. Far-left kook (and Labor party leader) Jeremy Corbyn has taken a lot of heat for holding a wreath at the plaque for the Black September terrorists who slaughtered the Israeli Olympic team at Munich in 1972. Though Corbyn attempted some backpeddling, this sort of thing is not new for Corbyn who is a fairly well-established anti-Semite. Probably didn’t help that Corbyn flashed the hand sign for the Muslim Brotherhood as well. There is plenty of well-deserved coverage of powerful far-right nuts in both Europe and the US. This serves as a good reminder that there are plenty of powerful left-wing ones as well. And that both left and right wingers are moving to the extremes.

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Under the Radar World News…aka Jihadist School Shooters, Russian Movie Villains and Chasing Hamza

Folks,

Biggest under-reported story of the week has to be the compound discovered in New Mexico where five adults were starving and abusing 11 underage children with the intent of developing them into school shooters. Hm. Abused children, remote compound, school shooter training…shouldn’t this be clickbait for every eyeball-starved news organization? Well the adults were, ahem, Muslim. In fact the children of a Brooklyn-based imam. Not just any imam. An unindicted co-conspirator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Look, reasonable people can agree that Trump is a goon. But can reasonable people also not agree that when the media buries or obfuscates stories like this to fit their own narratives, they don’t do themselves any favors?

Speaking of whacked-out terrorists, what happens when a pair of romantic, idealistic American cyclists are confronted by ISIS adherents in Tajikistan? They get run over and then stabbed to death. Why, what did you think was going to happen?

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Under The Radar…aka What China’s Surveillance State, ISIS Recruitment, and Oxfam’s Orgies have to do with System of A Down, Ricardo Montalban, and the Fourth Planet Hollywood Investor

Folks,

I remember when System of A Down released, “B.Y.OB.” I remember driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, tanned from a day at the beach and a belly full of surf and turf while Serge Tankian screamed, “And we all live in a fascist nation!” This was 2006. I remember thinking I liked SOAD more for their music than for their astute grasp of political philosophy. On that note, let’s jump ahead to present-day China, where 850,000 informants work the streets in Beijing alone. Biometric enrollment required for admission to scenic parks or mountains. Facial recognition done by CCTV, drones and police sunglasses. Corporatism. Gait recognition. A “social credit system” where each citizen accrues a score based on past behavior — and reaps rewards or discrimination based on it. The subjugation of an entire Muslim province. Surveillance on schoolchildren to catch cheaters, those that don’t pay attention in class, and make note of food eaten or not eaten on a daily basis. And thanks to China’s One Belt One Road initiative, it is coming to China’s de facto colonies. Expect to see this technology and this behavior increasing in Uganda, DRC, South Sudan, and even Somalia. It is already making an appearance in Zimbabwe. Now, that’s what I call fascism. What word would Serge Tankian use?

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Under the Radar…aka The Coolest Stories You Missed During the Helsinki Hangover

Folks,

The hangover from Helsinki continued this week, meaning most people who were outraged in the first 24 hours after Trump met Putin have now moved on to Tweeting about Justin Bieber’s engagement and Instagramming from the beach to calm their nerves. It’s a pity, because this week was awash in eye-popping stories that didn’t make A1 in the dailies.

Count me as one of those who thought that Trump would, if nothing else, be tough on China. But, in one of the biggest stories of the week, Trump manages to only give Chinese company (and Chinese intelligence enabler) ZTE a slap on the wrist. I was, then, one of those who counted on the bipartisan outrage about his decision resulting in tougher treatment for ZTE. Nope — after heavy lobbying, Congress thought better of that too. So you can expect to see Chinese tech with histories of backdoors, viruses and a direct line to Chinese intelligence in our market soon. This is hardly the only significant Chinese offense being discussed this week. China has been using exit bans for leverage over US citizens (usually of Chinese heritage). The Chinese can and, apparently do, force the ex-pats to cooperate in investigations or coerce their Chinese family members to return to China. This should be a huge story — and, after Congress’ towering feat of cowardice with ZTE, it may have to be for China to be held at all accountable. Don’t bank on it seeing too much daylight, however. The Daily Beast’s Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian explains that both “the Chinese government and Chinese companies, often with close state ties, have retained lobbying and public-relations firms in the Beltway, in some cases hiring former U.S. officials as personal lobbyists.” Want names? How about former House speaker John Boehner, former U.S. ambassador to China Clark Randt, and former CIA Beijing station chief Randall Phillips?

The story of Russian influence in our government is significant (here is this week’s reminder that it doesn’t begin with Trump). But Chinese influence is even more significant…

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Under the Radar…aka Things That Happened the Week of the Facepalm in Helsinki

Folks,

I’m typing this with one hand, since I need the other to press a frozen steak against my still-sore noggin. Such is the price for enforcing my own deadlines while Trump went to Helsinki (which is the sequel to Trump Goes to London — 18 rating on Rotten Tomatoes! Though my favorite of the European Trump-cation series has always been First Trump, Part II). Bottom line, I have low expectations for this update. Which is a shame, because there were some epic stories on the webs this week.

Например…

Westerners generally lack skepticism about the lengths Russian intelligence is willing to go. There are many ways to rectify this, but the most entertaining way is to take a look at the State Department’s files on Soviet active measuresfrom September 1983. Kinda like downing a kale smoothie that tastes like mint chocolate chip, it’s like reading 20 movie plots without realizing it’s a Cold War history book.

Speaking of thrilling reads, what do the hacking of the DNC servers, police brutality in Florida, catfishing, Russian intelligence, doxing and a former Marine have in common? This story. Read it. And buy the movie rights. Seriously.

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Under the Radar News…aka Things that Happened While You Talked about Potential Supreme Court Picks at a BBQ

Folks,

Here’s hoping you enjoyed the 4th of July, even if you think that whole American Revolution thing was a mistake.

Imagine you have two harmless ingredients which, when combined, become more powerful than VX gas. Imagine it is undetectable in most chemical security testings. Imagine it is deadly to the touch. Imagine it can absorb into any soft surface, from park benches to leather. Imagine it can remain lethal for years. The bad news is that you don’t need to imagine it — it is Novichok(or “newcomer”). The worse news is that the Russians have deployed it once in an attempt to kill double agent and UK citizen Sergei Skripal and his daughter. This week’s news is that two innocent people in the same area have died from Novichok, leading to speculation that they came in contact with the substance. The ramifications are endless: the Russians have a fear-inducing weapon; Novichok’s benign ingredients make it ideal for travel; the Russians have a network of interested buyers, or the Russians could simply keep it for themselves — they have plenty of their own enemies, after all. All in all, this is a bad-news cocktail. Good thing that whole chemical weapon “redline” thing has gone the way of the 1980s, huh? Maybe it makes sense that the the Syrian rebels have decided the better part of valor is to meet with the Russians in attempts to appease them.

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Under the Radar from the Week of the Red Hen

Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, the World Cup and the Red Hen consumed most of the past week’s news cycle, and the rest was spent on LeBron James, Maxine Waters and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ surprise primary win. In other words, it wasn’t a real fun week for the foreign intrigue or national security minded among us. So, in the spirit of self-indulgence, I came up with the most oxygen-deprived stories of the past week or so.

I firmly believe most of the nefarious activity in the world can be traced back to Russia, China and Iran (there are good arguments about including Saudi Arabia and North Korea too, but I’ll put those aside for now). I am not trying to convince anyone about this, but it’s hard to track this stuff each week and not see the linkages. For example, the Chinese use organized crime to mess with Taiwan and Hong Kong. But then the Chinese also manipulate American small businesses to gain leverage inside our borders. Remember when the Chinese hacked the Office of Personnel Management a few years back (in what may be the most casually reported act of espionage of all time)? Now the victims are losing their identities

Continue reading at Havok Journal

Can Only Sean Connery Only Live Twice?

“M: Sit down, 007.
James: Thank you, sir.
M: No ill effects?
James: None at all, sir.
M: Well now that you’re dead, perhaps some of your old friends will pay a little less attention to you for a while. Give you more elbow room. You’ll need it, too.” – You Only Live Twice (1967)”

Journalist Arkady Babchenko had pissed off the Russians many times.  Being a former Russian soldier himself doubtless kept him very much in Putin’s gaze. But, according to the Ukranian Security Service (Sluzhba Bespeky Ukrayiny, or SBU), Putin’s Sauron-like eye narrowed on him considerably in early 2018. The SBU informed Babchenko of a credible, Russian-backed threat against his life, at which point Babchenko had three options: take the chance that Russians with the motives, means, opportunity and stated desire to kill him weren’t serious; devise his own plot to foil any attempt on his life; or cooperate with the SBU to stage his death as a means to expose the network behind his potential assassination. We know now that Babchenko chose Door Three. And many bien pensants are in a tizzy. Per Al-Jazeera, a Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) spokeswomen stated that “CPJ takes quite a dim view of law enforcement impersonating journalists. Now, with Arkady Babchenko basically acting as a police asset, one clear damage is to public trust for the media and for journalists.” Former NSA spook John Schindler writes, “playing the Western media for fools and taking advantage of their newfound interest in Russian terrorism abroad was terribly short-sighted….Putin’s regime lies nonstop anyway, and this gives Russia’s rancid lies a smidge of credibility.”

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Vladimir Putin: A Lion In Winter

Historically, the countries of the EU have been allies of the US. That’s not to say they didn’t get a little passive-aggressive at times. France, Spain, Germany and Greece could even, at one point or another in the past fifteen years, been classified as a frenemy.

Vladimir Putin, however, would like to make the whole EU our enemy. And he’s doing everything he can to soften the psychological terrain for the EU — whether country-by-country or as a whole — to accept Russia as its single indispensable benefactor and ally. There are disturbing signs that Putin’s efforts are paying off.

Continue reading at Havok Journal…