Thursday, February 18, 2010

DTN News: Pakistan TODAY February 19, 2010 ~ Tirah Blast Claims 30 Lives Including Seven Militants

DTN News: Pakistan TODAY February 19, 2010 ~ Tirah Blast Claims 30 Lives Including Seven Militants *Pakistan is in chaos, due to mismanagement of predecessors and current administration, fundamentalists have infiltrated in all government levels as informers to the jihadist making the entire length of country from Karachi to Peshawar in the grip of terror. *Source: DTN News / Dawn News (NSI News Source Info) LANDI KOTAL, Pakistan - February 19, 2010: A militant commander and 29 people were killed and 80 others were injured when a bomb exploded in a cattle market in Tirah valley of Khyber Agency on Thursday. Pakistani volunteers shift an injured person to stretcher at a local hospital in Peshawar, Pakistan on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010. A bomb blast at a mosque in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt killed 30 people including some militants Thursday, underscoring the relentless security threat here even as Pakistani-U.S. cooperation against extremism appears on the upswing. The commander was identified as Azam Khan of Lashkar-i-Islam. His six bodyguards also died. According to sources, explosives packed in a rucksack went off near the Dars Jumaat mosque, which was used as base by Lashkar-i-Islam in the Akkakhel area adjacent to Orakzai Agency. The entire area is also considered to be a stronghold of Taliban. The sources said Azan Khan might have been the target of the assailants seeking revenge for a suicide attack on a mosque in Maidan area of Tirah, which is a stronghold of Ansaarul Islam. The Lashkar and Ansaar had been at loggerheads since 2006 and more then 200 activists of both the organisations are believed to have been killed in clashes between them. AP adds: The explosion tore through the mosque, killing at least 29 people and wounding some 50 others, local official Jawed Khan said.Plain-clothes policemen escort a man, who was arrested a day earlier, to a district court in Karachi February 18, 2010. The man, whom police identified as Abdullah, is a Pakistan Taliban commander from the Bajaur region, police official Omar Shahid said. The arrest in Pakistan of a top Afghan Taliban commander should bolster Pakistan's position as it manoeuvres to play a leading role in any Afghan peace process, but probably does not signal a fundamental Pakistani policy shift. Earlier reports had said the blast occurred in the Orakzai area. Officials were still investigating whether the explosion was caused by a suicide bomber or a planted device. No group claimed responsibility, but Mr Khan said the dead included militants from Lashkar-i-Islam. The blast underscored the relentless security threat in the tribal belt even as Pakistani-US cooperation against extremism appears on the upswing.

DTN News: Visa Security ~ Getting Back To The Basics

DTN News: Visa Security ~ Getting Back To The Basics *Source: By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart STRATFOR (NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - February 19, 2010: Usually in the STRATFOR Global Security and Intelligence Report, we focus on the tactical details of terrorism and security issues in an effort to explain those issues and place them in perspective for our readers. Occasionally, though, we turn our focus away from the tactical realm in order to examine the bureaucratic processes that shape the way things run in the counterterrorism, counterintelligence and security arena. This look into the struggle by the U.S. government to ensure visa security is one of those analyses. As STRATFOR has noted for many years now, document-fraud investigations are a very useful weapon in the counterterrorism arsenal. Foreigners who wish to travel to the United States to conduct a terrorist attack must either have a valid passport from their country of citizenship and a valid U.S. visa, or just a valid passport from their home country if they are a citizen of a country that does not require a visa for short-term trips (called visa-waiver countries). In some early jihadist attacks against the United States, such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the operatives dispatched to conduct the attacks made very clumsy attempts at document fraud. In that case, the two operational commanders dispatched from Afghanistan to conduct the attack arrived at New York’s Kennedy Airport after having used photo-substituted passports (passports where the photographs are literally switched) of militants from visa-waiver countries who died while fighting in Afghanistan. Ahmed Ajaj (a Palestinian) used a Swedish passport in the name of Khurram Khan, and Abdul Basit (a Pakistani also known as Ramzi Yousef) used a British passport in the name of Mohamed Azan. Ajaj attempted to enter through U.S. Immigration at Kennedy Airport using the obviously photo-substituted passport and was arrested on the spot. Basit used the altered British passport to board the aircraft in Karachi, Pakistan, but upon arrival in New York he used a fraudulently obtained but genuine Iraqi passport in the name of Ramzi Yousef to claim political asylum and was released pending his asylum hearing. But the jihadist planners learned from amateurish cases like Ajaj’s and that of Ghazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, a Palestinian who attempted to conduct a suicide attack against the New York subway system. U.S. immigration officials arrested him on three occasions in the Pacific Northwest as he attempted to cross into the United States illegally from Canada. By the Millennium Bomb Plot in late 1999, Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian who initially entered Canada using a photo-substituted French passport, had obtained a genuine Canadian passport using a fraudulent baptismal certificate. He then used that genuine passport to attempt to enter the United States in order to bomb Los Angeles International Airport. Ressam was caught not because of his documentation but because of his demeanor — and an alert customs inspector prevented him from entering the country. So by the time the 9/11 attacks occurred, we were seeing groups like al Qaeda preferring to use genuine travel documents rather than altered or counterfeit documents. Indeed, some operatives, such as Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni, were unable to obtain U.S. visas and were therefore not permitted to participate in the 9/11 plot. Instead, bin al-Shibh took on a support role, serving as the communications cutout between al Qaeda’s operational planner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and al Qaeda’s tactical commander for the operation, Mohamed Atta. It is important to note, however, that the 19 9/11 operatives had obtained a large assortment of driver’s licenses and state identification cards, many of them fraudulent. Such documents are far easier to obtain than passports. After the Sept. 11 attacks and the 9/11 Commission report, which shed a great deal of light on the terrorist use of document fraud, the U.S. government increased the attention devoted to immigration fraud and the use of fraudulent travel documents by terrorist suspects. This emphasis on detecting document fraud, along with the widespread adoption of more difficult to counterfeit passports and visas (no document is impossible to counterfeit), has influenced jihadists, who have continued their shift away from the use of fraudulent documents (especially poor quality documents). Indeed, in many post-9/11 attacks directed against the United States we have seen jihadist groups use U.S. citizens (Jose Padilla and Najibullah Zazi), citizens of visa-waiver countries (Richard Reid and Abdulla Ahmed Ali), and other operatives who possess or can obtain valid U.S. visas such as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. These operatives are, for the most part, using authentic documents issued in their true identities. Concerns expressed by the 9/11 Commission over the vulnerability created by the visa-waiver program also prompted the U.S. government to establish the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which is a mandatory program that prescreens visa-waiver travelers, including those transiting through the United States. The ESTA, which became functional in January 2009, requires travelers from visa-waiver countries to apply for travel authorization at least 72 hours prior to travel. This time period permits the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct background checks on pending travelers. Growing Complexity Counterfeit visas are not as large a problem as they were 20 years ago. Advances in technology have made it very difficult for all but the most high-end document vendors to counterfeit them, and it is often cheaper and easier to obtain an authentic visa by malfeasance — bribing a consular officer — than it is to acquire a machine-readable counterfeit visa that will work. Obtaining a genuine U.S. passport or one from a visa-waiver country by using fraudulent breeder documents (driver’s licenses and birth certificates, as Ahmed Ressam did) is also cheaper and easier. But in the case of non-visa waiver countries, this shift to the use of genuine identities and identity documents now highlights the need to secure the visa issuance process from fraud and malfeasance. This shift to genuine-identity documents also means that most visa fraud cases involving potential terrorist operatives are going to be very complex. Rather than relying on obvious flags like false identities, the visa team consisting of clerks, consular officers, visa-fraud coordinators and Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agents needs to examine carefully not just the applicant’s identity but also his or her story in an attempt to determine if it is legitimate, and if there are any subtle indicators that the applicant has ties to radical groups (like people who lose their passports to disguise travel to places like Pakistan and Yemen). As in many other security programs, however, demeanor is also critically important, and a good investigator can often spot signs of deception during a visa interview (if one is conducted). If the applicant’s documents and story check out, and there are no indicators of radical connections, it is very difficult to determine that an applicant is up to no good unless the U.S. government possesses some sort of intelligence indicating that the person may be involved in such activity. In terms of intelligence, there are a number of different databases, such as the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS), the main State Department database and the terrorism-specific Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) system. The databases are checked in order to determine if there is any derogatory information that would preclude a suspect from receiving a visa. These databases allow a number of U.S. government agencies to provide input — CLASS is tied into the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) — and they allow these other agencies to have a stake in the visa issuance process. (It must be noted that, like any database, foreign language issues — such as the many ways to transliterate the name Mohammed into English — can often complicate the accuracy of visa lookout database entries and checks.) Today the lookout databases are a far cry from what they were even 15 years ago, when many of the lists were contained on microfiche and checking them was laborious. During the microfiche era, mistakes were easily made, and some officers skipped the step of running the time-consuming name checks on people who did not appear to be potential terrorists. This is what happened in the case of a poor old blind imam who showed up at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum in 1990 — and who turned out to be terrorist leader Sheikh Omar Ali Ahmed Abdul-Rahman. As an aside, although Rahman, known as the Blind Sheikh, did receive a U.S. visa, DSS special agents who investigated his case were able to document that he made material false statements on his visa application (such as claiming he had never been arrested) and were therefore able to build a visa fraud case against the Sheikh. The case never proceeded to trial, since the Sheikh was convicted on seditious conspiracy charges and sentenced to life in prison. The U.S. government’s visa fraud investigation specialists are the special agents assigned to the U.S. Department of State’s DSS. In much the same way that U.S. Secret Service special agents work to ensure the integrity of the U.S. currency system through investigations of counterfeiting, DSS agents work to ensure the inviolability of U.S. passports and visas by investigating passport and visa fraud. The DSS has long assigned special agents to high fraud-threat countries like Nigeria to investigate passport and visa fraud in conjunction with the post’s consular affairs officers. In the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Congress ordered the State Department to establish a visa and passport security program. In response to this legislation, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the DSS to establish the Overseas Criminal Investigations Branch (OCI). The purpose of the OCI was to conduct investigations related to illegal passport and visa issuances or use and other investigations at U.S. embassies overseas. A special agent assigned to these duties at an overseas post is referred to as an investigative Assistant Regional Security Officer (or ARSO-I). While the OCI and the ARSO-I program seemed promising at first, circumstance and bureaucratic hurdles have prevented the program from running to the best of its ability and meeting the expectations of the U.S. Congress. Bureaucratic Shenanigans As we’ve previously noted, there is a powerful element within the State Department that is averse to security and does its best to thwart security programs. DSS special agents refer to these people as Black Dragons. Even when Congress provides clear guidance to the State Department regarding issues of security (e.g., the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986), the Black Dragons do their best to strangle the programs, and this constant struggle produces discernable boom-and-bust cycles, as Congress provides money for new security programs and the Black Dragons, who consider security counterproductive for diplomacy and armed State Department special agents undiplomatic, use their bureaucratic power to cut off those programs. Compounding this perennial battle over security funding has been the incredible increase in protective responsibilities that the DSS has had to shoulder since 9/11. The bureau has had to provide a large number of agents to protect U.S. diplomats in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan and even staffed and supervised the protective detail for Afghan President Hamid Karzai for a few years. Two DSS special agents were also killed while protecting the huge number of U.S diplomats assigned to reconstruction efforts in Iraq. One agent was killed in a rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the other by a suicide car-bomb attack in Mosul. The demands of protection and bureaucratic strangulation by the Black Dragons, who have not embraced the concept of the ARSO-I program, has resulted in the OCI program being deployed very slowly. This means that of the 200 positions envisioned and internally programmed by Bureau of Consular Affairs and DSS in 2004, only 50 ARSO-I agents have been assigned to posts abroad as of this writing, and a total of 123 ARSO-I agents are supposed to be deployed by the end of 2011. The other 77 ARSO-I positions were taken away from the OCI program by the department and used to provide more secretarial positions. In the wake of State Department heel-dragging, other agencies are now seeking to fill the void. The Vultures Are Circling In a Feb. 9, 2010, editorial on, former DHS Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson made a pitch for the DHS to become more involved in the visa-security process overseas, and he is pushing for funding more DHS positions at U.S. embassies abroad. To support his case that more DHS officers are needed for visa security, Hutchinson used the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as an example of why DHS needed a larger presence overseas. Unfortunately, the Abdulmutallab case had nothing to do with visa fraud, and the presence of a DHS officer at post would certainly not have prevented him from receiving his initial visa. Abdulmutallab was first issued a U.S. visa in 2004, before he was radicalized during his university studies in the United Kingdom from 2005 to 2008, and he qualified for that visa according to the guidelines established by the U.S. government without fraud or deception. Of course, the fact that he came from a prominent Nigerian family certainly helped. The problem in the Abdulmutallab case was not in the issuance of his visa in 2004. His identity and story checked out. There was no negative information about him in the databases checked for visa applicants. He also traveled to the United States in 2004 and left the country without overstaying his visa, and was not yet listed in any of the lookout databases, so his visa renewal in June 2008 in London was also not surprising. The real problem in the Abdulmutallab case began when the CIA handled the interview of Abdulmutallab’s father when he walked into the embassy in November 2009 to report that his son had become radicalized and that he feared his son was preparing for a suicide mission. The CIA did not share the information gleaned from that interview in a terrorism report cable (TERREP), or with the regional security officer at post or the ARSO-I. (The fact that the CIA, FBI and other agencies have assumed control over the walk-in program in recent years is also a serious problem, but that is a matter to be addressed separately.) Due to that lack of information-sharing, Abdulmutallab’s visa was not canceled as it could have and should have been. His name was also not added to the U.S. government’s no-fly list. Again, had there been a DHS officer assigned to the embassy, he would not have been able to do any more than the ARSO-I already assigned to post, since he also would not have received the information from the CIA that would have indicated that Abdulmutallab’s visa needed to be revoked. Once again, information was not shared in a counterterrorism case — a recurring theme in recent years. And once again the lack of information would have proved deadly had Abdulmutallab’s device not malfunctioned. Unfortunately, information-sharing is never facilitated by the addition of layers of bureaucracy. This is the reason why the addition of the huge new bureaucracy called the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has not solved the issue of information-sharing among intelligence agencies. Hutchinson is correct when he notes that the DHS must go back to basics, but DHS has numerous other domestic programs that it must master the basics of — things like securing the border, overseeing port and cargo security, interior immigration and customs enforcement and ensuring airline security — before it should even consider expanding its presence overseas. Adding another layer of DHS involvement in overseeing visa issuance and investigating visa fraud at diplomatic posts abroad is simply not going to assist in the flow of information in visa cases, whether criminal or terrorist in nature. Having another U.S. law enforcement agency interfacing with the host country police and security agencies regarding visa matters will also serve to cause confusion and hamper efficient information flow. The problem illustrated by the Abdulmutallab case is not that the U.S. government lacks enough agencies operating in overseas posts; the problem is that the myriad agencies already there simply need to return to doing basic things like talking to each other. Getting the ARSO-I program funded and back on track is a basic step necessary to help in securing the visa process, but even that will not be totally effective unless the agencies at post do a better job of basic tasks like coordination and communication. This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to *This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News, contact: Disclaimer statement Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information supplied herein, DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. Unless otherwise indicated, opinions expressed herein are those of the author of the page and do not necessarily represent the corporate views of DTN News ~ Defense-Technology News

DTN News: U.S. Department of Defense Contracts Dated February 18, 2010

DTN News: U.S. Department of Defense Contracts Dated February 18, 2010 *Source: U.S. DoD issued February 18, 2010 (NSI News Source Info) WASHINGTON - February 18, 2010: U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs) Contracts issued February 18, 2010 are undermentioned; CONTRACTS
NAVY ~CACI, Inc., Federal, Chantilly, Va., is being awarded a $41,462,505 level-of-effort, cost-plus-fixed-fee, performance-based contract for management, engineering and technical support services for various business information technology support systems. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of the contract to an estimated $218,988,868. Work will be performed in Tidewater, Va. (98 percent), and military shore/fleet OCONUS (2 percent). If all options are exercised, work could continue until October 2015. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Federal Business Opportunities Web site and the SPAWAR E-commerce Web site, with an unlimited number of proposals solicited and two offers received. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Atlantic, Charleston, S.C., is the contracting activity (N65236-10-C-2843). ~Canadian Commercial Corp., General Dynamics Land Systems - Canada, London, Ontario, is being awarded a $29,196,463 modification under previously awarded firm-fixed-priced, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract (M67854-07-D-5028) delivery order #0006 for procurement of 127 independent suspension system (ISS) kits and associated support. Installation of the ISS will be at the MRAP sustainment facility in Kuwait. Work will be performed in Oshkosh, Wis., and is expected to be completed by May 1, 2010. This contract modification was a sole-source procurement. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity. ~HBA-H&A, JV, Virginia Beach, Va., is being awarded a maximum $15,000,000 firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity architect/engineering contract for Marine Corps projects located in North Carolina. The work to be performed provides for architect-engineering and engineering services including DD Form 1391 documentation; plans; specifications; preparation of requests for proposals for design/build projects; cost estimates; related studies; surveying; soil borings; hazardous material identification; energy computation; life safety code studies; interior space planning/design; other associated engineering services; shop drawing review; as-built drawing preparation; operation and maintenance support information; sustainable engineering design practices; and construction inspection and engineering consultation services during construction. Work will be performed at various Navy and Marine Corps facilities at Camp Lejeune, N.C. (80 percent), and Cherry Point, N.C. (20 percent), and is expected to be completed by February 2015. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the Navy Electronic Commerce Online Web site, with 46 proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N40085-10-D-5301). AIR FORCE
~ITT Corp., Clifton, N.J., was awarded a $24,900,000 contract which will provide an integrated demonstrations and applications laboratory. This program will conduct applications research and operational assessments through unique/specialized digital models and real-time man/hardware in the loop simulators. At this time, $3,709,468 has been obligated. AFRL/PKKA, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8650-10-D-7015). ~Clark County Water Reclamation District, Las Vegas, Nev., was awarded a $24,177,588 contract which will provide utility service contract for wastewater treatment services at Creech Air Force Base. At this time, no money has been obligated. 99 CONS/LGCB, Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., is the contracting activity. (FA4861-10-C-B005) ~United Launch Services, Littleton, Colo., was awarded a $6,300,000 contract which will provide for phase two of the enhancement of Delta IV launch operations capabilities for FY 10. At this time, $4,725,000 has been obligated. SMC/LR, El Segundo, Calif., is the contracting activity (FA8816-06-C-0002). DEFENSE LOGISTICS AGENCY ~CFM International, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio, is being awarded a maximum $8,670,720 firm-fixed-price, sole-source contract for engine compressor cases. There are no other locations of performance. Using service is Air Force. There was originally one proposal solicited with one response. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The date of performance completion is January 2011. The Defense Logistics Agency (DSCR-ZBAB), Tinker AFB, Okla., is the contracting activity (FA8104-08-G-0002-UNW6).

DTN News: Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Displayed Hi-Tech Military UAV And Missiles At DefExpo 2010 India

DTN News: Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) Displayed Hi-Tech Military UAV And Missiles At DefExpo 2010 India *Source: DTN News By Roger Smith (NSI News Source Info) TORONTO, Canada - February 18, 2010: The United States, represented by 25 companies, are the biggest exhibitor at Defexpo 2010, the biannual exhibition of land and naval defence systems from Feb 15-18. upto today. Israel, which has emerged as a leading supplier of weaponry and equipment to the Indian defence forces since 1999, has occupied the largest exhibit space at 1,248 square metres.
Israel is the second-largest exporter of arms to India. India sought help from Israel notably in the domain of electronic warfare like radars, sensors, night vision equipments and special force equipments and so on. In the matter of air defense system, air-borne early warning and control system and even in military space program the two nations started extensive collaboration.
The Phalcon Airborne Early Warning and control system, the Barak anti-missile system, the unmanned aerial vehicles like Herons and Searchers and the recent launch of an Israeli Spy Sat Tesar became potent symbols of the intensity of Indo –Israeli co-operation.Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) shows the Mosquito, a hand or bugee launched Micro UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) which weighs in at 500 grams and provides real-time imagery data in restricted urban areas. The Mosquito carries a miniature video camera and offers a fully automated flight with GPS based 'in flight' way point control. IAI announced February 15, 2010 that it is presenting a variety of its advanced technologies and products at this year's DEFEXPO India. shows the Mosquito, a hand or bugee launched Micro UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) which weighs in at 500 grams and provides real-time imagery data in restricted urban areas. The Mosquito carries a miniature video camera and offers a fully automated flight with GPS based 'in flight' way point control. IAI announced February 15, 2010 that it is presenting a variety of its advanced technologies and products at this year's DEFEXPO India.Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) shows the Bird-Eye 650, a mini UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) for strategic and tactical missions, on its advanced folding launcher. The lightweight aircraft's propulsion system is powered by fuel cells that allow for an endurance of six hours.Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) shows the Heron, a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) for strategic and tactical missions. With a wingspan of 16.6 meters and a takeoff weight of 1,250 kg, the Heron UAV can reach an altitude of 30,000 feet and has the endurance of up to 50 hours. It is in use by coalition forces in Afghanistan which rely heavily on them for to provide crucial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information in real-time to commanders and directly to front line soldiers.Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) shows the Iron Dome radar system, which is designed to detect, track, measure and anticipate trajectories of mortars, Qassam rockets and 'Grad' missiles, and to measure the exact spatial location of each threat. The information provided by the Iron Dome radar system is used to warn endangered areas, and to locate exact targets in order to effectively intercept threats.Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) shows the EL/M-2084 Multi-Mission Radar (MMR), a high-accuracy medium-/long-range transportable radar system that can detect a bank of targets, including unmanned aerial vehicles, rockets, artillery shells and un-powered manned threats such as hang gliders, even in the presence of ground clutter and electromagnetic interference.
This article is being posted from Toronto, Canada By Roger Smith DTN News/Defense-Technology News

DTN News: British Threat To Israel Over Dubai Hamas Assassination

DTN News: British Threat To Israel Over Dubai Hamas Assassination *Source: DTN News / Daily Telegraph By Gordon Rayner, Con Coughlin and Duncan Gardham (NSI News Source Info) - February 18, 2010: Britain will consider severing its intelligence-sharing agreement with Israel if Mossad agents are proved to have stolen the identities of British passport holders, The Daily Telegraph has learnt. The father of senior Hamas military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh with a photo of his son
Ministers are understood to be furious that an alleged hit squad which murdered a Hamas leader in Dubai last month cloned the passports of six unsuspecting Britons, who are now living in fear of reprisals. Israel, which has not denied involvement in the murder, had previously promised that Mossad, its secret intelligence service, would never use British passports to help its agents carry out covert operations. Israel's ambassador to the UK was summoned to the Foreign Office to give his explanation as the diplomatic row intensified. Ron Prosor will meet Sir Peter Ricketts, the permanent under secretary at the Foreign Office, on Thursday where the ambassador is expected to be asked whether Israel played any part in assassination. Gordon Brown, making his first public comments about the incident, promised a “full investigation” into the passport forgery. Mossad has been accused by Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza, of being behind the murder of its military commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was found dead in his hotel room in Dubai on Jan 20. All of the British passport holders whose identities were stolen live in Israel, meaning Mossad would have had ready access to copies of their travel documents. A senior Foreign Office source told The Daily Telegraph: “If the Israelis were responsible for the assassination in Dubai, they are seriously jeopardising the important intelligence-sharing arrangement that currently exists between Britain and Israel. “If it transpires that Israel has been using British passports to assassinate its opponents, the British government will need to give serious consideration to any future cooperation. “Britain has cut ties with Mossad in the past, and will do so again if the Israelis are found to be acting against British interests.” Britain’s relationship with the Israeli security service reached an all-time low in 1986, when the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher closed down Mossad’s UK operation in response to a series of incidents including the discovery of a bag of forged British passports which had been lost by a Mossad agent. Hamas militant, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh (ringed), is shown arriving at his hotel in this CCTV handout from Dubai police February 15, 2010. Israel's foreign minister said on Wednesday the use of the identities of foreign-born Israelis by a hit squad suspected of killing Hamas militant, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, in Dubai did not prove the Mossad spy agency assassinated him. Men with the same names as seven of the 11 suspects whose European passport photos were distributed by Dubai live in Israel, and those reached by reporters insisted their identities had been stolen and noted the pictures were not a match. Handout dated February 15, 2010. Mossad was only allowed to re-establish its presence in the UK after it promised not to abuse British passports in the future. Its intelligence-sharing relationship with the security services over such sensitive issues as Iran is now more important than ever, but the Foreign Office source said: “In the past Israel has had a reputation for making life difficult for its friends. It is sincerely to be hoped that this is not the case in this instance.” Several of the six Britons whose identities were stolen have spoken of their shock at being accused of murder, and of their fears that they could be in danger if Mossad did carry out the assassination. Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, said: “If the Israeli government was party to behaviour of this kind it would be a serious violation of trust between nations. If legitimate British passport holders were put at risk it would be a disgrace. “Given the current speculation, the Israeli government has some explaining to do and the ambassador should be summoned to the Foreign Office to do so in double-quick time.” The Labour MP Mike Gapes, who is chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, said the cloning of passports raised a “big concern” and agreed that the ambassador should be asked for an explanation, while Hugo Swire MP, chairman of the Conservative Middle East Council, said: “This is not something that can just be swept under the carpet …you cannot conduct foreign policy at this extremely sensitive time by this sort of illegal behaviour.” William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary, wrote to David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, urging him to “establish the facts as rapidly as possible” to “prevent further such abuses from happening”. Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said there was “no reason to think it was Mossad” which carried out the alleged hit, but refused to issue a denial. He said Israel had a “policy of ambiguity” on intelligence matters, and “never confirms and never denies” involvement in operations. He added: “I think Britain recognises that Israel is a responsible country and that our security activity is conducted according to very clear, cautious and responsible rules of the game. Therefore we have no cause for concern.” The Serious and Organised Crime Agency, which has a unit based at the British Embassy in Dubai, has begun its own investigation into the identity thefts, and the Prime Minister stressed the importance of protecting the status of the British passport. “We have got to carry out a full investigation into this,” said Mr Brown. “The British passport is an important document that has got to be held with care. A British passport is an important part of being British. “The evidence has got to be assembled about what has actually happened and how it happened and why it happened and it is necessary for us to accumulate that evidence before we can make statements.”
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DTN News: India TODAY February 18, 2010 ~ Zero Rupee Note Tackles India's Corruption Culture

DTN News: India TODAY February 18, 2010 ~ Zero Rupee Note Tackles India's Corruption Culture *Source: DTN News / By Yasmeen Mohiuddin, in New Delhi for AFP (NSI News Source Info) NEW DELHI, India - February 18, 2010: An Indian lobby group has introduced a novel anti-corruption tool: the zero-rupee note that can be handed over to any crooked bureaucrat who seeks a little extra payment. The protest note - literally worth only the paper it is printed on - is being promoted by 5th Pillar, a group that campaigns on behalf of ordinary Indians who are forced to grease the palms of millions of civil servants. Vijay Anand, head of 5th Pillar, said the bill, which looks similar to a real 50-rupee note, was first distributed to students in the southern state of Tamil Nadu to encourage them to reject India's "baksheesh" culture. "The corruption prevailing in the common man's life is painful and it can be dealt with by the zero-rupee note," said Anand. Many Indians are resigned to having to pay extra for government services and to smooth daily transactions such as registering a birth, getting a driving licence or avoiding the attentions of an unscrupulous traffic officer. But Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, has often spoken out against the damaging effect that bribes, extortion and fraud have on all levels of life, and said that the problem threatens India's economic prospects. In its latest annual report Transparency International stated that each year almost four million poor Indian families had to bribe officials for access to basic public services. In the same report, India slipped further in its corruption index from 72nd to 85th in a list of 180 countries. Anand said the zero-rupee note, which was conceived by an Indian professor living in the United States, gave people the chance to register a grassroots protest against low-level corruption. "We are confident it will change the way people think and act in the coming years," he said. The bill, which like all Indian notes is graced with a picture of independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, carries 5th Pillar's email address and phone number and the solemn vow "I promise to neither accept nor give a bribe". Volunteers hand them out near places where officials are often on the look-out for a backhander, such as railway stations and government hospitals. Though questions remain over whether it is legal to print the fake - if worthless - money, more than one million bills in five languages have been distributed. Anand said they have even had a practical effect, often shaming officials into getting business done efficiently without using real cash. "There has not been one incident where a zero-rupee note has created a more serious situation," said Anand. Ravi Sundar, an IT recruiter in the southern city of Coimbatore, said he used the notes whenever he had government business to sort out. He gave one example where a tax official refused to process documents unless he paid her 500 rupees. "I handed over the zero-rupee note which I always keep in my pocket," said Sundar. "She was afraid and didn't want to take it. She completed the job immediately and said she was sorry and asked me not to take it forward." Parth J. Shah, president of the Centre for Civil Society think tank, said the root of the problem lay in state-run companies and their vast bureaucracies. "Unless we remove monopolies and the kind of licensing system that we have in many areas of life to create more competition, we're unlikely to get rid of low-level corruption," he said. Anand said he hoped to introduce the zero rupee note across India, but he insists he remains an optimist about human behaviour. "We haven't given up on officials. There are honest ones in every department," he said.
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DTN News: Pakistan TODAY February 18, 2010 ~ Pakistan Captures Two Taliban 'Shadow Governors' Of Afghan Provinces

DTN News: Pakistan TODAY February 18, 2010 ~ Pakistan Captures Two Taliban 'Shadow Governors' Of Afghan Provinces
*Two Taliban 'shadow governors' of Afghan provinces have been arrested in Pakistan in the latest sign of co-operation with Western anti-terrorist efforts. *Source: DTN News / (NSI News Source Info) ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - February 18, 2010: The timing of the reported arrests, which were reportedly made last week, coincides with the capture of Taliban's second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in the Pakistani city of Karachi.Mohammad Omar, the Afghan governor of Kunduz province, said on Thursday that Mullah Abdul Salam and Mullah Mir Mohammad, the so-called shadow governors of the northern Afghan provinces of Kunduz and Baghlan, had been seized in Pakistan's Baluchistan province. "My information about their capture, which occurred nearly a week ago, is based on national intelligence sources," he said. Pakistan has yet to comment about the report on the arrest of the two men, who both reported to Mullah Baradar. Since they were deposed from power in Kabul in 2001, the Taliban have appointed shadow governors whose primary responsibility is organising military activities against Western and Afghan government forces and police.
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