Monday, April 10, 2006

LA Times: US military secrets for sale at Afghan bazaar

Unfuckingbelieveable.  Let me guess, we are "letting them steal our military secrets over there so they don't have to do it over here".

Today's LA Times is reporting that flash memory cards stolen from US military personnel computers are being sold at local bazaars.

And the information being sold includes military secrets, social security numbers of US military personnel, assessments of enemy targets, as well as details about American defense strategies.

Tell me again how much safer we are?

This is just mind-blowing in its sloppiness, lack of safeguarding and dangerous incompetence.  According to the article:

No more than 200 yards from the main gate of the sprawling U.S. base here, stolen computer drives containing classified military assessments of enemy targets, names of corrupt Afghan officials and descriptions of American defenses are on sale in the local bazaar.

Shop owners at the bazaar say Afghan cleaners, garbage collectors and other workers from the base arrive each day offering purloined goods, including knives, watches, refrigerators, packets of Viagra and flash memory drives taken from military laptops. The drives, smaller than a pack of chewing gum, are sold as used equipment.

The information contained on the stolen cards is more than enough for anyone with the motivation to find out detailed personal information about the serviceman and servicewomen, as well as other information that could easily lead to identity theft.  But wait, it gets worse - reporters who were able to obtain some of these memory cards were able to access documents that were labeled "Secret" and others that contained sensitive information relating to Pakistan, names of militants that were targeted for "kill" or "capture" as well as names of Afghan government officials who the US military considers to be "problem makers".

The article describes the types of information that is being stolen, and it certainly seems to be a HUGE security breach on both a personal and a national level:

[t]he drives also included deployment rosters and other documents that identified nearly 700 U.S. service members and their Social Security numbers, information that identity thieves could use to open credit card accounts in soldiers' names.

After choosing the name of an army captain at random, a reporter using the Internet was able to obtain detailed information on the woman, including her home address in Maryland and the license plate numbers of her 2003 Jeep Liberty sport utility vehicle and 1998 Harley Davidson XL883 Hugger motorcycle.

A flash drive also contained a classified briefing about the capabilities and limitations of a "man portable counter-mortar radar" used to find the source of guerrilla mortar rounds. A map pinpoints the U.S. camps and bases in Iraq where the sophisticated radar was deployed in March 2004.

Think that is bad?  Well the worst part is that, according to the shop owners, a lot of the stolen drives are being sold by US military personnel themselves:

Workers are supposed to be frisked as they leave the base, but they have various ways of deceiving guards, such as hiding computer drives behind photo IDs that they wear in holders around their necks, shop owners said. Others claim that U.S. soldiers illegally sell military property and help move it off the base, saying they need the money to pay bills back home.

Now, who knows if the Afghan shop owners are even telling the truth.  But the fact is that the military base close to the bazaar has suffered security lapses in the past, and we do know that this administration isn't the kindest to those who it is shipping off into harm's way.  But the potential is there for servicemen who are in dire need of money are selling computer drives and other military equipment that they may think is wiped clean of data when it isn't.  There may be a more sinister motive, but I am not going to speculate on that.

Either way, the fact that US military personnel are in a position where they can't afford to pay their bills at home while they are serving their country overseas is enough to make you want to scream.  And I am not in any position to consider their thoughts, motives or stress levels, so I won't do so.

However, all that being said, you can't overlook the fact that there is some HIGHLY sensitive and detailed (and damning) information contained on these computers and is now available for sale:

One of the computer drives stolen from Bagram contained a series of slides prepared for a January 2005 briefing of American military officials that identified several Afghan governors and police chiefs as "problem makers" involved in kidnappings, the opium trade and attacks on allied troops with improvised bombs.

The chart showed the U.S. military's preferred methods of dealing with the men: "remove from office; if unable marginalize."

A chart dated Jan. 2, 2005, listed five Afghans as "Tier One Warlords." It identified Afghanistan's former defense minister Mohammed Qassim Fahim, current military chief of staff Abdul Rashid Dostum and counter-narcotics chief Gen. Mohammed Daoud as being involved in the narcotics trade. All three have denied committing crimes.

Another slide presentation identified 12 governors, police chiefs and lower-ranking officials that the U.S. military wanted removed from office. The men were involved in activities including drug trafficking, recruiting of Taliban fighters and active support for Taliban commanders, according to the presentation, which also named the military's preferred replacements.

The briefing said that efforts against Afghan officials were coordinated with U.S. special operations teams and must be approved by top commanders as well as military lawyers who apply unspecified criteria set by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

So we want democracy as long as it is the people that are hand picked.  Doesn't sound too much like a democracy to me, or that "freedom is on the march" in Afghanistan.  Additionally, our newest best friend in the "WarOnTerrorTM", Pakistan, comes off in a bad light based on the stolen information.  Among the documents that were stolen, there were the following:

Other documents on the computer drives listed senior Taliban commanders and "facilitators" living in Pakistan. The Pakistani government strenuously denies allegations by the Afghan government that it is harboring Taliban and other guerrilla fighters.

An August 2004 computer slide presentation marked "Secret" outlined "obstacles to success" along the border and accused Pakistan of making "false and inaccurate reports of border incidents." It also complained of political and military inertia in Pakistan.

Half a year later, other documents indicated that little progress had been made. A classified document from early 2005 listing "Target Objectives" said U.S. forces must "interdict the supply of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) from Pakistan" and "interdict infiltration routes from Pakistan."

A special operations task force map highlighting militants' infiltration routes from Pakistan in early 2005 included this comment from a U.S. military commander: "Pakistani border forces [should] cease assisting cross border insurgent activities."

Not good, people.  Why would anyone in the world want to have anything to do with a bully that can't even control its own secret information, let alone leaks classified information to the press for personal gain, lies its' country into a war of choice, ruins any allies it has, undermines its own efforts to track nuclear weapons information to and from Iran and around the world as well as colossally waste any amount of good will that the world had towards us after 9/11?

Another black eye for the US and its military.  Another blow to international relations in tracking terrorist activity.  Another colossal fuck up for this dangerously incompetent administration.

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