Monday, February 27, 2006

Bad Craziness!

A right-wing, American evangelical minister. Busted. In Uganda. In a hotel room full of guns and Congolese citizens. An excellent blog with the details.

Send lawyers, guns and money - the shit has hit the fan. Be interesting to see what develops.

Fake Police Watch

Over at Dave's, guess what do we find? Charles Clarke in a copper's hat. I didn't think it would spread quite that quickly.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

DP World: My Two Cents

So far I haven't really engaged with the row about Dubai Ports World buying P&O. Frankly, I don't particularly care about grand icons of British industry changing hands - if you don't think they should be nationalised, it follows that you should welcome that the stock market decides on the allocation of capital between publicly held companies. I don't think P&O should be nationalised, so I really don't care who owns it so long as they are competent (which isn't up to me to decide as I don't own P&O stock).

I also don't think the security of US ports will change very much as a result. The US Customs only search 5 per cent of the containers, after all. But,'s fucking Dubai, after all, city of all the scams in the Middle East, next door to the Sharjah Airport Free Zone. And, as Larry Johnson points out, one of DP World's businesses is running the Dubai Free Zone, which is the location of a non-trivial number of firms associated with our, ahem, friend.

However, it's got jack shit to do with inspecting containers or managing the logistics of a big container terminal. It's also true that most of the really sick stuff goes in the other emirates, especially Sharjah, which Dubaians consider a hidebound ultraconservative dump run by Islamic puritans (ironically). It has everything to do with company law, corruption and impunity, which aren't DPW's business but that of the government. If there is a case to block the sale of P&O ports to DPW, it's entirely as a bargaining chip to force changes at home.

The Dreaded 36th!

Whilst we're in Iraq mode (is this blog ever in anything else? How will it ever return to civil life? Will it end up begging for hits by the roadside with a sign - Iraq Veteran, Please Give Generously Of Your Attention?), yet another of those reports on how many Iraqi army units can fight with US support is out. It's the same one that says the terrorists have failed to create and spread sectarian conflict, so salt is required.

Apparently there are more than ever who are at level 2, whatever that means, but still only one that can run its own show. Curiously, a few days ago, I saw an NYT report from a dog-and-pony show of the all-new Iraqi Special Forces and their mission to take the fight to the terrorists, helicopters against the sunset, fade. One thing, though - it turns out that the Special Forces used to be known as the 36th Battalion of the Ministry of the Interior, aka the Police Commandos, aka the Badr Corps religious torture boys.

It will surprise none that the one battalion is still them. It will also surprise no-one that members of this force are turning up dead all over Baghdad.

Update.. In comments, Dsquared asks for more information. A battalion is usually around 700 strong, organised in a headquarters company and three or four rifle companies, with its own support weapons (machine guns, mortars and such), transport, and quartermasters but without more integral comms, logistics or heavy equipment. To the point, which is whether the Iraqi-SF-36th-Whatever would be enough force to carry out a coup, I'd say that this really depends on what happens afterwards. With the rest of the Iraqi police/army/National Guard being either sympathetic or ineffective, and the government concentrated inside the Green Zone, there's obviously a chance. So long as the Americans don't intervene, or don't realise what's happening until too late.

This is where those tanks referred to below come in. If they were on the side of the original government or at least opposed to the coup they could crush it. If they were on the side of the coupsters, they would pretty much guarantee success (and force the Americans to treat with the coup.) Which reminds me..enter left, tanks (German link). Here they come.

Iraq: T72 Watch

Well, this is going to be a serious post about serious military issues, but first, some light relief. Danielle "Arik Sharon in Stockings" Pletka editorialises against the CIA's liberal agenda. Apparently they hate freedom so much they issued "inaccurate warnings of civil war in Iraq". This appeared the day before whoever-it-was blew up the mosque.

I suppose she might have meant warnings that were inaccurate in the sense that they didn't suggest that Ali al-Sistani would be turning into the most bellicose Shia leader, that Moqtada al-Sadr would have given his army a nationwide mission to "protect mosques throughout Iraq" (yeah, right - like that's not an excuse to deploy outside "Sumer"), that the Sunnis would have walked out of the government formation process and started killing "police commandos" in droves. But I doubt it. In other schadenfreude-related news today, a Pentagon report reassures us that "Terrorist attacks have failed ot create and spread sectarian conflict." Well, that's all right, then...until you look at the Reuters Alertnet Iraq wire. Seriously, I don't know why Reuters don't just rename it Reuters DeathWatch.
25 Feb 2006 12:59:01 GMT
Iraqi minister ready to put tanks on streets to impose order
BAGHDAD, Feb 25 (Reuters) - Iraq will not hesitate to dispatch tanks to the streets to end violence and impose security, the country's defence minister said on Saturday. "We are ready to fill ...

25 Feb 2006 12:35:23 GMT
Bombs, clashes as Iraq govt warns of "civil war"
(Adds Dulaimi, police killed, Sunni bloc, details, edits) By Michael Georgy and Lin Noueihed BAGHDAD, Feb 25 (Reuters) - A car bomb in a Shi'ite holy city and bloody battles around Sunni mosques ...

25 Feb 2006 12:33:33 GMT
FACTBOX-Developments in Iraq, Feb 25
Feb 25 (Reuters) - The following are security incidents and political developments in Iraq reported Saturday Feb. 25 as of 1145 GMT. U.S. and Iraqi forces are battling a largely Sunni Arab ...

Several killed in Baghdad funeral attack
25 Feb 2006 11:35:39 GMT
Source: Reuters
(Clarifies death toll, adds details) DUBAI, Feb 25 (Reuters) - At least three members of Iraq's security forces were killed on Saturday in an attack on the funeral procession of an Al Arabiya ... Full Article...

Car bomb kills eight in market in Iraq's Kerbala
25 Feb 2006 10:36:07 GMT
Source: Reuters
(Adds Kerbala police chief comment) KERBALA, Iraq, Feb 25 (Reuters) - A car bomb exploded in a crowded market in Iraq's southern Shi'ite Muslim city of Kerbala on Saturday, killing at least eight ... Full Article...

Several killed in Baghdad funeral attack
25 Feb 2006 10:19:58 GMT
Source: Reuters

Several security men killed at Iraq funeral attack
25 Feb 2006 09:50:56 GMT
Source: Reuters

25 Feb 2006 09:30:04 GMT
Source: Reuters

Car bomb kills eight in market in Iraq's Kerbala
25 Feb 2006 09:29:17 GMT
Source: Reuters

Gunmen attack house of Sunni cleric in Iraq
25 Feb 2006 08:51:49 GMT..
It's just a pity it doesn't rattle off a machine with a satisfying clattter, really - when will someone devise a direct RSS printer? Anyway, let's get to the point.

Those tanks the Iraqi minister of defence is threatening to bring onto the streets. The only armour he has is the brigade's worth of T-72s provided by Hungary, which we've mentioned before as a very serious factor in a coup scenario. (There are also, I think, a few reconditioned T-54/55s.) Where these tanks are, and who controls them, is about to become a burning issue, because they will be in a position to force everyone else's hand. It's also especially interesting that the biggest owner of tanks in Iraq, the US Army, doesn't seem to be interested.

Have the Americans intimated to the Iraqi government that their forces are not available for crowd-crushing duty? And is anyone else horribly reminded of the 1953 East Berlin rising? That time, the Russians were trying to keep out of it until the SED realised that their own forces could not be relied on and begged the Red Army to do their dirty work, which they did with their usual gusto. In 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev decided to warn Egon Krenz that no Soviet troops would be available for internal repression, effectively pulling the plug.

If the Defence Minister decides to use his own tanks, and they follow him, this will be as good as a SCIRI coup. If they don't, or he doesn't, it's going to be a question of whether we support the SCIRI in suppressing (and here's the rub) both Sadrists and the New-Old Iraqi Army in the face of Sistani, or whether we cave and let the Shia/Shia battles begin.

Update, the tanks are now on the streets - there's a picture of one. Someone called General Abdul-Aziz Mohamed apparently says his men will arrest all armed civilians irrespective of party or religion. Rather him than me.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

FT Mag on Blogs

Not a bad article, except for...

1) straw-man argument - blogs are doomed to failure because
they can never replace big media! Who says we want to replace the Financial
Times? The argument is rubbish because the premise doesn't hold.

2) bizarre logic - we should be even more suspicious "because no-one is even
pretending to get rich", apparently. So being financially disinterested
makes you LESS credible? Wot?

3) false generalisation - apparently blogs do no reporting. Solution: read
some different blogs. I suspect he read Instapundit and Kos, and is now an
expert. Oh, and we all work for Gawker.

4) unrepresentative sample - yes, Ana Marie "Wonkette" Cox is pretty and she's a yank, that doesn't make her The Spokeswoman For Blog.
In fact, apart from the wildly overrated Instapundit, the only blogs he
appears to have read are the Gawker Media ones. Not only do none of these
really do reporting, and all of them are run by pros, they are also
commercial enterprises. Is it any coincidence that this covers all the bases
of his critique?

5) factual inaccuracy - contrary to his final thundering paragraph,
anthologies of blog have indeed been published in dead-tree form *right here
in London, and are available in bookshops within yards of FT headquarters!*
Apparently "the Gawker spirit" (see 4 above) is "wearing a little thin in
light of a seemingly endless bloody insurgency in Iraq..blah...Hurricane
Katrina...blah..corruption". It may be, I dunno because I think Gawker's
stuff is shit and don't read it. But blogs have repeatedly broken news
stories on Iraq (that includes me, btw), have even sent their own reporter
to Iraq (Chris Alliton of Back to Iraq, who went to Kurdistan in 2003 funded
by reader contributions - why didn't he interview him?), both reported live
on scene from Katrina and organised volunteer aid for refugees (I think I
missed the FT helping), and have led the news agenda on Capitol Hill
corruption (Josh Michua Marshall's Talking Points Memo is the place to go,
and it employs no less that two full-time reporters! But we don't do
reporting do we?)

6) Oh yes, and Marx was a cracking writer, but Instapundit obviously hasn't
read him

7) Cluelessness - OF COURSE the best way to report on a decentralised
Internet medium is to fly at once to Washington DC and talk to the only
blogger anyone at the FT can find in Who's Who! After all, if I just read
some blogs and asked questions, I wouldn't be able to milk my expense
account or have the yanks stroke my ego - and life would no longer be worth

If I was responsible for this heap of facile crapola I'd throw in the towel and go into public relations.

Fighting the Brainrot

Nonsense never dies. On the Internet that's doubly true as - far from being more ephemeral as so many think - it doesn't sink to the bottom and die, but hangs around in search engines and obscure blogs, waiting to be dredged up. You may remember John Loftus, who claims to know more intelligence secrets than any man alive but not that Abu Hamza (one hand) and Omar Bakri Mohammed (two hands) aren't the same man.

Well, he dropped off my radar screen after that. But I see he's back, touting tapes supposedly suggesting that Saddam really like totally did have so many WMDs (the Armchair Generalist reports). And what a bunch he's with, too. Astonishingly, the best and most sceptical report is in, dear God, National Review Online, home of Jonah Goldberg and Co.

It seems his source is convinced that God told him where the weapons were, as well as the unconscious mind giving him a tip-off too.
Tierney's methods of ascertaining this location were rather unconventional. "I would ask God and just get a sense if something was valid or not, and then know if I needed to pursue it," he said. His assessments through prayer were then confirmed to him by a friend's clairvoyant dream, where he was able to find the location on a map. "Everything she said lined up. This place meets the criteria," Tierney said of the power generator plant near the Tigris River that he believes is actually a cover for a secret uranium facility.
Well, presumably no-one's found any uranium there - they would hardly have shut up about it - so I wonder how his faith is getting on. Read the whole thing.

Also at the "intelligence summit" - funded, NRO tells us, by a man barred from the US as a suspected Russian mafioso - was the risible Loftus and old TYR target John A. Shaw, a Bush official who popped up at the height of the great pre-election RDX furore to feed the Washington Times a cock-and-bull story about Russian special forces spiriting the stuff over the border to Syria and the US authorities blaming Israel in order to cover this up. Immediately afterwards, TV evidence appeared that the RDX had been right there when US forces passed by. But Shaw had kept the story off the front pages for a news cycle or so in the last week of a presidential election. (You may recall this post.)

His reward was to be quietly fired a couple of months later. Apparently, the poor fool actually believes the story, rather like the chap who quit wrestling when he found out it was rigged and was horrified because he thought he won some of the fights fair and square.

But however hard the initial debunking, you have to do it all again, and again, again...

Ministry of Link

Interesting blog on piracy and such, here. One to go next to Carlos in my "You're further right than Genghis Khan, but we can agree on at least one thing" file. BTW, anyone who reads down to the systempunkt-rockin' map of Nigerian oil infrastructure can certainly pride themselves on having breached the Terrorism Act by having information that "could be of use to a terrorist".

Worrying, it strikes me that this condition is a fairly good guide to what's worth reading in the blogosphere.

We're not the police...

Is it me or are fake policemen everywhere? (now there's a paranoid lede if ever there was one)

Yesterday kicked off when 10 men dressed and equipped as the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior Commandos (in that wonderfully Soviet way of speaking they have) paid a call on a mosque where two 9th century Shia imams are buried and where Imam Ali is expected to be resurrected. They blew it up, and goood, thus triggering what looks like the long-awaited Lebanon-on-crack-and-steroids breakdown. According to Cole, they placed demolition charges carefully, took their time and did a professional job.

In response to this calculated, pornographic incitement, more fake policemen paid a call on the prison in Basra, collected 11 inmates, and murdered them. It's quite obvious in the light of this that 7th Armoured Brigade has the situation in Basra well in hand. Clearly. I wonder if it was the same jail 12 Mech had to spring two of their comrades from?

Fake policemen are something like the symbol of the Iraq war. When the Americans went back into Ramadi the first time in 2004, they ordered the remaining real police to stay off the streets so the only people in police uniform would be the insurgents posing as police. Pretty much every report of sectarian brutality involves either policemen or people pretending to be policemen, or conceivably policemen pretending to be people pretending to be policemen.

Now, we have the heist of the century, £40 million from a fortified cash centre serving southeastern England. Probably a robbery indeed. How did the blaggers pull that off? Why, they stopped the manager's car by posing as policemen and kidnapped him, whilst others, also posing as policemen, seized his family. Then they had him let them in, where they handcuffed the staff and calmly filled a lorry with cash.

It certainly sounds like the IRA Northern Bank job in Belfast - same MO, similarly spectacular results, but without the epically stupid cockup of stealing Ulster banknotes. And that, in turn, sounds like a hefty slice of guerrilla innovation (Edit: I mean, of course, pretending to be the cops).

The Australian novelist Peter Carey (I think) wrote in one of his books that when the police revolution comes, you find you can't imagine who are the police.

Though it may be schmaltz

...It's a tired old blogosphere cliche to link to Fafblog, but this is genius. It's too good to quote piecemeal.

General Houghton

On Newsnight, after the disaster of the shrine bombing, Nick Houghton seems to get it. He said that the enemy wants as much chaos as possible so as to create their Caliphate. That might sound like standard military-press boilerplate, but is it? The caliphate is a virtual state, the nation of the mind. The chaos is its territory. We created the world's biggest creative chaos zone in Iraq.

John Robb and those Guinea Gulf Global Guerrillas

Right, so those guerrillas in Nigeria's oilfields have finally chucked in all that nonviolent stuff of Ken Saro-Wiwa's and are blowing up oil pipelines, kidnapping engineers and shooting cops. They've even set a numerical target so as to let the markets price it in and do their work for them - they want to take one-third of Nigerian oil production offline.

It's all very John Robb. And yes, yesterday they got a less-ugly member's face in the papers. John's prepared solution for this sort of war is to recruit loyalist paramilitaries (see his sidebar).

Only one problem. The Nigerian GGs were armed, heavily, by the government to assure security in their area for the 2003 election. They still felt the new parliament was giving them the shitty end of the stick, so they kept the guns. As I've said before, "loyalist paramilitaries" or "controlled chaos" is stupid. They aren't loyal and it's not. Think: like driving faster to get home because the brakes seem to be failing.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More on the Falcone arrest

The Arizona Daily Sun has a newsful report on Sonia Falcone's arrest, including this:

In the courtroom Friday, Falcone swiveled in her chair, the restraints on her designer jeans occasionally chinking just above her high heels.
Donning my journalistic blue cellophane shade, munching a cheese sandwich washed down with scotch and smoking three cigarettes, I call that a killer sentence.

Unlike Richard Chichakli, she seems unlikely to levant any time soon...

Court Magistrate David K. Duncan released Falcone on Friday after federal agents seized her passport, green card, and the passports of her three children. Duncan ordered Falcone to pay a $50,000 secured bond by the end of Tuesday, and prohibited her from leaving the state.
I wonder if Pierre's packing his bags? Immigration News Daily has more.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Mr. Capone, about that tax return..

Pierre Falcone's wife, dubious cosmetics entrepreneur, wannabe Republican powerbroker and somehow unconvincing spokeswoman for the Latino poor Sonia Falcone has been arrested on charges of using a forged document to gain resident status in the US. Colour me schadenfreude.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Really Glad I Didn't Vote For Him

Shirley Williams, on Ming Campbell's ticket: Balancing liberty and these dangerous times..only a temporary measure...really all for your own good...

Slip the shackles from your eyes. Real security has nothing to do with a trade-off with liberty. There's a reason why so many key threats to our security come from or pass through polities Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, the Murdoch press and the Home Office seem bent on emulating - Dubai, China, wherever, places that practice obsessive political control and security-by-obscurity, and equally obsessive free marketeering so far as it doesn't affect pet sectors (for Dubai - Dubai Ports World and Etisalat, for the UK - what? I reckon the property business and BAE). That kind of society's biggest products are connectivity and impunity.

Which is a sort of chemical recipe for maximum insecurity for everyone else, a monster n+1 problem in which there will always be a safe haven for the real (and necessary) enemy but never relief from constant harassment for the ordinary citizen. It's the paradox of Pareto efficiency applied to counter-terrorism: moving towards greater control in one state means either a move away from economic efficiency in that state, or the transfer of insecurity to others. Either all are tyrannous (and effectively so) and secure, or all are free. All the intermediate points are worse.

I hope I haven't given anyone ideas. John Robb talks of security being packetised, but I really can't imagine what he means. The problem is that, far from the ideal of Internet utopians, the ideal of the network state that our government has latched onto is a porn hosting company's server farm - very, very secure in the sense of needing all the hardware tokens, passwords and badges to get in and out, and keeping all the logs for the police to peruse, but completely amoral and dedicated to profit, and probably riddled with spyware.

And again...

Spam received claiming to be the Bank of America, trying to collect passwords. Now, here's how you do it: select "view source" in MS Exchange or Outlook, view original in Gmail. This will show the HTML code of the email. Look for the link you're meant to click to provide your password: it will look like this... a href="our real URL" yes, we really are the bank, click here, sucker /a, with angle brackets (<) and (>) around everything.

Now you know where the passwords are being collected. Do a WHOIS search for that url, and you know who.

For example..

That Bank of American fraudmail contains a link to a Polish hostco called Their details are as follows:
Looking up at

% This is the NASK WHOIS Server.
% This server provides information only for PL domains.
% For more info please see

Domain object:
registrant's handle: nta4827 (CORPORATE)
created: 2003.12.29
last modified: 2005.12.23
registrar: NetArt
Zabawa 118
32-020 Wieliczka
+48.801 800 700
+48.12 4244010

option: the domain name has not option

Subscribers Contact object:
company: CM cashMedia Tomasz Adamek
street: ul. Kopernika
city: 47-200 Kedzierzyn-Kozle
location: pl
handle: nta4827
phone: +48.601080089
last modified: 2004.10.30
registrar: NetArt
Zabawa 118
32-020 Wieliczka
+48.801 800 700
+48.12 4244010

The email server has been rigged to produce silly error messages (550 Recipients are not verified? Yeah, right.)

Don't all ring at once, eh. It really shouldn't be that difficult.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

DSR: Best Yet?

I am the third highest result on Yahoo! UK for "illegal penis enlargement operations in the Philippines", which is about as sleazy as it's possible to get. Penis enlargements...illegal penis enlargements..illegal penis enlargements in the Philippines.

What the searcher was probably after was this story from the Taipei Times of August 26, 2005...
Penis enlargements probed

Prison officials were conducting an investigation into reports of rampant illegal penis enlargement operations in the Philippines' national penitentiary, a news report said yesterday. The Philippine Star newspaper said the probe was triggered by complaints of some inmates who suffered infections after they underwent the procedure. The operation, which involves injecting petroleum jelly into the penis, was allegedly being performed by a maximum-security inmate who has a medical background in epidemiology. The procedure reportedly costs between 100 to 300 pesos (US$1.78 to US$5.36). But one inmate who admitted undergoing the penile enlargement procedure refused to file a complaint against the suspect, claiming that the operation has enhanced his marital bliss.
Well. I'm not sure what to say, except that Kathryn Cramer's blog has a category for Dumb Body Modification and this would appear to fit the bill.

In other search request news, everyone and their dog is googling for pictures of Sonia Falcone, Brazilian ex-model, rather unconvincing spokeswoman for the Latino poor, and (crucially) wife of French arms dealer and wannabe Republican, Pierre Falcone. Anyone know why?

Sunset Clauses

Remember how Blair so graciously conceded a review of the Prevention of Terrorism Act? A sunset clause? Well, one year on, the terrorism having not been prevented, the mind-buggering absurdities (remember the man who's only a danger to national security at night?) still glaring, the principle of punishment without trial or charge still in place, the House of Commons passed it without debate or even a vote.

Why are there so many CCTVs here?

A cracking post on why there are so many CCTVs, from the Cambridge University Computer Lab's security research folk. Apparently it's simply because the government put up a lot of money conditional on doing CCTV with it. The UK public sector historically loves use-it-or-lose-it accounting, despite the fact that it is completely fucking stupid. It's been rolled back since 1997 for departments, who no longer need to spend every penny before the end of the financial year or face Treasury cuts, but weaker parties like local councils, housing associations and such still get the stick. Making the budget for one of your regular functions - like maintaining the council housing stock - subject to "doing something unpopular or stupid we like" is a fine way of enforcing will.

I ought to say something clever at this moment about human perception of risk and being asymmetrically weighted to losses. It's certainly true that the entire PFI business was founded on the principle that "you can have this project, so long as you have it our way, no matter about the future cost" - and the unwillingness to let go of a supposed benefit.

Tangentially, has anyone else noticed the conjunction of very low yields on long government bonds, panic about the PFI repayment "comet's tail", and even more panic about pension funds having to buy long bonds at silly prices? Seems to me like an elegant solution is possible, but sometimes people are even risk-averse with regard to free money..

Imagine getting into a fight with the fucker

Iranian foreign minister says "The Islamic Republic of Iran demands the immediate withdrawal of British forces from Basra". Jesus, it's my Jeff Wode theory of terrorism in action again. "That wouldn't wash with Jeff. He'd like a bit of pleading. Adds spice to it. In fact, he'd probably tell you what he was going to do, before he did it."

What he probably won't do is what half 4th Generation Warfare guru, half mad professor Bill Lind suggested, which is send "four to six" Iranian army divisions over the border. Granted it would be a serious problem, but they would make fine targets for the big-war, assault from outer space machine. Those US soldiers I quoted Patrick Cockburn about, who turned up to a brawl in a petrol queue with a 155mm self-propelled gun because it was the only transport they had and they couldn't very well leave it lying around, would finally get to do their thing out to 20-odd miles' would all the heavy armour, attack helis, giant jets, MLRS grid-square removers and such.

Unless they - we - actually decide to do something as insane as attack Iran, in which case all bets are off, they can get the same effects inside Iraq with much less risk by pushing the Shia button and flipping SCIRI on us (presumably with all the kit we've given them - where are those ex-Hungarian T-72s stored?), not to mention the Sadrists, naturally with all the secret support they can arrange.

Mind you, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see the Iranian army cross the border and move right into Shaibah Log Base as the last Bedford pulls out of the door. I think the minister's remark should be treated with the utmost seriousness, although I suspect at the moment the last thing he wants would be that we actually leave and therefore remove our balls from under the hammer.

Comments Spam

There has been a certain amount of comments spam advertising a variety of sites that claim to sell hotel rooms. It comes in, of course, from a wide range of IPs around the world belonging to insecure PCs. As usual, the best way to deal with most Internet annoyances is the economic way: target the advertisers. The sites are all registered to the following address in Florida:
20 SW 27th Ave.
Suite 201
Pompano Beach
The telephone number is +1.9549848445. Naturally, I wouldn't want anyone to ring up the employees of Moniker Privacy Services on that line. And I'd be fucking furious were anyone to waste their paper, toner etc by sending really long documents to their fax number, which is +1.9549699155.

So:,,,,,,, are all a bunch of spamming pig shaggers. And what's more, you are all served by the nameservers and NS1.TRAVEL-HOST.NET is on IP address, and NS2.TRAVEL-HOST.NET is at

Both of those IPs belong to Crowley Data Poland z.o of ul. Stawki 2, Warsaw, 00193, and Grzegorz Swiderek and one Przemyslaw Mujta are responsible for them. Phones are +48 22 4273333 and +48 22 860 69 60, fax +48 22 860 67 96.

Any network ops people reading this: go on, null route them. You know you want to.

Friday, February 17, 2006


So there's this great big bunker fulla bombs and shells an stuff left behind by ol evil Saddam's roving ghost just downs the street in Baghdad. What do you think they did?

That's right, call in an airstrike by four (yes, four) F-15Es. Call it faith-based strategy.

No surprises here

Southern Thai rebels download bomb development environment from Apparently the in-thing is putting your IED in a concrete shell shaped like a roadside milepost - not only for camouflage but for containment and flying lumps of concrete.

Does that count as glorification?

Arms and Influence

Kingdaddy's Arms and Influence is one of the best blogs around. Check out this post on the US military's problem with management consultant speak (itself essentially IT-speak with the clue taken out). It's a relief someone else noticed it - for example, when I read Sean Naylor's Not a Good Day to Die, I was astonished by the degree to which consultant gabble and poorly understood computerese had infected the official mind. Here was a general who put a subordinate with no land warfare experience, but plenty of hours on the C-130, in charge of a land battle because it was good for his "personal development". Here were officers convinced they knew even more than the people nearer the battlefield because they had so much bandwidth for the UAV video feeds - the cardinal mistake, for one thing, of confusing the layer 2 (data link) position with the layer 4 (application) and above questions of where intelligence, power, and authority resided in the system.

Check out KD's comprehensive lecture course (I kid you not) on unconventional warfare.

ID Cards and the Vodafone Scandal

Most readers of this weblog will be aware that a political scandal recently occurred in Greece after it emerged that persons unknown had been illegally intercepting the mobile phone calls of a wide range of prominent Greeks, including senior ministers and ex-ministers of the Interior, Defence, Merchant Shipping (a Greek touch), and many civil servants and officers. What they had in common apart from power was that they all used Vodafone's Greek business. There has been a great deal of blog traffic on this, so a list of links would be lengthy and probably wasted - I recommend Soj, who has a useful series of roundups if you need to self-brief.

Now, on towards the point.

The interception came to light when numerous customers complained of interruptions of service. In subsequent technical investigation, the engineers discovered that a small but elite group of subscribers were being monitored without authorisation. In essence, there had been a major security breach. They immediately took steps to end the monitoring and restore security.

This decision caused a furore on the grounds that this somehow prejudiced the task of determining who was behind the hack. Now, I do not think this is at all fair on Vodafone Greece. So, some technical points. Out of the flurry of public statements and press reports, of varying degrees of reliability, cluefulness and impartiality, it's possible to pick out some facts. Everyone and their dog has mentioned "surveillance software from Ericsson". Well, this is only one-third right. All telecoms standards actually provide for your calls to be monitored where it is legal to do so. GSM and UMTS are no different. In fact, both the GSM and UMTS specifications, as determined by 3GPP (in UMTS's case) and ETSI and ratified by CEPT and the ITU, specifically define how what is termed Lawful Interception works. Briefly, there is a function in the SS7 switch at the heart of the network, the huge specialised computer that routes your calls, text messages, data streams and whatever, cues in other applications like cell location or voicemail, starts and stops the billing database, that allows calls on a given line to be monitored at another number.

Ericsson's role in this is simply that it is the world's biggest telecommunications infrastructure manufacturer.

Now, lawful intercept is meant to be just that - lawful. The plan is that the cops turn up at the Mobile Switching Centre with a warrant, the tap is activated, and then shut off when no longer required. In this case, though, someone hacked into the Voda Greece switch and flipped the lawful intercept function on, setting it to route the intercepted calls to a group of prepaid mobile phones (doubtless so the airtime required could be paid for in untraceable cash). This is technically nontrivial, to say the least. It's also interesting that the hacker had a list of phone numbers for the elite of Greece, and a list of dormant prepaid phone numbers - but the difficulty of acquiring these pales in comparison to getting access to an SS7. (They were probably, for my two cents, extracted from a less-secure billing or customer-service database rather than the operations critical Home Location Register, although if you can hack the SS7...)

Telecommunications people tend to be different to computer people - the Bellhead/Nethead split. On our side of the wire, there are lots of suits, conservatism, centralisation and an overriding concern with reliability. Everything has to work 99.999% of the time. Everything has to be chargeable for, which means everything must be measured, identified and logged in such a way as to be accounted for. Getting into Vodafone's Greek network was a serious challenge and a securifart of epic proportions. There was simply no way anyone in the industry would have let a p0wned switch stay that way. The entire culture, history, SOPs and economics go against it.

Further, given the amount of data the system (which thanks to the EU data retention shitbag you have to keep), I rather doubt there was that much loss. The Greeks seem convinced the Americans are behind it. Well, perhaps. Garbled early reports spoke of a base station near the US Embassy (also near every other national institution) being "used to intercept calls," but this is nonsense because the system doesn't work like that - lawful intercept is a core-network function not a radio access network function. What they seem to have meant was that the phone numbers used to receive the intercept data were to be found in that cell.

That could mean the US, or the British embassy (it's not far), or for that matter the Greek government itself. Or it could mean that the phones were kept in a rented office there - or whatever. It's curious that they were always within the same few cells - they could have been anywhere on-network, which you would think would be better for counter-surveillance. Upshot? I don't know whodunnit, but it is rough to blame Vodafone for fixing the hole when they found it.

Now, those ID cards. Whilst I was away, the Commons duly rolled over and capitulated to the whole stack of Blairite crufto binge-legislation - smoking, IDs, "glorification", the lot. I would like to remind you that a National ID System as proposed is going to be a similar scale and nature to a bank's remote authorisation system, or indeed Vodafone UK's core network. It will need to be very high-availability (i.e. not break down), very high reliability (i.e. not make mistakes) and very high security (i.e. keep out the haX0rs and keep in the data).

I've said this before and I'll say it again. There will be some 44 million ID cards when the system is complete. If they are all looked-up against the register once a year, that makes 44 million queries. If it's as reliable as VisaNet or GSM, that makes...440 wrong'uns, each one of which could mean denial of liberty or a four-figure fine. Clear the courts! The pathetically minimal real data that is available is worse, putting a failure rate for the best of the biometrics at 4% - or 1,760,000 fails a year in our example scenario.

Back from 3GSM

Well, as the title suggests, I'm back from the 3GSM World Congress, the monster mobile telecoms shindig held this year in Barcelona. The doctors tell me most of the bullshit should have passed through my system in a few days' time. Some points: Video-sharing through the IP Multimedia Subsystem, demonstrated at the show, sucks so badly it reminded me of early 80s Tomorrow's World reports on videophone trials at British Telecom Martlesham Heath (for US readers: like Bell Labs without money)...what did happen to all the WiMAX hype?...NTT DoCoMo's display of phones playing music through those tiny Marshall practice amps was absurdly cool (no pic, sorry, but no doubt BoingBoing will have it soon enough)'s still impossible to make Bellheads dance...and what is Hutchison Tel's game in encouraging high-end phone users to Skype over their UMTS datanet?

In the past the junket used to be held in Cannes. Before my time, but I can't imagine how anyone could stick it there. At least Barcelona offers considerable opportunities to escape the manic hysteria, knobjockey hucksterism and pervasive BS. Hell, you can even go see Edward "AFOE" Hugh, which is precisely what I did when the deranged postal worker fantasies began to set in.

It was curious, to say the least, to finally go there after years of hearing northern town hall politicians talk about it as a model - throughout the 90s the Leeds and Manchester city fathers barely stopped regarding it as a sort of ideal rival in culture, economic regeneration and (of course) sport. You could draw a chart of this tendency rising from the 1992 Olympics, dipping past Manchester United's stinging humiliation by Barca in 1994, David Beckham's first European appearance (and goal) a few weeks later in the return match, and peaking with Leeds United's win in 1999, before the plummet into securocratic Blairite gloom..

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The fools, the stupid crazy fools..

Oh Lord. Apparently Glenn "Instawhatsit" Reynolds has been advocating some fool's paean to the Madman Theory, that wonderful old idea that you can and should get your way in international politics by deliberately projecting the impression of irrationality. The Crooks have (of course) already made the point that the current US government would have to work hard to be any more dangerous and unpredictable - perhaps they should do something sensible in order to get the point over? But that's just low-grade snark, really.

18 months ago I wrote an MSc thesis for Steve Haines's IR course on exactly this subject, and specifically the 1973 superpower crisis arising from the Yom Kippur/Ramadan war. (You can read it here.) A couple of relevant contemporary points. First of all, the principles. As someone on the CT thread points out, deliberately appearing irrational and dangerous requires that the other party is rational enough to be scared of your bizarre behaviour. If they're faking it too, following the same strategy you are, this is wildly dangerous. But if they are genuinely mad, it's even worse. It's more complicated than that, though.

If you are trying to induce them to accept some sort of negotiating proposal - which is after all the point - you have to leave yourself an out. You have to be barking enough to scare them, but not so barking that your barkingness obscures the prospect of a reasonable solution. In fact, you have to pretend to be mad enough that they will give in rather than risk your madness whilst simultaneously demonstrating that you aren't mad at all. Which is itself arguably insane. Mr. President, we only needed to be mad enough so that they see we are not mad but will go mad if they don't come to their senses! The risk being, of course, that if you overdo the madness they may decide there is no point talking to you and that it's high time to whack you over the occiput with something long and leaden before you go ape. Of course, you see that one coming and go madder earlier.

There's also a negative side. The practicals. Just as you have to ensure that your display of creative psychopathy is recognisable as a display, you have to ensure that any signals you use to demonstrate it are recognisably signals. It's rather like the distinction between the latent and manifest content of the dream. Yes, it looks like a B-52, but really it's..a symbol! Something which looks very different when you see the bugger on the radars. Even words can do this. You ask that cartoonist. Oh, we were only upholding the principle of freedom of sp..

Applying anything like this to Iran would be incredibly stupid. First up, the whole argument for attacking Iran is based on the assumption that there can be no stable deterrent relationship between Iran and Israel, because the Iranians aren't logical, Captain. Well, if they are really, genuinely mad, pretending to be mad in order to scare them is not very sane. Second, if we then say that, well, they sound mad but they are smarter than they let on, we run up against the problem of assuring what might be termed credible implausibility - after all, it's no good if they decide we really are mad after all, being surrounded by hostile or semi-hostile states as they are, and initiate their own madman defence. And there's no point anyway, as if they are sane enough to recognise our madness they are sane enough to be scared by 200+ Israeli nukes.

Finally, once you are sure you've secured that credible implausibility, the other side are free to recognise that you aren't really mad and ignore your ravings (as Brezhnev and at other moments Golda Meir did in 1973).

It's just not worth it, although it was a fun thesis and contained the only MiG-25R in the year.

Riddle me this

Well, how's that Operation Firedump thing going? Crap, would be a fair assessment. All it seems to have achieved is getting various bits of the Romanian government to read this blog, starting with the Foreign Ministry, moving on to the Civil Aeronautical Authority, and landing up with the External Information Service - that is, the equivalent of MI6 (they're at on IP address No sign of a seizure of 3C-QRF, though.

God knows how difficult it will be to get anywhere with the UAE. After all, UN-sanctioned Irbis Air Co.'s UN-75003 was photographed at Sharjah on the
4th of January. We know they are there.

In the meantime, though, why not crack into another bit of mystery jet weirdness? We've mentioned before (may well have been a world exclusive) that Iraqi Airways' planes are all registered in Sierra Leone, that a tribal sheikh, Hussain al-Khawam, is the new boss, and that the aircraft originate with a Jordanian entity (Teebah Airlines) with close connections to mercenaries well-known from West Africa and also with Kam Air and Phoenix Aviation/AVE. More recently, it turned out that Mr. Al-Khawam was responsible for arranging kickbacks to Australian Wheat Board officials around their oil-for-food contracts. Nice.

Here is a riddle. This photo shows 9L-LEG, an Iraqi AW Boeing 737 Classic, serial number 22885/966, in Baghdad on the 15th of September 2004, wearing the smart green livery of both new and old Iraq's airline.

But..sadly, no! Take a look at this one, taken at Southend Airport 17 days later and spot the deliberate mistake. First of all, although it's still registered 9L-LEG, it's changed colour and moved to something called "Destiny Air". Well, that can be achieved with a spraygun and a dose of elbow grease. Destiny Air sounds like it could claim the title of The World's Most Ominous Airline for its advertising, too. Second, it's got no windows. This is a rather bigger job, but not outside the bounds of the possible. Thirdly, damningly, it's changed into a Boeing 727!

Now that seems like carelessness. Letting one of your aeroplanes metamorphose is frankly unprofessional. Here's another photo taken at the same time and place: link. Clear enough, no?

But by February last year, it turns out, 9L-LEG had just been going through a phase. Here it is, at Amman (Queen Alia) International on the 7th of February, back in its B737 civvies. And again, at Amman, on the 1st October: here.

So. Either we have a transgender aircraft on our hands, or there's a 727 missing. Fortunately, through the magic of teh interwebs, we have the answer. Destiny Air was created in Sierra Leone in 2004. It has only ever used one plane - a Boeing 727 freighter (like the one in the photo) with the registration 9L-LFD and the serial number 21245. -LFD, of course, is just a splash of white paint and a length of gaffer tape away from -LEG. Photographic evidence puts 21245 at Southend throughout the summer of 2004 undergoing major maintenance, and thisphoto taken by the same man as the -LEC ones places it in Southend, in its right registration, on the 12th of February 2005 when it left Southend for Chateauroux (of all places).

During that summer the plane was sold by Air Contractors Ireland to Destiny Air via a broker called Weir Equipment Finance. It had previously been working under a wet lease from ACI for the well-known parcel freight firm TNT. currently lists it as "stored".

So, we know the what and quite a lot of the how. Why? It's all extremely strange.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Marsham Street's Missing Millions

Does this surprise anybody at all? Yeah, the worst department of state is up to its old tricks again. Its accounts are so dire that the National Audit Office finds it impossible even to tell how bad they really are. That's pretty fucking bad, I think you'll agree. Apparently they can't even do their bleeding bank reconciliation.

It makes you wonder, really. My dad has spent an entire career scrupulously documenting his expenses incurred in the exigencies of the service, while the Ministry has apparently been behaving like a New Jersey waste disposal contractor on secondment to the CPA, throwing slack handfuls of geld up at the gilt minstrel's gallery of some Saddam-era palace and grinning like an axe wound.

There is of course only one solution. Kill the beast. I've said it before and I'll say it again: abolish the Home Office. Policing should be local. Devolve it. The proliferating profusion of centralised agencies - the Border Patrol or whatever it's going to be called, PNITO, NCIS and MI5? Well, there should be proper ministerial accountability for the spooks, so they should come under a Secretary of State for the Secret Service or SOSSS for short. PNITO should be zapped. The actual port security mission should go to the respective police forces. The Revenue already runs Customs & Excise. Politicians have repeatedly shown they can't be trusted with the question of immigration and nationality, so the IND should be quangofied to get it out of direct political interference, rather like the Bank of England. Prisoners are typically illiterate - perhaps the Department of Education should take over? A large majority of them have more than one mental illness - perhaps the NHS should?

All the monster database projects and such must simply die.

That leaves - what? The QE2 Conference Centre, I believe. Meh, privatise it. Who cares?

Cramer Under Pressure

Kathryn Cramer is under some unwelcome pressure from a PR flunkey for the UN force in Haiti after her series on the activities of a bizarre bunch of mercenaries calling themselves "Consultants Advisory Group" down there. Specifically, one David Wimshurst at MINUSTAH headquarters responded to an inquiry from her side with a very unpleasant slab of legal spam threatening, essentially, "I shall do such things, I know not what, but they shall be the terrors of the earth!" as in King Lear and accusing her of doctoring a PowerPoint slide that referred to old friends TopCat Maritime Security.

Wimshurst, frankly, deserves nothing but contempt. If, as he makes out, the whole thing is being got up to discredit the UN, why not open with the world and put the evidence out there? What has he got to hide? I think he needs to come clean with what he wants to allege - does he really think that Kathryn is the spearhead of a conspiracy by rightwing ex-US officers to discredit the Brazilian-led UN force and prepare the road for Aristide's return? What more bizarre nonsense could be imagined?

Alternatively, the documents are genuine, and the CAGsters are working with (ironically enough) Lula's army against the pro-Aristide chimérés. And Mr. Wimshurst? Aufklärung tut dringend not.

Is That A Python In Your Pocket?

In fact, it might well be. Nokia just released an implementation of Python, the well-known scripting language, for Symbian Series 60 phones - and it's all open source so anyone can have a go at making their own fancy "services".

What's the betting that a) 90% of its uses will be completely frivolous and b) the other 10% will be a damn sight better than anything the netops have come up with?

(Hat tip to the Schockwellenreiter.)

Barbara Castle's Unlikely Legacy

BoingBoing recently posted regarding the long-tailed boats used in South-East Asia, essentially traditional designs with old lorry engines installed on a long steerable propshaft in the stern. I was reminded of a curious piece of history and wrote to the BBsters as follows:

It's not well known that those boats originate from a change in the British government's motor vehicle Construction and Use Regulations in the late 1960s. What with the new motorway construction programme well under way, the (largely old) truck fleet had begun to get in the way. So the then Ministry of Transport (Secretary of State for Transport being Barbara Castle) introduced a minimum power-to-weight ratio.

This meant that a ton of trucks with Gardner LX 105hp (mostly) or Perkins P4 engines suddenly became obsolete. Exporting second-hand trucks to places that would accept them (essentially, the third world) was not great business, so they were either scrapped or retrofitted with more wallop. Hence a mass of very reliable, very user-serviceable diesel engines going begging.

Some sly fox saw a chance, and went round the country buying the engines and shipping them to Hong Kong and Singapore for sale to chandlers. As the engine arrived complete with the reverse box and the end of a propshaft, they just put in a length of shaft and a prop. Local boat builders came up with the rest and a new, unmistakable craft was born.

They still have (even brand-new ones with much later power units, radar and GPS) the traditional eyes on each side of the bow, a custom recorded everywhere from the Mediterranean to Japan and back into pre-classical antiquity.

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