CNN: Attack by drones with explosives raises alarm

CNN video: Attack by drones with explosives raises alarm.

The video misleads. Crucially, at 2:05, James Carafano states, “All these things are radio controlled.”

Cheap commercial drones are programmed by the factory to listen for the signal of a controller. But anybody who can hack firmware can take that feature out.

Expensive U.S. military drones, which are not intended for kamikaze use, have behaviors that enhance the chance of safe recovery if the controlling signal is lost. They cannot be fooled by false instructions, because the control stream is encrypted.  (Some readers may recall adversary eavesdropping in Afghanistan. That was of the video stream, from the drone camera to base, for which encryption was neglected. The enemy could see, but  could not control.)

The drones used in the attacks on Russian bases had advanced control circuitry that relied on two radios:

  • GPS, which is a form of one-way radio, where the receiver tells the drone autopilot where it is. You have it, you use it, you know what it is.
  • Link to a human controller, who can override the autopilot, operating paddles to move the control surfaces and throttle of the drone. The link is not encrypted, so if it is active, it can be hijacked by ECM ( jamming, electronic countermeasures.)

Subject to clarification, that the Russians  were able to crash some of the drones electronically suggests that both GPS and the controller link were active.

Drones were used by ISIS in defense of Mosul. Those drones did not have GPS. They were guided visually by ISIS controllers a few hundred yards away. They were brought down by U.S. countermeasures,  by jamming or inserting false commands into the human control link.

But there is, and always will be a form of navigation/control that cannot be jammed:  dead reckoning. The crudest approximation always works to some degree. Ancient mariners used it when they could not see the sky. You use it yourself  when the light goes out. So let’s pretend we’re a drone. This is what we do when the two radios, GPS and control link, go bonkers:

If we were moving towards our destination with such-and-such a heading and speed, keep moving the same heading and speed, and by your watch, you’ll know when you’re over it. Then dive.

I have no interest in offering refinements to the above.

Reports indicate that the drones used in the Russia attack did not have the smarts to deal with tampering of the radio signals. Lack of sophistication has been the hallmark of ISIS, because individuals who self-select terror are not the brightest specimens of humanity. But neither is it particularly hard to do.

So our desire for a rigorously proactive defense is thwarted. The current drones can be misdirected by GPS jamming, or caused to crash by tampering with the control signal. With help from a rogue state, this may not always be so.

One bright spot: Of all the possible targets of a directed-energy weapon, lightweight drones are the softest. The low energy required to deform or ignite  plastic or wood makes a man-portable laser feasible.


Senate Hearings on Havana Sonic “Attacks”

Today, (CNN) Senate holds hearing on Cuba ‘sonic attacks’

Here’s a link to previous articles. Since that time, the FBI has (ABC) come to doubt. But the Russian research involved exposure over weeks, at much lower thresholds than noted by Western sources. Did the F.B.I. consult “Effects of Ultrasonic Noise on the Human Body – A Bibliographic Review”, or set up a similar long term experimental facility?

The NY Post has the most clearly audible sound, as part of a video with spectrum display.  Points:

  • If  development of medical conditions, involving white matter brain damage  by  U.S. and Canadian diplomats, was contemporaneous with exposure to this noise,  the association  strongly indicates the operation of a purposeful, specialized device, not the accidental byproduct of some appliance that needs service.
  • If the recording device was a cellphone, or anything other than a specialized laboratory microphone-→amplifier-→digitizer, it adds artifacts to the record. Too much may be lost to reconstruct the gadget.
  • The audible noise of the recording cannot be the cause of harm. The audible noise is a byproduct, a trace left by ultrasonic noise as a result of nonlinear mixing. This is because high intensity audible noise causes extreme pain, the kind that makes you get up and move away, fast. Ultrasonic noise evades most of it. The lobster boils to death in the pot, but feels nothing.

(IEEE) Was a Sonic Weapon Deployed in Cuba dismisses the feasibility of weaponized ultrasound, citing (pdf) Acoustic Weapons—A Prospective Assessment: Sources, Propagation, and Effects of Strong Sound . But this is contradicted by the Russian references provided in Havana Sonic Attacks — Addendum for techies only.

Still, let’s look at some alternate explanations:

  • A “toxin” theory has bee proposed. Quite a number of botanicals consumed by humans contain neurotoxins, such as BMAA.
  • Various neurotropic viruses, such as Zika, cause white matter damage.
  • They were all sick before they took up residence in Cuba (C’mon!)

But for these to fit, they must also cause auditory parasthesia, changing the sensation of innocuous sound to noxious sound.

A few consumer appliances  can make high frequency, or ultrasonic noise, particularly if they are slightly broken:

  • An old fashioned television, which can be ruled out immediately.
  • A light dimmer.
  • A defective compact fluorescent light bulb, a  CCFL. But rare, and multiple locations were affected.
  • A high frequency inverter, found in backup power systems. But one that makes noise is rare, and multiple locations were affected.

If the quality of the recordings provided to the Office of Naval Research is sufficient, it can be determined if the spectra

  • match a consumer appliance.
  • match industrial machinery.
  • has an intricate, purposeful structure, which strongly implies a weapon.
  • is an ambiguous fit for the above.

One of the two spectral displays I’ve seen, not the one in the NY Post video, shows a sharply defined “comb structure”. It has the purposeful signature of a weapon.

The argument for a weapon hinges on Russian research:

35. Il’nitskaia AV, Pal’tsev IuP. [Combined
action of ultrasonics and noise of standard
parameters]. Gig Sanit. 1973;(5):50–3. In

36. Roshchin AV, Dobroserdov VK. [Reactions
of the human auditory analysor to the effect
of high frequency acoustic oscillations].
Gig Tr Prof Zabol. 1971;15(12):3–7.

But how ludicrous to think they could be involved in any way. I’ll lay money Greenland’s independence movement is behind it!





U.S. suspending security aid to Pakistan: State Department, Part 1

Reuters: U.S. suspending security aid to Pakistan: State Department.

The top question for many readers is whether the aid suspension is a good idea.  Let’s outline the problem:

  • Pakistan harbors the sustainable root of the Afghan insurgency. If it weren’t for Pakistan’s double game, the U.S. presence could be much smaller.
  • It could save us $2BN a year of military aid.
  • Unless the Russians decide it’s in their interest to resume land transshipment, the $2BN could be quickly eaten up by the cost of supply by air.
  • The aid cutoff may be informed by a special situation, with greater understanding of Pakistan’s volatile internals than evident in open sources. If so, it has a chance of success. There is  indication of conflict on this issue, between civil and military, that the cutoff could leverage.
  • Absent that special situation, it won’t have the desired effect, which is primarily to force Pakistan to destroy the parts of the Haqqani network that intrude into Pakistan, and similar groups.
  • Something is birthing in Pakistan that could eventually result in what we want, though on a time scale too slow for quick relief.

There’s a long and a short to why U.S. money and pressure has not thus far motivated action against the Haqqani network.. Preferring a definite statement instead of a waffle,

***Pakistan is a failed state***

Pakistan is #17 on the 2017 Fragile State Index. It has improved annually since 2012.

This is easily concealed to the new or  hopeful statesman, because the elite of Pakistan are a cultured bunch,  more than able to hold their own in conversation, in beautifully spoken English. With impeccable social skills, they will fete you at dinners, all the while displaying table manners that are probably superior to our own.  And after you’ve burped your way back to comfort, you’ll discover that they have told you nothing. Former defense secretary Robert Gates remarked on this in (Reuters 1/21/2010), “Pakistan’s future military plans? U.S. doesn’t know”:

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. aid and a charm offensive that included Thursday’s trip by Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ to Islamabad, a significant “trust deficit” is putting distance between the two militaries....“The Pakistan military - they don’t share with us in advance their plans and intentions,” the official told reporters in Pakistan, speaking on the condition of anonymity....“We’re reliant on what their public press statements are, just like everybody else is... Any question about the future, honestly, we find out about the same time everybody else does, because they don’t tell us in advance what they intend to do.”

Even Gates was susceptible to the hospitality of his hosts. So he politely left them an out for their double game, which at the time included support of Haqqani:

The official said he was certain the “trust problem” was a major factor, although he and a U.S. defense official added that secrecy has its advantages when launching offensives.

Fragile or failed, the index is compiled from statistics. It can’t express the personal factor: A failed state offers no one to negotiate with. Talk to, yes. Negotiate with, no. The Pakistanis, with their white glove hospitality, conceal this well. You think you are talking to an authority. Perhaps, in a limited way, this is true. Pakistan is a place of fiefs. But unlike the traditional fief, which was a land domain, patent, or right granted by a sovereign, Pakistan’s fiefs are quasi-sovereign themselves.

For example, Pakistan’s military is not subordinate to the civil government. Open sources on this subject are highly charged, as if written by stakeholders.  Examples are provided by The Diplomat pages, and particularly, After Dawn: The Civil-Military Chasm Deepens in Pakistan. Lacking the literal reliability of Western reporting, there is information to be gleaned. The article begins with

On October 6, Cyril Almeida, a senior Pakistani journalist, published an article in the English-language daily Dawn entitled “Act against militants or face international isolation, civilians tell military.” The article narrated an intense scene of heated debate between the country’s top civil and military leaders, held a few days ago.

China’s influence turns out to be crucial:

The government’s cautious demand — some might call it an expression of frustration — of the military to gain consensus on some of the country’s security policies may not have been the result of India’s recently declared policy to isolate Pakistan internationally, but due to the steadily building pressure from Pakistan’s closet ally, China, which has questioned Pakistan’s logic behind putting a technical hold on India’s move to ban Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar at the United Nations (UN).

China is crucial because it has made Pakistan a major part of Silk Road, aiming to create a modern corridor of influence and prosperity all the way to Karachi.  The reporting of The Diplomat implicitly suggests China as a reason for (Reuters) Exclusive: Pakistan plans takeover of charities run by Islamist figure U.S. has targeted. But there is no evidence that U.S. pressure has anything to do with it. It precedes the aid cutoff.

There remain strong counter currents to the above.  Pakistan as it now exists is not going to quietly cede the future to something else.

Conclusion: If the aid cutoff is an intelligently informed attempt to strengthen the hand of the civil government, it might work.

Let’s not end the discussion like this, because it resembles a traditional chess game of geopolitics. It’s really a currents-of-history thing. Questions:

  • How did Pakistan become a failed state?
  • Who is going to rescue it?

To be continued shortly. In the meantime, meet the new kid on the block.

A New Reign of Terror in Iran ?

August 30, 1981 began seven years of terror. The trigger was the assassination of Mohammad Javad Bahonar, prime minister of Iran, by the MEK. More hits followed. It has been asserted that the pace of hits was so quick, it threatened to eviscerate Ruhollah Khomeini’s government.

The MEK, a mind control cult, has isolated specks of appeal, such as equal rights for women. It is co-lead by a man and a woman. Nothing about those isolated specks justifies what the organization did in the 1981-1982 frame, or how it treats its members. Iran Protests notes that Iran is drowning in ideas. The creators of MEK made one more of the infinite varieties of folk stew philosophy out of these ideas, which include mayhem and murder. It also tastes of Marxism, Maoism, and Shi’ism. Scholars call it syncretistic,  an amalgam of mutually incompatible ideas.

There has always been extrajudicial killing in Iran, but the pace accelerated in 1982, and climaxed in 1988. Nine years after the 1979 revolution,  Ruhollah Khomeini was still, in word and reality, the supreme leader. In 1988, Khomeini had only one more year to live; perhaps he was anxious that the new forms of Iran would outlast him. So he suspended the rule of law.

What Khomeini’s followers did in the in the years climaxing in the 1988 executions of “political prisoners”, and doubtless at his direction, was absolutely horrible. The following year, echoing the reaction against the excesses of Iran’s reign of terror, Khomeini proclaimed a “year of law.”

As the Nuremberg Trials established, the will of the leader does not exempt his followers from guilt. The youngest victim of the French Reign of Terror was aged 14.  Iran’s Terror was similar. Memories of the stories, which so vivify Iran’s native practice of terror, have faded. All this happened before Internet archiving, which makes it impossible to offer you reliable, respectable links. Nevertheless, I have a little, approximate corroboration for  10 Of The Youngest Children Sentenced to Death. Quoting,

According to the Organization of Women Against Execution, Iran’s Islamic regime executed 187 juvenile females between 1981 and 1990, including nine girls between the ages of 10 and 13.

It is likely that a good proportion of the stories, which can be found in contemporary nonfiction literature, are true.

By 2009, Iran  had developed civil institutions useful to both religious and secular elements. Members of the Green Movement were punished in the civil framework. There was no need for terror, because the Greens had private lives of sufficient satisfaction that it was enough punishment to interrupt those lives.

But now Iran is faced with a bunch of rowdy, unemployed young men who have nothing to lose. They don’t feel prison, or house arrest, quite the same way. “Inside” is about the same as “outside.” If a young man has nothing to lose but his life, what effective punishment and deterrent can there be?

The complex of religion and military, the Qom religious establishment, the bonyads, and the IRIG, hold Khomeini’s charter, to create and perfect an Islamic state, and to expand it beyond Iran’s borders. Now there is civil conflict between the charter holders and the secular, civil needs of Iran. It’s really quite simple. Where  does the money go?

The charter holders are old men now. Many of them are senior clerics. Like Khomeini in his last years, they may, in futile search for stasis, push for what worked for them in 1988. Immersed and isolated in their own ideas of “jurisprudence”, which are to us medieval, they may not be concerned with history as written by Western historians. History may be the judge, but not for them.

This is why Western cheerleading  risks a new Terror.






Happy New Year, Spaceman!

We’re all voyagers on Spaceship Earth.

(Click to enlarge. There may be a delay.)

The spaceship is in trouble. The crew is squabbling. The biosphere is touch-and-go. Black holes threaten obliteration. Our final destination is unknown. Let’s try to hold it together for another spin around the Sun!



(Portrait of a Spaceman. 36×24″, oil on canvas.)