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Recent Publications by New English Review Authors
The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Impact of Islam
by Emmet Scott
Sir Walter Scott's Crusades and Other Fantasies
by Ibn Warraq
Fighting the Retreat from Arabia and the Gulf: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly. Vol. 1
edited by S.B. Kelly
The Literary Culture of France
by J. E. G. Dixon
Hamlet Made Simple and Other Essays
by David P. Gontar
Farewell Fear
by Theodore Dalrymple
The Eagle and The Bible: Lessons in Liberty from Holy Writ
by Kenneth Hanson
The West Speaks
interviews by Jerry Gordon
Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited: The History of a Controversy
Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
Anything Goes
by Theodore Dalrymple
Karimi Hotel
De Nidra Poller
The Left is Seldom Right
by Norman Berdichevsky
Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
by Ibn Warraq
An Introduction to Danish Culture
by Norman Berdichevsky
The New Vichy Syndrome:
by Theodore Dalrymple
Jihad and Genocide
by Richard L. Rubenstein
Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
by Norman Berdichevsky

These are all the Blogs posted on Saturday, 19, 2013.
Saturday, 19 January 2013
In Good Form

If there is one thing certain about the outcome of the James Savile affair, it is that there will be more forms to fill in afterwards. This is because it is an article of modern faith – the only faith, after all, that we have – that if we fill in enough forms we shall all behave well and there will be no more scandals. It is a truth universally acknowledged, at least by bureaucrats, that all social problems have equal and opposite forms, and melt away in their presence like ice in the sunshine. 

There are already forms to fill in for almost everything: forms to prevent murder and suicide, forms to prevent money laundering, forms to ensure that doctors don’t kill their patients and are nice to them, forms for ensuring that people who speak to children are not paedophiles, forms for preventing fraud, forms to ensure that employment is given equally to ethnic and sexual minorities, or at any rate to some of those minorities. And yet, despite all these forms, life goes on being worse than merely unsatisfactory; it goes on being positively unfair. Clearly, we don’t fill in enough forms yet.

Proliferating forms have another very important function: when something untoward, even scandalous, happens, it is always possible to find forms that have either not been filled in at all, or filled in incorrectly. Hey presto! You have an explanation of what went wrong. Anyone who has been to an inquest will know that more time is devoted to sifting the forms than to finding out what actually happened.

Where blame has to be affixed to satisfy the public desire for a scapegoat while reassuring it that ‘lessons will be learnt’ (they won’t be, of course), forms are essential. This is because the person to blame is always the person who didn’t fill in the form correctly. If only he or she had done so, none of this would have happened! The lesson learned is always that existing forms must be filled in correctly while new ones – known as ‘procedures’ -are added.

But of course it is also essential that forms should never be filled in correctly. To ensure this, so that there is always an explanation of why something bad happened, they, the forms, must be made lengthy and complex, preferably impossible to fill in correctly.

That is why James Savile ought henceforth to be regarded as the patron saint of bureaucrats.

First published in Salisbury Review.

Posted on 01/19/2013 5:58 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Saturday, 19 January 2013
Obama Administration's Folly In West Africa

From The Washington Post:

Stiffing an ally in Mali


January 18

THE TAKING of American hostages by Islamic militants who attacked a gas field in Algeria on Wednesday served to underline the reality that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the jihadist factions affiliated with it pose a direct threat to the United States. The group is active not just in Algeria and neighboring Libya — where it is believed to have played a role in the fatal attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in September — but also in Mali, where militants have taken over territory the size of Texas and threatened to capture the rest of the country.

As Defense Secretary Leon Panetta succinctly put it Wednesday, “This is an al-Qaeda operation, and it is for that reason that we have always been concerned about their presence in Mali, because they would use it as a base of operations to do exactly what happened in Algeria.”

Under those circumstances, the Obama administration’s foot-dragging in providing support to an ongoing French intervention in Mali is baffling — and disturbing. This week the White House grudgingly agreed to help transport a French mechanized unit and its equipment from France to Mali. But Paris will be required to pay the $20 million cost of the operation, and officials are still sitting on a week-old French request for U.S. help with surveillance and aerial refueling.

The administration’s balking might be more understandable if there had been no previous U.S. involvement in the north African state. But the United States already has spent years and millions of dollars attempting to stem Islamic extremism in Mali — and its failures helped to precipitate the current crisis. Last year counterterrorism forces trained by the United States defected to a rebel movement of ethnic Tuaregs, which then allied itself with al-Qaeda and its local allies. The rebellion was boosted by Tuareg fighters who streamed into Mali after the regime of Moammar Gaddafi, which employed them, was deposed thanks to an intervention by NATO. Meanwhile a U.S.-trained officer led a coup against Mali’s democratic government.

The Obama administration has already voted for a military intervention in Mali, supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized action by a force from West African countries. Washington insisted on an unrealistic scheme to postpone the intervention until late this year — even as 400,000 people fled the Islamic reign of terror in northern Mali — arguing that it should be preceded by democratic elections. That plan exploded when the Islamists launched an offensive to capture the capital, Bamako; France was right to quickly dispatch planes and troops to prevent a catastrophe.

So why won’t the administration meet its NATO ally’s request for aid? Officials claim there are legal problems: Because of the coup, military aid to Mali is prohibited by U.S. law. But AQIM’s taking of American hostages makes the group a legal target for U.S. forces under the doctrine of self-defense. There are worries that the French may find themselves fighting not al-Qaeda but the Tuaregs. But the ethnic rebels have allied themselves with the jihadists, who have pushed the war beyond the Tuaregs’ homeland.

Thanks to France, U.S. troops are not needed in Mali. But it is time for the administration to recognize that AQIM poses a direct threat to Americans — and to fully support the military action needed to eliminate it.

Posted on 01/19/2013 8:02 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 January 2013
Why Scientology is Not a Religion

Not all religions (belief systems claiming religion status) should be taken as such. Scientology is one example, Islam is another. This is a review of  Lawrence Wright's new book, "Going Clear," by Michael Kinsley in the New York Times.

That crunching sound you hear is Lawrence Wright bending over backward to be fair to Scientology. Every deceptive comparison with Mormonism and other religions is given a respectful hearing. Every ludicrous bit of church dogma is served up deadpan. This makes the book’s indictment that much more powerful. Open almost any page at random. That tape of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s founder, that Wright quotes from? “It was a part of a lecture Hubbard gave in 1963, in which he talked about the between-lives period, when thetans are transported to Venus to have their memories erased.”

Oh, that period. Of course. How could I forget?

We are all thetans, spirits, trapped temporarily in our current particular lives. Elsewhere, though, Hubbard says that when a thetan discovers that he is dead, he should report to a “‘between-lives’ area” on Mars for a “forgetter implant.”

Oh dear, oh dear. So what are poor thetans to do, where are they to go, when they find themselves between lives? Left to Venus or right to Mars? For sure, they can’t stay here. “The planet Earth, formerly called Teegeeack, was part of a confederation of planets under the leadership of a despot ruler named Xenu,” said Hubbard, who was a best-selling science fiction writer before he became the prophet of a new religion. To suppress a rebellion, Xenu tricked the confederations into coming in for fake income tax investigations. Billions of thetans were taken to Teegeeack (you remember: Earth), “where they were dropped into volcanoes and then blown up with hydrogen bombs.” Suffice it to say I’m not hanging around Earth next time I’m between lives.

Hubbard apparently could go on for hours — or pages — with this stuff. Wright informs us, as if it were just an oversight, that “Hubbard never really explained how he came by these revelations,” but elsewhere he says they came to him at the dentist’s office. Of the Borgia-like goings-on after Hubbard’s death in 1986, Wright says cheerfully, “Every new religion faces an existential crisis following the death of its charismatic founder.” He always refers to Scientology respectfully as “the church.”

But Wright’s book, “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief,” makes clear that Scientology is like no church on Earth (or, in all probability, Venus or Mars either). The closest institutional parallel would be the Communist Party in its heyday: the ruthless struggles for power, the show trials and forced confessions (often false); the paranoia (often justified); the determination to control its members’ lives completely (the key difference, you will recall, between authoritarian and totalitarian regimes, according to the onetime American ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick); the maintenance of something close to prison camps where dissenters, would-be defectors and power-struggle rivals were incarcerated in deplorable conditions for years and punished if they tried to escape; what the book describes as mysterious deaths and disappearances; and so on. Except that while the American Communist Party, including a few naïve Hollywood types, merely turned a blind eye to events happening in faraway Russia, Scientology — if Wright is to be believed, and I think he is — ran, and maybe still runs, a shadow totalitarian empire here in the United States, financed in part by huge contributions by Tom Cruise and others of the Hollywood aristocracy. ­“Naïve” doesn’t begin to describe the credulousness and sense of entitlement that has allowed actors, writers and directors to think they were helping themselves and the world by hanging around the Scientologists’ “Celebrity Centre,” taking “upper level” courses and gossiping about who was about to be labeled a “Suppressive Person” (bad guy).

Wright’s last book, “The Looming Tower,” a history of Al Qaeda, won the Pulitzer Prize. He is also the author of, among other books, a charmingly presumptuous premature autobiography, “In the New World,” published in 1987. He belongs to a small cult of his own — an Austin-centered group of writers dedicated to preserving long-form narrative journalism. With this book, he’s certainly paid his dues for a few years...

Continue reading here.

Posted on 01/19/2013 9:30 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Saturday, 19 January 2013
Terrorist with 'perfect English accent' involved in Algerian hostage crisis

A terrorist with "perfect English" was among those involved in the Algerian hostage crisis in which at least two Britons and perhaps many more are feared dead, it has emerged.

An Algerian hostage who escaped told French newspaper Le Monde that one of the Al-Qaeda-linked militants spoke English perfectly, and was among a multi-national group who seemed well acquainted with the BP gas plant in the southeast of the North African country. An Algerian would be able to assess that a terrorist spoke English well, but I think it would need a native speaker to assess whether or not he actually born and brought up in this country (likewise for a Canadan, or American). And is a Birmingham or Yorkshire accent, which have been heard in Afghanistan 'perfect English'?

"They searched the living quarters for foreigners and told Muslims that they were in no danger," said the man, adding that the kidnappers emphasised that "Christians and Infidels' were the main targets.

The revelation raised speculation that Islamists radicals with links with the UK or other Western English-speaking countries might have been involved in the crisis.

A number of British Muslims have been convicted in foreign courts or have fought for, or trained with, terrorist or extreme Islamist groups abroad. In December, a British student was arrested on the border of Mauritania and Mali, accused of trying to join an Islamic terrorist group affiliated to the kidnappers.

On Friday, security sources cited by Algérie-Focus news website said several "foreigners" were among the kidnappers, including one from Canada, but also from Egypt, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Libya.

Reuters on Thursday reported that one of the Islamists killed by security forces on Thursday was a French national, although this has not been confirmed.

Posted on 01/19/2013 11:43 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Saturday, 19 January 2013
Shahpour Bakhtiar In January 1979 On Iran And What Would Come

From the Guardian archive, 19 January 1979

Bakhtiar fears bloodshed under Khomeini

A bloody coup will be the inevitable result if Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini succeeds in forcing the present Iranian Government out of office

Ayatollah Khomeini Returns to Iran During Iranian Revolution
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini greets the crowd at Tehran University on 5 February 1979 after his return to Iran from exile in France during the Iranian Revolution. Photograph: Alain DeJean/Sygma/Corbis

A bloody coup will be the inevitable result if Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini succeeds in forcing the present Iranian Government out of office, the Prime Minister, Dr Shapur Bakhtiar, said yesterday. It was the bluntest and most direct warning to the Ayatollah issued by Dr Bakhtiar, and his first unequivocal reference to military intervention.

In an interview with the British press, Dr Bakhtiar said: "If Khomeini is here proclaiming his Islamic republic, I have two choices. I can stay on and say I am the legal Government, and there will be bloodshed. The second solution would be to leave office and say to the army, there is no further place for me and you are free from your commitment to my Government"

Throughout the interview, Dr Bakhtiar kept stressing that it is to his Government and his Government alone that the army has pledged obedience. Asked what would be the result of his being forced out of office, he replied: "A coup d'etat."

Dr Bakhtiar, a 63-year-old former opposition politician, took office two weeks ago with a programme that included the departure of the Shah for an indefinite "holiday".

But the opposition, and above all Ayatollah Khomeini, whose influence is supreme, have denounced  him as a collaborator and a usurper. There are elements inside the opposition trying to persuade Ayatollah Khomeini to a less extreme course. But, as one Iranian said: "Everything suggests that Khomeini is more than ever convinced that his policy has been correct and that he should persevere and destroy the whole system."

The Ayatollah has already announced an "Islamic Revolutionary Council" which will in turn set up a "provisional government" and hold a referendum on the monarchy. Such a referendum would, given the present mood of the Iranian people, pronounce overwhelmingly in favour of an "Islamic Republic".

Dr Bakhtiar, who in 25 years of opposition to the Shah spent several spells in prison, looked tired and spoke urgently and sometimes sharply. He said bitterly that his government's whole purpose was to ensure freedom within the framework of the law. But: "There are people who don't want freedom. They talk of it, but when it comes, they are about as liberal as Stalin or Mussolini."

These archive extracts, compiled by the Guardian's research and information department, appear online daily at

Posted on 01/19/2013 1:07 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 January 2013
A Musical Interlude: Hello Bluebird (Blossom Seeley, Benny Fields)
Listen here.
Posted on 01/19/2013 1:15 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 January 2013
Charles Sumner: White Slavery In The Barbary States

I was reminded, by an email from a friend, of the existence of this work. What with the Lincoln movie, bringing not only Thaddeus Stevens but Charles Sumner back into the national (cinematic) consciousness, perhaps someone will republish what  he had to say about "Algerine slavery." Since Cervantes was one of those Christians held as a slave in Algiers (for five years), a nice bilingual edition, English and Spanish, might be fittingly, fashionably, inclusive.

Here's a link for those who want to start reading Sumner on the Muslim enslavement of non-Muslims.

Every significant figure in American life who knew anything about, or ever had anything to do, with Islam or with Muslims -- most notably Jefferson and Adams when they were diplomats in London, John Quincy Adams because he was the most learned of our presidents and had studied history, and Islam, Theodore Roosevelt ("Perdicaris alive, or Raisuli dead") because he had dealings with Muslims and he, too, had been educated and studied history -- condemned, without reservation, what they saw of those Muslims, and of Islam. And there were many others who, through travel to the Middle East, saw with their own eyes what Muslim misrule had done -- not least, as Mark Twain noted, by leaving "desolate" the Holy Land. Such people as William Seward (another figure from Lincoln's cabinet) wrote about what they saw in their own voyages around the world. Take a look. 

To this list be sure to add the name of that memorable and impressive  figure of the Civil War period, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts.

It is only now, in the last decade or so, when we are ruled by people who know almost nothing about history, and certainly nothing about the history of Muslim conquest and about the ideology of Islam that imposes on Muslims the duty of Jihad, which is best defined as the struggle to keep expanding the boundaries of Dar al-Islam, so that everywhere Islam dominates, and Muslims rule, everywhere. It is our current rulers, our ruling class, the one that prates about getting on Right Side of History though they know no history (and the phrase itself would never be uttered by an historian), who are out of step with Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, and many others -- including Charles Sumner.

Posted on 01/19/2013 3:48 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 January 2013
Kurds Demand That Syrian Opposition Rein In The Fanatical Arabs Who Are Killing Them

Since Islam is an Arab phenomenon, the "gift of the Arabs" to others, the one thing of which the Arabs are most proud, and it is, above all, a vehicle for Arab supremacism, it is not surprisiing that the most fanatical Muslim Arabs now in Syria would think nothing of killing Kurds. And that, in turn, has led those Kurds who threw in their lot initially with the opposition to the Assad regime have asked the Free Syrian Army to help rein in those Arab fanatics. The request, or demand, will have no effect, and the Kurds who have not yet realized that they have far more to fear from the collapse of the Assad regime than from its continuance, will cease to help the opposition, and concentrate on staying alive by fighting back against the most fanatical local Muslims. And that's good.

From The Australian:

Syria's Kurds urge opposition to stop Islamists

Syrian Kurds have urged the opposition to halt a siege against them by Islamist rebels. Source: AAP

SYRIAN Kurds have urged the opposition to halt a siege against them by Islamist rebels, as the UN condemned the killing of dozens of children across the country over the past week.

The Kurdish National Council, a pro-opposition umbrella group of Syrian Kurdish parties, condemned what it said was an ongoing assault "against unarmed civilians" by jihadist insurgents on the northern town of Ras al-Ain.

It said the rebels, who came across the border from Turkey, were shelling the town indiscriminately, and called on the main opposition National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army to "pressure these militants to stop this criminal war which is detrimental to the Syrian revolution."

On Saturday, one rebel was killed in shelling and fierce clashes that pitted the jihadist Al-Nusra Front against Kurdish fighters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

A resident of Ras al-Ain told AFP both sides appeared to be preparing for a fierce battle, with Kurdish fighters building fortifications and digging trenches, and rebels bringing in reinforcements from across the border.

Turkey, which supports the revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, is home to a sizeable Kurdish minority whose demands for greater independence it has moved to suppress, notably in air strikes on Kurdish militants groups.

Activists say Turkey may be using jihadists in Syria to fight its own battle against the Kurds.

Elsewhere, Syrian warplanes raided the eastern outskirts of Damascus as army reinforcements arrived in Daraya, a key battleground near the capital, the Observatory said.

The violence came a day after 149 people were killed, according to the Observatory, including 103 civilians and 18 children.

The United Nations Children's Fund condemned the killing of children in Syria.

"A series of reports from Syria this week underlines the terrible price children are paying" in a conflict that has ravaged the country for 22 months and killed more than 60,000 people, UNICEF said.

"Media reports (Friday) from the scene of mass killings in the village of Hasawiya outside Homs said whole families were among the dead," it added.

"UNICEF condemns these latest incidents in the strongest terms, and once again calls on all parties to ensure civilians - and children especially - are spared the effects of the conflict."

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists and medics for its information, says 3,538 children have been killed since the start of the revolt in March 2011.

Meanwhile, Syria's foreign ministry criticised a petition by UN rights chief Navi Pillay and 58 countries calling for a war crimes case against Damascus to be opened at the International Criminal Court.

"The Syrian government regrets the persistence of these countries in following the wrong approach and refusing to recognise the duty of the Syrian state to protect its people from terrorism imposed from abroad," it said.

Those countries, are "hindering the Syrian national dialogue for a peaceful settlement of the crisis as proposed by Assad on January 6." Those talks would only include opposition forces tolerated by the regime, disqualifying the vast majority of the country's rebels.

Rebels offered a stark reply on Saturday by assassinating Khaled al-Hilal, a local official responsible for arranging any such talks in the southern province of Daraa.

Posted on 01/19/2013 4:07 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 January 2013
A Telling Detail From Algeria

The story in FoxNews about the final assault on the Muslim terrorists contains this:

Chabane, an Algerian who worked in food services, said he bolted out the window and was hiding when he heard the militants speaking among themselves with Libyan, Egyptian and Tunisian accents. At one point, he said, they caught a Briton.

"They threatened him until he called out in English to his friends, telling them, `Come out, come out. They're not going to kill you. They're looking for the Americans,"' Chabane said.

"A few minutes later, they blew him away."

Posted on 01/19/2013 4:14 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 January 2013
Maple Leaf Drag, Or, Hold That Note

Inattentive to the natural world, or perhaps figuring that one maple is just about the same as another, those who created, and those who checked and re-checked for error the new Canadian centaloon, failed to notice that it holds not the native wood-note wild of Acer saccharum, the sugar maple, indigenous to Canada, but depicts the leaf of the tree that because of its hardiness to fumes is used to line so many city streets, that is, Acer platanoides, the Norway maple, native not to North America but to northern Europe.

Here's the story.

Posted on 01/19/2013 4:21 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 January 2013
How Now Will Oil And Gas Be Extracted In Muslim Countries?

What amount of money will now have to be offered to non-Muslims to live and work in Muslim countries, and especially in the oil and gas facilities that are such obvious targets for Muslim terrorists? Perhaps it won't be possible to find enough foreigners willing, whatever the price, to work at such places. After all,there is great suspicion that the attack on the Algerian plant had inside help, among the Muslims working there, and it won't be possible -- or would it? -- to banish all Muslims from oil and gas plants all over the Muslim world?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if, as a result of this attack, much of Algeria's unmerited oil-and-gas wealth were to be difficult or even impossible to extract, and that the loss of national income would result in fury against all those, including clerics, who take Islam to heart and whip up others to do so as well. Attacks on such people, by those whose livelihood is affected by the drop in national income, would be welcome.

And wouldn't it be wonderful, too, if similar attacks on installations in eastern Saudi Arabia, or in rich little trouble-making sinister Qatar, were to take place, with similar results?

Possibly the only people who will be willing to staff such places, and to do so with their own brand of no-nonsense ruthlessness, are the Chinese. They will not tolerate any demands by the Muslim locals that they think endanger them. They are not, after all, mushy Westerners. Fine. Let them. But hope that even they won't take on the task. It's all part of the same thing: let Muslims ruin their own countries, let them destroy the appeal of their countries to foreign, non-Muslim tourists, let them make it difficult even for the most grasping of oil-and-gas companies to do business with them.

Look on the bright side.

Posted on 01/19/2013 4:35 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 January 2013
A Musical Interlude: There'll Be Some Changes Made (Boswell Sisters)
Listen here.
Posted on 01/19/2013 4:48 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 January 2013
The Espionage Malworm Red October has Apparently Shutdown

This week witnessed disclosures about another espionage malworm that was given the name of the famed Tom Clancy book and film, Red October.  News about Red October surfaced on Monday, January 14, 2013 with a report by the anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab in Russia.  By Friday, January 18, 2013, the plug had allegedly been pulled by its developers.  However, the damage had already been done with information phished over five years from a plethora of allegedly secure sources and more than 55,000 computers.

Earlier this week, a Daily Mail report  quoted Kaspersky Lab officials on the possible developers of the Red October espionage malworm:

Red October [or rocra], which has been active since at least 2007, appears to collect files encrypted with software used by several entities from the European Union to NATO.

Kaspersky said Red October also infected smart phones, including iPhones, Windows Mobile and Nokia handsets.

'The project started in October 2012, we received a suspicious executable from a partner,' Vitaly Kamluk, Chief Malware Expert at Kaspersky Lab told MailOnline.

'We checked and began to understand what we had was quite massive - we found 1,000 different files in a few weeks, each of them a personalized email.'

Mr. Kamluk said the attacks were highly customized.

'There are a very limited number of machines, around 1,000 around the world, but every target is carefully selected.'
'We extracted language used and found broken English was used, with Russian words thrown in, such as Proga, commonly used among Russian programmers.

'However, we are not pointing fingers at Russia - just that Russian language has been spotted.

'It could be any organization or country behind this; it could be nation states or a private business or criminal group.

ArsTechnica’s latest report on Red October  issued on January 18, 2013 noted these developments:

Key parts of the infrastructure supporting an espionage campaign that targeted governments around the world reportedly have been shut down in the days since the five-year operation was exposed.

The so-called Red October campaign came to light on Monday in a report from researchers from antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab. It reported that the then-ongoing operation was targeting embassies as well as governmental and scientific research organizations in a wide variety of countries. The research uncovered more than 60 Internet domain names used to run the sprawling command and control network that funneled malware and received stolen data to and from infected machines. In the hours following the report, many of those domains and servers began shutting down, according to an article posted Friday by Kaspersky news service Threatpost.

“It’s clear that the infrastructure is being shut down,” Kaspersky Lab researcher Costin Raiu told the service. “Not only the registers killing the domains and the hosting providers killing the command-and-control servers but perhaps the attackers are shutting down the whole operation.”

One of Red October’s innovations is a command infrastructure that uses multiple layers of servers and domains that act as proxies to camouflage the core functions in the operation. Mashable reporter Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai quoted Raiu as describing the design as an “onion with multiple skins” with a mother ship at its center that collects all the stolen data. Raiu said most of the unplugged domains and disconnected servers seen so far represent first-level proxies. He speculated the operation may go dormant for a while and then come back using different servers or domains, or even different malware altogether.

Raiu said the full extent of the infrastructure likely hasn’t been uncovered yet. He estimated the campaign may use several dozen more servers. If correct, the total number would rival the command infrastructure used by Flame, the state-sponsored malware campaign that targeted sensitive networks in Iran.

The earlier ArsTechnica report noted  the Kaspersky Lab findings about the power of Red October:

The Red October malware that infected hundreds of computer networks in diplomatic, governmental, and scientific research organizations around the world was one of the most advanced espionage platforms ever discovered, researchers with antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab have concluded.

Its operators had more than 1,000 modules at their disposal, allowing them to craft highly advanced infections that were tailored to the unique configurations of infected machines and the profiles of those who used them. Most of the tasks the components carried out—including extracting e-mail passwords and cryptographically hashed account credentials, downloading files from available FTP servers, and collecting browsing history from Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Opera—were one-time events. They relied on dynamic link library code that was received from an attacker server, executed in memory, and then immediately discarded. That plan of attack helps explain why the malware remained undetected by antivirus programs for more than five years.

The details are contained in 140 pages of technical analysis that concludes Red October dwarfs most other advanced espionage operations, including the Aurora campaign that targeted Google and three dozen other companies three years ago, or the Night Dragon attacks that penetrated energy companies in 2011. The breadth of the malware comes into sharp focus, thanks to the unprecedented level of technical detail.

“According to our knowledge, never before in the history of ITSec has a cyber-espionage operation been analyzed in such deep detail, with a focus on the modules used for attack and data exfiltration.” Kaspersky researchers wrote.

[. . .]

Malware in the Red October campaign belongs to a code family Kaspersky has dubbed Sputnik. It infects computers using booby-trapped Microsoft Word and Excel documents, which appear to have exploited vulnerabilities Microsoft had already patched at the time they compromised the computers.

As extensive as the operators of the Red October espionage malworm appear they were not as fiendishly clever as Flame.  ArcsTechnica contrasted the two systems:

As advanced as the Red Octobers Sputnik family of malware is, it still doesn’t outshine Flame, the surveillance and espionage malware that Kaspersky discovered targeting Iran. Among the features that make Flame stand out was its ability to hijack Microsoft’s Windows Update mechanism so it could spread from machine to machine over an infected network. To pull off the feat, Flame achieved what’s believed to be the only in-the-wild cryptographic collision attack using a technique that required the expertise of world-class cryptographers.

“In my opinion, Flame is the queen mother of advanced attack methodology,” Kaspersky Lab Senior Security Researcher Kurt Baumgartner told Ars. “For example, the complexity and uniqueness of the ‘God-mode cheat’ used for the Windows Update MiTM replication methods were not challenged by the Red October exploit code re-use.”

Still, he said, Red October’s “deep level of detail when interacting with and penetrating an environment is new.” Further, command and control infrastructure used to coordinate the Red October operation was more developed than the one used by Flame, despite comprising fewer registered domains.

So who developed Red October and for what purpose?  Was it the notorious hacktavist collaborative Anonymous who invaded Mexico’s Defense Ministry recently.  Or was it a group of  talented Ukrainian hackers known for their phishing prowess, Chinese hackers working for government cyber warfare echelons,  or Iranian cyber jihadis of the I.R.G.C.  who have attacked US financial institutions?  Perhaps the famed Israeli SIGINT Unit 8200  or US Cyber Warfare Command specialists may know.  Red October may have vaporized for now. However, the information it collected is still in the possession of the espionage malworm masters.  Stay tuned for developments.

Posted on 01/19/2013 6:22 PM by Jerry Gordon
Saturday, 19 January 2013
A Cheering Tale From Somalia

From The Washington Post:

Twitter-loving American jihadi faces death threat from Somali militants after fallout

By Associated Press

January 18

JOHANNESBURG — An Alabama native who moved to Somalia to wage jihad alongside al-Shabab militants faces a Saturday deadline to surrender to the insurgents or be killed, according to his Internet posting.

Omar Hammami — whom the FBI named as one of its most-wanted terrorists in November — has engaged in a public fight with al-Shabab over the last year, and a Twitter account that terrorism analysts believe is run by Hammami or his associates announced Jan. 4 that al-Shabab fighters had given him 15 days to surrender, or else.

“Shabab make (an) announcement in front of amriki: drop ur weapon b4 15 days or be killed. Its on,” the tweet from the Twitter handle (at)abumamerican said. Hammami’s nom de guerre is Abu Mansoor Al-Amriki, or “the American.”

The killing of an American foreign fighter would likely harm al-Shabab’s efforts to recruit Westerners, but Hammami has felt in danger for many months. Hammami first expressed fear for his life in an extraordinary web video last March that publicized his rift with the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab.

Hammami has since leveled a myriad of accusations at the group — corruption, murder, ignoring global jihad — and analysts agree the American has become an al-Shabab PR problem.

“Something tells me at some point they just need to shut this guy up. At some point he stops being a nuisance and starts being a problem,” said Bill Roggio, editor of The Long War Journal. “He may be signing his own death warrant ... I suspect if they end up executing him they won’t do it in the timeline that he claims.”

Even if the death threat isn’t carried out close to Saturday, Clint Watts — a former executive officer at West Point’s Combatting Terrorism Center — said Hammami needs to flee if he wants to save his own skin.

“He’s always going to be looking over his shoulder in Somalia. They’re not going to forget and eventually they’re going to come after him. I mean, he’s just killing al-Shabab right now,” said Watts, who suggested that Hammami must run, turn himself in to U.S. authorities or fight to stay alive in Somalia as long as he can.

“And I think he still ends up being killed in the long run,” said Watts, a senior fellow at the Homeland Security Policy Institute and the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

Along with Adam Gadahn in Pakistan — a former Osama bin Laden spokesman — Hammami is one of the two most notorious Americans in jihad groups. Hammami has made frequent appearances in al-Shabab combat videos, and in 2011 he released two rap songs, “Send Me a Cruise (missile)” and “Make Jihad With Me.” He’s also released Islamic lectures.

That high-profile posture has led al-Shabab to label Hammami a narcissist. Or as Watts put it: “He’s full of himself.”

Hammami has grievances with al-Shabab that has angered the Somali fighters: First, that militant leaders live extravagant lifestyles with the taxes fighters collect from Somali residents. “War booty is eaten by the top dogs, but the guys who won it are jailed for touching it. A gun, bullets, some beans is their lot,” abumamerican tweeted this month.

His second major grievance is that the Somali militant leaders sideline foreign militants inside al-Shabab and are concerned only about fighting in Somalia, not globally.

Hammami even claims that al-Shabab’s leader — Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, also known as Godane — sent al-Qaida’s former East Africa chief — Fazul Abdullah Mohammed — to his death by directing Mohammed to a Somali government checkpoint in Mogadishu where he was shot and killed in June 2011. Mohammed, who had ties with Osama bin Laden, died one month after bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs.

That theory may have credence to it. Roggio and Watts both say it’s plausible that Fazul was set up, and a Kenyan government security official has told The Associated Press that Fazul was sent to his death. The official spoke only on condition he not be identified because he wasn’t authorized to release that information.

Hammami also claims that al-Shabab assassinates fighters inside its group.

Al-Shabab slapped Hammami publicly in an Internet statement last month, saying his video releases are the result of personal grievances that stem from a “narcissistic pursuit of fame.” The statement said al-Shabab was morally obligated to out his “obstinacy.”

Aaron Zelin, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who runs the website, thinks Hammami’s recent outbursts — on Twitter, and a short Arabic-language video — have been a way for the American to rally protective support for himself. Hammami has sought out al-Qaida central, the al-Qaida branch in Yemen and Islamic scholars to take his side, but he has largely been given the cold shoulder.

Watts said Hammami seems to indicate he is in a region of Somalia controlled by Mukhtar Robow, a rival al-Shabab leader of Godane’s, so may have some clan protection there. But it’s unclear if Robow would save the life of the American, Watts said.

Hammami has been seen in videos among al-Shabab’s leaders, but he was passed over for a promotion and sidelined within the movement, Roggio said.

Hammami grew up in Daphne, Alabama, a bedroom community of 20,000 outside Mobile. The son of a Christian mother and a Syrian-born Muslim father, Hammami once served as the president of the Muslim Student Associated at the University of South Alabama. He moved to Somalia in 2005 or 2006.

Posted on 01/19/2013 8:37 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Saturday, 19 January 2013
He Can Do What He Wants To Non-Muslims In Saudi Arabia, So Why Not In The U.S.?

From Reuters:

Saudi Air Force sergeant accused of child rape in Las Vegas

Jan 18 2013

LAS VEGAS, Jan 18 (Reuters) - A Saudi Air Force sergeant in the United States for training has been arrested on child sexual assault charges over accusations he raped a 13-year-old boy in a Las Vegas hotel, and bail was set on Friday at just over $1.2 million, authorities said.

Mazen Alotaibi is accused of raping the boy on New Year's Eve at the Circus Circus hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, where both Alotaibi and the boy were guests, according to a criminal complaint.

Police said that Alotaibi, 23, had been visiting Las Vegas while temporarily stationed at Lackland Air Force base in Texas.

The man's defense lawyer said his client had been in Las Vegas with a group of Saudi military friends ahead of the impending end of his U.S. training, and had spent the hours before the incident drinking.

"He was two weeks from graduating. He came to Las Vegas to celebrate. It was New Year's Eve," the attorney, Don Chairez, told Reuters, complaining that Alotaibi was intoxicated when he was interrogated by police and that he admitted he may have had sexual contact with the boy only under aggressive questioning.

"There is no evidence my client dragged this kid to the hotel room," Chairez said, adding that the boy had approached the Saudi group looking to buy marijuana. "They repeatedly tried to get rid of him."

A court clerk said that bail was set for Alotaibi at more than $1.2 million on Friday on charges including child sexual assault and coercion.

Las Vegas media reported that the judge ordered that Alotaibi surrender his passport and remain in the United States if he posts bail. He could face life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges, his lawyer said.
Posted on 01/19/2013 8:48 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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