NightWatch

For the Night of 29 March 2009

 

North Korea-Iran:  Agence France-Presse reported today that missile experts from Iranian rocket and satellite maker Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG) are in North Korea to help prepare for a rocket launch according to the Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun. The Iranian experts delivered a letter from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad to North Korean leader Kim Chong-Il that reportedly emphasizes the importance of cooperation in space technology.

 

North Korea exported rocket and missile technology to Iran. Without North Korean engines and rocket technology, Iran would have no functioning missiles. Thus, the purpose of Iranian experts in North Korea is to advise on the results of the joint North Korean-Iranian rocket that Iran launched in this joint research and development enterprise.

 

Note:  Almost every day North Korean news services report Kim Chong-il visiting some plant or enterprise to provide “on-the-spot” guidance, mimicking the energetic schedule maintained by his late father, President Forever, Kim Il-sung. Kim Chong-il has never maintained such a schedule. Seven months after a stroke, no medical doctor or neurologist would advise him to maintain such a schedule, assuming he were in physical condition to do so. 

 

The daily sightings of Kim’s activities are those of body doubles or they are outright lies, not to be taken seriously.  Kim Chong-il always hated the visits with his father, according to high-level defectors. He hated making them, disliked public appearances and refused to challenge in any way the legendary exploits of his father. NightWatch is confident Kim is making no visits. 

 

The reports obviously are intended to depict leadership activities as normal, except the North Korean propagandists have gone overboard and proven precisely the opposite.  Whatever is occurring in North Korean leadership, it is far from normal.

 

North Korea-South Korea: South Korean long range weather forecasters predict the Taepo Dong 2 missile/space launch will have to be postponed from 4-8 to 6-8 April because of a weather system.

"Windy and cloudy weather, let alone rain or snow, is not suitable for a rocket launch."

 

China:   The Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto, has published a 53-page booklet that describes in detail the findings of a 10-month investigation of a Chinese government-backed, if not official, cyber spy ring known as GhostNet.

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The Canadian investigation, consisting of fieldwork, technical scouting, and laboratory analysis, discovered a network of over 1,295 infected hosts in 103 countries. Up to 30% of the infected hosts are considered high-value targets and include computers located at ministries of foreign affairs, embassies, international organizations, news media, and NGOs.

 

Infected computers in ministries of foreign affairs included those of Iran, Bangladesh, Latvia, Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Barbados and Bhutan. Embassy targets included India, South Korea, Indonesia, Romania, Cyprus, Malta, Thailand, Taiwan, Portugal, Germany and Pakistan; the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Secretariat; SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation), and the Asian Development Bank; news organizations; and an unclassified computer located at NATO headquarters.

 

The investigation began with a manual investigation of Tibetan computer systems. The investigators found that computers associated with the Dalai Lama were compromised by multiple infections that gave attackers unprecedented access to potentially sensitive information.

 

The GhostNet system directs infected computers to download a Trojan known as gh0st RAT that allows attackers to gain complete, real-time control. These instances of gh0st RAT are consistently controlled from commercial Internet access accounts located on the island of Hainan, People’s Republic of China.

 

The key findings of the study are

  • Documented evidence of a cyber espionage network—GhostNet—infecting at least 1,295

computers in 103 countries, of which close to 30% can be considered as high-value

diplomatic, political, economic, and military targets.

  • Documented evidence of GhostNet penetration of computer systems containing sensitive

and secret information at the private offices of the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan

targets.

  • Documentation and reverse engineering of the modus operandi of the GhostNet

System -- including vectors, targeting, delivery mechanisms, data retrieval and control

Systems -- reveals a covert, difficult-to-detect and elaborate cyber-espionage system

capable of taking full control of affected systems.

 

In short, the Chinese government is waging cyber warfare against the rest of the world, taking good advantage of the Internet users’ naive cultural axiom that information on the net should be free of charge.

 

Afghanistan:  A full bench of the Supreme Court of Afghanistan Sunday (29 March)] in its decision extended the term of President Karzai until the taking over of charge by new president after the 20 August presidential elections.

 

This was always the obvious answer, which raises a question why there was so much US angst and energy wasted over such a trivial issue.  The Taliban are knocking at the door, but somehow advisors to Karzai are worried about the legal niceties of a duly elected president remaining in office until the next election. Outside advisors need to remember this is Afghanistan:  it is a war zone.  The rules under wartime conditions are not the same as under peacetime conditions. That raises the issue why US taxpayers are paying for an election in a war zone. Afghanistan today is not like the US during the Civil War.

 

The US President has outlined a new strategy, but absurd, old attitudes apparently will threaten its execution. Afghanistan needs more warriors than lawyers. If Kabul falls to the Taliban, modern ideas of rule of law will be irrelevant; laughable.

 

Iraq:  Update.  Iraqi police sources said that, on the second day in a row, clashes renewed in Al-Fadl area in central Baghdad between Iraqi and US troops and members of the Sunni Awakening Council forces in the city. The clashes renewed after the Iraqi Army yesterday arrested Adil al-Mashhadani, commander of the Awakening Council forces in the area.

 

The arrangement under which the US paid Sunni fighters to stop fighting US forces is breaking down because the Iran-backed al Maliki government has only hired 5,000 Sunni fighters from the 100,000 on the US payroll at 300 per fighter per month.  This is a pre-cursor of the second round of the Sunni-Shia civil war to follow.

 

Turkey: Prime Minister Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party won the 29 March local elections, but failed to win Diyarbakir in the Kurdish southeast, Izmir and several other key cities, Reuters reported. Turkey's secularist opposition also made gains in Istanbul.  According to unofficial results with half of the votes counted, the AK Party has won 39 percent of the vote in provincial assemblies and is ahead of the secularist opposition.

 

Supporters of rival candidates attacked each other with firearms at local elections in Turkey on 29 March, leaving four people dead and more than 60 injured, RIA Novosti reported, citing local media. The largest gunfight broke out in Sanliurfa Province in the southeast, where one person was shot and killed and 34 were wounded.

 

Successive elections prove beyond doubt that Turks outside the cities are conservative-bordering-on-fundamentalist Islamists. The gap between secular urban Turks and rural fundamentalists is widening.  This is a classic urban-rural split with an Islamic veneer. Turkey bears close scrutiny because the countryside consistently has shown it has sufficient votes to elect the AK Party over the voting power and secular interests of the cities.

 

Somalia piracy patrol: Update.  Russia's Admiral Panteleyev (548) guided missile destroyer, a salvage tugboat and a tanker left Vladivostok on 29 March to take part in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, RIA Novosti reported. The ships are from Russia's Pacific Fleet and will replace a task group led by the destroyer Admiral Vinogradov that had participated in the anti-piracy patrol since January.

 

Sudan:   President Omar al Bashir on 29 March arrived in Qatar for an Arab League summit that begins 30 March, The Associated Press reported. Qatar's emir greeted al Bashir at Doha's airport. The Arab League has said it would not enforce the International Criminal Court's arrest warrant for al Bashir.

 

Bashir is demonstrating his defiance of the ICC warrant. He protests too much.

 

Niger:  The President’s term limits are about to expire, meaning that President Mamadou Tandja has served the limit of consecutive terms allowed under the constitution.  He is reluctant to leave office and told the press that he would remain in office another term if the people desired, but would not amend the constitution to do so.

 

Presidential elections are due in December 2009.  Stay tuned; this is a study in democracy.

 

End of NightWatch for 29 March.