Saturday, January 01, 2011

A Happy New Year 2011 from Asian Gazette

Meilleurs Voeux pour 2011!

Wishing you a Happy New Year 2011!

2011年 素晴らしい新年をお迎えください!

新年快乐 2011!

Friday, December 31, 2010

C'est la nouvelle année...

"Bonne année!"

Voici la nouvelle année
Souriante, enrubannée,
Qui pour notre destinée,
Par le ciel nous est donnée :
C' est à minuit qu' elle est née.
Les ans naissent à minuit
L'un arrive, l'autre fuit.
Nouvel an ! Joie et bonheur !

Pourquoi ne suis-je sonneur
De cloches, carillonneur,
Pour mieux dire à tout le monde
À ceux qui voguent sur l'onde
Ou qui rient dans leurs maisons,
Tous les vœux que nous faisons
Pour eux, pour toute la Terre
Pour mes amis les enfants
Pour les chasseurs de panthères
Et les dompteurs d'éléphants.

Tristan Derème, poète (1889-1941)

"Un jour je vis, debout au bord des flots mouvants"

Un jour je vis, debout au bord des flots mouvants,
Passer, gonflant ses voiles,
Un rapide navire enveloppé de vents,
De vagues et d'étoiles ;

Et j'entendis, penché sur l'abîme des cieux,
Que l'autre abîme touche,
Me parler à l'oreille une voix dont mes yeux
Ne voyaient pas la bouche :

"Poëte, tu fais bien ! Poëte au triste front,
Tu rêves près des ondes,
Et tu tires des mers bien des choses qui sont
Sous les vagues profondes !

La mer, c'est le Seigneur, que, misère ou bonheur,
Tout destin montre et nomme ;
Le vent, c'est le Seigneur ; l'astre, c'est le Seigneur ;
Le navire, c'est l'homme."

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Herve Ghesquiere and Stephane Taponier, French journalists and hostages of the war in Afghanistan

Paris call for the hostages' liberation

1 year ago, the two journalists Stéphane Taponier and Hervé Ghesquière were abducted with their escorts, Mohammed Reza, Ghulam and Satar, in the plain of Kapisa, Afghanistan, by a group of Talibans.

Journalist and cameraman for France Television, (the French national broadcasting) they were reporting for France 3, the TV channel program "Pièce à conviction." Their detention longer than for Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot, longer than for Florence Aubenas. They joined the painful cohort of journalists hostage for long periods.

Having spent three weeks alongside French troops engaged in the field, they decided to collect also the vision of the Afghan people who are the first victims of this war, to produce a report on a conflict in which France is party involved.

For freedom of information, we must fight every day to get everything done to free the two French reporters and their three companions. I have launched this appeal several times under my mandate at the FCCJ Foreign press club in Japan as co-chair of the FCCJ Freedom of the Press Committee. Today I join again all my colleagues in France and in the world to ask to their captors the liberation of our colleagues and of their team, they are messengers, witnesses, not actors of wars. Their struggle is information, don't bind them with ropes of ignorance and cruelty.

(NDAG 21-01-2011: This article has been sent to the Number 1 Shimbun, the magazine of the Foreign Correspondents 'Club of Japan financed by our membership, but it has been rejected in spite of the EMERGENCY. Our hostages in Afghanistan and all the media might not really appreciate, as we, such a censorship by current FCCJ 2011 administration.)

Children in war by newsroom-magazine

Now what are the reasons of such conflict in Afghanistan? What might happen in the future? I read this story of William Pfaff, a former columnist for The International Herald Tribune: "Afghanistan: The End May Be In Sight, What Next ?"


It is not impossible that the great campaign to create
a new Middle East and Central Asia, defeat the
Taliban, slay Islam’s violent extremists, capture or
kill Osama bin Laden, and build a radiant new world of
democracy and capitalism, may be closer to being
called off than one might think.

The campaign has failed. It is not working now, but
going backward, as in the case of politically chaotic
and sectarian-divided Iraq, recently “liberated” by
the United States at the price of more than 100
thousand civilian casualties, the flight of two
million of its people from their country, and nearly
two million more driven out of their homes or
otherwise having their lives uprooted. According to
The New York Times, the forces opposing the new Nuri
Kamal al-Maliki government may demand America’s total
withdrawal from Iraq, abandoning what currently is
supposed to be an “enduring” U.S. deployment there.

In mid-December the Obama administration revealed the
conclusions of its Afghan policy review, supposed to
fine-tune a war-winning grand strategy in Afghanistan.
They offered no fundamental change in the American
program, and reported that the war against the Taliban
goes a little better in some respects, and rather
worse in others, and that relations with Pakistan,
which supports the Taliban as well as the United
States, are bad and getting worse. A U.S. National
Intelligence Estimate was published almost
simultaneously, which said the American intelligence
community is unanimously convinced that the Afghan war
is being lost...."

And an extension of conflict in the Far - East?
A coming US -
China conflict?

"... The Pentagon and America’s foreign policy
community are determined that the United States must
continue its effort permanently to control the region.
The democracy-building mindset, with which all of this
began during the Clinton years, confirmed after 9/11
by George W. Bush, still prevails, even in the camp
of American foreign policy “realists.”

John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago has
a major article in the latest issue of The National
Interest magazine which provides a lucid critique of
how the United States got into these dangerous Asian
entanglements, but ends by asserting that to assure
its own security Washington must continue to possess
Asian domination, blocking any rival (meaning China).

He asserts that “no American leader will accept” a
Chinese effort to turn its economic power into
military power in order to impose its own hegemony in
Northeast Asia. Washington should adopt an
“offshore`’ policy, he writes, that keeps American
military power “over the horizon” from East Asia, but
ready to intervene against China.

This seems to me to rest on highly exaggerated
assumptions about China’s ambitions, and about the
ease with which a Chinese economy that currently
remains a satellite of the advanced European and
American economies, and is still dependent on foreign
technology, can be turned into a military giant
capable of dominating Asia and challenging the United

It also ignores the existence of the world’s third
largest industrial economy, that of Japan, a nation of
highly advanced technology (and demonstrated military
capacities, should it be threatened). India is
another neighbor of China’s, as is South Korea.

Finally, this supposedly “realistic” policy
recommendation makes vague and controversial
assumptions about an American interest in possessing
Northeast Asian hegemony. What, exactly, is China’s
threat to the United States? Mearsheimer is
reformulating the same policy of global domination
that he and other American “realists” have opposed in
the Middle East, Central Asia, and now in Afghanistan-
Pakistan. If it is a bad policy there, why is it a
good policy in Northeast Asia? Why withdraw from a
war to control Afghanistan but prepare for a war with
China?" Unquote.

His entire story:

Also from Pfaff, an informative book to read:

The Tragedy of America’s Foreign Policy.
By William Pfaff

children foreign policy blogs

Reporter's notes

Creative Commons License
Herve Ghesquiere and Stephane Taponier, French journalists and hostages of the war in Afghanistan by Asian Gazette Blog of Joel Legendre-Koizumi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The grey zone of the U.S. Military Alliance With Japan and South Korea!

I have been reading a lot of stories regarding the alleged difficulties encountered by the Japanese prime minister Kan's administration vis a vis the military alliance between Japan and the United States since the Cold War.

Well, then you know what happens, little by little, the thing is that after reading tons of data, the brain gets used to the fact that indeed there is a sort of "malaise" in this alliance. Japan asks to the Americans to be allowed to re-balance the alliance in terms that are more profitable for Japan. The answer of D.C. is to show considerable patience, sometimes formulated in patronizing terms towards Tokyo as Gates did quite too often. His next month visit mid January 2011 certainly is going to be interesting to hear about.

In a "nutshell" Japanese wonder wether President Obama himself does have much to say to his military chiefs? And the answer came. No! According to the Washington Post "Military thwarted president seeking choice in Afghanistan". Written by the "Bob Woodward", a star writer of the Washington Post with his new book "Obama's Wars". [Woodward teamed with Carl Bernstein did much of the original news reporting on the Watergate scandal which drove Richard Nixon out of the White House in the 70's.]

Woodward story on Obama's Wars is here.


A divided team: "Clear factions formed during the lengthy strategy review sessions in the White House Situation Room during the fall of 2009. The military hierarchy stood resolutely behind adding 40,000 troops in Afghanistan. Opposition came from Vice President Biden and White House aides. President Obama wanted options that would do more to limit U.S. involvement and outline an exit plan. For two exhausting months, he had been asking military advisers to give him a range of options for the war in Afghanistan. Instead, he felt that they were steering him toward one outcome and thwarting his search for an exit plan. He would later tell his White House aides that military leaders were "really cooking this thing in the direction they wanted."

As the blogger "Seattlepi" wrote, well informed in : "Good Government, Bad Government, Bob Woodward's book "Obama's Wars" concerns not just the war in Afghanistan but also the ideological war in the White House between hawks and doves, as well as the war that occurred inside the President's head."

Then, I came to read this other article, a tough one, something alike the stories in Martine Bulard 's paper "Le Monde Diplomatique" while on a journey. Title: "U.S. Builds Military Alliance With Japan, South Korea For War In The East December 14, 2010" Here:

Yes I read "war in the East!" Then my blood froze. Now the reason is simply a journalistic methodology reason. If I quote it here it is not because I give clearance to his author and his thoughts but because he gathered facts correctly reported by several newspapers such as the FT, the NYT, and others (all quoted at the end) and what the author succeeds in, to my humble opinion is to break the ice in awakening our intelligence to create a smart reading of recent events. What Rozoff does is that he puts things in perspective rather that using the stratagem of cutting slices of information to disillusion the readers and have them accept the portions of element of information enough to feed a busy daily brain.

Rick Rozoff is clearly what he claims: a pacifist and an anti Nato person. He is opposed to what he calls "Global Militarism" An intellectual who states: " Stop NATO is an international email news list that examines, from an adversarial position, the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and affiliated and allied military blocs into and throughout Europe, the Mediterranean, the Caucasus, Central and South Asia, East Asia and the Pacific, Africa, the so-called Greater Middle East and beyond... Its purpose is to document, anticipate, expose and oppose ongoing efforts to expand global militarization, including the deployment of advanced, potential first strike missile systems throughout the world and in space."

Enough presentation, now the Rozoff views:

"Last week Secretary of State Hillary Clinton summoned her Japanese and South Korean counterparts, Foreign Ministers Seiji Maehara and Kim Sung-hwan, to Washington for trilateral talks on the Korean crisis in an open affront to China and Russia, which had called for a resumption of six-party discussions with both Koreas, themselves, the U.S. and Japan.

Officiating over the December 6 gathering with her junior partners on her own turf, Clinton – rather than the foreign ministers of the two East Asian nations – stated, “North Korea’s provocative and belligerent behavior jeopardizes peace and stability in Asia.” The imperial metropolis and its would-be global procurator pronounce on what constitutes threats to peace and stability on another continent; the perspective of countries in the region like China and Russia don’t need to be taken into account and their concerns don’t need to be addressed.

Admiral Mullen and General Oriki in earlier meeting

Two days later America’s top military officer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, was in the South Korean capital and in that of Japan the day after. In Seoul he met with General Han Min-koo, chairman of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, and in Tokyo with Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa and Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) chief of staff General Ryoichi Oriki. While in Japan, Mullen mentioned “the trilateral meeting on the part of our foreign ministers which occurred earlier this week in Washington” by way of indicating that his efforts paralleled those of Clinton. Soft versus hard power in the Washington vernacular, both serving the same ends.

He also assured his Japanese opposite number General Oriki that “the United States is very much – is very involved in regions all over the world but none so much as this one in terms of its importance and its commitment.” [1]

Keen Sword 2011

As the two top military commanders met, their armed forces were completing the eight-day Keen Sword 2011 war games which involved “units from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, working side-by-side with their JSDF counterparts at military bases throughout mainland Japan, Okinawa and in the waters surrounding Japan.” [2]

The exercise, the largest military undertaking conducted jointly by the two nations, included 44,000 troops, 400 aircraft and over 60 ships, including the USS George Washington nuclear-powered aircraft carrier accompanied by carrier and expeditionary strike groups.

In the words of a BBC correspondent aboard – and much enamoured with – the super-carrier, “The USS George Washington itself is like a floating city, with 5,500 men and women living on board, 60 aircraft and two nuclear reactors which could allow it to stay at sea for 25 years without coming ashore.” [3]

USS George Washington and support vessels

This year’s Keen Sword (maneuvers with that code-name have been conducted since 1986) was not only the most ambitious but was highlighted as marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan, whose Article 5 mandates mutual military assistance should either country become involved in armed hostilities.

The drills were “carried out to practice for guarding against ballistic missile attacks and for defending remote Japanese islands,” [4] The first objective presumably pertains to North Korea, the second to China. [5]

The British journalist quoted earlier reminded his readers that the “joint exercises with Asian allies are…a show of strength, sending a signal that the US still has a lot of sway, not to mention firepower, in this region.

“Competition in the seas of the East Asian region is increasing. Just over the horizon from the war games are a group of islands held by Japan, but claimed by both China and Taiwan.

“The islands have untapped offshore oil and gas reserves, and these waters are a vital trade route for goods being shipped around the world.” [6]

He was referring to the island chain known as the Senkaku to Japan and the Diaoyu to China, where what may have escalated into an international incident occurred in September.

Keen Sword 2011 included drills near Okinawa, part of the Ryukyu/Nansei Islands to which Japan assigns the Senkaku Islands. It also included interceptor missile exercises the length of Japan, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south. (Ryukyu is the designation for islands in the southern half of the chain belonging to the Okinawa Prefecture.)

Shortly after the U.S.-Japan war games ended, two members of the municipal assembly of Ishigaki in the Okinawa Prefecture “briefly set foot on one of the islands at the centre of a bitter territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo,” to wit Minami Kojima in the Senkaku group in the East China Sea. [7]

Before Keen Sword commenced, USS George Washington and its carrier strike group completed a four-day joint exercise with South Korea in the Yellow Sea, bordered on the north and west by China.

Along the way, the super-carrier took on board over 20 members of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

The South Korean military participated as an observer in the U.S.-Japan Keen Sword maneuvers for the first time, as Japanese military personnel observed the Invincible Spirit U.S.-South Korea war games in the Sea of Japan/East Sea from July 25-28, for which USS George Washington was also deployed.

The exercise was interrupted for several hours on December 6 when two Russian Ilyushin Il-38 anti-submarine warfare aircraft flew over U.S. and Japanese forces participating in the maneuvers and Japan scrambled F-15s to intercept them. According to a U.S. military source: “It is the second incident in as many months that some have interpreted as a potential strain on Japan-Russia relations.” [8]

“Although it is not unusual for foreign planes to try to spy on other countries’ war games, Japanese media interpreted the move as Russia’s latest warning shot in a festering territorial dispute between Moscow and Tokyo. The incident…came just two days after Japan’s foreign minister, Seiji Maehara, flew over the disputed Kuril Islands that are currently part of Russia but which Tokyo claims as its own. President Dmitry Medvedev became the first Russian leader to visit the islands in November, infuriating Japan.” [9]

The U.S. supports Japan’s position that the Southern Kurils are its so-called Northern Territories. [10]

On October 27 Hillary Clinton reiterated the U.S. commitment to honoring Article 5 of the 1960 U.S.-Japan Security Treaty in relation to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute with China. She made the comment at a meeting in Hawaii with Japanese Foreign Minister Maehara, who of late has also manifested renewed interest in the Kuril Islands as seen above.

Her meeting with the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea on December 6 and Admiral Mullen’s meetings with Japan’s and South Korea’s military leaders later in the week cannot be viewed apart from the above context.

While in Tokyo on December 9, Mullen said that North Korea’s “reckless behaviour…enabled by their friends in China” was the cause of the fact that “Northeast Asia is today more volatile than it’s been in much of the last 50 years.” In Seoul the day before he called on Japan, notwithstanding its constitutional prohibition against what is deemed collective self-defense and collective security, to play an active role in tripartite military exercises with the U.S. and South Korea.

After meeting with Japan’s leading defense and military officials, Mullen said “he had ‘a real sense of urgency’ about the need for Washington, Tokyo and Seoul to enhance security cooperation to deter North Korea.” [11] In his view, the participation of South Korean military observers in the U.S.-Japan Keen Sword exercise was “a terrific first step to broadening our trilateral relationship and deepening our collective readiness.” [12]

On December 11 Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper reported that the government’s National Defense Program Guidelines to be released later this month, the first in six years, will announce that Tokyo is shifting its military strategy toward “a posture that can effectively deal with possible contingencies on Japan’s vulnerable southern islands and China’s growing military presence.”

Japan will assign increased importance to a “dynamic defense capability” for its armed forces, the archaically-named Self-Defense Forces (SDF).

The new military doctrine will “emphasize mobility and readiness to allow the SDF to respond to terrorist acts or an invasion of outlying islands.

“The guidelines will also raise concerns about the Chinese Navy’s rising presence in waters around Japan.”

“The proposal to create a dynamic defense capability to deal with the Chinese military presence would involve intelligence-gathering and surveillance, as well as a heightened deterrence factor by demonstrating the SDF’s high capabilities in joint training exercises with the United States.

“The guidelines will also call for a new deployment of the minimum force level of SDF members needed on the Nansei island chain between the south of Kyushu main island and Taiwan.”

The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands contested by China are part of the Nansei/Ryukyu Islands, the entire group returned to Japan by the U.S. in 1971.

“An important point in the guidelines is improving mobility in order to deploy SDF members quickly to the Nansei island chain.

“This would involve using high-speed transport ships and transport planes to move SDF members based in northern parts of the country to the Nansei island chain.” [13]

An appendix to the guidelines includes plans to increase the nation’s submarine fleet from 16 to 22, acquire next-generation fighter jets and add to the number of Aegis class destroyers equipped with Standard Missile-3 interceptor missiles from the present four.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Aegis guided missile destroyers are modified versions of the American Arleigh Burke class destroyer employing the Aegis combat system. In the Japanese arsenal, Kongô class destroyers. In 2007 the JDS Kongô guided missile destroyer conducted a successful test of an American Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) Block IA interceptor against a ballistic missile off Hawaii, the first time a non-American warship launched one of the missiles in a test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System.

In October of 2009 the JS Myoko Aegis class destroyer intercepted a medium-range ballistic missile in a test off Hawaii.

Late this October the recently upgraded JS Kirishima destroyer fired an SM-3 missile 100 miles over Hawaii to bring down a ballistic missile target, a “significant milestone in the growing cooperation between Japan and the U.S. in the area of missile defense.” [14]

Commenting on Japan’s new military blueprint, the New York Times revealed that the country’s “sweeping overhaul of its cold war-era defense strategy” will be released as “the United States is making new calls for Japan to increase its military role in eastern Asia in response to recent provocations by North Korea as well as China’s more assertive stance in the region.”

“The United States has used Japan’s concerns as an opportunity to strengthen ties with the country, its largest and most important Asian ally, and to nudge Japan toward a more active role in the region. In particular, Washington has proposed stronger three-way military ties that would also include its other key regional ally, South Korea.”

“Japan has slowly begun to shed some of the postwar [restrictions] against a larger Asian role for its military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, one of the largest and most technologically advanced in the region.”

“In another sign of growing coordination, South Korea’s vice minister of defense, Lee Yong-gul, visited Tokyo late last week for talks with his Japanese counterpart, Kimito Nakae, on increasing bilateral cooperation.” [15]

The Financial Times stated: “Defence policy guidelines set to be unveiled by Tokyo this month…will signal a historic refocusing of Japan’s army and other forces toward securing islands in the southern Nansei chain that are seen as threatened by China’s rapidly growing military power.”

“Tokyo has already deployed more advanced fighters to the southern island of Okinawa and beefed up army units there, but China’s deployment of new submarines, supersonic anti-ship missiles and advanced fighters is seen as challenging US and Japanese military superiority in an area that includes sea lanes vital to the trade-dependent economy.”

In regards to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the British daily added: “Early steps are likely to include new island radar stations, with small army units to guard them. Some analysts say anti-ship missiles should later be deployed along the Nansei chain to support naval forces in the area.” [16]

On December 11 Kyodo News cited a draft appendix to the new defense policy guidelines in reporting that Japan will be “equipping all [its] six Aegis destroyers with Standard Missile-3 interceptors” and that “Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor missiles will be deployed at air bases nationwide.”

The news source also disclosed that the “PAC-3 missile system, designed to shoot down an incoming missile from the ground moments before reaching its target, will be deployed by all six Air Self-Defense Force air-defense missile groups from three at present.” [17]

In fact, Japanese disarmament activists have identified twelve air bases where Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles have already been installed: Those at Aibano, Ashiya, Gifu, Hakusan, Hamamatsu, Iruma, Kasuga, Kasumigaura, Narashino, Takaradai, Takeyama and Tsuiki. [18] The U.S. also has a Patriot battery at the Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.

Japan’s white paper is similar to that of Australia’s of last year, “Defending Australia in the Asia Pacific century: force 2030,” [19] which details the nation’s largest military buildup – at a price tag of $72 billion – since the Second World War, and New Zealand’s of last month, which advocates “closer military relations with the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada, as well as enhanced front-line capabilities.” [20]

In all three cases nations tied to the U.S. through Cold War-era defense treaties are expanding the sophistication and breadth of their military forces in the Asia-Pacific area. Shortly after Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen visited his country last month, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, until last summer his nation’s head of state, asserted that “Australia could be drawn in to any military conflict on the Korean peninsula under its alliance with the US.” That is, because of obligations imposed by the Australia, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) Security Treaty. [21]

North Korea only goes so far in serving as the justification for the expansion of expeditionary military capabilities and deeper integration with the Pentagon’s plans for the region.

The Washington-Tokyo-Seoul military axis is preparing for war. And not only on the Korean Peninsula.

1) Joint Chiefs of Staff, December 9, 2010
2) U.S. Seventh Fleet, December 3, 2010
3) Alastair Leithead, Strength and power in seas off Japan
BBC News, December 13, 2010

4) Kyodo News, December 3
5) U.S. Supports Japan, Confronts China And Russia Over Island Disputes
Stop NATO, November 4, 2010

6) BBC News, December 13, 2010
7) Radio Netherlands, December 11, 2010
8) Stars and Stripes, December 8, 2010
9) Daily Telegraph, December 8, 2010
10) U.S. Supports Japan, Confronts China And Russia Over Island Disputes
Stop NATO, November 4, 2010

11) Voice of America News, December 9, 2010
12) Stars and Stripes. December 9, 2010
13) Defense policy shifting focus to China’s military
Asahi Shimbun, December 11, 2010

14) Global Security Newswire, October 30, 2010
15) Martin Fackler, Japan Plans Military Shift to Focus More on China
New York Times, December 12, 2010

16) Mure Dickie, Japan to shift military towards China threat
Financial Times, December 13, 2010

17) Kyodo News, December 11, 2010
19) Australian Military Buildup And The Rise Of Asian NATO
Stop NATO, May 6, 2009

20) Obama, Gates And Clinton In Asia: U.S. Expands Military Build-Up In The
Stop NATO, November 7, 2010

21) North Korea As Pretext: U.S. Builds Asian Military Alliance Against China
And Russia
Stop NATO, December 3, 2010


Note: This Rozoff story can be educative for young journalists as it gathers and puts things in perspective. Thank you to the word press people.

Sources: Bob Woodward, Rick Rozoff, Reporter's Notes.

Creative Commons License
The grey zone of the U.S. Military Alliance With Japan and South Korea! by Asian Gazette Blog of Joel Legendre-Koizumi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

About Citizens, Medias, Entrepreneurs, Diplomats, Passive Monitoring Intelligence...

Now that you surrendered to the ubiquitous advertising campaigns shelling all around you. Now that you acquired your latest Christmas mobile toy, maybe a few things need to be reminded to users, author included, who do not always really understand that they are not the lonely ones watching their screen. Others do, too. Governments, firms, neighbors. You are "live" for their own gains. The complexity of the means and uses on the subject are such a sophistication that it goes beyond common citizen imagination. It's called: "Passive Monitoring". (Story: 1.666 words)

& Update from Zdnet Dec 26th 2010 on Botnets malicious traffic, down the page. NDAG

You may have noticed that your computer is slow, or, that your blog is immediately mirrored. You may not be aware of the fact that your mobile and smart-phone, or wireless system wifi objects you use, is absolutely not secured contrary to what the manufacturer wrote in the guarantee of sales. Then you may find yourself the target of sudden adds campaigns, or, in other cases, that your system just freezes, worst may come later.

Who has such interest? Comments and quotes.

Here is a commercial from a security corporation:

"V.... is a mass and target interception system that intercepts, filters, and analyzes voice, data, and multimedia for intelligence purposes. Using sophisticated probing technology and V...’s real-time filtering mechanisms, V.... passively collects maximum communications, extracts the most important information, and uses stored data analysis for generating intelligence from data collected over time."

If your smart-phone, Mac or PC, were to be infected in any of those ways, you probably wouldn't even notice, even if you're a sophisticated user. "Because security software generally sees operating systems as trustworthy, rootkits tucked deep within an OS can go undetected for a long time." In fact, desktop anti-malware products have only recently started to scan for rootkits. Quotes:

"The capabilities of spyware have expanded as
always-on Internet connections have become
increasingly frequent . It’s not only data stored on
the compromised machine that is at risk. Variants of
spyware that provide audio and video surveillance."

Ryan Farley and Xinyuan Wang of George Mason
University, Department of Computer Science, Fairfax,
Virginia, USA:

"The capabilities of spyware have expanded as
always-on Internet connections have become
increasingly frequent. It’s not only data stored on
the compromised machine that is at risk. Variants of
spyware that provide audio and video surveillance
through peripherals such as microphones and web-cams
have been around for over ten years. This may all
sound like old news, but that is deceivingly wrong.
There are a few factors why well structured
surveillance attacks are only a recently growing
concern and an increasingly unchecked threat reaching
critical potential. Primarily, consumers are realizing
that a smart-phone with an unlimited data plan is
almost as vulnerable as a desktop on broadband at
home. Also laptops, which have long had built-in
microphones and Internet accessibility, are recently
also being sold with built-in web-cams. Protection is
even more of a concern in the modern computing
environment where new regulations are constantly
driving up the accountability of organizations for the
loss of private data. It is important to point out
that we are not implying that surveillance spyware
will be as widespread as other malware. A microphone
in every house with Internet access is of little use
to the average attacker and surveillance attacks will
probably involve specific victims known to the
attacker. This does not diminish how universal of a
threat this is, after all, potentially anyone is
capable of gaining an unwanted stalker, jealous
spouse, or generally becoming the target of espionage.
The most plausible use of surveillance spyware across
a set of devices is to provide a roving bug. This is a
term used for audio surveillance that follows a
particular victim regardless of which device they are
using. If the attacker has compromised a victim’s home
computer, work laptop, and smart-phone, then the
attacker would have a greater capacity to continuously
monitor the victim."

How does it work?

For instance on the regular "botnet" attacks. Def: A botnet is "a collection of software agents, or robots, that run autonomously and automatically. The term is most commonly associated with IRC bots and more recently malicious software, but it can also refer to a network of computers using distributed computing software." A huge percentage of the Internet bandwidth is being wasted by idiots and crafty thieves pretending to be idiots. Bots are worse than spam. But for some, it's a gold mine.

Search engines are the worst offenders. Then Amazon's clouds. And Twitter aggregators, TOR aggregators, RSS aggregators, all peddling ads with purloined material. Way too many evilly configured programs grabbing stuff indifferent to their damage. "Exploiting openness to sell marked-up closed versions just like the official spies, no doubt some working for the spies."

"The main drivers for botnets are for recognition and financial gain. The larger the botnet, the more ‘kudos’ the herder can claim to have among the underground community. The bot herder will also ‘rent’ the services of the botnet out to third parties, usually for sending out spam messages, or for performing a denial of service attack against a remote target. Due to the large numbers of compromised machines within the botnet huge volumes of traffic (either email or denial of service) can be generated. However, in recent times the volumes of spam originating from a single compromised host have dropped in order to thwart anti-spam detection algorithms – a larger number of compromised hosts send a smaller number of messages in order to evade detection by anti-spam techniques.

Botnets have become a significant part of the Internet, albeit increasingly hidden. Due to most conventional IRC networks taking measures and blocking access to previously-hosted botnets, controllers must now find their own servers. Often, a botnet will include a variety of connections and network types. Sometimes a controller will hide an IRC server installation on an educational or corporate site where high-speed connections can support a large number of other bots. Exploitation of this method of using a bot to host other bots has proliferated only recently.

Several botnets have been found and removed from the Internet. The Dutch police found a 1.5 million node botnet and the Norwegian ISP Telenor disbanded a 10,000-node botnet. In July 2010, the FBI arrested a 23-year old Slovenian held responsible for the malicious software that integrated an estimated 12 million computers into a botnet. Large coordinated international efforts to shut down botnets have also been initiated. It has been estimated that up to one quarter of all personal computers connected to the internet may be part of a botnet."

What happens?

Denial-of-service attacks where multiple systems autonomously access a single Internet system or service in a way that appears legitimate, but much more frequently than normal use and cause the system to become busy.

Adware exists to advertise some commercial entity actively and without the user's permission or awareness, for example by replacing banner ads on web pages with those of another content provider.

Spyware is software which sends information to its creators about a user's activities, typically passwords, credit card numbers and other information that can be sold on the black market. Compromised machines that are located within a corporate network can be worth more to the bot herder, as they can often gain access to confidential information held within that company. There have been several targeted attacks on large corporations with the aim of stealing sensitive information, one such example is the Aurora botnet.

E-mail spam are e-mail messages disguised as messages from people, but are either advertising, annoying, or malicious in nature.

Click fraud is the user's computer visiting websites without the user's awareness to create false web traffic for the purpose of personal or commercial gain.

Access number replacements are where the botnet operator replaces the access numbers of a group of dial-up bots to that of a victim's phone number. Given enough bots partake in this attack, the victim is consistently bombarded with phone calls attempting to connect to the internet. Having very little to defend against this attack, most are forced into changing their phone numbers (land line, cell phone, etc.).

Fast flux is a DNS technique used by botnets to hide phishing and malware delivery sites behind an ever-changing network of compromised hosts acting as proxies.

What answers?

"Several security companies such as Afferent Security Labs, Symantec, Trend Micro, FireEye, Simplicita and Damballa have announced offerings to stop botnets. While some, like Norton AntiBot (discontinued), are aimed at consumers, most are aimed to protect enterprises and/or ISPs. The host-based techniques use heuristics to try to identify bot behavior that has bypassed conventional anti-virus software. Network-based approaches tend to use the techniques described above; shutting down C&C servers, nullrouting DNS entries, or completely shutting down IRC servers.

Newer botnets are almost entirely P2P, with command-and-control embedded into the botnet itself. By being dynamically updateable and variable they can evade having any single point of failure. Commanders can be identified solely through secure keys and all data except the binary itself can be encrypted. For example a spyware program may encrypt all suspected passwords with a public key hard coded or distributed into the bot software. Only with the private key, which only the commander has, can the data that the bot has captured be read.

Newer botnets have even been capable of detecting and reacting to attempts to figure out how they work. A large botnet that can detect that it is being studied can even DDoS those studying it off the internet." (Wikipedia sources is not trustable as it involves corporations which are on the web spying)

Well then!

Even here, this is not the latest assessment. Hi-Tech researches never ends. The next good guy who'll watch you is your home robot... Next time we'll talk about CCTV, Closed-circuit television in Japan.

Ref: An interesting though incomplete report on the subject, May 2010. "Are hackers spying on you from your mobile phone?"

Sources: Reporter's notes, George Mason
University,, Picture: TW.


Q: "Va-t-on enfin arriver à endiguer puis réduire le volume de spams et tentatives de phishing massivement diffusés par les escrocs qui opèrent des botnet, et qui représentent 80% du trafic e-mail aujourd'hui ?"

R: La lutte contre les botnets s’organise mais le trafic pernicieux dont ils sont à l’origine ne faiblit pas, et je ne suis pas optimiste sur ce sujet. Car il est clair que la « maillon faible » de l’Internet pour ce qui est du spam et du phishing c’est l’internaute lui-même, qui raccorde au réseau des équipements insuffisamment protégés contre les accès extérieurs, et qui passent facilement sous le contrôle distant d’un botnet. Les failles de sécurité des systèmes d’exploitation et logiciels Internet (navigateurs, clients FTP…) se combinent à l’ignorance d’utilisateurs mal formés pour offrir aux organisations criminelles des millions d’ordinateurs dont il est trop facile de prendre le contrôle. Le phénomène n’a pas encore véritablement gagné l’Internet mobile, même si quelques « botnets de smartphones » sont déjà apparus cette année. Je suis prêt à parier que 2011 verra l’apparition de botnets ciblant massivement les smartphones et tablettes…

In :

Creative Commons License
About Citizens, Medias, Entrepreneurs, Diplomats, Passive Monitoring Intelligence... by Asian Gazette Blog of Joel Legendre-Koizumi is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.