Pentagon watchdog assessing ‘nuclear football’ security after rioters got alarmingly close to one during Capitol siege

A US military aide carries the "president's emergency satchel."
A US military aide carries the “president’s emergency satchel,” also known as the “nuclear football.”

  • The Pentagon inspector general is launching a review of “nuclear football” security.
  • The evaluation follows the riot at the Capitol in January, when rioters came close to Pence and his football.
  • The watchdog wants to know more about plans if the satchel is “lost, stolen, or compromised.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Department of Defense inspector general is reviewing the military’s plans for securing the “nuclear football” in an emergency.

The Pentagon watchdog is looking into the “extent that DoD processes and procedures are in place and adequate to alert DoD officials in the event that the Presidential Emergency Satchel is lost, stolen, or compromised,” according to a memo sent Monday.

The memo added that this review is also looking into “the adequacy of the procedures the DoD has developed to respond to such an event.”

The inspector general’s decision to review the security of the “nuclear football” follows the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol, where the rioters came alarmingly close to the vice president and the military aide carrying his backup football. Video footage from the Capitol siege shows Pence being rushed out, with the emergency briefcase close behind.

Read More: Here’s where the ‘nuclear football’ came from and why it follows US presidents wherever they go

Officially known as the president’s emergency satchel, the nuclear football is a mobile nuclear command-and-control asset that a president can use with other tools to wage nuclear war should such extreme action be deemed necessary.

The president, as the commander in chief of the US armed forces, has sole nuclear-strike authority, and the football follows him wherever he goes. A duplicate briefcase also accompanies the vice president, just as it did Mike Pence on Jan. 6., a grim reminder that the VP is second-in-command should the president die or be incapacitated.

During the riot at the Capitol, some of the rioters came within 100 feet of Pence, according to multiple reports. Some were chanting “hang Mike Pence” in fury that the VP did not attempt to overturn the results of the presidential election and in turn drew criticism from then-President Donald Trump.

Read More: Impeachment trial video shows Mike Pence rushing from the Capitol with a ‘nuclear football’ close behind as rioters stormed the building

Stephen Schwartz, a nonresident senior fellow with the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and an expert on the football, previously told Insider that the rioters, assuming they made it past Pence’s security detail, would not have been able to use the satchel.

That said, if they had somehow gotten their hands on it, it would have been a “massive and unprecedented security breach, disclosing some of the most sensitive and therefore highly classified information generated by the government,” he said.

Speaking to CNN about the Pentagon inspector general review, Schwartz told the outlet he was “not aware that such an assessment has ever been done before.”

He said that “a violent domestic insurrection was almost certainly not part of the DOD and Secret Service threat matrix until six months ago,” adding that “it’s the only recent known event putting the ‘football’ in significant potential danger to provoke this level of concern.”

CNN reported in February that military officials were unaware that the “nuclear football” was at risk during the Capitol riot, raising questions about its security.

Massachusetts Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, who serves as chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Subcommittee on National Security, and Tennessee Rep. Jim Cooper, chairman of the Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, responded positively to news of the security review, which they requested in March in response to the Capitol riots.

“The insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, was not only an unprecedented attack on our democracy, but it also put our national security in grave danger,” they said in a statement.

The lawmakers added that “it is imperative that we fully understand the processes and procedures that are in place to protect the Presidential Emergency Satchel-especially when its custodians might be in danger-and we applaud the DOD OIG for accepting our request to initiate this evaluation.”

CNN reported that that the review was “largely precipitated by congressional concerns following the events of January 6 on Capitol Hill.”

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US carried out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups

Pentagon
Aerial view of the Pentagon

  • The US carried out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria early Monday morning.
  • The Pentagon said the targets were used by Iran-backed militia groups that were conducting attacks on US facilities in Iraq.
  • The US aimed “to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message,” a Pentagon spokesperson said.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Pentagon carried out airstrikes Monday morning in Iraq and Syria on facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said Sunday.

“At President Biden’s direction, U.S. military forces earlier this evening conducted defensive precision airstrikes against facilities used by Iran-backed militia groups in the Iraq-Syria border region,” he said in a statement.

Kirby said the targets were selected because they were used by Iran-backed militia groups that are conducting drone attacks against US personnel and facilities in Iraq. The groups included Kata’ib Hezbollah and Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada.

“As demonstrated by this evening’s strikes, President Biden has been clear that he will act to protect U.S. personnel. Given the ongoing series of attacks by Iran-backed groups targeting U.S. interests in Iraq, the President directed further military action to disrupt and deter such attacks,” Kirby said.

Read more: Meet 7 BidenWorld longtime consiglieres and a couple relative newcomers who have access to exclusive White House meetings

“We are in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq for the sole purpose of assisting the Iraqi Security Forces in their efforts to defeat ISIS. The United States took necessary, appropriate, and deliberate action designed to limit the risk of escalation – but also to send a clear and unambiguous deterrent message,” he continued.

The airstrikes targeted operational and weapons storage facilities at three locations, two in Syria and one in Iraq, all near the border between the two countries.

It was not the first time the US launched airstrikes in the region under President Joe Biden. In February, Biden ordered airstrikes in Syria against assets of Iran-backed militia groups after militants fired rockets at an Iraqi airbase used by the US military. The militia groups were the same ones targeted on Monday.

Several militant groups in Iraq and Syria are supported by the Iranian government, which has struggled with years of economic sanctions. Biden has sought to engage Iran in talks aimed at restoring the 2015 nuclear deal that the US withdrew from under former President Donald Trump.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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US considers preparing for airstrikes to support Afghan forces if there’s a risk of the Taliban taking over Kabul, report says

US soldiers Afghanistan stock image 2015
US soldiers at a base in the Nangarhar province on Afghanistan in 2015.

  • The Biden administration has pledged to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by September 11.
  • But the NYT reported the Pentagon is considering keeping the option of airstrikes even after withdrawal.
  • The talks suggest concern over whether Afghan forces can contain the Taliban without US troops.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Pentagon is looking into the possibility of supporting Afghan forces with airstrikes depending on the threat of the Taliban taking control over a major city in the country, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

President Joe Biden has pledged to end the US involvement in the conflict, promising to withdraw all American troops by September 11, but the recent consideration over airstrikes puts a strain on that goal.

The Times reported the Biden administration initially planned to end US air support when troops were withdrawn, but that concern over the consequences of withdrawal has prompted them to reconsider.

Read more: The former CTO of Splunk and a Special Ops veteran have launched a cybersecurity startup that finds holes before hackers do

Officials told The Times no decisions have been made but that there are active talks over what a US response would look like should the Taliban capitalize on US withdrawal and move in to threaten takeover of a major city, especially Kabul, the capital.

In April, the Biden administration made the controversial announcement that American troops would be out of Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that pulled the US into the war. The Trump administration had previously set a deadline of May 1 following a deal negotiated with the Taliban.

“We were attacked. We went to war with clear goals. We achieved those objectives,” Biden said when the new deadline was announced. “Bin Laden is dead and al Qaeda is degraded in Afghanistan and it’s time to end the forever war.”

Critics of withdrawal plans, including top Republican lawmakers, argued that leaving zero troops in the region would embolden radical Islamists and risk progress that had been made.

“President Biden will have, in essence, canceled an insurance policy against another 9/11,” Sen. Lindsay Graham said of the plans to withdraw. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said withdrawal would be a “grave mistake” and a “gift” to US enemies.

The Times reported the latest discussions at the Pentagon of maintaining the possibility of air support echo concerns that Afghan forces will struggle to contain the Taliban once US ground forces are gone.

Have a news tip? Contact this reporter at kvlamis@insider.com.

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An upcoming government report has found no evidence that UFOs spotted by Navy personnel are alien – but still can’t explain them

flir gimbal gofast pentagon releases ufo videos
Left to right, stills from FLIR, GIMBAL and GOFAST videos released by the Pentagon in 2020, of unidentified aerial phenomena.

  • An upcoming government report leaves many questions open about more than 120 UFO sightings, per the NYT.
  • There is no evidence the sightings are of alien origin, but it is not being ruled out, the paper reported.
  • The Pentagon has increasingly acknowledged the existence of UFOs as a real concern to the government.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A soon-to-be-released Pentagon report says there is no evidence that UFOs spotted by US Navy personnel are of alien origin – but we know so little about them that it can’t be ruled out, The New York Times reported.

According to the Times, the upcoming report reviews more than 120 incidents of unexplained aerial phenomena (UAPs) – more commonly known as UFOs – over the last 20 years.

Almost none of the encounters appear to involve technology currently held by the US, the paper said, citing the report.

Beyond that, almost no firm conclusions can be drawn, several officials speaking on condition of anonymity told the Times and The Washington Post.

The report will also include a classified section, which also has no further confirmation on whether the incidents represent alien technology, officials told The Times.

One possible explanation the report will put forward is that the UFOs are advanced technology from other countries, The Times reported. Whatever their origin, the ability of the observed objects to accelerate, submerge and rapidly change direction remains hard to explain, the report is purported to say.

The commissioning of the report – due to be released to Congress on June 26 – was wrapped into former President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 relief package from March last year, The Post reported.

In March, former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told Fox News of the report’s creation, saying that it will describe “difficult to explain” sightings.

“When we talk about sightings, we are talking about objects that have seen by Navy or Air Force pilots, or have been picked up by satellite imagery that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain,” Ratcliffe said.

Former President Barack Obama also acknowledged on The Late Late Show with James Corden in May that the government has unexplained UFO footage.

“We don’t know exactly what they are, we can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory. They did not have an easily explainable pattern,” Obama said.

In recent years The Pentagon has increasingly confirmed that leaked footage, which has circulated online for years, is real. In April, it confirmed that footage of a triangular UFO shared online was real and had been taken by the US Navy. It also confirmed that the footage is being studied by the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force.

Other leaked US Navy footage from between 2004 and 2015, long the subject of UFO-watchers’ fascination, was officially released by the Pentagon in April last year.

In 2017, David Fravor, one of the pilots recording the footage released in April 2020, described to the New York Times how one of the UFOs he saw “accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen.”

Last month, former US Navy pilot Ryan Graves told CBS’ 60 Minutes that sightings like this were common while he was serving.

Graves told CBS he saw UFOs “every day for at least a couple years.”

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The US military likely killed 23 civilians in 2020, according to a new report from the Defense Department

GettyImages 1232600143
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – APRIL 29: A Black Hawk helicopter of the US Air Force is pictured in front of the cityscape on April 29, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

  • The Defense Department said 23 civilians were likely killed and 10 injured by the US military in 2020.
  • The finding came in a report on US operations in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq.
  • Independent observers said the actual toll is likely much higher.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US military killed at least 23 civilians in 2020, according to a new report from the Department of Defense, a steep decline from previous years as offensive operations were significantly reduced during the pandemic. Another 10 civilians were likely injured, the department said.

In 2017, by contrast, the US military said it had killed nearly 500 civilians.

But independent observers said the actual number of civilian casualties is once again likely far higher than the US is willing to admit. The monitoring group Airwars, for example, estimates that a minimum of 102 civilians were killed by US operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.

Chris Woods, director of the group, said he welcomed the report, which is mandated by Congress and released annually.

“We remain concerned, however, that DoD estimates of civilian harm once again fall well below credible public estimates, and call on officials to review why such undercounts remain so common,” Woods said in a statement. “Civilians surely deserve better.”

The report itself, which the department releases annually, acknowledges that there are many more claims of innocent people killed than the military itself deems credible.

In Afghanistan, according to the report, the US military received 165 reports of civilian casualties related to operations in 2020. Of those, seven were deemed legitimate, resulting in approximately 20 civilian deaths and five injuries.

Airwars, by contrast, estimates that at least 89 civilians were killed and another 31 injured.

It often takes years for the US to admit civilian casualties occurred.

In November 2020, a spokesperson for US Central Command told Insider that an internal review found two civilians had indeed been injured from an airstrike in Yemen that took place some three years earlier.

In Somalia, the US also admitted last year to killing two civilians in a February 2019 airstrike after insisting for months that the victims were “terrorists.”

The latest report itself notes that an additional 65 civilians were killed between 2017 and 2019, with another 22 injured, beyond the numbers previously reported.

Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, accused the Biden administration of obscuring the full toll of US military operations.

“The grossly inadequate official accounting for the costs and consequences of the United States’ lethal actions abroad prevents meaningful public oversight and accountability for wrongful deaths and perpetual war policies,” Shamsi said. “Civilian victims, their families, and the American public deserve far better than this.”

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

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The Pentagon may axe its $10 billion JEDI cloud-computing contract with Microsoft because of endless litigation from Amazon, a report says

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella next to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.

  • The Pentagon may pull its $10 billion cloud-computing JEDI defense contract with Microsoft, the WSJ reported.
  • The contract has been swamped with litigation from Amazon since Microsoft was awarded it in 2019.
  • The contract was to store and manage sensitive military and defense data.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Officials at the Pentagon are reportedly considering ending the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract it has with Microsoft in light of endless litigation from Amazon, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

In October 2019, the Department of Defense (DoD) awarded Microsoft its JEDI contract, valued at up to $10 billion, to store and manage sensitive military and defense data.

Amazon Web Services (AWS), the cloud arm of Amazon which sought the contract for itself, has challenged the decision ever since, alleging political intervention from former President Donald Trump.

“We are going to have to assess where we are in regards to the ongoing litigation and determine what the best path forward is for the department,” deputy Pentagon press secretary Jamal Brown told the Associated Press on Monday.

A Pentagon report to Congress on January 28 said another AWS win in court could delay the implementation of the JEDI program for even longer, per the Journal.

Read more: Someone pretending to be a Microsoft employee filed a fake complaint about the $10 billion JEDI cloud deal Amazon claims it deserves

“The prospect of such a lengthy litigation process might bring the future of the JEDI Cloud procurement into question,” the report said.

AWS first filed a protest against Microsoft’s victory in the battle for the contract in November 2019. The company alleged that President Donald Trump improperly influenced the Pentagon to stop the contract being awarded to Amazon because of his feud with its CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post.

Trump had previously accused Bezos of letting the Post publish what he considered to be unfavorable coverage of his administration.

Last month, the Pentagon tried to dismiss Amazon’s challenge of the contract award, but it failed.

JEDI contract should involve more companies

Lawmakers and government-contracting experts told the Journal that the JEDI contract should be pulled because having a single company, such as Microsoft, controlling the program was an insufficient and outdated model.

They told the Journal the DoD should include multiple companies in the contract, which would reduce the chance of legal battles from excluded companies.

Microsoft said in a statement to the Journal: “We agree with the US [government] that prolonged litigation is harmful and has delayed getting this technology to our military service members who need it.

“We stand ready to support the Defense Department to deliver on JEDI and other mission critical DoD projects.”

Amazon did not comment for the Journal’s report.

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The Pentagon’s watchdog is going to investigate the military’s response to UFOs

ufo uap pentagon footage
A still from the Navy footage of unidentified aerial phenomena.

  • The Defense Department’s inspector general is launching its own investigation into UFOs.
  • The inspector general’s evaluation is the latest inquiry into UFOs now underway in the Pentagon.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The Defense Department’s inspector general is launching its own investigation into what the military calls “unidentified aerial phenomena” – better known as UFOs.

In an announcement Monday, the Office of Inspector General said that beginning this month, it will start evaluating “the extent to which the DoD has taken actions regarding unidentified aerial phenomena.”

A memo posted online said the IG will conduct the evaluation at the office of the secretary of Defense, military services, combatant commands, combat support agencies, Defense agencies and military criminal investigative organizations.

Randolph Stone, assistant inspector general for evaluations for space, intelligence, engineering and oversight, said in that memo that the objective may be revised as the evaluation proceeds, and that more locations to be evaluated may be identified.

The IG’s evaluation is now the latest inquiry into the potential existence of UFOs now underway in the Pentagon.

The fiscal 2021 Intelligence Authorization Act, which was passed in December as part of a massive omnibus COVID-19 relief bill, contained a provision that ordered intelligence agencies and the Defense Department to report to lawmakers what they know about unidentified aerial phenomena within six months.

The Pentagon last August also launched a Navy-led task force to track down any encounters service members may have had with aerial objects that could pose a threat to national security.

That move came a few months after the Pentagon officially acknowledged three incidents reported by Navy F/A-18 Hornet fighter pilots involving possible UFO sightings. And the Pentagon also confirmed and officially released videos of the incidents, one from November 2004 and two from January 2015, which had been leaked to the public years ago.

But contrary to what “The X-Files” taught us, the story behind military encounters with unidentified flying objects may be more mundane than extraterrestrial visits to Earth.

In April, the website The Drive published an investigation into aerial phenomena that concluded they are most likely drones or other unmanned aircraft, of varying levels of sophistication, that are spying on the US military’s capabilities.

– Stephen Losey can be reached at stephen.losey@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLosey.

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4 unanswered questions about the mysterious company that began managing a big chunk of the internet minutes before Biden was sworn in

pentagon US washington DC
  • Global Resource Systems LLC began managing about Pentagon IP addresses in January.
  • The company has no online presence and currently manages about 6% of usable internet space.
  • Here are the biggest questions about the Pentagon’s decision to activate nearly 175 million dormant IP addresses.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A mysterious company from Florida took over managing a large portion of the internet owned by the Pentagon mere minutes before Joe Biden was sworn into office.

The company, which was identified as Global Resource Systems LLC, now oversees nearly 175 million IP addresses – managing more cyberspace than some of the world’s largest internet providers, including Comcast and AT&T.

The mysterious startup’s new role spawned several questions regarding the internet space and the Pentagon’s plans for it. Here are some of the biggest unanswered questions about the unknown company that is now managing nearly 6% of usable internet space.

What exactly is the Pentagon looking for?

The Pentagon made its first statement regarding its decision on Friday. Brett Goldstein, the chief of the Pentagon’s defense digital service, said federal officials are working to “assess, evaluate and prevent unauthorized use of DoD IP address space” and hopes to “identify potential vulnerabilities” in its fight to curb cyberattacks of US networks.

Despite its response, the Pentagon left more questions regarding its intentions than answers.

Mike Hamilton, former chief information security officer of Seattle and CISO of cybersecurity firm CI Security, told Insider one of the biggest questions people should be asking is, “Are they looking for something specific?” He said it seems unlikely that the pentagon would initiate a contract of that size without a probable cause or inciting incident.

“If they’re going to the extent of 175 million IP addresses, chances are they’re not just looking for “vulnerabilities,” Hamilton said. “The kind of computing power a company would need to be able to analyze 175 million IP addresses and the technology they would have to deploy, likely means this decision had to have been planned a long time ago.”

The government could be motivated by any number of reasons. Cybersecurity experts told Insider the Pentagon could be working to lure hackers or build up their defense by analyzing threats online, as well as planning to launch infrastructure for surveillance or even its own targeted cyber attacks against other countries.

Why did the Pentagon choose an unknown startup?

Global Resource Systems LLC was created in September and has no prior government contracts. The company also does not have an online presence or a business license where it is registered in Plantation, Florida, though the company filed paperwork in October, for incorporation in Delaware, as shown by Florida state records.

Cybersecurity experts told Insider the company’s anonymity puts an extra layer of protection over the government and makes it even easier to hide what the Pentagon is doing with the IP addresses.

“I can only speculate that ‘Global Resource Systems LLC’ is a DBA / Delaware Fictitious Name,” Scott Schober, CEO of cybersecurity firm Berkeley Varitronics Systems, told Insider. “They can then operate under an alias company name so they can stay off the radar and avoid scrutiny. Global Resource Systems can function as an extension of the government without direct connection allowing them to monitor activities without the overwhelming presence of the Pentagon nor the scrutiny of public opinion.”

Who is behind the Florida company?

The name on the company’s business papers, Raymon Saulino, matches a name tied to Packet Forensics, a company that has worked with the government before, according to a report from Associated Press. Packet Forensic had nearly $40 million in federal contracts over the past 10 years. It currently sells lawful intercept equipment – a process that allows law enforcement agencies to selectively wiretap individuals via a court order.

The company received national attention in 2011 when a Wired story reported Packet Forensics was selling an application to the federal government that could spy on people’s online browsers.

Global Resource Systems LLC also has the same name as a firm that shut down over 10 years ago and was sending out email spam, internet fraud researcher Ron Guilmette told Associated Press. The company had the same street address and used the same internet routing identifier. The only difference between the two companies is that this one operates as a limited liability corporation.

The company has no real history, but the people behind the company undoubtedly have government connections, Morgan Wright, the chief security officer of SentineOne, told Insider.

Wright told Insider the startup is likely a shell for a bigger company due to the computing power needed to manage nearly 175 million IP addresses.

“It would be like trying to eat an elephant,” Wright said. “Not many companies can do that.”

Why did the handover happen moments before Trump left office?

The shift in management of the IP addresses was revealed via an announcement in the internet-routing messaging system of Border Gateway Protocol (BGP). Messages arrived about three minutes prior to Biden’s inauguration that the previously dormant IP addresses that had been assigned to the Pentagon had begun accepting internet traffic that would be routed through the new company. Overtime, the company increased its management to nearly 175 million unused ranges on the IPv4 internet space.

While the timing seems noteworthy, many cybersecurity experts told Insider that the decision was probably not politically motivated.

Wright said the deal had likely been in the works for some time. It probably made sense for the Pentagon to put it into action before it would have to go through the scrutinization process of a whole new administration.

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US officials fear an NSC official falling sick by the White House is the same ‘Havana syndrome’ that struck in Cuba and China, CNN reports

the white house ellipse
The White House viewed from the Ellipse in Washington DC, December 20, 2020.

  • A NSC member’s unusual illness is being looked into as a possible case of “Havana syndrome, CNN reported.
  • The term refers to unexplained symptoms first noticed in the US Embassy in Cuba.
  • Its causes are unclear. Some have suggested they are caused by a new kind of weapon.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A a National Security Council official falling sick yards from the White House is being connected to similar instances that have affected US officials in Cuba and China, according to CNN.

The network reported that the NSC official – who was not named – fell ill in November 2020 on the Ellipse, a large lawn to the south of the White House.

CNN cited unnamed official sources for its report.

It is one of two incidents on US soil that are being looked at as potential cases of “Havana syndrome” – a mysterious set of unexplained symptoms that have suddenly struck US officials in Cuba and China since 2016.

The issue has worried the US government for years, but has usually been reported abroad. Sources told CNN that the fact that two suspected cases have taken place domestically is has worried them.

The second US incident concerned a White House staffer who was walking her dog in Virginia in 2019, when she heard a high-pitched noise in her ears that was followed by an intense headache, according to GQ.

Very little is known for sure about the phenomenon, and investigators are treating these two instances only as suspected cases.

The phenomenon was first reported by a diplomat at the US embassy in Cuba, who heard a loud, piercing sound in one ear that was followed by a loss of balance and nausea, according to a report from the National Academies of Sciences in December.

After this, three CIA officers based in the same embassy building experienced similar sensations. Other symptoms include pain in both ears, dizziness, tinnitus, vertigo, and difficulty thinking.

The National Academies of Sciences report found that 40 State Department staff in Cuba and China had experienced similar and lasting symptoms, as Axios reported.

The cause is not agreed on, but the CIA, the State Department and most recently the Pentagon have launched investigations into it, according to CNN.

Lawmakers on the Senate and House Armed Services Committees were briefed on the issue earlier in April, the network said.

There have been multiple explanations offered for the syndrome, including a form of mass psychogenic illness or even – as some researchers have noted – that the piercing sound closely matches that of a cricket.

An early explanation was that it was the impact of some sort of sonic weapon, but the National Academies of Sciences study said in December the most likely explanation was the use of high-frequency microwaves. The report also noted that Russia has conducted significant amounts of research into the technology.

President Donald Trump blasted Cuba in an address in the Rose Garden in 2017, accusing the country of “sonic attacks.” Cuban officials called his accusations “science fiction” in response, Reuters reported.

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Cybersecurity experts think the anonymity of a small Florida company managing a huge chunk of the internet could be part of the Pentagon’s plan – and masking a bigger company

The Pentagon logo and an American flag are lit up January 3, 2002 in the briefing room of Pentagon in Arlington, VA
The Pentagon logo and an American flag are lit up January 3, 2002 in the briefing room of Pentagon in Arlington, VA

  • A startup took over management of over 175 million Pentagon IP addresses in January.
  • The company has no real history and was only created 7 months ago.
  • Cybersecurity experts say the company is likely a shell organization, masking the Pentagon’s plans.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

About three minutes before former President Donald Trump left office, a mysterious startup began managing nearly 175 million Pentagon Internet Protocol addresses.

The company that is managing about 6% of usable internet space was identified as Global Resource Systems LLC. The 7-month old Florida company has no internet history or prior contracts with the government, but cybersecurity experts told Insider the startup may not what be it seems.

Four experts said the Pentagon is likely using the company’s lack of history as a shield for its plans and Global Resource Systems could be operating as a shell to hide a much larger organization.

The anonymity is likely key to the Pentagon’s plan

Cybersecurity experts say the mystery shrouding Global Resource Systems is not surprising.

The company has no real history, but the people behind the company undoubtedly have government connections, Morgan Wright, the chief security officer of SentinelOne, told Insider.

The name on the company’s incorporation documents, Raymond Saulino, matches the name of a managing member of the cybersecurity firm Packet Forensics, a company that has worked with the government before, according to the company’s legal filings. The company has had nearly $40 million in federal contracts over the past decade and currently sells lawful intercept equipment – a process that allows law enforcement agencies to selectively wiretap individuals via a court order.

A spokesperson for Packet Forensics did not respond to a request for comment from Insider.

Read more: The Pentagon’s mysterious move to start using inactive internet space could help it see into the networks of big companies

The company also bears the same name as a firm that shut down over 10 years ago and was sending out email spam, internet-fraud researcher Ron Guilmette told The Washington Post. That company had the same office address and used the same internet routing identifier. The only difference between the two companies is that the newer one operates as a limited liability corporation.

Mike Hamilton, former CISO of Seattle and CISO of cybersecurity firm CI Security, told Insider the company’s anonymity provides an extra layer of protection for the government and makes it even easier to hide what the Pentagon is planning to do with its IP addresses.

“Global Resource Systems can function as an extension of the government without direct connection allowing them to monitor activities without the overwhelming presence of the Pentagon nor the scrutiny of public opinion,” Scott Schober, CEO of cybersecurity firm Berkeley Varitronics Systems, told Insider.

The company provides an extra layer of security for the Pentagon

The company also provides the government with plausible deniability, according to Hamilton. The government would be able to launch cyber attacks, obtain data, and create faulty gateways on the internet without having to take responsibility for the actions. The attacks could easily be attributed to mistakes by a new and unrecognized third-party company, according to Hamilton.

Global Resource Systems LLC provides a layer of disguise for the project, according to Wright. He told Insider if the company was recognizable it would be easy for hackers to avoid detection and the US government would tip its hand.

“If it’s obvious where the information is going it gives them an idea of what we’re looking for,” Wright said. “We don’t want to telegraph to them too early what it is we’re doing and how we’re looking at the problem.”

The mysterious company could be a shell for a bigger organization

Wirght and Hamilton agreed that the company’s anonymity was not only beneficial but that it was likely hiding a major company. They pointed out that the company would need significant telecommuting power in order to process information from nearly 175 million IP addresses – more than AT&T or Comcast.

“It would be like trying to eat an elephant,” Wright said. “Not many companies can do that.”

Hamilton said Google is one of few companies that could process that much information at the moment. A Google spokesperson did not respond to a request to questions about whether the company had any ties to Global Resource Systems.

In contrast, founder of cyber analytics company ExtraHop, Jesse Rothstein, told Insider that Global Resource Systems could still be building up its system and would not necessarily need tremendous telecommuting power for the formerly dormant addresses, though it would still need to have significant financial resources.

Despite the layer of confusion behind the Pentagon’s decision, most cybersecurity experts agree that the move to put the dormant addresses to use makes sense.

“I think any academic institution or research institution would love to be able to conduct that type of research on such a large scale,” Rothstein told Insider, “This block of IP addresses is very valuable, and I’m sure many countries would prefer the DoD relinquish it, but it’s better to do something with it and use it for research than nothing at all.”

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