Israeli military-grade spy software was used to hack phones of journalists, activists, executives, and 2 women connected to murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a report says

Woman holds phone outside NSO Group in Herzliya
An Israeli woman uses her iPhone in front of the building housing the Israeli NSO group, on August 28, 2016, in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv.

  • Military-grade spyware technology was used to hack the smartphones of journalists, activists, and executives, The Washington Post reported.
  • Some of the affected journalists worked at outlets including CNN and The New York Times.
  • The 37 numbers appeared on a list of 50,000 phone numbers in countries with a history of conducting surveillance on their own citizens, according to the report.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Military-grade spyware technology software created by an Israeli company that sells it to governments for the purpose of countering terrorism and criminal activity was used to target the smartphones of 37 journalists, activists, and business executives, the Washington Post reported Sunday.

The investigation was conducted by the Post and 16 other media partners, according to the report.

Among those who were the subject of attempted smartphone hacking, which used software called Pegasus, include journalists working at CNN, the Associated Press, the New York Times. the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and Voice of America in the US. Targets also included journalists working for Le Monde in France, the Financial Times in London, and Al Jazeera in Qatar, according to the Post report.

Two women connected to the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in October 2018 in a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, were also on the list, according to the report.

The 37 numbers appeared on a list of 50,000 phone numbers originating mostly from countries with a history of conducting surveillance on their own citizens and those who have a relationship with the Israeli cyber-surveillance firm NSO Group, which created and sells the Pegasus software, according to the Post.

The list was shared with media outlets by the Paris-based non-profit Forbidden Stories and by Amnesty International, according to the report.

The list does not identify who placed the numbers on it. More than 15,000 of the phone numbers on the list were from Mexico while another sizable chunk of numbers came from the Middle Eastern countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Yemen, according to the Post.

Read the full story at The Washington Post

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Why ISIS operates like a venture capital firm

Isis
A mural with the ISIS logo in a tunnel reportedly used as a training centre by the group, on the southern outskirts of Mosul in Iraq, March 1, 2017.

  • Even with its physical “caliphate” destroyed in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has an operational presence in at least 20 countries.
  • ISIS is better understood as a group of organizations in which the leaders provide resources to the affiliates with the most potential.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Even with its physical “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in tatters, the Islamic State is still managing to wage a global insurgency, maintaining an operational presence in at least 20 separate countries.

The organization’s global diffusion recently led a group of leading terrorism experts to describe ISIS as an “adhocracy,” better understood as a group of “structurally fluid organizations in which ‘interacting project teams’ work towards a shared purpose and/or identity.”

By maintaining this structure, the group’s leaders seek to harness the benefits of a transnational network spanning multiple regions and continents.

“All politics is local,” as the famous saying goes. But in the 21st century, all conflict is global, and organizations like ISIS are well-positioned to leverage the capabilities of its affiliates worldwide.

Another way to think about the Islamic State is as a venture capital firm. It is the investor that provides much-needed resources to the affiliates – or “provinces,” in the organization’s lingo – with the best potential for a high rate of return.

ISIS then gains an “equity stake” and can tout the success and momentum of its new startups. Armed groups that are sponsored by ISIS central in this way reap the benefits its operational and organizational capabilities, including financing, training, weapons, propaganda support and strategic direction.

ISIS Somalia bombing
Civilians evacuate the scene of an explosion in Mogadishu, Somalia, October 14, 2017.

Nowhere has this venture capitalist approach been more successful than in sub-Saharan Africa. A United Nations report from last year identified the Islamic State’s affiliate in Somalia as the “command center” for a “triad” of jihadist organization in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique, thereby linking its operations in East, Southern and Central Africa.

The conditions in the region – generally characterized by weak security forces, porous borders and high availability of small arms and light weapons – make it relatively easy to improve the capabilities of armed groups. What this means is that even a modest investment by ISIS can serve as a force multiplier for some jihadist groups and have an outsized impact on the battlefield.

At the same time, ISIS involvement inevitably transforms the character and nature of affiliates, as evidenced by the beheadings committed by the Islamic State’s Central Africa Province, which mirror ISIS core’s brutal calling card.

Sub-Saharan Africa has long been in the crosshairs of groups waging global jihad. And with other areas of the world receiving the lion’s share of attention from Western counterterrorism forces, both al-Qaida and ISIS have taken advantage of the opportunity to grow their presence in the region.

Of the 10 countries with the most significant increase in terrorist attacks last year, seven were in sub-Saharan Africa, including Mozambique, Mali and Congo, where affiliates of both al-Qaida and ISIS remain active.

Jacob Zenn, a scholar of African jihadist groups, has highlighted the importance of sub-Saharan Africa as a region where ISIS can achieve “breakout capacity,” or the ability to generate and maintain a high operational tempo of attacks.

ISIS provinces in West Africa and Central Africa respectively have the potential to conquer and hold territory in the Sahel and along the continent’s southeastern Swahili coast, in a manner similar to what ISIS core was able to achieve in Iraq and Syria during its peak.

The Islamic State’s shifting attention to sub-Saharan Africa should be seen as part of a deliberate strategy in a region where it is far easier to work across borders than in other parts of the world.

Mozambique violence
A destroyed home in the village of Aldeia da Paz, outside Macomia in Mozambique, August 24, 2019.

Throughout this process, what were once perhaps purely local groups can take on a transnational dimension to varying degrees. Even as they remain primarily driven by parochial concerns and grievances, ISIS affiliates can evolve to become more global in nature.

Several African jihadist groups have noticeably changed the way they fight after becoming ISIS affiliates, in some cases involving both tactical improvement and strategic evolution. These groups are now capable of launching more complex operations and are featured more prominently in ISIS propaganda.

The Islamic State Central Africa Province, or ISCAP – also known locally by other names, including Ahlu Sunna Wa-Jama, Ansar al-Sunna and al-Shabab – has transformed considerably since it was formally recognized by ISIS in April 2019. Around the beginning of 2020, insurgents in Mozambique began operating in larger units and staging more sophisticated attacks against higher-profile targets, like district capitals.

Some recent evidence suggests ISCAP is now focusing more on winning the hearts and minds of the local population in northern Mozambique. A series of attacks in March 2020 saw insurgents deliberately avoiding civilian casualties and distributing war booty – stolen food, medicine and fuel – to local residents.

In a sign of ISCAP’s growing strength in Mozambique, its fighters seized the port city of Mocimboa de Praia – a strategic target – in August 2020. Two months later, ISCAP fighters launched cross-border attacks from northern Mozambique into southern Tanzania.

The devastating attack on the town of Palma in March, which killed dozens of people, had some of the hallmarks of classic ISIS attacks, included the beheading of foreigners and the targeting of Western economic interests. It forced the suspension of French oil giant Total’s $20 billion liquefied natural gas project and related offshore exploration activities near Palma.

Cabo Delgado Mozambique displaced persons
People who fled insurgent attacks in the northern part of Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, February 24, 2021.

ISIS has provided training and funding to ISCAP and a recent report in The Wall Street Journal suggests that “battle hardened Arab Muslim volunteers” are embedded in units in both Mozambique and Congo.

Indeed, the events of the past two years suggest that, as Tomasz Rolbiecki, Pieter Van Ostaeyen and Charlie Winter recently pointed out, the Islamic State’s African affiliates are “no longer a sideshow to its operational core in Syria and Iraq.” In fact, ISIS core is “dependent now more than ever on the military activities of its affiliates” on the continent.

With a war chest possibly consisting of upward of $100 million, ISIS will maintain the ability to consistently seed new ventures and enhance existing ones, particularly those displaying progress.

The international community will need to pay close attention to see where the Islamic State is funding new affiliates, and where already existing branches or provinces are displaying improved skills and capabilities in an effort to blunt the impact of what has been, at least to date, a highly effective approach to keeping the “caliphate” alive.

Colin P. Clarke, PhD, is the director of policy and research at the Soufan Group, a global intelligence and security consultancy headquartered in New York City.

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Biden remembered ‘the courage and skill’ of US forces on 10-year anniversary of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden

Obama during Osama Bin Laden campaign.
US President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House on May 1, 2011.

  • President Joe Biden issued a statement to mark 10 years since the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
  • “We followed bin Laden to the gates of hell – and we got him,” Biden said.
  • Biden has committed to withdrawing troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

It has been ten years since US Special Forces conducted a raid in Pakistan that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

On Sunday, President Joe Biden marked the 10-year anniversary of bin Laden’s death, which represented a huge victory for Americans in the fight against terrorism.

At the time of the raid, Biden was serving as vice president under then-President Barack Obama.

“Ten years ago, I joined President Obama and members of our national security team, crowded into the Situation Room to watch as our military delivered long-awaited justice to Osama bin Laden,” Biden said in a statement. “It is a moment I will never forget – the intelligence professionals who had painstakingly tracked him down; the clarity and conviction of President Obama in making the call; the courage and skill of our team on the ground.”

He added: “It had been almost ten years since our nation was attacked on 9/11 and we went to war in Afghanistan, pursuing al Qaeda and its leaders. We followed bin Laden to the gates of hell – and we got him.”

After the 9/11 terror attacks, the US invaded Afghanistan to bring down the terrorist organization Al Qaeda. The execution of bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011, was a major accomplishment for the Obama administration.

“We kept the promise to all those who lost loved ones on 9/11: that we would never forget those we had lost, and that the United States will never waver in our commitment to prevent another attack on our homeland and to keep the American people safe,” Biden continued in his statement.

Since bin Laden’s death, the US has reduced the number of troops stationed in Afghanistan, and Biden has committed to withdrawing troops from the country by September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

“As we bring to an end America’s longest war and draw down the last of our troops from Afghanistan, al Qaeda is greatly degraded there,” Biden said. “But the United States will remain vigilant about the threat from terrorist groups that have metastasized around the world.”

He added: “We will continue to monitor and disrupt any threat to us that emerges from Afghanistan. And we will work to counter terrorist threats to our homeland and our interests in cooperation with allies and partners around the world.”

Biden ended his statement by thanking the service members that have valiantly fought to protect the US.

“We will continue to honor all the brave women and men, our military, our intelligence and counterterrorism professionals, and so many others, who continue their extraordinary work to keep the American people safe today,” he said. “They give their best to our country, and we owe them an incredible debt of gratitude.”

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Smaller drones don’t let the US off the hook for war crimes

The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrates the separation of the ALTIUS-600 small UAS in a test at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground test range, Arizona on March 26, 2021
The XQ-58A Valkyrie releases a ALTIUS-600 small UAS during a test in Arizona, March 26, 2021

  • The US has relied heavily on drones for many missions – including lethal strikes – for decades.
  • Drones are only a platform, and what matters for international law is how those platforms are used.
  • In the US, focus on the drones themselves has overshadowed debate with the wider ethics of armed violence.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When it comes to armed drones, is smaller and more precise necessarily better?

The question came to my mind upon seeing the news that the US Air Force just successfully test-launched a new weaponizable drone, the ALTIUS-600, making it the smallest drone in operation. Even more remarkably, this tiny aircraft was launched from the second-smallest-drone, the Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie, while the Valkyrie was in flight.

There is nothing objectionable about the development of mini-drones. One could even argue they would be improvements, in humanitarian terms, over the use of the much larger Reaper to deliver 500-pound bombs in allegedly “precise” strikes that instead often sweep up scores of civilians and destroy the property their surviving family members rely on for their livelihoods.

But the US military’s obsession with minimalism – from fewer boots on the ground to lower-payload munitions – also minimalizes public engagement with the wider ethics of armed violence.

The emphasis on size, mobility and precision is the product of a highly limited and limiting view rife in American political discourse: that the key ethical and legal problem presented by armed drones is collateral damage. This narrative – reflected in public opinion surveys, Hollywood films and political discourse – circumscribes debate.

As Sarah Kreps, a Cornell professor and WPR contributor, notes in her book with John Kaag, the question of collateral damage is but a subset of a subset of a subset of the wider international law on the killing of human beings by governments.

Drone Strikes
Demonstrators burn the US flag during a protest against US drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal region, in Karachi, November 8, 2013.

At the overarching level, that law applies to governments in peacetime, not in war. The basic legal rule, enshrined in Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is clear: “No arbitrary deprivation of the right to life.”

Due process is required for state-sanctioned executions; guilt must be proven, not assumed. And even the death penalty for criminals convicted of the worst genuine offenses is increasingly frowned upon and must be carried out using humane means. The only exceptions to this prohibition on the use of deadly force are in cases of imminent harm to others where no other options for preventing that harm are available.

Of course, in times of war, things shift, and the law of war applies. The default proscription against killing is lifted, but only under strict conditions, reflecting the fact that war is considered an aberration, a small subset of the variety of circumstances in which states might direct lethal force against individuals. Among the conditions that must be met, a state of war must apply.

Those doing the violence must be members of the state’s armed forces; civilian CIA pilots would be unlawful combatants. The targets must be military objectives, not civilians. And the harm and suffering caused even to legitimate military targets must be minimized to what is necessary to weaken the enemy and not involve inhumane methods or disproportionate or indiscriminate collateral harm.

Here and only here do the rules of collateral damage apply, with the central question being, How much harm to bystanders and infrastructure is acceptable given the necessity of hitting a particular legitimate military target with a particular military means deployed by a particular military actor in a particular military context?

In short, the collateral damage question is embedded within the rules governing who may be targeted, which are in turn embedded within the rules governing who may do the targeting, which are subordinate to the bigger question of whether a situation falls within the scope of war law at all, rather than peacetime human rights rules.

Yet, popular attention so often focuses on this tiny subset of the rules governing collateral damage, eliding these higher-level issues.

drone strike yemen
People gather at the site of a drone strike on a road in the southern Yemeni province of Lahj, August 11, 2013.

Suppose a drone were not only perfectly precise and relatively humane, but also carried a firearm rather than explosives or sword blades. Suppose it killed quickly, rather than burning its victims alive or hacking them death, as a new Hellfire missile is designed to do in the name of limiting collateral damage. And suppose the identity of the target could be determined without fail, using biometrics before a bullet was fired.

The accuracy of such an attack does not resolve the question of whether a kill decision is correct in the first place. These targeting decisions often rely on human intelligence – reports from locals – to determine who is allegedly a mortal danger to US interests.

But in insurgencies and civil wars, reports from local sources are just as often used to settle old scores as to provide accurate intelligence, as the research of Stathis Kalyvas, a professor at Yale, has long showed.

At times, in fact, the US has often relied not on specific kill orders of specific individuals, but rather on “signature strikes” – a best estimate of who is likely to match the profile of a suspected militant in a particular context – to determine whether to launch a strike that often targets whole groups.

As the NGOs Article 36 and Reaching Critical Will have documented, signature strikes have been carried out based on criteria as arbitrary as the sex and age of the victims, with nearly any military-age male in a frontier region vulnerable to lethal strike. These combinations of false stereotypes, faulty intelligence, mnemonic shortcuts and sheer hubris have killed scores of civilian teenage boys, not by accident, not by precision weapons failure, but by design.

These civilian men and boys directly targeted by the US include 16-year-old Tariq Aziz, a soccer player, amateur photographer and anti-drone activist. Aziz died in late October 2011 in Waziristan, Pakistan, when a CIA-fired Hellfire missile burned him and his 12-year-old cousin Waheed Khan beyond recognition as he drove to give his aunt a ride home from a wedding.

Even in a precise strike carried out far from other villages, with no collateral damage, the killings of these boys would have been not only tragic, but criminal. In a real war, we would have called this a case of civilian targeting – a war crime. In peacetime – a more accurate view of the state of relations between the US and Pakistan – we would simply call this murder.

That the Pakistani government approved or perhaps even requested the strike doesn’t make it legitimate. It merely makes both governments complicit in political murder.

US drone strikes
Pakistani protesters shout slogans against US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region, October 2014.

All these important legal concerns are lost in a view of weaponized drones and targeted killings that sees the main issues as those of precision, human intelligence, accuracy and the reduction of collateral damage to “bystander” civilians, as if the civilians we are directly targeting merit no outrage on their own.

Reducing collateral damage is important in real wars, but that is not the only or even the primary concern with the use of ever-smaller lethal technology to wage ever-more subtle forms of peacetime political violence.

Terrorism is a crime. States are obligated to capture criminal suspects, put them on trial, allow them to defend themselves and free them if they are found innocent. Drones enable the opposite, as do special operations teams with kill orders.

But drones do something else as well: They provide a veneer of precision and bloodlessness that directs our attention to efforts at collateral damage control, obfuscating the reality of what is and has always been a campaign of extrajudicial execution sweeping up civilians whether by accident or by design.

Arguably, that has been the point. In November, the Center for Civilians in Conflict published a report entitled “Exceptions to the Rules,” tracking 20 years of US drone policy.

It concludes, “A policy that allows the use of covert, lethal force under the laws of armed conflict outside of the context of an armed conflict undermines the protection of internationally recognized human rights and international law.”

It added that any reform agenda must not make the mistake of focusing too narrowly on any single abuse, which “risks missing the emergence of a more problematic phenomenon, the gradual accumulation of legal loopholes.”

US drones
Graffiti protesting against US drone strikes in Sana’a, Yemen, September 2018.

As a result of this ethical devolution, not limited to but certainly epitomized by drone politics, our understanding not only of political-legal reality, but also of political-legal possibility, becomes smaller and more insignificant.

Leaders of the free world would be wise to reverse course and return to fundamental principles. One reason to be heartened is the fact that President Joe Biden’s review of the use of US drones outside of active battlefields is really a review of America’s targeted killing program.

Another is the fact that the US military might prefer to be kept in reserve for conventional wars, rather than thrust into counterterror and counterinsurgency missions for which it is ill-suited.

To be clear: Weaponized drones themselves are also not the problem. Drones are only a platform, and what matters in international law terms is how platforms are used. But if there is a reason to focus on drones, it is because of the way in which, as Gregoire Chamayou shows us, our conceptual understanding of drones as a particular technology has also impacted our ability to even notice what is wrong with their use in international law terms.

Focusing on technology relaxes our legal and ethical horizon and narrows our parameters of debate, and this needs to change. Smaller and simpler is not always better. Less is not always more.

Charli Carpenter is a professor of political science and legal studies at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, specializing in human security and international law. She tweets @charlicarpenter. Her WPR guest column will appear every other Friday.

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US intelligence report says white supremacists have ‘traveled abroad to network with like-minded individuals’

unite the right
White supremacists in Emancipation Park prior to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, August 12, 2017.

  • A US intelligence assessment says white supremacists pose a transnational threat.
  • The threat assessment says some of these groups have traveled abroad to network.
  • The threat of domestic violent extremism has been given increased focus since the Capitol attack.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

White supremacists have the “most persistent and concerning transnational connections” of any violent domestic extremist group in the US, according to an unclassified summary of a joint threat assessment released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Wednesday.

The assessment said this is because individuals with similar ideological beliefs exist outside of the US, and such groups “frequently communicate with and seek to influence each other.”

“We assess that a small number of US [racially or ethnically motivated violent extremists] have traveled abroad to network with like-minded individuals,” the report added.

The assessment of the national security threat posed by domestic violent extremism was ordered by the White House in January and produced by the ODNI as well as the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

The transnational links between white supremacist groups, fueled in part by social media, have been a growing concern for US officials and extremism watchdogs in recent years.

“The danger of terrorism is growing in the United States, just as it is elsewhere in the world, with white supremacist extremists strengthening transnational networks and even imitating the tactics, techniques, and procedures of groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State,” a 2019 report from the Soufan Center states.

Law enforcement in the US and the intelligence community have been ringing alarm bells on the threat of domestic extremism, particularly as it pertains to the far right, for years. The Capitol attack on January 6 pushed this topic to the forefront of the nation’s attention, and it’s increasingly at the center of conversations surrounding national security.

The assessment released by the ODNI on Wednesday said racially motivated extremists and militia extremists pose the most lethal domestic terror threat, while warning domestic violent extremism presents an “elevated threat” to the homeland in 2021.

Homeland Security chief Alejandro Mayorkas on Wednesday told congressional lawmakers domestic violent extremism is the “greatest threat” to the US.

“Right now, at this point in time, domestic violent extremism, the lone wolf, the loose affiliation of individuals following ideologies of hate and other ideologies of extremism that are willing and able to take those ideologies and execute on them in unlawful, illegal, violent ways is our greatest threat in the homeland right now,” Mayorkas said.

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The rise and fall of Pan Am

Following is a transcript of the video.

Irene Kim: Pan Am was once the largest international airline in the US. In 1970 alone, it carried 11 million passengers to 86 countries worldwide. Pan Am is also known as the pioneer of multiple features of modern air travel, and it also holds cult status for its iconic aviation style. But after 60 years of flight and decades of financial turbulence, Pan Am went bust. So what happened?

Pan American Airways was founded by two US Air Force majors. It began as an airmail service between Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba, in 1927 and was the United States’ first scheduled international flight. Within a year, aviation visionary Juan Trippe took the controls, and Pan Am introduced its first passenger services to Havana. An ad campaign cosponsored by Pan Am and Bacardi successfully encouraged Americans to fly away from alcohol prohibition in the US to drink rum in the sun in Cuba. And Trippe quickly expanded Pan Am’s network.

By 1930, Pan Am was flying routes through most of Central and South America. Crucially, it used a fleet of flying boats, or clippers, to land aircraft on the water at destinations that didn’t have concrete runways for traditional planes. Since they flew seaplanes, Pan Am pilots wore sea captains’ uniforms, a decision that still influences aviation uniforms today. And there were far more important innovations that Pan Am developed in its early days of flight.

David Slotnick: Everything from things we take for granted today, like air traffic control and different flight procedures, different ways of forecasting the weather, of flight planning. Pan Am was the first airline to fly around the world. They actually set a few different records about that. They were the first to fly from the US across the Pacific. It was really a lot. They launched this international service that really helped define what we have today as just regular air travel.

Kim: By 1958, Pan Am offered regular flights to every continent on the planet except Antarctica, giving itself the title of “The world’s most experienced airline.” Pan Am’s modern fleet of pressurized aircraft could fly smoothly above turbulent weather, which provided a comfortable experience for passengers. Its lavish cabins were staffed by a multilingual, college-educated flight crew who served luxurious meals like steak, Champagne, and caviar.

Commercial: On October 26, 1958, Pan Am becomes the first American airline to fly jet aircraft. A Pan Am Boeing 707 streaks from New York to Paris in eight hours. The world enters the jet age.

Kim: The powerful new jet engines, which could fly nonstop over long distances, allowed Pan Am to introduce daily flights to London and Paris. And with the introduction of economy class, Pan Am opened the world of air travel to tourists, not just the rich and famous. In 1970, Pan Am carried 11 million customers over 20 billion miles. Thinking that air travel would only continue to grow, Pan Am invested half a billion dollars in a large fleet of Boeing 747 jetliners.

But this would turn out to be a big mistake.

In October 1973, the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries declared an oil embargo against nations, including the US, that were supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur War. By the end of the embargo in March 1974, the price of oil had risen by more than 400%. This hit Pan Am harder than other airlines because of its exclusively long-haul flights, which required more fuel.

Slotnick: They were the launch customer for the Boeing 747. At the time, that was a great airplane for them to buy. That was the right choice, but the oil crisis really changed things for Pan Am. It was all of the sudden the wrong plane to have. It wasn’t the most efficient. It was flying routes that really weren’t selling that well because demand for travel was going down, and that was a very difficult time. But when they made the decision to buy the planes, who would’ve known?

Kim: While Pan Am’s operating costs skyrocketed, the economy slowed, and America’s appetite for international air travel greatly reduced, leaving Pan Am dangerously overcapacity, with huge, half-empty jets taking to the skies. As a result, between 1969 and 1976, Pan Am lost about $364 million and was estimated to be $1 billion in debt.

Pan Am had long hoped to add domestic flights within the US to its operation and even talked to a number of domestic operators, including American and United Airlines, to propose a merger. But rival airlines convinced the US Congress that Pan Am threatened to monopolize US aviation, and the Civil Aeronautics Board repeatedly denied Pan Am permission to operate domestically. But in 1978, the Airline Deregulation Act was passed into United States federal law, meaning the government could no longer control airline routes. Pan Am was now allowed to acquire a domestic system, and it hastily purchased National Airlines for $437 million.

Barnaby Conrad III: It cost a tremendous amount of money to acquire this particular airline, to get the routes. They obviously made a choice. They couldn’t build from scratch. They needed to go out and buy something. You basically had two cultures going on: Pan Am, very worldly, sophisticated, international. Then you had National Airlines. They were sort of puddle jumpers. They were considered country pilots, so there was a mix of culture that didn’t work there. Then you had different kind of aircraft, and so mechanics had never worked on certain airplanes. I think there was a mismatch there too, personnel, different airports. Just in general, it was really a small southern airline that was matching up with an international airline.

Kim: Within a year of the National Airlines purchase, Pan Am lost $18.9 million, even after selling its iconic Manhattan head office for $400 million. Pan Am continued to self-liquidate to offset its losses. In addition to trading its hotel chains, it sold its entire Pacific division to United Airlines.

But Pan Am still had a global reputation as the flagship US airline. However, this claim to fame would attract a devastating terrorist attack above the skies of Lockerbie, Scotland.

Kenny MacAskill: On the 21st of December, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 took off from Heathrow. It was bound for New York. It was never scheduled to either touch down or land in Scotland. A bomb that had been placed on board accordingly blew up over a small town in the southwest of Scotland called Lockerbie. 259 people all aboard the plane were killed, passengers and crew, and 11 citizens in the small community of Lockerbie were also killed. Pan Am were held culpable and negligent in failing to have adequate security measures. You can have some sympathy for Pan Am, because their defense, if it was a defense at the time, was simply that they had carried out the normal security measures that the entire aviation industry did. But the courts took the view that that was inadequate. They had failed to properly secure the airplane, and as a consequence, a bag had got on board that shouldn’t have been on board in the first place. But Pan Am, you can say, took the hit metaphorically as well as literally for an industry where security standards had not got up to speed.

Kim: The Lockerbie bombing cost Pan Am more than $350 million and proved to be the final blow to the once giant airline.

Just two years later, on January 8, 1991, Pan Am filed for bankruptcy.

After a bidding war, Delta Airlines purchased the majority of Pan Am for $1.4 billion, acquiring its European routes, its northeastern shuttle routes, 45 jets, its mini-hub in Frankfurt, Germany, and its flagship Pan Am Worldport terminal at JFK International Airport. Pan Am hoped to emerge from bankruptcy court, but after realizing it was losing $3 million per day, Delta stopped its cash advances. After failing to raise money from other sources, a phone call was made to Pan Am’s head office on December 4, 1991. The message was: “Shut it down.”

Conrad: Pan American Airways went bankrupt, and they shut down services. It broke people’s hearts, really, not just the people that worked for the airline, but for many other people that flew it and knew it, and it was the flagship airline of America. Pan Am, this legendary airline with its legendary logo, was the second most recognized trademark in the world at the time. A group of friends of mine actually bought those trademarks, and, in fact, I was one of the investors in that group. We bought those trademarks. Unfortunately, Charles Cobb, who was the largest investor, wanted to start the airline again, and we said, “But it didn’t work last time.” We parted ways. He bought us out. He slapped the Pan Am globe on this airline, which is sort of like putting the Pan Am globe on a Greyhound bus. It lasted a couple of months, and it crashed. All the other attempts to do something else with the trademark have failed.

Kim: But Pan Am’s legacy continues to be felt almost 30 years after its collapse. Its innovations remain the pillars of modern air travel. Its brand style has survived throughout the decades as an iconic mid-century fashion statement, with products featuring its sleek, retro logo still being sold. And the Pan Am lifestyle is still romanticized in TV and movies. But the airline itself remains grounded.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This video was originally published in February 2020.

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The next global pandemic may be caused by a bioterrorist attack, says Harvard tech expert

Factory worker with dangerous materials
The next global pandemic could be the result of a bioterrorist attack.

  • The next global pandemic could be caused by a bioterrorist attack, warned tech expert Vivek Wadhwa.
  • He’s worried about the accessibility of CRISPR gene editing, which allows genes to be cut and paste.
  • Although “the genie is out of the bottle,” an effective counter-response could prevent an attack.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The next global pandemic could be the result of a bioterrorist attack, a tech expert has warned.

Vivek Wadhwa, a distinguished fellow and adjunct professor at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Engineering, said in an essay for Foreign Policy that this was largely due to advances in cheap and easily accessible methods of genetic engineering.

Conspiracy theories have often suggested that the COVID-19 pandemic is a “bioweapon” manufactured in a Chinese lab.

However, Wadhwa, who is also a distinguished fellow of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, insisted that the pandemic was not created in a lab, citing a report by Nature Medicine.

“But if genetic engineering wasn’t behind this pandemic, it could very well unleash the next one,” Wadhwa said.

He believes the current pandemic should be treated as a “dress rehearsal of what is to come, including viruses deliberately engineered by humans.”

Advances in genetic engineering are a double-edged sword

The concerns of those in science and tech have slowly been becoming a reality, with Wadhwa pointing to the ease of access to gene editing kits in the US.

Mail-order do-it-yourself kits can be ordered by anyone, with a bacterial engineering kit costing as little as $169. Meanwhile, a human engineering kit comes in at $349.

One reviewer said they were a high-school student while another said they “didn’t know it could be this easy.”

This ease of accessibility is largely due to the advances of CRISPR gene editing, which enables scientists to cut and paste genes, with the possibility of curing or eradicating malaria or Huntingdon’s disease, but also of damaging species and ecosystems.

Wadhwa said CRISPR makes it “almost as easy to engineer life forms as it is to edit Microsoft Word documents.”

“There should have been international treaties to prevent the use of CRISPR for gene editing on humans or animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should have kept companies from selling DIY gene-editing kits,” Wadhwa added.

In April 2015, Chinese researchers genetically engineered human embryos, and this was followed by a failed attempt to genetically modify two babies to be HIV-resistant in 2018.

The scientist involved in the latter experiment, He Jiankui, was eventually sentenced to three years in prison.

There is still much research to be done on CRISPR, which has not yet been declared safe for use and has previously caused concern due to potential links with cancer.

Although this was largely dismissed as an “overreaction”, there is no clear consensus among scientists, with geneticist Allan Bradley of the Wellcome Sanger Center saying the effects of CRISPR had been “seriously underestimated.”

Gene editing DNA
CRISPR gene editing enables scientists to ‘cut and paste’ genetic information.

Could this lead to a pandemic created by bioterrorists?

From board games simulating a bioterrorist attack to a bipartisan report declaring the US to be “significantly underprepared” for bioterrorism, it seems a bioterrorism pandemic could well be in our future.

“The bad is just too terrible to think about,” said Wadha, who maintained “the only solution is to accelerate the good side of these technologies while building our defenses.”

Piers Millett, of the University of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, is more optimistic than Wadhwa.

Speaking to Future of Life, he said gene editing was not a significant step forward for biowarfare, and pinned the possibilities of bioterrorist attacks on “states” rather than lone actors.

He did, however, concede that the intentional creation of a harmful pathogen would be “amongst the most dangerous things on the planet.”

In 2018 the John Hopkins Center for Health Security ran a simulation exercise with US policymakers, testing their reactions and decisions in the face of a bioterrorist attack involving a highly contagious disease, according to Vox.

Vox reported that the results showed worldwide deaths in excess of 150 million and a 90% tumble for the Dow Jones.

“It is now too late to stop the global spread of these technologies – the genie is out of the bottle,” Wadhwa said.

Their potential harmful impact will depend on how quickly a counter-response can be formed. If used for good, however, these technologies could be the answer to curing “all disease.”

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The Army and Secret Service are looking at extra security screenings for US troops who will be at Biden’s inauguration

A member of the DC National Guard gives directions near a rally at Freedom Plaza Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Washington, in support of President Donald Trump.
A member of the DC National Guard gives directions near a rally at Freedom Plaza Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Washington, in support of President Donald Trump.

  • The US Army and US Secret Service are working together to determine which troops participating in President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration need additional background screening, an Army spokesperson told Insider.
  • The move, which was first reported by Army Times, follows a request from Colorado Rep. Jason Crow, a former Army ranger, for a review of inauguration troops to root out those sympathetic to domestic terrorists, which is how individuals who stormed the Capitol last week have been described.
  • The Army spokesperson also said that the DC National Guard is providing additional training on reporting known or suspected extremist behavior to troops coming into the nation’s capital.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The US Army and the US Secret Service are looking at additional security screening for some US troops expected to take part in President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration next week, an Army spokesperson told Insider Tuesday.

“The Army is working with the Secret Service to determine which service members supporting the national special security event for the Inauguration require additional background screening,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.

Army Times was first to report this development as security concerns rise after the Capitol siege by a pro-Trump mob and an FBI warning ta ht far-right groups are discussing days of “armed protests” ahead of inauguration.

News of the Army and Secret Service efforts follow a call between Colorado Rep. Jason Crow and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, during which Crow asked the secretary to have military criminal investigative units to look into “troops deployed for the inauguration to ensure that deployed members are not sympathetic to domestic terrorists.”

In a statement on the call, Crow, a former Army ranger, said that McCarthy agreed to take additional measures.

Crow’s concerns about domestic terror sympathies in the armed forces stem from the assault on the Capitol last week that included military veterans and possibly current service members.

Other veterans in Congress, such as Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, condemned military personnel who participated in the riots, saying: “In attacking the Capitol, the Congress, and the Constitution that they swore to protect, any current or former military members who may have participated have disgraced themselves and committed serious crimes against the People of the United States.”

The Army spokesperson who emailed Insider said that all US service members take part in the annual Threat Awareness and Reporting Program, which urges military personnel to report known or suspected extremist behavior.

The official said that the DC National Guard is providing additional training to service members coming into DC. There are already several thousand Guard members in the nation’s capital, and the Department of Defense is authorized to deploy as many as 15,000 troops ahead of the inauguration.

As for current members of the military that may have participated in the storming of the Capitol, the Army official said that this is being investigated.

“There is no place for extremism in the military and we will investigate each report individually and take appropriate action,” the spokesperson said. 

“The Army is committed to working closely with the FBI as they identify people who participated in the violent attack on the Capitol to determine if the individuals have any connection to the Army,” the official added. “Any type of activity that involves violence, civil disobedience, or a breach of peace may be punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or under state or federal law.”

Talking with Crow on Sunday, McCarthy told the congressman that “DoD is aware of further possible threats posed by would-be terrorists in the days up to and including Inauguration Day and is working with local and federal law enforcement to coordinate security preparations.”

new FBI bulletin reported Monday warned of possible “armed protests” at the US Capitol and all 50 state capitols ahead of Biden’s inauguration.

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Brexit contains a lucky break for terrorists, Europol sources say

FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2015, file photo, a woman is being evacuated from the Bataclan concert hall after a shooting in Paris. France is commemorating the fourth anniversary of the Islamic State attacks in Paris. The attacks on Nov. 13, 2015, left 131 people dead at the country's national stadium, the Bataclan concert hall and bars and restaurants in the city center. (AP Photo/Thibault Camus, File)
A woman being evacuated from the Bataclan concert hall after a terrorist shooting in Paris on November 13, 2015. The attacks left more than 130 people dead.

  • Brexit will make it harder to check names, passports, travel history, and criminal records of terror suspects moving between the EU and the UK, sources tell Insider.

  • The Schengen system that Europol uses to track terrorists is accessed by law enforcement 1.6 million times per day. The UK no longer has access to it.
  • That’s a problem for Europe too, because the UK produces more terrorists than any other country except France. 
  • “They have chosen to make it more difficult and time-consuming to fight terrorism anywhere,” a European security source told Insider.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The UK will no longer have access to multiple databases critical for combating transnational crime and terrorism after the first of the year because it has thus far failed to come to a Brexit agreement with European security agencies and regulators on the use of collected data.


The situation, according to EU intelligence officials, will force security officials on both sides of the channel to work much harder and less efficiently to check names, passports, travel history, criminal records, and other investigative tools to track suspects moving around Europe and between the EU and the UK.


“The Schengen system alone is accessed over 500 million times a year by UK officials, but tomorrow the daily average of 1.6 million requests for information will stop and UK officials will be forced to collect all the information from other sources,” said a senior Belgian counter-terrorism official, whose service does not allow them to speak openly to the media. “This information can certainly be found but the point of these systems and databases is speed and proper managing of huge streams of information.”

The “Schengen” area refers to the 26 European countries which have abolished all border controls.


Brexit will hurt investigations and prevention of organised crime and terrorism, security officials say

Two senior European counter-terrorism officials told Insider that the UK exit agreement’s failure to include access to the Europol systems for tracking wanted fugitives and international arrest warrants would hurt investigations and prevention of organised crime and terrorism until a new agreement was reached. The Europe system which combines Interpol’s international system with the EU’s criminal databases, as well as the extensive database of all Schengen area travelers.

“It’s rather demoralizing because in the case of the Schengen database this was a project that all EU member states have worked on closely since 2015 to close gaps in the system that were revealed in terror attacks from 2014 until 2016,” said the Belgian official. The source investigated the November 2015 attacks in Paris as well as the March 2016 attacks in Brussels by a cell of Belgian ISIS members. 


After the Paris attacks, which killed 137 people in multiple incidents including the Bataclan nightclub, EU officials were aghast to learn that the European planners had been known to law enforcement as ISIS members and had been able to return to Europe from Syria unnoticed by hiding within the huge refugee flows to Europe at the time

“The Molenbeek cell investigation covered all of Europe, from refugees coming through the Balkans via Greece, to suspected financial support from jihadis in the UK, to movements throughout all Schengen member states and the UK and Norway,” said the official about the scope of the Bataclan investigation. 

“We discovered how terrorists and criminals could use holes in the system to move freely once they arrived inside Europe and spent five years and millions of Euros fixing this system the best we could and now after all that work, the UK has walked away from the effort.” 


The UK is good at generating terrorists

A French law enforcement source, who works directly on vetting travelers entering Schengen through France, said that the UK would be able to replicate most of the system eventually but at a huge cost of efficiency until a fuller system can be developed.


The official also noted what they described as the British government’s refusal to accept that most UK terrorism is generated internally, in terms of networks and cells. The UK generates many of its own terrorists, and is often as much a vector of terrorism as a victim. 


“The irony of the Brits wanting to get away from European regulators by adopting several new layers of bureaucratic regulations that will be required whenever they want to check if someone is a terrorist, is unsettling because it affects us as well,” said the police source, who works undercover and cannot be named. 


“The only country in Europe with as many active terrorists as France is the UK”

“The only country in Europe with as many active terrorists as France is the UK,” said the police official.

“People talked during Brexit about controlling their borders, OK, fine. But the UK did control its own borders, its participation in the Europol and Schengen databases was necessary in large part to protect Europe from British terrorists … there are more attacks in Europe by jihadists with links to the UK than there ever have been attacks in the UK linked to Europe. France has this problem as well – our people have been involved in attacks around Europe. And remember Bataclan was led by Belgians not French. This is why we are serious about international cooperation: Yes, we want to keep France safe but we are also obligated to keep the rest of the world safe from French terrorists.”


“The British are in the same situation as France,” in terms of internal terror threat, said the French official. “But, at least for now, they have chosen to make it more difficult and time-consuming to fight terrorism anywhere.”

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