Stuxnet a joint US-Israel project…

January 17, 2011

…started by Bush, and accelerated by Obama. Well done to both men, and to our Israeli partners!

I love it when we do cool stuff like this:

The Dimona complex in the Negev desert is famous as the heavily guarded heart of Israel’s never-acknowledged nuclear arms program, where neat rows of factories make atomic fuel for the arsenal.

Over the past two years, according to intelligence and military experts familiar with its operations, Dimona has taken on a new, equally secret role — as a critical testing ground in a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iran’s efforts to make a bomb of its own.

Behind Dimona’s barbed wire, the experts say, Israel has spun nuclear centrifuges virtually identical to Iran’s at Natanz, where Iranian scientists are struggling to enrich uranium. They say Dimona tested the effectiveness of the Stuxnet computer worm, a destructive program that appears to have wiped out roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and helped delay, though not destroy, Tehran’s ability to make its first nuclear arms.

“To check out the worm, you have to know the machines,” said an American expert on nuclear intelligence. “The reason the worm has been effective is that the Israelis tried it out.”

Though American and Israeli officials refuse to talk publicly about what goes on at Dimona, the operations there, as well as related efforts in the United States, are among the newest and strongest clues suggesting that the virus was designed as an American-Israeli project to sabotage the Iranian program.

Be sure to read the whole thing; it’s a fascinating story. One item straight out of science-fiction: the virus was designed to record what normal operations looked like, then play it back so Iranian scientists would think everything was fine while Stuxnet was quietly wrecking their centrifuges. Genius!

Of course, there’s a dark lining to every silver cloud… or something. What we and the Israelis have done to the Iranians could be done to us by a hostile power. (Hello? China?) Let’s hope the DoD and the rest of the government are taking computer security seriously. At least, let’s not make it so easy for the next Bradley Manning, okay?

That downer aside… Ain’t this cool?

RELATED: At Blue Crab Boulevard, Gaius thinks Stuxnet was way overbuilt and wonders what other capabilities it’s hiding.


The return of the Axis of Evil

January 17, 2011

Michael Ledeen looks at events around the world and sees a coordinated message being sent to the US: we’re going to take you down:

Obama’s getting kicked around from Lebanon to China, but nobody seems to notice the pattern. Why shouldn’t we think that the near-simultaneous attacks — China’s humiliation of Defense Secretary Bob Gates, and Hezbollah’s (that is to say, Iran’s) takedown of the Lebanese government — were coordinated? Or do you believe that the remarkable simultaneity of the events is sheer happenstance?

The two key bad actors — Iran and the People’s Republic of China — are known to be in cahoots. And Syria is one of Iran’s closest allies (some might say it’s a virtual Iranian colony). All three have strong reasons to demonstrate that the United States has opted out of the geopolitical game, or has been effectively stymied by the three. That message is a lot stronger when it’s sent in two separate theaters at the same time than if it has to be inferred from events spread out over weeks and months. It’s like the terrorist strategy of blowing up two targets in separate countries at the same hour, as they did to American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 or on occasion during the fighting in Iraq.

There is every reason to believe that we’re looking at the return of the axis of evil. These are not random events; they’re part of a global pattern aimed at our domination and ultimate destruction. If you read the articles linked above, you’ll find the same “message to the world” in both cases.

But a more recent event, the revolution in Tunisia that’s scaring the pants off dictators across the region, points a way forward against this challenge — standing up again for the American idea, something President Obama seems incapable of doing:

On the other hand, we are the only truly revolutionary country in the world, and — as Obama once unfortunately put it — whether we like it or not, our very existence inspires a lot of the desire for democratic revolution. Many, perhaps even most, of the people in the streets of those countries, are our greatest weapon against the jihadis.

So we should support the revolutionaries. Obama has praised the bravery of the Tunisians, and although he has cravenly refused to do the same for the Iranian people (who, after all, have been fighting tyranny longer, and have paid a far greater price in blood and torture than the Tunisians), logic demands that he now do so.  There is no convenient way for him to praise freedom fighters in one Middle East dictatorship and waffle in baffling generalizations elsewhere. Democratic revolution is ours, and we had best embrace it.

This support doesn’t require military action, which might in fact be counterproductive. But, as the last stages of the Cold War showed under Reagan, America as an ideal can be an inspiration to those fighting oppression, simply by being openly, unashamedly, and loudly in their corner at every opportunity and in every forum. As Natan  Sharansky related in his The Case for Democracy, Reagan’s “evil empire” speech about the Soviet Union echoed through the gulags, inspiring political prisoners to persevere, emboldened by the knowledge they weren’t abandoned. In Poland, the moral support the United States provided was so instrumental to Solidarity’s survival and the fall of Communism there, that statues have been raised to President Reagan and public squares named for him.

The point, of course, is not that Obama should do this for the honors he might get, but that American moral leadership in the cause of human liberty truly has an effect and is a genuine weapon to be wielded against the tyrants in Beijing and Tehran who work against us. It’s about time he started.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Mexico’s drug war hurts Los Angeles’ economy

January 17, 2011

Call it a spillover effect, or maybe collateral damage. For years, the Port of Los Angeles has been the jumping off point for cruises down the Mexican coast. Those days are now coming to an end, as the ships sail away for good:

The sour economy and growing drug-related violence in Mexico is having a major impact on the two largest cruise ships serving the Port of Los Angeles.

Royal Caribbean is leaving the rough waters of Southern California and Mexico after a voyage that begins Sunday.

The cruise line’s Mariner of the Seas, a 3,100-passenger vessel, will end up in its new home base of Galveston, Texas.

Norwegian Cruise Lines will pull its Norwegian Star out of port in May. The 2,348-passenger ship will end up in Tampa, Fla.

The two ships combined carried nearly half of the Port of Los Angeles’ passengers in 2009.

KABC also provides a video report.

Carnival Cruise lines is also leaving, sending its ship to Australia next year. These ships bring in roughly $1 million dollars each to the Los Angeles economy, so this is a heavy blow to an area already struggling with high unemployment and government mismanagement. The report cites a bad economy in Southern California as another reason for leaving, but, come on. Maybe passenger numbers for Mexican cruises are down because of news like this: 19 beheadings in Acapulco* this January alone — and the month’s not even over!

Small wonder these ships are leaving.

*A major cruise destination. That’ll draw the tourists.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)