Sarin used in April Syria attack, chemical weapons watchdog confirms — Saudi Arabia’s recently deposed crown prince reportedly under house arrest — Lockerbie: a disgraceful episode for Scots law — The NSA Confronts a Problem of Its Own Making
The nerve agent sarin was used in an attack in April on the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun and was likely to have spread from a crater in a road where a projectile had hit, the global chemical weapons watchdog has confirmed.
A report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) also found that hexamine – a known component of the Syrian regime’s stockpiles – was contained in samples taken from the scene and from the blood and urine of victims.
The OPCW said its mandate was solely to determine whether chemical weapons were used in the attack, which killed more than 100 people and left up to 300 others contaminated. A UN investigative taskforce will now attempt to determine who was responsible.
While not attributing blame, the report’s finding that the contamination spread from a hole in the road is significant.
The account matches that of victims and witnesses, who had said the sarin spread from a rocket, or shell, fired from a Syrian jet that had circled above the rebel-held town shortly after 6.30am on 4 April.
One of Saudi Arabia’s most powerful men, who until last week was first in line to the throne, is reportedly under house arrest. If true, this development would reveal a deep and growing division within the ruling House of Saud. Until the early hours of June 21, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, 57, was the officially appointed successor to the Saudi ruler, King Salman. In addition to running the country’s feared security services, Prince Nayef was close to Washington, and is a trusted friend of numerous American intelligence officials. But on June 21, King Salman announced radical changes to the line of succession to the throne, stunning the Saudi establishment and international observers alike. The announcement, which came shortly after midnight, completely deposed Prince Nayef from the line of succession. (…)
Meanwhile, there have been no comments from Western governments on Prince Nayef’s surprise dismissal. Regular intelNews readers will recall a leaked German intelligence report from 2015, in which Prince Salman —who is now first in line to the throne— was described as spearheading an “impulsive policy of intervention”. The report, authored by the German Federal Intelligence Service, known as BND, warned that Prince Salman’s radical maneuvers were jeopardizing the Kingdom’s relationship with important regional allies and with Washington. Things have changed since then, however, with the ascent of Donald Trump to the White House. The new American president and his senior aides have repeatedly expressed strong support for King Salman and his son.
Lockerbie: a disgraceful episode for Scots law — LockerbieCase
Sometimes, justice miscarries. Mistakes are made. The innocent pay a heavy price for innocent stupidity and duly we mourn those dull, collective human errors, our endless, fathomless fallibility. Sometimes.At other times, legality becomes a lethal weapon. Everyone becomes a conspiracy theorist. Who did kill Jack Kennedy? A mere five words, but a big question. Who bombed Lockerbie? Just three words, but worth the asking, I think, for the sake of 270 dead in a shower of falling corpses over a corner of Scotland. (…)But the case of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi is an example of a system corrupted, for base political ends, by people who do not take your democracy seriously.He didn’t do it. No-one with a straight face thinks otherwise.The Americans, the Iranians, Gaddafi, the Syrians and some pensionable suits in Whitehall can supply the details.So Salmond picks a fight with London? Not exactly. For now, our executive is very circumspect. It needs, so it believes, to take care. But as this case continues to unravel, a robust political exchange, as such things are known, may become unavoidable.The atrocity happened on our soil. Our national legal system was somewhat compromised. Scotland was wounded, then insulted, then treated as a colony’s colony.I don’t think I’ve used the word too often before, but the al-Megrahi case is a disgrace.
The NSA Confronts a Problem of Its Own Making — The Atlantic
It is hard to imagine more fitting names for code-gone-bad than WannaCry and Eternal Blue. Those are just some of the computer coding vulnerabilities pilfered from the National Security Agency’s super-secret stockpile that have been used in two separate global cyber attacks in recent weeks. An attack on Tuesday featuring Eternal Blue was the second of these to use stolen NSA cyber tools—disrupting everything from radiation monitoring at Chernobyl to shipping operations in India. Fort Meade’s trove of coding weaknesses is designed to give the NSA an edge. Instead, it’s giving the NSA heartburn. And it’s not going away any time soon.
As with most intelligence headlines, the story is complicated, filled with good intentions and unintended consequences. Home to the nation’s codebreakers and cyber spies, the NSA is paid to intercept communications of foreign adversaries. One way is by hunting for hidden vulnerabilities in the computer code powering Microsoft Windows and and all sorts of other products and services that connect us to the digital world. It’s a rich hunting ground. The rule of thumb is that one vulnerability can be found in about every 2,500 lines of code. Given that an Android phone uses 12 million lines of code, we’re talking a lot of vulnerabilities. Some are easy to find. Others are really hard. Companies are so worried about vulnerabilities that many—including Facebook and Microsoft—pay “bug bounties” to anyone who finds one and tells the company about it before alerting the world. Bug bounties can stretch into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
INTEL TODAY DIARY — July 1 2017