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May 21, 2015
Notes from the Pentagon

Paris Air Show targeted by spies, terrorists
Foreign spies and terrorists are two threats facing American aerospace firms attending the prestigious international Paris Air Show next month, according to a State Department security report.

“The U.S. private sector continues to be targeted for economic espionage, and specialized trade shows can provide an opportune environment for these activities,” the report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) states. “Collection methods include eliciting information during seemingly innocuous conversation, eavesdropping on telephone conversations and downloading information from laptops and/or other digital storage devices when these items are left unattended.”

The weeklong air show, attended by U.S. military and defense contractor officials, is set to begin June 15 at the Le Bourget exhibition center and airport, near Paris. Some 400,000 people are expected to attend the aerospace industry exposition that will showcase the latest in high-tech weaponry. The venue is considered the Super Bowl for military and technology spies, including France’s own robust intelligence services.

The seven-page internal report, produced by the State Department’s diplomatic security office, said that tracking, analyzing and countering foreign-spying efforts is increasingly difficult due to growing sophistication of the threats.

“Economic espionage and intellectual property theft originate from a number of sources, including, but not limited to, foreign and domestic corporations, foreign intelligence services, computer hackers, terrorist organizations, separatist groups and organized crime syndicates,” the report said.

Among the many methods used during such shows are secret filming of equipment and showcased displays; stealing exhibitors’ technical manuals; extracting classified or proprietary data from conversations; breaking into hotel rooms to steal information; downloading documents from laptops, handheld devices and memory sticks; and stealing luggage and laptops.

The State Department currently assesses the danger of terror attacks in Paris “high,” although there is no “credible” data that terrorists plan to strike the air show or American interests in France in mid-June.

“However, transnational terrorist groups affiliated with al Qaeda have a presence in Paris and elsewhere in France, and continue to pose a threat to American interests,” the report said. “Al Qaeda and its affiliates, as well as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), have demonstrated the intent to target France.”

European Union travel rules allow easy access to France, “potentially allowing individuals affiliated with terrorist and criminal groups to enter and exit France with a lower risk of being identified,” the report said.

French security has thwarted at least seven terrorist attacks since January. Security at the air show will be tightened, making an attack there less likely. “More probable is an attack in less secured areas on the periphery of Le Bourget or in Paris itself during the event,” the report said.

Army urged to prepare for war in Asia
After years of conducting counterinsurgency operations while being largely being left out of the Pentagon’s new strategy for Asia called “Air Sea Battle,” the U.S. Army is being urged to play a greater role in the region.

A new report by the CNA Corp., a federally-funded think tank, is urging the Army to adjust its forces for a greater role in maintaining peace and stability in Asia, mainly against the growing threat from China and continued dangers posed by North Korea.

Army forces must be ready to fight major combat operations against nuclear-armed North Korea and to complement Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force forces preparing to counter China’s asymmetric, high-technology forces designed to push the U.S. military out of Asia, the 92-page report by CNA’s China Studies division concludes.

The report calls for maintaining “positive engagement” with China to influence Beijing. It also warned in an understatement reflecting the Obama administration’s conciliatory views of the increasingly aggressive China that “there are concerns about its lack of transparency and intent.”

In Asia, the report states the Army can play a key role in maintaining peace and security.

“Deterring potential aggression, such as that which might occur on the Korean Peninsula, or acts of coercion and intimidation, such as over disputed territories in the East and South China Seas, is an important aspect of achieving that objective,” the report says. “In the event that deterrence fails or the unpredictable occurs, the Army will need to be able to surge tailored force packages into and across the region.”

The Army currently has around 80,000 troops in the Asia-Pacific region, including 20,000 troops in South Korea and 22,500 troops in Hawaii, although the numbers there are being reduced due to defense budget cuts. Some 13,000 Army troops are in Alaska and are also facing steep numbers cuts.

The report says North Korea remains the biggest threat to the region. It quotes a senior U.S. Pacific Command officer as saying the major worry is “a 28-year-old five-star general with nukes,” a reference to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

A Chinese war over Japan’s Senkaku islands, a Taiwan conflict, or in the South China Sea is another danger that could involve Army forces.

Army forces can provide missile and air defenses to U.S. and allied forces in Asia and could play a “forced-entry role” in the region to prevent the takeover of strategic choke-points. Army communications also could contribute in a crisis.

The Air Sea Battle concept was unveiled in February 2010 as an Air Force and Navy plan to break through China’s so-called “anti-access” and “area denial” weapons — missiles, submarines, anti-satellite weapons and cyber warfare capabilities — that are designed to drive U.S. forces from the Asia Pacific.

The concept called for improving bombers and aircraft along with naval forces that could strike targets deep inside China to quickly defeat Beijing in any future conflict.

Several years after its unveiling, the Marines were added to the plan. Because the Army was left out, it created its own broader-based concept called the Joint Operating Access Concept but that was scrapped — no doubt due to its unfortunate acronym JOAC sounded too much like joke.

This year the Pentagon did away with Navy- and Air Force-dominated Air Sea Battle and renamed it the “Joint Concept for Access and Maneuver in the Global Common,” known as JAM-GC.

Bin Laden on climate change
Climate change activists can claim a new supporter: Osama bin Laden.

A discussion of climate change by the late al Qaeda leader was revealed in a letter released this week as part of the selective declassification of captured papers from the al Qaeda terrorist leader by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The argument that humans are contributing to climate change has been a key element of the Obama administration’s policies aimed at giving government a greater role in regulating industry. President Obama made the questionable statement this week that those who disagree with climate change advocates are undermining U.S. national security.

In the letter, bin Laden dismisses “Western” secularists who attribute climate change and natural disasters to environmental causes. Instead he tells Muslims that both Shariah law and the Koran states that climate change is from “Allah” and his judgment.

The letter, titled “Effects associated with the enormous climate change,” appears to have followed floods in Pakistan. It warns that the number of people afflicted by climate change disasters will rise and outlines practical steps for al Qaeda relief organizations to prepare for further natural disasters by conserving food and water.

“Relief work is mentioned as the only solution for these disasters, without warning that it is a plague or suffering from Allah Almighty, and the first solution is faith and correct deeds,” the letter states.

  • Contact Bill Gertz on Twitter at @BillGertz.

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