One Nation Under Siege – Full Theatrical Release

From documentary filmmaker William Lewis comes a bone chilling documentary on the spying, tracking and control of the American public.

Source: Google Video

Game Controllers Driving Drones, Nukes

War really is getting more like a video game, as hardware and software from the gaming industry is increasingly being adopted for military use. The latest sign of this appeared at the Farnborough air show this week, where arms-maker Raytheon showed off its new Universal Control System for robotic aicraft. It’s based on the same technology that drives Halo and Splinter Cell:

“Gaming companies have spent millions to develop user-friendly graphic interfaces, so why not put them to work on UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles]?” says Mark Bigham, business development director for Raytheon’s tactical intelligence systems. “The video-game industry always will outspend the military on improving human-computer interaction.”

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Pentagon OKs ‘brainwave binoculars’

THE Pentagon has approved $US6.7 million ($7m) to develop binoculars that would tap a user’s brainwaves to home in on threats.

Northrop Grumman Corporation said today it was leading an academic and industry consortium for the project, known as the Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System program, or CT2WS.

The plan featured a custom helmet equipped with electrodes placed on the scalp to record neural responses to the presence or absence of potential threats, Northrop said.

The brain’s input would “train the system’s algorithms, which will continue to be refined over time so that the warfighter is always presented with items of relevance to his mission”, the company said.

The contract was awarded by the Defence Advanced Projects Agency, or DARPA, a Pentagon arm that acts as a cradle of new technology for use by the US military.

The goal is to detect enemy forces and vehicles over 1-10km while surveying a 120deg or greater field of view, according to documents on DARPA’s website.

“At the same time we must look at the projected size, weight and power of the notional system to determine if the capabilities we are aiming for can be constrained into something fieldable by our military,” said DARPA spokeswoman Jan Walker.

Neither Northrop nor the military provided precise details on how the project might work if put into operation.

After the project’s initial 12-month, $US6.7m stage, DARPA has the option to extend the contract for two more phases to develop the subsystems and a final prototype of portable assemblies.

“A prototype is not a product, so if we are three years away from a prototype we might be five years or more away from a device that might be considered a product,” Ms Walker said.

Northrop Grumman said it was striving for “persistent surveillance” in the system to give early notice of any enemy “move-stop-move tactics”.

If and when deployed, such a system could play a role in such things as force protection, defeating roadside bombs, border surveillance and other advanced military and homeland defense applications, the company said.

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What’s Up with the Secret Cybersecurity Plans, Senators Ask DHS

The government’s new cyber-security “Manhattan Project” is so secretive that a key Senate oversight panel has been reduced to writing a letter to beg for answers to the most basic questions, such as what’s going on, what’s the point and what about privacy laws.

The Senate Homeland Security committee wants to know, for example, what is the goal of Homeland Security’s new National Cyber Security Center. They also want to know why it is that in March, DHS announced that Silicon Valley evangelist and security novice Rod Beckstrom would direct the center, when up to that point DHS said the mere existence of the center was classified.

Those are just two sub-questions out of a list of 17 multi-part questions centrist Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) sent to DHS in a letter Friday.

In fact, although the two say they asked for a briefing five months ago on what the center does, DHS has yet to explain its latest acronym.

The panel, noted it was pleased with the new focus on cyber security, but questioned Homeland Security’s request to triple the center’s cyber-security budget to about $200 million.
They cited concerns about the secrecy around the project, its reliance on contractors for the operation of the center and lack of dialogue with private companies that specialize in internet security.

That center is just one small part of the government’s new found interest in computer security, a project dubbed the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative, which has been rumored to eventually get some $30 billion in funding.

Little is known about the initiative since it was created via a secret presidential order in January, though the Washington Post reports that portions of it may be made public soon.

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Pentagon Looks for ‘Killer Switch’

Imagine if the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter could be effectively shut down by a foreign adversary with the flip of a switch? That’s, in part, the the concern behind the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Trust in Integrated Circuits program, reports IEEE Spectrum, in a fascinating article that explores the underbelly of national security and globalization:

Liteswit Last September, Israeli jets bombed a suspected nuclear installation in northeastern Syria. Among the many mysteries still surrounding that strike was the failure of a Syrian radar—supposedly state-of-the-art—to warn the Syrian military of the incoming assault. It wasn’t long before military and technology bloggers concluded that this was an incident of electronic warfare—and not just any kind.

Post after post speculated that the commercial off-the-shelf microprocessors in the Syrian radar might have been purposely fabricated with a hidden “backdoor” inside. By sending a preprogrammed code to those chips, an unknown antagonist had disrupted the chips’ function and temporarily blocked the radar.

That same basic scenario is cropping up more frequently lately, and not just in the Middle East, where conspiracy theories abound. According to a U.S. defense contractor who spoke on condition of anonymity, a “European chip maker” recently built into its microprocessors a kill switch that could be accessed remotely. French defense contractors have used the chips in military equipment, the contractor told IEEE Spectrum. If in the future the equipment fell into hostile hands, “the French wanted a way to disable that circuit,” he said. Spectrum could not confirm this account independently, but spirited discussion about it among researchers and another defense contractor last summer at a military research conference reveals a lot about the fever dreams plaguing the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

At the heart of these concerns is something called a “kill switch”:

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English village to be invaded in spybot competition

A village in south-west England will shortly be swarming with robots competing to show off their surveillance skills.

The event is the UK Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) answer to the US DARPA Grand Challenge that set robotic cars against one another to encourage advances in autonomous vehicles.

This village, built for urban warfare training during the Cold War, will host teams of ground-based and aerial robots hunting for snipers, bombs, and other threats (Image: MoD)
Enlarge image

This village, built for urban warfare training during the Cold War, will host teams of ground-based and aerial robots hunting for snipers, bombs, and other threats (Image: MoD)

The MoD Grand Challenge is instead designed to boost development of teams of small robots able to scout out hidden dangers in hostile urban areas.

Over 10 days in August, 11 teams of robots will compete to locate and identify four different threats hidden around a mock East German village used for urban warfare training, at Copehill Down, Wiltshire (see image, top right).

The robots must find snipers, armed vehicles, armed foot soldiers, and improvised explosive devices hidden around the village, and relay a real-time picture of what is happening back to a command post.

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Unleashing the Bugs of War

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, that secretive band of Pentagon geeks that searches obsessively for the next big thing in the technology of warfare, is 50 years old. To celebrate, DARPA invited Vice President Dick Cheney, a former Defense Secretary well aware of the Agency’s capabilities, to help blow out the candles. “This agency brought forth the Saturn 5 rocket, surveillance satellites, the Internet, stealth technology, guided munitions, unmanned aerial vehicles, night vision and the body armor that’s in use today,” Cheney told 1,700 DARPA workers and friends who gathered at a Washington hotel to mark the occasion. “Thank heaven for DARPA.”

Created in the panicky wake of the Soviets’ launching of Sputnik, the world’s first satellite, DARPA’s mission, Cheney said, is “to make sure that America is never again caught off guard.” So, the Agency does the basic research that may be decades away from battlefield applications. It doesn’t develop new weapons, as much as it pioneers the technologies that will make tomorrow’s weapons better.

So what’s hot at DARPA right now? Bugs. The creepy, crawly flying kind. The Agency’s Microsystems Technology Office is hard at work on HI-MEMS (Hybrid Insect Micro-Electro-Mechanical System), raising real insects filled with electronic circuitry, which could be guided using GPS technology to specific targets via electrical impulses sent to their muscles. These half-bug, half-chip creations — DARPA calls them “insect cyborgs” — would be ideal for surveillance missions, the agency says in a brief description on its website.

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The Pentagon’s battle bugs

Biological weapons delivered by cyborg insects. It sounds like a nightmare scenario straight out of the wilder realms of science fiction, but it could be a reality if a current Pentagon project comes to fruition.

Right now, researchers are already growing insects with electronics inside them. They’re creating cyborg moths and flying beetles that can be remotely controlled. One day, the US military may field squadrons of winged insect/machine hybrids with on-board audio, video or chemical sensors. These cyborg insects could conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions on distant battlefields, in far-off caves, or maybe even in cities closer to home, and transmit detailed data back to their handlers at US military bases.

Today, many people fear US government surveillance of email and cell phone communications. With this program, the Pentagon aims to exponentially increase the paranoia. Imagine a world in which any insect fluttering past your window may be a remote-controlled spy, packed with surveillance equipment. Even more frightening is the prospect that such creatures could be weaponized, and the possibility, according to one scientist intimately familiar with the project, that these cyborg insects might be armed with “bio weapons”.

For the past 50 years, work by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – the Pentagon’s blue skies research outfit – has led to some of the most lethal weaponry in the US arsenal: from Hellfire-missile-equipped Predator drones and stealth fighters and bombers to Tomahawk cruise missiles and Javelin portable “fire and forget” guided missiles.

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Pentagon’s Mind-Reading Computers Replicate

Augmented Cognition,” the Darpa program to build computer interfaces that adapt to their users’ brains, has officially run its course.  But efforts to build mind-reading PCs continue throughout the military establishment.  Augmented Cognition relies on the idea that people have more than one kind of working memory, and more than one kind of attention; there are separate slots in the mind for things written, things heard and things seen. By monitoring how taxed those areas of the brain are, it should be possible to change a computer’s display to compensate. If people are getting too much visual information, send them a text alert. If they reading too much at once, present some of the data visually — in a chart or map.

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The Air Force has tapped Design Interactive, Inc. to build a battlefield command-and-control system that works along these lines.  It’s supposed to use EEG and eye-tracking monitors to “assess the operator’s actual cognitive state.”  That way, the system can play around with its “information display” to “avoid cognitive bottlenecks before they occur.”  And that’s just the start.  Eventually, the company wants the program to “anticipate future mission state and operator functional state ahead of time,” too.

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Pentagon’s Cyborg Insects All Grown Up

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For years, now, Pentagon-backed researchers have been trying to create cyborg insects that could serve as living, remote-controlled spies. The problem is, those modified bugs never survived long enough to be useful. Now, Georgia Tech professor Robert Michelson says he’s managed to get the bug ‘borgs to live into adulthood.

DARPA’s Hi-MEMS program aims to implant place micro-mechanical systems [MEMS] “inside the insects during the early stages of metamorphosis,” the agency explains. That way, as the bugs get older, tissues grow around — and fuse together with — the tiny machines.

Flight International reports that, in his latest work, Michelson truncated a Manduca moth’s thorax “to reduce its mass.” Then he put in “a MEMS component… where abdominal segments would have been, during the larval stage.”

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