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Ukraine Accuses Russia Of Invasion, Considers State Of Emergency After Masked Gunmen Occupy Two Crimean Airports | Zero Hedge

Ukraine Accuses Russia Of Invasion, Considers State Of Emergency After Masked Gunmen Occupy Two Crimean Airports | Zero Hedge.

The bizarre events in the Crimea continued overnight, after unidentified masked men but dressed like those who took over the parliament in Simferopol yesterday, took over two airports by blockading one near the Russian naval base in Sevastopol and another in the capital of Simferopol. This prompted the Ukraine’s interior minister Arsen Avakov, to accuse Moscow’s military of blockading the airports, and in a Facebook post, he called the seizure of the Belbek international airport in the Black Sea port of Sevastopol a “military invasion and occupation.” He added: “It is a breach of all international agreements and norms.” As NBC reports, the Interfax news agency quoted Russian military sources as saying the incident at Belbek airport was intended to stop “fighters” flying in. However, Interfax later quoted a Russian official as saying that no units had approached the airport or blockaded it. In a nutshell, Russia continues to push with escalation ever further, and is testing just how far it can and will go without Ukraine responding.

2-3 dozen militiamen at Simferopol #Crimea airport quickly piled into a truck – with no plates – and are leaving. pic.twitter.com/wgcIjvE8jV

— Alexander Marquardt (@MarquardtA) February 28, 2014

Kyivpost has a more detailed account:

Two Crimean airports were taken over by Russian military troops, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Facebook this morning. He said the situation in the autonomous republic has now escalated to “a military intervention” and called on the National Security Council to take urgent steps towards its regulation.

 

“My assessment of what’s going on is that it’s a military intervention and occupation in violation of all international agreements and norms,” he said in his statement. “This is a direct provocation of bloodshed on the territory of a sovereign state.”

 

Avakov said that Sevastopol’s military airport Bilbek at night was blocked off by the military units of the Russian navy, which is based in Sevastopol. He said the airport is surrounded by camouflaged military troops with no identification and carrying guns. He said they do not hide their Russian affiliation.

 

Inside the airport there is a group of Ukrainian soldiers and border guards, and Ukrainian police troops have surrounded the outer perimeter of the airport. “There have been no armed clashes so far,” he said.

 

The navy base is Sevastopol is key for the Russian army. Under agreements signed between two countries in 2010, the Russian military can continue to use Sevastopol until 2042, with an option of extending the lease to 2047.

 

Some 70 kilometers away from the coast, in Crimean capital Simferopol, another airport was taken over by a group of about 100 plain-clothed men, who went inside the airport and onto the runway.

 

“The interior troops and police pushed these people first into the airport building, and then out of the territory. No weapons were used,” Avakov said.

 

He said that after the armed men left, a new group of camouflaged men arrived around 1:30 in the morning. They carried automatic weapons and had no markings. Avakov said they entered the building and stayed int he restaurant.

 

“They are not hiding their affiliation with the army of the Russian Federation,” Avakov said. “Told by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry workers that they are military men and have no right to be there, they answer curtly that they have no instructions to negotiate with you.”

 

Avakov said that so far there have been no clashes, but tension is growing as Ukrainian police troops continue to arrive. “The law enforcement organs cannot oppose the army,” Avakov concluded.

In the meantine, Ukraine is starting to realize that it may have bitten more than it can chew, and as Interfax reported:

  • UKRAINE WEIGHS STATE OF EMERGENCY IN CRIMEA: INTERFAX
  • RUSSIA BLACK SEA FLEET, HELICOPTERS BREAK UKRAINE ACCORDS: IFX

And the immediate re-escalation:

  • RUSSIAN BLACK SEA FLEET SETS UP BALACLAVA BLOCKADE: INTERFAX

Visually:

Coastguard and frigate at entrance to Balaclava bay pic.twitter.com/Yvb69jPtHM

— Christian Fraser (@ForeignCorresp) February 28, 2014

Yet none of this compares to today’s main event when a t 5pm local time, in the Rostov-on-Don Technical University, deposed Ukraine president Yanukovich who is currently in Russia, is expected to hold a press conference. Missing since the beginning of the week, the ousted ukrainian president had fled the country to Russia in the latest days, either by car through the Donetsk region, either escorted by military planes, according to different reports.

We doubt anything he says will difuse the situation.

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations – The Intercept

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations – The Intercept.

By 24 Feb 2014, 6:25 PM EST289
Featured photo - How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy ReputationsA page from a GCHQ top secret document prepared by its secretive JTRIG unit

One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations”.

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums. Here is one illustrative list of tactics from the latest GCHQ document we’re publishing today:

 

 

Other tactics aimed at individuals are listed here, under the revealing title “discredit a target”:

 

 

Then there are the tactics used to destroy companies the agency targets:

 

 

GCHQ describes the purpose of JTRIG in starkly clear terms: “using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world”, including “information ops (influence or disruption)”.

 

 

Critically, the “targets” for this deceit and reputation-destruction extend far beyond the customary roster of normal spycraft: hostile nations and their leaders, military agencies, and intelligence services. In fact, the discussion of many of these techniques occurs in the context of using them in lieu of “traditional law enforcement” against people suspected (but not charged or convicted) of ordinary crimes or, more broadly still, “hacktivism”, meaning those who use online protest activity for political ends.

The title page of one of these documents reflects the agency’s own awareness that it is “pushing the boundaries” by using “cyber offensive” techniques against people who have nothing to do with terrorism or national security threats, and indeed, centrally involves law enforcement agents who investigate ordinary crimes:

 

 

No matter your views on Anonymous, “hacktivists” or garden-variety criminals, it is not difficult to see how dangerous it is to have secret government agencies being able to target any individuals they want – who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crimes – with these sorts of online, deception-based tactics of reputation destruction and disruption. There is a strong argument to make, as Jay Leiderman demonstrated in the Guardianin the context of the Paypal 14 hacktivist persecution, that the “denial of service” tactics used by hacktivists result in (at most) trivial damage (far less than the cyber-warfare tactics favored by the US and UK) and are far more akin to the type of political protest protected by the First Amendment.

The broader point is that, far beyond hacktivists, these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats. As Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University told me, “targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs, resulting in the stifling of legitimate dissent.” Pointing to this study she published, Professor Coleman vehemently contested the assertion that “there is anything terrorist/violent in their actions.”

Government plans to monitor and influence internet communications, and covertly infiltrate online communities in order to sow dissension and disseminate false information, have long been the source of speculation. Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups.

Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” which spread what he views as false and damaging “conspiracy theories” about the government. Ironically, the very same Sunstein was recently named by Obama to serve as a member of the NSA review panel created by the White House, one that – while disputing key NSA claims – proceeded to propose many cosmetic reforms to the agency’s powers (most of which were ignored by the President who appointed them).

But these GCHQ documents are the first to prove that a major western government is using some of the most controversial techniques to disseminate deception online and harm the reputations of targets. Under the tactics they use, the state is deliberately spreading lies on the internet about whichever individuals it targets, including the use of what GCHQ itself calls “false flag operations” and emails to people’s families and friends. Who would possibly trust a government to exercise these powers at all, let alone do so in secret, with virtually no oversight, and outside of any cognizable legal framework?

Then there is the use of psychology and other social sciences to not only understand, but shape and control, how online activism and discourse unfolds. Today’s newly published document touts the work of GCHQ’s “Human Science Operations Cell”, devoted to “online human intelligence” and “strategic influence and disruption”:

 

 

 

 

Under the title “Online Covert Action”, the document details a variety of means to engage in “influence and info ops” as well as “disruption and computer net attack”, while dissecting how human beings can be manipulated using “leaders”, “trust, “obedience” and “compliance”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The documents lay out theories of how humans interact with one another, particularly online, and then attempt to identify ways to influence the outcomes – or “game” it: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We submitted numerous questions to GCHQ, including: (1) Does GCHQ in fact engage in “false flag operations” where material is posted to the Internet and falsely attributed to someone else?; (2) Does GCHQ engage in efforts to influence or manipulate political discourse online?; and (3) Does GCHQ’s mandate include targeting common criminals (such as boiler room operators), or only foreign threats?

As usual, they ignored those questions and opted instead to send their vague and nonresponsive boilerplate: “It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”

These agencies’ refusal to “comment on intelligence matters” – meaning: talk at all about anything and everything they do – is precisely why whistleblowing is so urgent, the journalism that supports it so clearly in the public interest, and the increasingly unhinged attacks by these agencies so easy to understand. Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.

Whatever else is true, no government should be able to engage in these tactics: what justification is there for having government agencies target people – who have been charged with no crime – for reputation-destruction, infiltrate online political communities, and develop techniques for manipulating online discourse? But to allow those actions with no public knowledge or accountability is particularly unjustifiable.

Oil Spill Shuts New Orleans Port & Mississippi River | Zero Hedge

Oil Spill Shuts New Orleans Port & Mississippi River | Zero Hedge.

65-mile stretch of the Mississippi near New Orleans remained closed Monday after two vessels collided and caused an oil spill on Saturday in foggy conditions about 30 miles west of New Orleans. As NBC news reports, the Lindsay Ann Erickson crashed with the Hannah C. Settoon, which was pushing two barges carrying barrels of light crude oil that spilled into the river. Clean-up efforts are underway.

In this aerial photo, river traffic is halted along the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Vacherie, La., due to a barge leaking oil in St. James Parish, La., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. The collision happened Saturday afternoon near Vacherie.

 

Via UPI,

The U.S. Coast Guard said the source of an oil spill was secured but 65 miles of the Mississippi River including the Port of New Orleans remained closed Sunday.

The Coast Guard said in a news release the oil spill occurred Saturday when a barge collided with another vessel near Vacherie, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge.

“Lightering operations on the damaged barge concluded early Sunday morning and the source of the spill was secured,” the release said. “Oil spill response vessels and recovery equipment are deployed in the river.”

The Coast Guard said the Captain of the Port closed the river from mile marker 90 to mile maker 155 “to avoid possible contamination of passing vessels and to reduce the amount of oil spreading further down the river.”

A unified command including the Coast Guard, the Louisiana Oil Spill Coordinator’s Office, the environmental cleanup company ES&H and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality was cooperating on the response to the spill, the Coast Guard said.

“Don’t Flush Your Toilets” Mayor Says As Ohio Water Supply Freezes; Niagara Falls Frozen | Zero Hedge

“Don’t Flush Your Toilets” Mayor Says As Ohio Water Supply Freezes; Niagara Falls Frozen | Zero Hedge.

The nation may be slowly thawing from its deep freeze “polar vortex”, but that is no comfort for tens of thousands of Ohians, whose water supply has literally frozen in the past day after the valves at the Avon Lake Municipal Utility plant were planted in ice, dramatically lowering the supply of water. NBC reports that “tens of thousands of customers in several counties in Ohio are facing a dramatic water shortage after the intake valves at a key plant that draws water from Lake Erie apparently froze amid the wild winter weather.” As a result, the mayor of Avon had a modest proposal as a response to the caticestrophy: don’t flush your toilets. At least there is toilet paper, which is more than Venezuela, and its 480% returning in 2013 stock market can say.

From NBC:

Officials at Avon Lake Municipal Utilities west of Cleveland said Wednesday that the valves at the plant are caked in ice. Although they are still able to draw water, the rate is below typical demands — which means several surrounding cities could be hit by a veritable drought.

 

In a message on the city of Avon’s official website, officials called on residents to hold off on doing anything that uses a lot of water.

 

Avon Mayor Bryan Jensen sent out an emergency messages to locals asking them to hold off on laundry, baths and showers, according to Cleveland.com.

 

“We even ask people to refrain from flushing toilets as often as they used to until this can be resolved,” Jensen said.

 

The plant website said it provides water to over 200,000 people living in a 680-square-mile area made up of seven counties — including Lorain, Cuyahoga, Medina, Erie, Huron, Ashland and Wayne.

And in other polar vortex news, the Niagara Falls has frozen.

 

The polar vortex which affected large swathes of the US is expected to calm off this weekend (Picture: REUTERS/Aaron Harris)

The polar vortex which affected large swathes of the US is expected to calm off this weekend (Picture: REUTERS/Aaron Harris)

 

The Rainbow Bridge connects the US side of Niagara Falls to the Canadian side (Picture: REUTERS/Aaron Harris)

The Rainbow Bridge connects the US side of Niagara Falls to the Canadian side (Picture: REUTERS/Aaron Harris)

 

The U.S. side of the Niagara Falls is pictured in Ontario, January 8, 2014.

Over 20million people visit Niagara each year (Picture: REUTERS/Aaron Harris)

 

Ice chunks and water flow over the falls Niagara Falls, Ontario, January 8, 2014. The frigid air and "polar vortex" that affected about 240 million people in the United States and southern Canada will depart during the second half of this week, and a far-reaching January thaw will begin, according to AccuWeather.com.   REUTERS/Aaron Harris (CANADA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL)

Ice chunks flow over the Niagara into its gorge (Picture: REUTERS/Aaron Harris)

 

Visitors take pictures overlooking the falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario, January 8, 2014. The frigid air and "polar vortex" that affected about 240 million people in the United States and southern Canada will depart during the second half of this week, and a far-reaching January thaw will begin, according to AccuWeather.com.   REUTERS/Aaron Harris (CANADA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT TRAVEL)

Visitors brave the cold to take a look at the beautiful sight (Picture: REUTERS/Aaron Harris)

Eric Holder Under Investigation By House Judiciary Committee For Lying Under Oath | Zero Hedge

Eric Holder Under Investigation By House Judiciary Committee For Lying Under Oath | Zero Hedge.

 

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