Officials Confirm Chinese Balloon Collected Intelligence from Several Sensitive Sites

The administration came out with several lies abut the balloon and continued to claim it had limited value to the Chinese. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs additionally along with other military officials provided China with off-ramps stating the balloon had a glitch and went astray and further told the White House not to shoot it down due to the potential debris field. The Pentagon assessed that the balloon uncovering important information was not great. Even more terrifying is what China has planned with the intelligence gathered and what other rogue/enemy nations have access.

A balloon flies in the sky over Billings, Montana, US, February 1, 2023 in this picture obtained from social media. (Chase Doak/via Reuters)

Now, April 3, 2023, NBC has officially reported some truths.

The Chinese spy balloon that flew across the U.S. was able to gather intelligence from several sensitive American military sites, despite the Biden administration’s efforts to block it from doing so, according to two current senior U.S. officials and one former senior administration official.

China was able to control the balloon so it could make multiple passes over some of the sites (at times flying figure eight formations) and transmit the information it collected back to Beijing in real time, the three officials said. The intelligence China collected was mostly from electronic signals, which can be picked up from weapons systems or include communications from base personnel, rather than images, the officials said.

The three officials said China could have gathered much more intelligence from sensitive sites if not for the administration’s efforts to move around potential targets and obscure the balloon’s ability to pick up their electronic signals by stopping them from broadcasting or emitting signals.

The National Security Council referred NBC News to the Defense Department for comment. The Defense Department directed NBC News to comments from February in which senior officials said the balloon had “limited additive value” for intelligence collection by the Chinese government “over and above what [China] is likely able to collect through things like satellites in low earth orbit.”

China has said repeatedly that the balloon was an unmanned civilian airship that accidentally strayed off course, and that the U.S. overreacted by shooting it down. Officials have not said which company, department or organization the balloon belonged to, despite several requests for comment by NBC News.

After the balloon was shot down in February, Biden administration officials said it was capable of collecting signals intelligence.

The balloon had a self-destruct mechanism that could have been activated remotely by China, but the officials said it’s not clear if that didn’t happen because the mechanism malfunctioned or because China decided not to trigger it.

The balloon first entered U.S. airspace over Alaska on Jan. 28, according to the Biden administration, which said it was tracking it as it moved. Within the next four days, the balloon was flying over Montana — specifically Malmstrom Air Force Base, where the U.S. stores some of its nuclear assets.

The real damage assessment at this point cannot be measured but clearly China spied successfully and will heads roll? Nah…

Now Ukraine Militarily has to Battle both Russia and Iran

With credit in part to Bellingcat:

In the early hours of Monday, 10 October 2022, Russia pummelled Ukraine’s largest cities with missiles killing at least 20 people and wounding more than 100, according to Ukraine’s national emergency service. Russia has boasted about the surgical precision of its cruise missiles and claimed the attacks on 10 October targeted Ukraine’s military, security command centres and the national energy grid. However, open-source evidence shows that multiple missiles struck non-military targets, damaging residential buildings and hitting kindergartens and playgrounds.

The 10 October attacks marked Russia’s largest coordinated missile strikes since the beginning of the war. Yet the destruction didn’t end there. Missile strikes continued the next day with at least 28 launched on 11 October. The strikes left large numbers of civilians in Kyiv, Lviv, Vinnytsia, and Dnipro with no or sporadic access to electricity.

Cruise missile attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure continued into a second week on 17 October 2022, when Ukraine reported shooting down three cruise missiles flying towards Kyiv. On the morning of 18 October, new missile attacks were reported in at least three cities leaving some of them with no electricity. As of 18 October 2022, international prosecutors were investigating the targeting of civilian buildings and critical civilian infrastructure as potential war crimes.

Remnants of a Kalibr missile found near impact craters on 10 October in Konotop, Ukraine, (Source: Ukraine’s Defence Ministry). The fuselage wreckage shows the Kalibr’s tell-tale black broken stripes (top right image) and the bottom shows partly the 3M-14 inscription that adorns the weapon and can be seen in greater detail here).

Visual evidence and photographs of remains of the missiles show that many that were launched on 10 and 11 October 2022 were winged cruise missiles, of the sea-launched Kalibr (3M-14), the land-launched R-500 (9M728) for the Iskander system, and air-launched Kh-101 types. These missiles are touted by Russia as high-precision weapons that only destroy relevant military targets. However, since the start of Russia’s invasion, long-range cruise missiles have repeatedly destroyed civilian infrastructure and caused hundreds of civilian deaths and injuries – for example when a cruise missile hit residential areas in Odesa and Mykolaiv earlier this summer. More here.

Now enter the manifest relationship between Russia and Iran.

In late November, U.S. media outlets quoted unnamed intelligence sources as saying that, in early November, Iran and Russia reached a definitive agreement under which Russia will produce Iran-designed armed drones in Russia proper. The agreement builds on recent deals under which Iran has delivered several hundred drones to Russia, which Moscow has used in Ukraine, primarily against civilian infrastructure targets such as power plants and water supply facilities. Iran has also reportedly agreed to transfer unknown numbers of its short-range ballistic missiles to Russia, for use against similar targets. Most of the Iranian drones that are part of the production deal are known as loitering munitions, which are capable of circling the skies until a suitable target is identified, providing greater reaction time and flexibility in target selection. These single-use systems, which use mobile launch platforms, are inexpensive, easy to operate, and have minimal maintenance costs. Low airspeeds allow the drones to travel long distances, sometimes flying below the radars of Ukrainian air defense systems, to reach their targets. This low and slow approach, however, has allowed Ukrainian forces to intercept many of the drones with short-range air defense weapons like heavy machine guns and the German-produced Gepard.

Moscow’s turn toward Iran for armed drones confirms that Russia has previously underinvested in its uncrewed aerial system (UAS). Despite this, Russia maintains a large and capable industrial base, and the production deal will grant Moscow greater control over the manufacturing process and possibly allow it to expedite and increase production of these simple but effective weapons. An alternative Iranian drone production facility in Tajikistan, inaugurated by Iran’s Defense Minister in May 2022, has unknown production capacity, and much of that factory’s output may be destined for other recipients, such as Iran’s regional allies and other armed drone customers, such as Sudan and Ethiopia.

The financial terms of the production deal have not been reported, and likely constitute a mix of cash, in-kind payments, and other promises of assistance from Moscow. Both countries are subject to sweeping U.S. and European sanctions, and the extent to which Russia is able to provide Iran with hard currency payments for the drone production agreement is unclear. As an alternative, Iranian leaders may seek additional Russian assistance to boost their nuclear program. Maintaining Russia as a partner may also help in circumventing sanctions that hinder Iran’s ability to acquire components and other goods for its advanced weapons programs. Several days after the reported production deal was reached, a key Russian hardliner, Secretary of the National Security Council Nikolai Patrushev, visited Tehran. According to Iranian and Russian media, Patrushev discussed Western sanctions and “interference” against both Russia and Iran with his counterparts in Tehran. The more than two months of protests in Iran, during which Iranian authorities have killed more than 400 demonstrators, have derailed any realistic prospect for Iran to achieve sanctions relief through an agreement with the United States to resume full compliance with the 2015 multilateral Iran nuclear deal. Iran also undoubtedly is looking to Russia to keep forces in Syria – despite Russia’s urgent need for personnel to deploy to Ukraine – in order to ensure Syrian President Bashar al-Assad maintains his grip on power.

Yet, the production deal with Moscow also carries substantial risks for Tehran. On the one hand, Iranian leaders might see the deal as reducing their exposure to new sanctions because the drones would be produced in Russia, not Iran. On Friday, the Biden administration announced sanctions on three entities within the Russian military responsible for training and transfers related to Iranian drones. Russian and Iranian leaders assess that the United States and NATO have many more options to interdict Iranian deliveries of armed drones to Russia than they have options to interrupt production of the weapons inside the Russian Federation itself. However, U.S., European, and regional leaders view the drone production pact as a deepening of Iran’s involvement in the Ukraine conflict, and a demonstration of Iran’s emergence as a significant strategic threat capable of influencing a war in Europe. Iran’s active and direct support for the Russian war effort increases tensions between the United States and Iran. Iranian involvement in the Ukraine war may strengthen Binyamin Netanyahu’s arguments for increased joint retaliation against Iran between the U.S. and Israel. U.S. forces have struck Iranian targets and their proxies in Iraq and Syria in response to attacks against U.S. personnel. Direct action against Iran as a reaction to its support of Russia, however, is an escalatory step the U.S. is unlikely to take. Source is Soufan Intel.

Is Turkey About to Copy the Russian Invasion Plan?

Primer: Today as this is posted, the United States has an estimate 900 troops in Syria sharing bases with the Syrian Defense Force located in the Hassekeh and Raqqa provinces.

Erdogan does not seem to care, one NATO member country to another….

Turkey wants full control of key regions in Syria….sounds much like much like the selected oblasts in Ukraine that Russia works to control. Could it be that Iran is out of money and tired of Syria and has moved on to embellish their relationship with Moscow?

In Syria, Erdoğan is off to make war… "in the name of peace" - KEDISTAN source

FNC:

Turkey’s impending invasion of northern Syria likely results from “political reasons” rather than a national security need, and it remains unclear how officials will declare “mission success,” experts told Fox News Digital.

“This is a politically motivated military incursion rather than a sort of, you know, tactically sound or, you know, strategically oriented ambition,” Sinan Ciddi, an expert on Turkish domestic politics and foreign policy for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said. “The timing of this operation will have been much closer to the upcoming Turkish presidential election, so they can reap maximum political benefit out of it.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week ordered a series of airstrikes against Kurdish militias in northern Syria and vowed to order a land invasion of the territory as tensions surrounding border disputes peaked.

The Pentagon urged Turkey to stand down on its plan to invade Syria as U.S. officials warned that the operation could endanger U.S. troops in the country.

A spokesperson for the Turkish Embassy in Washington, D.C., told Fox News Digital that officials have “time and again pointed out threats against our national security, posed by the PKK/YPG terrorist network in Syria and Iraq.”

“We have always called for unequivocal and genuine solidarity in the face of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” the spokesperson said. “Notwithstanding, the terrorist organization continued its attacks, recently targeting innocent civilians in the heart of Istanbul.”

The spokesman pointed to Turkey’s commitment to help fight DAESH – the Arabic name for ISIS – and is “the only NATO ally that has put boots on the ground and fought DAESH chest-to-chest since the outset,” even though U.S. officials have warned that the invasion could lead to the release of detained ISIS members.

Sinam Sherkany Mohamad, the representative of the Syrian Democratic Council mission in the U.S., said that democratic forces – located in northern and eastern Syria – remain prepared for the invasion but “hope it will not happen.”

“We don’t want war, we don’t want to create another conflict zone in the region,” Mohamad said. “We already, as Syria, suffered a lot [in] 12 years from the Syrian crisis, so we don’t want to create another conflict zone or a war in the region that is not in the interest of anyone, neither the United States nor Syrian nor Turkey.”

“We hope that the international community and the main powers, like Russia and the United States, could stop us from [facing] any ground invasion in the coming [days and weeks],” she added.

Mohamad praised the U.S. efforts to pressure Turkey to prevent the invasion from happening, echoing concerns for U.S. troop safety, and she urged U.S. officials to consider sanctions against Turkey should Erdogan authorize the invasion.

“There are many mechanisms that the U.S. administration can do to prevent Turkey from this ground invasion,” she said, stressing that any invasion would result in a “humanitarian catastrophe” with millions of displaced people.

Hat tip to at Least One Whistleblower

Primer:

According to Bloomberg News, the Biden administration is also reallocating $860 million in funding for COVID-19 relief to cover pandemic costs relating to illegal immigrant children.

In a letter reviewed by the news outlet, Health Secretary Xavier Becerra told members of Congress that his department would move funding to ensure illegal immigrant children’s safety, in addition to the staff taking care of them at shelters. Additionally, last year to General Accounting Office performed a comprehensive audit and the result(s) stinks when it comes to the Department of Defense.

source

In part:

The Department of Defense has provided U.S. Customs and Border Protection with personnel and other support for at least 2 decades. DOD evaluates requests for assistance against 6 criteria, including cost and how providing support would affect military readiness.

We looked at 4 such requests for assistance that DOD approved. We found that DOD used unreliable cost estimates and didn’t fully evaluate the effects of the requests on military readiness. Also, DOD didn’t track all costs or give Congress timely information on the full costs it incurred for homeland security support, as it was mandated to do. Our 7 recommendations address these issues. The full report is found here. 

***

As you read on….just wonder if any personnel in the National Guard sends a weekly or monthly report to the Pentagon….and…has anyone asked in there is an FBI task force at the border doing FBI stuff?

Hat tip to PM: In an exclusive sit-down interview, an active member of the National Guard has gone on record against Joe Biden sharing “America is probably the weakest it’s ever been.” From harrowing stories of finding mutilated bodies at the border, to the cartel shooting at our service members, the border has gotten so bad that this National Guardsman was willing to risk his career to speak out.


“We’re very vulnerable,” he said on condition of anonymity. “It’s only a matter of time before somebody actually gets shot, or something bad actually happens.”

When asked if he felt his life was being put at risk by the current administration’s policies at the border, he said “absolutely. You never know who is crossing. You never know who is going to cross. Under Trump, it seemed like it was a lot more controlled. The border flowed a lot easier. The numbers spoke for themselves, and now it’s kind of like, you know, everybody is allowed to come in.”

 


He explained how the cartels use extreme measures to “intimidate and scare” border agents.
“Here in the valley,” he said, “you’re going to see a lot of drug flow and a lot of violence from the cartel to try to cover that up. They push large groups of migrants across.”
“They shoot at us quite often,” he said of the cartels. He detailed how the cartels would leave bodies around “to show us like, ‘hey, this is what we’re doing.'”
In one instance, he said that National Guardsmen found the body of a man whose head had been dipped in acid by the cartel.


Of that instance, he said “Border Patrol let us know that there was a body somewhere in the area, and some of the guys went looking for it, and sure enough they ended up finding it on our side of the river, which tells us that the cartel crossed him over and left it there for us to find and went back.”
He said this was a “scare tactic” from the cartels, and that “morale wise… it puts everybody more on an edge.”
“The way I see it,” he continued, “America is probably at its weakest, as weak as it’s ever been in a long time right now. We’re very vulnerable, and I feel like it’s only a matter of time before somebody actually gets shot, or something bad actually happens. And for the administration to realize, ‘hey, maybe we do need to do something here,’ versus under Trump, he didn’t take those chances.”
Despite this, he said, it is the children abandoned at the border that haunt him.
“Probably for me being shot at, and the dead bodies, that doesn’t really hold much weight, but when I see the kids—I think that’s what has mentally been draining me.”
The Guardsman spoke about meeting an 11-year-old girl, whose mother sent her alone to America, equipping her with a box of condoms.
“When I found her, she had three condoms left in a box of like 15. Pretty much the coyotes did what they wanted with her and she was only 11,” the Guardsmen shared.
He now believes “it’s only a matter of time before a Guardsman loses his life to the cartel.”

Modern Day Nuremberg Required for Russian War Crimes

Russia war crimes did not begin with the invasion of Ukraine, those with short memories should be reminded that all the same tactics were used in Syria and went unpunished. Shameful, but read on.

***

As Russia continues its assault on Ukraine, top Biden administration officials are working behind the scenes with the Ukrainian government and European allies to document a tsunami of war crimes allegedly committed by Russian forces. But the sheer volume of the documented war crime cases could be too overwhelming for Ukraine’s justice system as well as for the International Criminal Court (ICC), raising questions of how many cases will be brought to trial and how many accused Russian war criminals could ultimately face justice.

An aerial view of crosses, floral tributes, and photographs of the victims of the battles for Irpin and Bucha that mark the graves in a cemetery in Irpin, Ukraine, on May 16.

An aerial view of crosses, floral tributes, and photographs of the victims of the battles for Irpin and Bucha that mark the graves in a cemetery in Irpin, Ukraine, on May 16. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

“This is a Nuremberg moment in terms of just the sheer scale of the breach of the rules-based international order that has been perpetrated by Russia in this invasion,” said Beth Van Schaack, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice. “Even the most well-resourced prosecutorial office would have a hard time grappling with the sheer scale of the criminality that’s been on display.”

The United States joined a slew of other Western countries and international institutions in devoting resources to help Ukraine document and collect evidence on as many alleged war crimes as possible, from Russian soldiers torturing, raping, and executing Ukrainian civilians to Russian armored units and air forces indiscriminately shelling civilian targets. Keep reading here.

Weapons experts from France are helping their Ukrainian counterparts collect evidence of possible Russian war crimes in the northern region of Chernihiv, Ukraine’s prosecutor general said on Friday.

The French Gendarmerie’s experts, including specialists in drone modelling, ballistics and weapons of mass destruction, have been collecting evidence at sites of destruction from Russian shelling.

They replaced group of gendarmerie forensic experts who arrived in mid-April to help establish what happened in Bucha, near Kyiv, where the killing of many civilians provoked a global outcry.

“It will soon be two months since (French experts) have been with us ‘on the ground’,” Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova wrote on her Facebook account.

“They work in the Chernihiv region and conduct research at sites destroyed by shelling,” she wrote. “These war crimes must be punished, and we are ready to do together everything to do
so.”

The Chernihiv region has been shelled frequently since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. Ukraine is also investigating potential war crimes by Russian soldiers in Chernihiv during their occupation in March.

Russia denies targeting civilians and has rejected allegations of war crimes in what it calls a “special military operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” Ukraine.

Kyiv and its allies say Russia invaded its neighbor without provocation. source

***

Ukraine has identified several thousand suspected war crimes in the eastern Donbas region where Russian forces are pressing their offensive, Kyiv’s chief prosecutor said Tuesday.

“Of course we started a few thousand cases about what we see in Donbas,” prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova told a news conference in The Hague as she met international counterparts.

“If we speak about war crimes, it’s about possible transfer of people, we started several cases about possible transfer of children, adult people to different parts of the Russian Federation,” she said.

“Then, of course, we can speak about torturing people, killing civilians and destroying civilian infrastructure.”

Ukrainian authorities did not have access to Russian-held areas of Donbas, but they were interviewing evacuees and prisoners of war, Venediktova told the press conference at the headquarters of EU judicial agency Eurojust.

In total, Ukraine had identified 15,000 war crimes cases across the country since Russia’s invasion on February 24, she added.

Ukraine had identified 600 suspects for the “anchor” crime of aggression, including “high level of top military, politicians and propaganda agents of Russian Federation,” the prosecutor general said.

Nearly 80 suspects had been identified for alleged war crimes that had actually taken place on Ukrainian soil, she added. source