- Iran strengthened cyber capabilities after Stuxnet - U.S. general
- U.S. experts investigate Boeing 787 at Japanese airport
- U.S. soldier charged in Afghan massacre had PTSD - lawyer
Posted: 17 Jan 2013 08:04 PM PST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran responded to a 2010 cyber attack on its nuclear facilities by beefing up its own cyber capabilities, and will be a "force to be reckoned with" in the future, a senior U.S. Air Force official told reporters on Thursday.
General William Shelton, who heads Air Force Space Command and oversees the Air Force's cyber operations, declined to comment about Iran's ability to disrupt U.S. government computer networks, but said Tehran had clearly increased its efforts in that arena after the 2010 incident.
While no government has taken responsibility for the Stuxnet computer virus that destroyed centrifuges at Iran's Natanz uranium enrichment facility, it was widely reported to have been a U.S.-Israeli project.
Western analysts say Iran has launched increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks in a growing confrontation with its adversaries, including the United States, Israel and Gulf Arabs, at a time of rising pressure on Tehran to curb its nuclear program.
Iran denies Western accusations it is seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability, and says its program is aimed only at power generation and medical research.
This week, a senior Iranian commander was quoted as saying that the Islamic Republic could disrupt enemy communication systems as part of its growing "electronic warfare" capabilities.
Iranian officials have denied hacking into U.S. banks in recent months, but have devoted resources to building up their cyber defence capabilities after suffering a string of cyber attacks in the past year targeting industrial sites, an oil export terminal and oil platforms.
"The Iranian situation is difficult to talk about," Shelton told reporters. "It's clear that the Natanz situation generated reaction by them. They are going to be a force to be reckoned with, with the potential capabilities that they will develop over the years and the potential threat that will represent to the United States."
Shelton said the Air Force expected orders in coming months to expand its cyber workforce of about 6,000 by 1,000 people. He said he was pressing Air Force leaders to boost funding for cyber operations, but added there were competing demands and the budget outlook remained uncertain.
He said the Air Force was repelling nearly 100 percent of the millions of probes launched against Pentagon networks every day, but it was also using cyber tools to substitute for clandestine human intelligence-gathering efforts and expanding its offensive cyber capabilities.
"There are things that you can get from a computer network that in the past were very hard to collect and had to be done through human sources," he said. "It has become ... a darned-near substitute for human intelligence activity."
With what he called access to the "right networks" and the "right code," Shelton said the U.S. military would also be able to cause physical damage without using a bomb or missile.
(Editing by Warren Strobel and Peter Cooney)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 17 Jan 2013 07:49 PM PST
TAKAMATSU, Japan (Reuters) - A team of experts from U.S. aviation authorities and Boeing Co arrived in Japan on Friday to inspect a 787 Dreamliner passenger jet that made an emergency landing on a domestic All Nippon Airways Co flight earlier this week.
The incident prompted regulators in the United States and around the world to ground the 50 Dreamliners already in service. Battery-related problems are being investigated after warning lights indicated a battery problem on the ANA flight on Wednesday.
The 787, a lightweight, mainly carbon-composite aircraft, has been plagued by mishaps, raising concerns over its use of lithium-ion batteries.
The five representatives from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Boeing are helping Japanese authorities in the investigation of the aircraft, which remains parked at the side of Takamatsu airport in western Japan.
The Japan Transport Safety Board (JTSB) aims to end its initial checks by around midday on Saturday, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters, and will make further decisions based on how the investigations go on Friday.
GS Yuasa Corp, the Japanese company that makes batteries for the Dreamliner, said it also sent three engineers to Takamatsu to help the investigation.
A person at the company, who asked not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue, said: "Our company's battery has been vilified for now, but it only functions as part of a whole system. So we're trying to find out exactly where there was a problem within the system."
Shares in the Kyoto-based battery maker rose 3 percent on Friday, having dropped around 18 percent since January 7 when a battery-related problem affected a parked Japan Airlines (JAL) 787 in the United States.
Regulators in Japan said it was unclear when the Dreamliner could be back in the air. Japan is the biggest market so far for the 787, with ANA and JAL operating 24 of the 290-seat wide-bodied planes, which have a list price of $207 million.
Separately, the country's transport ministry said a fuel leak on a JAL-operated 787 last week was due to a malfunction in a drive mechanism that controls a valve. It said the British company that makes the valve was investigating. The ministry declined to name the firm.
Keeping the 787s on the ground could cost ANA alone more than $1.1 million a day, Mizuho Securities calculated, noting the Dreamliner was key to the airline's growth strategy.
JAL has cancelled 8 Dreamliner flights on its Tokyo-San Diego route until January 25, affecting some 1,290 passengers, and is switching aircraft for another 70 flights scheduled to fly the 787.
The JTSB has said the battery on the ANA flight that made the emergency landing was blackened and carbonised, had a bulge in the middle and weighed 5 kg less than normal.
The use of new battery technology is among the cost-saving features of the 787, which Boeing says burns 20 percent less fuel than rival jetliners using older technology. The plane represents a leap in aircraft design, but the project has been plagued by cost overruns and years of delays. Orders for the Dreamliner last year helped Boeing overtake rival Airbus as the world's largest manufacturer of passenger jets.
"This could turn out to be a minor technical problem, but the FAA has turned it into a significant marketing challenge for Boeing," said Loren Thompson, defence consultant and chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a Virginia-based think tank.
(Additional reporting by Yoshiyuki Osada, James Topham, Mari Saito, Issei Kato, Herng Shinn Cheng, Ruairidh Villar and Andrea Shalal-Esa; Writing by Ian Geoghegan; Editing by Ken Wills and Alex Richardson)Engineers union urges rejection of Boeing contract offer
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 17 Jan 2013 07:33 PM PST
TACOMA, Washington (Reuters) - A U.S. soldier charged with slaying 16 civilians, most of them women and children, near his Army post in Afghanistan was diagnosed before his deployment as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury, his lawyer said on Thursday.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Robert Bales, a decorated veteran of four combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan who is accused of gunning down the villagers in cold blood during two rampages through their family compounds in Kandahar province last March.
Military justice experts say the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis, if substantiated, may prove of limited value in helping Bales' attorneys pursue an insanity defence but could make it more difficult for prosecutors to obtain the death penalty, even if they can prove premeditation.
The disclosure that Bales had been diagnosed with PTSD followed a hearing in which defence lawyers told a military judge they were preparing a possible "mental health defence" for Bales, who appeared in court wearing a green military dress uniform.
The judge, Colonel Jeffery Nance, said such a defence would require a formal psychiatric evaluation and that he would order a "sanity board" of independent doctors to review Bales' mental condition.
During Thursday's 90-minute hearing at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, where Bales is being held, defence lawyers also deferred entering a plea on behalf of their client and waived a formal reading of the charges against him.
Asked by the judge whether he understood that the case against him could result in the death penalty, Bales, 39, an Army staff sergeant, replied, "Sir, yes sir."
Under the military justice system, a plea is commonly postponed at this stage to preserve legal options for the defence, whose ability to make additional motions is severely restricted once a plea is entered, experts say.
Civilian defence lawyer John Henry Browne told the judge that Bales' legal team would need at least a year and a half to prepare its case.
Prosecutors say Bales, a father of two from Lake Tapps, Washington, acted alone and with "chilling premeditation" when, armed with a pistol, a rifle and a grenade launcher, he left his base twice, returning in the middle of his rampage to tell a fellow soldier: "I just shot up some people."
The shootings, which occurred over a five-hour period in March, marked one of the deadliest incidents the military has blamed on a rogue U.S. soldier since the Vietnam War, and strained U.S.-Afghan relations.
BRAIN INJURY DIAGNOSIS
Browne said he had government documentation showing that personnel at Lewis-McChord's Madigan Medical Center had found his client to be suffering from both post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury.
He said the diagnosis was made before Bales was deployed in November 2011 to Afghanistan on a tour of duty that ended abruptly with the events for which he is charged.
Defence lawyers have previously said that Bales, who faces 16 first-degree murder charges among other offenses, had suffered a possible concussion from a bomb blast during a prior tour of duty in Iraq.
Legal experts said evidence of PTSD or a brain injury might be used by the defence to bolster an insanity claim, but they doubted such a diagnosis could convince jurors that the accused was unable to appreciate the nature and consequences of his actions - the definition of insanity under military law.
"My research has not revealed a single case in which any person mounted a successful insanity defence in a court-martial based on a PTSD claim," said Eugene Fidell, who teaches military justice at Yale Law School.
But the defence could argue that Bales' PTSD and brain injury were severe enough to cause "diminished mental capacity," making it harder for prosecutors to prove premeditation, which is necessary for him to be eligible for capital punishment, experts said.
Even if the jury finds Bales guilty of premeditated murder, a PTSD claim might be enough to sway just one member of the panel to vote against the death penalty during the sentencing phase of the court-martial. The panel must be unanimous in approving the death sentence.
"That's probably where this evidence would be the strongest and have the most impact on a capital case," said Victor Hansen, a former Army attorney who is now vice president of the National Institute of Military Justice and a professor at the New England School of Law in Boston.
Experts doubted that jurors, all members of the military themselves, would be sympathetic to an overt argument that the military was to blame for deploying a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Defence attorney Emma Scanlan said Bales would participate in a review of his mental state, but wanted him to be examined by a neuropsychologist with expertise in traumatic brain injuries. She also wanted defence attorneys to be present at the examination, which the defence wants recorded.
(Writing by Eric M. Johnson and Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Johnston, Tim Dobbyn, Andrew Hay and Lisa Shumaker)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
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