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Wednesday, 28 August 2013

From Today's Papers - 28 Aug 2013
Naxals kill 6 securitymen in Odisha, Chhattisgarh

Koraput, August 27
Four Border Security Force (BSF) personnel were killed and two injured when Naxals blew up their vehicle in an IED blast in Odisha's Koraput district today, while a Special Task Force (STF) commander and a jawan were killed in an encounter between ultras and security forces in Maoist-hit Bastar region of southern Chhattisgarh.
A convoy of three BSF vehicles carrying 18 personnel was reportedly ambushed while it was crossing the Patangi and Sunki axis in the district. The troops were moving from Malkangiri in the state to Vishakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh when the incident occurred.

The IED exploded as the first vehicle crossed the route, leaving a subordinate officer and three jawans dead. A group of Maoists then began firing on the personnel who retaliated. The two injured personnel have been rushed to the nearby hospital in Sunki while the gunfight has stopped, the officer said.

In Chhattisgarh, the incident took place in a forest area while a joint party of the STF and the local police was returning after an operation, Bastar SP Ajay Yadav said. Those killed were identified as Company Commander Lav Bhagat and constable Selestian Kujur.

The patrol party was on a combing operation for the past two days in the bordering areas of Dantewada, Narayanpur, Kondagaon and Bastar districts of Bastar division.— PTI
The rot within IAS
Officers should stop dancing to tunes of politicians
by Kuldip Nayar

THE Indian Administrative Service (IAS) is at the apex to run the country's administration. It replaced the Indian Civil Service (ICS) which was an instrument in the hands of the British to rule over India. After Independence, there was a serious thinking whether there should be an all-India service at all. The states wanted persons from their own area to administer.

But then Home Minister Sardar Patel was keen on having an all-India service to articulate the feeling of unity and maintain the diversities prevailing in the country. The service would also, Patel asserted, ensure that the Indian Constitution remained supreme in the medley of pulls by different states. Two all-India services, Indian Administrative Service and Indian Police Service (IPS), were constituted. Their members came to occupy top
positions in the states.

This arrangement worked fairly well till the early seventies when the rot started due to the Centre's maniac effort to concentrate power and the states' ambition to play politics through civil servants. This has practicably nullified good administration. The IAS has become a glorified state service. The rulers use it in the
manner they like.

In real, the Emergency is the watershed. The then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, suspended the Constitution and used the IAS officers to enforce illegal acts and suppress the critics. This was the time when the thin line between right and wrong, moral and immoral was erased. Only a couple of officers stood up against what was sheer dictatorship.

Fear of punishment for disobedience made the service servile. It was once the steel frame but it has now turned into a seal frame. The Shah Commission, appointed to look into the excesses during the Emergency, has deplored how the bureaucracy caved in. The Commission has said:

“The ethical considerations inherent in public behaviour became generally dim and in many cases beyond the mental grasp of many of the public functionaries. Desire for self-preservation as admitted by a number of public servants at various levels became the sole motivation for their official actions and behaviour.”

The service has not recovered from the carrots dangled before it during the Emergency. In fact, it is going out of the way to placate the rulers. The latter, in turn, have rewarded those who did what the rulers wanted. The malaise is largely because of two reasons: one, the rulers do not respect the regulations and violate them to reap benefits for themselves and their parties; two, the IAS officers who are allotted to the states, have surrendered because of the threat of transfer or posting to an unimportant position.

Therefore, it is heartening to see when IAS officers like Durga Shakti Nagpal from Uttar Pradesh and Ashok Khemka from Haryana stand up against the wrongs the rulers wished them to do. She has been suspended because of stopping illegal mining by the sand mafia. The Samajwadi Party, ruling UP and placating the Muslim electorate, has justified her suspension, saying that she had endangered the communal harmony by ordering the demolition of an outside wall
of a mosque.

One, this is not true. Two, she was within her right to demolish any unauthorised structure on the government land. In a judgment, the Supreme Court has said that a place of worship should be pulled down immediately if the government land had been encroached upon.

It is a pity that the Supreme Court rejected a public interest litigation (PIL) petition challenging her suspension. The court is technically correct that it cannot interfere in matters between the government and the employees. The court had the opportunity to set right the rot. It should have realised the anger which swept through the country following action against the two officials.

The support of IAS associations from some states and the trainees at Mussoorie to Durga evokes hope that the service, which has ingratiated itself with politicians, may begin to assert itself as was the case before the Emergency. The manner in which the three-member IAS officers’ committee endorsed the Haryana government casts shadow on the behaviour of the service.

The nation still hopes that the bureaucracy will make up for the deficiencies which the politicians, particularly belonging to the ruling party in a state or at the Centre, have created in the system.

In many foreign countries, there is a committee for civil service supervising the suspensions, transfers and promotions of officials. A similar committee can be constituted in India as well. The task can also be entrusted to the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), which is also the recruiting authority.

The service itself will have to do introspection if officers were to act only on the basis of self-promotion. Today when the common man does not get even what is rightfully due to him, he is disillusioned with the entire system. True, politicians will continue to keep an eye on the electorate, but the IAS cannot afford to fall prey to their designs. A public functionary must display a degree of vigilance and willingness to sacrifice.

The Gandhi dynasty should draw a lesson from the example of Feroze Gandhi, son-in-law of Jawaharlal Nehru. Feroz Gandhi would take up cases of corruption in Parliament, even to the embarrassment of Nehru.

He was so upright that he did not even live at the Prime Minister's house but had a separate bungalow to which he was entitled as a member of Parliament. It is another matter that Feroze Gandhi's son, Rajiv Gandhi, got the atmosphere contaminated when, as the Prime Minister he bought the Bofors guns. Corruption of the dynasty has not lessened either in tone or tenor. Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, has created a stench.

Coming back to the IAS, its name is in the mud. It must retrieve itself not only for the sake of the Durgas and Khemkas, but also for the public which is still hoping against hope that the service will not dance to the tunes of the rulers. That is how the democratic structure in the country can be made safer.
Momentum builds for military strike in Syria
Prospects for a Western-led military strike on Syria appeared to grow Tuesday as the US defense secretary said US forces were ready for any contingency, the British military drafted plans and the Arab League joined the powers that have accused the Syrian government of a mass killing of civilians last week with a chemical munitions attack.

The developments came as UN weapons inspectors in Syria postponed a second visit to suspected attack sites on the outskirts of the capital, Damascus, after having failed to secure assurances of their safety, UN and Syrian officials said.

Even without the evidence that the inspectors are collecting, the United States and other Western powers have concluded that the attack last week, which killed hundreds of people, was caused by banned chemical munitions and that Assad's forces were responsible, crossing a threshold that required a forceful response.

Chuck Hagel, the US secretary of defense, said in an interview with the BBC that US forces had "moved assets in place to be able to fulfill and comply with whatever option the president wishes to take." Asked how soon these forces could be ready, Hagel said, "We are ready to go."

Hagel would not specify the type of action envisioned, but Obama administration officials have suggested that any military response would be limited - cruise missiles launched from US warships in the Mediterranean that would strike specific Syrian military targets, for example - and not a sustained bombing campaign intended to topple the Syrian president, Bashar Assad, who is seeking to defeat an insurgency well into its third year.

The interview was broadcast as Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain said Parliament would be recalled early from its summer recess to deal with the Syria crisis, and British media said fighter aircraft had been dispatched sent to Cyprus, where Britain maintains an air base that could be used as a launching area against Syria, 100 miles away.

In Cairo, the Arab League held an emergency meeting, blamed Assad's government for what it called a "heinous crime" and demanded that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

Assad and his subordinates have denied responsibility for the attack and have asserted that insurgents fighting to topple him carried it out. Russia and Iran, Assad's principal supporters in the conflict, have backed his version of events and warned against any Western military intervention.

On the ground in Syria, UN inspectors, who came under sniper fire on Monday before a visit to one location, had been set "to continue their investigation in a different site" on Tuesday, the United Nations said in a statement. But after the attack Monday, "a comprehensive assessment determined that the visit should be postponed by one day in order to improve preparedness and safety for the team." The statement said the inspectors had not received "confirmation of access."

Syria's foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, said that the inspectors' trip had been delayed by one day because of disputes among the rebel groups. The minister said the insurgents could not agree on issues related to guaranteeing the inspectors' safety. He gave no further details.

The postponement coincided with intensified international diplomacy and maneuvering.

In a message on Twitter, Cameron said the speaker of Parliament had agreed to his request to recall lawmakers Thursday, when there would be a "clear" proposal from the government and a vote on how Britain should respond to the attacks.

The recall was apparently designed to secure parliamentary support for action and to head off complaints by lawmakers that they had been sidelined.

Earlier, Cameron's spokesman said, "We are continuing to discuss with our international partners what the right response should be, but, as part of this, we are making contingency plans for the armed forces."

British officials, who were not identified by name under departmental rules, told reporters that Cameron would meanwhile continue discussions with world leaders on what was termed a "proportionate response" to deter attacks in the future using chemical weapons.

Cameron cut short a vacation and returned to London on Tuesday to lead a meeting of Britain's national security committee scheduled for Wednesday.

His support of the United States recalled earlier moments of crisis under his government and that of his predecessor, Tony Blair, when Britain projected itself as playing a decisive role in far-flung crises at America's side, even though the United States wields far greater military clout.

Britain seems anxious to maintain the impetus of efforts to devise a tough response to the attack, which Cameron's office, like Washington and Paris, has attributed to Assad's forces.

The Press Association of Britain quoted officials as indicating that a decision on the nature of any military response could be taken before the U.N. inspectors report on their findings.

According to Agence France-Presse, Moscow warned Tuesday that a military intervention in Syria could have "catastrophic consequences" for the region and called on the international community to show "prudence" over the crisis.

"Attempts to bypass the Security Council, once again to create artificial groundless excuses for a military intervention in the region, are fraught with new suffering in Syria and catastrophic consequences for other countries of the Middle East and North Africa," the foreign ministry in Moscow said.
26 Indian soldiers killed in Pakistani attacks at LoC in 3 yrs
At least 26 Indian soldiers have been killed in attacks by Pakistan Army along the Line of Control (LoC), defacto border between India and Pakistan in Indian administered Kashmir in last three years.

New Delhi, Aug 26/Nationalturk: Indian Defence Minister A K Antony Monday revealed that 26 Indian soldiers have been killed in attacks by Pakistan Army along the Line of Control (LoC), defacto border between India and Pakistan in Indian administered Kashmir in last three years.

“26 army men have been killed in attacks by Pakistan Army along the LoC in last three years,” Antony told Lok Sabha, lower house of Indian parliament today.

He said in 2010, nine army men were killed along LoC in Pakistan army attacks. “Similarly, in 2011, 5 army men were killed; in 2012, 3 army men were killed while 9 soldiers have been killed in Pakistani firing till August this year”.
9 Indian soldiers have been killed this year so far

Giving details of killing of five Indian soldiers on August 6, Antony said, “On the night of 5/6th August 2013, a group of the specialist troops of Pakistan Army from the Pakistan administered Kashmir (PaK) crossed the LoC and attacked a patrol party of Indian Army in Poonch sector in Indian administered Kashmir. “In the ensuing fire fight, five Indian soldiers were killed and another injured”.

After the killing of five Indian soldiers, the tension between nuclear armed South Asian neighbours India and Pakistan have increased. Both the sides have accused each other of unprovoked firing causing death of civilians and soldiers.

Referring to measures taken to prevent cross-border attacks by Pakistani army, Indian defence minister said, “Indian Government is closely monitoring activities along the LoC.  Government is regularly taking up the issue of ceasefire violation with Pakistan through established mechanism like hotlines, flag meetings, talk between Director General of Military Operations (DGMOs) and through diplomatic channels”.

Antony said Indian Army has adopted a robust counter-infiltration strategy along the LoC, which is a mix of technology and human resources to check infiltration effectively.
CBI closes Kandivli defence land sale case
MUMBAI: More than a year after a preliminary inquiry case was filed against unnamed retired defence and state officials for illegally selling 1.3 acres of defence land in Kandivli to the Kalpataru Group, the CBI has closed the case.

The CBI said the case was closed as the army could not prove its ownership, or even possession of the disputed land. "The army has neither demarcated nor has documentary evidence of the 13.28 acres of land leased out to them by the state in 1944. They do not have evidence to prove that the 1.3 acres sold to Kalpatru was part of the 13.28 acres. When the basic question of land ownership itself is in doubt, it was not possible to conclude any illegality in the land sale," said an officer.

The CBI has sent a closure report to the ministry of defence (MoD), along with a note detailing the defence estate department's poor land record maintaining system.

In January 2012, the CBI had filed a preliminary inquiry based on a report sent by the army's additional director-general, discipline and vigilance, MoD. The report had said that "certain senior officers while serving in the southern command committed gross misconduct by selling defence land in contravention of rules".

But the CBI's findings are contrary to the conclusions reached by the comptroller general of India (CAG). The CAG, in its 2012 report, had said that the army, through central ordnance depot (COD) had been in occupation of 13.28 acres of land since 1942. "Some portion of the land lay within the COD boundary wall while the remaining portion, which...was being used for patrolling purposes, lay outside it. Rent for the hired land was being paid by the defence estates officer, Mumbai, up to December 1981," the CAG report had said.Criticizing the CBI's findings, senior defence officials, who were part of department investigations in the land deal, said that the army paid rent for the land till 1981. "Post 1981, the government said the army should pay rent as per a new format it would be drawing up. But, this new form was never sent. Being government to government, the demand for rent was never made," said a senior army officer.

But in 1994, the collector of Bombay suburban informed the army that a private party (Neo Pharma Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of Kalpataru) had applied to procure this government land for residential purposes. Though the army objected, the DEO unilaterally gave its no-objection certificate for a multi-storey to be constructed. In 2007-after 13 years-the developer approached the army with two suspicious letters in which the collector asked the army to give its opinion within 20 days on providing a NOC for that land.

Even as the process was on in 2007, the personal secretary of Rao Inderjit Singh, a junior defence minister in UPA-1, influenced the illegal sale of the prime land to the developer at a price of almost Rs six crore, the CAG report said.

The CAG report said the plot's unauthorized sale took place in complete knowledge of then Army Chief Gen Deepak Kapoor, who ordered removal of obstruction and barriers put by the local military authority, which red-flagged the illegality of the deal to the higher-ups. But bottlenecks were removed after Singh's personal secretary wrote to the Army chief on November 15, 2007 for "appropriate action."

The next day, Kapoor forwarded the file to the Quarter Master General, who on December 10 informed the minister's secretary that obstructions from the local military authority was a result of "misunderstanding and communication gap."

"The land was relinquished without any serious effort to contest. The Army headquarters instead of investigating and defending its case, allowed the company to go ahead with development work in the vicinity of military establishment," the CAG said in its report tabled in the Parliament on Thursday.
How An Army Computer Security Flaw Got Swept Under The Rug

Tech companies offer thousands of dollars for reported bugs. The military hands out nondisclosure agreements. One soldier tells his story.
For years, there has been a major security flaw in the U.S. Army security system soldiers use to access computers. At least two soldiers have tried to report the flaw up the chain of command, but according to multiple Army sources, the military has done nothing to fix it.

Today, countless computers — and the soldiers who use them — remain vulnerable to a simple hack, which can be executed by someone with little or no security expertise.

One soldier who reported the issue to his superiors was told to keep quiet, despite evidence of its widespread exploitation. Another, who went to his superiors and even Congress, got no results.

The hack allows users with access to shared Army computers to assume the identities of other personnel, gaining their securities clearances in the process, by exploiting issues with the computers’ long and buggy log-out process.

In October 2011, an Army lieutenant — let’s call him Mark — was playing around on his military computer during one of his 18-hour shifts. Being “of the hacker mind-set and being really, really bored,” as he puts it, he was playing around with the terminal’s log-in system to see if there were any holes in it.

That’s when he discovered the major, and obvious, computer security flaw.

“Oh shit,” Mark said to himself when he figured it out. “This isn’t good.”

He called in his superiors — two middle-ranking officers, one in military intelligence and the other in computer communications.

As Mark describes it, their eyes grew wide.

But, according to Mark, they told him there was nothing they could do. It would cost too much to fix it, they told him. It would require redoing too many contracts. “The term they used is that it would be ‘impractical’ to try and fix it,” he says.

Instead, they made him sign the Army’s version of a nondisclosure agreement. If he told anyone else about what he found, he could face prison time.

“I’m showing you this so you can fix this,” Mark recounts telling the officers. “This is obviously a huge problem. I’m probably not the only asshole who figured out how to do this.”

At least one other soldier besides Mark has tried to formally report the security flaw, going to his military superiors as well as Congress and the Pentagon. This soldier’s efforts, too, were met with inaction and silence.

Mark made a second attempt to report the security flaw when a new officer replaced one of his superiors. But again, nothing came of it.

“At that point I could try to talk with one of the division-level guys, but I know from personal experience that he is one of the people who plays the game,” he said. “I wondered if it would raise a red flag about me if I tried to keep addressing the flaw.”

Big private tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft routinely seek out and sometimes pay people like Mark who expose security flaws. Some have set up bounty systems giving any member of the public who finds and reports a bug up to $20,000.

The military has no such system. If reporting to a superior goes nowhere, then in reality, there is little recourse for soldiers who discover computer security problems. They could report a bug to the Department of Defense Inspector General, which handles complaints about fraud, waste, and abuse. But that’s not an obvious avenue for computer issues. Moreover, if their superiors found out, they could face retaliation.

One refrain in the wake of the NSA leaks is that Edward Snowden should have reported his concerns up the chain of command rather than leaking documents to the press. But the internal reporting system is seriously broken in the military. All too often when a soldier reports misconduct or illegal activity, it is swept under the rug.

Perhaps the most egregious recent example of such a mind-set is the tragically late response to reports of widespread sexual assault in the service. Women’s reports weren’t just ignored — the victims were subject to retaliation including but not limited to being barred from medical treatment, having their information made public, and being discharged from the military. Recent pressure on the issue led to an updated version of the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, first created in 1988. The fact that it had to be updated to specifically include people reporting sexual assault speaks to its inadequacy.

Retaliation against internal whistle-blowers is a fact of military life. Between October 2012 and April 2013, the Department of Defense’s Inspector General’s office received 695 complaints about “whistleblower reprisal, restriction of service members from contacting an IG or member of Congress, procedurally improper mental health referrals and senior official misconduct.” Those are only the cases which were reported.

Mark’s case suggests serious issues with the military’s security reporting infrastructure too, even when the issue at hand is ideologically neutral.
Now, almost two years later, the security flaw still exists.

“It is still happening,” says Mark. “People know about it and no one is addressing it.” Knowledge of it has even spread to low-level soldiers who don’t work in technology. More than one source confirmed with BuzzFeed the existence of the flaw.

To fully understand the significance of the security flaw, you need to understand the Army computer security system. In order to log into a shared Army computer — say, in a computer lab on a base — you need to insert your personal Common Access Code military ID. Each card contains a chip that has the individual soldier’s permissions and security details, and which helps the military track your activity. Once you remove the card, you are fully logged out.

But Mark found that it was possible to access the system as the last user, even if his or her military ID has been removed.

When a computer stalls during the shut-down process — if, for example, a program locked up and required a force quit or if Outlook is delaying the process with a large file upload — the computer can remain temporarily logged in without the presence of the key card. If the next user jumps on at that moment, the shut-down process can be canceled and the log-in can remain active with credentials and security clearance. All subsequent activity will be recorded as the previous user’s.

This is almost certainly the result of a system design mistake, not malice, according to Daniel Cohen, an RSA cyber-security expert. “Personally I haven’t heard of this exploit or weakness in the system, but it sounds very severe,” he says.

According to Mark, the hack is simple to accomplish on both secure and non-secure computers. Mark has even tested the exploit to see if it would allow a user to gain access to SIPRNet, the classified DoD network from which Chelsea Manning acquired some of the files she then leaked to the press. It could.

Since many military computers have stuffed, cluttered hard drives as the result of long-term use by large numbers of soldiers, they often hang while shutting down. When soldiers sharing computers are in a rush, this identity swap can easily happen by accident.

For a hacker or leaker to manipulate this exploit would be easy. It would simply involve “a little bit of social engineering,” as Mark says. “But that is easy since most people just pull their card and walk away, often without looking at the screen. ‘Hey, buddy, can you print X out before you go? Wait, you can’t find X? Let me pull it up. Can you grab it off the printer? Thanks, man, here’s your card; see you in 12 hours.’”

Recently, Mark saw a number of soldiers watching an Entourage DVD on a operation center computer. “Hey, you don’t have rights on that computer,” Mark recounts saying to one of the soldiers. “I look at him and he says, ‘Well, sure,’ and he pulls out his card and waves it at me and the computer still plays.”

It’s not just the log-in problem. Security in general is fairly lax in the computer rooms overseas. After the Manning leak, one of the fixes advised was to have soldiers rename various files in the SIPRNet database, as if that would add a level of security. Soldiers also routinely bring USB sticks, DVDs, and CDs into the tactical operation center computer rooms. The sign on the door prohibiting it doesn’t deter them.

“It is a boring job. You are just sitting there for 18 hours waiting for chaos to happen,” says Mark. “So multiple TVs are on showing drone feeds, but you have one that is playing a Game of Thrones DVD or a movie that was burned from BitTorrent.”

He has gone to his superiors with recommendations for numerous best practices to improve security, ranging from setting up a routing security to having an ID card system with levels of access and systems to prevent DDOS attacks, but no one was interested.
Top army officers review operational preparedness along LoC

Top Indian army officers on Tuesday reviewed the operational preparedness of the army along the Line of Control (LOC) in the Kashmir Valley in the wake of continuing violations of ceasefire by Pakistani troops.

Northern army command chief Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra and Srinagar-based Chinar Corps chief Lt Gen Gurmit Singh visited army units and formations in the Valley on August 26-27 and reviewed the operational preparedness along the LOC and security situation in the hinterland, a defence spokesman said Srinagar.

"Primary focus of the visit along the LoC was in the forward areas of Gurez, Machail, Tangdhar and Gulmarg wherein the GOC-in-C interacted with the troops and complimented them for their dedication, outstanding vigilance, high state of preparedness and the grit and determination with which they are braving all the odds of terrain and weather in service to the nation," he said.
The spokesman said the army commander also visited the sector headquarters of counter insurgency Rashtriya Rifles in the hinterland and praised them for exercising a very high degree of control over the internal security situation, upholding the highest ethos of army and respecting the human rights of the people.

"Army commander was pleased with the counter-infiltration and joint intelligence grid which resulted in a series of successful counter-infiltration and counter-terrorist operations during which 28 terrorists were killed. He particularly commended the high level of synergy between the security forces, the intelligence agencies and the state police", the spokesman added.

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