Mark Collins – Coming to Canada? UK Government Advice: Be on the Qui Vive, eh?

Just so you know:


There is a general threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers. You should monitor media reports and remain vigilant…

Never hurts to have a dekko.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Cold War? What Stinking Cold War? Russia vs Nato–and Poland

Just consider:

NATO Tracks Large-Scale Russian Air Activity in Europe

‘Unusual’ Russian flights concern NATO

NATO says Russian jets, bombers circle Europe in unusual incidents [see map]

Europe’s Flawed Reliance on Soft Power

Poland and Germany Deepen Army Cooperation

Poland Prepares for Russian Invasion [not imminent]

#Russland‘s Säbelrasseln…”, what?  Mehr:

Dieses vom norwegischen Militär zur Verfügung gestellte Bild zeigt ein norwegisches Kampfflugzeug, das einen russischen Tupolew-Bomber eskortiert…

Meanwhile on this side of the pond (note links at end):

“Newsflash: Alaska is part of North America”

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – “Newsflash: Alaska is part of North America”

At Defense One’sD Brief“:

And thusly, Chuck Hagel approved a proposal Oct. 27 to make Alaska Command, a sub-unified command commonly known as ALCOM [website here], to fall under U.S. Northern Command [website here]. Up until now, ALCOM fell under U.S. Pacific Command. From ALCOM’s press release to ALCON (get it?): “The move should be transparent to most military people in Alaska, and will not have an impact on the size or budget of ALCOM. Gen. Charles Jacoby, the dual-hatted commander of NORTHCOM and the combined US-Canada North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD [website here], said the move provides a better command structure for the defense of North America [one would think, eh?].”

Jacoby:  “Simply put, this move makes the most sense as we seek a more cohesive approach to defending North America,” Jacoby said…


NORTHCOM assumes oversight of Alaskan Command


US Nuking Up Bear Threat via Canada (bombers that is)

Who Needs Fifth Generation (Stealth) Fighters? But Escorted Russian Bombers?

NORAD (RCAF) vs Bears…and Foxhounds–and Nukes

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – On His Majesty’s Canadian Service

A letter of mine in the London Review of Books, November 6 (no idea how they came up with the title):

Elvis and Other Animals

Unlike Ian Penman, I remember exactly where I was when Elvis died (LRB, 25 September). I was the (quite young) administrative officer at the Canadian Embassy in Islamabad. I was, luckily, aware that we had in stock special black-rimmed stationery, so when the news came in, I immediately issued a memorandum to all staff: ‘Le roi est mort.’

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Syria, or, Who Holds Krak des Chevaliers?

Not that holding the fortress would in any way be decisive; still, from an article at the New York Review of Books that is very much worth the read:

In the Syria We Don’t Know

Mike King

The road west toward the sea [from Homs] however, is safe for anyone not allied to the rebels. The famed Krak des Chevaliers Crusader fortress, from which rebels were able to shell the highway and nearby villages, is again in government hands…

The Krak:

Qui est sans peur et sans reproche?

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – Dragon and Bear Hack Attacks, Including White House

Nobody seems really to be succeeding in getting ahead of the curve:

1) Researchers identify sophisticated Chinese cyberespionage group

A coalition of security researchers has identified a Chinese cyberespionage group that appears to be the most sophisticated of any publicly known Chinese hacker unit and targets not only U.S. and Western government agencies but also dissidents inside and outside China.

News of the state-sponsored hacker group dubbed Axiom comes a week before Secretary of State John F. Kerry and two weeks before President Obama are due to arrive in Beijing for a series of high-level talks, including on the issue of cybersecurity.

In a report to be issued Tuesday [Oct. 28], the researchers said Axiom is going after intelligence benefiting Chinese domestic and international policies — an across-the-waterfront approach that combines commercial cyberespionage, foreign intelligence and counterintelligence with the monitoring of dissidents.

Axiom’s work, the FBI said in an industry alert this month, is more sophisticated than that of Unit 61398, a People’s Liberation Army hacker unit that was highlighted in a report last year. Five of the unit’s members were indicted this year by a U.S. grand jury. The researchers concur with the FBI’s conclusion, noting that, unlike Unit 61398, Axiom is focused on spying on dissidents as well as on industrial espionage and theft of intellectual property…

2) Research links massive cyber spying ring to Russia: Foregoing crime, the group targets European, US governments in 7-year spree.

A professional espionage group has targeted a variety of Eastern European governments and security organizations with attacks aimed at stealing political and state secrets, security firm FireEye stated in a report released on Tuesday [Oct. 28]. 

The group, dubbed APT28 by the company, has targeted high-level officials in Eastern European countries such as Georgia, and security organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). While Russian and Ukrainian cybercriminal groups are known to conduct massive campaigns aimed at stealing money and financial information, APT28 focuses solely on political information and state secrets, according to FireEye.

The report argues that the group is closely tied to Russia and likely part of Moscow’s intelligence apparatus.

“This group, unlike the China-based threat actors we track, does not appear to conduct widespread intellectual property theft for economic gain,” FireEye stated in the report. “Nor have we observed the group steal and profit from financial account information.”

While linking specific actions on the Internet to people in the real world is difficult, FireEye used the report to make the case that a variety of espionage operations can be laid on the collective keyboards of APT28 and that the group is tightly linked to Russia.

This is not the first time the company has taken aim at nation-state cyber espionage. In 2013, Mandiant, now a subsidiary of FireEye, released a report on a Chinese group, APT1, which the company argued was part of the People’s Liberation Army and which Mandiant researchers tied to attacks on more than 100 companies. The report has shaped much of the debate over online espionage between countries…

3) Hackers breach some White House computers

Hackers thought to be working for the Russian government breached the unclassified White House computer networks in recent weeks, sources said, resulting in temporary disruptions to some services while cybersecurity teams worked to contain the intrusion.

White House officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation, said that the intruders did not damage any of the systems and that, to date, there is no evidence the classified network was hacked.

“In the course of assessing recent threats, we identified activity of concern on the unclassified Executive Office of the President network,” said one White House official. “We took immediate measures to evaluate and mitigate the activity. . . . Unfortunately, some of that resulted in the disruption of regular services to users. But people were on it and are dealing with it.”..

U.S. officials were alerted to the breach by an ally [emphasis added], sources said.

Recent reports by security firms have identified cyber-­espionage campaigns by Russian hackers thought to be working for the government. Targets have included NATO, the Ukrainian government and U.S. defense contractors. Russia is regarded by U.S. officials as being in the top tier of states with cyber-capabilities…

Hmmm.  Recently:

US Cyber Security: Government Vulnerability; New Army Brigade

Pentagon in Dark on Chinese Hack Attack

Interview with Communications Security Establishment Canada Chief

Not much there here I’m afraid–and he really is a tad Pollyannaish about the state of Canadian cyber security…

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – F-35 LRIP 8 a Done Deal, Plus Israel

Further to this post, from the LockMart press releaseno big cost declines:

DOD and Lockheed Martin Announce Principle Agreement on Purchase of F-35s

The U.S. Department of Defense and Lockheed Martin have reached an agreement in principle for the production of 43 F-35 Lightning II aircraft. Officials anticipate the Low-Rate Initial Production lot 8 (LRIP 8) contract to be finalized in the coming weeks. The contract is for fiscal year 2014 [started Oct. 1, 2013] with deliveries beginning in 2016.

Cost details will be released once the contract is finalized; however, in general, the average unit price for all three variants of the airframe [emphasis added, i.e. engine not included--see second quote for those costs] in LRIP 8 is approximately 3.6 percent lower than the previous contract…

The LRIP 8 contract procures 29 U.S. aircraft including 19 F-35As, six F-35Bs and four F-35Cs. It also provides for the production of the first two F-35As for Israel, the first four F-35As for Japan along with two F-35As for Norway and two F-35As for Italy. The United Kingdom will receive four F-35Bs. The contract also funds manufacturing-support equipment as well as ancillary mission equipment…

More at Aviation Week and Space Technology:

Lockheed, Pentagon Agree On Latest F-35 Production Lot

The Pentagon’s latest handshake with F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin for the next batch of 43 of the single-engine, stealthy fighters comes as the program’s Joint Program Office (JPO) continues to slowly implement a fix to engines in its test fleet.

Low-rate, initial production (LRIP) lot 8 pricing will be released once the final contract details are firm, according to a statement from F-35 spokeswoman Kyra Hawn. The price for each of the three F-35 variants is roughly 3.6% less expensive than in LRIP 7; this should put the cost of an F-35A in LRIP 8 at about $93.3 million, an F-35B at $100.5 million and an F-35C at $111.1 million…

This lot is for fiscal 2014 buys and deliveries should be complete by the end of fiscal 2016.

The LRIP deal comes as the F-35 team plans for its first F-35C deployment on a carrier. The F-35C is slated to execute its first arrested landing on a carrier deck on the USS Nimitz on Nov. 3 off the coast of San Diego...

The LRIP 8 deal with Lockheed comes on the heels of the government’s announced agreement with engine prime manufacturer Pratt & Whitney for the LRIP 7 batch of F135 engines. The price of the 36 engines in that deal is $18.8 million [per engine], including the more expensive F-35B propulsion system used for short takeoff and vertical landings on that specialized variant. The total cost for LRIP 7 engines is about $943 million, the program office said.

Meanwhile, the program office has continued to methodically “burn in” a fix to the F135s in its flight test fleet after a June 23 engine fire in an F-35A prompted a temporary fleetwide grounding…

Here’s an estimate of costs with the engine:

Under the previous production contract, the Pentagon in 2013 agreed to pay $112 million per F-35A, the Air Force’s version designed for conventional runways; $139 million per F-35B, the Marine Corps’ jump-set variant; and $130 million per F-35C; the Navy’s version designed for aircraft carriers.

A 3.6-percent reduction would reduce the figures to about $108 million per F-35A, $134 million per F-35B and $125 million per F-35C.

The price tags, known as unit recurring flyaway costs in acquisition parlance, include the airframe, engine, mission systems, profit and concurrency. They don’t include certain other expenses, including those for research and development…

Israel, for its part, is looking at another substantial acquisition:

Israel to buy 25 more F-35 Lockheed stealth fighters: sources

Israel plans to buy a second batch of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 stealth fighter jets, bringing the total number it has on order to about 44, Israeli defence sources said on Tuesday [Oct. 28].

Israel bought 19 F-35s for $2.75 billion in 2010, a deal that included options for up to 75 of the planes. Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon, visiting the United States last week, placed a preliminary order for about 25 more F-35s, defence sources said without elaborating on the cost.

The first batch of planes is scheduled to arrive in Israel between 2016 and 2018, the sources said, noting that the second purchase needs final approval by an Israeli government panel.

The U.S. embassy in Israel had no immediate comment.

Washington gives Israel some $3 billion in annual defence grants, most of which it spends on U.S. products. Israeli companies, including Elbit Systems Ltd. and state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), are contributing technologies to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme...

Such an order would certainly help a bit with upping the production rate a few years hence and bringing costs down, to Canada’s benefit if we ever get around to ordering the fighter:

“Aviation Week” on Canada’s New Fighter, CF-18 Service Extension to 2025

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – Royal Canadian Navy Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships: Wanted 8, Maybe 5–Part 2

Further to this post, it sure does look as if the RCN will have to get lucky–from at

this just out today [Oct. 28]:


Canada will fail to deliver a proposed fleet of six to eight Arctic patrol ships unless it spends significantly more than the C$2.8 billion ($2.51 billion) planned, the Canadian Parliament’s budget watchdog said on Tuesday.

The Conservative government had announced plans to build the fleet of polar-capable ships over the next decade as part of its strategy to exert sovereignty over the region and increase operating capability there.

But a review by the Parliamentary Budget Office, set up in 2006 to provide independent analysis to legislators, concluded that the government’s existing plan would only deliver three or four ships.

“It is not possible at any confidence level to build eight or six ships for the C$2.8 billion budget,” said the report released by Jean-Denis Fréchette, Canada’s parliamentary budget officer.

A government spokesman rejected the analysis.

“The numbers provided by the PBO are based on erroneous data, rough cost estimates of international vessels with varied capabilities and derived using inaccurate specifications,” said Marcel Poulin, a spokesman for Canada’s Public Works Minister Diane Finley.

Fréchette said that there was insufficient contemporary Canadian data on an acquisition of this nature. He also wrote that Canada’s defense department had removed details of the fleet’s proposed capabilities from its website and declined to share technical details ….

PBO deck and report here and here.

Bonne chance, Marine royale canadienne.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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Mark Collins – India and China: Very Wary–Plus Vietnam

Further to this post,

Top Dragon in India

relations remain hardly smooth–at Foreign Policy:

The South Asia Channel

India Builds Posts on China Border…

India to build new border posts on Indo-China border

China warned India on Monday [Oct. 27] against taking any action that may “complicate or exaggerate” the Indo-China boundary issue after India announced plans to build 54 new border posts in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh (Livemint, NDTV, Economic Times). Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said: “China’s position on China-India boundary question is consistent and clear. We are committed to finding a solution to the boundary question with the Indian side through friendly negotiation as soon as possible and working together to safeguard peace and tranquillity along the border” (IBNLive). In addition to building 54 new border posts, the Indian government is expected to clear a proposal, which will add about 12,000 new personnel to the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, which guards the Indo-China border (Times of India) [see end of post].

Earlier this month, China had objected to India building a 1,800-km-long (1,118 mile-long) highway along the Indo-China border in Arunachal Pradesh. In September, India and China had its biggest military standoff this year, with both countries mobilizing troops along the border. Tensions between India and China flare up occasionally as both nations disagree over the demarcation of their shared border.

PM Modi meets his Vietnamese counterpart

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on Tuesday, and agreed to enhance bilateral trade to $15 billion by 2020 (The Hindu, IBNLive). Both leaders signed seven agreements in key areas of defense, trade, security, and counterterrorism. India agreed to operationalize a $100 million line of credit for Vietnam, and provide support to modernize Vietnam’s security forces. Vietnam offered two more oil blocks for exploration in the South China Sea to India [emphasis added]. The two blocks offered were among the five blocks Vietnam had offered to India earlier.

Modi highlighted India’s defense cooperation with Vietnam [emphasis added], and said: “India remains committed to the modernization of Vietnam’s defense and security forces. This will include expansion of our training programme, which is already very substantial, joint exercises and cooperation in defense equipment… We will quickly operationalize the 100 million dollars Line of Credit that will enable Vietnam to acquire new naval vessels from India” (Economic Times). Modi further said: “I thanked Prime Minister for Vietnam’s commitment to collaboration with India in its oil and gas sector and its additional offer of exploration blocks. We will continue to deepen our cooperation in this sector and associated downstream industry” (Zee News). [Dragon sure won't like all that--earlier: "India-Vietnam Talks: Guess Who’s Whispering Fire in Background?"]…

Here’s the website of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police–they’re in Afghanistan which annoys the Paks considerably.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

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Mark Collins – Bill to Increase Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s Powers–Police Next?

1) Canadian Security Intelligence Service (website here)

New spy bill would let Canadian agents operate illegally abroad
A bill to broaden the powers of CSIS would authorize Canadian spy agents abroad to break the laws of a foreign country when investigating threats to Canada.

A bill to broaden the powers of CSIS would, for the first time, explicitly authorize Canadian spy agents abroad to break the laws of a foreign country when investigating threats to the security of Canada.

After a tense week that saw Parliament Hill attacked by a gunman, the Conservative government unveiled a promised new bill to boost spy surveillance powers and protection for secret agents. Even before it was introduced, top RCMP and CSIS officials began lobbying for even greater legal “tools.”

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney on Monday tabled Bill C-44, the so-called “Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act.” If passed into law, the bill would:

  • Extend complete confidentiality to CSIS sources, informants or covert agents, creating a “class privilege” for their identity and forestalling most legal challenges to the use of their evidence in court.
  • Explicitly confirm the legal authority of CSIS to conduct investigations within or outside Canada [to collect "security intelligence" on "threats to the security of Canada--scroll down here]
  • Broaden explicit authorization for CSIS to seek and use Federal Court warrants to authorize investigative activities — including electronic intercepts and other covert surveillance activities — outside Canada “without regard to any other law, including that of any foreign state.”..

In practice, the provision expressly allows CSIS to enlist the technical support of Canada’s top secret electronics eavesdropping agency, CSEC (or Communications Security Establishment Canada [website here]) and its foreign counterparts in the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand in the “Five Eyes” alliance [see end of post] to spy on Canadians or foreigners abroad in pursuit of security threats to Canada. (The CSEC already has the mandate to provide “technical and operational support” to CSIS…)…

But CSIS would still not be legislated to collect “foreign intelligence”–i.e. information on foreign governments, their militaries etc.–abroad; so it would not become equivalent to HUMINT services such as the CIA or SIS.  See Section 16. of the CSIS Act which limits such collection to “within Canada”.

2) Law enforcement (see the RCMP’s National Security Criminal Investigations Program):

Ottawa eyes deeper security overhaul

On a day when the Conservative government tabled new legislation to expand the powers of CSIS, sources say Ottawa is now weighing new tools to deal with citizens who openly support terrorist attacks on Canadians or back groups that urge this goal.

And in the midst of this proposed overhaul of security laws, the country’s top Mountie [Commissioner Bob Paulson] is calling on the government to make it easier to restrict the liberties of suspects in terror cases…

The government has already signalled it’s looking at lowering the threshold for preventive arrests.

Sources say Ottawa is also considering measures to crack down on individuals who openly support terrorist attacks on this country or groups that call on aggressors to attack Canadians and Canadian soldiers. They cited the case of Martin Couture-Rouleau who veered into extremist Islam and shared his new-found beliefs online before running down Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent in Quebec last week.

“One of the questions that has come up further to last week’s attack is you have a case with a guy like Rouleau who [was] openly supporting a group that is calling for terrorist attacks on Canadian citizens,” one government source said of Mr. Couture-Rouleau. “Are there tools required? Is there legislation required?”

Speaking to a Senate committee Monday [Oct. 27], Mr. Paulson said law-enforcement agencies are having trouble prosecuting matters where their suspicions point to a would-be terror case, but evidence can’t substantiate it. “We continue to be challenged with the transition of intelligence into evidence,” he said.

Mr. Paulson believes two types of thresholds should be lowered to give police more power in fighting terror cases. In other words, he said police in each of the two cases should face fewer checks and balances. “We need to be able to lower the threshold and potentially exclude some steps,” he told senators.

The first type relates to peace bonds under Section 810 of the Criminal Code, which allow certain restrictions to be placed on a terror suspect even when authorities don’t have enough to charge them. Specifically, he called for a step – requiring attorney-general approval – to be removed…

The second type relates to court orders to hand over information to police, such as Internet subscriber information or telephone records. A Supreme Court ruling earlier this year said that such cases should typically require a warrant. Mr. Paulson said the warrant thresholds should be dropped – demanding only reasonable grounds to “suspect” someone has or will commit a crime. “Information has become very difficult to come by,” he said.

Mr. Paulson said such changes must “be balanced against Canadians’ rightful expectation that they’re free.”..


Canadian Security Intelligence Service Averaging Around 430 “Targets” a Year–Plus Counter-Intelligence

Plus another aspect of Canadian intelligence, to which little attention is paid–note foreign intelligence at end:

Canadian Forces Intelligence Consolidation

As for our intelligence allies:

What “Five Eyes” Intelligence is All About…

More on the Five Eyes here.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds


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