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Archive for March, 2014

More Thoughts: Magicians, Pay Attention: Can You Make a 777 and 239 People Disappear?

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Three-plus weeks into the hunt for the Malaysian airliner, and not a sign.

So, suppose we never find the plane, or we are never able to determine with any assurance what caused it’s demise. No one ever claims credit.

It seems to me that we are quickly getting to the point where the mystery has generated more global awareness and concern about the mystery itself than would have been the case is someone or some group had claimed responsibility for the plane’s demise.

Is “demise” even the right word to described what happened?

Most of us would get on a 777 tomorrow, under the assumption that whatever happened was an anomaly.

Within the next year, suppose another 777 disappears in a similar manner. We never find it, or we never determine what happened, and no one ever claims credit.

Making a mystery….can it be more powerful than being able to bring down a plane?

For many of you who are in the business of thinking these incidents and threats through to logical conclusions, not being able to figure out this one out must be frustrating. I have seen less commentary from inside the intelligence community about this incident than I have on any other that I can remember.

Not knowing cause and affect has a powerful influence on our psyche, confidence, trust in the future.

Is there a magician at work here?

Let me know what you think. Send me a note at john@lsi-llc.com, and I’ll share your thoughts with our readers.

Thanks,
John

Remember This: “Mystery Assault on Power Grid” Note From February 5th?

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014


Wall Street Journal, February 5, 2014

“SAN JOSE, Calif.—The attack began just before 1 a.m. on April 16 last year, when someone slipped into an underground vault not far from a busy freeway and cut telephone cables.

Within half an hour, snipers opened fire on a nearby electrical substation. Shooting for 19 minutes, they surgically knocked out 17 giant transformers that funnel power to Silicon Valley. A minute before a police car arrived, the shooters disappeared into the night.

Nobody has been arrested or charged in the attack at PG&E Corp’s Metcalf transmission substation. It is an incident of which few Americans are aware. But one former federal regulator is calling it a terrorist act that, if it were widely replicated across the country, could take down the U.S. electric grid and black out much of the country.”

Well, look at what we have now.

U.S. Risks National Blackout From Small-Scale Attack

Federal Analysis Says Sabotage of Nine Key Substations Is Sufficient for Broad Outage

Wall Street Journal, March 13, 2014

“The US could suffer a coast-to-coast blackout if saboteurs knocked out just nine of the country’s 55,000 electric-transmission substations on a scorching summer day.

The study by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission concluded that coordinated attacks in each of the nation’s three separate electric systems could cause the entire power network to collapse.

A small number of the country’s substations play an outsize role in keeping power flowing across large regions.  The FERC analysis indicates that knocking out nine of those key substations could plunge the country into darkness for weeks, if not months.

The [Metcalf] California attack ‘demonstrates that it does not require sophistication to do significant damage to the US grid’ FERC said.”

The entire article can be found on page A1 of the March 13th Wall Street Journal.

Let us know what you think. Send me a note at john@lsi-llc.com, and I’ll share your views with our readers.

Thanks,
John

 

Magicians, Pay Attention: Can You Make a 777 and 239 People Disappear?

Thursday, March 13th, 2014


Suppose we can construct a zany scenario that fits all the known facts at this point in time.  Would you even entertain it?

Let’s look into a different-thinking scenario in an effort to add to the possible explanations for the disappearance of that Malaysian Airlines flight.

So, we now know that there are radar “blind spots” around the globe, where planes and other forms of transportation cannot today be tracked every step of the way.  Radar coverage is only operational over land and can only effectively cover about 200 miles offshore.  Most of these blind spots are over large bodies of water, where very large planes fly.

We believe we know that the 777 involved in this situation is one of the safest planes ever, that a complete electrical shutdown is very unlikely, and that the 777 has a smallish bit of battery life (generally about 30 minutes of effective battery power if the plane were to experience complete electric failure) that could power emergency capabilities…..some communications?….for a short period of time.  But that power was not used to make any emergency or distress calls.

We also know that an airliner’s transponders can very easily be turned off.

We know that there is typically a satellite phone on flights over large bodies of water, so that the pilots can communicate in emergencies.  That never happened.

No terrorist organization has claimed responsibility for downing the plane, so we are more comfortable that this was not a terrorism incident.

There has been no signaling that has been found from the plane’s black boxes.

Cell phones on the plane would probably have been useless over water and at altitudes where they could not access terrestrial communications networks.

But, it’s also hard to hide a 777 and 230+ people….but not impossible.  If you had to pick a place to hide the plane and people, would Southeast Asia be rich with options?

And what about those 230+ people?  The two Iranians on stolen passports appear not to be terrorism suspects, but what about the others?  We believe we know identity and passport checking processes in some parts of the world are less than they could be, and that’s what enabled the two Iranians to board the plane.  Who else might have been on that plane? 

It has been reported that at least one of the pilots was less than careful about keeping the cockpit secure.  Do you wonder who may have noticed that on a previous, scouting flight, or talked to others who did take note?

But, suppose you could put the plane and the people someplace where they are unlikely to be discovered for at least some period of time.

While there is some benefit terrorists believe they derive from bringing down a plane like this, and there is lots of terrorist capability in Southeast Asia, maybe there is as much or more perceived value from just making the plane and 230+ people just disappear.

What do you think will be the outcome?  Send me a note, to john@lsi-llc.com, with your thoughts and views, and I’ll share them with our readers.

Thanks,

John

In An Unpredictable World, How Do You Anticipate the Threats and the Consequences?

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

 

“Al Qaeda Envoy Killed By Rival Syrian Rebels”

Wall Street Journal, February 24, 2014

“Al Qaeda’s top emissary in Syria was killed by rival Islamist rebels in a suicide bombing, deepening the violent struggle between extremist groups that has undermined the battle to unseat President Bashir al-Assad……..The attack on Sunday in the northern city of Aleppo killed Abu Khalid al Suri, one of the founders of the Islamist rebel group Ahrar al Sham.  His group said he had been asked by al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri to help settle differences between the two main al Qaeda offshoots in Syria.”

 

Usually, a common enemy or common opportunity binds these groups together until AFTER they achieve their goal, but not in this case.  With so many factions so active in Syria, how do you possibly calculate who to help in what way and whether it will get you the results you hope for?

 

“U.S. Moves To Protect Electric Grid”
Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2014

“Defending the grid from physical sabotage has gained urgency in light of the armed attack last April on the Metcalf substation near San Jose, Calif., …The incident began in the middle of the night when intruders cut telecommunication cables near the transmission hub, crossed a horse pasture, and opened fire on the substation, which funnels electricity to Silicon Valley……Improving security wouldn’t necessarily require big investments, power industry experts say.  For example, many big substations are already equipped with infrared cameras that look for equipment that is overheating…..The same cameras could be used for intrusion detection’.”

 

I guess I would have hoped, after all of the terrorist threats we’ve seen, that the electrical grid….especially in key spots like Silicon Valley….might be better protected than what is indicated in this story.

 

“Russian Markets Shudder Under Threat of Sanctions”

Wall Street Journal, March 4,2014

“As Russia’s military secured the Crimean peninsula, its currency hit a record low and its stock market plunged in the face of U.S. and European warnings of sanctions over the incursion into Ukraine……The Kremlin has dismissed any sanctions as inappropriate and showed no sign of backing down under the pressure, which so far has been in the form of tough talk.”

 

If you are Vladimir Putin, you probably calculated that no one, including the U.S., would take any military action to stop you.  But did you expect this kind of reaction in the stock and currency markets even before sanctions have taken form or effect?

 

Let us know what you think.  Send me a note at john@lsi-llc.com, and I’ll share your views with our readers.

 

Thanks,

John