Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Another CIA Scandal

On Tuesday documents were released by the Senate Intelligence Committee which revealed illicit conduct done by the CIA. The 528-page report detailed CIA torture information. Individuals who may have been tortured by the CIA were suspected of terrorism. One would expect the CIA’s methods of obtaining information not to be pretty. The methods uncovered in the report, have caused a significant amount of outrage. The level of outrage caused by the report has not only upset politicians buy the public as well. The CIA is not only guilty of conducting brutal interrogations, but drone attacks and using secret prisons across the world.
            Since the 2001 terrorist attacks occurred the government invested more trust in the CIA. After the attacks in 2001 President Bush had placed, the upmost trust in the CIA in order to handle al-Qaeda. This level of trust invested into the CIA has led to billions of dollars in funding. The funding has allowed for the CIA’s counterterrorism efforts to increase their authority. Since 2001 the number of employees from, “a few hundred to more than 2,000” (Washington Post).

The reputation of the CIA is considerably damaged, because of this report. The report’s damage to the CIA’s reputation will not affect the agency’s power in Washington. Future generations will likely consider this one of many scandals the CIA has been involved with. 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

D.C.'s Big Funding Bill

Last fall the government endured a shutdown. It seems to look as if another shutdown would occur this fall. On Tuesday evening the “House and Senate spending panels agreed to a $1.1 trillion dollar government funding bill” (CNN). This massive spending bill is expected to fund the state for most of the year. When the bill’s funding runs out the GOP will have control of both, the House and Senate. As of now both sides of the Legislative branch are still working on issues such as looser environmental reform policies and terrorism insurance. While other issues such as new banking regulations and the possession of marijuana in the D.C. area have already been approved.

Certain details of the bill had caused infighting within the GOP. Some members of the party wished to use the bill as a weapon against the administration. GOP members intended to use the bill to strip funding to executive orders. Namely, the Department of Homeland Security who’s budget is expected to last through February.  The shortened budget is in response to President Obama’s recent immigration reform. If the no agreement can be met soon, legislators may have to pass another bill in order to keep the government running, until the new funding bill is passed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cyber Attack

Cyber terrorism has been a growing threat since the start of the digital age. Many of the world’s super powers have engaged in cyber-attacks in order to gain classified information. Last week, one of the very few cyber-attacks launched on the United States occurred. The attack was not on the FBI, CIA or any government agency with sensitive information. The cyber-attack was aimed at Sony Entertainment’s California office. While the attack on Sony may have occurred last week the FBI, has only began issuing warnings to businesses of such attacks on Monday. While the recently issued FBI reports describes the use of malware in order to obtain infiltrate computer networks it never explicitly mentions Sony. The report however, describes similar attacks that have occurred in South Korea and the Middle East. One incident mentioned particularly was the attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil producing company Saudi Armco. The attack on Saudi Armco had affected 30,000 computers on the company’s network. Speculators believe the hackers responsible for these attacks have been commissioned by Iran and North Korea.  
With regards to the Sony incident, “some of software used by the hackers had been compiled in Korean” (Finkle). The only motive North Korea would have in attacking Sony Entertainment’s California office would be to delay the film, The Interview. The Interview, is a film about a factious assassination attempt on Kim Jong Un. When the film was announced North Korea expressed its dissatisfaction with the movie and would not tolerate the film being distributed. While it may be speculation North Korea may be responsible for a high level cyber-attack in order to stop the distribution of The Interview.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

No Oil Price Cuts For Saudi Arabia

             OPEC’s (Oil and Petroleum Exporting Countries) leading member Saudi Arabia is currently refusing to lower oil prices in the market. Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal al-Saud refuses to lower his nation’s oil prices for two reasons. The first being he refuses to allow his nation to repeat mistakes from the past. The Saudi Prince is referring to, a previous instance in which Saudi Arabia had cut oil prices and allowed its competitors to make generous profits, from their oil. Therefore Saudi Arabia will only cut the price of its oil if its competitors agree to do the same. Saudi Arabia’s main competitors are Iran, Russia and the U.S. and will not cut prices unless these states do as well. Both Saudi Arabia and Iran cannot afford to take price cuts in the oil market. For Saudi Arabia to ask these nations to cut the price of their oil would be asking the country to intentionally damage its economy.

Russia is currently taking a massive loss in the oil industry and other markets, due to the sanctions placed on the state by the international community. Iran simply cannot afford to lower oil prices without taking a major economic hit. Speculation seems to indicate Saudi Arabia’s hard stance on cutting its oil prices may be to intentionally damage the economy of Iran and Russia. Saudi Arabia would seek to hurt the Iranian and Russian economies for their support of the al-Assad regime in Syria. Without the support of Iran and Russia, Syria’s capitol Damascus would not stand on its own for too long. The fall of Damascus and lack of Iranian aid in Syria would allow, for Saudi Arabia to claim its status of hegemon in the Middle East against its rival.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Keystone XL Pipeline

Since it was proposed by, TransCanada in 2005, the Keystone XL pipeline has been the subject of much controversy.  The pipeline was designed to move oil from Alberta across the United States and Canadian border, into North and South Dakota, and then Nebraska. The pipeline was estimated to create over 40,000 jobs. Most of the jobs however would be temporary. Nearly 4,000 of those jobs however would be given to construction workers while the rest would be given to “support jobs” (New York Times). The majority of the opposition of the pipeline came from environmental concerns. Rather than, use traditional means of obtaining oil the pipeline would extract, “oil from the Alberta sands…requiring far more fuel, water, and carbon emissions” (New York Times). The substantial environmental concerns have been the measure’s main opposition for passage.

The measure was voted upon yesterday by the Senate, were the current Democratic majority was able to defeat the measure by a single vote. In order to pass the measure would need 60 votes. The entire Republican minority of the Senate, voted for the measure’s passage that however was not enough. President Obama, was most likely going to veto the measure had it been passed. Obama’s opposition of the measure was based on the negative environmental effects it would have had on the environment. Mitch McConnell who will become the majority leader in January is adamant, the measure regarding the Keystone pipeline will return to the Senate floor very soon (Reuters).

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Russian Volunteers

            The conflict in Ukraine, rages on as the Russian military has begun to move into Ukrainian territory. The Russian military is reportedly bringing in high grade weaponry, as well as training separatist. Some the weaponry Russia has brought into Ukrainian borders includes air defense systems. Russia has vocally denied any the presence of military equipment and troops. Russia’s aggressive behavior in sending troops will undoubtedly raise alarm in the international community. Russian officials have referred to the troops in Ukrainian territory as “volunteers.” Allegedly Russian conveys have been spotted moving toward, the Donetsk region of the Ukraine. The coveys are as large as over one hundred vehicles. Russia is clearly preparing itself for a massive conflict which will likely take place in Ukrainian borders.

Due to Russia’s aggressive action the United Nations Security Council was forced to meet and discuss the issue. NATO is unclear of Russia’s intentions for the Donetsk region as the region occupies a large portion of Ukraine. Russia may be attempting to use the region to strengthen separatist movements as Donetsk has proclaimed itself, Donetsk People’s Republic. While a cease fire is still technically in effect between Russia and Ukraine it is only a matter of time, before both nations engage in military conflict. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Gunvor Group

            The Russian conflict in the Ukraine has led the United States and other Western, nations to impose sanctions on Russia. One of these sanctions prohibited the importation and sale of Russian oil in the United States. Prior to these sanctions being formally announced; Gennady Timchenko, an Arminian billionaire sold his stakes in the multibillion dollar oil corporation, Gunvor Group. In addition to the sale of his shares at a suspicious time, Timchenko has been accused of transferring funds between accounts through illegal methods. Timchenko’s assets in the United States have been frozen. Timchenko is an alleged member of, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner-circle. The two have an extensive work relationship since the early 1990s and attend the same judo club. Putin has profusely denied, any correlation between the Gunvor Group’s successes due to his relationship with Timchenko. Putin’s personal wealth is said to be directly correlated with the success of the Gunvor Group.

            Timchenko’s suspicious actions have caused; he and Putin to be put under investigation by the: U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Justice department. Both agencies have assembled an FBI to investigate allegations of money laundering and “irregular sales of state assets like oil” (WSJ). Certain Russian government contracts required the mandatory use of the Gunvor Group for distribution. The Gunvor Group also marked up the sales of oil barrels a dollar to the price per-barrel. Gunvor Group‘s accusation of “irregular sales” may stem from Gunvor’s sale of oil to third-parties. While Putin may deny the accusations against him, in order to avoid self-incrimination; if any proof were to surface Putin incriminating it would end with him potentially be imprisoned.  Any evidence proving Putin’s criminal charges may end with him being extradited and sent to the United States.