High Tritium Levels Near Yankee Nuke Plant In Vermont

By Mark Memmott

Radiation levels in a monitoring well outside the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vt., have spiked — but state and federal officials seem to sharply disagree about how serious the threat to public health may be.

The local Rutland Herald reports that:

Levels of radioactive tritium mushroomed Thursday in a new monitoring well at the Vermont Yankee reactor, an indication the leak was coming from water that runs through the reactor itself, according to the Department of Health.

“These are very high concentrations,” said William Irwin, radiological health chief for the Department of Health, who was at the reactor Thursday. “We’re not dealing with a minor system. It’s an important source that needs to be quickly found.”

But a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Neil Sheehan, e-mailed the newspaper to say that the level detected “is still a very low level of tritium contamination and continues to present no public health and safety hazard and no detectable negative impact to the environment.”

The Associated Press writes that the tritium level detected is “more than nine times those previously reported and more than 37 times higher than a federal safe drinking water limit. … Officials at the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, state Health Department and federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission said a newly dug monitoring well at the Vernon reactor turned up a reading of nearly 775,000 picocuries per liter. It was by far the highest reading reported yet for tritium, which has been linked to cancer when ingested in large amounts.”

The Burlington Free Press‘ vt.Buzz blog says that state officials report that so far, thankfully:

All drinking water well tests are negative for elevated tritium. Vermont Yankee is now testing the drinking water well nearest the contaminated groundwater monitoring wells, the Construction Office Building well, every day.

It’s been about a month since the leak was first discovered. Vernon is near the southeast corner of Vermont, just north of the Massachusetts state line.

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Were Lower Dir and Khost Attacks Anti-Blackwater Taliban Offensive?

[In the local report given below, it was stated that Mr. Sluss-Tiller needed a “reference for an overseas mission” about one year ago.  Since it is unlikely that the military would call a civilian for a reference for a serving soldier, then the story seems to lend credence to Taliban claims that the victims were “Blackwater” or other private contractors working under the USAID program (known in the past for working with the CIA).

This attack and the previous Taliban attack against the CIA Predator outpost in Khost, Afghanistan, which was also a “Blackwater” operation, is either an anti-CIA Taliban offensive or an anti-Blackwater offensive.   It’s shaping-up as a spy -vs.-spy operation. ]

[SEE: Killed Americans were part of 100-strong commando unit

“In the beginning, the American military trainers confined themselves to training compounds due to security concerns in Pakistan. However, they had now started accompanying Pakistani troops on special guerrilla operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda militants, eventually leading to the Wednesday incident in Dir Lower which shares a border with Afghanistan and with the restive Swat district, where the Army had to carry out a massive military operation last year. The three slain US soldiers were travelling in a convoy with troops, journalists and officials to the opening of Koto Girls’ High School when the roadside bomb exploded…Though a Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Azam Tariq has claimed responsibility for the bombing, saying the dead Americans belonged to the US security company Blackwater Worldwide – now known as Xe“]

Area soldier killed in Pakistan

DAVID E. MALLOY

The Herald-Dispatch

LOUISA, Ky. — A Lawrence County, Ky., native was among three soldiers killed in a targeted bombing in Pakistan earlier this week.

Matthew Sluss-Tiller, a 1993 Lawrence County High School graduate, was among three American soldiers killed in a bomb blast Wednesday outside a school in Pakistan. Three students also were killed in the blast that apparently targeted the soldiers.

“He was a wonderful kid,” said Brenda Thornbury, an art teacher at the high school in Louisa. “He was one of my students. I heard about it last night. It’s been difficult.”

“He loved God,” she said. “He loved his family, and he loved his country. When he was in high school, all he ever wanted to do was be in the military.”

Sluss-Tiller called her last year and used her as a reference for an overseas mission, she said. “He called me his school mom,” Thornbury said.

The military never called her to talk about her former student, she said. “I knew it was dangerous,” she said.

Sluss-Tiller was based out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He is survived by his wife and a daughter, Hannah. His mother, Jane Blankenship, moved to North Carolina to be close to the family.

Former SEAL killed in suicide attack worked for Xe

Former SEAL killed in suicide attack worked for Xe

Posted to: Military Virginia Beach

By Bill Sizemore
The Virginian-Pilot
© January 6, 2010

VIRGINIA BEACH

Jeremy Wise, the former Navy SEAL killed in a suicide bomber’s attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan last week, was working for Xe, the Moyock, N.C.-based security company previously known as Blackwater.

Wise’s Xe affiliation is disclosed in an obituary published in today’s Virginian-Pilot.

Wise was one of eight people killed in the Dec. 30 blast in Khost province. News reports Tuesday identified the suicide bomber as a Jordanian double agent and said seven of the victims were CIA-affiliated. The eighth was a Jordanian military officer.

CNN had reported earlier that two of the CIA casualties were Xe contractors. Asked about the report, a Xe spokeswoman declined to comment. MindyLou Paresi of Dupont, Wash., said in an interview with The News Tribune of Tacoma, Wash., that her husband, 46-year-old Dane Clark Paresi, was a Xe contractor who died in the attack.

The company typically does not publicly identify contractors who are killed in action.

If the CNN account is accurate, the latest two casualties would be the 36th and 37th Blackwater/Xe contractors killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Erik Prince, Xe’s founder, acknowledged in a Vanity Fair interview last month that the company has had a long-standing relationship with the CIA.

Prince is a former SEAL, as have been many other Blackwater executives and contractors.

Wise, 35, was an eight-year Navy veteran who left the service in September.

He had been stationed at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek and lived with his wife and son in the Ocean Lakes section of Virginia Beach.

"Our condolences go out to the Wise family during this difficult time," Lt. j.g. Arlo Abrahamson, a spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Group 2 at Little Creek, said in a statement. "Jeremy will be greatly missed by his friends, family, and former teammates in Naval Special Warfare."

Wise grew up in Arkansas, one of four children. His father is a physician in Hope, Ark.

Wise joined the Navy on Sept. 28, 2001, three weeks after the terrorist attacks.

"I would like to say that I joined the Navy because of Sept. 11, because it would sound really patriotic, but truth be told, I wanted to do it anyway," he said in a 2003 interview with the Hope Star.

He had spent two years in medical school but said he felt "like a fish out of water," adding, "I looked into becoming a SEAL and liked what I saw."

His decision was hard for his family to accept at first, he told the newspaper: "They thought I was crazy. ‘You want to do what?’ "

But ultimately, his family was fully supportive, he said.

Combat is the only reason SEAL teams exist, Wise said.

"You definitely have to be comfortable with that," he said, "and anyone who is too at ease about it is being naive on the subject."

A memorial service for Wise will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday in the Little Creek chapel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bill Sizemore, (757) 446-2276, bill.sizemore@pilotonline.com

Second Victim of Anti-CIA/Blackwater Bombing In Pakistan

Staff Sgt. Mark Stets Jr.

El Cajon, Calif.

Soldier with WNY connection killed

Stets, Jr. spent his summers in Lewiston

The war on terror hits close to home once again. A soldier with local ties has made the ultimate sacrifice.

Family members say it came as no surprise when Mark Stets, Jr. joined the Navy after graduating high school.

His aunt, Mary Ann May, said, “He lived and breathed. He always wanted to serve.”

Mark followed in his father’s footsteps, but then decided to join the Army. He became a Staff Sergeant in the Special Forces. His last mission took him to Pakistan to train troops there.

“The forces that they’re training. Those men had been involved in rebuilding a school there that had been previously destroyed,” said Mary Ann.

The news came Wednesday evening. Staff Sergeant Stets was one of three American soldiers killed by a bomb in Pakistan.

Mary Ann said, “The five young men were accompanying their friends to the dedication of the school when they were hit. Mark had been deployed a number of times in combat missions. Came home fine.”

The husband and father of three was not on duty at the time. From the time he was an infant until he graduated from high schools, his summers were spent in Lewiston while his dad served America.

“It’s like a higher family,” said Mark’s uncle Thomas May.

Stets came from a proud military family. A family that wants people to understand the reason for the missions undertaken by America’s bravest.

“And that purpose is that eagle and that flag. Because if we didn’t do it, who would?” said Thomas.

Staff Sergeant Stets body is scheduled to arrive in the states at 6 p.m. Thursday evening. His final resting place will be Arlington Cemetery.

Israel has no say on Hezbollah — Hariri

Israel has no say on Hezbollah — Hariri

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Feb. 4 (UPI) — Hezbollah’sright to maintain its weapons is a matter for Lebanon to decide, not Israel, the Lebanese prime minister said.

Beirut in 2009 adopted a measure that allowed Hezbollah, now a member of the Lebanese government, to maintain its arsenal in defiance of U.N. resolutions.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701 helped solidify a cease-fire agreement to a 34-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006. The resolution calls on Hezbollah to disarm while reminding Israel of its obligation to respect Lebanese sovereignty.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri called for formal recognition that Israel was in constant violation of the cease-fire agreement because of daily military flights over Lebanese territory, Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper reports.

“We ask the international community to be aware of daily Israeli threats and we assure Israel that betting on schism in Lebanon will fail,” the prime minister said.

Beirut said Hezbollah has the right to maintain an armed resistance so long as the threat from Israel persists. Israel and opponents of the measure said there would be no need for a defensive posture should Hezbollah disarm.

“It is not Israel who decides what Lebanon wants,” said Hariri.

U.S. Pentagon Cyberwar Strategy: Secret Cyberweapons

Cyber spies and thugs attacking power-water plants AFP/File – Power plants, oil refineries and water supplies increasingly dependent on the Internet are under relentless …
By MARK THOMPSON / WASHINGTON Mark Thompson / Washington – Wed Feb 3, 12:45 pm ET

The China-U.S. diplomatic spat over cyberattacks on Google has highlighted the growing significance of the Internet as a theater of combat. Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn recently warned of its appeal to foes who are unable to match the U.S.’s conventional military might. An enemy country could deploy hackers to take down U.S. financial systems, communications and infrastructure, he suggested, at a cost far below that of building a trillion-dollar fleet of fifth-generation jet fighters. “Knowing this, many militaries are developing offensive cyber capabilities,” Lynn said. “Some governments already have the capacity to disrupt elements of the U.S. information infrastructure.” (On Tuesday, the nation’s top intelligence official warned that cyber-enemies have “severely threatened” U.S. computer systems. “Malicious cyber activity is occurring on an unprecedented scale with extraordinary sophistication,” Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, told a Senate committee.) (Comment on this story)

What U.S. officials don’t like to acknowledge is that the Pentagon is hard at work developing an offensive cyber capability of its own. In fact, it has even begun using that capability to wage war. Beyond merely shutting down enemy systems, the U.S. military is crafting a witch’s brew of stealth, manipulation and falsehoods designed to lure the enemy into believing he is in charge of his forces when in fact they have been secretly enlisted as allies of the U.S. military. And some in Washington fear that there hasn’t been sufficient debate over the proper role of U.S. cyberweapons that are now being secretly developed. (See the Top 10 Most Expensive Military Planes.)

Pentagon officials acknowledge privately that such work is under way, though nearly all of it is classified. The recent creation of U.S. Cyber Command shows that the U.S. military is taking this mission seriously. “You have to be very careful about what you say in this area,” says a top cyberwarrior of the Pentagon. “But you can tell there’s something going on because the services are putting their money there and contractors are going after it in a big way.”

The Joint Chiefs of Staff want the ability to destroy an enemy’s computer network “so badly that it cannot perform any function,” according to the handbook on what the Pentagon calls “Information Operations.” The U.S. military wants to keep foes “from accessing and using critical information, systems and services” and to spoof adversaries “by manipulating their perception of reality.” Just how such wizardry is to be accomplished is contained in a classified supplement. But hints can be gleaned in a trickle of contracts and budget documents, larded with geek-speak, that have begun seeping onto the public record. (See pictures of technological advances in the military.)

The Air Force wants the ability to burrow into any computer system anywhere in the world “completely undetected.” It wants to slip computer code into a potential foe’s computer and let it sit there for years, “maintaining a ‘low and slow’ gathering paradigm” to thwart detection. Clandestinely exploring such networks, the Dominant Cyber Offensive Engagement program’s goal is to “stealthily exfiltrate information” in hopes it might “discover information with previously unknown existence.” The U.S. cyberwarriors’ goal: “complete functional capabilities” of an enemy’s computer network – from U.S. military keyboards. The Army is developing “techniques that capture and identify data traversing enemy networks for the purpose of Information Operations or otherwise countering adversary communications.” And the Navy is developing “a non-lethal, non-attributable system designed to offer non-kinetic offensive information operation solutions,” according to Pentagon budget documents. (See how cyberwar was envisioned in 1995.)

Yet concepts that have regulated war forever, such as deterrence and attribution, are slippery or missing in cyberspace. National boundaries don’t exist, making moot the question of sovereignty. Asymmetries abound: defenders must defend everything, all the time, while an attacker can prevail by exploiting a single vulnerability. Tracking down the source of cybersabotage, routed like a skipping stone through a series of innocent servers, can be all but impossible. Are the attackers curious teenagers, criminal gangs, a foreign power – or, more likely, a criminal gang sponsored by a foreign power? Deterrence becomes meaningless when the identity of an attacker is unknown. (See an invasion of Chinese cyberspies.)

“We’re in the stage before warfare,” cyberwarfare expert James Lewis told a Washington audience on Jan. 27. “We’re in the stages of people poking around.” Lewis, with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said cyberdefenses are inadequate. “Unless we find a way to use offensive capabilities as part of a deterrence or strategic defense,” he said, “we will be unable to defeat these opponents.” CSIS also released last week a survey of cybersecurity experts from around the world who “rank the U.S. as the country ‘of greatest concern’ in the context of foreign cyberattacks, just ahead of China.”

It’s the instantaneous nature of cyberattacks that has rendered defenses against them obsolete. Once an enemy finds a chink in U.S. cyberarmor and opts to exploit it, it will be too late for the U.S. to play defense (it takes 300 milliseconds for a keystroke to travel halfway around the world). Far better to be on the prowl for cybertrouble and – with a few keystrokes or by activating secret codes long ago secreted in a prospective foe’s computer system – thwart any attack. Cyberdefense “never works” by itself, says the senior Pentagon officer. “There has to be an element of offense to have a credible defense.”

Such cyberbattles are already happening in miniature. In Afghanistan and Iraq, U.S. cyberwarriors are hard at work denying enemy commanders the ability to direct their forces, the senior Pentagon officer says. “I shut it down, take away your electricity, take away the radio, infect your phone,” he explains. “Now you don’t know where I’m coming from, or if you do, you can’t tell the rest of your force what’s going on.” More insidiously, the U.S. can doctor the information the foe gets. “I can alter the messages coming across,” he says.

But there is mounting concern that U.S. offensive capability in cyberspace is growing too fast and too secretly. “I have no doubt we’re doing some very profoundly sophisticated things on the attack side,” says William Owens, a retired Navy admiral and cyberwar expert who led a federal study on U.S. offensive cyberwarfare last year. “But that is little realized by many people in Congress or the Administration.” That study, by the National Research Council, concluded that “the U.S. armed forces are actively preparing to engage in cyberattacks, and may have done so in the past.” But it added that a lack of public debate has led to “ill-formed, undeveloped and highly uncertain” policies regarding its use, which could lead the U.S. to stumble inadvertently into a cyberwar.