Follow us on social


Not the first time our allies' biometric info got into 'the wrong hands'

When the US military was done using the Sunni 'Sons of Iraq' they literally turned their iris scans over to the Shia government.

Analysis | Middle East

The Intercept is reporting that the Taliban have seized U.S. military biometric devices which hold iris scans, fingerprints, and other data that can identify individuals who worked with American forces and other coalition partners. In other words, the very people who have targets on their backs and are already scrambling to get out of Afghanistan today. 

The report, written by Ken Klippenstein and Sara Sirota, does not say how the devices (called HIIDE, or Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment) were taken, but one U.S. military contractor knows what an incredible breach this could be, and how big the database is. “We processed thousands of locals a day, had to ID, sweep for suicide vests, weapons, intel gathering, etc.” the contractor explained. “[HIIDE] was used as a biometric ID tool to help ID locals working for the coalition.”

The Department of Defense did not respond to the Intercept’s request for comment.

The military was initially using the devices to screen terrorists and create a trove of names and info that they had planned to share with U.S. law enforcement agencies, according to the article. But we know their use went way beyond that, collecting personal data on innocent Afghans. While it is unclear whether the Taliban would have the proper tools to ultimately use the devices to access the database, an Army special forces veteran who spoke with the Intercept expressed concerns that they could get outside help. “The Taliban doesn’t have the gear to use the data but the ISI do,” the former Special Operations official said, referring to Pakistan’s spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. 

“I don’t think anyone ever thought about data privacy or what to do in the event the [HIIDE] system fell into the wrong hands,” Welton Chang, chief technology officer for Human Rights First, himself a former Army intelligence officer, told the reporters. “Moving forward, the U.S. military and diplomatic apparatus should think carefully about whether to deploy these systems again in situations as tenuous as Afghanistan.”

This is a bit disingenuous. The U.S. military knows what happens when this information gets into the “wrong hands.” After it had used up the so-called “Sons of Iraq,” or “Sunni Awakening,” for the "surge" in 2007, the U.S. military handed over all of the biometric info for those allies to the Shia government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. 

At the time, U.S. Army Lt. Col. John Velliquette called the information, “a hit list if it gets in the wrong hands.” 

Reportedly, Maliki pledged to assimilate the Sunni fighters into his ranks. But after the U.S. left, he did the opposite, swiping Sunni men off the streets, disappearing them into jails, and driving them into economic desperation. The growing Islamic State presence was able to exploit the situation, and the rest is history. 

Given that this was 14 years ago maybe memories are short, but not likely. Losing control of these HIIDE devices, if true, illustrates a systematic, blatant disregard for the people the U.S. military is ostensibly there to help. Simply put, this isn’t the first time we’ve left partners out to dry.

US Marine gets an iris scan from an Iraqi civilian in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2005. (USMC/public domain)
Analysis | Middle East
US flouts international law with Pacific military claims
The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) transits the Pacific Ocean Jan. 25, 2020. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Alexander Williams)

US flouts international law with Pacific military claims


In defiance of international norms and rules, U.S. officials are laying claim to the large oceanic area in the central Pacific Ocean that is home to the compact states.

Now that they are renewing the economic provisions of the compacts of free association with Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia, U.S. officials are insisting that the compacts provide the United States with exclusive control over an area of the central Pacific Ocean that is comparable in size to the United States.

keep readingShow less
Not leaving empty handed: Zelensky gets his ATACMs
President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden greet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Mrs. Olena Zelenska of Ukraine at the South Portico of the White House. (Photo by Allison Bailey/NurPhoto)

Not leaving empty handed: Zelensky gets his ATACMs


So it looks like Ukrainian President Zelensky did not leave Washington empty handed this week after all. According to reports this afternoon, the Biden administration has relented and will transfer long range ATACMs, long considered too escalatory for the conflict, to Ukraine in the “upcoming weeks,” according to POLITICO.

The ATACMs variant that the U.S. is reportedly considering, according to the Washington Post (which, unlike POLITICO says the administration is "nearing an announcement") uses controversial cluster munitions, another old "red line" for the administration in this war, instead of a single warhead. This is not exactly what the Ukrainians had hoped for.

keep readingShow less
Wall Street Journal

Editorial credit: monticello /

WSJ conceals Saudi funding of pro-Saudi nuke deal source


The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that “Israeli officials are quietly working with the Biden administration on a polarizing proposal to set up a U.S.-run uranium-enrichment operation in Saudi Arabia as part of a complex three-way deal to establish official diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern countries,” according to U.S. and Israeli officials.

The article, authored by Dion Nissenbaum and Dov Lieber, largely showcases Israeli opposition to the deal. Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a group whose mission includes providing “education to enhance Israel’s image in North America…” was quoted opposing a uranium enrichment program on Saudi soil. He warned that “we’re one bullet away from a disaster in Saudi Arabia,” adding, “What happens if, God forbid, a radical Islamist leader takes control?”

keep readingShow less

Ukraine War Crisis