Metro-East News

Roger That: Feds convict Air Force veteran for trying to help Islamic State

News-Democrat

The Washington Post is reporting that a U.S. Air Force veteran was found guilty of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State Wednesday in what authorities hailed as a first-of-its-kind conviction after a trial.

There have been 24 other people convicted in connection with Islamic State offenses. But Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, 48, is the first to be found guilty by a jury weighing evidence at at trial, Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin said in a news release.

The conviction comes as prosecutors in Arizona are trying to convince jurors that another Islamic State supporter, 44-year-old Abdul Malik Abdul Kareem, helped in a 2015 attack on a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest in Texas.

Pugh, of Neptune, New Jersey, served in the Air Force from October 1986 until October 1990 as an an avionics instrument system specialist, authorities have said. He traveled last year from Egypt to Turkey — hoping to cross the border into Syria and join the Islamic State — but was intercepted by Turkish authorities and eventually deported to the U.S., prosecutors said. There, prosecutors said, the FBI monitored Pugh closely, including having an undercover employee keep tabs on him at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport

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The Pentagon has deployed drones to spy over U.S. territory for non-military missions over the past decade, but the flights have been rare and lawful, according to a new report featured in a USA Today story.

The report by a Pentagon inspector general, made public under a Freedom of Information Act request, said spy drones on non-military missions have occurred fewer than 20 times between 2006 and 2015 and always in compliance with existing law.

The report, which did not provide details on any of the domestic spying missions, said the Pentagon takes the issue of military drones used on American soil "very seriously."

The Pentagon has publicly posted at least a partial list of the drone missions that have flown in non-military airspace over the United States and explains the use of the aircraft. The site lists nine missions flown between 2011 and 2016, largely to assist with search and rescue, floods, fires or National Guard exercises.

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Days after the United States acknowledged conducting warfare over computer networks for the first time, Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter took the stage at a major information security conference in San Francisco, according to the Baltimore Sun newspaper.

The use of cyberweapons against the self-declared Islamic State had turned the conference audience's online world into the newest battlefield, with potentially far-reaching consequences for the future of the Internet. So it was not surprising that Carter was asked about the new campaign.

"Well, I'm not going to be very public about the details of it," he said.

Carter's stance drew laughter in the conference hall. But after a decade of classified commando raids and drone strikes, the reluctance to talk about the cybercampaign means the country is again heading into a new field of warfare with only limited public debate.

Randall R. Dipert, a philosopher who was among the first to weigh the ethics of cyberwarfare, says the secrecy is "just unbelievable."

He compares the deployment of cyberweapons to the development of nuclear weapons after World War II.

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The Iraqi man being held and interrogated by U.S. officials is a suspected mid-level Islamic State operative whose knowledge of the group’s chemical weapons program allowed coalition strikes to destroy at least two related facilities, two defense officials told the Daily Beast.

The man has been detained for roughly a month, according to the officials. And in that time, they said, he has given the U.S. the most in-depth understanding of ISIS’s chemical attack capabilities and aspirations.

“They have gotten a lot of information from this guy,” a third defense official explained. “A lot.”

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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