Metro-East News

Cyber criminals using sex to exploit service members

Mike Fitzgerald
Mike Fitzgerald

A new wave of cybercrime is exploiting service members, sexually.

It’s called “sextortion.” It typically involves cyber criminals who, posing as attractive young women, send unsolicited messages to young male enlistees. After a few days of exchanging texts, flirting, and learning about her, the mystery woman asks the enlistee for a photo. He obliges, and she, of course, reciprocates. It’s hot and heavy … that is, until he gets a message from her “father,” who demands a hefty sum, say, $5,000, in return for not pressing child pornography charges that could send the enlistee to a military prison for decades.

Facebook’s security team first identified sextortion in 2012 and found that it was heavily aimed at service members. They immediately reached out to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to see what they could do to stop it.

NCIS Division Chief Megan Bolduc told the blog Task & Purpose, “Facebook security actually reached out to us and said that in this particular scam, military members were being targeted.”

Sextortion, as it turns out, typically targets young men in the case of the military. because they are single, away from home, and frequently active online.

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The Secretary of the Air Force has called for an investigation into a retirement ceremony at Travis Air Force Base in April in which a veteran making a speech was forcibly removed from the base auditorium, according to Stars and Stripes.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Wednesday that the inspector general would fully investigate the April 3 incident that has turned into a battleground over First Amendment and religious rights.

Oscar Rodriguez had just begun speaking at the April 3 retirement ceremony for Master Sgt. Charles Roberson when he was removed over what advocates claim were prepared remarks invoking God and prayer.

“That the Air Force would do this to myself as this was my retirement – I was very embarrassed and humiliated in front of my family and friends,” Roberson said in a video released Monday by the conservative First Liberty Institute, which argues in defense of religious freedoms.

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In Washington, big agencies rarely get high marks for innovation and foresight. But when it comes to coping with climate change, the largest federal agency—the Pentagon—has taken a spot in the vanguard. As far as back as the George W. Bush administration, the Defense Department was warning that global warming posed a threat to U.S. national security, and that the military needed to be preparing accordingly.

This year it went further, laying out a new game plan that assigns specific top officials the jobs of figuring out how climate change should shape everything from weapons acquisition to personnel training.

Last week, however, House Republicans voted to block it. By a 216-205 vote Thursday, the House passed an amendment prohibiting the department from spending money to put its new plan into effect. Not a single Democrat voted for the amendment, which was attached to the defense spending bill. It’s the second time in just a few weeks that the House GOP has tried to halt the Pentagon’s climate policies; a similar measure attached to the House’s defense authorization bill, which also received no Democratic votes, passed in May.

Supporters of the amendment say it’s necessary to ensure the Department of Defense doesn’t lose focus on the biggest threat facing the U.S. today—the Islamic State. But critics say the provisions, if they became law, would dangerously tie the hands of the Defense Department as it prepares for future threats. (The Senate’s version of the bill doesn’t block the plan; whether the amendment will survive conference is unclear.)

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Pentagon policy allowing transgender troops to serve openly is in the final stages of approval and is expected to be released within weeks, according to Defense Department sources, according to USA Today.

Gender dysphoria disqualifies service members under current policy. However, Defense Secretary Ash Carter enacted a de facto moratorium on such dismissals last year as the Defense Department crafted its new guidelines. Officials have been wrestling with several issues regarding transgender troops including recruiting, medical treatment, housing, uniforms and physical fitness standards.

A high-level meeting took place Monday to lay out the terms of repeal and when it will be announced, according to a Defense official who was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon acknowledged Tuesday that issues surrounding the repeal of ban are rapidly moving toward resolution.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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