October 26, 2010

The intelligence bonanza of the 2001 American EP-3E incident

Filed under: China, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:30

If you cast your mind back far enough, you’ll remember the political impact of the mid-air collision between a Chinese fighter and an American EP-3E electronic surveillance aircraft. It certainly had the potential to turn into a major standoff between the two powers, but apparently the real story was the intelligence breach following the emergency landing:

On April 1, 2001, an American EP-3E Aries II reconnaissance plane on an eavesdropping mission collided with a Chinese interceptor jet over the South China Sea, triggering the first international crisis of George W. Bush’s Administration. The Chinese jet crashed, and its pilot was killed, but the pilot of the American aircraft, Navy Lieutenant Shane Osborn, managed to make an emergency landing at a Chinese F-8 fighter base on Hainan Island, fifteen miles from the mainland. Osborn later published a memoir, in which he described the “incessant jackhammer vibration” as the plane fell eight thousand feet in thirty seconds, before he regained control.

The plane carried twenty-four officers and enlisted men and women attached to the Naval Security Group Command, a field component of the National Security Agency. They were repatriated after eleven days; the plane stayed behind. The Pentagon told the press that the crew had followed its protocol, which called for the use of a fire axe, and even hot coffee, to disable the plane’s equipment and software. These included an operating system created and controlled by the N.S.A., and the drivers needed to monitor encrypted Chinese radar, voice, and electronic communications. It was more than two years before the Navy acknowledged that things had not gone so well. “Compromise by the People’s Republic of China of undestroyed classified material . . . is highly probable and cannot be ruled out,” a Navy report issued in September, 2003, said.

The loss was even more devastating than the 2003 report suggested, and its dimensions have still not been fully revealed. Retired Rear Admiral Eric McVadon, who flew patrols off the coast of Russia and served as a defense attaché in Beijing, told me that the radio reports from the aircraft indicated that essential electronic gear had been dealt with. He said that the crew of the EP-3E managed to erase the hard drive — “zeroed it out” — but did not destroy the hardware, which left data retrievable: “No one took a hammer.” Worse, the electronics had recently been upgraded. “Some might think it would not turn out as badly as it did, but I sat in some meetings about the intelligence cost,” McVadon said. “It was grim.”

H/T to Bruce Schneier for the link.

Did we just witness the start of “Tea Party Ontario”?

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:53

Steve Paikin looks at the unexpected toppling of incumbent mayors across Ontario yesterday:

Did we just have our own “tea party” Ontario?

All over the province, incumbents were feeling the wrath of the electorate.

In the capital city, Rob Ford cruised to victory, besting George Smitherman by more than 90,000 votes. His margin of victory was bigger than David Miller’s when he “swept” into office with his broom seven years ago.

But it wasn’t only Toronto. Incumbent mayors lost in Hamilton, Ottawa, Burlington, Vaughan, London, Thunder Bay, and Sudbury.

In Mississauga, where Hazel McCallion is accustomed to winning with more than 90% of the vote, she only won re-election with 76%.

[. . .]

A few weeks ago, none of these results was seen as obvious.

[. . .]

The conventional wisdom in local politics is that name recognition counts for so much. The power of incumbency is fantastic.

Not last night. If anything, the opposite was true. If you were in, you had a target on you. And precious few escaped it, including many incumbent city councillors in Toronto.

A stunning night for upsets. A big night for turnout (more than 50% in Toronto…twice the normal turnout rate).

An Ontario Tea Party would be a good idea . . .

Toronto’s elite appalled: the barbarians have stormed City Hall

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:24

I guess a lot of people were misleading the pollsters, as what looked like a dead heat only a few days before the election turned into a 12 point lead, just missing an actual majority for Rob Ford:

Right-wing juggernaut Rob Ford will take the top job in Canada’s most populous city, defeating former deputy premier George Smitherman in a bitter, 10-month race to become Toronto’s next mayor.

With 99 per cent of Toronto polls reporting Monday night, Ford took 47 per cent of the vote, compared to Smitherman’s 35 per cent and deputy mayor Joe Pantalone’s 12 per cent.

Smitherman was considered an early favourite to win, but couldn’t compete against Ford, a scrappy city councillor who tapped into a potent well of voter fury with his promises to cut taxes and kill big spending at city hall.

“This victory is a clear call from the taxpayers, enough is enough,” Ford told cheering supporters.

“The party with taxpayers’ money is over. We will respect the taxpayers again, and yes ladies and gentlemen we will stop the gravy train once and for all.”

The polarizing Toronto race was marred by ugly incidents, including homophobic ads targeting the openly gay Smitherman, and a newspaper article — later pulled from the Globe and Mail website — that took a shot at Ford’s weight.

His win is likely to send shockwaves all the way to Premier Dalton McGuinty’s office. Many experts have predicted that a Ford victory could herald a Conservative sweep in next fall’s Ontario election.

Ford is perhaps the least likely candidate to win in Toronto for decades, and is most certainly not the kind of mayor most progressives expected to see. He’s not particularly polished or smooth-talking or dignified, and has had a series of mis-steps that the media (and Toronto’s Liberal elite) expected to keep him from being more than a slight bump in the smooth road to Smitherman’s coronation. I expect this election result will be portrayed in the media, at least in the short term, as the suburbs “sticking it” to downtown (even though some polls showed Ford’s support to be nearly as strong in downtown wards as in the benighted suburbs).

Update: Chris Selley thinks that this is a wake-up call for politicians across the province:

One can only imagine the horror in certain quarters. Uncouth, uncultured, suburban, journalist-chasing, drunk driving, marijuana-possessing Air Canada Centre ejectee and lone wolf former city councillor Rob Ford is mayor-elect of Toronto — and not just by a little. Mayor David Miller congratulated him last night and so should everyone else. It sure won’t help not to.

Whatever happens over the next four years, this election sent a hugely important message to Canadian politicians: Ignore voter anger at your peril. If you think voters shouldn’t be angry, make your case early and sincerely. Don’t just blame a senior level of government for your problems.

Cost overruns are typical, but this is excessive

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:12

Canada’s parliament buildings have been sporadically under repair since 1992. The original estimate for all required work was $460 million. It has, of course, gone well past that budget:

The cost of renovating Parliament Hill is expected to hit $5 billion by the time the 25-year project wraps up, CBC reported Monday.

According to documents released by the Department of Public Works, the repairs to almost every building on Parliament Hill, originally pegged to be $460 million in 1992, will have ballooned to more than 10 times that amount upon completion.

Renovations started on the aging buildings in 1992, when builders began renewing Parliament’s West Block. The project was shelved in 1998, then restarted in 2005, with an estimated budget of $769 million. That total has since risen to more than $1 billion, according to CBC.

As Ezra Levant points out, “Burj Dubai, world’s tallest building, only cost $4.1B”.

Update: Ezra also pointed out that the “Bank of China tower in Hong Kong was $1.66B. Taipei 101 was $2B. “.

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