USIP's Science, Technology & Peacebuilding Roundup

United States Institute of Peace


Center of Innovation: Science, Technology and Peacebuilding

Weekly News Roundup, August 9 - 15, 2012

Table of Contents

Using Satellite Imagery to Document Destruction in Syria
Add Syria to the list of places where human rights organizations are using commercially available satellite imagery to document destruction during conflict. Using satellite imagery of Syria, groups can attempt to reconstruct which units of the government and opposition are operating and where. [The town of Anadan] appears to have many impact craters from artillery -- the large number of which and clustering make it unlikely that they were aimed by chance.
See the full article (PBS, Larisa Epatko and P.J. Tobia, 8/15/12)
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When Are Drone Killings Illegal?
The Bush and Obama administrations' extraordinary program of targeted killing has resulted in the deaths of as many as 4,400 people to date. Both Presidents Bush and Obama have attempted to justify thousands of drone attacks as part of a "war" or "armed conflict." But is that correct? Targeted killing with drones in Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan have generally violated the right to life because the United States is rarely part of any armed conflict in those places.
See the full article (CNN, Mary Ellen O'Connell, 8/15/12)
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Israel Tests Geo-targeted SMS Missile Warning System
Israel is testing an early-warning missile defence system that sends text messages to mobile phones located within a potential strike zone. The £6 million technology is a site-specific system. A week-long testing schedule was launched 12 August, 2012, with different major districts in the country being targeted each day. Mock messages are being sent out to civilians signed up to the three major mobile phone networks -- Cellcom, Pelephone and Orange -- in Hebrew, Arabic, English and Russian.
See the full article (, Liat Clark, 8/14/12)
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Is War Inevitable? A View from the Stars
Astrobiology is a relatively new field that attempts to put life, its origin and its evolution into a planetary perspective. It asks questions like how do planetary environments foster or inhibit the emergence of life. And once living systems gain a toehold, how do life and the planetary environment co-evolve? Looking from this vantage point, we might ask a different kind of question about war's "naturalness" and its future.
See the full article (NPR, Adam Frank, 8/14/12)
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Unable to Crack Computer Virus, Security Firm Seeks Help
Gauss, a computer virus targeting computers in Lebanon, [is] a sophisticated computer virus that may have been developed by the same nation state, or group of nation states, that developed Flame and possibly Stuxnet. Lebanon experts said previously that an American espionage campaign directed at Lebanese banks would make sense given United States concerns that Lebanon's banks have been used to back the Syrian government and Hezbollah.
See the full article (New York Times, Nicole Perlroth, 8/14/12) *NYT sign-up may be required to view the full article
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When It Comes to Human Rights, There Are No Online Security Shortcuts
As one of people who built Martus, an encrypted database used by thousands of human rights activists around the world, I routinely confront the needs of users who are not in wealthy countries. My thoughts here are focused on the democracy activists, citizen journalists, and human rights workers in the world's toughest political environments. These are people who need security more than just about anyone: it can be literally a question of life and death.
See the full article (, Patrick Ball, 8/10/12)
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Pentagon Proposes More Robust Role for its Cyber-specialists
The Pentagon has proposed that military cyber-specialists be given permission to take action outside its computer networks to defend critical U.S. computer systems - a move that officials say would set a significant precedent. The proposed rules would open the door for U.S. defense officials to act outside the confines of military-related computer networks to try to combat cyberattacks on private computers, including those in foreign countries.
See the full article (Washington Post, Ellen Nakashima, 8/9/12)
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Did we miss anything?



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