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Tight circle of security officials crafted Trump’s Syria warning

U.S . Secretary of State Rex Tillerson | Alex Wong/Getty Images

US national security officials worked on the language in between meetings in a fast-moving effort to send Syria a message.

By 1 and 2

6/28/17, 5:03 AM CET

President Donald Trump s blunt, public warning to the Syrian regime late Monday night was cobbled together in a series of hurried discussions, squeezed in between meetings with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and kept among a small, tight circle of top officials. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson both arrived at the White House late Monday afternoon, ahead of the Rose Garden ceremony at which Trump and Modi each read a prepared statement . Upon the Cabinet members arrival, according to a senior defense official, they were informed of Trump s plan to issue a public warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad, based on new intelligence the Syrian regime3 was preparing another chemical weapons attack on its own people. National security adviser H.R .

McMaster, who also was at the White House for meetings, had already been briefed and had weighed in on the plan, administration sources said. But no stand-alone principals meeting followed to discuss the intelligence, which Trump received Monday morning, according to two senior administration officials. Rather, over the course of the day, officials said, McMaster, Mattis, Tillerson and a few other top officials had the opportunity to work the language of the statement, in between meetings with Modi . None of them expressed any hesitation or disagreement about the decision to issue a public warning, according to one of the senior administration officials.

But a Defense Department official acknowledged that the events were fast-moving and that there were minimal deliberations about the bold move and that only a limited number of top military officials were aware of the new intelligence and planned response. The episode marked another example of ongoing frustration between administration rank-and-file and leadership, which this time could carry serious consequences if the backbiting appears to weaken the U.S . government s resolve in turning up the pressure on Assad.

It hurts American credibility, said Ilan Goldenberg, a former State Department official who served under Secretary of State John Kerry . When the Syrian regime sees a report that government officials have no idea, the message to them is that these guys don t have their act together . And if nobody at State knows, it hurts your ability to follow up and have a diplomatic game plan.

But one former Obama administration official shrugged off the issues of communication between the White House and lower-level agency officials.

There s a broader issue here of effective coordination and communication sometimes the president contradicts his own people, Tom Donilon, President Barack Obama s former national security adviser, said in an interview . But I don t think that s the most important issue here . If, in fact, the United States has evidence that they re preparing a chemical attack, laying down a warning that you intend to follow through on is an appropriate thing to do. The careful language of the 87-word statement which was drafted by the afternoon but not released until close to 10 p.m . was cleared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the State Department and the Defense Department before it was blasted out from the press secretary s office.

On Tuesday, the White House insisted that military and State Department officials were not blindsided by the statement, which warned Assad that if he launches another chemical weapons attack, he and his military will pay a heavy price.

In response to several inquiries regarding the Syria statement issued last night, we want to clarify that all relevant agencies including State, DoD, CIA and ODNI were involved in the process from the beginning, the White House said in a statement released Tuesday morning . Anonymous leaks to the contrary are false. Multiple administration officials said people surprised by the statement were simply not senior enough to be clued in and some said they were frustrated that a bold move by Trump, which they believed could save lives, was overshadowed by a side story about leaks and internal disagreements.

The story seems to be about whether or not a public affairs officer on a regional desk at the State Department was notified in what they would consider to be a timely manner, vented a third White House official . If Tillerson knew and some desk officer in the Middle East section didn t know, they need to take that up with Tillerson . It s not their right to know . It s his prerogative if he wants to share the information.

The move, and the frustration were reflective of the Trump administration s approach of making key decisions within a close, inner circle unlike the deliberative, and sometimes paralyzingly inclusive, decision making that defined Obama s process. Despite the confusion and complaints over who was looped in and when, foreign policy experts lauded Trump s choice to make a public statement rather than to try to pressure the Syrian regime through diplomatic back channels. The Trump administration realizes they re being dragged into a very dangerous situation, said Jim Jeffrey, a former U.S .

ambassador to Turkey and Iraq and deputy national security adviser for President George W . Bush . He said the U.S . approach to Assad so far had been a bunch of tit for tats that seemed to have no long-term impact.

The benefit of a public statement is they re now on record as saying, this shall not happen, Jeffrey added . There was a conscious decision made by the people who realize whatever we want to do in the Middle East, we re going to look like fools if they do this again, and we blow up a few more airplanes . We have to react very strongly to them. Trump s own seeming lack of interest in the issue, though, could also diminish the message s effect on Assad.

Instead of using the megaphone of his Twitter feed to amplify the White House statement, marked by his press office as urgent, Trump took to Twitter minutes after its release to harp on one of his personal obsessions . From @FoxNews Bombshell: In 2016, Obama dismissed idea that anyone could rig an American election . Check out his statement Witch Hunt ! the president tweeted.

He s very undisciplined, said Jeffrey . He does this all the time .

That s a separate problem .

But what s clear is that in the end, he goes along with what his top advisers tell him.

Bryan Bender contributed to this report.

Related stories on these topics:

References

  1. ^ (www.politico.eu)
  2. ^ (www.politico.eu)
  3. ^ intelligence the Syrian regime (www.politico.eu)

Microsoft: We’ll beef up security in Windows 10 Creators Edition Fall Update

The next big update to Windows 10 Creators Edition is out in the Fall1 and Redmond is hyping up its security chops. For a start, we’re told Windows Defender will be extended from client to Microsoft’s server operating systems . In addition, Redmond is adding Windows Defender Exploit Guard and Application Guard to the security suite and updating its Device Guard and Defender Antivirus software. Exploit Guard is basically Microsoft’s Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) security software reworked for the new operating system . Last year Microsoft was forecasting the death of EMET, but now it appears it has listened to advice from its users2 and security experts3 that the code should be retained.

“We love EMET so much we built it fully into Windows 10,” Rob Lefferts, director of the Windows and Devices Group, told The Register. “Everything you could do with EMET you can do with Exploit Guard.”

Exploit Guard will come with new rules designed to detect unauthorized system access, and will take advice from Microsoft’s security center in real time . Redmond even says it will protect against zero day exploits. Application Guard is designed to work with the browser to detect whether local users have downloaded or installed code that they shouldn’t . The new code will lock any infection onto a local machine to stop it spreading, and notify the security team that something has gone seriously amiss.

Device Guard is getting an upgrade and uses whitelisting to keep dodgy software off PCs . Lefferts said that Microsoft is working with developers to constantly update the whitelists and ensure that legitimate code will run without a problem. On the pure antivirus side, IT admins running Defender will get a new security analytics screen that will use data from all Microsoft customers to advise on potential or incoming threats . APIs will also be released so third-party app vendors can use the same information to secure their apps.

Sponsored: Advanced Threat Prevention .

Visit The Register’s Endpoint Security Hub4

References

  1. ^ in the Fall (www.theregister.co.uk)
  2. ^ its users (www.theregister.co.uk)
  3. ^ security experts (www.theregister.co.uk)
  4. ^ Advanced Threat Prevention .

    Visit The Register’s Endpoint Security Hub (go.theregister.com)

Donald Trump: President hails ‘victory for national security’ as US court reinstates travel ban

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    Donald Trump (L) is sworn in as the 45th US president by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts in front of the Capitol in Washington

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    First Lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump,former President Barack Obama, Michelle Obama at the US Capitol after inauguration ceremonies at the in Washington, DC

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    US President Donald Trump takes the oath of allegiance during his swearing-in ceremony on January 20, 2017 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC

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    US President elect Donald Trump (C) arrives for the swearing-in ceremony on in front of the Capitol in Washington

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    US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania walk the inaugural parade route with son Barron on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC

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    US President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump dance at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on 20 January 2017

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    US President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania Trump dance at the Armed Services ball at the National Building museum following Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on 20 January 20, 2017

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    US President Donald Trump speaks to the press as he waits at his desk before signing conformations for General James Mattis as US Secretary of Defense and General John Kelly as US Secretary of Homeland Security, as Vice President Mike Pence and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus look on in the Oval Office of the White House on 20 January 2017

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    Police pepper spray at anti-Trump protesters during clashes in Washington, DC

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    US President Donald Trump (C) gestures as the first lady Melania Trump (center L), Vice Presidant Mike Pence (L), his wife Karen (2L) and family look on at the Liberty Ball at the Washington DC Convention Center following Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC

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    Vanessa and Donald Trump Jr, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner salute the crowd after dancing on stage during the Freedom ball at the Walter E . Washington Convention Center on 20 January 2017 in Washington, DC

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    Demonstrators gather at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado, during the Women’s March on 21 January 2017

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    Demonstrators protest near the White House in Washington, DC, for the Women’s March on 21 January 2017

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    US President Donald Trump holds up an executive order withdrawing the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership after signing it in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on 23 January 2017

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    US President Donald Trump signs an executive order to start the Mexico border wall project at the Department of Homeland Security facility in Washington, DC, on 25 January 2017

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    Greenpeace protesters unfold a banner reading “Resist” from atop a construction crane behind the White House

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    US President Donald Trump salutes as he steps off Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland upon his return from Philadelphia

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    Demonstrators protest President Donald Trump’s plan to build a border wall along the United States and Mexico border in Chicago, Illinois

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    US President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May speak during a press conference at the White House

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    US President Donald Trump speaks after signing executive orders alongside US Defense Secretary James Mattis (R) and US Vice President Mike Pence on 27 January 2017, at the Pentagon in Washington, DC

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    US President Donald Trump speaks following the ceremonial swearing-in of James Mattis as secretary of defense on January 27, 2017, at the Pentagon in Washington, DC

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    US President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin from the Oval Office of the White House on January 28, 2017, in Washington, DC. AFP/Getty Images

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    Senior Advisor Jared Kushner (L) and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly (R) listen while US President Donald Trump puts his papers away at the beginning of a meeting on cyber security in the Roosevelt Room of the White House January 31, 2017 in Washington, DC

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    US President Donald Trump holds an executive memorandum on defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria after signing it in the Oval Office of the White House

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    Judge Neil Gorsuch speaks, after US President Donald Trump nominated him for the Supreme Court, at the White House in Washington, DC

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    Demonstrators gather outside of The United States Supreme Court after President Donald Trump announced Neil Gorsuch as his nominee to fill the seat of former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia in Washington, DC, on 31 January 2017

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    US President Donald Trump (2L) congratulates Rex Tillerson (seated) after he was sworn in as Secretary of State as his wife Renda St . Clair (R), and Vice President Mike Pence (L) look on in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC

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    US President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka walk to board Marine One at the White House in Washington, DC

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    US President Donald Trump chats with reporters on board Air Force One before departing from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, bound for Palm Beach, Florida

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    Zeina, who did not want to give her last name, takes part in a protest against US President Donald Trump outside the White House

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    Demonstrators holding placards take part in a protest against US President Donald Trump outside the US Embassy in London

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    US President Donald Trump sits down for lunch with troops during a visit to the US Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida

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    US President Donald Trump holds up a gift given to him by county sheriffs following a meeting as they pose for photos in the Oval Office of the White House

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    National Security Advisor Michael Flynn (centre) attends a joint press conference by US President Donald Trump and Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the East Room of the White House on 13 February 2017 in Washington

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    US President Donald Trump (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu walk into the White House in Washington, DC

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    Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner arrive for a joint press conference by US President Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the East Room of the White House

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    US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump welcome Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, as they arrive at the White House in Washington, DC

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    US President Donald Trump speaks during a press conference at the White House

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    An activist paints the wall between the United States and Mexico during a demonstration against US President Donald Trump on the border of Ciudad Juarez with Nuevo Mexico, Chihuahua State, Mexico

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    View of the paintings made by activists in the wall between Mexico and United States during a demontration against US President Donald Trump on the border of Ciudad Juarez with Nuevo Mexico, Chihuahua State, Mexico

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    Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway (L) checks her phone after taking a photo as US President Donald Trump and leaders of historically black universities and colleges pose for a group photo in the Oval Office of the White House before a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence in Washington

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    US Vice President Mike Pence (L), US President Donald Trump (C) and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) clap during a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC

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    US President Donald Trump salutes as he arrives onboard the pre-commissioned USS Gerald R . Ford aircraft carrier in Newport News, Virginia

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    US President Donald Trump salutes as he walks to Air Force One prior to departing from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia

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    Sandy Adams holds up a placard during a protest outside St .

    Anthony Catholic school in Orlando, Florida during a visit by US President Donald Trump

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    US President Donald Trump walks off Air Force One after arriving in Orlando, Florida

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    US President Donald Trump gestures as he surprises visitors during the official reopening of public tours at the White House in Washington, DC

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    People rally during the Native Nations Rise protest in Washington, DC

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    US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally in Nashville, Tennessee

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    US President Donald Trump and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel shake hands after a press conference in the East Room of the White House

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    US President Donald Trump arrives for a ‘Make America Great Again’ rally at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Kentucky

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    S President Donald Trump reacts after signing a bill increasing funding for NASA in the Oval Office at the White House

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    Protesters dressed as medical staff march towards the Federal Building during a “Save the Affordable Care Act” rally in Los Angeles, California

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    US President Donald Trump sits in the drivers seat of a semi-truck as he welcomes truckers and CEOs to the White House in Washington, DC

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    Health care activists hold placards during a rally at Freedom Plaza during a protest in Washington, DC

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    US President Donald Trump (C) speaks before signing the Energy Independence Executive Order at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Headquarters in Washington, DC

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    Surrounded by miners from Rosebud Mining, US President Donald Trump (C) signs he Energy Independence Executive Order at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Headquarters in Washington, DC

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    US President Donald Trump addresses the Womens Empowerment Panel in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC

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    People wearing masks of US President Donald Trump take part in the 32nd Annual April Fools Day Parade in New York

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    Translators watch as Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (L) and US President Donald Trump shake hands in the Oval Office before a meeting at the White House

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    US President Donald Trump (L) sits with Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) during a bilateral meeting at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida

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    Donald Trump is in a meeting with his National Security team and being briefed by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford via secure video teleconference after a missile strike on Syria while inside the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility at his Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach, Florida, U.S .

    on April 6, 2017

    The White House via Reuters

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    A man gets sprayed with a chemical irritant as multiple fights break out between Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters in Berkeley, California

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    Protestors take part in the “Tax March” to call on US President Donald Trump to release his tax records in Los Angeles, California

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    US First Lady Melania Trump walks to the Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House

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    Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and son Barron Trump attend the annual Easter Egg Roll on the South Lawn of the White House

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