US Army deserter Bergdahl faces life in prison as sentencing hearing opens

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, center, is escorted into the courthouse after a lunch break during his hearing in the case of United States vs. Bergdahl in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, US on October 16, 2017. (File photo by Reuters)
Updated 23 October 2017
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US Army deserter Bergdahl faces life in prison as sentencing hearing opens

CHICAGO: A sentencing hearing begins on Monday to determine the fate of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who could face life in prison after pleading guilty to deserting his duties in Afghanistan in June 2009 and endangering the lives of fellow troops.
The hearing at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg is expected to include testimony from soldiers injured in the dangerous search for Bergdahl, who walked off his combat outpost in Paktika province to report what he said were “critical problems” in his chain of command.
During his absence, the Idaho native was captured by the Taliban and spent the next five years suffering torture, abuse and neglect in captivity. A Taliban prisoner swap won his release in 2014, a move that drew derision from within the military and the Republican Party.
During last year’s presidential campaign, Republican Donald Trump called Bergdahl “a no-good traitor who should have been executed.”
Former Army Corporal Jonathan Morita told Reuters in a phone interview on Sunday that he may testify this week before Army Judge Col. Jeffery Nance about his injuries, including one to his hand during a 2009 search operation.
Morita said he believed Bergdahl should be dishonorably discharged and sentenced to as much as life in prison.
“A fair sentence, I hope, for his actions and what it created,” Morita said.
Navy SEAL Senior Chief James Hatch, shot in the leg during an attempted rescue, is also expected to speak at the hearing, his attorney, Buddy Rake, told KPHO-TV last week. Rake could not be reached on Sunday.
Bergdahl, 31, pleaded guilty last Monday to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, with the latter offense carrying a possible life sentence.
His decision to enter a “naked plea” — meaning he had not reached an agreement about the sentencing terms with prosecutors — surprised some military law experts.
In determining a sentence, the judge may consider Bergdahl’s time in captivity, while prosecutors may focus on the soldiers injured in the search.
Bergdahl, who testified in court that he tried to escape his captors 15 times, admitted wrongdoing but said he never intended to put anyone at risk.
“I didn’t think there’d be any reason to pull off a crucial mission to look for one guy,” he said, adding his actions were “very inexcusable.”
Bergdahl remains on active duty in a clerical job at a base in San Antonio.
The White House released a statement on Friday saying that the president expected those involved in military justice cases to use independent judgment. It did not mention Bergdahl by name.
“Each military justice case must be resolved on its own facts,” the statement said.


FBI warns Russians hacked hundreds of thousands of routers

Updated 25 May 2018
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FBI warns Russians hacked hundreds of thousands of routers

WASHINGTON: The FBI warned on Friday that Russian computer hackers had compromised hundreds of thousands of home and office routers and could collect user information or shut down network traffic.
The US law enforcement agency urged the owners of many brands of routers to turn them off and on again and download updates from the manufacturer to protect themselves.
The warning followed a court order Wednesday that allowed the FBI to seize a website that the hackers planned to use to give instructions to the routers. Though that cut off malicious communications, it still left the routers infected, and Friday’s warning was aimed at cleaning up those machines.
Infections were detected in more than 50 countries, though the primary target for further actions was probably Ukraine, the site of many recent infections and a longtime cyberwarfare battleground.
In obtaining the court order, the Justice Department said the hackers involved were in a group called Sofacy that answered to the Russian government.
Sofacy, also known as APT28 and Fancy Bear, has been blamed for many of the most dramatic Russian hacks, including that of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 US presidential campaign.
Earlier, Cisco Systems Inc. said the hacking campaign targeted devices from Belkin International’s Linksys, MikroTik, Netgear Inc, TP-Link and QNAP.
Cisco shared the technical details of its investigation with the US and Ukrainian governments. Western experts say Russia has conducted a series of attacks against companies in Ukraine for more than a year amid armed hostilities between the two countries, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and at least one electricity blackout.
The Kremlin on Thursday denied the Ukrainian government’s accusation that Russia was planning a cyberattack on Ukrainian state bodies and private companies ahead of the Champions League soccer final in Kiev on Saturday.
“The size and scope of the infrastructure by VPNFilter malware is significant,” the FBI said, adding that it is capable of rendering peoples’ routers “inoperable.”
It said the malware is hard to detect, due to encryption and other tactics.
The FBI urged people to reboot their devices to temporarily disrupt the malware and help identify infected devices.
People should also consider disabling remote-management settings, changing passwords and upgrading to the latest firmware.