Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

May 10, 2010

This dot connects to Karachi, which connects to Miranshah, which connects to Barcelona… and what might that suggest?

Filed under: Risk Assessment,Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on May 10, 2010

Sunday Messrs. Brennan and Holder told us the Taliban-in-Pakistan or Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) were involved in the fizzled Times Square attack.  “We know that they helped facilitate it; we know that they helped direct it,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “And I suspect that we are going to come up with evidence which shows that they helped to finance it. They were intimately involved in this plot.” (Associated Press)

The TTP has claimed credit.  It has also released an audio message of its leader threatening future attacks on the United States.  You can see and hear a  translated and illustrated version of the message courtesy of YouTube and the TTPs propaganda branch.  (Brian Fishman at Foreign Policy has a helpful analysis of a couple of recent TTP media pieces.)

In March 2009, Homeland Security Watch and many others reported on a specific TTP threat to attack the United States.  So… none of this is exactly breaking news.  But the events in Times Square have, for the moment, focused our attention.  While I have your attention, please examine what the TTP tried — and failed — to undertake in Barcelona.  As far as I know this has been their most ambitious operation outside South Asia.

In January 2008 Spanish authorities arrested 14 involved in a plot to attack the Barcelona subway system (Reuters).   In January 2009, the US Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center published a case study on the Barcelona attack plan. In December 2009 eleven of those arrested were convicted. (Deutsche Welle).  

I have recently tried to distinguish between what we can predict-and-control in contrast with anticipation-and-preparation.  Attention is critical to anticipation.

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Comment by Dan O'Connor

May 10, 2010 @ 8:17 am

Thank you for posting this.

I think your last point on prediction vs anticipation is tied to the quality of driving information. Prediction to me indicates a more gambling point of view vice knowing something is about to happen and anticipating it. Perhaps this is shades of gray or clarity, but at least with anticipation you have a higher degree of awareness.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

May 10, 2010 @ 8:35 am


From reading your comments over the last several weeks, I think you and I may (mostly) agree substantively. But the two of us seem to pretty consistently draw from different lexicons.

It’s more than you say to-may-toe and I say to-maaa-toe. It’s more like you say tomato and I say apple, evenwhile we are both looking at the same red sort-of-round thing.

This strikes me as a common issue in homeland security (and most new disciplines).

For what it’s worth (and its not much), I understand prediction to be more confident than anticipation. The Latin “dictum” is often associated with command. The solar eclipse is precisely predicted. Meanwhile in February fine Spring weather is generally anticipated for sometime in April. But, in any case, etymology is waaay less important than coming to shared understanding.

I am absolutely trying to encourage awareness, attention, and creative engagement with what has happened, is happening, and may happen.

Comment by Dan O'Connor

May 10, 2010 @ 8:52 am


It’s good to have a variety of vectors… all roads lead to Rome!! To your point; etmology and cultural usage; I took anticipation from command as well; to anticipate a command it to know the desired action, but accelerate the execution. On the other hand, prediction,and your usage, more confidant than anticipation also makes sense as you lay it out. I doubt predictive software and data mining is gambling or guessing…
In the larger context, we find ourselves in a cultural information war and also one of bias; Americans and Canadians have lexicon and meaning issues…imagine than the rest of the Western cultures looking and hearing what appear to be monolithic messaging from the Middle East. Theological and cultural marketing combined with political desires makes for an interesting discussion.

Appreciate your feedback.

Comment by William R. Cumming

May 11, 2010 @ 5:32 pm

I find it fascinating that now all roads for terrorist activity seem to lead to the NW Tribal Areas of Pakistan. Personally I don’t believe this. But hey maybe so.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

May 12, 2010 @ 3:59 am

It is certainly true that FATA — and especially North Waziristan — has more than its share of dots. But Yemen, Sudan, and Somalia show another concentration. We can connect all of these dots in South Asia and the Horn to others, some of which coincide with the ring-roads of several European cities. What these — and still others — share is a characteristic of isolation. The dots tend to proliferate in regions and neighborhoods that are economically, politically, and culturally separated from the rest of the world. But given modern technology, this separation can be suddenly closed… with explosive results.

Comment by Peter J. Brown

May 12, 2010 @ 8:58 am

Luckily the dots don’t connect to Cairo —

Egypt detains NY passenger with guns in luggage
By Salah Nasrawi
Associated Press Writer / May 12, 2010

CAIRO—Police have detained an American-Egyptian man who arrived in Cairo on a flight from New York with several weapons in his luggage, airport officials said Wednesday

The officials said the man was taken into custody as he tried to pass through customs with a metal box containing two 9 mm handguns, 250 bullets, several swords, daggers and knives.

The box had been checked and the contents were discovered during a routine inspection upon arrival on an Egypt Air flight from New York’s JFK International Airport in Cairo, according to the officials. They said customs inspectors were then alerted and the man was detained.

He was only identified as a botany teacher.

A police official confirmed the man was questioned by agents of the powerful State Security Apparatus and the case had been turned over to prosecutors for further investigation.

All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to reporters.

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