Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 24, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on April 24, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

April 22, 2015

If we can build replicas of Iran’s nuclear plants, can’t we invest more in disaster preparedness?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on April 22, 2015

A recent New York Times article revealed that work analyzing potential Iranian nuclear futures has been spread across our existing nuclear lab enterprise:

The classified replica is but one part of an extensive crash program within the nation’s nine atomic laboratories — Oak Ridge, Los Alamos and Livermore among them — to block Iran’s nuclear progress. As the next round of talks begins on Wednesday in Vienna, the secretive effort remains a technological obsession for thousands of lab employees living the Manhattan Project in reverse. Instead of building a bomb, as their predecessors did in a race to end World War II, they are trying to stop one.

A senior official of the National Nuclear Security Administration, Kevin Veal, who has been along for every negotiating session, would send questions back to the laboratories, hoping to separate good ideas from bad. “It’s what our people love to do,” said Thom Mason, the director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. “It can be very rewarding.”

Given the stakes in the sensitive negotiations, the labs would check and recheck one another, making sure the answers held up. The natural rivalries among the labs sometimes worked to the negotiators’ advantage: Los Alamos National Laboratory, in the mountains of New Mexico, the birthplace of the bomb, was happy to find flaws in calculations done elsewhere, and vice versa.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love the fact that this is being done in support of our negotiations with Iran over it’s nuclear program.  And it is nothing short of fantastic that we have the infrastructure and scientific capability and capacity to undertake this kind of analysis-on-demand.

But why can’t it also exist for disaster preparedness?  I could make an argument that for the foreseeable future the risk of a devastating hurricane striking a major metropolitan area or an earthquake hitting the West Coast or New Madrid fault poses an even greater danger to the U.S. than a nuclear-armed Iran.

Did we make similar investments in our disaster preparedness following Hurricane Katrina?  Nope.  Sandy?  Nope.  Near misses in pandemic diseases, such as SARS or avian flu?  Not really.

I understand that our nuclear labs and related infrastructure have been built up over decades of Cold War with the Soviet Union.  That is an investment that is pretty much unparalleled in the history of our nation.  But I can’t help but be a little disappointed that after any number of close calls or slightly less than absolutely devastating disasters our willingness to invest in research and development aimed at preventing, responding to, mitigating against, and recovering from disasters has been so weak.

What will it take to change this dynamic?  Hopefully something far short of a combined earthquake, tsunami, nuclear event.

April 18, 2015

Categorical confusion: “The musical note and knife are sharp”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on April 18, 2015

Early Thursday morning S.T. More (a provocative name, seeming to subtly signal St. Thomas More) asked an authentic question.  S/he wondered about my take on self-radicalization.  You can see the original exchange here.

Real questions are wonderful things.  Generous, beautiful, sometimes magical.  Certainly this question has been very good to me.

It prompted additional thinking and reading, especially Gilbert Ryle’s The Concept of Mind and some Aristotle.

Aristotle gave us a comparatively brief text now known as Categories.  Here Aristotle works through how we can accurately compare and contrast, how we can express meaningful characteristics, how we can think more accurately.  Aristotle compares the sharpness of music with that of a knife as an example of confusing substance for quality.

I was drawn to Ryle because of his ground-breaking work on category-mistakes, going well beyond Aristotle.  It occurred to me that with McVeigh, Breivik, the Tsarnaev’s, and others — including several in positions of great authority — we can perceive a recurring pattern of category mistakes.  It is a tendency that constantly challenges me. Anyone who is attracted to analogies will be regularly tempted to false analogies, often false because of some form of category-mistake.

Here is the note Dzhokhar Tsarnaev scrawled on the interior wall of the boat while hiding from search teams.  Many of the unintelligible (UI) words are the result of bullets fired during his capture.

I’m jealous of my brother who ha[s] [re]ceived the reward of jannutul Firdaus (inshallah) before me. I do not mourn because his soul is very much alive. God has a plan for each person. Mine was to hide in this boat and shed some light on our actions. I ask Allah to make me a shahied (iA) to allow me to return to him and be among all the righteous people in the highest levels of heaven. He who Allah guides no one can misguide. A[llah Ak]bar!

The US Government is killing our innocent civilians but most of you already know that. As a [UI] I can’t stand to see such evil go unpunished, we Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all. Well at least that’s how muhhammad (pbuh) wanted it to be [for]ever, the ummah is beginning to rise/[UI] has awoken the mujahideen, know you are fighting men who look into the barrel of your gun and see heaven, now how can you compete with that. We are promised victory and we will surely get it. Now I don’t like killing innocent people it is forbidden in Islam but due to said [UI] it is allowed. All credit goes [UI]. Stop killing our innocent people and we will stop. 

Where to begin…

Since this is just a blog, let’s try a simple exegesis:

Killing innocent people is evil

YOU are killing (“our”) innocent people

YOU must be punished, I will do so to deter YOU from further killing of innocent people. I will continue to punish YOU until YOU stop.

Fair enough?  Coherent with the original text?

If so, in these expressions, what are the characteristics of YOU?

Certainly you is other than the writer. An anticipated reader? The police?  Others?  Others as in those who do not kill innocents?  Well, give him credit, Dzhokhar recognizes he no longer belongs in the category of those who do not kill innocents.  Others as in non-Muslims?  Perhaps.  But clearly he recognizes non-Muslims can be innocent.  The text seems to be flailing about for some other category or set of categories.

In which category does the writer belong, innocent or evil? Within the claims of  the text, apparently both.  In which category does “you” belong?  Again, apparently both.  These are not yet useful categories.

This can — probably should — be continued.  But not here.

Here I will merely contrast the confusing categories that challenged Mr. Tsarnaev with the clarity that informed decisions made at the Cologne Cathedral on Friday. The memorial service at the cathedral was for those who died in the March 24 plane crash.  The memorial service was offered as a way to support those who had survived.  All those fitting the category descriptions were included.

Categorical clarity is possible.  There are several tools available to help.  One of the first steps will often involve sweeping away the dark cloud of self-righteousness.

April 17, 2015

Cologne Cathedral Candles

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on April 17, 2015

cologne cathedral candles(Friedrich Stark/Pool Photo via AP)

Earlier today there was a memorial service at Cologne Cathedral for the victims of the Germanwings flight that was evidently purposefully crashed into a mountainside on March 24.

According to a Deutsche Welle report:

… inside the cathedral, 150 candles flickered on the altar in front of Cardinal Woelki and the leader of the Protestant Church of Westphalia, Annette Kurschus. Each light represented a life lost in the Germanwings crash. The presence of a candle for co-pilot Andreas Lubitz had been widely debated prior to the service… Outside, on the doorstep to Cologne Cathedral, mourners were full of empathy for Lubitz’ family, who had chosen to not attend the ceremony…

During the remembrance service, German President Joachim Gauck also asked the congregation to remember the co-pilot’s family.”On March 24 his relatives lost someone whom they loved and who leaves behind a hole in their lives – in a way that they find just as difficult to make sense of as all the other bereaved.”

The inclusion of the c0-pilot in this very public act of grief (and reconciliation?) strikes me as an interesting — and potentially powerful — choice.  A bit more on why, if I can find time for a related post sometime this weekend.

The BBC has a brief video of the Cologne Cathedral memorial service.

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on April 17, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

April 15, 2015

Oklahoma and Boston

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on April 15, 2015

The 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Federal Building seems to be approaching with little interest (outside of this blog, of course).

The second anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing seems to be have passed with little interest outside of New England.

What do they have in common? What differentiates the two events?

Chris did a superb job of expressing the assumed role of Muslims in the Oklahoma attack:

The betting here is on Middle East terrorists,” declared CBS News‘ Jim Stewart just hours after the blast (4/19/95).

What does that matter regarding Boston, since the attackers were Muslim?

Nothing, actually.

What concerns me most about the current discussion centered on terrorism is the central role that religion plays.  If the perpetrators of some violence are Muslim, terrorism is assumed.  If they are Christian, (or fill in the blank with some non-Muslim demonitation here)


The Boston Marathon Bombing – two years ago today

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on April 15, 2015

At 2:49pm today, the baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Washington Nationals was halted to commemorate the two year anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombing. That is at least how I was reminded of this somber moment in time.

There were other, even more poignant, events held today.  The Boston Globe has the details:

In two simple ceremonies, the families of Krystle Campbell, 29, who grew up in Medford; and Martin Richard, 8, of Dorchester, the youngest victim of the attack, joined Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh in pulling long swaths of yellow fabric from lightposts near where the bombs exploded.

At the center of each banner was a heart emblazoned with “Boston,” a road curving up to meet the letters.

And the Globe describes a “Service of Resiliency:”

Inside the Old South Church, which is across the street from the Marathon finish line, several dozen worshipers took part in an interfaith “Service of Resiliency” featuring prayer and song before the moment of silence.

Rev. Dr. Nancy Taylor, senior minister of Old South Church, told those assembled that, over the past two years, Bostonians have been in “a kind of intimate dance, a slow dance, but one in which he have held on to each other and refused to let each other go.”

Her message to the congregation: “Keep dancing. Because for two years now, we have been written on each other’s dance cards, and there’s no way of getting out of it. We are each other’s destiny.”

Perhaps it is worth noting that the living perpetrator, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was convicted on all 30 charges he faced, 17 of which carry the potential for the death penalty.

Perhaps for the readership of this blog, it is even a better time to consider the preparedness and response to this event. In terms of response, last week the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency released their After Action Report on the response to the bombings. I hope to post more on this report on a later date.  But today’s anniversary might be a good time to take a look.

Perhaps the best memorial to those lives lost, shattered, and forever changed is to use this attack to learn how to better prevent, mitigate, prepare, respond, and recover.

Perhaps the best memorial is to continue to work on becoming more resilient.

Update: Video from today’s baseball game:

Former DHS Assistant Secretary Juliette Kayyem’s “Security Mom” podcasts

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on April 15, 2015

Juliette Kayyem, formerly Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs at DHS and before that Homeland Security Advisor to Governor Deval Patrick in Massachusetts, has started recording podcasts where she interviews various homeland security-related people on various homeland security-related topics.

Produced by public radio station WGBH in Boston, the podcasts are titled “Security Mom,” which is also the title of her upcoming book.  The first episode is a conversation with former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis about the Marathon bombings.  The next episode with feature former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff sharing his true feelings about the old color coded threat level indicator.

You can listen to the first episode here: http://wgbhnews.org/post/inside-command-and-control-during-boston-marathon-bombings

And you can subscribe to the podcasts at the iTunes store here: https://itunes.apple.com/tt/podcast/security-mom/id983421368?mt=2

Update: Boston Magazine points out a couple of interesting points from Kayyem’s conversation with Davis.  These include relations between the FBI and local police, the shelter-in-place order, and the barrage of gunfire directed toward the boat where Tsarnaev was hiding. You can read it here.

April 10, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on April 10, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

April 9, 2015

Signals: soft, hard, misleading and inspired

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on April 9, 2015

A very rough algorithm bounces about my brain.

It asserts: [Kenya + Aden = Lower Manhattan]

This is the reductionist meaning I have constructed of the sequence:

US Embassy in Kenya (and Tanzania) attacked on August 7, 1998.


USS Cole attacked in the Port of Aden on October 12, 2000.


World Trade Center towers attacked in Lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001

The algorithm — narrative, analogy, mental map, whatever — is obviously deeply flawed, demonstrably unreliable.  Among many more problems the equation excludes too many variables and over-simplifies relationships.

But the perceived pattern persists.

So as dozens are killed in Kenya and the streets of Aden are splattered with blood, I expect something awful closer to home.

I am self-aware the expectation is ill-founded, but the felt-reality of the [K+A=LM] is predisposed to finding confirming evidence.

Given current context reinforcement is not difficult.  Since jury selection began on January 5 for the Boston Bombing Trial, we have been reminded almost daily of how much harm can so easily be done.  There is plenty more:

Two New York women were arrested for allegedly planning to build an explosive device, a federal law enforcement source said Thursday. The women, identified as Noelle Velentzas, 28, and Asia Siddiqui, 31,were arrested in connection with a plot inspired by the terrorist group ISIS and others to build a weapon of mass destruction, according to the source and a criminal complaint. They are both U.S. citizens and were roommates in the borough of Queens. The women were allegedly conspiring to build an explosive device for a terrorist attack in the United States. (MORE)

A 17-year-old Virginia student has been charged with helping recruit for ISIS, federal law enforcement officials said Wednesday… The teen, who lives in a Virginia suburb of Washington, is accused of helping a slightly older adult travel to Syria. The adult is believed to have joined ISIS there, a separate law enforcement official said. The teen is also accused of distributing ISIS messages to a network of contacts, one of the officials said. (MORE)

Social media and other technology are making it increasingly difficult to combat militants who are using such modern resources to share information and conduct operations, the head of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency said on Friday…”New technologies can help groups like ISIL coordinate operations, attract new recruits, disseminate propaganda, and inspire sympathizers across the globe to act in their name,” Brennan said…”The overall threat of terrorism is greatly amplified by today’s interconnected world, where an incident in one corner of the globe can instantly spark a reaction thousands of miles away; and where a lone extremist can go online and learn how to carry out an attack without ever leaving home.” (MORE)

The conflation of the probably random with the arguably correlated — even if I assiduously avoid causation — is not restricted to terrorism.

For several years I have encouraged more sustained preparedness for a long-term outage of the electrical grid.  Tuesday afternoon there was a short-term fluctuation — in some places, brief outage — of the electrical grid in the National Capital Region.  I received over a dozen emails from folks writing some version of: “Just as you predicted.”  Well, not really… but it did catch my attention and I was not displeased by connections others were making. (MORE)

Then did you notice the recent report out of El Salvador?

Last month 481 people were murdered in El Salvador making March the country’s most deadly month for a decade as authorities struggle to cope with the collapse of a controversial gang truce. An average of 16 people were killed every day in the country, which is the size of Massachusetts and has a population of 6.1 million, confirming El Salvador’s place as one of the world’s most dangerous places outside a war zone. The death toll was 52% higher than the same period in the previous year, and included the victims of six massacres, including eight people who were killed on 29 March at a truck stop just outside the capital San Salvador in a suspected dispute between transnational drug trafficking groups. (MORE)

Here I will hypothesize causation.  This extraordinary level of violence will push migration.  Especially if the violence persists this month, an increasing number of Salvadorans will seek someplace safer.  By late spring/early summer we will be able to test my expectations against numbers observed by CBP and their Mexican peers.

But even if the number of Salvadoran emigrants increases, does this absolutely confirm the relationship I am suggesting? Probably not.  Some will argue that Tuesday’s electrical problems actually demonstrate the resilience of the current system. This is true, if you stop unwinding the scenario fairly early on. My mind clearly tends to over-generalize unlikely connections between Kenya, Aden, and me.  May this, however, help to see whatever connections do exist?

Tuesday Dan O’Connor quoted Coleridge.  Not many can craft romantic poetry on Kantian themes.  Coleridge did quite successfully.  Kant gave Coleridge his architecture.  Coleridge gave Emerson courage.  Emerson gave many of us some considerable part of our sense-of-self.  Talk about unlikely connections. Approaching death the poet spoke of diverse realities resolved. “I say realities; for reality is a thing of degrees, from the Iliad to a dream.”  Where are you — where are we — on that continuum?

April 6, 2015

Another Opening Day has come and gone: the homeland is secure

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Humor — by Arnold Bogis on April 6, 2015

Homeland security is a lot like baseball: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.



And don’t forget about similarities in regards to the response to natural disasters.


April 3, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on April 3, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

April 2, 2015

“Du kannst übernehmen”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on April 2, 2015

According to what is claimed to be the cockpit voice recording, the pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 told his co-pilot, “Du kannst übernehmen” (You can take over) as he left for the toilet.

Based on what we have been told so far, it’s easy to speculate about a still young man who felt increasingly out-of-control choosing to exercise deadly control where and when he could.  Perceived and prospective failure prompts a volatile combination of denial and over-compensation.

Compensation is a classic defense mechanism, one of eleven first identified by Sigmund Freud and his daughter. For the Freuds — Anna added considerably to her father’s original work — a defense mechanism is a psychological device for resolving conflict between the Id and Super-Ego: between instinctual or self-absorbed desire and more other-involved reason and restraint.

Freud describes the id:

It is the dark, inaccessible part of our personality, what little we know of it we have learned from our study of the Dreamwork and of the construction of neurotic symptoms, and most of that is of a negative character and can be described only as a contrast to the ego. We approach the id with analogies: we call it a chaos, a cauldron full of seething excitations… It is filled with energy reaching it from the instincts, but it has no organization, produces no collective will, but only a striving to bring about the satisfaction of the instinctual needs subject to the observance of the pleasure principle. (New Introductory Lectures)

Super-ego is a translation of Freud’s Über-Ich (over-I, beyond-me, transcendent-self).  It is the creation of family and society, an accretion of human experience translated into habit, moral principles, and ethical systems.  There are evolutionary foundations for our cognitive dispositions in this regard, but the specifics are taught and learned and practiced (or not).

There have always been sociopaths who indulge the id.  There have often been self-organizing groups that reject or warp received social norms. Violence is a recurring expression of their pathology.

In  1915 the world’s population was about 1.8 billion.  Today’s population is roughly 7.2 billion. Might sociopaths now be three-times more likely?

In 1915 the global population was predominantly rural, even the United States was (just barely) still a majority rural nation.  Since 1950 the global balance has fallen from 70 percent rural to under half.  Since 2008 — for the first time in human history — a majority live in cities.  Given current trends, 70 percent of the world population is expected to be urban by 2050.

Urban life tends to empower easier individuality.  In most cultures, urbanization challenges the institutions that transfer — and enforce — super-egoistic content.  Does urbanization multiply various forms of id-iocy?

Even if urban areas can be as effective as traditional rural societies in suppressing the id, the concentration of population in dense urban environments creates fatter targets, modern communications and transportation facilitates easier targeting, and contemporary tools of violence are more virulent than those of any prior age. Modern media casts its magnifying lens. So just a few id-dominant personalities can have amplified effect.

The dialectic of what the Freuds label id and super-ego arose in the earliest human communities.  For most of human history repression of the id has been a principal purpose and task of culture. Behavioral variation — good or bad — has encountered social skepticism and, often, negative sanction.  This persists.  But especially among third and fourth generation inhabitants of burgeoning cities, traditional ties are fraying and failing.

As an eccentric individual, I am glad to live in a time and place where I encounter less push-back than my trouble-making ancestors.  But I sometimes wonder if the shift from a social to individual center-of-gravity has become unsustainable.  In some cases I worry that culture has forsaken its role in building solidarity, becoming instead a self-subverting seedbed of variability.

Most of us are, at best, co-pilots. With sustained effort we claim a semblance of secondary or collaborative control over some well-defined corner of our reality.  All the rest is flux.  What do we make of the flux?  Is it frightening?  Or are we fulfilled in racing its rapids?  Are we lonely paddle boarders or part of a large team of rafters?

Have we been taught — more importantly, have we learned — the values of self-restraint and other-regard?

German is too complicated for me.  But I am told the prefix or preposition über – as in über-ich and übernehmen – is not necessarily about control.  Depending on the word to which it is attached we might hear transcendence or overcoming or elevation. On the Germanwings plane the co-pilot evidently chose to demonstrate his mastery over the machine.  He also demonstrated an absence-of-mastery over himself.

Treating symptoms is helpful, especially if there is no cure for the underlying disease. Perhaps homeland security must be satisfied with noble work analogous to hospice care. We mitigate pain as we await the inevitable.

But if we hope to advance a cure,  this will arise less from our reflex to übernehmen and emerge much more from our cultivation of über-ich.

March 31, 2015

Germanwings as mediated terrorism

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Christopher Bellavita on March 31, 2015

I listened – if that’s the right word – to a social media conversation last week about the Germanwings Flight 9525 crash.

The discussants were four colleagues who have been around homeland security for over a decade. The discussion took place at various times on March 26th and 27th, as news and speculations about what happened and why trickled through the Internet.

Here’s some of that discursive conversation, lightly edited


Person A. So, the French procureur just said that crashing a plane to the ground and killing more than 100+ innocent people is not an act of terrorism….thoughts? ( I know, I know… I am opening the can of worms of “define terrorism” but this seems to be a good reason to open it.)

Person B. This is easy! If he’s Muslim it’s terrorism. If he’s Christian it’s mental illness.

Person C. Can an act be deemed terrorism if the affected population isn’t terrorized? Any reports of Europeans en masse opting not to fly for fear on inadequate pilot screening procedures?

B. The first 19 Aum Shinrikyo attacks failed to terrorize the population too.

C. Yet, that incident is widely referred to as an act of terrorism…at least by the host government officials.

A. This just happened: ggreenwald It’s the definition. RT @AliAbunimah BBC just said Germanwings pilots “was German. Not a known terrorist.” They really do go by ethnicity.

A. Parents are still sending kids to school after sandy hook…..  But it is scary as hell!

C. Two things strike me as odd about this latest plane crash. 1) if the lone pilot was pursuing a murder-suicide plot, why fly the plane on into a mountain? Major urban areas were nearby and he had a near full load of fuel to get him to these areas. 2) why hasn’t AQ or ISIS claimed credit for the incident. Even if they had nothing to do with the pilot it could cause short-term terror in some.

A. I guess the question that troubles me here is, why do we need a big political motif as motivation? The imbecile in Santa Barbara killed 6 people because he could not get a date. That does not make his bullets less real. 100+ people are dead in an aviation suicide attack. Why are their deaths less “terrorist related” than those of the victims of 9/11?

B. Because the political motivation impacts the funding steam.  Did you know that the Santa Barbara shooter shot one of our colleague’s daughters through the hoody? He also shot her boyfriend.

A. Did both survive? (say yes).

B. Yes

B. Are you saying violence = terrorism?

A. Violence with an audience to send a message (even if the message is trivial) = terrorism.

B. Those impacted are just as traumatized.

A. Ritualized killings to provoke a reaction in an audience = terrorism. It does not have to be about Palestine. It may be about getting laid, or telling the department of veteran affairs “fuck you” or, whatever sick excuse.

C. What is the motivation of the perpetrator? Killers of people to scare other people that others are pursuing a like agenda = terrorism. Kill lots of people because you are having a difficult time adjusting to societal norms = mass murder.

B. But you aren’t saying it’s an excuse. You are saying it is the motivation. Some violence is good right? When we do the violence to send a message. Right?

A. It is its public nature.

B. When the state says fuck you and uses violence that is legit.

A. Carpet bombing Dresden or the Blitz killed a lot of people, but it was not a ritualized act.

B. My ass it wasn’t.

A. Instead, it had a strategic objective.

C. Violence may not be good but it is necessary.

B. It may have been less personal but it sent the message intended

A. (it was also a ritualized act) but not only. The objective was to limit the military capacities of the other to kick my butt.

B. And Hiroshima and Nagasaki did exactly what it was to do re: Russia? Really?

A. I had written something about Big Boy, and I deleted it, because the bomb was a ritualized act!

B. That may have been an additional benefit but our violence is often intended to send a message, take for instance the conventional fire bombings in Japan. Or Doolittle’s raid.

A. So, if I am pissed off with the IRS (I am not) and go and kill 40 accountants, in an IRS building, that is not terrorism?

B. Yep I’d say it definitely is terrorism.

A. So, if I am pissed off with girls because I cannot get a date, and I go and kill 10 girls is that terorism?

B. Refer to my initial statement about Muslim v Christian: If he’s Muslim it’s terrorism. If he’s Christian it’s mental illness.

C. Why is it terrorism?

A. That is my question, why is it not? Students in Santa Barbara are scared to go back to college.

A. And clearly there was an audience, and he even has a crappy manifesto.

C. Finals exams are due to start soon.

B. This is nature’s terrorism…now I’m afraid of the sky
nature's terrorism

A. Suicide: I jump from the golden gate. Got it. Terrorism: I kill 3000 to send a political message .

C. Was he trying to change the policies of the country or simply exacting revenge for a perceived wrong?

A.Who says that terrorism is about changing policies? That is, I think, the core of the divergence. Not all political acts are about changing policies.

C. Agreed.

B. Political or social change influence …

A. Fear.

B. Not necessarily policies.

A. To produce fear among those I despise.

B. Or just a broader audience beyond those directly impacted by the violence.

C. Correct. Just as not all mass killings are terrorism.

A. Fear, audience, death. I can agree with those.

B. But I believe there is state terror too. Not just sponsorship terror

C. So there must be death for it to be deemed an act of terrorism?

B. David Claridge made a great argument for this (even though I’m not a fan, he was right about this).

C. What about maiming or the threat of death?

B. No, threat is ok too.

A. Pain and suffering work too. Torture.

A. Ok. if we cannot agree on a definition, I’ll take the “keywords” we did agree on as a common denominator.


C. Okay, let me get this straight. We are fighting alongside Iran in Iraq, fighting against Iran (proxy) in Yemen, and negotiating with them regarding acceptable nuclear capabilities?

A. I don’t know anymore against who we are fighting in the middle east. :)

C. Everyone is the correct answer

A. I think this answers your question about who are we fighting in the middle east :) http://thedailyshow.cc.com/videos/1xg427/wait–whose-side-are-we-on-again-?xrs=synd_facebook_032715_tds_2

[The link connects to a Daily Show episode whose conclusion is the US has finally found a way to fight a proxy war against itself.  But back to the other topic.] 

Person D. [joining the conversation] Terrorism = violence or the threat of violence that is perceived as undermining state sovereignty or the ability of the economy and/or society to function. I.e., Germanwings was not terrorism but rather an act of mass murder and a terrible tragedy.

A. Another definition throws its hat to the ring! :) Only a credible challenge to the state sovereignty?

D. Why can’t these guys who want to off themselves just do it without murdering innocents in the process?

A. Given the fact that my mother in law is terrorized to fly right now, I will still call Germanwings a case of terror.

D. It doesn’t have to actually be credible, just perceived as such. Terrorism produces exaggerated fear.

A. So, is Aurora or Sandy Hook not terror?

D. Not perceived as a threat to sovereignty, society, and the economy. Now a wave of mass shootings at movie theaters or schools could then be perceived as such. But it would also need to be seen as non-random.

A. I see in our future a post where [everyone who works here] answers the question: what is terrorism? I know we will get as many answers as we have [people who think about this], and that will add to the concert of others who have also answered the question. Still…..

D. Ok by me as long as you all agree in the end that I am right!

A. We are not aiming for consensus, but to look for the edges of the debate. That said, once we have X definitions, we may want to see if they can be “merged” in a lower common denominator, ala wikipedia, or if they can’t, to see where the deal breakers are. Could be a nice exercise. And it does not need to be permanent. We could update every time our thoughts on the topic evolve. I know that what I think terror and terrorism is today is different to what I used to think about the topic a few years ago.

A. I’m also having a similar conversation with [other people on a different social network platform]. We came to a conclusion…. :) instead of ruling out terrorism, as this seems to be a point of debate, we could agree (if that is the case): “at this point, the attack does not seem to have a political or religious motif.”

C. Agreed. All signs point to the co-pilot having diagnosed emotional issues. So how many other post 9/11 security fixes can or could lead to unintended consequences? http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/andreas-lubitz-kneejerk-reaction-to-911-enabled-mass-murder-10137173.html

[This link leads to a story that starts with: "A leading aviation security expert has condemned the rules on cockpit access as a “knee-jerk reaction to the events of 9/11” – which, he says, enabled the Germanwings co-pilot to commit the mass murder of the 149 other people on Flight 4U 9525.]

A. It is terrorism, right? :-) http://speisa.com/modules/articles/index.php/item.1086/the-co-pilot-of-the-germanwings-airbus-was-a-convert-to-islam.html

You can’t make this stuff up.

[This link -- from one of the wondrous universes that inhabit the Internet - says (in an English translation of German), "All evidence indicates that the copilot of Airbus machine in his six-months break during his training as a pilot in Germanwings, converted to Islam and subsequently either by the order of "radical", ie. devout Muslims , or received the order from the book of terror, the Quran, on his own accord decided to carry out this mass murder. As a radical mosque in Bremen is in the center of the investigation, in which the convert was staying often, it can be assumed that he - as Mohammed Atta, in the attack against New York - received his instructions directly from the immediate vicinity of the mosque."]

C. He was converted posthumously.

A. So, is it terrorism now? http://www.liberation.fr/monde/2015/03/27/crash-a320-le-copilote-voulait-que-tout-le-monde-connaisse-son-nom_1230090
“One day everybody will know my name, I am going to change the system and everybody will remember me?” the pilot said to his girlfriend.
Is he trying to build a caliphate? No. But as we discussed before, killing 150 is hardly a suicide. He knew he was broadcasting to an audience, and he wants to make his mark in history books.
This is a powerful motivator…. A huge one actually among hackers, for example. A 17 year old who can hack a nuclear reactor will do it to prove he can….and kill somebody in the process.

March 27, 2015

Friday Free Forum

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on March 27, 2015

William R. Cumming Forum

March 26, 2015

Dispensing with reason

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on March 26, 2015

Critique of Reason Poster

This week our recent discussion of reason (and its relevance, or not, to homeland security) is on hiatus.  We will see what next week may bring.  In the meantime, if you are traveling to New Haven or want to visit online, you may find this current exhibit of interest.

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