Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 18, 2014

Johnson testimony: Worldwide threats to the homeland

Yesterday — Constitution Day BTW — the Secretary of Homeland Security testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security.  He was joined in giving testimony by FBI Director James Comey and director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Matt Olson. (Video and transcripts here)

Below is most of Secretary Johnson’s opening statement.  I hear a domestically-focused harmonic to the main counterterrorism melody performed by the President at MacDill (see prior post, immediately above).

Counterterrorism is the cornerstone of the DHS mission. And thirteen years after 9/11, it’s still a dangerous world. There’s still a terrorist threat to our homeland.

Today the terrorist threat is different from what it was in 2001. It is more decentralized and more complex. Not only is there core al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, there is al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula – which is still active in its efforts to attack the homeland – al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, al Shabaab in Somalia, the al Nusrah Front in Syria, and the newest affiliate, al Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent. There are groups like Boko Haram in Nigeria, which are not official affiliates of al Qaeda, but share its extremist ideology.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, previously known as al Qaeda in Iraq, is now vying to be the preeminent terrorist organization on the world’s stage. At present, we have no credible information that ISIL is planning to attack the homeland of the United States.

But that is not, by any means, the end of the story.

ISIL is an extremely dangerous organization. It has the elements of both a terrorist organization and an insurgent army. It kills innocent civilians, and has seized large amounts of territory in Iraq and Syria, which it can utilize for safe haven, training, command and control, and from which it can launch attacks. It engages in 30-40 attacks per month, has more than 20,000 fighters, and takes in as much as a million dollars a day from illicit oil sales, ransom payments, and other illicit activities. Its public messaging and social media are as slick and as effective as any I’ve ever seen from a terrorist organization.

Though we know of no credible information that ISIL is planning to attack the homeland at present, we know that ISIL is prepared to kill innocent Americans they encounter because they are Americans – in a public and depraved manner. We know ISIL views the United States as an enemy, and we know that ISIL’s leaders have themselves said they will soon be in “direct confrontation” with the United States…

From the homeland security perspective, here is what we are doing:

First, to address the threats generally emanating from terrorist groups overseas, we have in recent weeks enhanced aviation security. Much of the terrorist threat continues to center around aviation security. In early July, I directed enhanced screening at 18 overseas airports with direct flights to the U.S. Several weeks later, we added six more airports to the list. Three weeks ago we added another airport, and additional screening of carry-on luggage. The United Kingdom and other countries have followed with similar enhancements to their aviation security. We continually evaluate whether more is necessary, without unnecessarily burdening the traveling public.

Longer term, as this committee has heard me say before, we are pursuing “pre-clearance” at overseas airports with flights to the U.S. This means inspection by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer and enhanced aviation security before a passenger gets on the plane to the U.S. We now have pre-clearance at airports in Ireland, the UAE, Canada and the Caribbean. I regard it as a homeland security imperative to build more. To use a football metaphor, I’d much rather defend our end-zone from the 50-yard line than our 1-yard line. I want to take every opportunity we have to expand homeland security beyond our borders.

Second, the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, NCTC and other intelligence agencies are making enhanced and concerted efforts to track Syrian foreign fighters who come from or seek to enter this country. The reality is that more than 15,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Syria over the last three years, including approximately two thousand Westerners. We estimate that more than 100 Americans have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria to join the fight there one way or another. We are concerned that not only may these foreign fighters join ISIL or other violent extremist groups in Syria, they may also be recruited by these violent extremist groups to leave Syria and conduct external attacks. The FBI has arrested a number of individuals who have tried to travel from the U.S. to Syria to support terrorist activities there.

Third, we are working with European and other governments to build better information sharing to track Syrian foreign fighters. Whenever I get together with my European counterparts, this topic is almost always item number one on the agenda. The importance of this issue is also reflected by the fact it will be a singular topic of discussion at a U.N. Security Council summit that the President will chair in two weeks. In the history of the U.N., this is only the second time a U.S. President has personally chaired a Security Council summit.

We are increasing efforts to track those who enter and leave Syria, and may later seek to travel to the United States from a country for which the United States does not require a visa from its citizens. There are in fact a number of Visa Waiver Program countries that also have large numbers of citizens who are Syrian foreign fighters. Generally, we have strong information-sharing relationships with these countries. But, with their help, we will enhance this capability. We need to ensure that we are doing all we can to identify those who, by their travel patterns, attempt to hide their association with terrorist groups.

We are encouraging more countries to join the United States in using tools like Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record collection, which will help to identify terrorist travel patterns.

Fourth, within the U.S. government, DHS and our interagency partners in law enforcement and the intelligence community, are enhancing our ability to share information with each other about suspicious individuals.

Fifth, we are continually on guard against the potential domestic-based, home-grown terrorist who may be lurking in our own society: the independent actor or “lone wolf” who did not train at a terrorist camp or join the ranks of a terrorist organization overseas, but who is inspired here at home by a group’s social media, literature or violent extremist ideology. In many respects, this is the hardest terrorist threat to detect, and the one I worry most about.

To address the domestic “lone wolf” threat, I have directed that DHS build on our partnerships with state and local law enforcement in a way that enhances community relationships. The local police and fire departments are the first responders to any crisis in our homeland. The local police, more than the federal government, have their finger on the pulse of the local community from which a domestic terrorist may come.

To address the home-grown terrorist who may be lurking in our midst, we must also emphasize the need for help from the public. “If You See Something, Say Something” is more than a slogan. For example, last week we sent a private sector advisory identifying for retail businesses a long list of materials that could be used as explosive precursors, and the types of suspicious behavior that a retailer should look for from someone who buys a lot of these materials.

Within DHS, we have outreach programs with communities who themselves are engaging youth in violence prevention. I have directed that we step up these programs and I personally participate in them. In June I met with a Syrian-American community group in a Chicago suburb. Next week I will meet with a Somali community in Columbus, Ohio. In October, the White House will host a summit on domestic efforts to prevent violent extremism, and address the full lifecycle of radicalization to violence posed by foreign fighter threats. The efforts highlighted at this summit are meant to increase the participation of faith-based organizations, mental health providers, social service providers, and youth-affiliated groups in local efforts to counter violent extremism.

Over the last 13 years, we have vastly improved this Nation’s ability to detect and disrupt terrorist plots overseas before they reach the homeland. Here at home, federal law enforcement does an excellent job, time and again, of identifying, investigating, arresting and prosecuting scores of individuals before they commit terrorist acts. But we continue to face real terrorist enemies and real terrorist threats and we must all remain vigilant.

Community-based, regionally — even globally — engaged, collaborative efforts to prevent, protect, prepare, mitigate, and respond.  Recovery and resilience are implied, but — as usual —  given a bit less attention.

December 18, 2013

The Boston Globe on the “Fall of the House of Tsarnaev”

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on December 18, 2013

A few Boston Globe reporters have collaborated on a lengthy and perhaps unique look into the background of the alleged  Boston Marathon bombers and their immediate family. The piece, “The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev,” suggests that the older brother, Tamerlan, exhibited signs of schizophrenia and that the younger, Dzhokhar (Jahar), had a history of manipulation and brash risk raking.  In addition:

The Globe’s five-month investigation, with reporting in Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Canada, and the United States, also:

  • Fundamentally recasts the conventional public understanding of the brothers, showing them to be much more nearly coequals in failure, in growing desperation, and in conspiracy.
  • Establishes that the brothers were heirs to a pattern of violence and dysfunction running back several generations. Their father, Anzor, scarred by brutal assaults in Russia and later in Boston, often awoke screaming and tearful at night. Both parents sought psychiatric care shortly after arriving in the United States but apparently sought no help for Tamerlan even as his mental condition grew more obvious and worrisome.
  • Casts doubt on the claim by Russian security officials that Tamerlan made contact with or was recruited by Islamist radicals during his visit to his family homeland.
  • Raises questions about the Tsarnaevs’ claim that they came to this country as victims of persecution seeking asylum. More likely, they were on the run from elements of the Russian underworld whom Anzor had fallen afoul of. Or they were simply fleeing economic hardship.

What seems unique about this article is the depth of investigation into the background and family history of alleged terrorists that have carried out an attack inside the United States.  Following 9/11 there was a considerable degree of discussion around the social conditions in which terrorists emerge, or what might cause young men and women to enlist in the jihadist cause.  ”Draining the swamp” was a popular, if unclear, concept that seemed to offer a menu of options to address what were referred to as “root causes” of terrorism.

Then the Iraq war happened and our incursion into Afghanistan turned out not to be a swift and clear victory.  COIN or counter-insurgency became the new buzzword, soon followed by a concentration on special forces raids and drone strikes.  Understanding the conditions that possibly drive some to terrorist acts drifted to the background.

In my opinion, this article helps bring some of those concepts back into the counter terrorism discussion.  It should not be read as an argument to absolve these brothers of their (alleged) acts, or an attempt to provide support for leniency in Dzhokhar’s upcoming trial due to the facts of a difficult upbringing.  Instead, I hope that it may provide at least a kernel of information that others can learn from to possibly prevent future radicalization.

Again, the article is long but worth your time and can be found at:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/Page/Boston/2011-2020/WebGraphics/Metro/BostonGlobe.com/2013/12/15tsarnaev/tsarnaev.html

July 25, 2013

A missing link in strategy?

Earlier this week I was re-reading the DHS Strategic Plan (2012-2016).  I perceived something — actually its absence —  I had not noticed before.

Community involvement is, of course, a recurring mantra in the Strategic Plan and many other DHS policy, strategy, and operational documents. “Whole Community” is prominent in Mission 5: Ensuring Resilience to Disaster.  Other missions include similar language.  For example Mission 1: Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security has a goal to “Increase community participation in efforts to deter terrorists and other malicious actors and mitigate radicalization toward violence.”

A close reading of the Strategic Plan suggests the whole is made up of the following parts:

Individual
Family
Household
Neighborhood
Community
Private and Non-Profit Sectors
Faith Based organizations
Localities
States
Tribes
Federal Partners
Nation
All Segments of Society

Especially with those catch-all terms it’s not that my “absence” is excluded.  But it is not given explicit attention.  Certainly not priority.

What prominent place in the life of most Americans is not referenced?

The workplace.

Indirectly this is part of the private sector or non-profit-sector or local and state government or whatever other sector in which you work. But these “sectors” are abstractions. The workplace is a concrete — often literally glass, steel, and concrete — place. Yet the only time “workplace” is referenced in the Strategic Plan is with workplace standards for protecting intellectual property and “workplace wellness” programs for DHS employees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Americans age 25-to-54 spend an average of 8.8 hours per day at work. This is a larger block than any other activity, much larger than any other non-sleeping activity surveyed.

Yet the places where we work are not regularly conceived or engaged as venues where homeland security priorities can be pursued.

There are exceptions. I am aware of a few.  I welcome you highlighting successful exceptions in the comments.

The absence of the workplace from the DHS Strategy reveals a strategic perspective.  It is another example of the disconnect between private and public domains.  Clearly government is a place where homeland security is to be practiced.  There is considerable effort to engage neighborhoods and sometimes schools. These are real places too, but much more public than private in their character.

Is a “community” — whole or not — a real place?  It depends, in my experience, on the community and how an outsider approaches the putative community.

There are offices, distribution centers, power plants, factories and refineries, restaurants, hotels, retail stores and many more real places where each day the vast majority of Americans spend the majority of their waking hours.  Most of these places feature a task-oriented culture with management processes already in place.  Most of these places are self-interested in a reasonable level of safety, continuity, and resilience.

In my personal experience most of these places are wonderful contexts for the practical practice of homeland security.

There is a tendency for modern strategic thinking to be more comfortable with space than place.  See battlespace and cyberspace, even Space Command.  I am often an advocate for differentiating between Theater Command and Incident Command and perceive we give too little attention to the Big Picture.  But it is not, of course, one or the other: it is a continuum.

Real risks, threats, vulnerabilities and consequences usually unfold in real places where people come and go everyday.

Interesting what you can miss even when it’s right in front of you.  I’ve read that strategy a half-dozen times.  Wonder what else is hiding in plain sight?

May 24, 2013

Terrorism and the greater threat of perpetual war

Filed under: Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on May 24, 2013

Below is an extended excerpt from the prepared remarks for a speech the President gave Thursday afternoon.  I have removed a historical preface and about the last fifth which addressed the situation with Gitmo and offered an eloquent closing.  The bold highlights are what on first reading struck me as especially interesting.  You can read the entire prepared remarks at the White House website.

–+–

With a decade of experience to draw from, now is the time to ask ourselves hard questions – about the nature of today’s threats, and how we should confront them.

These questions matter to every American. For over the last decade, our nation has spent well over a trillion dollars on war, exploding our deficits and constraining our ability to nation build here at home. Our service-members and their families have sacrificed far more on our behalf. Nearly 7,000 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice. Many more have left a part of themselves on the battlefield, or brought the shadows of battle back home. From our use of drones to the detention of terrorist suspects, the decisions we are making will define the type of nation – and world – that we leave to our children.

So America is at a crossroads. We must define the nature and scope of this struggle, or else it will define us, mindful of James Madison’s warning that “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” Neither I, nor any President, can promise the total defeat of terror. We will never erase the evil that lies in the hearts of some human beings, nor stamp out every danger to our open society. What we can do – what we must do – is dismantle networks that pose a direct danger, and make it less likely for new groups to gain a foothold, all while maintaining the freedoms and ideals that we defend. To define that strategy, we must make decisions based not on fear, but hard-earned wisdom. And that begins with understanding the threat we face.

Today, the core of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on a path to defeat. Their remaining operatives spend more time thinking about their own safety than plotting against us. They did not direct the attacks in Benghazi or Boston. They have not carried out a successful attack on our homeland since 9/11. Instead, what we’ve seen is the emergence of various al Qaeda affiliates. From Yemen to Iraq, from Somalia to North Africa, the threat today is more diffuse, with Al Qaeda’s affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula – AQAP –the most active in plotting against our homeland. While none of AQAP’s efforts approach the scale of 9/11 they have continued to plot acts of terror, like the attempt to blow up an airplane on Christmas Day in 2009.

Unrest in the Arab World has also allowed extremists to gain a foothold in countries like Libya and Syria. Here, too, there are differences from 9/11. In some cases, we confront state-sponsored networks like Hizbollah that engage in acts of terror to achieve political goals. Others are simply collections of local militias or extremists interested in seizing territory. While we are vigilant for signs that these groups may pose a transnational threat, most are focused on operating in the countries and regions where they are based. That means we will face more localized threats like those we saw in Benghazi, or at the BP oil facility in Algeria, in which local operatives – in loose affiliation with regional networks – launch periodic attacks against Western diplomats, companies, and other soft targets, or resort to kidnapping and other criminal enterprises to fund their operations.

Finally, we face a real threat from radicalized individuals here in the United States. Whether it’s a shooter at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin; a plane flying into a building in Texas; or the extremists who killed 168 people at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City – America has confronted many forms of violent extremism in our time. Deranged or alienated individuals – often U.S. citizens or legal residents – can do enormous damage, particularly when inspired by larger notions of violent jihad. That pull towards extremism appears to have led to the shooting at Fort Hood, and the bombing of the Boston Marathon.

Lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates. Threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad. Homegrown extremists. This is the future of terrorism. We must take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11. In the 1980s, we lost Americans to terrorism at our Embassy in Beirut; at our Marine Barracks in Lebanon; on a cruise ship at sea; at a disco in Berlin; and on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. In the 1990s, we lost Americans to terrorism at the World Trade Center; at our military facilities in Saudi Arabia; and at our Embassy in Kenya. These attacks were all deadly, and we learned that left unchecked, these threats can grow. But if dealt with smartly and proportionally, these threats need not rise to the level that we saw on the eve of 9/11.

Moreover, we must recognize that these threats don’t arise in a vacuum. Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a common ideology – a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West, and that violence against Western targets, including civilians, is justified in pursuit of a larger cause. Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam; and this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, who are the most frequent victims of terrorist acts.

Nevertheless, this ideology persists, and in an age in which ideas and images can travel the globe in an instant, our response to terrorism cannot depend on military or law enforcement alone. We need all elements of national power to win a battle of wills and ideas. So let me discuss the components of such a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy.

First, we must finish the work of defeating al Qaeda and its associated forces.

In Afghanistan, we will complete our transition to Afghan responsibility for security. Our troops will come home. Our combat mission will come to an end. And we will work with the Afghan government to train security forces, and sustain a counter-terrorism force which ensures that al Qaeda can never again establish a safe-haven to launch attacks against us or our allies.

Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America. In many cases, this will involve partnerships with other countries. Thousands of Pakistani soldiers have lost their lives fighting extremists. In Yemen, we are supporting security forces that have reclaimed territory from AQAP. In Somalia, we helped a coalition of African nations push al Shabaab out of its strongholds. In Mali, we are providing military aid to a French-led intervention to push back al Qaeda in the Maghreb, and help the people of Mali reclaim their future.

Much of our best counter-terrorism cooperation results in the gathering and sharing of intelligence; the arrest and prosecution of terrorists. That’s how a Somali terrorist apprehended off the coast of Yemen is now in prison in New York. That’s how we worked with European allies to disrupt plots from Denmark to Germany to the United Kingdom. That’s how intelligence collected with Saudi Arabia helped us stop a cargo plane from being blown up over the Atlantic.

But despite our strong preference for the detention and prosecution of terrorists, sometimes this approach is foreclosed. Al Qaeda and its affiliates try to gain a foothold in some of the most distant and unforgiving places on Earth. They take refuge in remote tribal regions. They hide in caves and walled compounds. They train in empty deserts and rugged mountains.

In some of these places – such as parts of Somalia and Yemen – the state has only the most tenuous reach into the territory. In other cases, the state lacks the capacity or will to take action. It is also not possible for America to simply deploy a team of Special Forces to capture every terrorist. And even when such an approach may be possible, there are places where it would pose profound risks to our troops and local civilians– where a terrorist compound cannot be breached without triggering a firefight with surrounding tribal communities that pose no threat to us, or when putting U.S. boots on the ground may trigger a major international crisis.

To put it another way, our operation in Pakistan against Osama bin Laden cannot be the norm. The risks in that case were immense; the likelihood of capture, although our preference, was remote given the certainty of resistance; the fact that we did not find ourselves confronted with civilian casualties, or embroiled in an extended firefight, was a testament to the meticulous planning and professionalism of our Special Forces – but also depended on some luck. And even then, the cost to our relationship with Pakistan – and the backlash among the Pakistani public over encroachment on their territory – was so severe that we are just now beginning to rebuild this important partnership.

It is in this context that the United States has taken lethal, targeted action against al Qaeda and its associated forces, including with remotely piloted aircraft commonly referred to as drones. As was true in previous armed conflicts, this new technology raises profound questions – about who is targeted, and why; about civilian casualties, and the risk of creating new enemies; about the legality of such strikes under U.S. and international law; about accountability and morality.

Let me address these questions. To begin with, our actions are effective. Don’t take my word for it. In the intelligence gathered at bin Laden’s compound, we found that he wrote, “we could lose the reserves to the enemy’s air strikes. We cannot fight air strikes with explosives.” Other communications from al Qaeda operatives confirm this as well. Dozens of highly skilled al Qaeda commanders, trainers, bomb makers, and operatives have been taken off the battlefield. Plots have been disrupted that would have targeted international aviation, U.S. transit systems, European cities and our troops in Afghanistan. Simply put, these strikes have saved lives.

Moreover, America’s actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war – a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.

And yet as our fight enters a new phase, America’s legitimate claim of self-defense cannot be the end of the discussion. To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance. For the same human progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power – or risk abusing it. That’s why, over the last four years, my Administration has worked vigorously to establish a framework that governs our use of force against terrorists – insisting upon clear guidelines, oversight and accountability that is now codified in Presidential Policy Guidance that I signed yesterday.

In the Afghan war theater, we must support our troops until the transition is complete at the end of 2014. That means we will continue to take strikes against high value al Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces. However, by the end of 2014, we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we have made against core al Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes.

Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces. Even then, the use of drones is heavily constrained. America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists – our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute them. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose – our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty. America does not take strikes to punish individuals – we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat. And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set.

This last point is critical, because much of the criticism about drone strikes – at home and abroad – understandably centers on reports of civilian casualties. There is a wide gap between U.S. assessments of such casualties, and non-governmental reports. Nevertheless, it is a hard fact that U.S. strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exists in all wars. For the families of those civilians, no words or legal construct can justify their loss. For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live, just as we are haunted by the civilian casualties that have occurred through conventional fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

But as Commander-in-Chief, I must weigh these heartbreaking tragedies against the alternatives. To do nothing in the face of terrorist networks would invite far more civilian casualties – not just in our cities at home and facilities abroad, but also in the very places –like Sana’a and Kabul and Mogadishu – where terrorists seek a foothold. Let us remember that the terrorists we are after target civilians, and the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes.

Where foreign governments cannot or will not effectively stop terrorism in their territory, the primary alternative to targeted, lethal action is the use of conventional military options. As I’ve said, even small Special Operations carry enormous risks. Conventional airpower or missiles are far less precise than drones, and likely to cause more civilian casualties and local outrage. And invasions of these territories lead us to be viewed as occupying armies; unleash a torrent of unintended consequences; are difficult to contain; and ultimately empower those who thrive on violent conflict. So it is false to assert that putting boots on the ground is less likely to result in civilian deaths, or to create enemies in the Muslim world. The result would be more U.S. deaths, more Blackhawks down, more confrontations with local populations, and an inevitable mission creep in support of such raids that could easily escalate into new wars.

So yes, the conflict with al Qaeda, like all armed conflict, invites tragedy. But by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us, and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life. Indeed, our efforts must also be measured against the history of putting American troops in distant lands among hostile populations. In Vietnam, hundreds of thousands of civilians died in a war where the boundaries of battle were blurred. In Iraq and Afghanistan, despite the courage and discipline of our troops, thousands of civilians have been killed. So neither conventional military action, nor waiting for attacks to occur, offers moral safe-harbor. Neither does a sole reliance on law enforcement in territories that have no functioning police or security services – and indeed, have no functioning law.

This is not to say that the risks are not real. Any U.S. military action in foreign lands risks creating more enemies, and impacts public opinion overseas. Our laws constrain the power of the President, even during wartime, and I have taken an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States. The very precision of drones strikes, and the necessary secrecy involved in such actions can end up shielding our government from the public scrutiny that a troop deployment invites. It can also lead a President and his team to view drone strikes as a cure-all for terrorism.

For this reason, I’ve insisted on strong oversight of all lethal action. After I took office, my Administration began briefing all strikes outside of Iraq and Afghanistan to the appropriate committees of Congress. Let me repeat that – not only did Congress authorize the use of force, it is briefed on every strike that America takes. That includes the one instance when we targeted an American citizen: Anwar Awlaki, the chief of external operations for AQAP.

This week, I authorized the declassification of this action, and the deaths of three other Americans in drone strikes, to facilitate transparency and debate on this issue, and to dismiss some of the more outlandish claims. For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen – with a drone, or a shotgun – without due process. Nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil.

But when a U.S. citizen goes abroad to wage war against America – and is actively plotting to kill U.S. citizens; and when neither the United States, nor our partners are in a position to capture him before he carries out a plot – his citizenship should no more serve as a shield than a sniper shooting down on an innocent crowd should be protected from a swat team

That’s who Anwar Awlaki was – he was continuously trying to kill people. He helped oversee the 2010 plot to detonate explosive devices on two U.S. bound cargo planes. He was involved in planning to blow up an airliner in 2009. When Farouk Abdulmutallab – the Christmas Day bomber – went to Yemen in 2009, Awlaki hosted him, approved his suicide operation, and helped him tape a martyrdom video to be shown after the attack. His last instructions were to blow up the airplane when it was over American soil. I would have detained and prosecuted Awlaki if we captured him before he carried out a plot. But we couldn’t. And as President, I would have been derelict in my duty had I not authorized the strike that took out Awlaki.

Of course, the targeting of any Americans raises constitutional issues that are not present in other strikes – which is why my Administration submitted information about Awlaki to the Department of Justice months before Awlaki was killed, and briefed the Congress before this strike as well. But the high threshold that we have set for taking lethal action applies to all potential terrorist targets, regardless of whether or not they are American citizens. This threshold respects the inherent dignity of every human life. Alongside the decision to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way, the decision to use force against individuals or groups – even against a sworn enemy of the United States – is the hardest thing I do as President. But these decisions must be made, given my responsibility to protect the American people.

Going forward, I have asked my Administration to review proposals to extend oversight of lethal actions outside of warzones that go beyond our reporting to Congress. Each option has virtues in theory, but poses difficulties in practice. For example, the establishment of a special court to evaluate and authorize lethal action has the benefit of bringing a third branch of government into the process, but raises serious constitutional issues about presidential and judicial authority. Another idea that’s been suggested – the establishment of an independent oversight board in the executive branch – avoids those problems, but may introduce a layer of bureaucracy into national-security decision-making, without inspiring additional public confidence in the process. Despite these challenges, I look forward to actively engaging Congress to explore these – and other – options for increased oversight.

I believe, however, that the use of force must be seen as part of a larger discussion about a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy. Because for all the focus on the use of force, force alone cannot make us safe. We cannot use force everywhere that a radical ideology takes root; and in the absence of a strategy that reduces the well-spring of extremism, a perpetual war – through drones or Special Forces or troop deployments – will prove self-defeating, and alter our country in troubling ways.

So the next element of our strategy involves addressing the underlying grievances and conflicts that feed extremism, from North Africa to South Asia. As we’ve learned this past decade, this is a vast and complex undertaking. We must be humble in our expectation that we can quickly resolve deep rooted problems like poverty and sectarian hatred. Moreover, no two countries are alike, and some will undergo chaotic change before things get better. But our security and values demand that we make the effort.

This means patiently supporting transitions to democracy in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya – because the peaceful realization of individual aspirations will serve as a rebuke to violent extremists. We must strengthen the opposition in Syria, while isolating extremist elements – because the end of a tyrant must not give way to the tyranny of terrorism. We are working to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians – because it is right, and because such a peace could help reshape attitudes in the region. And we must help countries modernize economies, upgrade education, and encourage entrepreneurship – because American leadership has always been elevated by our ability to connect with peoples’ hopes, and not simply their fears.

Success on these fronts requires sustained engagement, but it will also require resources. I know that foreign aid is one of the least popular expenditures – even though it amounts to less than one percent of the federal budget. But foreign assistance cannot be viewed as charity. It is fundamental to our national security, and any sensible long-term strategy to battle extremism. Moreover, foreign assistance is a tiny fraction of what we spend fighting wars that our assistance might ultimately prevent. For what we spent in a month in Iraq at the height of the war, we could be training security forces in Libya, maintaining peace agreements between Israel and its neighbors, feeding the hungry in Yemen, building schools in Pakistan, and creating reservoirs of goodwill that marginalize extremists.

America cannot carry out this work if we do not have diplomats serving in dangerous places. Over the past decade, we have strengthened security at our Embassies, and I am implementing every recommendation of the Accountability Review Board which found unacceptable failures in Benghazi. I have called on Congress to fully fund these efforts to bolster security, harden facilities, improve intelligence, and facilitate a quicker response time from our military if a crisis emerges.

But even after we take these steps, some irreducible risks to our diplomats will remain. This is the price of being the world’s most powerful nation, particularly as a wave of change washes over the Arab World. And in balancing the trade-offs between security and active diplomacy, I firmly believe that any retreat from challenging regions will only increase the dangers we face in the long run.

Targeted action against terrorists. Effective partnerships. Diplomatic engagement and assistance. Through such a comprehensive strategy we can significantly reduce the chances of large scale attacks on the homeland and mitigate threats to Americans overseas. As we guard against dangers from abroad, however, we cannot neglect the daunting challenge of terrorism from within our borders.

As I said earlier, this threat is not new. But technology and the Internet increase its frequency and lethality. Today, a person can consume hateful propaganda, commit themselves to a violent agenda, and learn how to kill without leaving their home. To address this threat, two years ago my Administration did a comprehensive review, and engaged with law enforcement. The best way to prevent violent extremism is to work with the Muslim American community – which has consistently rejected terrorism – to identify signs of radicalization, and partner with law enforcement when an individual is drifting towards violence. And these partnerships can only work when we recognize that Muslims are a fundamental part of the American family. Indeed, the success of American Muslims, and our determination to guard against any encroachments on their civil liberties, is the ultimate rebuke to those who say we are at war with Islam.

Indeed, thwarting homegrown plots presents particular challenges in part because of our proud commitment to civil liberties for all who call America home. That’s why, in the years to come, we will have to keep working hard to strike the appropriate balance between our need for security and preserving those freedoms that make us who we are. That means reviewing the authorities of law enforcement, so we can intercept new types of communication, and build in privacy protections to prevent abuse. That means that – even after Boston – we do not deport someone or throw someone in prison in the absence of evidence. That means putting careful constraints on the tools the government uses to protect sensitive information, such as the State Secrets doctrine. And that means finally having a strong Privacy and Civil Liberties Board to review those issues where our counter-terrorism efforts and our values may come into tension.

The Justice Department’s investigation of national security leaks offers a recent example of the challenges involved in striking the right balance between our security and our open society. As Commander-in Chief, I believe we must keep information secret that protects our operations and our people in the field. To do so, we must enforce consequences for those who break the law and breach their commitment to protect classified information. But a free press is also essential for our democracy. I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.

Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs. Our focus must be on those who break the law. That is why I have called on Congress to pass a media shield law to guard against government over-reach. I have raised these issues with the Attorney General, who shares my concern. So he has agreed to review existing Department of Justice guidelines governing investigations that involve reporters, and will convene a group of media organizations to hear their concerns as part of that review. And I have directed the Attorney General to report back to me by July 12th.

All these issues remind us that the choices we make about war can impact – in sometimes unintended ways – the openness and freedom on which our way of life depends. And that is why I intend to engage Congress about the existing Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, to determine how we can continue to fight terrorists without keeping America on a perpetual war-time footing.

The AUMF is now nearly twelve years old. The Afghan War is coming to an end. Core al Qaeda is a shell of its former self. Groups like AQAP must be dealt with, but in the years to come, not every collection of thugs that labels themselves al Qaeda will pose a credible threat to the United States. Unless we discipline our thinking and our actions, we may be drawn into more wars we don’t need to fight, or continue to grant Presidents unbound powers more suited for traditional armed conflicts between nation states. So I look forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further. Our systematic effort to dismantle terrorist organizations must continue. But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.

April 30, 2013

What are the people around you reading?

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on April 30, 2013

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

I came across that quote from Haruki Murakami yesterday.

I don’t know what everyone else is reading, so I asked them.

OK, not everyone, but at least the people who were around me yesterday, either physically or virtually.

Since 99% of the people I know have something to do with homeland security (that’s another story), the resulting list is mostly about homeland security.

And I do work at a university; that probably influenced the list a bit.

Plus the university is on a military base, so there’s that.

I did ask one person who was fixing a video screen near my office what he was reading. I’d never met him before, but he had no trouble immediately replying.

Two other people who responded are parents of small children who, at least for today, were the focus of their homeland security attention.

Here’s the reading list. I learned about some books and other material I had not heard of.

If you’d like, try the same experiment wherever you are today. Ask people you work with what they are reading. Keep it to one book per person. If you have the chance, post the results in the comments section.

 

1. Armstrong, Karen. The Battle for God. 1st ed. Ballantine Books, 2001.

2. “Articles that explore the use of Social Network Analysis to better understand: 1) cohesion factors in groups, 2) structure of message contributions, 3) pattern of exchange, 4) the role of the critical mass, 5) role and power network structures as they related to various type of on-line collaboration and knowledge creation.” (Right, not a book; the person who sent me this also included 15 pdf articles to illustrate the point he was making.)

3. Berggruen Institute on Governance. “Think Long Committee for California” a new governance tool to repair California’s government. (Not a book, but it’s what she was reading.)

4. Carafano, James Jay, and Paul Rosenzweig. Winning the Long War: Lessons from the Cold War for Defeating Terrorism and Preserving Freedom. Heritage Books, 2005.

5. “Cub Scout Committee Chair Training Manual” (That was her third choice.  Her first choice was somewhat more “shaded.”  She also said if I planned to use her name I had to say she was reading the Bible.).

6. Deardorff, Brad. The Roots of Our Children’s War: Identity and the War on Terrorism. AgilePress, 2013.

7. Desmond, Leslie, and Bill Dorrance. True Horsemanship Through Feel, Second Edition. 2nd ed. Lyons Press, 2007. (At first I thought this had nothing to do with homeland security, but on second thought….)

8. Dumas, Alexandre. The Three Musketeers. Simon & Brown, 2013.

9. Eco, Umberto. Serendipities: Language and Lunacy. Mariner Books, 1999.

10. Gardner, Howard. Five Minds for the Future. Harvard Business Review Press, 2009.

11. Hirsch, James S. Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend. 1st ed. Scribner, 2010.

12. Lemov, Doug, Erica Woolway, and Katie Yezzi. Practice Perfect: 42 Rules for Getting Better at Getting Better. 1st ed. Jossey-Bass, 2012.

13. Lewis, Ted. “The Book of Extremes: Why the 21st century Isn’t Like the 20th Century.” 2013. (This book is in a prepublication format, and won’t be published for a few more months; it’s a follow up to Lewis’ Bak’s Sand Pile: Strategies for a Catastrophic World.)

14. Mackey, Sandra. Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict. 1st ed. W. W. Norton & Company, 2008.

15. McCauley, Clark, and Sophia Moskalenko. Friction: How Radicalization Happens to Them and Us. 1st ed. Oxford University Press, USA, 2011.

16. Moghaddam, Fathali M. The Psychology of Dictatorship. 1st ed. American Psychological Association (APA), 2013.

17. Mudd, Philip. Takedown: Inside the Hunt for Al Qaeda. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

18. Owen, Mark, and Kevin Maurer. No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden. First Edition. Dutton Adult, 2012.

19. Rejali, Darius. Torture and Democracy. Princeton University Press, 2009.

20. Sodium Polyacrylate: My life would be a mess without it. (Not actually a book. But it could be, should be, one.)

21. Stegner, Wallace. Angle of Repose. Penguin Classics, 2000.

22. Williams, Gary. Seal of Honor: Operation Red Wings and the Life of Lt. Michael P. Murphy, USN. Naval Institute Press, 2011.

23. “What am I reading? I can’t think of anything in particular…. Wow. How sad is that,” said a person who works as hard as almost anyone I know.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, “The person who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the person who can’t read them.”

 

If you do ask people in your ecosystem what they’re reading, please post what you learn here.  And if you get to talk with each other about what you’re reading, that’s even better.

September 25, 2012

Growing more homeland security ideas

Filed under: Education — by Christopher Bellavita on September 25, 2012

On September 21st, the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security graduated its 39th and 40th master’s degree class.

To suggest the ideas explored by those graduates, here are the titles of their theses.

Most of the theses — adding to the storehouse of what we know, do not know, and might know about homeland security — will be available through the NPS Dudley Knox library in a few weeks.

(If you know of any other recent master’s or doctoral theses related to homeland security policy and strategy, please let us know – - along with enough information to find the documents.)

——

  • Leveraging National Guard Intelligence: Analysts in State and Regional Fusion Centers
  • The Future Mission, Tasking and Resourcing of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary
  • The FBI is Leading the Way by Making the Private Sector Part of the Counterterrorism Homeland Security Enterprise
  • Policy Options to Address Crucial Communication Gaps in the Incident Command System
  • Utilizing Social Media to Further the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative
  • Federated Search Tools in Fusion Centers: Bridging Databases in the Information Sharing Environment
  • Creating a Learning Organization for State and Local Law Enforcement to Combat Violent Extremism
  • Start Making Sense: Exploring an Emergency Learning Framework
  • Evolving the Local Fire Service intelligence Enterprise in New York State: Implementing a Threat Liaison Officer Program
  • Shaping the National Guard in a Post War Environment
  • Effective Municipal Emergency Planning for People with Disabilities and Others with Access and Functional Needs
  • FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Teams: Considering an Improved Strategy for an Evolving Homeland Security Enterprise
  • Internet Radicalization: Actual Threat or Phantom Menace?
  • Incomplete Intelligence: Is the Information Sharing Environment an Effective Platform?
  • Ready for the Future: Assessing the Collaborative Capacity of State Emergency Management Agencies
  • Unity of Command for the Federal Operational Response to a Catastrophic Disaster
  • Social Media, Social Networking, Facial Recognition Technology and the Future of Law Enforcement Undercover Operations
  • Emergent Social Software Platforms for Sharing and Collaboration on Criminal Information and Intelligence
  • The Provision of Public Health Services for Illegal Migrant Populations: Policy Options for Improving Homeland Security
  • Applying Deterrence Strategy to Agents of Asymmetrical Threats
  • What is the Best Approach to Crisis Intervention?
  • Hunting a Black Swan: Policy Options for America’s Police in Preventing Radiological/Nuclear Terrorism
  • Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Where Do We Go from Here to Bring the Fire Service into the Domestic Intelligence Community?
  • Violent Mexican Transnational Criminal Organizations in Texas: Political Discourse and an Argument for Reality
  • Understanding “Swift Trust” to Improve Interagency Collaboration in New York City
  • Theory to Practice: How Developing a K-12 Curriculum in Emergency Preparedness, Life Safety, or Homeland Security can lead to Resiliency
  • Community Engagement for Collective Resilience: The Rising System
  • Integrating Unmanned Aircraft Systems into Modern Policing in an Urban Environment
  • Network Vulnerability Assessment of the U.S. Crude Pipeline Infrastructure

September 3, 2012

The blurring of homeland and national security

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on September 3, 2012

[Forgive the rambling nature of this post.  I blame the long weekend, skimming an article I should read more carefully, and too much Doctor Who.]

The term “homeland security” is notoriously hard to define. Even more difficult is where to draw the line between “homeland” security and “national” security.  Simply perplexing is the issue of whether there should be a line or not, and the possibly negative effects of attempting to draw one.

Large natural events, such as Hurricane Issac or the western wildfires, serve to highlight the emergency management/preparedness/response/recovery/etc. portion of the enterprise.  Terrorism, health events, and technological disasters comfortably fit here as well, at least in terms of preparing for and responding to effects.

Preventing terrorism would seem, at first, to fit easily within the homeland security arena.  “See something, say something,” fusion centers, the concern about domestic radicalization, and the shift in FBI focus from criminal investigations to terrorism prevention.  But set alone, this effort seems a bit inconsequential in terms of fighting terrorism.  The minor leagues, if you will, to the game being played by intelligence services (and not just U.S. agencies…) and the military overseas.  What major, potentially catastrophic, and realistic (an aspect that is interpreted by different people for different reasons) plots have been disrupted solely on the basis of domestically-gathered information?  Besides the FBI and the NYPD, what domestic agencies are conducting true intelligence-type operations domestically?

This is not a bad thing.  I personally do not want the CIA carrying out operations against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.  We do have rights…or so I was led to believe in civics class.  Intelligence gathered abroad can be filtered and shared with relevant domestic law enforcement agencies in the hope of preventing attacks.  Well…one hopes.  Radicalization of at-risk individuals can be countered by developing relationships with responsible authorities among particular (really wanted to avoid the term “suspect,” sounds a little too NYPD-ish…) populations. Well…perhaps. And is anyone paying attention to the non-Islamic groups? (I know they are, but I also know that the Red Sox are still playing games. The underlying issue is who’s paying attention?)

My point is that counter-terrorism is neither simply a home or away game–it’s a continuum better understood with sci-fi metaphors rather than sports.

So how do we talk about homeland vs. national security?  Should we even bother? (Though I suspect that if we don’t, the “national security” community will out of superior numbers and positioning take what it wants from “homeland security” and leave the rest to emergency management.  Kinda like if FEMA had been separated from DHS following Katrina.)

What prompts these rambling thoughts are two somewhat recent articles.  The first is a Washington Post story on the successful melding of a homeland security sector, customs at the border, with a traditional national security realm, counter-proliferation:

The Chinese toymaker said he was seeking parts for a “magic horse,” a metal-framed playground pony. But the exotic, wildly expensive raw material he wanted seemed better suited for space travel than backyard play.

Only in recent months did the full scope of the ruse become apparent. The destination for the specialty steel was not China but Iran, and the order had nothing to do with toy horses, U.S. investigators say.

“We are certain,” said a law enforcement official familiar with the case, “that the metal was meant for advanced centrifuges in Iran’s nuclear program.”

How this effort was discovered:

Perhaps the most striking fact about the toy-horse plot, investigators say, is that it was discovered at all. The tip came in late 2008 from an obscure Homeland Security program that involves occasional factory visits by U.S. officials to guard against foreign pilfering of sensitive U.S. technology.

During a visit to a Puget Sound steelmaker, an export manager there told a U.S. official about a bizarre query he had gotten from China.

Export controls have a long and important history in the national security efforts aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  However, they remain a little publicized but very important mission of the Department of Homeland Security’s broader border security efforts.

The other nugget that got me thinking was this from a Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) news brief mounting a public health defense of the Biowatch program

Some public health officials’ discomfort with BioWatch also may be related to a culture clash between the public health world and the law enforcement and security realm, according to Biedrzycki.

“Public health typically hasn’t been part of that culture, of law enforcement or national security and the intelligence community,” he said. “This is new territory, and I think we don’t fully understand how to operate within that culture.

“It’s very difficult for us, coming from a very transparent, open, trust-building relationship with many of our clients, going into a less open environment in terms of information sharing. I can understand those criticisms, but in reality I think the trend is for public health to be integrated with the intelligence community.”

Emphasis added to underline my concern.

May 3, 2012

Reading over two terrorists shoulders

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on May 3, 2012

The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has released 17 of the documents retrieved from the compound in Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden was killed.  In addition to English translations and the original Arabic versions  –  posted online today at 9:00 AM EST — the CTC has issued a short report contextualizing the documents.

See: Last Year at Abbottabad.

While you’re at the CTC site scan their other publications.  Good stuff.

Many HLSWatch readers will also be interested in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs staff report on the radicalization of Zac Chesser.  Please access: A Case Study in Online Islamist Radicalization and Its Meaning for the Threat of Homegrown Terrorism.

In July 2010 I posted a piece entitled: Could you or I have talked Zac Chesser out of violent extremism? Arnold Bogis (not yet a fellow poster) and I had a quick exchange on the question.  In the Senate report there is  a tantalizing reference to Chesser almost being talked back from the edge.

Each set of resources offers fascinating insights into terrorist realities.

I recently discovered a cache of letters I had written (rough drafts) and received (in reply) from the early 1980s.  I came away wondering about the vagaries of memory and the often fluid nature of what purports to be real.

It’s a tad intimidating to think how these posts and comments may be read thirty years from now.  If we’re lucky these bytes may prove even more fragile than the thin airmail paper I found in a long forgotten file.   Based on all three examples, humility ages more gracefully than its opposite.

December 12, 2011

Locking up terrorists…but not in Guantánamo

Filed under: Legal Issues — by Arnold Bogis on December 12, 2011

This past weekend the New York Times published reporter Scott Shane’s investigation into the domestic system of detention for those convicted of terrorism.  It turns out Guantanamo, and military tribunals, are far from the full story when it comes to locking up terrorists:

In recent weeks, Congress has reignited an old debate, with some arguing that only military justice is appropriate for terrorist suspects. But military tribunals have proved excruciatingly slow and imprisonment at Guantánamo hugely costly — $800,000 per inmate a year, compared with $25,000 in federal prison.

The criminal justice system, meanwhile, has absorbed the surge of terrorism cases since 2001 without calamity, and without the international criticism that Guantánamo has attracted for holding prisoners without trial.

The numbers involved are eye-opening, even considering what I consider the generally inflated reporting on every far-fetched plot broken up in the planning stages (not to say there haven’t been serious threats, but to point out that groups that ask for boots from their FBI informant are likely not an imminent threat to blow up the Sears Tower):

Big numbers. Today, 171 prisoners remain at Guantánamo. As of Oct. 1, the federal Bureau of Prisons reported that it was holding 362 people convicted in terrorism-related cases, 269 with what the bureau calls a connection to international terrorism — up from just 50 in 2000. An additional 93 inmates have a connection to domestic terrorism.

Lengthy sentences. Terrorists who plotted to massacre Americans are likely to die in prison. Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in 2010, is serving a sentence of life without parole at the Supermax, as are Zacarias Moussaoui, a Qaeda operative arrested in 2001, and Mr. Reid, the shoe bomber, among others. But many inmates whose conduct fell far short of outright terrorism are serving sentences of a decade or more, the result of a calculated prevention strategy to sideline radicals well before they could initiate deadly plots.

The conduct of those responsible for operating these detention centers is also called into question (for a summary of the issues involved, see this HSPI/CIAG joint report “Getting Ahead of Prisoner Radicalization”:

Special units. Since 2006, the Bureau of Prisons has moved many of those convicted in terrorism cases to two special units that severely restrict visits and phone calls. But in creating what are Muslim-dominated units, prison officials have inadvertently fostered a sense of solidarity and defiance, and set off a long-running legal dispute over limits on group prayer. Officials have warned in court filings about the danger of radicalization, but the Bureau of Prisons has nothing comparable to the deradicalization programs instituted in many countries.

Both the Obama administration and Republicans in Congress often cite the threat of homegrown terrorism. But the Bureau of Prisons has proven remarkably resistant to outside scrutiny of the inmates it houses, who might offer a unique window on the problem.

In 2009, a group of scholars proposed interviewing people imprisoned in terrorism cases about how they took that path. The Department of Homeland Security approved the proposal and offered financing. But the Bureau of Prisons refused to grant access, saying the project would require too much staff time.

“There’s a huge national debate about how dangerous these people are,” said Gary LaFree, director of a national terrorism study center at the University of Maryland, who was lead author of the proposal. “I just think, as a citizen, somebody ought to be studying this.”

The article addresses the basic issue of the tradeoff between security and justice, and in my mind clearly comes out on the side of justice.  The reporter gives his story several faces in his exploration of a few cases.  The convicted, as well as their family and friends, can be read as arguing that sentences were too heavy for the infractions involved.  However there does not seem to be any true miscarriages of justice.  No innocent individual convicted on terrorism-related charges that in some way were not connected with the activities of which they were accused.  I do not believe that true justice has been carried out in every domestic terrorism case, history of the wrongly convicted in other criminal areas is too overwhelming.  Considering law enforcement’s focus on terrorism, perhaps the term near-hysteria could be applied for that period following shortly after 9/11 where a sleeper cell was suspected in every town, that the scales of justice do not appear dangerously unbalanced is of some relief.

The other important that emerges from this story is that our existing justice system appears up to the task of dealing with the issue of terrorism.  Compared against the costs and success of military tribunals and incarceration at Guantanamo, it should be a no-brainer to depend on domestic prisons and existing civilian judicial instruments.  Unfortunately, that is not happening.

December 8, 2011

Deterrence: Retrieving the full spectrum

Filed under: Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on December 8, 2011

Wednesday’s joint House-Senate hearing on homegrown terrorism was interesting, enlightening, painful, embarrassing, and infuriating… sometimes in the course of a single minute or two.  If you were not in the hearing room or missed the C-SPAN broadcast (available in archived entirety), individual videos and prepared testimonies are available at the House Homeland Security Committee website.

One of those testifying was LT. COL. Reid Sawyer, Director, Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.  In his prepared testimony LT. COL. Sawyer noted,

The emergence of homegrown terrorism and the targeting of U.S. military forces requires a renewed examination of the nature of radicalization and the changing nature of autonomous radicalization—a process that today occurs largely in isolation from direct connection with external networks, creating new challenges for law enforcement and intelligence communities to detect, prevent and deter homegrown terrorism.

Most of Wednesday’s testimony, questions, answers, and occasional pontificating focused on detecting and preventing.  The lack of attention to deterring is unfortunate.  Especially in regard to homegrown terrorism there is a significant opportunity for deterrence… especially if deterrence is well-understood.

The Latin origin of deter, deterrent, and deterrence is deterrere.   During the classical era deterrere was much closer to our understanding of discourage or hinder than the Mutual Assured Destruction of Cold War deterrence.  There is even a positive aspect to the concept.

In Cicero’s Impeachment of Verres we read, “… testis praesertim , timidos homines et adflictos, non solum auctoritate deterrere, sed etiam consulari metu, et duorum praetorum potestate.”  A reasonable translation: “… witness in particular, timid and oppressed men, hindered not only by your own private influence, but fear of the consul, and the power of two praetors.”  The explicit distinction between deterrere (hindered) and metu (fear) is meaningful.  Moreover they are hindered by influence, while they fear power.

Deter entered English in the 1570s.  An early use is found in Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667):

Rather your dauntless virtue, whom the pain
Of death denounced, whatever thing Death be,
Deterred not from achieving what might lead
To happier life, knowledge of Good and Evil?
Of good, how just! Of evil-if what is evil
Be real, why not known, since easier shunned?

John Milton, Paradise Lost (l. Bk. IX, l)

Early English usage reflected the classical meaning.  In the passage above, dauntless virtue being not discouraged or not hindered seems more coherent with the tone than “not terrorized.”

In 1764  Cesare Beccaria published Dei delitti e delle pene (On Crime and Punishments) in which he argued for a systematic approach to what we would now call deterrence.

It is better to prevent crimes than to punish them. This is the fundamental principle of good legislation, which is the art of conducting men to the maximum of happiness, and to the minimum of misery, if we may apply this mathematical expression to the good and evil of life. But the means hitherto employed for that purpose are generally inadequate, or contrary to the end proposed. It is impossible to reduce the tumultuous activity of mankind to absolute regularity; for, amidst the various and opposite attractions of pleasure and pain, human laws are not sufficient entirely to prevent disorders in society.

To effectively prevent crime Beccaria recommended swift, consistent, and just punishment of proven wrongs combined with education, rewards, and application of science to encourage desired behavior.

The English philosopher Jeremy Bentham built on Beccaria’s foundation, gave considerable attention to the efficacy of punishment to prevent unwanted behavior, and called it a “deterrent” (introducing the word in 1829). But Bentham notes a distinction between a longer-term and nearer-term deterrent:

All punishment has a certain tendency to deter from the commission of offences; but if the delinquent, after he has been punished, is only deterred by fear from the repetition of his offence, he is not reformed. Reformation implies a change of character and moral dispositions.

The ultimate deterrent is change of disposition or what moderns might call motivation. Bentham certainly perceived we could be influenced by fear of detection, detention, and punishment.   But a more permanent form of prevention would, he argued at length, emerge from engaging the prospect of pleasure.  By understanding the fear of pain and the prospect of pleasure, Bentham perceived society can be constructively shaped:

Nature has placed mankind under the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure. It is for them alone to point out what we ought to do, as well as to determine what we shall do. On the one hand the standard of right and wrong, on the other the chain of causes and effects, are fastened to their throne. They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think: every effort we can make to throw off our subjection, will serve but to demonstrate and confirm it.

From 1861, when “deterrence” first appeared in the English language, until the mid-Twentieth century the most common usage of the word related to issues of criminology.  Following World War II, however, deterrence was increasingly associated with military strategy and, particularly, the nuclear doctrine of Mutual Assurance Destruction.

In a January 1954 speech Secretary of State John Foster Dulles declared,

We need allies and collective security. Our purpose is to make these relations more effective, less costly. This can be done by placing more reliance on deterrent power and less dependence on local defensive power.

This is accepted practice so far as local communities are concerned. We keep locks on our doors, but we do not have an armed guard in every home. We rely principally on a community security system so well equipped to punish any who break in and steal that, in fact, would-be aggressors are generally deterred. That is the modern way of getting maximum protection at a bearable cost. What the Eisenhower administration seeks is a similar international security system. We want, for ourselves and the other free nations, a maximum deterrent at a bearable cost.

Local defense will always be important. But there is no local defense which alone will contain the mighty landpower of the Communist world. Local defenses must be reinforced by the further deterrent of massive retaliatory power.

Rather than carrot and stick, after Dulles deterrence was understood as the prospect of a very big stick pounding as hard as possible.

This Cold War definition was so deeply ingrained in our political culture that in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks President Bush asserted, “Deterrence—the promise of massive retaliation against nations—means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend.”

Deterrence is being retrieved.  In defense policy there is considerable talk of a “new deterrence.”  In homeland security and counter-terrorism important work has been done by Matthew Kroenig, Brian Jenkins and Paul Davis. But we still tend to operate under the shadow of Dulles and his terrible swift sword.  For optimal deterrence we also need some beauty of the lilies, wisdom to the mighty, and succor to the brave.

October 11, 2011

The Naval Postgraduate School’s Homeland Security Reading List

Filed under: Education,General Homeland Security — by Christopher Bellavita on October 11, 2011

Here is a list of books the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center For Homeland Defense and Security use in its master degree program.

The works that follow, presented (mostly) in alphabetical order by author, include only books and monographs.  The list does not include the journal articles, reports, and other documents that make up the required reading in the program’s dozen master’s degree courses.  The list is current as of  late summer.

I took most of the brief descriptions that follow the book’s title from reviews I found on Amazon.

————————————-

  1. Adler, Mortimer J. & Charles Van Doren (1972). How to Read a Book: A Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading (rev): The New Yorker says “It shows concretely how the serious work of proper reading may be accomplished and how much it may yield in the way of instruction and delight.”
  2. Andrew S. Grove (1999). Only the Paranoid survive: How to exploit the crisis points that challenge every company: Steve Jobs said “This book is about one super-important concept. You must learn about Strategic Inflection Points, because sooner or later you are going to live through one.”
  3. Aslan, Reza. (2009) Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting the Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization 2009: The School Library Journal says “This book offers an informed critique of good-and-evil dualisms on both sides in the war on terror.”
  4. Bardach, Eugene (2008). Practical Guide to Policy Analysis: The Eightfold Path to More Effective Problem Solving(3rd ed.): “Students consistently give this perspicacious presentation of policy analysis fundamentals high marks for its clarity and insight,” says Robert P. Goss
  5. Barrett, Frank J. and Ronald E. Fry (2005). Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Approach to Building Cooperative Capacity: “This book provides a concise introduction to and overview of the growing discipline and practice of Appreciative Inquiry,” says one description of the book.
  6. Berger, Peter L. & Luckman, Thomas (1967). The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge: A long time ago the American Sociological Review called this book “… A major breakthrough in the  sociology of knowledge.” It still is.
  7. Berman, Paul (2004). Terror and Liberalism: Publishers Weekly said “Berman puts his leftist credentials … on the line by critiquing the left while presenting a liberal rationale for the war on terror, joining a discourse that has been dominated by conservatives.”
  8. Bernays, Edward (2004). Propaganda New York: Noam Chomsky said this “honest and practical manual [originally published in the 1920s] provides much insight into some of the most powerful and influential institutions of contemporary industrial state capitalist democracies.”
  9. Bobbitt, Philip (2009). Terror and Consent: The Wars for the Twenty-First Century: This is the most thought provoking homeland security book I’ve read.

10.  Bongar, Bruce Michael, et al. (2007). Psychology of Terrorism: The International Journal of Emergency Mental Health says “it would be difficult to find a more thorough and comprehensive compendium on the psychology of terrorism in all its important aspects than that represented by this volume.”

11.  Booth, Wayne & Gregory G. Colomb & Joseph M. Williams (2008). Craft of Research (3rd ed.): This is “a well-constructed, articulate reminder of how important fundamental questions of style and approach … are to all research, says the Times Literary Supplement.  It is the “first option offered to students who ask ‘Just how should I begin my research?’” says someone from the Business Library Review.

12.  Brafman, Ori and Rod A. Beckstrom (2008). Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations: Publishers Weekly believes this book is “a breezy and entertaining look at how decentralization is changing many organizations.”

13.  Brannan, David, Bruce Hoffman, Eric Herren, and Robert Matthiessen (2007). Preparing for Suicide Terrorism: A Primer for American Law Enforcement Agencies and Officers: is a “for official use only monograph.”

14.  Brockman, John (2006). What We Believe but Cannot Prove: Today’s Leading Thinkers on Science in the Age of Uncertainty: The American Library Association says in this book “more than 100 notable scientists and scholars answer the question, ‘What do you believe even though you cannot prove it?’”

15.  Bryson, John M. (2004). Strategic Planning for Public and Non-Profit Organizations (3rd Edition): Hal G. Rainey says “Anyone professing competence in public and nonprofit management needs to know what Bryson says about strategic planning.”

16.  Bulliet, Richard W. (2004). Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization: The Washington Monthly says according to this book “there is a far better case for ‘Islamo-Christian civilization’ than there is for a clash of civilizations.”

17.  Chicago Manual of Style (16th): According to the New Yorker, “The Sixteenth Edition of the Chicago Manual of Style is here, and it’s hard for some of us to contain our excitement.”

18.  Clarke, Richard and Knake, Robert (2010). Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It: The Financial Times says “It is worth [reading] this book if only for [the] pithy five-page vision of [the] coming apocalypse and a return to stone-age conditions within a week, all because of a few pesky hackers and viruses.”

19.  Clayton M. Christensen (1997). The Innovator’s Dilemma:  This book describes how disruptive technologies can redefine the landscape, sort of what Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party folks are trying to do.

20.  Covey, Stephen M.R. with Rebecca R. Merrill (2008). Speed of Trust: The One Thing that Changes Everything: Warren Bennis says this book is “brave, imaginative, amazingly prescient, and backed up by empirical and analytical heft.”

21.  Creswell, John W. (2009). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches: This book provides a practical guide to designing, executing and presenting research.

22.  Cronin, Audrey Curth and Ludes, James M. (Eds.) (2004). Attacking Terrorism: Elements of a Grand Strategy: Kurt M. Campbell calls this an “unusually interesting, readable, and well integrated look at the essential elements needed for an American grand strategy to confront the scourge of global terrorism.”

23.  Davis, Paul K. & Brian M. Jenkins (2002). Deterrence & Intelligence in Counterterrorism: A Component in the War on al Qaeda: This monograph – available from RAND and elsewhere – “summarizes the findings of a six-month project on deterrence of terrorism.” It remains one of the most thoughtful and comprehensive discussions of deterrence.

24. Descartes, Rene (2006, by way of 1637). Discourse on the Method for Conducting One’s Reason Well and for Seeking Truth in the Sciences: How “perfect knowledge can be achieved by means of perfect, individual reasoning.”

25.  Donatella Meadows (2008). Thinking in Systems: Peter Senge says “The publication of Meadows’ previously unfinished manuscript is a gift for leaders of all sorts and at all levels.”

26. Eggers, Dave (2010). Zeitoun: “the story of one man’s experience after Hurricane Katrina,… a successful Syrian-born painting contractor, decides to stay in New Orleans and protect his property while his family flees.”  A disturbing narrative.

27.  Entman, Robert (2003). Projections of Power: Framing News, Public Opinion, and U.S. Foreign Policy: The book jacket says this is “an essential guide for political scientists, students of the media, and anyone interested in the increasingly influential role of the media in foreign policy.”

28.  Fanon, Frantz (2005, via the 1961). The Wretched of the Earth 2005: Jean-Paul Sartre says “Have the courage to read this book.”

29.  Frankfurt, Harry G. (2005). On Bullshit: The author asks why “One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit.”

30.  Freier, Nathan (2009). DoD Leaders, Strategists, and Operators in an Era of Persistent Unconventional Challenge: “This study argues that the future security environment will be dominated by unconventional threats and challenges that lie outside the boundaries of traditional warfighting.”

32. Gerencser, Mark (2008). Megacommunities: How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today’s Global Challenges Together: Newt Gingrich  says “… these concepts work,” and promises that “We’ll be applying the methods explained in this important book even more ambitiously in the months ahead.”

33. Godin, Seth (2011). Poke the Box: When Was the Last Time you did something for the first time?: This powerfully irritating manifesto says all your good ideas matter little unless you ship something.

34.  Hewitt, Christopher (2002). Understanding Terrorism in America: This book “surveys the characteristics and causes of terrorism and governmental responses to it.”

35.  Hoffman, Bruce (2006). Inside Terrorism: The Washington Post calls this “The best one-volume introduction to” terrorism.

36.  Johnson, Loch K. and James J. Wirtz (2010). Intelligence: The Secret World of Spies: An Anthology: “An admirable contribution to the intelligence canon,” says Mark M. Lowenthal.

37.  Jones, Morgan D. (1998). The Thinker’s Toolkit: 14 Powerful Techniques for Problem Solving: “A collection of proven, practical methods for simplifying any problem and making faster, better decisions every time,” says the product description.

38.  Kelly, Joesph F. (2003). Responding to Evil: This book asks how good and evil can be reconciled.

39.  Kettl, Donald F. (2007). System under Stress: Homeland Security and American Politics: A public administration scholar looks at the first few years of homeland security.

40.  Kim, W. Chan & Renee Mauborgne (2005). Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant: A “vision of the kind of expanding, competitor-free markets that innovative companies can navigate….  Swim for open waters.”

41.  Laurence, Jonathan & Justin Vaisse (2006). Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France: The American Prospect calls this “an exceedingly important read for anyone trying to understand how governments can help promote (or stunt) the integration process of Muslim immigrants to Europe.”

42.  Leedy, Paul and Jeanne Ormand (2009). Practical Research: Planning and Design: A “’do-it-yourself, understand-it-yourself’ manual designed to help research students in any discipline understand the fundamental structure of quality research and the methodical process that leads to genuinely significant results,” promises the product description.

43.  Lewis, Ted (2006). Critical Infrastructure Protection in Homeland Security: Defending a Networked Nation: Homeland Security Watch says “The book is written as a student textbook, but it should be equally valuable for current practitioners…this book is a very worthwhile investment.”

44.  Lewis, Ted. (2010) Bak’s Sand Pile: The author says “Modern societies want to avert catastrophes, but the drive to make things faster, cheaper, and more efficient leads to self-organized criticality-the condition of systems on the verge of disaster.”

45.  Lowenthal, Mark M (2011). Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy: This is “the go-to book for the most comprehensive overview on the U.S. intelligence community,” says Michael Bennett .

46.  Mansfield, Laura (2006). His Own Words: A Translation and Analysis of the Writings of Dr. Ayman Al Zawahiri: “The vision of Al Qaeda as it is articulated by one of its founders,” says a book reviewer.

47. Mintzberg, Henry (2005). Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour Through The Wilds of Strategic Management: I don’t know a better overview of strategy.

48.  Moghaddam, Fathali (2010). The New Global Insecurity: How Terrorism, Environmental Collapse, Economic Inequalities, and Resource Shortages Are Changing Our World:  The author “analyzes the elements and roots of global insecurity, discussing it in relation to terrorism, torture, economic instability, threatened identity, and religious fundamentalism.”

49.  Moghaddam, Fathali (2008). How Globalization Spurs Terrorism: The Lopsided Benefits of “One World” and Why that Fuels Violence: Paul Ehrlich says this provides “the Big Picture for better understanding radicalization and terrorism in the 21st century.”

50.  Moghaddam, Fathali (2007). Multiculturalism and Intergroup Relations: Psychological Implications for Democracy in a Global Context: An exploration of “the large-scale migration of refugees fleeing international conflict as well as the effects of 9/11 and the violent conflicts that have erupted in its wake.”

51.  Moghaddam, Fathali M. (2006). From the Terrorists’ Point of View: What They Experience & Why They Come to Destroy: Masur Lalljee  calls this “A fascinating study into the development of the perspective of the terrorist. The ‘Staircase to Terrorism’ is a powerful metaphor.”

52.  National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (2004). 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States: Required reading, for as long as we talk about homeland security.

53.  Provost, Gary (1985). 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing: Way number 1 – get some reference books.

54.  Reynolds, Garr (2008). Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery: Check out the pecha-kucha style for powerpoint presentations (and the presentation zen website).

55.  Sims, Jennifer & Burton Gerber (2005). Transforming U.S. Intelligence: “[T]ransforming intelligence requires as much a look to the future as to the past and a focus more on the art and practice of intelligence rather than on its bureaucratic arrangements.”

56.  Stewart Baker (2010). Skating on Stilts: Why We Aren’t Stopping Tomorrow’s Terrorism: The Wall Street Journal describes this as “a memoir of day-to-day life within a major Washington bureaucracy [DHS] and an insider’s analysis of the challenges to domestic security in the post 9/11 era.”

57.  Tajfel, Henri (2010). Social Identity and Intergroup Relations:a collection of articles about social identity theory.

58.  Taleb, Nassim Nicholas (2010). The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable: With a new section: “On Robustness and Fragility: Niall Ferguson says this is “Idiosyncratically brilliant.”

59.  Van Der Heijden, Kess (2005). Scenarios: the art of strategic conversation: Probably the definitive contemporary work on scenario planning.

60.  Wolf, Naomi (2007). End of America: Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot: Wolf cautions how “fascism can exist without dictatorship.”

61.  Zegart, Amy B. (2009). Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI & Origins of 9/11: Graham Allison believes this is “An outstanding demonstration of how the adaptation failures of the CIA and FBI before and after 9/11 lie in deep-rooted organizational deficiencies and not individuals asleep at the switch.”

62.  Zimbardo, Philip and John Boyd (2008). Time Paradox: The New Psychiatry of Time that Will Change your Life: This work will “help you understand the source of many of the world’s greatest triumphs and most pressing problems — from terrorism to homelessness, from religion to love, from the successes and failures of CEOs to those of marriages,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky.

63.  Zimbardo, Philip G. (2008). Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil: Zimbardo describes how “almost anyone, given the right ‘situational’ influences, can be made to abandon moral scruples and cooperate in violence and oppression.”

64.  Zimmerman, Doron & Andreas Wenger, eds (2006). How States Fight Terrorism: Policy Dynamics in the West: The book describes “how national governments are struggling to cope with the complex threat of mass-casualty terrorist attacks carried out by armed groups driven by ideological and/or religious motivations.”

65.  Zinsser, William K. (2001). On Writing Well, 25th Anniversary: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction: This is a book “for everybody who wants to learn how to write or who needs to do some writing to get through the day,” whether a memo, report or a blog post.

 

 

September 30, 2011

Anwar al-Awlaki said to be dead

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on September 30, 2011

According to several news outlets, Anwar al-Awlaki, the New Mexico born evangelist of terrorism, was killed in an attack on his convoy traveling through the interior of Yemen.    This news is breaking between 0600 and 0800 (Eastern Time).  More here as more is known or claimed-to-be-known.

According to Al-Jazeera:

Yemen’s defence ministry has reported that Anwar al-Awlaki, a well-known and controversial imam with ties to al-Qaeda, was killed along with four others. A government statement released to the media on Friday said the dual US-Yemeni citizen was hunted down by Yemeni forces, but did not elaborate on the circumstances of his death. Awlaki was wanted by both the US and Yemen.”The terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki has been killed along with some of his companions,” said the statement sent by text message to journalists.

Tribal sources told the AFP news agency that Awlaki was killed early on Friday in an air strike that hit two vehicles travelling through an al-Qaeda stronghold in central Yemen. Government officials say he was targeted 8km from the town of Khashef in the province of al-Jawf, just 140km from Sanaa.

According to POLITICO:

Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric and an alleged terror suspect with links to al Qaeda in Yemen, has been killed, a senior administration official confirmed to POLITICO…  The U.S. government has called al-Awlaki a “key leader” of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an al Qaeda offshoot in Yemen. The U.S. has linked al-Awlaki to Nidal Malik Hasan, who is charged with killing 13 people in a shooting at a U.S. Army base at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009, and to a Nigerian student known as the “underwear bomber,” who tried to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009. Last year, the Obama administration put the U.S.-born al-Awlaki on a CIA “kill or capture” list.

According to The Telegraph:

Yemeni security forces said they had conducted an operation to target Awlaki and his bodyguards in Marib province. Western sources said a US drone strike had hit his convoy in a remote area and that local military commanders had confirmed his death.

President Barack Obama authorised the US military to target Awlaki last year, a controversial and legally fraught move in light of his US citizenship. Awlaki had inspired serval audacious attacks in recent years including the 2009 Christmas underwear bomber, an attack in Fort Hood military base by a US army major and the stabbing of Stephen Timms MP.

One tribal chief in the area of the attack said that the plane that carried out the strike was likely to be American, adding that US aircraft had been patrolling the skies over Marib for the past several days.“US planes have been flying overhead for days now,” said the tribal source would requested anonymity. “Then this morning, at about 9:30, what appeared to be a US aircraft fired on the two cars Awlaqi and his fellow operatives are believed to have been travelling in.”

Last week the Washington Post reported:

The Obama administration is assembling a constellation of secret drone bases for counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula as part of a newly aggressive campaign to attack al-Qaeda affiliates in Somalia and Yemen… The rapid expansion of the undeclared drone wars is a reflection of the growing alarm with which U.S. officials view the activities of al-Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and Somalia.

The use of drones in such targeted attacks was also a significant element in a recent speech by John Brennan, given attention in a previous Homeland Security Watch post.

Born of Yemeni parents in the United States, Mr. Awlaki has been a charismatic communicator of the Al Qaeda message.  He is (was?) among the most prominent of a new generation of terrorist leaders, with particular  influence among English-speaking converts to Al Qaeda’s cause.  Especially since the death of Osama bin-Laden many considered Awlaki — and the Yemen based Al Qaeda franchise — as the most serious emergent threat.  As noted above, Awlaki has been directly connected to several cases of domestic radicalization in the United States.  He is considered the founder and has been a regular contributor to Inspire, the English-language web-based terrorist magazine.

Awlaki’s death is not necessarily significant to ongoing insurgent operations by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  But if Nasser al-Wahishi’s killing in late August is ultimately confirmed, losing these two leaders in such a short span of time suggests the intensity of the US effort in Yemen… even in the midst of the current civil unrest.

Writing in The Guardian, Jason Burke offers:

Awlaki’s primary role was that of an intermediary. He communicated the message and the ideology of extremist Islam. That message remains alive even if it has been rejected by the vast majority of Muslims. After a decade of polarising violent conflicts, its survival is now independent of the actions of individuals. The social movement of al-Qaida, the cult of violent extremism, the sub-culture of jihad, has sufficient momentum to continue to be effective. The educated Yemeni-American who himself straddled the cultural gaps between the Middle East and the west and who turned to extremism will now join the ranks of al-Qaida’s martyrs. He is thus likely to be an inspiration long after his death.

In an interesting coincidence, exactly one year ago today Homeland Security Watch posted: Killing a Fellow Citizen: Four frames on the present reality of Anwar al-Awlaki. This was one of several posts regarding Mr. Awlaki toward the end of September and beginning of October. Even while I hope the news of his death is accurate, the issues raised in the posts and comments from a year ago remain relevant.

The Washington Post is periodically updating its lead on Alwaki’s death.  According to the Post a second — unnamed — US citizen was also killed in the attack.

The New York Times is also adding to its coverage as additional information is available.  According to the Times the second individual killed is, “Samir Khan, an American citizen of Pakistani origin and the editor of Inspire, Al Qaeda’s English-language Internet magazine. Mr. Khan proclaimed in the magazine last yeasr that he was “pround (sic) to be a traitor to America.” (I don’t know if the sic is a NYT error or an Inspire error.)

Unless something especially interesting or odd emerges, I will let the mainstream media handle it from here.   Any of the links embedded above will take you to even more news and analysis.

Friday Evening Addition:

During a Friday late morning change-of-office ceremony for the new Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff, the President commented on Alwaki’s killing:

The death of al-Awlaki marks another significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates. Furthermore, this success is a tribute to our intelligence community, and to the efforts of Yemen and its security forces, who have worked closely with the United States over the course of several years.

Awlaki and his organization have been directly responsible for the deaths of many Yemeni citizens. His hateful ideology — and targeting of innocent civilians — has been rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, and people of all faiths. And he has met his demise because the government and the people of Yemen have joined the international community in a common effort against Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula remains a dangerous — though weakened — terrorist organization. And going forward, we will remain vigilant against any threats to the United States, or our allies and partners. But make no mistake: This is further proof that al Qaeda and its affiliates will find no safe haven anywhere in the world.

Working with Yemen and our other allies and partners, we will be determined, we will be deliberate, we will be relentless, we will be resolute in our commitment to destroy terrorist networks that aim to kill Americans, and to build a world in which people everywhere can live in greater peace, prosperity and security.

In the near term, Awlaki’s death is likely to increase interest in Inspire magazine, his online sermons, and other artifacts of his terrorist promotion.  But especially with the apparent demise of Samir Khan as well, there is no one on the Al Qaeda bench as proficient in mixing anger, aspiration, hate, and hope into such deadly temptation.

September 22, 2011

Authorizing Homeland Security…

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on September 22, 2011

Yesterday, for the first time since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in 2003, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee passed a homeland security authorization bill, S. 1546 (Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act of 2011).

The bill, which the Committee considered over two weeks, was limited in its reach, mostly due to the jurisdictional limits of the Committee.  The Committee focused only on those issues that would not trigger referrals to other Committees.

Much of the bill focused on making the Department a more efficient, whether it be in its acquisition practices or in its structure.  There were also a number of amendments that tackled -on both sides – the debate over radicalization and civil liberties issues.   More than 70 amendments were offered, many of which were agreed upon outside the Executive Meeting as part of a revised manager’s amendment.

Among the highlights:

  • The requirement of the development of  a long-term strategic human capital plan to build out DHS’ acquisition workforce.
  • The implementation of “open architecture approach to acquisitions.”  Specifically, this is intended to cover “the employment of business and technical practices that yield modular, interoperable systems that adhere to standards with open interfaces, with a goal of encouraging competitive proposals from multiple qualified sources and rapid incorporation of innovative technologies into systems.”
  • Elevating the Assistant Secretary of Policy to an Undersecretary position, an elevation that should have been made long ago given the responsibilities of that office.
  • Improving the Department’s efforts generally on preparedness, response and recovery.
  • The creation of an Office of International Travel Security & Screening, which would combine the efforts of US-VISIT, the Screening Coordination Office (currently residing in policy),  and the visa waiver program.

 

The passage of this bill is significant, especially as the House is working to take up its version of a homeland security authorization bill in the coming month or so.   We could very well see this Congress the first Homeland Security Authorization bill since the agency’s creation go to the President’s desk, which is ironic given that Congress is as a whole at a standstill and partisanship is standard course in D.C. these days.  Maybe it is because of the 9/11 anniversary or that truly is the case that homeland security is not a partisan issue — we’ll find out over the coming months.

July 19, 2011

America Rising – one community at a time

Filed under: General Homeland Security,Preparedness and Response,State and Local HLS — by Christopher Bellavita on July 19, 2011

I am fortunate to work with creative and committed public servants.  Today’s post was written by one such person, John L. Farrell, Deputy Managing Director, City of Philadelphia.

In this essay, John links prevention, de-radicalization and community development in a way I have not seen done before.

The usual caveat: The views are John’s and do not necessarily represent the views of any organization.

———————————————————————–

US counterterrorism, military, and police forces are focused on executing tactics to disrupt activities that pose a threat to public safety.  These strategies have become increasingly effective and efficient, but they have a common shortcoming – they are all reactive.  The US lacks a strategy aimed at prevention – one that seeks to stop individuals from choosing an extremist path before they are fully committed.  However, the need for such efforts is recognized in the National Strategy for Counterterrorism (2011).

The Cities of Philadelphia and Chicago have developed engagement strategies that aim to empower residents to make their communities safer.  I believe that these strategies can be applied to the larger homeland security (HS) enterprise, and that HS systems can operate more effectively by involving underrepresented communities in their processes.

The Rising System

To improve HS, the US should develop a domestic coordination and engagement system (“Rising System”) to link federal, state, and local governments (collectively, “government”).  The process would begin with the identification of communities that pose potential threats to public safety.  Local government officials would then begin dialogue to gain a deeper understanding of the targeted community, led by a single point of contact (“coordinator”).  The coordinator would lead the development of strategies through which the government and the group could work together to address issues identified by the community.

Though a simple idea, this runs counter to the traditional theory of government as a service provider.  Instead of “big brother” knowing what is best for a community, the community would prioritize its needs, and the coordinator would facilitate the delivery of resources.  The goal of this process would be to build trust with the targeted community.  By listening to community members and delivering on promises, government representatives may be able to develop relationships that help these communities identify themselves as partners rather than adversaries.

This strategy would not demand a large amount of new funding, an important aspect for two reasons.  First, significant financial investments are not practical or feasible for cash-strapped governments across the US.  Second, directing money to specific groups could reward negative behaviors (i.e. if a group wants money from the government, they should threaten public safety).  Instead, coordinators would be responsible for identifying existing organizations and programs (both inside and outside of government) that provide the services necessary to address the community’s needs.  Focusing existing resources and implementing policy changes could prove to be small investments with a large return on improved security.

Local governments are the logical choice to lead dialogue because in many cases they already have ties to either the targeted groups, or second level connections through credible sources that could provide introductions.  To support local efforts, the federal government would need to develop structures to organize the resources of various agencies involved.  In Robert Deardorff’s thesis Countering Violent Extremism: the Challenge and the Opportunity, he suggests the federal government develop Regional Outreach and Operational Coordination Centers (ROOCC) to help coordinate engagement activities.  Essentially, Deardorff envisions ROOCC as housing a wide variety of specialists to conduct outreach missions within the US.  The ROOCC could serve as the overarching mechanism to unite local outreach representatives with federal support in Rising Systems.

Defining the Problem

The Rising System would be geared toward developing a true prevention element for the HS enterprise.  Current US HS practices are primarily focused on disruption, not prevention – intelligence analysts and investigators seek connections to learn about terror plots and stop them before implementation.  True prevention, however, occurs long before this stage.  True prevention involves stopping individuals from becoming extremists in the first place.

Nolan, Conti, and McDevitt suggest there is a direct correlation between the level of crime in a community and the degree to which members of that community are organized.  They place neighborhoods in one of four types – Strong (low crime and high organization), Vulnerable (low crime and low organization), Anomic (high crime and low organization) or Responsive (high crime and high organization).  The primary goal of the Rising System, then, would be twofold:  to help Anomic neighborhoods become Responsive, if not Strong; and for government to gain access to Strong and Responsive communities that may not trust them.

Conducted properly, the Rising System can also help the US address the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation to counter the terrorist narrative.  By bringing communities such as American Muslims into a partnership with the government, the US will have subject matter experts to help refine how its message is conveyed.  As is the case with deradicalization strategies, the use of respected members of targeted groups to convey a message will be critical to this program’s success. These practices should ultimately lead to closer ties between US Muslims and the government, which will eventually work to debunk myths that the government is anti-Muslim.  Countering extremist ideology may help eliminate the flow of recruits to extremist organizations, which will contribute to their demise.

An engagement strategy that builds relationships can also help to reduce the impact of several of the antinomies that Philip Bobbitt describes in Terror and Consent, namely “the separation between the domestic and the international,” “the different rules we apply to law enforcement and intelligence operations,” and “the different reliance we place on secret as opposed to open sources.” Relationships with leaders in local communities can build trust, which may encourage them to volunteer sensitive information.  This may help to eliminate, or at least reduce, the need for more invasive monitoring methods.  In cases where more invasive monitoring is necessary, the volunteered information may provide the probable cause needed to justify such actions in a criminal or FISA court, alleviating a concern associated with intelligence collection  standards usually applied to foreign agents.

The Rising System will also help to inform government about how to best deploy resources in a difficult fiscal environment.  By conducting the proper analysis of where grievances exist, government can provide opportunities where citizens leverage existing resources to improve their standing, and contribute to American society.  Implementation of the Rising System may thus aid in the shift to what Bobbitt describes as a government in a “market state” rather than a “nation state.” As community members use these resources and contribute to their neighborhood, they may also take ownership of their neighborhood, hopefully making them less likely to shield threats to security.

Whom Would the Rising System Benefit?

Those who stand to gain the most from such a program are the members of the targeted communities.  They will see an improved level of service in areas that may be described as underserved, poor, or forgotten.  Local elected officials will benefit, as their knowledge of the community will play an important role in lending legitimacy to the program.  A Rising System’s success will in turn lend local elected officials political capital as they bring improved quality of life to their community.

The HS enterprise in general will benefit, but certain organizations may oppose the idea.  In theory, everyone in the public safety and HS realms benefits from anything that reduces the number of threats.  However, the proposal itself could be intimidating to some agencies, as it will force them to either evolve their missions, or reduce the need for their services.  There will always be a need for enforcement, intelligence sharing, and most other aspects of the HS enterprise.  However, the reduced demand for service may also result in reduced levels of funding, a proposition that few agencies appreciate.  This may also be true for those receiving funding from the federal government that is not community-based, as a change in strategy may interfere with their funding streams.

A strong opposition for this process could come from civil libertarians.  They may be able to argue that the Rising System could lead communities to conduct witch-hunts for suspects, especially those who they may want to ostracize for reasons other than public safety.  The judiciary would need to be properly briefed on the process, and help create safeguards to prevent relationships from being exploited in this manner.

The Next Steps to Implement the Rising System

Versions of the Rising System are already being implemented at a local level in Philadelphia and Chicago, but without the connection to the federal government.  Philadelphia’s PhillyRising Collaborative is a geographically-based system for coordinating the services of the City government and outside organizations. Similarly, the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS) has conducted local coordination and outreach since 1993. PhillyRising and CAPS both rely on engagement and citizen participation to drive change in troubled neighborhoods, and have demonstrated success in their respective jurisdictions.

Assuming Philadelphia and/or Chicago were used as a pilot, the next immediate steps would be for the federal government to develop a formal support mechanism.  This could be done through the establishment of Deardorff’s ROOCC, but could also be less formal.  It could simply involve a high-level executive from the federal government conducting regular meetings with local representatives from PhillyRising and CAPS to gather information and coordinate resources.

There is a great need for this program to have support from the highest levels.  Though the operations are predicated on a bottom-up approach for determining strategies for each targeted community, support from the top is necessary to make implementation successful.

Outcomes of a Successful Implementation

In a successful implementation, governments at all levels would establish new relationships in communities where they previously had little access.  These relationships would inform civil servants and elected officials in a way that would make government more responsive to citizens’ needs.  While data analysis can provide a baseline for certain factors in a community, it cannot always determine which issues are the most significant to the everyday lives of residents.

If the Rising System were implemented correctly: government at all levels would be more responsive; communities would build capacity for assuring internal public safety; partnerships would develop sustainable solutions to local problems that produce opportunities for residents; governments would enhance intelligence capabilities; and governments would utilize resources more efficiently by gaining a better understanding of where funding is needed most.  The Rising System could lead governments to operate smarter, faster, and better:

Smarter Government – The Rising System would encourage agency representatives to meet regularly to identify overlapping problems and develop and deliver collaborative solutions to long-term, complex issues.  As officials adapt to serving residents in this manner, the Rising System would create a means for right-sizing resources as well as agency structures.

Faster Government – By improving front-line coordination among officials, service delivery would become more efficient.  As the system progresses, integration of technology systems would facilitate information-sharing, joint planning, and delivery of services.

Better Government – The Rising System would shift the determination for success from strictly agency-based measures to actual outcomes seen in targeted communities.  The Rising System would create a mechanism for regional accountability for public safety, and help define the public safety role of organizations outside of the traditional HS field.  On an external level, the Rising System would reform the governments’ relationship with targeted communities by fostering involvement by local groups to help continue progress.

While a successful implementation would bring many positive aspects, the relationship developed between the government and the community should also involve a degree of debate.  Discussion surrounding strategies, perceptions, and messaging is a healthy exercise that can lead to the improvement of government operations.  This is particularly true in the case of the “narrative” that the 9/11 Commission suggested is needed to counter recruitment efforts by terrorist organizations.

Measuring Success

There are many statistics that could be used to determine the success or failure of such an endeavor, and each stakeholder would likely have their own metrics to determine success.  Agencies such as the FBI, for instance, may evaluate success by the number of tips received from the targeted community, or the number of plots they are able to disrupt due to such information.  The local police department could measure success by the change in crime rate for the targeted community, as is the case for the Philadelphia Police Department’s evaluation of PhillyRising. Residents or members of the community may determine success by their perception of their quality of life, something that may need to be determined in a survey.

There are some factors that may be useful to evaluate for all stakeholders involved.  The first is the number of potential recruits who are dissuaded from taking an extremist path.  The number of people stopped shows that the program is credible and effective, and benefits every group involved.  It is a statistic that will also impact almost all of the others mentioned – if FBI does not have to disrupt a plot, no crime was committed, and the community can feel safer having that person as a productive member of society, rather than a fringe element determined to attack it.  A principal difficulty may come in measuring this number beyond those affected by direct intervention.

The Rising System would also track changes to the relationship between community members and agencies.  This may be measured by factors such as increases in the community’s faith that their requests will not only be heard, but completed to the greatest extent possible.  These responses, though difficult to quantify, will determine an initial acceptance of the Rising System by the local community.  Their acceptance is absolutely necessary for the positive changes in the targeted area to occur and continue.

Ultimately, a successful neighborhood will be one where the Rising System’s coordinated approach is no longer needed – the community members will have taken over the process themselves, and developed relationships with the government that no longer require a central coordinator.

We already know that existing US HS measures to disrupt terrorist/public safety activities are not always successful.  While our tactics for operations have become outstanding, they rely on the premise of detecting a threat before it is executed.  Because knowledge is inherently limited, this strategy cannot always be successful.  However, by developing a strategy that prevents at least some plots from reaching the point of execution, public safety officials may become more effective by focusing resources on a smaller number of threats.  Violent crime and terrorist activities in the US may never end, but by bringing more people into the government’s decision making process, and by providing more opportunities to those who may otherwise slip between the cracks, the US can develop more friends than enemies.

 

July 15, 2011

Text, subtext, and terrorism

Filed under: Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on July 15, 2011

The purpose of strategy — sez me — is to generate comparative advantage to deal with uncertainty.  The source of uncertainty — enemy, adversary, competitor, lover, child, weather, markets, or the innate complexity of the universe — is one influence on choosing a strategy.  But in many cases strategy is less about a specific source of uncertainty and much more a matter of capacity and opportunity.  We choose to do what we can do.

As of June 29 the United States has a new National Strategy for Counterterrorism.  This document replaces — or perhaps builds upon or clarifies or updates — the 2006 National Strategy for Combating Terrorism.  There is considerable continuity.

The 2006 document states:

Today, the principal terrorist enemy confronting the United States is a transnational movement of extremist organizations, networks, and individuals – and their state and non-state supporters – which have in common that they exploit Islam and use terrorism for ideological ends. This transnational movement is not monolithic.  Although al-Qaida functions as the movement’s vanguard and remains, along with its affiliate groups and those inspired by them, the most dangerous present manifestation of the enemy, the movement is not controlled by any single individual, group, or state.  What unites the movement is a common vision, a common set of ideas about the nature and destiny of the world, and a common goal of ushering in totalitarian rule.  What unites the movement is the ideology of oppression, violence, and hate. Although its brutal tactics and mass murder of Muslims have undermined its appeal, al-Qa‘ida has had some success in rallying individuals and other militant groups to its cause. Where its ideology does resonate, the United States faces an evolving threat from groups and individuals that accept al-Qa‘ida’s agenda, whether through formal alliance, loose affiliation, or mere inspiration.

The new document states:

The preeminent security threat to the United States continues to be from al-Qa‘ida and its affiliates and adherents… In addition to plotting and carrying out specific attacks, al-Qa‘ida seeks to inspire a broader conflict against the United States and many of our allies and partners. To rally individuals and groups to its cause, al-Qa‘ida preys on local grievances and propagates a self-serving historical and political account. It draws on a distorted interpretation of Islam to justify the murder of Muslim and non-Muslim innocents. Countering this ideology—which has been rejected repeatedly and unequivocally by people of all faiths around the world—is an essential element of our strategy…  Adherence to al-Qa‘ida’s ideology may not require allegiance to al-Qa‘ida, the organization. Individuals who sympathize with or actively support al-Qa‘ida may be inspired to violence and can pose an ongoing threat, even if they have little or no formal contact with al-Qa‘ida.

There is a source of uncertainty, tension, and conflict that we call al-Qa’ida.  We also acknowledge important aspects of uncertainty beyond al-Qa’ida.  These relate to historical, ideological, economic, political and religious complexities that al-Qa’ida, its affiliates and adherents draw upon and can exploit.

Neither the 2006 strategy nor the new strategy give much detailed attention to these deeper sources of uncertainty.   This reflects, I perceive, both a lack of consensus as to the nature of the deeper uncertainties and a lack of confidence in the ability of the government of the United States to positively engage these profound complexities.

So we do what we can do — or hope we can do — including:

  • Protect the American People, Homeland, and American Interests,
  • Disrupt, Degrade, Dismantle, and Defeat al-Qa’ida and Its Affiliates and Adherents,
  • Prevent Terrorist Development, Acquisition, and Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction,
  • Eliminate Safehavens,
  • Build Enduring Counterterrorism Partnerships and Capabilities,
  • Degrade Links between al-Qa’ida and its Affiliates and Adherents, and
  • Deprive Terrorists of their Enabling Means.

Each of these bullets are subtitles within the new strategy and each receive a long paragraph’s explanation. These are ambitious, difficult, but practical and measurable goals.  Choices are made.  Priorities established.  These each and all strike me as reasonable.  Elsewhere in the document there is a shout-out to resilience in case these efforts fail.

In the midst of the prior seven is the following goal with its own long paragraph.

Counter al-Qa‘ida Ideology and Its Resonance and Diminish the Specific Drivers of Violence that al-Qa‘ida Exploits. This Strategy prioritizes U.S. and partner efforts to undercut al-Qa‘ida’s fabricated legitimization of violence and its efforts to spread its ideology. As we have seen in the Middle East and North Africa, al-Qa‘ida’s calls for perpetual violence to address longstanding grievances have met a devastating rebuke in the face of nonviolent mass movements that seek solutions through expanded individual rights. Along with the majority of people across all religious and cultural traditions, we aim for a world in which al-Qa‘ida is openly and widely rejected by all audiences as irrelevant to their aspirations and concerns, a world where al-Qa‘ida’s ideology does not shape perceptions of world and local events, inspire violence, or serve as a recruiting tool for the group or its adherents. Although achieving this objective is likely to require a concerted long-term effort, we must retain a focus on addressing the near-term challenge of preventing those individuals already on the brink from embracing al-Qa‘ida ideology and resorting to violence. We will work closely with local and global partners, inside and outside governments, to discredit al-Qa‘ida ideology and reduce its resonance. We will put forward a positive vision of engagement with foreign publics and support for universal rights that demonstrates that the United States aims to build while al-Qa‘ida would only destroy. We will apply focused foreign and development assistance abroad. At the same time, we will continue to assist, engage, and connect communities to increase their collective resilience abroad and at home. These efforts strengthen bulwarks against radicalization, recruitment, and mobilization to violence in the name of al-Qa‘ida and will focus in particular on those drivers that we know al-Qa‘ida exploits.

The intent of this paragraph is to move beyond treating symptoms and get to the heart of the problem.  With the possible exception of the sentence underlined (my underline), does this policy stance strike you as much more defensive than offensive?  Is this the sort of problem we mostly have to defend against and wait out?

Maybe the offense is being handled outside of CT per se. In explaining the new strategy John Brennan cautioned, “Our strategy recognizes that our counterterrorism efforts clearly benefit from—and at times depend on—broader foreign policy efforts, even as our CT strategy focuses more narrowly on preventing terrorist attacks against our interests, at home and abroad.”

Today Hillary Clinton begins an eleven-day round-the-world tour.  She will visit Turkey, Greece, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and China and engage in plenty of multilateral meetings along the way.  Writing in The Guardian Simon Tisdall offers, “But paradoxically, this diplomatic tour de force may unintentionally highlight the apparently inexorable decline of American power and influence.”

In this context, it is relevant that Public Diplomacy is on the GAO list of High Risks and Challenges.   This means, in my dictionary, its a tough and important job with a very uneven track record of success.

In the Department of State’s Congressional Budget Justification for Public Diplomacy we read:

The FY 2012 request includes a $6.2 million dollar investment for the creation of the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication (CSCC) which is tasked with leading a U. S. Government wide rapid guidance and communication effort to counter violent extremism.  As stated in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), the CSCC will coordinate, orient, and inform whole-of-government communications activities targeted against violent extremism to audiences abroad.  The QDDR also acknowledges that the Center will work closely with the Secretary‘s Coordinator for Counterterrorism or its proposed successor Bureau of Counterterrorism, as well as the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice‘s National Security Division, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies responsible for information programs related to counterterrorism.

Clearly the CSCC is only one small part of how we might put forward a “positive vision of engagement”.  But I will note the last time I heard, one predator drone cost $4.5 million.  The new reaper drones cost about $13 million each. Perhaps even in these tough times the CSCC might be worth an investment equivalent to two predators or even one reaper?  Apples and oranges some will complain.  Apple seeds and dragon’s teeth I am inclined to reply.

May 7, 2011

Al Qaeda Is Behind the Eight Ball

Filed under: Strategy,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Christopher Bellavita on May 7, 2011

This post was written by Mike Walker.  Mr. Walker was Acting Secretary of the Army and Deputy Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency during the Clinton Administration.  You can follow his comments on Twitter: @New_Narrative

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Osama bin Laden is dead. Remaining senior leaders are being relentlessly pursued. Al Qaeda affiliates continue to bungle attempted attacks in the West. And the FBI keeps stinging homegrown terror wannabes.

Al Qaeda was also irrelevant to this year’s Arab revolutions. Throughout the Muslim world Al Qaeda’s support is crumbling. Key supporters have abandoned the organization.

As a result, some pundits conclude the war on terror has already been won. That Al Qaeda died with Bin Laden. And that the ideological fuel driving radicalization has been rendered impotent.

Soon, government spending for homeland security will increasingly be questioned, as will expenditures by the private sector for infrastructure protection.

Now, just days after the death of Bin Laden, we find ourselves at a crossroads. It is important to get the direction right, because the threat is not over.

 

Al Qaeda Central has not been run by a bunch of yahoos. Al Qaeda has been led by a group of sophisticated, well educated, adaptive men who believe they are doing God’s work on earth.

No doubt, the terrorists already had a plan on the shelf for their next phase without Bin Laden, who was, after all, the most hunted man in the world. And long before Bin Laden was killed, Al Qaeda Central and its affiliate organizations were also planning specific attacks in the West. We must assume planning for those attacks continues and that terror operatives are now looking for ways to accelerate those plots.

Just as likely, self-selected terror wannabes here at home are quietly hatching their own crude, but potentially lethal plots, inspired by internet terrorists like Anwar al-Awlaki

These are some of the reasons the Attorney General, the Director of the FBI and the Secretary of Homeland Security have all said Americans should be alert to the potential for revenge attacks by the Al Qaeda network.

Of course, the US intelligence community is exploiting every shred of evidence taken away from Bin Laden’s compound in an effort to detect plots in progress. But it would be a mistake to believe that an organization, which has deliberately decentralized since the 9-11 attacks, would leave all its secrets in one place.

 

Since 9-11, AQ has become a networked, learning organization. The terrorists have closely watched our tactics, techniques and procedures for a decade, and today they also have a much better understanding of our economic and social vulnerabilities.

Following the trauma of losing their most revered leader, the terrorists, though, must now be concerned about continuing to lose relevance in the Muslim world.

All these factors combine to make the next several months a very high threat period.

 

In the aftermath of the bold, successful operation by Seal Team Six, it’s easy to believe the Federal government will disrupt every plot. To believe that would be folly. The Federal government I was honored to serve for 32 years does have substantial capability. But that capability is not enough to keep Main Street America safe from attack.

The terrorists have made it clear: it is no longer just Washington, DC, and New York City at risk. The terrorists are planning to strike the heartland of America to shake our citizens’ confidence and harm the economy.

Dealing with the threat, in the aftermath of Bin Laden’s death, continues to be a shared responsibility. The responsibilities of state and local governments, the private sector and average Americans did not diminish when Bin Laden was killed. Already, almost a third of all terror plots have been foiled because someone called law enforcement and reported that something didn’t seem right.

So, during the post-Bin Laden period, we must continue to be vigilant. Months ago, the Secretary of Homeland security said we should assume terror operatives are already inside the country and could attack with little or no warning. We should especially be alert for a potential Mumbai in America, where lone wolves or small cells attack multiple soft targets with conventional weapons, and, perhaps, improvised explosive devices.

 

The good news is most analysts believe it unlikely the terrorists will be able to attack with weapons of mass destruction. For now, that potential may be beyond their capability despite efforts for two decades to achieve it. However, it is not out of the realm of possibility that radicalized scientists in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program could clandestinely funnel material for a dirty bomb or worse to their militant friends. The revelation that Bin Laden had been living for years in a community of active and retired Pakistani military officers only heightens this concern.

So, we must not let our guard down in the coming months. This is no time for complacency in America. The celebrations should wait until we deal with longer-term issues.

 

Al Qaeda’s strategy has been focused on attempting to persuade Muslims that Islam is under attack by the West and must be defended by any means. Clearly, the terrorists seek to provoke a clash of civilizations.

While many Muslims erroneously believe the West does want to divide and conquer Islam, the terrorists have only been successful in recruiting relatively small, but dedicated numbers to do their violent bidding. It is Al Qaeda’s own violence that has turned off the vast majority of Muslims, who are also repelled by the terrorists’ corrupt version of Islam. The failure by the terrorists to persuade Muslims that Al Qaeda is the vanguard of Islam has been the terrorists’ biggest downfall.

 

Despite the terrorists’ own failures, there are important long-term challenges we must address before we will tame the threat.

Gallup and Pew polls indicate that of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, hundreds of millions want to rid Muslim countries of Western influence and perceived exploitation.

The American military footprint around the world is a leading cause of radicalization both here at home and abroad. How we project power and protect our own vital interests in the future will make a difference in terrorist recruiting. As we saw in Abbottabad, it doesn’t take military divisions to deal with terrorists.

Likewise, the West’s addiction to oil and drugs, much of which comes from countries in the Middle East and South Asia, continue to weaken our influence and increase our image as exploiting Muslim countries. Moving toward alternative energy sources and reducing the national appetite for illegal drugs must become a higher priority.

The perceived plight of the Palestinians continues to be a major source, if not the major source, of frustration in the Muslim world. A final agreement for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians would take this issue off the table.

Here at home, a growing misunderstanding of the religion of Islam actually increases the potential for radicalization. The terrorists continue to persuade disaffected Muslims that the handful of Americans who burn Korans and those who oppose the so-called Ground Zero Mosque actually prove America is at war with Islam.

How we deal with all these issues will have a significant impact on future radicalization inside America and overseas.

 

Radicalization in America will also be influenced by whether or not we remain true to our ideals and civil liberties. The terrorists are counting on us turning against our own fellow citizens out of fear, because they believe that will ensure jihad in America and help them buy time to build new capabilities.

The death of Bin Laden has given us a window of opportunity to seize the initiative at a time the terrorists are off balance. Today, the threat remains. In the short run we must remain vigilant. In the long term, we have some significant policy decisions to make.

 

 

 

 

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