Post Tagged with: "terrorism"

Counterterrorism Agency: Urban Exploration Helps Terrorism

Counterterrorism Agency: Urban Exploration Helps Terrorism

Some Places Know All the Right Things to Say

Spencer Ackerman writes:

Some people are into spelunking through the urban ruins and crevasses of unfamiliar cities. The National Counterterrorism Center has a term for these sorts of people: terrorist dupes.

“Urban Explorers (UE) — hobbyists who seek illicit access to transportation and industrial facilities in urban areas — frequently post photographs, video footage, and diagrams on line [sic] that could be used by terrorists to remotely identify and surveil potential targets,” warns the nation’s premiere all-source center for counterterrorism analysis. [...]

Urban exploration is not typically the reconnaissance mission of al-Qaida. While it’s not crazy to think that terrorists might be interested in studying an urban landscape, the vanishingly few cases of domestic terrorism in the post-9/11 era typically involved shooting up places like Fort Hood or leaving a would-be car bomb in Times Square, rather than recon from the top of a bridge or the depths of a subway tunnel. Such tips aren’t even a part of the DIY terrorism advice column in al-Qaida’s English-language webzine.

Full Story: Wired Danger Room: Urban Exploration Helps Terrorism, Counterterrorism Agency Warns

Previously:

Crack the Surface: Free Documentary Series on Urban Exploration

Government Proposes to Forbid London Urban Explorers From Speaking To Each Other for 10 Years

Photo: Nick Fisher / CC

March 19, 2013 0 comments
In Manifesto, Mexican Eco-Terrorists Declare War on Nanotechnology

In Manifesto, Mexican Eco-Terrorists Declare War on Nanotechnology

anarchy

From Danger Room:

The group, which goes by the name Individualidades Tendiendo a lo Salvaje (ITS), posted its manifesto to anarchist blog Liberacion Total last month. The manifesto takes credit for a failed bombing attempt that month against a researcher at the Biotechnology Institute at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. And the group promises more.

“We have said it before, we act without any compassion in the feral defense of Wild Nature,” the manifesto states. “Did those who modify and destroy the Earth think their actions wouldn’t have repercussions? That they wouldn’t pay a price? If they thought so, they are mistaken.” The group threatens more bombings against Mexican scientists because “they must pay for what they are doing to the Earth.”

A violent fringe group with anarcho-primitivist views — its name roughly translates to “Individuals Tending to Savagery,” although “Tending to the Wild” might be more exact — ITS sees technology and civilization as essentially doomed and leading humanity to an ecological catastrophe. Technology should be destroyed; humans should revert to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle; and all of this, ITS says, is for our own good. Nanotechnology is a particular scourge: Self-replicating nanobots will one day escape from laboratories to consume the Earth; and weaponization of nanotech is inevitable.

Full Story: Wired Danger Room: In Manifesto, Mexican Eco-Terrorists Declare War on Nanotechnology

See also: Terror tactics: Science in the anarchists’ cross hairs

Photo: cosmopolita / CC

March 15, 2013 0 comments
India’s SMS Hoax Panic: Could It Happen In The U.S.?

India’s SMS Hoax Panic: Could It Happen In The U.S.?

I talked with Shlok Vaidya about what conditions would lead to an “SMS panic” like the one last week in India. There’s also a cameo by John Robb in there:

Trying to think of something that fit the mold of what happened in India, I asked Vaidya about the calls for Obama’s birth certificate in the U.S. Those rumors are more difficult to debunk because the target audience was already distrustful of the government and mainstream media, and right wing institutions were either slow to distance themselves from the demands and rumors or propagated them themselves. So even once the birth certificate and a Hawaiian newspaper birth announcement were made available, so-called “Birthers” weren’t convinced and claimed the birth certificate was fake and/or called to see a long form birth certificate.

Some Birthers will never be convinced, no matter what evidence is produced. This is similar to the problem in India: no one could prove conclusively that the northeasterners weren’t in danger. Any attempt to engage with Birthers and conspiracy theorists, such as such as Cass Sunstein’s “cognitive infiltration” proposal is likely to backfire and make them even more paranoid.

TechCrunch: India’s SMS Hoax Panic: Could It Happen In The U.S.?

August 23, 2012 2 comments
Why Oak Creek Isn’t Being Treated As A Tragedy For All Americans

Why Oak Creek Isn’t Being Treated As A Tragedy For All Americans

The tragic events in the Milwaukee suburb were also treated differently by political élites, many fewer of whom issued statements on the matter. While both Presidential candidates at least made public comments, neither visited, nor did they suspend campaigning in the state even for one day, as they did in Colorado. In fact, both candidates were in the vicinity this weekend and failed to appear. Obama hugged his children a little tighter after Aurora, but his remarks after Oak Creek referred to Sikhs as members of the “broader American family,” like some distant relatives. Romney unsurprisingly gaffed, referring on Tuesday to “the people who lost their lives at that sheik temple.” Because the shooting happened in Paul Ryan’s district, the Romney campaign delayed announcement of its Vice-Presidential choice until after Ryan could attend the funerals for the victims, but he did not speak at the service and has said surprisingly little about the incident.

Full Story: The New Yorker: Why Oak Creek Isn’t Being Treated As A Tragedy For All Americans

(via Wolven)

Meanwhile, white power activity in Oregon:

Pair indicted for racial purity murders in Oregon, Washington and California

“Swastikas, threats, lynch-depictions and racist epithets” spray painted on Portland Sons of Haiti Masonic Lodge

August 19, 2012 0 comments
The Failure of the FBI’s Right-Wing Terrorist Infiltration Program

The Failure of the FBI’s Right-Wing Terrorist Infiltration Program

Long piece from Foreign Policy about the FBI’s attempted infiltration of the “Patriot Movement” during the 90s:

Despite the fact that PATCON was set up as an intelligence-gathering operation, no evidence has emerged to date that information from the operation came into play during the bombing investigation, despite the links between some of McVeigh’s contacts and the organizations targeted.

The dilemmas of PATCON point toward current debates over the use of infiltration, particularly in cases such as the NYPD’s monitoring of Muslim communities in New York, investigations predicated on the need to collect intelligence rather than build prosecutions on specific criminal activities. The value of the intelligence collected by PATCON is unclear in the final analysis. The only PATCON targets ever prosecuted were already under investigation by the Army, and none of the specific terrorist plots alleged in the FBI’s records ever came to fruition. Meanwhile, the perpetrator of the worst act of right-wing violence in U.S. history was in contact with several targets of the FBI’s investigation but apparently flew under the radar.

Foreign Policy: Patriot Games

(via Innovation Patterns)

See also:

The Paranoid Center

Democracy Now guests on right wing populism and Tiller

April 22, 2012 1 comment
Despite the Death of Osama bin Laden, the Terrorists are STILL Winning

Despite the Death of Osama bin Laden, the Terrorists are STILL Winning

A week ago today it was announced that the U.S. had assassinated Osama bin Laden – an unarmed, sickly 54-year-old man who had eluded us for 13 years. I shed no tears for bin Laden, and have no illusions about the practicality of putting him on trial (though I do think that would have been the right thing). But was it a triumph for the U.S.? Hardly. Before we managed to track this man down and kill him, we as a nation have spent trillions of dollars on a multi-front war, stripped our own citizens of civil liberties and generally made fools of ourselves.

The latest example: We have to take off our shoes to go through airport security. We can’t carry more than 3.4oz of liquids or gels. We go through full body scanners, or subject ourselves to pat-downs. And yet, we still don’t feel safe. When two guys dressed in traditional Muslim garb get on a plane, we lose our shit.

That’s not the sign of a brave, powerful country. It’s the sign of a nation of cowards. The death of Osama bin Laden wasn’t a great victory. I shed no tears for bin Laden, but it’s hard to feel triumphant today when he’s accomplished what he set out to do. The U.S. is an empire in decline – broke and both unable and unwilling to provide for its own people. Meanwhile, we cower in fear at the sight of unattended packages, blinking LEDs and dudes with beards. Putting a bullet in bin Laden’s brain at this point was an exercise in futility. It’s hard to look tough when you shoot an unarmed man and then refuse to get on an airplane, even after you’ve body scanned every single person boarding the plane.

In 2006 Bruce Schneier wrote that the only way to beat the terrorists is to refuse to be terrorized. It’s cliché to say at this point, but yes, the terrorists have won. Until we grow a proverbial pair, stop gloating about unremarkable political assassinations and get on a fucking plane with some people who look different than we do, they will continue to win.

What’s it going to be America?

May 8, 2011 3 comments
Did the FBI Thwart Its Own Plot in Oregon?

Did the FBI Thwart Its Own Plot in Oregon?

I was out of state when this happened, otherwise I probably would have covered this sooner. As usual, Glenn Greenwald delivers the goods:

It may very well be that the FBI successfully and within legal limits arrested a dangerous criminal intent on carrying out a serious Terrorist plot that would have killed many innocent people, in which case they deserve praise. Court-approved surveillance and use of undercover agents to infiltrate terrorist plots are legitimate tactics when used in accordance with the law.

But it may also just as easily be the case that the FBI — as they’ve done many times in the past — found some very young, impressionable, disaffected, hapless, aimless, inept loner; created a plot it then persuaded/manipulated/entrapped him to join, essentially turning him into a Terrorist; and then patted itself on the back once it arrested him for having thwarted a “Terrorist plot” which, from start to finish, was entirely the FBI’s own concoction. Having stopped a plot which it itself manufactured, the FBI then publicly touts — and an uncritical media amplifies — its “success” to the world, thus proving both that domestic Terrorism from Muslims is a serious threat and the Government’s vast surveillance powers — current and future new ones — are necessary. [...]

We hear the same exact thing over and over and over from accused Terrorists — that they are attempting to carry out plots in retaliation for past and ongoing American violence against Muslim civilians and to deter such future acts. Here we find one of the great mysteries in American political culture: that the U.S. Government dispatches its military all over the world — invading, occupying, and bombing multiple Muslim countries — torturing them, imprisoning them without charges, shooting them up at checkpoints, sending remote-controlled drones to explode their homes, imposing sanctions that starve hundreds of thousands of children to death — and Americans are then baffled when some Muslims — an amazingly small percentage — harbor anger and vengeance toward them and want to return the violence. And here we also find the greatest myth in American political discourse: that engaging in all of that military aggression somehow constitutes Staying Safe and combating Terrorism — rather than doing more than any single other cause to provoke, sustain and fuel Terrorism.

Salon: The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot

It’s entirely reasonable to assume that the FBI agent’s recording gear malfunctioned or that someone made an honest mistake in configuring the equipment, as anyone who has worked with recording gear can tell you. But from a strictly legal standpoint, it seems like that should be a big strike against the FBI. Unlike Greenwald, I’m not a lawyer, though, so I don’t know.

From what little I know about the case, it does seem that Mohamud was motivated to commit violence. But the specific plot and access to weapons was furnished by the FBI. Even taking the FBI at its word, its difficult to see Mohamud as a great threat on his own. Still, it’s clear that there are some angry people in this country willing to do violence to our citizens, and as Greenwald points out, there’s relatively little discussion as to why. Regular readers of this blog know that I’m no friend to Islam, but it’s clearer every day that US foreign policy is a bigger driver for terrorism than religion.

Update: My friend Johnny Brainwash has taken a look at the affidavit and has a post on it:

The specific notion of a car bomb was Mohamud’s, but he had no clue how to go about it. Not a single operational detail would have happened without the FBI. He did buy some of the bomb components, sure, but with money and a shopping list provided by the feds. He also provided some Google Maps images and a disguise, both also at the request of undercover agents. Beyond that, he couldn’t even get to Portland if the FBI didn’t give him a ride.
This alleged plot, like nearly every alleged jihadi plot in the US, amounts to nearly nothing. Not that the kid is blameless or should get off scot-free, but he wasn’t much of a threat. Not compared to people who have committed genuine terrorist acts on American soil in the last couple of years, and certainly not enough to justify the feramongering that has gotten an added boost out of this. The story isn’t “OMG America under attack!!1!” It’s more like “look, another dumbass with fantasies of jihad- at least this one didn’t set his nuts on fire.”

He adds in the comments:

I don’t necessarily ascribe such specific intent to individual FBI’ers, or to the agency as a whole. It’s their job to catch criminals, and their budgets and prestige depend on it, so they’re going to catch them even if it takes some wishful thinking to create them. I think lots of law enforcement types, like lots of other folks, buy into the narrative of terrorists lurking under every bed, and so they don’t always realize when they’re going overboard.

I think others of them probably do realize, though.

I’m sort of leery of ascribing intent these days, preferring to describe observed behavior. Remarkable how it untangles things sometimes.

See also Mr. Brainwash on who is and isn’t a terrorist.

November 29, 2010 7 comments
The mythical potency of terrorism fear-mongering

The mythical potency of terrorism fear-mongering

fear mongering mcain

Glenn Greenwald:

That Terrorism fear-mongering has long been a central GOP political tactic is beyond dispute, but its current efficacy is far from clear. Just consider a new Washington Post poll released today. After months of GOP and media pummeling of Obama for being generally “soft on terror” and specifically for the crime of using the rule of law against (some) accused Terrorists, Americans approve of Obama’s “handling of the threat of terrorism” by a margin of 56-39 (his highest rating by far on any single issue). [...]

Even more compelling evidence is found in the 2006 and 2008 elections. As I documented at length, the centerpiece of Karl Rove’s 2006 midterm strategy was to depict the Democrats as “soft on terror” by virtue of their alleged opposition to warrantless eavesdropping, military commissions, and torture (he arranged votes on those issues right before the election) — yet the Republicans were crushed in that election in one of the most humiliating defeats of the last several decades, losing control of both houses of Congress.

Glenn Greenwald: The mythical potency of terrorism fear-mongering

Also good by Greenwald: Rich Lowry’s brain

February 10, 2010 0 comments
Unemployment and Insurgency

Unemployment and Insurgency

Does unemployment drive insurgency? That’s a big question that hasn’t been studied much. Despite the lack of data, unfounded assumptions abound. These assumptions are the basis of grand strategic theories to multi-billion $$ counter-insurgency programs (such is the intellectual poverty of US military thinking). One interesting statistical study, Do Working Men Rebel by Eli Berman, Joseph Felter, and Jacob Shapiro (NBER), attempts to answer this question (November 2009).

They conclude that unemployment is actually negatively correlated to insurgency. They posit that the most likely explanation for this is that the government’s counter-insurgency efforts are cheaper/easier to accomplish, since they can buy intel on insurgent locations more easily. The other (less likely) potential conclusion is that high unemployment is an artifact of successful counter-insurgency efforts that restrict movement and increase isolation. In either case, the idea that opportunity costs etc. (the standard theories regarding unemployment and insurgency) drives insurgency doesn’t appear to be valid. Another ancillary conclusion of the paper is that high unemployment typically forces a shift in tactics towards stealth area of effect attacks (IEDs, and other methods that connote relative weakness rather than strength) that produce high levels of collateral damage.

Global Guerillas: Unemployment and Insurgency

December 7, 2009 0 comments
Who’s Afraid of A Terrorist Haven?

Who’s Afraid of A Terrorist Haven?

The debate has largely overlooked a more basic question: How important to terrorist groups is any physical haven? More to the point: How much does a haven affect the danger of terrorist attacks against U.S. interests, especially the U.S. homeland? The answer to the second question is: not nearly as much as unstated assumptions underlying the current debate seem to suppose. When a group has a haven, it will use it for such purposes as basic training of recruits. But the operations most important to future terrorist attacks do not need such a home, and few recruits are required for even very deadly terrorism. Consider: The preparations most important to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks took place not in training camps in Afghanistan but, rather, in apartments in Germany, hotel rooms in Spain and flight schools in the United States.

In the past couple of decades, international terrorist groups have thrived by exploiting globalization and information technology, which has lessened their dependence on physical havens.

Washington Post: Who’s Afraid of A Terrorist Haven?

September 21, 2009 0 comments