spies, national security, espionage, counterterrorism, u.s. foreign policy, intelligence operations, CIA, special forces, counterterrorism, terrorism
Showing posts with label Qaeda. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Qaeda. Show all posts

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why Didn't Russia Arrest Tamerlan Tsarnaev?


People are squabbling over whether the FBI and CIA let the Tsarnaev brothers slip through their fingers.

To that we'd add: If Tamerlan Tsarnaev was such a terrorist threat, why didn’t the Russians arrest him? Or take away his passport? After all, Chechan Islamists are far more a threat to Moscow than the United States, even counting their soldierly duty with al Qaeda in South Asia.

Philip Mudd, a former deputy director of both the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and the FBI National Security Branch, offered a heated defense of the intelligence agencies' performance in the Tsarnaev case on the Charlie Rose show Tuesday night.

The Tsarnaevs had no known involvement with terrorist groups, as far as we know more than 10 days out from the Patriots Day attack. Even “if they had an operational linkage back home,” Mudd said, “I can’t figure out what kind of capabilities that operational linkage offered them.”

At least one of the Tsarnaevs did frequent Islamist Web sites, though, and reportedly learned how to make their crude bombs from the online English-language al Qaeda magazine “Inspire.”

Otherwise, investigators say now, they had no help.

Honing in on people who merely visit radical Web sites would be a fool’s errand, Mudd suggested, far beyond the capabilities of the FBI, CIA and other intelligence agencies, which are busy enough tracking real threats.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Hot Shots: Follow the Dots Edition


FBI Wants More, More, More: The FBI, joining the CIA, is on a controversial “crusade for more surveillance authority,” Ryan Gallagher notes at Slate.  In a speech last week to the American Bar Association, according to Gallagher, FBI General Counsel Andrew Weissman expressed the need for increased surveillance of Gmail, Google Voice, Drop Box, Skype and live games (“the chat feature in Scrabble”).

“Those communications are being used for criminal conversations,” he quoted Weissman as saying. 

“It’s no secret that under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the feds can easily obtain archive copies of emails,” Gallagher wrote. “When it comes to spying on emails or Gchat in real time, however, it’s a different story.”

Poland in the Middle on Torture: While the Warsaw government has been praised by human rights advocates for investigating the alleged CIA ‘black site’ in Poland, it’s also been knocked for stalling the process as well.  Now, lawyers for Abu Zubaydah, accused of running an al-Qaeda training camp for the 9/11 hijackers, have applied for a hearing in the European Court of Human Rights, according to Reuters.  The lawyers expressed concern  “there was no hope of him receiving fair treatment inside Poland.”

Abu Zubaydah was allegedly one of the suspected al-Qaeda terrorists who “were flown in secret to a remote Polish airfield between 2002 and 2005 and then transported to an intelligence academy near a village called Stare Kiejkuty,” Reuters said, citing rights groups and the Council of Europe.  “Here, on the edge of a lake and surrounded by forest, rights campaigners say, the detainees were subjected to interrogation techniques which amounted to torture.”

The Polish government has denied the existence of the black site and has claimed to have launched a “full and fair investigation, free of any political pressure,” according to Reuters. However, Zubaydah’s lawyers have complained about not being able to access the evidence against their client or take notes on the evidence they are allowed to see.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Benghazi Debacle: FUBAR

On the very first night of my arrival in Vietnam to take over a secret intelligence operation, I was invited with my team to attend a cocktail party at the American consulate in Da Nang, an old French colonial port city on the central coast. I was so new, I was memorizing my cover story even as we drove to the consulate.

I was going to be running a “unilateral” espionage operation, which is to say, I not only wouldn't work with my South Vietnamese counterparts, who were heavily infiltrated by the communists, I was to consider them potential enemy agents, too.

A South Vietnamese colonel approached me during the party and asked what I did.  Using my fresh-from-language school Vietnamese, I told him that I was Army civilian working with a civilian refugee assistance program.

“Oh,”  he said with a smirk, “you’re a spook.” 

I froze. Later on, driving back to our safe house (in a Jeep painted black with diplomatic license tags, no less), I nervously told my teammates about the encounter with the colonel.

“Oh, that’s nothing”, one said, chuckling. “The Green Berets captured a Vietcong terrorist map six months ago. It had a big X on our house.”

“What happened?” I asked. “Nothing,” they said in unison, smiling with war-weariness. “Obviously we haven't moved.

"It’s just Fubar."