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Showing posts with label terrorism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label terrorism. Show all posts

Saturday, June 29, 2013

New Study Urges Shift in Counterterrorism Strategy


The portrait of the Islamic terrorist as a rejected and disaffected loner, fueled by such events such as the Boston Marathon bombings, is broadly shared by experts and public safety officials.

But the simple image of an unstable Muslim being radicalized and turning to terrorism is slowly losing legitimacy among scholars and policy makers, a new academic article suggests.

Monika Bartoszewicz, of the European Training and Research Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, argues that American policy should not be focused on the disaffected minority but on promoting stable relations with the non-radicalized majority.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mary Louise Kelly Changes Channels

The NPR journalist has written a debut thriller that features "a beautiful, driven, yet troubled New England Chronicle reporter" who finds herself in the middle of--what else?-- a mysterious murder, international intrigue and terrorists.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Tsarnaev: My Generation

SpyTalk Writer

When I first heard about the college kid behind the bombings in Boston, I was initially surprised and curious about where he went to school.

Like Dzhokar Tsarnaev, I'm a college student from liberal Massachusetts.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Qaeda's Hobbyist Bombers

Why go to Pakistan when you can learn in your own home?


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.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Shameless Lindsey Graham's Boston Cracks Blow Up in His Face


Does Lindsey Graham have a screw loose? Or is he just shameless in his latest attempt to wring partisan advantage from a national tragedy?

Whatever, his latest attacks on an American intelligence agency blew up on him Monday like a trick cigar.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ricin is the Weapon of Choice for Right Wing Nuts


In the dead of winter in 1997, I traveled to frozen central Minnesota to track down members of a "patriot" militia who had been convicted of conspiring to kill an IRS agent with ricin. I later wrote a story (for Gentleman's Quarterly, of all places) about the government's rudimentary preparations for chemical or biological attacks.  

It seems almost quaint now. Back then--before al Qaeda loomed large in our minds--ricin was all the rage with the anti-government militias and right wing nuts.  Some of their primitive newsletters even carried advertisements for booklets on how to make ricin, an incredibly lethal poison derived from castor seeds.

Beyond Minnesota, there were arrests over the years in Ohio, Georgia, Pennsylvania and elsewhere--almost all anti-government zealots.

In 2004, the office of Senator Bill Frist, R-TN, was allegedly targeted by a ricin-laced letter in 2004.  The ricin was found in the mail room but the letter itself was never found; neither was the sender.

Now envelopes suspected of being laced with ricin are showing up again in Washington, one directed at Sen. Richard Wicker, a Mississippi Republican who last week voted for having a debate on gun legislation, another at President Obama, a constant target of crazed, and often racist, fulminations from the extreme right.  

Update: Authorities on Wednesday night reportedly arrested Kenneth Curtis, of Tupelo, Miss., in connection with the case.

Of course, ricin has been employed by communist intelligence services and Central Asian terrorists, and one can’t rule out that some al Qaeda-linked group isn’t targeting us again. But if history’s any guide, it’s the rightwing nuts who are out in the garage again crushing castor beans.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How They Will Investigate the Boston Bombing

Former White House Counterterrorism Adviser Richard A. Clarke says U.S. security agencies have a wealth of investigative resources and techniques to employ against whomever carried out Monday's horrific bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

"While detectives and federal agents have started the laborious process of interviewing thousands of people in Boston, much of the work that is likely to be key to solving the Boston Bombing is technical and forensic," Clarke said on his FaceBook page.

Video from bystanders' cell phones, retail outlets and traffic cameras could provide quick clues to the perpetrators. The National Security Agency will also zero in on cell phone traffic around Boston and to such terrorist lairs and Pakistan and Yemen, he said. 

The resources that the government can bring to the case a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks are stupendous, said Clarke, a White House counterterrorism adviser to both Bushes and President Clinton.

"First, the FBI will stitch together hundreds of hours of video camera recordings from private and public surveillance and traffic cameras, as well as recordings made by private citizens attending the race. They will look for when the bombs might have been left behind and then examine the faces of everyone who was in the area around that time. They will try to put names to those faces, using facial recognition matching software, drawing on drivers license, passport, and visa databases."

After agents from Israel's Mossad carried out an assassination in Dubai, Clark said, "the police in the United Arab Emirates were able to recreate most of the the assassination operation by using snippets from dozens of surveillance cameras. For the FBI in Boston, a similar process has now begun."

Rightwing Extremist Groups Fear Scapegoating for Boston Bombs


Right wing extremist groups were generally slow to comment on yesterday’s horrific Boston Marathon bombing, but many visitors to them expressed fear and anger that President Obama would eventually blame white superiority organizations and try to confiscate their guns.

Stormfront, the premier “white pride” website, has the most populated forum on the attacks in Boston.  One user wondered, “how is Obama going to exploit this for political gain?” 

Many more commenters expressed fear that “the anti-gunners will use this to convince the sheeple [sic] that people that own guns are the same type of people that own bombs.” 

However, no Stormfront forum is complete without a reference to ZOG, or the Zionist Occupation Government.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

CIA and Secret Warfare: When the Knives Came Out

The title of Mark Mazzetti's new book, "The Way of the Knife," is a little misleading. Sure, the badges of most special operations units feature a dagger, the symbol for stealth, if not hand-to-hand fighting. But in the post-9/11 shadow war against al Qaeda and its affiliates, it is presidents, prime ministers, warlords, kings and generals who wield the knives, stabbing each other in the back. Out in the field, at the tip of the spear, the weapons are spies, drones, algorithms and cash.

Read the rest of my review in the San Franciso Chronicle here.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Did Brennan Get a Free Pass from Mazzetti?


The New York Times’ Mark Mazzetti is churning up a lot of positive buzz with his new book, “The Way of the Knife,” excerpted in the Times this week.

But at least one critic who closely follows the shadow wars thinks current Obama administration officials, especially CIA Director John Brennan, the former White House counterterrorism advisor, is getting a free pass in Mazzetti’s account of the CIA’s drone war and other clandestine counterterrorism programs since 9/11.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Chiquita Fighting Exposure of Links to Terror Groups

Banana colossus Chiquita Brands International is in hot water again for its past contracts with Colombian rebel organizations and right-wing paramilitary groups.

The company is now fighting against the disclosure of a portion of company papers it turned over to the SEC during an investigation from 1998 to 2004, reports the private National Security Archive at George Washington University.

Chiquita has filed a “reverse” FOIA to prevent the Archive from gaining access to their internal records.

CIA Checking Out Indian Casinos?


Politicians in Goa, the western India port city, are dodging questions about the CIA’s presence in the region.  According to the Mumbai web site FirstPost India, agency officials may be investigating possible ties between regional casinos and terrorist groups.

Goa, the former Portuguese colony on India’s west coast, is the country’s richest state and well known for gambling and high class casinos.

There were no specifics in the report, including the identity of any terrorist groups. Nor was any evidence produced for the CIA's alleged presence in Goa or an explanation for spy agency operations there.  But the CIA could well be focusing on the “five offshore casinos” within Goa, the web site suggested.  Terrorist groups targeting the United States have been known to link with offshore businesses and banks, the agency figures, so why not offshore casinos?

Monday, March 4, 2013

Exactly What Is a Lone Wolf Terrorist?

By Sally Farrington

Three years ago last month a single engine plane was deliberately flown into an Austin office building that headquartered the regional office of the Internal Revenue Service.  The pilot, Joseph Andrew Stack III, acted alone and with the intention to inflict damage on the IRS in particular and U.S. government in general, according to authorities.  That made him what’s called a “lone wolf terrorist,” a term whose definition is hotly debated but essentially describes an attacker who works with minimal or no support from an organized terrorist group.

According to terrorism analyst Jeffrey D. Simon and many other experts and government officials, the lone wolf, gliding under the radar of Western counterterrorism agencies, poses even more of a threat to our nation than known members of al Qaeda, Hezbollah or other groups. Indeed, in 2011, Congress renewed the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act and amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to allow for closer monitoring of such individuals.

Simon, a UCLA lecturer, former terrorism analyst at RAND and president of Political Risk Assessment, Inc.  argues for increased focus on the phenomenon in his new book, “Lone Wolf Terrorism: Understanding the Growing Threat.” But while he has written an engaging introduction to the subject, he does not conclusively answer the question: Exactly what is lone wolf terrorism?

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."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

We’ll Get Iran’s Dough, Beirut Bombing Case Lawyer Vows

The headline over the story of a federal court's award Wednesday of $44 million to victims of the 1983 Beirut terror bombing said it will be “hard to collect” anything from Iran.

But don’t tell that to their lawyer.

Joseph Peter Drennan, the Alexandria, Va.  attorney representing two servicemen wounded in the 1983 truck bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon said he “strongly” believes he’ll end up collecting the cash from Iran, sponsor of the Hezbollah terrorist group that carried out the attack.

The main reasons: Iran has cash here, starting with $2 billion in Citibank accounts in New York.

And the time is ripe.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

U.K Judge Orders News Blackout on Location of al Qaeda Suspect Abu Qatada

A High Court judge in London has ordered the British media not to report the location of a “safe house” where the government has stashed a Muslim preacher linked to al Qaeda.

Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, was released from custody Tuesday night and sequestered by the government at a cost of about $15,000 a week and 60 security personnel, according to local reports.

Qatada, often referred to as a pro-al Qaeda “hate preacher,” is facing deportation to stand trial on terror charges in Jordan.

Evidence against him has never been made public and he has never been charged.

British media outlets apprently learned the property owner's name and address where Qatada was put under close watch, after which the owner evidently sought a protective order, according to a memorandum obtained by SpyTalk.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Finally, a TV Spy Drama That Gets It Right on Torture

Homeland,” the buzz-generating serial thriller on Showtime, finally got something right the other night: How to interrogate a terrorist. 

Much about the show, starring Claire Danes as a manic-depressive CIA counterterrorism agent, is downright ridiculous, of course, starting with her obsession that she was somehow singularly responsible for failing to prevent the 9/11 attacks. 

In reality, not a single CIA official took blame for the manifold intelligence failures of 9/11, much less resigned over them.

Also in the show, Danes’s character Carrie Mathison gets green-lighted by her mentor to run an off-the-books, round-the-clock video surveillance of a U.S. Marine whom she suspects of having been “turned” by terrorists who held him in captivity for eight years. For days on end, she and a CIA techie watch his every move.

Now that’s funny.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

In Alleged Iran Assassination Plot, Life Imitates Art

James Grady writes riveting spy-thriller fiction, but the Iranians keep walking into his made-up plots.

In 1975, the movie version of Grady's iconic novel of Watergate-era paranoia, “Three Days of the Condor,” featured a renegade CIA hit man donning a mail carrier’s gray uniform to kill a CIA researcher played by Robert Redford.

Five years later, an assassin dispatched by Tehran showed up on the doorstep of an anti-regime exile activist in Bethesda, Md., dressed up as a postman, to carry out the hit.

Another loop: Redford's (and Grady's) fictional CIA unit read books to come up with ideas for espionage.  Yet another: A few years ago Russian defector Sergei Tretyakov claimed that the KGB, inspired by Grady's thriller,  set up a unit to -- you guessed it:  read books for spy ideas.

"It stunned the hell out of me,"  Grady said.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Accused Mass. Terrorist Used Ex-Yankee’s Name as Alias

Rezwan Ferdous’s house is only a 40-minute drive west of Fenway Park, putting it near the heart of Red Sox Nation. And Northeastern University, his alma mater, is just a few subway stops away from the hallowed ground.

Could that have played a role in why Ferdaus, an Ashland resident and Northeastern grad, chose “Dave Winfield,” of all the names in the phone book, as an alias to buy model planes, explosives and automatic weapons for his alleged plot to attack the U.S. Capitol and Pentagon?

The FBI affidavit filed in court Wednesday doesn’t say.

It just says that “for the purpose of  buying [a model of] the F-86 Sabre” -- a Korean War-era fighter jet --  “Ferdaus created a false identity, ‘Dave Winfield.’”  The graceful outfielder played for the Yanks for most of the 1980s. 

If the FBI saw any dark humor in Ferdaus's choice of an alias, they didn’t say.

Of course, Winfield's career was over by the time Ferdaus, 26, could read a a sports section. But living in Massachusetts, and subjected to year-round Red Sox coverage from the local media, Ferdaus might well have just absorbed how Winfield’s Yankees tormented the Olde Towne Team in the 1980s.

Then again, if he had really wanted to be mischievous, he would’ve chose Bucky Effing Dent, or Aaron Effing Boone.

Now those guys were terrorists.