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July 30, 2007

America at Risk: "Soft Targets"

Recent world terrorism events make it apparent that terrorist missions against targets like the World Trade Center may be less likely than targets of opportunity that require less resources and planning, and which can be carried out by al Qaeda clones. It has been observed that since September 11th, the larger, symbolic targets have become “hardened” with security, while myriad soft targets are more vulnerable.

"The federal government might instruct state and local authorities to protect every bridge, dam, power plant and mass-transit system in their jurisdiction, but the reality on the ground is that there are not nearly enough resources to protect them all, much less every shopping mall, state fair, Jewish Community Center, football game or other potential soft target where people concentrate."

Our vulnerability is illustrated by the recent, albeit, failed attacks in the UK, or the aborted plot to blow up the fuel tanks at JFK Airport in New York City. Radical Islamic terrorists (or their clone, wannabe jihadist franchises) still want to attack the West. The question must be asked (as it was in this article written by Senators Lieberman and Collins) why legislation to improve our security against terrorism languishes in both Houses. The bill would:

● offer “fixes” to deter terrorists from crossing our borders
● assist first responders in preventing attacks and help them respond more effectively
● improve security on all forms of transportation
● move to strengthen the visa waiver program by requiring an electronic check against terrorist watch lists of potential visitors
● require rapid reporting of lost or stolen passports
● strengthen homeland security intelligence sharing and coordination by promoting state, local, and regional fusion centers
● establish intelligence training for state, local, and tribal officials

Stratfor expresses the belief that we are overdue for a jihadist attack in the United States, while concluding that the attack would not approach the magnitude or complexity of the September 11th attacks.

What is an example of a soft, vulnerable target in the United States? Try looking at the Texas port city of Houston. Despite receiving an increase of 50% in federal anti-terrorism grants (to $25 million designated for planning, equipment, training and exercises), a concern exists that a relatively low-tech U.S.S. Cole-type attack could sink a ship in the Ship Channel, interrupting traffic for weeks or months, or for that matter:

"...attacks on Houston-area chemical plants and refineries could be lethal to lives and wounding of the U.S. economy. Terrorists, already have a history of using chemical bombs and tank trucks. It is but a short leap to attacking the chemical plants themselves."

As stated in a recent edition of Homeland Security Today, because of the Houston area's oil and gas off-loading, distribution and refining infrastructure, it is considered a prime target for terrorism. A major attack on any of these petroleum infrastructure could cripple both imported crude distribution and reduce refining capacity, which is already operating at less than 100-percent capacity. Technologies are available to protect harbors and ships from terrorist approach. The question, as always, will be whether they will be deployed.

Other “soft targets” and their vulnerabilities will be summarized in future entries.

July 29, 2007

Fabulously Fatal Fakes

Tonight’s Dateline re-aired a feature called the “Bitter Pill” that discussed the problem of counterfeit prescription drugs. The problem of counterfeit drugs is a growing worldwide concern. It is well known that the counterfeit products enter the chain of distribution at varying points between the manufacturer and the pharmacy, with millions of dollars exchanging hands. Of course a disturbing revelation was the even the “experts,” including pharmacists were often unable to identify a real or counterfeit pill without chemical analysis.

In one respect, if you missed the show, you should read the entire article. However, I wonder about this “investigative undercover report” since the problem of counterfeit pharmaceutical products is not a new one. Even the Food and Drug Administration recognized the problem back in 2003 and created its on-going Counterfeit Drug Task Force.

The US based Centre for Medicines in the Public Interest predicts that counterfeit drug sales will reach US$ 75 billion globally in 2010, an increase of more than 90% from 2005.

What drugs are involved? The list goes on beyond these, but some of the more popular products include: Lipitor, Viagra, Vaniqa, Crestor, Plavix, Procrit, Epogen, Tamiflu and others.

One of the problems is that the “industry” is still in a state of denial (my opinion). Among the issues discussed in the Dateline show was the new use of RFID chips to identify the counterfeits. This was discussed in a previous post, RFID Myths and Counterfeit Pharmaceuticals. While it is important that large companies like Perdue Pharma and Pfizer are adopting the electronic pedigree, is it really the "best" way to identify counterfeits (is the FDA mandating the use of RFIDs or simply "strongly suggesting" the use of these chips?), or is this a false sense of security when some other forms of RFID have been shown to be compromised?

Getting the word out about the problem of counterfeit pharmaceutical products, as Dateline did, is very important. The question of how to combat the problem however, remains.

July 28, 2007

Emerging Trend: Use of Public Surveillance in the U.S.

The attempted terrorist attacks last month in London and Glasgow highlighted the use and importance of video surveillance cameras in the UK, raising the possibility that we would soon see an expanded use of this capability in the U.S. Currently the United States has only a small fraction of the number of surveillance cameras in the United Kingdom.

There are so many of the cameras in Britain that Scotland Yard can literally track the movements of every single car in the country. The system can store data for up to two years, so it essentially creates a massive database of everything moving on British roads. American law enforcement would love to have that kind of system in this country as they try to fight terrorism.

Beyond that, the United Kingdom has the most per-capita CCTVs in the world . Throughout the country there are an estimated five million CCTV cameras, meaning that there is one CCTV camera for every twelve citizens. The United Kingdom has about 1 percent of the world's population and occupies a mere 0.2 percent of the world's inhabitable land mass, but it accounts for more than 20 percent of the world's CCTV cameras.

History of CCTV in Great Britain:
CCTV in Britain spread rapidly during the 1990s, but had been around since the 1950s. In 1956 the police started to use cameras in one-man operations at traffic lights in order to catch drivers running red lights. In 1960 the Metropolitan Police temporarily placed two cameras in Trafalgar Square to monitor the crowds during a public appearance by the Queen. By 1969, 14 police forces around the country were using CCTV, but there were still only 67 cameras in total. During the 1970s and 1980s the retail sector started to become interested but, even as late as 1991, still only ten cities had open-street CCTV systems, and they were small-scale and locally funded. All agree that the turning point was the abduction and murder of James Bulger in 1993. The now famous grainy CCTV image of the two ten-year-olds Robert Thompson and Jon Venables leading the trusting toddler by the hand from a Liverpool shopping centre was broadcast around the nation, and subsequently the world.

Before September 11th, it wouldn’t have been considered. And until the London attacks of July 7, 2005, even top police officials might have considered wide spread deployment of surveillance cameras to be intrusive. But that is clearly changing. Just following the first London attacks, In August of 2005, it was announced that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City would add 1,000 surveillance cameras and 3,000 motion sensors to its sprawling network of subways and commuter rail facilities as part of a $212 million security upgrade. At that time MTA spokespersons denied that the deployment was in response to the previous month’s bombings in the London underground.

Back then, I was certain that “life as we know it” was about to change. Despite outcries from civil liberties and privacy rights groups, back in 2005, this Lockheed Martin system was described as “cutting edge”:

"We will be on the cutting edge of this technology in order to protect our system against terrorist attack," said Katherine N. Lapp, the authority's executive director. Lockheed's proposed system "doesn't exist anywhere else in the world, in any other transit agency," she said. Lockheed officials said the system will provide monitoring, surveillance, access control, intrusion detection and response capabilities. The system will feature motion sensors, perimeter sensors, "intelligent video" software and conventional closed-circuit television cameras. The system will use "pixel recognition" technology, which can detect unattended packages by comparing objects in view with reference images.

Today, controversy still surrounds the program with many claiming privacy rights over security. Like it or not, security methods are changing and ever evolving, and with the repeated attempts in the UK last month, the likelihood of trading off safety and security for some level of perceived “privacy rights” is happening. Can the new generation of surveillance cameras, Close Circuit TVs (CCTV) actually assist authorities in preventing a terrorist attack? Some experts think so.

A controversial security program, Screening Passengers by Observational Techniques (SPOT) was launched by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) two years ago and deployed in 14 domestic airports. Although SPOT is a first attempt to use observational technologies to enhance U.S. security, in tandem with luggage checks, radar screening, bomb-sniffing dogs and the rest of our security arsenal, it is believed that program like this one can help reduce risks, and maybe even prevent another deadly assault like the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." Early results showed that the overwhelming number of those who are taken out of line and detained for further investigation were intending to commit or had committed some kind of wrongdoing: They were wanted criminals, drug smugglers, money smugglers, illegal immigrants, and a few were suspected terrorists.

Additionally, now there are increasing calls to enhance U.S. security further with outspoken police chiefs such as John Timoney of Miami and William Bratton of Los Angeles emphasizing the importance of British-style surveillance cameras to “effectively fight terrorism.”

British security officials are crediting a national network of surveillance cameras in helping them identify and arrest the key suspects in last week's series of failed car bombings. The pervasive network of CCTVs produces reams of data which the authorities store for up to two years. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston writes that American law enforcement would love to have that kind of system in the United States as they try to fight terrorism. Many police departments initially objected to installing CCTVs in American city becasue of concerns about privacy, but since 7/7 there has been a palpable change of attitude. The help CCTVs provided in identifying the suspects in last week's attacks in London and Glasgow convinced even more heads of police to begin and think seriously about building a similar system on this side of the Atlantic.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Lower Manhattan Security Initiative was announced in New York City by Police Chief Raymond Kelly. In the announcement he said, “This area is very critical to the economic lifeblood of this nation. We want to make it less vulnerable.” Of course, civil liberties concerns continue to mount, with worries including whether people who work on Wall St. and all of the tourists to Lower Manhattan will in one way or another be watched by “Big Brother.”

This program marks a whole new level of police monitoring of New Yorkers and is being done without any public input, outside oversight, or privacy protections for the hundreds of thousands of people who will end up in N.Y.P.D. computers," Christopher Dunn, a lawyer with the New York Civil Liberties Union, wrote in an e-mail message.

Funding for the program was sidetracked last year when New York City’s Urban Area Security budgets were slashed by 40%. Kelly said that the program was still able to be started with $15 million from the City and $10 million coming from remaining DHS grants.

A few points in closing. It seems that in the UK, there is significantly less public resistance to the surveillance program, and therefore the cameras work as a tool for law enforcement and security people in their efforts to prevent or respond to acts of terrorism. The second point is that with the changes in terrorist tactics as evidenced by the attempts last month in London and Glasgow, and even the aborted JFK Plot in early June, high population density areas require more vigilance. The technology for the real time surveillance of congested areas, soft targets and other targets of opportunity is increasingly available and improving. The question remains if Americans are willing to trade privacy (or a perceived loss of privacy) for increased security.

July 22, 2007

Reducing Friendly Fire Incidents

It is an accepted aspect of war that soldiers will die and incur life changing injuries. Especially in these days when modern battlefield medicine saves the lives of men and women who have been severely injured, it is even more tragic when these deaths or injuries occur as a result of friendly fire.

While it might be the most visible instance of friendly fire deaths, the Pat Tillman incident is not the only time that a soldier has died in this manner. The real question is how to avoid tragic repeats. An early estimate in 2002 suggested that nearly one of four battlefield deaths was a result of friendly fire (compared to approximately 2% in Vietnam and Korea). Please see background on friendly fire from the Global Security Strategy Page.

Recently, word of a program called Bold Quest reached the surface. Bold Quest is a demonstration of the U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) and allies will evaluate technologies in an advanced concept technology demonstration (ACTD). The objective of Bold Quest will be to reduce friendly fire incidents and enhance combat effectiveness.

The program will be held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. and Ft. Irwin National Training Center, Calif. from Sept. 7-19. Coalition warfighters will team with Coalition forces to demonstrate and assess Coalition Combat Identification (CCID) technologies and how they work together.

USJFCOM's John Miller, operational manager for the CCID ACTD, said U.S. priorities in the project are currently oriented on the combat identification issues involved with the engagement of ground targets by coalition aircraft.

The problem of friendly fire is further illustrated by Air Force Col. Lou Durkac, the Air Combat Command (ACC) lead Air Force Col. Lou Durkac, the Air Combat Command (ACC) lead for the ACTD and one of the pilots who will fly in the demonstration, who said that “nations and services have current systems that can see each other but can't see across other nations or services.” He also said that "Each country comes to the ACTD with its own set of priorities," he said. "The integration of those priorities is what makes this work interesting and challenging for the ACTD's coalition team."

"A Marine aircraft can see Marine ground forces but it can't necessarily see Army ground forces," he said. "So now we're trying to take all of those ground forces positions and feed the relevant ones up to the aircraft before they release their weapons, so that they have the most situational awareness on where the friendlies are on the ground."

Royal Canadian Army Lt. Col. Peter Nielsen, Canada's director for the project also talked about the element of firing accidentally on civilians and the effect that such incidents have on the cooperation of the local populations. He said:

"But there is another dimension, from our perspective and the military operations in which we engage, and that is because it is so critical to have mission success in the Kandahar province in Afghanistan, for example, to win the hearts and minds of the populace. We also seek to keep international support, which is so critical to our ability to stay in the region and finish the job. We can not achieve that if we misidentify and engage the wrong targets."

After action analysis will then refine the operational concept (CONOPS) and help to guide improvement to the prototype systems we'll see demonstrated during Bold Quest. Of course, none of this will change what has already occurred. But the importance of reducing future friendly fire incidents cannot be denied. There are “likely” other techniques still be finalized that will not available for this test.

July 21, 2007

“Free Cities” - An Economic Alternative to Illegal Immigration?

At least in this political climate, legislative solutions to the problem of illegal immigration do not appear to be working. At its root, illegal immigration represents a complex problem, including an economic dilemma of multiple dimensions.

The Mexicans crossing border seek jobs and then often send a portion of their incomes back home. One estimate is that illegal aliens sent $24 billion back to Mexico in 2006 (an increase from the estimated $20 billion in 2005). To put that in perspective, Mexico’s revenues from tourism in 2005 were estimate at $12 billion, while revenues from their oil production reached $35 billion. Thus, the importance of inflows from Mexican immigrants (legal and illegal) sending money from Estados Unidos de América to Estados Unidos Mexicanos cannot be understated.

While it remains a difficult task to stop U.S. employers from hiring illegal immigrants, when you look at the economic contribution of all immigrants to the U.S. economy, a recent study by the Council of Economic Advisors estimated the current contribution to the U.S. economy was roughly $37 billion per year. To get an idea of the impact of Mexican immigration as a whole, a March 2006 study by the University of California, San Diego and the National Bureau of Economic Research, Illegal Migration from Mexico to the United States concluded that 56% of Mexican immigrants appear to lack permission to be in the country, compared to 17% of all other immigrants. This is also discussed in the Council on Foreign Relations paper, The Economic Logic of Illegal Immigration

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that in 2005 80 to 85 percent of Mexican immigrants who had been in the United States less than ten years were unauthorized. Illegal immigration thus accomplishes what legal immigration does not: It moves large numbers of lowskilled workers from a low-productivity to a high-productivity environment.

Additional discussions of the economic impact of illegal immigration from Mexico can be found here .

Regardless of the actual numbers, it could be concluded that there aren’t sufficient economic disincentives on or from either side of the Mexico-U.S. border to stem the tide of illegal aliens. Late last week, an associate alerted me to a recent article in the Weekly Standard that raised an interesting concept. Even if it is a “thinking out of the box,” the alternative suggested was to create a series of Hong Kong-like “Free Cities” that would create freedom and opportunity for illegal immigrants in their own countries. The premise?

The desperation that drives millions of illegal immigrants into this country will never subside as long as there are no jobs and no opportunities in their stagnant homeland economies. Fortunately, there is a way the United States could jump-start vibrant, non-corrupt, globalized economies inside otherwise destitute third world countries. We could do it soon, and we could do it for a lot less than we'd have to pay to assimilate millions more illegal aliens. The solution is to adapt and propagate the free market model of post-colonial Hong Kong.

The concept is to establish free market cities in which taxes can be kept low, import/export restrictions limited or non-existent, and where the society would be “democratic” and “free of corruption.” Essentially the recommendation is to “create treaty-based cities that would be joint ventures between the United States, an international financial institution like the World Bank, and the host governments, and would become safe havens for investors and entrepreneurs. They'd allow citizens to raise capital, attract the skills they need from abroad, and create thousands of new jobs where there are none today.”

As idealistic as the concept of “Free Cities” sounds, at a time when the political will appears lacking in the United States to solve the illegal immigration problem, and when opposition to building the border wall continues, it might not be all that “hair-brained” after all. However, among my very serious questions are identifying where to locate these free cities and the willingness of the host countries (like Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica – pick another) to participate. Additionally, how would “we” (the partners of the joint venture) induce immigrants to go to the free city instead of continuing to flow across the Rio Grande River to reach the “promised land?”

One Week Hiatus... And One Last Thing on Pakistan

Until Monday July 30, I will be 'out of the office' on family vacation. As well, Michael Tanji will be off during the same time period, but also extending into early August. Following Michael's same-week vacation, he will be attending The Claremont Institute's 2007 Lincoln Fellowship Program August 4-12. We congratulate him, thank the good folks at The Claremont Institute and anxiously await his return.

Regular writing from us will resume Monday July 30th.

In the meantime, as a parting shot, consider the latest from the Asia Times: One crisis after another for Pakistan.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - A week-long campaign of suicide bombings that has killed more than 130 people across Pakistan has seriously demoralized security personnel in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. These areas are a safe haven for the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Directed at police and army targets, the bombings are believed to have been carried out to avenge last week's storming of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad, an operation in which 75 pro-Taliban militants were killed, according to official figures. The bombings were also to protest the support given by President General Pervez Musharraf to the "war on terror" prosecuted by the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Afghanistan.

First, the suicide bombings are not "to avenge" Lal Masjid. They are a continuation of the same operation. Zawahiri's letter surely makes this clear (if we are to believe it authentic - and I've heard no denial). 'Retaliation' is the desired public consumption. 'Phase II Operation' is the proper delineation and progression. Those not observant enough to understand the difference are the same who will buy into Hamid Gul (or another) as a non-aligned pragmatist just long enough to serve the deception's purpose.

After suffering the heaviest casualties ever sustained by Pakistani security forces during peacetime, many security personnel in the tribal areas have gone on long leave or are going about their work in plain clothes.

"We are scared to be seen in our uniforms. The militants are better equipped than we are. And there is no way to stop suicide bombers," said a police constable in Swat, North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). He said the threat was real enough for senior officials to approve the idea of police performing their duties in plain clothes.

Second, soldiers and police do have their breaking point. Police, closer to their homes, are naturally the first to begin walking slowly backwards from a losing battle. Pakistani soldiers are not working in their hometowns and, more importantly, are not taking any fight to the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance deploying suicide bombers and mortar squads to attack and kill them in not insignificant numbers. It's when the soldiers begin to turn - perhaps not far behind the police given current employment of them - that the problem exponentially escalates and the situation deteriorates with abandon.

July 19, 2007

The Iranian Strategy In Iraq

After presenting vital core background on the Iranian system, its religious 'Achilles Heel' and what is at stake for the Islamic Republic, Michael Rubin succinctly spells out the Iranian Strategy in Iraq.

The Iranian strategic response to threats arising from the new situation in Iraq has been to replicate the Hezbollah model. Step-by-step, Iranian authorities are implementing in Iraq the strategy which allowed Hezbollah, Iran's proxy, to take over southern Lebanon in the 1980s. The playbook--military, economic, and information operation--is almost identical.

At the center of the Hezbollah strategy are the militias. Just as the Revolutionary Guards helped hone Hezbollah into a deadly force, so too have they trained the Badr Corps, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI)'s militia and the core of Shia firebrand Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaysh al-Mahdi (Mahdi Army). Iranian replication of the model was both deliberate and well-planned. Badr Corps infiltrated Iraq even before U.S. forces reached Baghdad. In the black market of Sadr City, the price of Iraqi documents rose while those of Iranian passports fell, a result of rising demand for Iraqi papers and increasing numbers of Iranian documents on the market. In July 2003, a joint Free Iraqi Force and U.S. patrol confiscated Iranian passports and significant sums of cash at an illegal Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) checkpoint, after KDP peshmerga allowed Iranian operatives to exchange Iranian documents for KDP-provided Iraqi papers.

Tehran's choice of representations further reflected its strategy. Its first ambassador in post-Saddam Iraq was Hassan Kazemi Qomi, the Revolutionary Guard's former liaison to Hezbollah in Lebanon. After Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Jalal Talabani became Iraq's president, foreign diplomats met him to present formally their credentials. PUK officials said it was comical, as every Iranian "diplomat" they had known for years in their intelligence ministry or Revolutionary Guards capacity.

There's more, before and after the above excerpt. Read it all.

Showtime Or Showdown In Pakistan?

Though not exactly an in-depth analysis of recent events inside Pakistan between Musharraf and the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance, I've written an article for FrontPage magazine in which I attempt to communicate what to look for (in the longer view) going forward. The concluding paragraph could have also served as the introduction paragraph in Showdown or Showtime In Pakistan?

All would do well to know what to look for in recognizing al-Qaeda control of Pakistan that would be present in a less-than-overt manner. Failure to do so could be incredibly costly.

Whether removed by successful assassination or overthrow, the eventual replacement of Musharraf as Pakistan's leader is very likely to be an al-Qaeda-aligned Islamist and almost certainly one which will put forth a duplicitous and false front of non-aligned pragmatism for international consumption.

In short, bin Laden's seemingly destined control of Pakistan will decidedly not include anything overtly declaring such - the survival of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal requires it.

When al-Qaeda finally takes control of Pakistan, it will almost certainly not give the appearance of a military conquest with bin Laden hoisting the Keys to the Kingdom above his head. There will be, by necessity, a different figure taking the reigns and riding to Pakistan's rescue, complete with pragmatic statements intended for international digestion in order to cause pause in reaction. Were al-Qaeda to overtly and directly seize Pakistan, wrest her military and control her nuclear weapons, the United States would most assuredly destroy them in place.

This is why al-Qaeda's available 200,000+ man armed force has not been mobilized for a Pakistan-wide insurgency and also why bin Laden and Zawahiri have so patiently employed a slow 'Death By A Thousand Cuts' strategy against Musharraf.

Also, keep in mind that an immensely weakened Musharraf - currently begging for the restoration of North Waziristan's 'peace accord' - combined with a politically immobilized US President Bush both serve to insulate al-Qaeda from direct assault on al-Qaeda's Global Headquarters in northwestern Pakistan.

Musharraf has nothing to give the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance that they do not already have in trade for the restoration of the 'peace accord.' That is, except for even more Pakistani territory.

So, after Lal Masjid and the false appearance of an emboldened Musharraf, the al-Qaeda strategy (Lal Masjid was a staged, planned al-Qaeda ploy) will net a stronger Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance and an even weaker Musharraf.

One more ever-patient cut, seeking to slowly bleed Musharraf out and usurp Pakistan with its military - and thus the security of its nuclear arsenal - intact. And an aligned figurehead such as Hamid Gul or, less likely, Nawaz Sharif or another, will be put forth with a pragmatic face.

By design, an al-Qaeda-run Pakistan will not appear so to the unobservant. But it will come to be. Pay attention. It's free.

NY Steam Pipe Burst - Reaction and Air Quality Questions

It was late in the afternoon (5:57pm to be exact) during rush hour on another hot and sticky New York City summer day. Without warning people hear rumblings and then smoke starts to waft skyward. First thoughts of people are of the worst. “We’re under attack.” With the recent “gut feeling” warnings of summertime attacks and the release of the National Intelligence Estimate only days ago, it would be only natural for that to be the first thoughts of many.

All thoughts seemed to converge on a single, dark point yesterday as the thick tower of smoke, chunks of asphalt and plumes of gravel raced skyward from a crater near 41st and Lexington, 12 stories into the sky.

The 200-degree steam was under 150 pounds of pressure per square inch when it exploded near East 41st Street and Lexington Avenue.

Some people, now instinctively with memories of people jumping from the World Trade Center, rushed from their buildings onto the street looking skyward and see smoke rising. It is reported later that smoke rose higher than the nearby Chrysler Building; debris rained from the sky and no one knew exactly what had happened.

How fast emergency response arrived is uncertain from newspaper or broadcast reports at the moment. My daughter who works about a block away from the blast site had gone out with clients and got word via cell phone that her company had been “locked down” (I am told that some people left the building anyway). She and her associates left the restaurant where they were to go outside, and she told me that it looked like smoke from coming from the south, perhaps, at first she thought, from the Empire State Building. She soon concluded that it was something else since they didn’t smell smoke. Another eyewitness is said to have thought that the Chrysler Building was gong to crumble.

Just another summer day in New York City where a 83 year old steam pipe was infiltrated by cold water causing a breach, the explosion and the massive escape of steam. The local utility, Con Edison, say that this particular pipe had been inspected only hours before the rupture.

One person died (as a result of a heart attack), two people were hospitalized in serious condition and more than a dozen others were treated. Possible subsequent health effects are being minimized since it is said that any asbestos that might have been released was wet and therefore was not airborne. But at the same time:

The city health department is recommending that anyone who has metallic-looking soot on their clothing keep those clothes separate from other clothes in case asbestos is present. People inside buildings near the blast should keep windows closed and switch air-conditioners to re-circulate the air.

First Update: Even though air samples taken at the scene came back negative for asbestos, 6 of the 10 samples of debris and dust came back positive.

This wasn’t a terrorist attack and it wasn’t an act of sabotage. It was a breakdown of seriously old underground infrastructure. It also appears that emergency response reacted quickly and decisively. Frankly, you would expect New York City to respond this way. Clearly after the attacks of September 11, emergency response in New York City was under close scrutiny. Former Mayor Giuliani placed emphasis on the response component and Mayor Bloomberg continued the effort and vigilance.

But now, there is the lingering question of what was released into the air (even if “they” say that the asbestos would have been wet because of the steam). This was an unpredictable event. It looks like the reaction and response was quick. The residual health effects, like those after the crumbling of the World Trade Center towers, remain uncertain. This wasn’t a terrorist attack, but it awoke some dormant memories in peoples’ minds. Maybe this is a good thing, as many believe that a blanket of complacency has covered some of us.

"We dealt with it as if it was 9/11," one harried doctor said. And well they should.

My comment to my daughter was that events like this, whether natural or man-made, will occur. The best advice is to be aware of your surroundings. Yet, the possibility exists that terrorist tactics may shift toward more conventional means like car bombs. You can’t be too careful and yet, there is an unpredictable aspect of these times that makes it difficult to be sure how, when or if something will happen.

July 17, 2007

Pakistan 'Emerges' As Al Qaeda Safe Haven?

The headline from CBS News, "Pakistan Emerges As Al Qaeda Safe Haven," reads as if this is a new revelation. The points covered in the CBS/AP collaborative report are accurate, though customarily slipped into the coverage is the caveat of calling the greater conflict the "so-called war on terror."

The headline is chosen from the words spoken by Richard Hass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. During an interview for the story he said that "the Taliban and al Qaeda have essentially exploited Pakistan, this is now their new safe haven." Surely by "new" Mr. Hass means post-Afghanistan, where the haven has taken shape since the hours after bin Laden's egress from Tora Bora.

Supplemental Context:

Al-Qaeda's Pakistan safe haven's soft infrastructure, and to a lesser extent it's hard infrastructure, has been in development since long before America's active forward-leaning engagement in the "so-called war on terror." After many years of investment in the soft infrastructure, the hard infrastructure development (training camps, et al) of the past several years since bin Laden's retreat from Afghanistan have sprung up on familiar and established territory and among peoples who have been the benefactor of bin Laden's lavish 'charitable' contributions in the absence of Pakistani government institutions.

Al-Qaeda's engagement in the inarguable war of terror long preceded a reluctant America's active reflexive defense. And for that matter, much of their Pakistani infrastructure is due to the support of the Pakistani military intelligence, Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), and individuals such as former ISI chief Hamid Gul.

Furthermore, Hamid Gul, Aslam Beg and former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are on the short list of potential leaders in a post-Musharraf Pakistan, which the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance has been trying to engineer through assassination for several years. And each of them can be expected to forward a falsely pragmatic image to further the notion that someone other than al-Qaeda is in charge of a post-Musharraf Pakistan. (In Michael Scheuer's book, Through Our Enemies' Eyes (pg. 176), the former top CIA al-Qaeda analyst noted that it was reported in the Pakistani media that bin Laden gave Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif 1 billon rupees ahead of the 1990 elections, effectively purchasing influence and alliance.)

Context-Driven Conclusion:

Observers should know better than to be fooled and prepare for a nuclear-armed post-Musharraf Pakistan in which al-Qaeda's control will not bear the hallmarks of Usama bin Laden hoisting the 'Keys to the Kingdom' for public display.

Pakistan became an al-Qaeda safe haven neither overnight nor recently. It surely has not only in recent months 'emerged' as such.

July 15, 2007

FireWatch: Jihad In Europe

On this edition of FireWatch, speaking with us about the jihadist threat in Europe is our friend and colleague Olivier Guitta, a counterterrorism consultant based in Washington, DC.

We begin by exploring the nexus of the European Islamist threat, emanating from neutral Switzerland and examined in Olivier's Weekly Standard article, Cuckoo Clocks and Jihadists. From there, we discuss the beginnings of the European threat from jihadists, the implications of the latest attempted attacks in Britain, and distinguish between the threats posed by attacks coordinated by al-Qaeda's global command in Pakistan and the threats posed by self-starters - what I call Entrepreneurial Jihad. The discussion, just over 30 minutes, closes with an assessment of where we are right now in our preparedness to confront the threats of Islamist terrorism, both in Europe and in America.

[To download FireWatch, click here or right-click and select 'Save Target As'.]

Notable quotes from Olivier Guitta on FireWatch:

On the Genesis of Europe's Islamists: "And he [Said Ramadan] decided the first target to be Europe. And what better place to go than the center of Europe, in the neutral country of Switzerland? And that's where he decided to go and establish the first Islamic Center, in Geneva, in 1961. So everything started in Switzerland."

On the Saudi Consul General in Switzerland firing four Islamic leaders in Geneva: "As of today, the two major mosques in Geneva are controlled by Wahabbis. ... It was really the World Muslim League not being happy that those four executives were considered, as they say themselves, too moderate."

European Outlook: "The background and the feedback that I get from the Intelligence Community in Europe is very scary and very depressing."

Also discussed: Is it possible that the Saudi monarchy could simply flip sides and outright align with al-Qaeda in order to preserve itself under threat? Our short answer: Yes. Listen to consider the reasons why. The potential implications are conflict-altering.

Now very proudly an American citizen, Olivier Guitta was born in Morocco and lived in three European countries before seeking and gaining American citizenship. He speaks four languages, which is central to his efforts at The Croissant, his new foreign news service that provides open-source counterterrorism intelligence to professionals and business clients around the world. It is an immensely valuable tool and highly recommended.

July 14, 2007

‘Wanna” Build a Bomb? --- GAO Stings NRC

Just to prove that it wouldn’t be impossible and in fact, that it isn’t all that hard to do, GAO investigators ran a sting operation on the NRC. Posing as businessmen from West Virginia and setting up a bogus company, GAO investigators were able to get around NRC “safeguards” and secured a license to purchase 5 portable moisture-density gauges widely used in construction, that contain small amounts of cesium-137 and americium 241, two highly radioactive isotopes.

Here is a copy of the GAO Report, Actions Taken by NRC to Strengthen Its Licensing Process for Sealed Radioactive Sources Are Not Effective

As background, in 2003, GAO reported that weaknesses in NRC’s licensing program could allow terrorists to obtain radioactive materials. NRC took some steps to respond to the GAO report, including issuing guidance to license examiners. To determine whether NRC actions to address GAO recommendations were sufficient, the Subcommittee asked GAO to test the licensing program using covert investigative methods.

Given that terrorists have expressed an interest in obtaining nuclear material, the Congress and the American people expect licensing programs for these materials to be secure. However, in 2003, we reported that weaknesses in the licensing program could allow terrorists to obtain radioactive materials. We recommended that NRC close this vulnerability by modifying its licensing process. Among other things, we recommended that “NRC modify its process for issuing specific licenses to ensure that sealed radioactive sources cannot be purchased before NRC’s verification—through inspection or other means—that the materials will be used as intended.” NRC agreed with this recommendation and referred the issue to a working group composed of NRC and state representatives to coordinate NRC’s response. In December 2005, the working group delivered its recommendations to NRC senior management. In December 2006, NRC issued new guidance to agreement states and NRC regional offices meant to strengthen the radioactive materials licensing process. Although these are important steps forward, the Subcommittee remained concerned about whether, almost 6 years after September 11, 2001.

Congressional investigators set up a bogus company with only a postal box and within a month obtained a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that allowed them to buy enough radioactive material for a small "dirty bomb." In fact, the government investigators found a way that would have enabled them to purchase as many as 45 machines.

"With patience and the proper financial resources, we could have accumulated from other suppliers substantially more radioactive source material than what the two suppliers initially agreed to ship to us."

The damn scary part of this was that the investigators didn't have to work hard. They merely posed as businessmen from West Virginia (perhaps Mountaineers arouse less suspicion). Armed with nothing more than a P.O. box at Mail Boxes Etc. a phone and a fax, the investigators applied for a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It was a straightforward process that took less than a month. No in-person interviews. No NRC visits to the sham company to make sure it checked out. Only a minor background check.

Not unexpectedly, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission quickly admitted the security lapses but then went on to note that using the moisture gauges to make a bomb was not easy and that it would take expertise.

In a Washington Post editorial, A Stinging Report - The Government Accountability Office tries to build a dirty bomb, an NRC commissioner pointed out the following:

● the substances involved were not nearly as dangerous as others and said that safeguards on more-harmful materials are much tighter.

● extracting the radioactive substances and building a bomb that could disperse them would still have been difficult.

● in a worst-case scenario, only about a city block would require decontamination, given the amounts in question

Considering the very recent concerns of al Qaeda terrorists penetrating our country’s security and detonating a Radiological Dispersal Device (RDD), how can the NRC reassurances be taken seriously? When the GAO investigators tried to secure a similar license from the State of Maryland, however, they were deterred when Maryland regulators indicated that there would be a site inspection. From the GAO report:

GAO also attempted to obtain a license from an agreement state, but withdrew the application after state license examiners indicated they would visit the bogus company office before granting the license. An official with the licensing program told GAO that conducting a site visit is a standard required procedure before radioactive materials license applications are approved in that state.

GAO recommendations include:

● First, to avoid inadvertently allowing a malevolent individual or group to obtain a license for radioactive materials, NRC should develop improved guidance for examining NRC license applications. In developing improved screening criteria, NRC should consider whether site visits to new licensees should be mandatory. These improved screening criteria will allow NRC to provide reasonable assurance that licenses for radioactive materials will only be issued to those with legitimate uses.

● Second, NRC should conduct periodic oversight of license application examiners so that NRC will be assured that any new guidance is being appropriately applied.

● Third, NRC should explore options to prevent individuals from counterfeiting NRC licenses, especially if this allows the purchase of more radioactive materials than they are approved for under the terms of the original license.

The NRC can try to minimize the findings, but this is not a small issue. Back in December 2006, William Langewiesche, wrote an article in Atlantic on Line titled How to Get a Nuclear Bomb and cited the founding scientists of the Federation of American Scientists who said:

"Look, there is no secret. Any physicist anywhere can figure out what we did and reproduce it. There is no secret, and there is also no defense."

So, in his article he asked the question, “If you were a terrorist and a bomb was your goal, how would you go about getting one? Of course the issues here are quite different (I think). The GAO sting operation wasn’t dealing with Plutonium or Highly Enriched Uranium (as discussed in Langewiesche’s article), but cesium-137 and americium 241. The GAO sting operation shows a potential vulnerability to the acquisition of materials to make a dirty bomb (RDD), not a weapons grade bomb. At 90% enrichment, it would take 100 pounds of HEU to create a nuclear bomb. However:

● It turns out that the world is rich with fresh, safe, user-friendly HEU—a global accumulation of over a thousand metric tons (outside of our collective 30,000 nuclear warheads) that is dispersed among hundreds of sites, and separated into nicely transportable, necessarily subcritical packages.

● post-Soviet Russia inherited a sprawling state industry that had provided a full range of nuclear services, including medical science, power generation, and ship propulsion—as well as the world’s largest nuclear-weapons arsenal and, almost coincidentally, the world’s largest inventory of surplus plutonium and HEU, maybe 600 metric tons.

Once you conclude that acquiring nuclear fuel is not impossible, the issue becomes getting the materials into the country and then assembled. While not impossible, the implications of Langewiesche’s article are that a dedicated and industrious terrorist (or terrorist network) could do it. However, in light of the GAO sting operation and the continuing NRC security holes, the chances are that our attention should not be on a Jack Bauer “24” or “Jericho” scenarios, but on the danger of “dirty bombs.”

July 13, 2007

Reporting Means To Monitor Zawahiri?

Why is it that Brian Ross persists in routinely and grossly irresponsibly reporting sensitive intelligence information provided him on a regular basis by sources with similar impairment in judgment?

Intelligence analysts are also investigating technical clues that Zawahri's most recent audio message was phoned in via computer phone, using voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP.

As I pleaded with Mr. Ross and his editors, he clearly has "little to prove regarding [his] investigative abilities, sir, and little to professionally gain from exposing such details. It does, however, seriously damage our ability to observe and monitor the senior leadership of a terrorist group who has killed thousands of Americans, at home and abroad, and - as you yourself are reporting even within this report - clearly seeks to kill more of our citizens between our shores."

We used to be able to monitor bin Laden's communications via satellite phone until the media publicly reported such methods and means. The the trail went cold and dark all over again.

Was there a similar method of monitoring al-Zawahiri today? Might there have been developed a method if a new find?

We'll never know, as the Intelligence and Counterterrorism Communities will almost certainly never have that avenue again. Back to cold and dark.

Such irresponsibility in reporting is simply enraging and inexcusable.

In two days, the classified National Intelligence Estimate was leaked and the means by which to monitor the top leadership of al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, the race was on to ensure that Scooter Libby found jail time for publicly disclosing the name of a a person who at the time was simply a CIA desk analyst...and whose position was so sensitive and secret that she posed for a Vanity Fair cover and layout before her name was public knowledge.

Something is broken with our media. Something is definitely broken with those who leak truly sensitive and damaging intelligence material. Clearly Brian Ross knows a lot of them.

I ask, what possibly could he have gained from this? It's not like he needs to be 'put on the map.' He's there. And one of the best investigative journalists, too. I have in fact cited him often. But his repeated poor judgment far exceeds all else. It costs lives.

Unless he decides to cede his United States Citizenship and leave the country to truly be a Reporter Without Borders, I beg Mr. Ross to check his ego when he learns such sensitive information.

Good bye, Mr. Ross. No Mas.

Michael Jordan Analyzes Pakistani Cricket

Makes no sense, right? Michael Jordan doesn't know a thing about cricket, let alone Pakistani cricket. Yet, Michael Jordan talking Pakistani cricket would be no more enlightening than elected members of Congress talking about the conduct of counterinsurgency operations on either the tactical or strategic level. Yet, many of them assure us that Iraq is lost. What to make of it? Theater.

There are those who do understand the enemy and the conflict at hand. One of them is Cliff May, and he is once again spot on. Though I neglected to link this yesterday, if you missed it, give A New Strategy in Iraq? a read today.

Contrary to what you’ve read in the newspapers, we are not debating whether to “change course” in Iraq. We are debating whether to accept defeat in Iraq.

Contrary to what you'€™ve seen on television, there is no way for us to "€œend the war." If we retreat from Iraq, the war will not just continue but expand. The only difference is that a battlefield on which we are now killing our enemies will be transformed into a base from which our enemies can safely plan to kill us.

Continue. And then check Michael Yon's latest dispatch.

Only then will you be prepared to bid adieu to Britain.

As I said yesterday when pondering the grim and plentiful operational future, "We know to whom the tasks fall." And that includes our relatively powerful allies, such as the Brits.

The ball will seemingly forever remain in our court, with the world's choice by default between inaction or American response.

And inaction incubates the enemy who seeks our destruction.

And American action constitutes "Imperial Hubris" by popular self-loathing definition.

At the end of the day, getting back to Cliff May's column, it remains to be uttered by those championing withdrawal how such retreat makes America safer. Shouldn't that question be asked on the Sunday morning circuits? It's both logical and fundamental.

They can't answer that question. Nor will they try. And they won't be asked, either. It simply wouldn't make for good theater.

July 12, 2007

NIE: al-Qaeda Regrouped, Stronger In Pakistan

While not news to regular ThreatsWatch readers, the National Intelligence Estimate recently produced by CT analysts officially documents that Al-Qaeda is not 'on the ropes' or even weakened any more than it is lead by two men darting about from cave to cave. They are, in fact, stronger, more capable of producing terrorists and more comfortable in their havens carved out in Pakistan than they were in Afghanistan prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Counterterrorism analysts produced the document, titled "Al-Qaida better positioned to strike the West." The document pays special heed to the terror group's safe haven in Pakistan and makes a range of observations about the threat posed to the United States and its allies, officials said.

Al-Qaida is "considerably operationally stronger than a year ago" and has "regrouped to an extent not seen since 2001," the official said, paraphrasing the report's conclusions. "They are showing greater and greater ability to plan attacks in Europe and the United States."

The group also has created "the most robust training program since with an interest in using European operatives," the official quoted the report as saying.

And the threat to and from Europe is troubling.

Several European countries—among them Britain, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands—are also highlighted in the threat assessment partly because they have arrangements with the Pakistani government that allow their citizens easier access to Pakistan than others, according to the counterterrorism official.

This is more troubling because all four are part of the U.S. visa waiver program, and their citizens can enter the United States without additional security scrutiny, the official said.

It must be recognized that, in the course of this long war, there will be no final defeat of al-Qaeda without major unforgiving ground operations within Pakistan.

"Sooner or later you have to quit permitting them to have a safe haven" along the Afghan-Pakistani border, he [CIA director of analysis John Kringen] told the House committee. "At the end of the day, when we have had success, it is when you've been able to get them worried about who was informing on them, get them worried about who was coming after them."

And that, "sooner or later," will most probably fall by default to the United States to execute, quite probably after the Pakistani government and its military are taken over by the Islamists within or aligned with the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance that already dominates a significant percentage of Pakistani territory. This territory now includes the Swat agency, quietly but officially ceded to the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance last week to go along with the previously ceded areas of North Waziristan, South Waziristan and Bajour.

We and others have been communicating the resurgent strength of al-Qaeda for months. It is now officially and formally discussed in an NIE in apparently unequivocal terms.

The question remains: What to do and when?

We know to whom the tasks fall.

July 9, 2007

Lal Masjid Showdown Enters Final Stage

Metroblogging Islamabad is live blogging the showdown at Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad from the vicinity. The reporting on scene accounts for 3 Pakistani special forces killed, 15 militants killed and 20 militants injured. Two hospitals have been cleared of everyone except for patients and police "are announcing that they have orders to shoot on sight if anyone tries to enter the hospital," including media.

At the time of this posting, the latest two reports include an unconfirmed report that Ghazi Abdur Rasheed has been arrested.

10th July 8:20 AM
Maximum area of Jamia Hafsa secured according to unofficial reports. Lal Masjid being searched by commandoes. According to unconfirmed reports, Ghazi Abdur Rasheed has been arrested.

10th July 8:15 AM
After over 4 hours of 150 explosions and intense firing from both sides, there is silence around the vicinity of Lal Masjid. Looks like the operation has stopped, and army is making announcements on loud speakers for militants to come out with hands up. The top levels of Jamia Hafsa have been cleared. Only bunkers and basements remain where the militants have retreated.

Metroblogging Islamabad will be an interesting source to watch as the situation unfolds. Our thanks to our friend Nick Grace at Global Crisis Watch for the alert.

On Communicating In War

The normally measured Andy McCarthy just went off at National Review, expressing a frustration long held by many of us in the Administration's lack of communications skill.

Planet Earth to President Bush and the Republicans: Al Qaeda — having killed nearly 3000 Americans on 9/11 and promising to do it again — is baking 11-year-old Iraqis and serving them as cannibal fare to their own parents!!! The impediment between these barbarians setting up shop and civilization is OUR TROOPS. Do you think, maybe, there might kinda, sorta be something here we could work with — y'know, assuming, just for argument's sake, of course, that we might possibly want to, um, take on the Left and rebut their insanity before we go along with all this?

Do you think maybe if you — repeatedly and convincingly — made clear to Americans what is going on over there, they might think, like, maybe we really do have to kill these savages — whose biggest target is us and who will get bigger and stronger if we leave? Do you think the American people, no matter how unhappy they are with you and how low your approval numbers are, will be content to lose a war to al Qaeda?

Is it possible that, instead of filling the media with stories about how your administration is trying to find a way out, we might possibly have you get on TV with some of the pictures Michael Yon has been publishing — and, y'know, like, friggin' P-E-R-S-U-A-D-E the American people that our troops are over there for a reason that makes a difference for AMERICAN lives.

Sure, he's firing off heat seekers. It'd be one thing if he were wrong or off base.

But Andy's neither tonight.

He's also a friend and a recent guest on the FireWatch podcast, where he spoke to the implications of the Administration's potential shutdown of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The audio will be published shortly.

DHS Job Vacancies & Homeland Insecurity

In a report released by the Majority Staff of the House Committee for Homeland Security, "Critical Leadership Vacancies Impede United States Department Of Homeland Security", we learn that 138 senior level positions (of the top 575) remain open. These spots are in policy, legal and intelligence sections, and in immigration agencies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Coast Guard. These job vacancies are said to hurt our preparedness.

48% VACANT Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy – 48 percent, 11 of 23 Executive Resource positions vacant

Office of the General Counsel – 47 percent, 9 of 19 Executive Resource positions vacant

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Intelligence – 36 percent, 8 of 22 Executive Resource positions vacant

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – 34 percent, 16 of 47 Executive Resource positions vacant

Federal Emergency Management Agency – 31 percent, 24 of 77 Executive Resource positions vacant

Office of the Inspector General – 31 percent, 4 of 13 Executive Resource positions vacant

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – 31 percent, 19 of 62 Executive Resource positions vacant

U.S. Coast Guard – 29 percent, 4 of 14 Executive Resource positions vacant

51% Vacant with no explanation (70 positions)

44% Under recruitment (61 positions)

5% Tentative or pending appointees (7 positions)

While this may turn into a political football (as many issues these days become), security is no place to be playing politics. That having been said, the report made a point that "One of the continuing problems appears to be the over politicization of the top rank of Department management. This could lead to heightened vulnerability to terrorist attack."

It has already been reported that DHS is plagued by low morale. These vacancies apparently are exascerbating that morale problem. This belief is even supported by Congressman Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), ranking Minority member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee,

Information Week's article, Homeland Security Vacancies Called 'Enormous' Security Risk highlights a number of cyber security breaches at DHS recently.

According to Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., chairman of the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity and Science and Technology, the incidents ranged from workstations infected with Trojans and viruses to a compromised department Web site, classified e-mails being sent over unclassified networks, and unauthorized users attaching their personal computers to DHS networks and gaining access to government equipment and data. He also said the incidents included "numerous classified data spillages."

Congressman Thompson is quoted as saying that the "vacancies have weakened morale and reflect an over-reliance on contractors," and that as the Administration winds down over the next few months, additional vacancies would occur when many top personnel will leave their posts.

In looking at the vacancy levels by area, probably the most concerning is the 30+% vacancy rate in Citizenship and Immigration Services, FEMA and U.S. Immigration and Customs

Would A Syria-Israel War Open US Opportunity Against Iran?

With the news of an overt Syrian threat (albeit from an 'unnamed Syrian official'), Arnaud DeBorchgrave takes a look at the potential for an Israeli-Syrian war.

There is little doubt Israel and Hezbollah are suiting up for a resumption of last summer's 34-day war in which the Israel Defense Force came off second best due to poor political and military leadership. Hezbollah is also shorthand for Syria and Iran. Tehran supplies the equipment and the funding. Syria acts as the transmission belt and is generously compensated.

Damascus has evidently concluded that an Israeli offensive across the Golan Heights is in the offing. For the first time in 40 years, Syria dismantled military checkpoints on the road to Kuneitra on its side of the Golan. Foreign journalists were barred from covering Israeli maneuvers on the Heights. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said the IDF was conducting military maneuvers -- and nothing more.

One of the more plausible scenarios has Israel preparing for a drive into Syria across the Golan Heights, and then fighting a "decisive" battle with the Syrian army on the road to Damascus, followed by a left "hook" into Lebanon to execute an outflanking attack on Hezbollah.

That could also be a strategically propitious moment for U.S. action against Iran. It remains to be seen whether the key players in President George W. Bush's National Security Council would agree an opportunity is at hand to dust off an Air Force and Navy contingency plan to take out Iran's 23 nuclear facilities.

There is little evidence - aside from the initial approval of a 'surge' in Iraq - to suggest much forward-leaning thinking from the White House. American strikes on Iran in any capacity would perhaps come as more of a shock to American observers than even to the Iranian regime. For what it's worth.

Perspective and Context: ElBaradei Says Iran Slowing Nuclear Program?

Consider the following while bearing in mind Mohammad ElBaradei's recent public comments that his primary job is to avert a military conflict with Iran, as opposed to his delineated task of overseeing international nuclear compliance with IAEA requirements...

Tunneling Near Iranian Nuclear Site Stirs Worry
The sudden flurry of digging seen in recent satellite photos of a mountainside in central Iran might have passed for ordinary road tunneling. But the site is the back yard of Iran's most ambitious and controversial nuclear facility, leading U.S. officials and independent experts to reach another conclusion: It appears to be the start of a major tunnel complex inside the mountain.

The question is, why? Worries have been stoked by the presence nearby of fortified buildings where uranium is being processed. Those structures in turn are now being connected by roads to Iran's nuclear site at Natanz, where the country recently started production of enriched uranium in defiance of international protests.

And regardless of 'clarifications' the IAEA may have been provided by the mullah regime, one can rest assured they are not digging freshwater wells. And ElBaradei's public statement on Iran as concerns are raised once more?

"We have seen a fairly slow development in commissioning new cascades," Mr ElBaradei said.

He said International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors had noticed Iran's slowdown "in commissioning new cascades for the treatment of nuclear material" while on a visit to the nuclear facility at Natanz last week.

Mr ElBaradei welcomed this.

"Iran needs to do everything to cool things down," he said. "[There is a] need to shift from the mode of confrontation to the mode of goodwill and co-operation."

Nothing to see here. Move along. Remember the context.

July 5, 2007

Human Shields At Pakistan's Red Mosque

Reuters reports that the Pakistani government says women and children are being used as human shields inside Islamabad's Lal Masjid (Red Mosque).

Women and children were being used as human shields by militants besieged in a mosque in Islamabad, the Pakistan government said on Thursday as security forces ratcheted up pressure on hundreds inside to surrender.

Pakistan's Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim Khan said the few students who had quit the mosque spoke of a nightmare scenario for security forces trying to keep casualties down.

"A large number of women and children are being held hostage by armed men in room," Khan told a news conference, adding that the brother of the captured cleric was hiding in the basement of an attached madrassa with 25 "women hostages".

"Yes, they're using them as human shields, because the people who have come out, they told us that they're telling women and children not to worry because as long as you're here forces will not attack us," he said.

On one hand, it is in the interests of the Pakistani government to portray the pro-Taliban, pro-al-Qaeda Islamists domestically in as bad a light as possible. But on the other, it is not as if there is not a precedent for such tactics, nor is it a tactic that could be considered beneath the Taliban, al-Qaeda or their supporters.

Recall that it was reported yesterday that public sentiment in the area was swaying against the mosque and its followers. Also recall the mosque and madrassa claims of hundreds of (unmaterialized) female suicide bombers inside. If there were a time to employ them, one would think that it would have been in this scenario.

There is likely much validity to the human shield claims, though some will dismiss it as Pakistani government propaganda.

EU Anti- e-Terror Legislation

ThreatsWatch guest contributor Jeff Carr does an admirable job of addressing the myriad ways terrorist groups and their supporters leverage the Internet in Terror Web 2.0. Activities that support terrorism online are active and plentiful, but in a rush to combat such activities some supposed “leaders” are displaying incredible ignorance.

Case in point: European Union officials want to make it a criminal offense to post bomb making materials online. The focus of the legislation would be Internet Service Providers in the EU, who would be required to search and block any such material entering EU cyberspace. That cyberspace is global in nature is something that has escaped bureaucrats in Brussels.

The EU points to China – bastion of free speech and openness – and their efforts to build a ‘great firewall’ as the model they want to emulate, but apparently they have never heard of projects designed to defeat online censorship like Infranet or Hacktivismo. History drives the point home: the Mongols and the Manchus breached the physical wall then; people get around the digital great wall today.

Were such legislation to pass and European ISPs managed to identify legions of people who have posted bomb-making materials online: what are they going to do about it? Indict them? Extradite them? As Estonia discovered a few weeks ago, pinning the tail on the donkey isn’t the easiest game to play. Cyber crime in myriad forms is rampant but convicted cyber criminals are awfully hard to come by and cyber criminals that actually spend time in jail even rarer.

This effort is reminiscent of calls by a certain sect of the online terrorism investigators – all of whom do incredible work – for US ISPs and hosting companies to shut down terrorist Web sites hosted in the US. The cyber whack-a-mole strategy may provide immediate gratification, but in the long term it is self defeating. Make it too hard to operate in the US and they’ll move offshore. “Good” you say, except that now it is harder to monitor what they are doing and saying.

The long war is in many ways an intelligence war, and you don’t gather more and better intelligence by shutting off the data supply.

Ceding The Fall Of Pakistan

The outlook for Pakistan can be assessed at least in part by considering what is not discussed in most respected analysis: How Musharraf can defeat (or enable the defeat of) al-Qaeda or the Taliban in Pakistan. This, in my view, by default represents Ceding the Fall of Pakistan, considered in an analysis published this morning by David Horowitz's FrontPage Magazine.

In reaction to Britain's Knighting of Salman Rushdie, author of the book “Satanic Verses” and subject of an Iranian fatwa for blasphemy, the Pakistani Ulema Council responded by granting the title of Saif'Ullah (Sword of Allah) to Usama bin Laden. This should not be viewed as a perfunctory title which carries no more significance than the ceremonial Knighting of “Sir” Salman Rushdie. It is a significant and rare title granted few within Islam.

There really is no Western equivalent to this. Christians formerly used the phrase "Defender of the Faith." But by the time of Henry VIII, if not before, it was of less significance. Even at its prime, as an honorific, it lacked the historical connotations that being Saif'ullah has to many Muslims - including those who are not jihadiyun. Muhammad called a select few warriors 'Saif'ullah.' And in the years that passed afterwards it was used even less often by his followers in large part because the companions that it had been used to refer to were so significant and considered pious and rightly guided. To use it on a terrorist is shameful and Muslims should be outraged at these supposed learned and pious men calling Usama bin Laden Saif'ullah.

Regardless of the events viewed, whether the compounding troubles of Pervez Musharraf, the steadily increasing percentage of Pakistani territory controlled by the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance or the persistent rise in bin Laden's stature and popularity, the pattern and trend in Pakistan is both clear and persistent. The Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance continues to gain inertia, strength and power while Musharraf grows weaker and more ineffective in confronting and abating the rise of the Islamist terrorist power that will ultimately consume him and, thus, Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal.

This is the steadily deteriorating state of Pakistan.

The analysis was written days before Musharraf ordered the Red Mosque sieged in Islamabad, perhaps the only positive development for and strong decision by the Pakistani president in quite some time.

Even so, the thrust of my analysis remains unaffected. It's conclusions are clearly debatable, which is a good, productive and encouraged exercise.

July 4, 2007

Freedom or Fireworks?

July 4, 2007 is almost over now. The hot dogs have been eaten, "maybe some" beer has been consumed, and around the country, the sounds of (illegal) fireworks pop in the darkness. On Flag Day, Marvin asked readers to post their thoughts about the meaning of the flag. I had planned to respond and then my day job intruded again. Now, though, I ask the question of what the 4th of July means to you. Is it freedom (the fact and ideal) or the fireworks (the symbolism) that makes your celebration of Independence Day?

Growing up my brothers and friends and I looked forward to the annual Firework display. That’s not to say that we didn’t somehow get our supply of firecrackers and sparklers (and of course some of the heavier artillery). But for me at least, that was back in the naïve days of the late 50’s and early 60’s, and before any war impacted my generation.

In the winter of 1963, the Nation was stunned in silence with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Tears of the young and the old flowed that weekend, and together, Americans united in mourning. It wasn’t too long afterward though that the Nation was split by the War in Vietnam.

In his American Dream speech on July 4, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King said:
"The American Dream. It wouldn’t take us long to discover the substance of that dream. It is found in those majestic words of the Declaration of Independence, words lifted to cosmic proportions: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by God, Creator, with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." This is a dream. It’s a great dream. The first saying we notice in this dream is an amazing universalism. It doesn’t say "some men," it says "all men." It doesn’t say "all white men," it says "all men," which includes black men. It does not say "all Gentiles," it says "all men," which includes Jews. It doesn’t say "all Protestants," it says "all men," which includes Catholics. (Yes, sir) It doesn’t even say "all theists and believers," it says "all men," which includes humanists and agnostics.

Is it the symbolism of July 4th that we think of on this day, or that we teach our children? Or do we constantly explain the American Dream, the ideals of our Founding Fathers? What is it that America means to you?

I freely admit to having demonstrated against the War in Vietnam. I freely admit that my first political activities were to stuff and seal envelopes when I worked on Congressman Allard Lowenstein’s first campaign. I freely admit my outrage when I witnessed what was to me an infamous newscast back in 1969 when President Nixon spoke to the Nation about the “incursions” into Cambodia. I freely admit to these moments in time because I believe that it was, and remains, my right to dissent openly.

In some ways I suppose I am an enigma since my views remain the same and yet so different in today’s world.July 4th, to me, means my freedom. It is my freedom to be who I am and to do freely what I do in my “day job.” It was “my day job” that spurred a change in my outlook on American life.

Of course, the morning of September 11th upended my life as it did the lives of every American. Ever since that morning, my emotions rise whenever I see a picture or hear an anthem. Just a few years ago, my wife and I sat on lawn chairs for hours picnicking in a prime location at the ocean front awaiting the Grucci Fireworks display at Jones Beach. It was one of the most moving experiences of my life.

Today, as it does everyday, my flag flies proudly in front of my home (I needed to replace my old flag and last week, ironically perhaps, went to the Dixie Flag Company to buy my new one and properly dispose of the old). Some mornings I just walk outside to see it moving in the breeze. Does it express any more patriotism than a neighbor who has no flag? Of course not! It just brings me comfort knowing that I can fly it. But truly, it is freedom that it celebrates.

From Dr. King’s American Dream speech once more:
Are we really taking this thing seriously? "All men are created equal." (Amen) And that means that every man who lives in a slum today (Preach it) is just as significant as John D., Nelson, or any other Rockefeller. Every man who lives in the slum is just as significant as Henry Ford. All men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, rights that can’t be separated from you. [clap] Go down and tell them, (No) "You may take my life, but you can’t take my right to life. You may take liberty from me, but you can’t take my right to liberty. You may take from me the desire, you may take from me the propensity to pursue happiness, but you can’t take from me my right to pursue happiness." (Yes) "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights and among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." (Yes, sir)

Last week I attended a luncheon at which one of our local Congressmen spoke. Before lunch was served, we all rose to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Do your children know it? As the meal was served, a patriotic video was shown. The images were many of the ones that you normally would see in such a presentation. Except, when the camera panned and the picture dissolved to the image of the World Trade Center Towers rising so majestically, I could no long hold back my emotions. I freely admit to flowing tears whenever and wherever anything patriotic plays or is shown, and especially when my memories of the morning of September 11th are brought to the surface.

Colleagues and readers alike, today we celebrate Freedom in all of its Glory. Many of the outward symbols of July 4th that we see around us today, including the fireworks, whether they be your local fire department’s display, or the great Macy’s Fireworks over Manhattan, and yes, even the illegal firecrackers being exploded on the street outside will be gone tomorrow. Our freedom to celebrate will not.

No matter how some people will bemoan the loss of our freedoms, freedom will still be there tomorrow morning. No matter how other people may bemoan how American society and its values are being lost to complacency, compromise or what they may see as appeasement, freedom will still be there tomorrow morning. Our troops across the World, and many others who serve behind the shroud of secrecy in our Intelligence forces, fight each day to ensure that our freedom will still be there tomorrow morning.

Confirmation: Why UK Bomb Triggers Failed

ABC News is reporting How the Bombs Failed in al-Qaeda's recent UK bombing attempts. It appears a syringe failed as part of the triggering mechanisms.

Personally, I wish they would not reveal such information. But since they have and it's out there, the goal now becomes for us to learn more from the information's release than the jihadiyun, if possible.

The London bomb plot allegedly planned by a cell of doctors failed early last Friday morning because a medical syringe used as part of the firing mechanism caused a malfunction, ABC News has learned.

According to nonclassified documents reviewed by ABC News, and confirmed by multiple sources, both mobile telephones initiated firing mechanisms rigged inside a Mercedes E 300 parked several yards from the front door of Tiger Tiger nightclub failed despite multiple calls to the cell phones designed to remotely trigger the devices. [Ed. Note: Second paragraph contents were already known and publicly reported. The rest of the article is a rehash of known circumstances, seemingly to fill space allowing for the singular information of the syringe failure to be (foolishly) released in a story format.]

If the syringe failure in the triggering mechanisms is accurate - and there's little reason to suggest otherwise at this point - then this confirms observations I had made privately and publicly (specifically in discussions and in a post at National Review's blog The Tank, where I cautioned against referring to the UK bombers as 'inept' or 'amateurish.'

Here's why:

There were three very powerful bombs, made completely of openly available materials and designed to duplicate similar bomb designs from Iraq and elsewhere that have the convenience of military grade high explosives as the triggered initiator for the blast. Other than that (largely), the designs were - in even their basic publicly sketched appearance - the same. And the only failure was common throughout each one: Failing dual cell phone triggering mechanisms.

We almost certainly do not know the half of this weekend's bomb designs being publicly supplied to and reported by the media outlets. It can be almost universally assumed that they were far more intricate than simply gasoline and propane tanks with zip-lock baggies full of nails taped to them. Though I have no direct knowledge of the specific design, I know enough to be confident that I have not yet laid eyes on the true complexity of the design. Nor has anyone currently calling these terrorists 'inept.'

I have, however, maintained in various offline discussions since Friday that there was either a minute (and system-fatal) flaw with the triggering designs or in the end-point bomb maker's implementation of them. The same failure indicates the same failed design or the same failed implementation, perhaps both. This is a minor issue technically. Important, but minor. And it will be overcome by an intelligent and adaptive enemy.

These were not 'cheesy' or 'amateur' bombs. They were bombs smartly made with materials designed to avoid detection...with a consistent glitch in the triggering mechanisms.

Unfortunately, perhaps this particular failure "will be overcome by an intelligent and adaptive enemy" in large part thanks to Brian Ross and ABC News' reporting.

The last paragraph of the ABC story attempts to dispel or minimize similarities between the UK bombs and those made and used or found in Iraq. This is a mistake.

The Iraqi bombs are explosives linked to gases either in the idea of increasing their effectiveness or spreading a chemical cloud. The London and Glasgow devices are not explosives at all, but firebombs.

To a dancing patrons of the Tiger Tiger club (or any other targeted with such devices), the distinction between a deadly 'firebomb' and a deadly 'explosive' is one left to be made by those comfortably removed from harm's way.

But at any rate, the distinction is meaningless and perhaps even foolish once again. The reason the Iraqi designs are 'explosives' is precisely because of the use of military grade plastic explosives as the triggering mechanisms. Add a couple of extra placements due to abundance, and there you have it. An 'explosive.'

But the tanks, the nails...the majority of the bomb, including the tanks' positioning within the vehicle...the designs are decidedly not dissimilar.

At the early stages of reporting from multiple sources, the popular theme was that there was no (immediate) link to al-Qaeda, as if a membership card from Waziristan would make matters more dire. Yet, with this early meme combined with today's ABC conclusion that these were 'only' firebombs, dangerous ground is tread and a dangerous message furthered: These guys were amateurish and inept.

Wrong. They made a mistake, particularly in their triggers, which were not easy implementations. Have you ever made a mistake in your chosen field? Did that mistake define you as inept? Amateurish? Repeated verbatim as previously stated:

Those who wish to dismiss the attempted bombings as 'amateurish' would be well advised to quietly reconsider.

This would have been more deadly than the vast majority of bombing attacks by Palestinian terrorists in Israel.

And we don't call them inept, do we?

Hint: No. We don't.

Because intent is intent and dead is dead. And the enemy learns and adapts.

Caution to those who would follow the 'inept amateur' message and derive deceptive comfort.

While Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff played down a report of imminent al-Qaeda attack, a law enforcement report prepared for the Department of Homeland Security concluded that al-Qaeda plans a "spectacular" attack on the US this summer.

"This is reminiscent of the warnings and intelligence we were getting in the summer of 2001," ABC quoted the unidentified official as saying.

And while the LAPD is conducting a "terror assessment" on night clubs in Los Angeles, the terror threat also rises in Canada and is spreading across Europe.

It would be dangerously wrong to classify the potential (and past) actors 'inept' or 'amateurs' on the grounds of the absence of plastic explosives or a graduate certificate from al-Qaeda's Camp Bombalot training camp in North Waziristan.

July 3, 2007

US Destroying F-14s To Prevent Parts Sales To Iran

As the US accuses Iran of the execution of US soldiers in a Karbala, Iraq raid in January, the Department of Defense is proceeding with plans to completely destroy the remaining fleet of F-14 Tomcat fighter aircraft. Iran is the only country seeking to keep the F-14 in the air as the aging fleet sold to Iran in the 1970's falls into disrepair. Rather than sell non-sensitive parts in auction, the accidental or illicit sale of sensitive parts has prompted the DoD to shred and destroy the aircraft completely.

F-14 parts have made their way to the Iranians indirectly through auction buyers in the United States who often misrepresented themselves and/or broke Pentagon directives banning export of certain items. The DoD has thus decided to completely eliminate the ability of Iran to acquire parts indirectly.

July 2, 2007

Hunt Is On For US-NATO Inside Pakistan?

Syed Saleem Shahzad reports in the Asia Times that Pervez Musharraf and US & NATO commanders have reached an agreement giving Coalition forces the green light to hunt operatives and camps of the Taliban and al-Qaeda inside Pakistan's borders and that "coalition forces will start hitting targets wherever they might be." If accurate, this is a significant development that will have both good and bad implications. Shahzad is one of the most knowledgeable, connected and normally reliable journalists in the region.

Both sides, American and Pakistani, have public campaigns of operational denial. First, from the Coalition:

Officially, both NATO and Pakistan deny any agreement on hot-pursuit activities. Major John Thomas, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, told Asia Times Online, "The ISAF would not strike any targets across the border. That is not part of our mission. We work with the Pakistani government closely on cross-border issues. The ISAF does not have a counter-terrorism mission that I know of."

To believe there is no counterterrorism mission within Afghanistan and Pakistan (whether any combination of intelligence gathering, air strikes and/or ground operations) is to believe there are no al-Qaeda terrorists in the UK. Al-Qaeda's global headquarters exists in Pakistan's tribal regions. Of course there is a counterterrorism mission, official, unofficial or otherwise. The US does not want to publicly acknowledge its ongoing operations against al-Qaeda within Pakistan for a variety of reasons.

Next, from the Pakistanis is official denial for the opposite reason.

Similarly, the director general of the Inter-Services Public Relations of the Pakistani Armed Forces, Major-General Waheed Arshad, said NATO forces would not be allowed to intervene in Pakistani areas. He conceded that Pakistan is wary of growing extremism in the country, but said there is no threat of Talibanization.

"The Taliban are a problem for Afghanistan, not Pakistan. There are a few extremist groups operating in Pakistan and we have our own indigenous mechanism to counter them through law-enforcement agencies, and through paramilitary and military deployment," Waheed said.

Pakistan does not want to publicly acknowledge the extent of al-Qaeda and Taliban operations, camps and fighters long within its own borders because to do so exposes the role of numerous members of Pakistan's own Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) providing critical support to both. That the Taliban was an ISI creation in Afghanistan to begin with is more than an open secret.

Potential implications of an open agreement allowing US/NATO pursuit and attacks on the Taliban and al-Qaeda inside Pakistan are chiefly two:

1. Operational freedom for the Coalition against a terrorist force currently enjoying safe haven in Pakistan from which to mount cross-border and international terrorist attacks. This means a more direct and effective campaign against both.

2. On the flip side, such an open acknowledgment and subsequent US/NATO attacks on the Taliban and al-Qaeda could spur the two to finally attempt to mount an offensive overthrow of the Musharraf regime, risking sooner under direct pressure and effective military operations (rather than simply later with no true second northwestern front), the fall of Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal into terrorist hands. This may be a calculated risk accepted by Musharraf in hopes that any push by the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance might be counterbalanced by US pressure from the west, hindering their potential attempts to push east into the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

Pure speculation at this point on an unverified report that both sides are already denying. But there have been absolutely no developments in Musharraf's favor for months. He may be hedging his bets for his own survival, and the US leveraging his precarious position in a way that may be the only way to possibly forestall or prevent an Islamist takeover of Pakistan and her nuclear arsenal.

Little good news ever comes out of Pakistan. This news could be the lesser of two evils - action vice inaction and initiative vice reaction.

UK Attacks: Immediate Lessons Learned

Again, with little time to reflect on the most recent series of attacks in the UK, some initial thoughts come to mind that will be further developed as events and time allows:
  • The aspiration for large attacks continues unabated. This is knowledge that is readily shared and easily available, and while desire still appears to exceed expertise, the learning curve is flattening and recall that blind squirrels still find nuts.
  • Again: Their words resonate. The latest reports indicate that at least in Glasgow the perpetrators are not downtrodden who are acting out in response to real or perceived oppression. If the professional-class is beginning to join in the fight, the learning curve for truly deadly action flattens even more.
  • Surveillance is not a failsafe. Domestic intelligence and security in the UK can be tough; tougher in some ways than we can implement here. Yet indications are that the perpetrators were already under scrutiny and were able to move freely even after the first attack. Restricting the liberty of the malicious is a much lesser evil than relieving life from the innocent.
  • Their motives are clear. The second bomb in London was reportedly placed to target first responders; a tactic employed by those we are fighting “over there” is moving steadily westward. Now would be a good time to start sharing battlefield lessons-learned with the defenders of our respective homelands.

Why Now? Mythical Causes of Terror at Home

In Jihad in Glasgow, Jacob Laskin asks the question and explains why the oft repeated claim - by al-Qaeda and anti-war activists alike - of "US foreign Policy" and the Iraq War as primary causes for terrorism at our doorstep is little more than opportunism.

That prompts the question: Why now? By way of explanation, some news reports in the wake of the Glasgow attack cited a posting last week on an Islamist chat room. Signed by one Osama al-Hazeen, reputedly a repeat visitor to the site, it threatened attacks in retaliation for the war in Iraq and the knighting of author Salman Rushdie, “who insulted and slandered Islam.” The first theory in particular appeals to those, on the antiwar Left and isolationist Right, who see the U.S.-led military intervention in Iraq as the wellspring of jihadist wrath. The obvious flaw in that argument is that Scotland is headed by a nationalist government whose first minister, Alex Salmond of the Scottish National Party, has been the leading opponent of the war in Iraq, even supporting efforts to impeach Tony Blair over the invasion. The Glasgow attack thus demonstrates yet again that opposition to U.S.-foreign policy is no protection against Islamic terror, while exposing the hollowness of jihadists’ grievances and the opportunism of their apologists in the West.

Far more credible is the explanation suggested by Nile Gardiner, a fellow in Anglo-American security policy at the Heritage Foundation. “The timing of the attack is significant because al-Qaeda associates attacks with historical developments and we are just days away from the anniversary of the 7-7 bombings,” Gardiner told FrontPage yesterday. The recent attacks, he said, are also meant to test the resolve of the new British government. “Al-Qaeda thinks that, compared to Blair, [Gordon] Brown is the weaker link, and the attack in Glasgow is part of their strategy to split Britain off from the United States in the war on terror.” Gardiner speculated that Brown is unlikely to cave in to demands to withdraw forces from Iraq, though he noted that “many on the Left will be clamoring” for precisely that.

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