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May 30, 2010

In Memorium

Maybe oddly, my life is almost empty of the pains of war. The war of my youth, Vietnam, claimed but one of my classmates. Despite my years and the relationships of my family, no one close was lost in the attacks of September 11th.

From my high school, just seven names appear on the Vietnam Memorial Wall. One was my friend. His name was Angelo Andrew Petraglia. He was killed by small arms fire in Binh Duong just 6 months and 12 days after his tour of duty began. We weren't the closest of friends, but I knew him back then.

I remember him tonight. He was drafted and served as an Army SP4 - E4 - 1st Infantry Division. He is listed on Panel 36W - Line 41.

I was number 334 in the first lottery. I was lucky.

May 27, 2010

No Islamists, No Jihad: New Obama National Security Strategy "Focuses" On Domestic Terror

President Obama's "new National Security strategy" will include a focus on terrorists at home. This presents a curious inconsistency that none other than John Brennan elucidates with a clarity that seems to escape himself and the rest of the administration.

"The president's national security strategy explicitly recognizes the threat to the United States posed by individuals radicalized here at home," said John Brennan, the National Security Council's counterterrorism and homeland security adviser, in a speech.

Mr. Brennan told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that "we have seen individuals, including U.S. citizens, armed with their U.S. passports, travel easily to extremist safe havens and return to America, their deadly plans disrupted by coordinated intelligence and law enforcement."

Mr. Brennan spoke on the eve of the release by the Obama administration of a new National Security Strategy report.

The new strategy, according to Mr. Brennan, will continue the George W. Bush administration strategy of seeking to distinguish al Qaeda terrorism from the religion of Islam. Mr. Brennan specifically said the Obama administration would no longer use the terms "Islamist" and "jihadist" "because jihad is holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam, meaning to purify oneself or one's community."

The problem is, if you ask the enemy (and even if you don't), he will tell you without pause or reservation that he is an Islamist seeking to impose his will forcably upon the West and America, killing as many as possible in the process. This is his jihad. He will tell you that with pride as well.

Yet we shrink from his language of "jihad" and "Islamist" at our great peril. For if we confuse, cloud or fail to identify the enemy, as a society and as a government, we will ultimately fall to defeat.

Clarity is critical. Language is vital. The Obama administration is sacrificing both.

An administration that shrinks from the language of the enemy while confidently touting to law enforcement that they must be vigilant for "right wing extremists" within instills neither confidence nor comfort. It does, however, politicize National Security to a revolting, disturbing level.

And when the American public loses first clarity and then confidence, National Security is weakened. Immensely.

Americans wonder, after the Islamists' jihadi attacks in the air above Detoit, on the streets of Times Square, on base at Fort Hood and outside the recruiting station at Little Rock, what is served from avoiding and ignoring what inspires our murderous enemy, Islamism and jihad?

What the administration fails to understand in its marketing of its language is that Americans see their own questions as rhetorical, and the Obama administration's reluctant discussions on National Security as merely rhetoric.

UPDATE: To read the redifinition of the US National Security Strategy, the original 52-page White House document is here:

2010 National Security Strategy (PDF)

May 25, 2010

Condemnations, Demands And Denials: Syria Is Arming Hizballah

It is good to see the president, through his top diplomats, condemn Syrian arms transfers to Hizballah in Lebanon. It is also good to hear him demand that such transfers are stopped - or, as the AP reports, "curbed". It's another thing altogether to consider how Syria sees and hears these things from the American president. And unfortunately, there is every indication that Syria and Iran see a toothless and disinterested tiger giving a weak, obligatory roar.

hizballah-formation.jpg

From the Associated Press report:

A top U.S. diplomat has urged Syria to do more to prevent arms shipments to the militant Lebanese Hezbollah and stem the flow of militants into Iraq.

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman said while relations remain uneasy, Syria was important to achieving a full Arab-Israeli settlement.

The fact remains that, since the Israeli withdrawal after the 2006 Summer War against Hizballah in Southern Lebanon, the Iranian-proxy terrorist group has not only restored its offensive missile, explosives and small arms arsenals to per war levels, they have significantly surpassed and built upon them. Iran brags of this. Hizballah brags of this. And Syria, the transit point between the two, generally keeps carefully mum while it facilitates arms tranfers and initiates arms transfers of their own.

Consider the recent Israeli charge that Iran was supplying Hizballah with Scud missiles - the terrorizing weapon of Saddam Hussein's Gulf War infamy that struck Israel all the way from points within Iraq. Israel was tracking the shipments via satellite and managed to halt them through threats of attack to Syria, it is believed.

Syria today, with the arming of Hizballah in the current news cycle due to the White House visit today of Lebnanese minister Saad Hariri, is now denying that it even makes sense to give Hizballah the weapons. The longer-range Scuds, according proffered Syrian logic, are "not even within Hizballah's tactics."

Oh really? Is that what Syria would say of the much more sophisticated Iranian version of China's Silkworm anti-ship cruise missile? Perhaps it would - had Hizballah not already fired at least two of them in the 2006 war.

Hizballah's tactics are to overwhelm the Israeli civilian population with missile and rocket bombardments, and to strike as deeply within Israel as possible. The Scud fits the bill. And is relatively plentiful, can be concealed, and can be fielded.

The problem for Hizballah (and its Syrian and Iranian masters) is that it takes a good bit of time (relatively) between fielding and erecting the large missile and the time it can be fired. And in those minutes, with nearly the whole of southern Lebanon under satellite (and other) surveillance, the Israeli air force would likely destroy the many of them in place during prep.

But all of this is academic. The issue is not Hizballah tactics, or Syrian or Iranian policy of arming them, or even of intent. The issue is that the West clings to words while the enemy arms. And when the firing begins, Israel is roundly and relentlessly condemned in the media-shaped court of public opinion.

We know that Iran and Hizballah seek to destroy Israel. We also know that Syria will 'reconsider' its alliance with Iran only when it fears America and the West more than it fears Iran. And therefor, Bashar Assad's Syria will continue to arm Hizballah in preparation for great conflict.

There's really only so much we can do, even if we try to strong-arm Syria. The point of this little blurb is not to proffer suggestions and tracks. It is, however, to cause the reader to touch base with reality: Words with Syria are cheap. Unless we are prepared to instill a greater fear than that which is posed by a retaliatory Iran (sticks) as well as prepared to offer positive incentives (carrots), Hizballah prepares, through its masters, for great conflict. And Syria will remain central as both conduit dictated by geography and supplier dictated by alliances.

Condemnations, Demands And Denials. None of it now will matter much then. Just something to keep in mind when the first volley of rockets and missles flies over the border for Israeli hospitals, apartments and shopping centers.

May 24, 2010

Rapid Recon of World Events: 24May2010

Some major changes are coming soon to ThreatsWatch including appearance, freshness and regularity of content and how you use the site. In the meantime, while the construction is being completed, here's what caught our eye in the overnight.

THE BIG STORY . . .

New Anwar al-Awlaki Video Advocates Killing Of American Civilians, Praises 'Student' Nidal Hassan, Ft. Hood Massacre 'Hero'

anwar-awlaki-composite.jpg

The Video: Yemeni-American Jihadi Cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki in First Interview with Al-Qaeda Media Calls on Muslim US Servicemen to Kill Fellow Soldiers (English Subtitles)

Joscelyn: Declassify Intelligence On Anwar al Awlaki's 'Students'

This Morning: US tourists feared kidnapped in Yemen

ARIZONA & IMMIGRATION SECURITY

Top DHS Official Says Feds May Not Process Illegals Referred From AZ: "I don't think the Arizona law, or laws like it, are the solution."

...But Text Of The AZ Law States Simply "Cooperative Enforcement of Federal Immigration Laws Throughout All of Arizona."

Go Back to Mexico: "Uncouth President Calderon wore out his welcome."

ISRAEL'S IRAN DEFENSE QUESTIONED

Israel Arms May Not Be Enough to Stop Nukes - Only Way? 'US Must Kill Iran's Power Plants'

IRAN

US: Turkey's Nuclear Deal With Iran Will Push US, NATO Away

The Fruits of Weakness . . .

Iranian Opposition Leader: Regime Provoking Sanctions That Will Hurt Ordinary Iranians

More A Bargain Than A Threat: Iran Says Could Cancel Uranium Deal Over Sanctions

So We'll Sanction Iran, But... Obama Lifts Clinton-Era Sanctions Against Russian Weapons Firms Stocking Iran?

Iran's Bargaining Chip: American Hikers Jailed in Iran

. . . Demands U.S. Propose Prisoner Swap

NATIONAL DEBT AS A NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUE

When Debt is a National Security Issue: "Of the world's top 25 debtor nations, the number that are U.S. allies: 19."

Understanding The European Financial Crisis In 150 Seconds:

SOMALIA

Fighting Between al-Qaeda-Linked al-Shabaab and Somali Troops Kills 20 in Mogadishu

The Islamists Were Attacking Somali Presidential Palace

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban Earn $2,400 Bounty for Each NATO Soldier Killed

Bounty Hunting: Taliban Rocket Attack Prevents UK Defence & Foreign Ministers' Sleep-Over Visit to Kandahar Airbase

Taliban Attack Kandahar Airfield: In Context With Other Recent Attacks, Including Bagram Airbase

Afghanistan's Peace Jirga Delayed . . .

PAKISTAN

LA Times Is Right: "Pakistan tribal region no simple target"

Too Bad The LA Times Leaned So Heavily On Hamid Gul For Their Report: Gul's A Very, Very Bad Man

GAZA, ISLAMISTS AND SUMMER CAMPS

Yemen Al-Qaeda Training Gaza Groups to Attack Israel

Islamists Torch UN Childrens' Summer Camp in Gaza

NORTH KOREA: SINKING SHIP, SINKING OUTLOOK

South Korea Cuts Off Trade with North Over Sinking of Warship

'North Korean Spy Arrested' - Was Scouting, Stealing Secret Info On SoKor Subway Systems

Think Quick: Who else also scouts their enemies' subways systems?

UPDATE:

Syrian Dictator Bashar Assad: Obama has failed in peace efforts and lost influence in Mideast

More Joscelyn: Did The Obama Administration Warn Pakistan After Shahzad Links?

Are We Serious About Security Policy?

In This Hemisphere: Violent Unrest Spreads In . . . Jamaica. Over Drug Extradition.

Mogadishu: The 'Most Dangerous' City In The World (Video Report) (Thanks to Flopping Aces)

May 21, 2010

Send Them All to Bagram

And now for a moment of positive news in a series of often disappointing recent decisions about National Security and Foreign policy. In a unanimous ruling, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit held that foreign national detainees being held at the Bagram Theatre Internment Facility are not entitled to rights of Habeas Corpus.

This tracks back to a case from the Bush Adminstration, Boumediene v. Bush that essentially ruled that while detainees at Guantanamo were entitled to Habeas rights, the extension of those rights is dependent on where the detainees are being detained.

"(1)the citizenship and status of the detainee and the adequacy of the process through which that status determination was made; (2) the nature of the sites where apprehension and then detention took place; and (3) the practical obstacles inherent in resolving the prisoner's entitlement to the writ."

This ruling is consistent with the often stated opinion of Professor Jeffrey Addicott. Although written in February 2010 the points are still focused.

Under the rule of law associated with armed conflict, all al-Qa'eda and Taliban detainees are unlawful enemy combatants or "unprivileged enemy belligerents", as the recently passed 2009 Military Commissions Act labels them. As such, these individuals are not entitled to Miranda rights, nor are they entitled to the special protections associated with prisoners of war. Under the law of war, the purpose of detaining these unprivileged enemy belligerents is to ensure that they do not return to join enemy forces and, in this unique situation, to allow American officials the opportunity to gather any necessary intelligence about the terrorists' organizational infrastructure, financial network, communication system, weapon supply lines, and plans for future terror attacks. As is the practice in all wars, the purpose of detention is not to punish the enemy combatant, but to protect the host nation from future acts of violence by the enemy.

Lawyers may decide to debate this position and ruling. From a policy perspective, it strongly suggests that enemy combatants captured on the battlefield should not be kept anywhere but a place like Bagram (by extension, one might also conclude that holding trials of known terrorists and enemy combatants in a U.S. court, is contrary to this decision).

This is a direct quote from the Heritage Foundation's article on this subject:

"This decision is a victory for common sense. Never in the history of warfare have aliens captured overseas, during wartime and held outside the United States, been given constitutional rights. That is, until the Boumediene decision, which, for the time being has been cabined to those detainees held in Guantanamo Bay. If the United States had lost this case, it would further limit our ability to capture known terrorists during wartime and detain them."

Let it be.

May 20, 2010

North Korea: "Punish Us For War And We'll... Make War"

North Korea is nothing if not consistent. A chest-pounding bully whose strength lies more in the fear of its playground targets than it's actually ability to dominate as it threatens.

Take, for instance, the North Korean bully's latest threat, expressed quite well in the AP headline: "North Korea warns of war if punished for ship sinking."

Translation? "If you respond to our act of war, we'll.... make war."

From the Associated Press story:

Tensions deepened Thursday on the Korean peninsula as South Korea accused North Korea of firing a torpedo that sank a naval warship, killing 46 sailors in the country's worst military disaster since the Korean War.

President Lee Myung-bak vowed "stern action" for the provocation following the release of long-awaited results from a multinational investigation into the March 26 sinking near the Koreas' tense maritime border. North Korea, reacting swiftly, called the results a fabrication, and warned that any retaliation would trigger war. It continued to deny involvement in the sinking of the warship Cheonan.

"If the (South Korean) enemies try to deal any retaliation or punishment, or if they try sanctions or a strike on us .... we will answer to this with all-out war," Col. Pak In Ho of North Korea's navy told broadcaster APTN in an exclusive interview in Pyongyang.

An international civilian-military investigation team said evidence overwhelmingly proves a North Korean submarine fired a homing torpedo that caused a massive underwater blast that tore the Cheonan apart. Fifty-eight sailors were rescued from the frigid Yellow Sea waters, but 46 perished.

North Korea is part bully, resorting to chest pounding to conceal and mask actual fear, and part Pavlov's dog, having developed predictable reactions to stimulus based on past pain/reward reaction consistancies. It's learned behavior expects, rightly, loud and provocative behavior to be met with payoffs and recoil from its American enemy.

Logic dictates that to change the learned behavior of Pavlov's dog, the resultant stimulus to its actions (provocations) will have to change. This does not mean the bombing should commence in 3, 2, 1... But it does mean that reaction must be firm, unflinching and meaningful.

North Korea is the world's greatest nuclear and missile weapons proliferator. Its clientele are the world's chief state sponsors of international terrorism. All in the huddle - suppliers and buyers - are hostile to the United States. Some, such as Iran, have much American blood on their hands and sponsor attacks on our interests, embassies and troops abroad on an ongoing basis.

North Korea must be treated as such, unwaveringly, and presented in plain language before the American public for precisely what it is - a threat and a bully that starves and tortures its own people in order to preserve its dictatorial grip, whiloe the regime feeds itself well from the spoils gained through proliferation to our enemies.

Gone must be the days of ambiguity and reward for North Korean promises to act well. The regime must be made to feel pain for their transgressions, not blackmail payment for promises not to inflict another round of transgressions.

We might consider our own Pavlovian reflection - our learned policy and public reactions to the playground bully banking much more on our fear of escalation than his own ability to win it.

May 19, 2010

Cartel Pirates Sailing Falcon Lake, Tx.

It has become increasingly more ludicrous that American citizens are exposed to the lawlessness and ruthlessness of the Mexican drug cartels. The most recent examples are the three times since April 30th that American fisherman have been accosted and robbed by cartel pirates on Falcon Lake near Zapata Texas.

No injuries were reported in connection with any of the three recent incidents. During each of the encounters, groups of men armed with assault rifles confronted boaters, looking for drugs and money, troopers said. The Texas Department of Public Safety issued a bulletin Tuesday that outlined the three confrontations. The most recent occurred Sunday on the U.S. side of the lake, which spans the state's border with Mexico, authorities said.

For reference, Falcon Lake is a reservoir near Zapata Texas that straddles the Rio Grande. Sports fishermen go there to catch bass. The location of Falcon Lake is shown in this Express News Graphic.

Falcon-Lake2-051910.jpg

So ask (and answer) the following question. If Los Zetas are bold enough to attack fishermen on a lake, what's next?

May 14, 2010

Political Correctness

Political Correctness is Going to Get Alot of Americans Killed. It's a simple fact (OK, opinion). Attorney General Eric Holder exhibited an extraordinary degree of dissonance and avoidance in questioning in front of a House Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday.

Noting this, House Homeland Security Committee ranking Republican Pete King (N.Y.) said that the Attorney General, "doesn't deserve" to keep his position.

"An attorney general who eight and a half years after Sept. 11 does not realize our enemy is radical Islam is either so politically correct or so out of touch that he doesn't deserve to be attorney general," King said on Fox News. "I mean, this is why he wants to have the terror trials of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Lower Manhattan -- he just doesn't get it."

Ladies and gentlemen, in many ways, Americans have forgotten the morning of September 11th and the aftermath. We are, of course, extraordinarily lucky that the recent series of terrorist attacks have failed. It does not mean that "they" have stopped trying. And it doesn't mean that a future attempt will not succeed. We seem to worry about hurting someone's feelings or offending someone's sensitivities. Consider how offended we would be if Shahzad's Nissan had exploded as intended. Consider how offended those who would have died or been maimed that day would have been.

This is not being written to offend anyone, but rather to highlight the truths being spoken by Congressmen Smith and King. Anyone is free to disagree. But the truth is that an insistence on political correctness will get some of us killed. Call it like it is. Radical Islam is the focus here, not all of Islam.

May 11, 2010

Drones of a Different Color

There are drones and then there are drones. Some drones are meant to retaliate against the Pakistani Taliban killing fourteen militants in Waziristan.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned of "very severe consequences" if an attack against the United States were traced back to Pakistan.

And then there are the Predators that Texas Governor Perry along with the support of Senators Hutchison and Cornyn, and Congressman Cuellar will start patrolling the Texas-Mexican border within weeks.

If approved, the unmanned aircraft in Texas would add to the federal government's existing border effort, which includes a handful of other unmanned aircraft, 20,000 Border Patrol agents, about 650 miles of border fence and 41 mobile surveillance systems, according to Customs and Border Protection.

There is a big difference between using drones to fight the Taliban in Pakistan and using drones to patrol the border area and force multiply the Border Patrol's ability to monitor the border crossing of 1000's of illegal immigrants or drug smugglers. The point is that there are resources available to the US that need to be deployed in our undeclared 3rd War on the US-Mexican border.

May 10, 2010

Al-Qaeda 'Calling The Shots' In North Waziristan

Read this telling of the back and forth both within the Pakistani Taliban and between its factions and al-Qaeda, and you will understand why Syed Saleem Shahzad concludes the way he does.

It is becoming apparent that al-Qaeda is calling the shots in North Waziristan and creating a situation under which the good and bad Taliban will not have any choice but to operate under al-Qaeda's flagship while trying to entice the US into a fight.

North Waziristan. That other-worldly place deep inside Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas where power is still measured strictly in the amount of pure violence one can bring upon an adversary.

The currency of violence is what keeps al-Qaeda in business. Not just in Waziristan, but elsewhere - as demonstrated in Iraq today. Whether you care to or not, you'll be keeping an eye on Waziristan's landscape more and more as the days go on.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is definitely one of the few consistently excellent journalists covering terrorism, the fundamentalist Islamist quest to restore the caliphate and the bloody conflict at hand. I'll put together a list of journalists you should follow later this week.

US Nods As Arabs Challenge IAEA Over Israeli Nuclear Capability

The Israelis have a problem. Their American ally has taken on a face not seen since Israel's re-founding over 60 years ago. The Obama administration's defenders will argue that this is finally simply America being the "honest broker" it has always said it was. But Israelis, alone on a sea of adversaries, call it something else: Betrayal. There's no pleasant way to put it and be taken seriously.

Now, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has decided to list - for the first time - Israel's ambiguous nuclear capability as one of its issues to be tackled at an upcoming IAEA board meeting next month. What's clear here is that, under President Obama, US support for Israel's nuclear policy is eroding. Fast.

One diplomatic official said that the US has relayed messages to Israel that it will not let its nuclear position be harmed, but added that these assurances are being received with some skepticism amid the realization that while in the past the US has killed such discussions in international forums, this time it failed to do so.

In international relations-speak, that message unmistakably means "our lips are still smiling to your face, but surely you can see the look in our eyes has changed." And changed indeed.

The President of the United States must, from time to time, be sure to hold press conferences and assure that Israel is one of America's most important allies. The impetus for these media chats remains that Barack Obama's animous and disdain for Israel runs so deep and so passionately that it makes itself plain - too plain - in day to day relations with the Jewish state.

But Arab states demanded the IAEA take up the subject. It can still be removed from the agenda with enough US and Israeli & allied push. But regardless of what happens this time, going forward - under this American administration - the pressure will be relentless and from all sides, including quiet American support for the Arab challanges. And Israel knows this.

If the US is slowly changing its policy, it would, one observer pointed out, run against commitments former US President George Bush gave former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in his famous 2004 letter that paved the way for Sharon's decision to disengage from Gaza.

In that letter, which dealt primarily with the Palestinian issue, and which Israel interpreted as a US acceptance of settlement blocs and a rejection of the Palestinian claim to a right of refugee return, Bush also wrote, "The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel's security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats."

The last sentence from President Bush is vital. In case you've forgotten, have a look at a map. You will find Israel surounded by hostile neighbors. And her historical best friend (and often her only friend) is an American people and American state a sea and an ocean away. Deterence keeps the Iranian and Syrian jackals at bay, among others. Do not confuse any perception of Bashar Assad's fear of complete destruction with his wanting peace. One plays well for cameras, the other inspiers action - or in this case, inaction.

Perhaps this ever-present reality is the reason that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu still receives high marks from the Israeli public on his handlihg of US relations (56% very good or good) as opposed to President Obama (48% very poor or poor).

A telling number is that only 34% of Israelis see President Obama as "very friendly or friendly." That should be startling.

Then again, perhaps it's just time for another Washington press conference in order to 'clarify' things.

The Israelis understand pretty clearly. So do the Arabs. So does the IAEA. And here we are.

May 9, 2010

...in a World Defined by Jihad

In the World as it is now defined by Global Jihad, it may be time that some very hard decisions must or will be made. A week ago when Faisal Shahzad showed how little he had learned in the bombing making training classes that he claims to have attended, some things became brutally clear and obvious. Certainly, the prompt response of enforcing the airlines to update their no fly lists more than once a day is one change that makes sense. But another, much more politically incorrect change that seems to be indicated and which is on the immediate horizon are the rules of naturalization and the ways in which we respond when a naturalized citizen turns on his or her adopted country.

In 2009, Shahzad became a newly minted naturalized Pakistani-American. He was a homeowner with a mortgage that outstretched his resources. He was married and his wife left him, disenchanted about the financial problems that beset them. He was, as some people described, a "regular guy." But unlike most "regular guys," it is suspected that Faisal traveled to Pakistan to take training from the Taliban to learn how to make car bombs. Despite the position of many that the "system worked" because this simpleton left many clues and enabled law enforcement to arrest him as his escape airplane was backing away from the gate at JFK Airport, we were lucky, were we not? Actually, we were doubly lucky because if Faisal actually did attend bomb making school, he clearly wasn't paying attention in class.

But how does a free and open society deal with security and safety in a World that has been redefined by Jihadism? It is said that in the United States we are all immigrants and we encourage immigrants to come and be part of our free society ("Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free").

Now there is legislation being contemplated that deals with the revocation of citizenship of a naturalized citizen if they become terrorists.

The Terrorist Expatriation Act would let the State Department revoke the citizenship of people who provide "material support or resources" to a foreign terrorist group. The ruling could be appealed.

Of course, it is correctly noted that, threatening to strip native born or naturalized Americans of their citizenship is hardly something that would stop them becoming "turncoats." Even further, the question of revocation of citizenship is at best problematic. Does a person who is a citizen, natural born or naturalized, remain protected by the Constitution if their citizenship is taken away. Hopefully, if a person's citizenship is revoked they would stand trial or be brought in front of a tribunal, and not be deported as an illegal. Certainly another defensibile position would be that a citizen, naturalized or natural born, who attempted to wage terror on U.S. citizens was potentially guilty of treason, a crime punishable by death. However, as with many issues relating to this War on Terrorism (or is it the "Overseas Contingency Operation"), there is not a clear answer.

There are myriad soft targets in the United States. Over 400 airports along with the thousands of relatively unprotected private airstrips and the thousands of shopping malls around the country offer a target rich environment.

We were lucky last weekend. A lot of that luck came from Shahzad's ineptitude at building a bomb and by using his cell phone and email to purchase the Nissan SUV from Craig's List. So through a series of bungled mistakes, someone who tried to kill hundreds of New Yorkers was caught, but flaws in the system were shown. How many more times will we be lucky before one of these attempts becomes successful?

Clearly as the year progresses and the mid-term election nears a number of hot button issues present themselves. How the United States deals with the immigration problem in general, and not just the "1070 Issue" will be debated long and hard in the coming months. Even now, it appears that the Administration via Eric Holder is considering a change in the way in which suspected terrorists are "read their rights."

It has become accepted wisdom that the United States is engaged in an unconventional war against terrorist forces. Yet the Obama administration's response to attempted acts of domestic terrorism has been consistently conventional: Suspects are apprehended, perhaps questioned under a public-safety exception to Miranda rights and then read their rights hours later and charged in a civilian court.

This is a complicated set of issues. It is unlikely that the passage of time will make things any less complicated. Frankly, the question of who is a citizen, how an immigrant can become a citizen, and what happens to that person when or if they decide to fight against their adopted country, all remain open. A few things however are pretty clear.

Fighting terrorism in the new World as defined by the jihad requires different thinking. Is it profiling to make it more difficult for people of certain suspect countries to become a naturalized American? Shahzad provides an answer to that one. Given the asymmetric threats and tactics employed by our enemies, our International & counterterrorism policies need to become more aggressive and proactive. It may not make everyone happy, but our peace and safety could well require the will to take "irregular steps" against known threats.

A few final thoughts... "If you aren't pre-emptive, you could be pre-empted." So, a concern over political correctness could get a lot of Americans killed. Our Founding Fathers never contemplated having to deal with a Global Jihad. Lastly, as we learned in Times Square last weekend when Duane Jackson, a Vietnam veteran saw something and alerted law enforcement, if you see something that "Doesn't look right" report it.

May 4, 2010

New York Bomber Trained In Waziristan

We are now learning, as was expected, that Faisal Shahzad trained at a Pakistan terror camp in Waziristan, run by either al-Qaeda or the Taliban or both.

One law enforcement official said Shahzad told the FBI he trained in Pakistan. A second said the training was believed to be in the lawless tribal region of Waziristan, where the Pakistani Taliban operates with near impunity.

The reasons for taking the Taliban's chief bomb maker's claim of responsibility were pretty clear. YouTube channel set up the day before. The pre-recorded message claiming responsibility was spoken as if damage ("a great blow") had occurred as expected rather than fizzling out. And the message was quite clear. Add to that Hakimullah Mehsud's re-emergence onto the scene with threats of attacks across American cities after erroneous claims of his death.

It was all too well scripted, like a concerted announcement to the world that the leader is alive, and he can strike Americans anywhere he chooses.

So it was quite a curious read this morning to find the Taliban's spokesman was out denying claims of any responsibility in the attack.

Pakistani Taliban on Monday said they were not aware of a video attributed to them claiming responsibility for the failed car bomb in New York late on Saturday. [ . . . ]

"We don't know about this video. As far as I know none of our people have posted it. We have no information about it," TTP's chief spokesman Azam Tariq said.

Well, either Qari Hussain Mehsud is still the Taliban's top bomb maker, or he is now somehow to be believed to be the Taliban version of a "lone wolf." The odds on that don't live long in Vegas, let's just say.

And while they may now try to run propaganda circles around claims of responsibility, the warnings of wide-spread other attacks in American cities in the coming month came from the head of the TTP, the resurrected Hakimullah Mehsud himself. That claim, understand, was not recanted.

With regards to Faisal Shahzad, who nearly skirted away on a Pakistani airliner at New York's JFK after passing airport security under his own name, how is it that we can find enough cause to charge the naturalized American citizen with terrorism and related charges and not treason?

Treason has a high bar, and for good reason. The penalty is death. If training with the Taliban enemy and returning to America and trying to attack it with a car bomb is not treason, such a term has no logical definition. Let the lawyers gather in a heady sidebar, if they must.

If our highest Justice Department minds cannot conclude that the logical definition of treason somewhere meets the legal definition, let's just get rid of the term "treason" altogether and put American Citizenship chits up for bid on e-Bay.

Faisal Shahzad Arrested For Times Square Terror Attack

The vehicle-borne improvised explosive device failed to detonate as expected. The terrorist failed in his attempt to flee the United States.

Faisal Shahzad, a U.S. citizen, originally from Pakistan, was arrested while at JFK International Airport attempting to board an Emirates flight to Dubai. Shahzad, 30, became a citizen on April 17, 2009. Just over a year later he attempted to kill his fellow citizens.

Shahzad will appear in court on Tuesday.

May 3, 2010

Thoughts on NYC, Bombs, Taliban & Tomorrow

Just a few quick thoughts on a few things. Placeholders, if you will.

  1. 1. The exact make-up of the firebomb placed at Viacom's doorstep is inconsequential.

    That it got there and failed wholly of it's own flawed making is what is important to soberly consider. Nothing was "foiled," nothing was "prevented." A bomb failed to go off because the bomb maker presumed that M-88 firecrackers would penetrate the gasoline or propane tanks. That is all that separated failure from disaster.

  2. 2. Take the Taliban claims of connection at face value.

    To discount is to believe that you have witnessed the very first instance of either the Taliban or al-Qaeda falsely taking responsibility for an attack that has already occurred. This does not mean you should conclude that they directed the cell or the whole affair.

    It is quite possible that the Taliban is embellishing a mere link and some operational knowledge/involvement in order to "usher Hekimullah Mehsud" back to life with a 'bang,' so to speak, for propaganda value. This, in my view, is the best case scenario based on the observable terrain and the groups' histories.

  3. 3. Pay attention, be aware and presume you are a target.

    Americans need to pay closer attention to the enemy. He wants to kill you. We can call it the "War On Terror" or we can call it "Overseas Contingency Operations." The enemy calls it jihad. If he can kill your neighbor, he can terrorize you and instill a debilitating sense of first panic and then fear and weariness. If he can kill you, he can terrorize all of your neighbors and, perhaps, your government. That's the whole idea.

    We can't wish it away or re-name it away. The enemy gets a vote. Changing the ballot doesn't change the enemy. He votes with guns and explosives. We dismiss him at our own peril.

    This does not mean we must walk around in fear. Awareness is not fear. And the enemy, while he would like to be so in America, is not omnipresent around every corner. In fact, the more you understand, the less unreasonable fear you will cart around with you. But waltzing around oblivious is both dangerous to you and an impetus for your government to do less or play word games. When the Attorney General ways that the bombing attempt in New York City was not terrorism, or the Secretary of Homeland Security declares that the Christmas Day underwear bomber's failed fuse was a Homeland Security success, you simply need to know better. And when you do, you will get better governance.

  4. 4. Know what to do if you're near a VBIED attack.

    If you are in the area where a car bomb does go off, be it in New York City, Los Angeles, Topeka or Kandahar, resist the temptation to either rush to the scene or flee down an open street. Stay calm. If I am nearby, for instance, I will duck into the nearest building and find my way away from the street-front and windows and get down, dragging as many with me as I can.

    Why on Earth would I do this? Terrorists have a nasty habit of double-detonations, designed to either kill first responders at the scene or kill the fleeing down predictable paths of retreat. Unless I am dragging survivors to safety, I will stay put toward the back of the nearest building or entrance and away from glass windows. I would look at my watch and move after about 10 minutes, ignoring everyone urging me to flee unless they are telling me there is a bomb in the building. I will always recall, "Keep your head down and your ears open." I'll trust my instincts and reason with them to trust them, too.

    Know how to react to and accept fear and pain. No one but a crazy fool is fearless, and everyone feels pain. The key is what you do with these adrenaline-producing sensations. Always remember: Pain is God's way of telling you you are still alive, and fear is God's way of telling you to pay attention. Follow that, mix in some knowledge and common sense, and you will weather any storm and, probably, save a whole lot of others in the process.

"International Links" Seen In NYC Bombing Attempt

I've been telling folks not to discount Taliban's claims of ownership or connection to the New York City bombing attempt. To dismiss it would mean to gamble that this is the first time that the Taliban or al-Qaeda ever made a false claim of responsibility of an attack. Those are not odds to take with you to Vegas or Atlantic City.

Well, from the Washington Post comes the headline, "Officials increasingly see international plot in Times Square bomb attempt."

The failed car bombing in Times Square increasingly appears to have been coordinated by several people in a plot with international links, Obama administration officials said Tuesday.

The disclosure, while tentative, came as the White House intensified its focus on the Saturday incident in New York City, in which explosives inside a Nissan Pathfinder were set ablaze but failed to detonate at the tourist-crowded corner of Broadway and 45th Street.

Emerging from a series of briefings, several officials said it was premature to rule out any motive but said the sweeping, multi-state investigation was turning up new clues.

Separately, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs also characterized the incident for the first time as an attempted act of terrorism. "I would say that was intended to terrorize, and I would say that whomever did that would be categorized as a terrorist," Gibbs said, sharpening the administration's tone.

Another U.S. official, recounting a conversation with intelligence officials, said, "Don't be surprised if you find a foreign nexus. . . . They're looking at some tell-tale signs and they're saying it's pointing in that direction."

No, "Don't be surprised." They mean what they say.

Laugh about the Times Square bomb's failures and inadequacies at your own peril, not mine.

This particular bomb itself is unimportant. What is important is where its impetus comes from. What is important is that it could have killed anyone on the sidewalk nearby.

And what is important is that the (likely) first-time bomb maker and the driver - if not the entire cell utilized to attempt this - were expendable.

This was a probe. I'm not laughing.

NYC Bomb Attempt: Targets And Terrorists

Saturday's terrorist attempt to detonate a VBIED (Vehicle-Based Improvised Explosive Device) at Times Square in New York City is an important event. Do not dismiss it with common media coverage that includes "lone wolf" and "amateurish" language to describe the attempt. Initially wrong about the placement of the vehicle, it is clear to me that it was parked right at the northeast entrance of the Viacom building, home to - among other networks - Comedy Central, which produces and airs South Park. I'll not make the same mistake twice. Nor should you.

nyc-bomb-100503-CORRECTION-sds-3.jpg

I had originally made a now angering error, placing the vehicle on the far side of Broadway across the intersection from the Viacom building. As you can see from the above image and insert, that was not the case.

A more detailed analysis will follow in this space later today. But for now there are things you too should be considering.

The first is not the nature of the bomb itself, but rather who claimed responsibility: The Taliban. Thanks to The Jawa Report for laying hands on a cached version of the recording after Google took it down from YouTube. Listen and read the transcription captions.

That's not just anyone speaking. That's the Taliban's top bomb maker. The Long War Journal was the first to note the Taliban audio statement, and Bill Roggio shared the following key bits of information. Now pay attention.

Qari Hussain Mehsud, the top bomb maker for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, said he takes "fully responsibility for the recent attack in the USA." Qari Hussain made the claim on an audiotape accompanied by images that was released on a YouTube website that calls itself the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel. The tape has yet to be verified, but US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal believe it is legitimate. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel on YouTube was created on April 30. Officials believe it was created to announce the Times Square attack, and Qari Hussain's statement was pre-recorded.

Pre-recorded. What's your sign aside from looking at the original audio file uploaded? The Taliban's Qari Hussain Mehsud fully expected the bomb to detonate and kill people within striking distance of a VBIED firebomb parked next to street vendors, in front of Viacom's front door and with tourists milling about.

The argument against Viacom as a primary target would be that Mehsud makes no reference to the South Park controversy. If this has nothing to do with South Park's quashed intent to air a depiction of Muhammed, it would be among the greatest of coincidences.

However, here's why you take the Taliban claim very seriously: While the Taliban and al-Qaeda are masters of propaganda, they rarely lie when taking credit for an attack. They may execute an attack and not claim it immediately, and they may embellish the aftermath and impact, but they rarely if ever lie about executing an attack or attempt. They're quite clear and up front.

More on this later in more organized detail.

May 2, 2010

Terrorism in America - Ever Vigilant

An SUV loaded with explosive materials parked on the street in Times Square on a typical Saturday night in New York City is no joke. Whether a domestic terrorist protesting something on May Day, or an International radical, the potential mass death, injury and destruction makes this attempt a reminder that vigilance and not complacency is paramount in 2010.

Found in the car were propane, gun powder, fireworks and a timing device.

Sources described the device as crude, and said it was more likely an incendiary device than an explosive one, but it was still being investigated late tonight.

The Pathfinder had a Connecticut or unmatched license plate and the vehicle identification number was partially obscured, police said.

Though police on the scene said the motive for the suspected attempted fire-bombing was unknown, but they described the incident as "the real deal."

New York City Mayor Bloomberg said, "We are very lucky. Thanks to alert New Yorkers and professional police officers, we avoided what could have been a very deadly event."

Indeed, we were lucky. But we have been lucky for more than 8 years since the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. At this point, just 12 hours into the incident, speculation of motive or perpetrator is fruitless. What is clear however, is that anyone who assumes the position of "well, that's NY City, but not here in my hometown" or any one of many statements of complacency is seriously off base. Terrorism is here in the United States. Terrorism is unfortunately a reality that targets us all. Among the steps to address the vulnerability include surveillance cameras, psychological and behavioral profiling. Clearly, people (citizens) who respond when something "doesn't look right" play an important role as incidents like this unfold.

By the way, I was in New York City on business last week and apparently walked on that very street.

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