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September 27, 2010

Stoned

There isn't alot to say about this.

A small-town mayor and an aide were found stoned to death Monday in a drug-plagued western state, the fifth city leader to be slain in Mexico since mid-August.

Michoacan state Attorney General Jesus Montejano said the bodies of Tancitaro Mayor Gustavo Sanchez and city adviser Rafael Equihua were discovered in a pickup truck abandoned on a dirt road near the city of Uruapan.

Montejano's spokesman, Jonathan Arredondo, said initially that the victims were hacked to death with a machete, but the attorney general said they were killed with stones.

Other reference

Sanchez was the 11th mayor killed this year. Many in dangerous northern border towns like Ciudad Juarez have begun to live in the U.S., or have moved their families there, and return to Mexico to work and for brief periods.

Clearly American drug use and exportation of firearms is responsible for the outright lawlessness and violence not being controlled by the Mexican government.

Federal police on Monday announced the arrest of Jose Ivan Contreras Lumbreras, a suspect in the July 15 car bombing that killed four people in Ciudad Juarez, an incident that marked a sharp escalation in cartel tactics. Contreras is reputedly an enforcer for the La Linea gang, the armed branch of the Juarez cartel, police said.

September 22, 2010

Not a Book Review

Another controversial book by Bob Woodward is about to be released. This is not a book review of "Obama's Wars." Considering my over packed schedule, I doubt if I'll read it. But this about a reported quote from the book derived from a Woodward interview with our President.

Woodward's book portrays Obama and the White House as barraged by warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and confronted with the difficulty in preventing them. During an interview with Woodward in July, the president said, "We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever... we absorbed it and we are stronger."

This simply cannot be. Can it truly be that the President views a future attack similar to those of September 11th as "collateral damage?"

Apparently there are other disclosures of dissent within the Administration, reported backbiting by certain outspoken officials, doubts about key people in key roles, as well as some more obvious statements such as "Pakistan is a cancer" and revelations about uncertainty and disagreement about the Administration's strategy in Afghanistan.

Indeed, a series of posts here at ThreatsWatch have discussed the various threats in the age of Obama. But it is doubtful that there is any single revelation greater than "we can absorb a terrorist attack."

Almost three thousand people dead in a brutal unprovoked attacked is not trvial. People jumping from 100 floors high to avoid being burned or pulverized is not trivial and it is not "collateral or acceptable" damage.

The Wall on the Mexican Border

As controversial an issue as the construction of a wall on the Mexican border has been, there are reports that one is being built. Each year more than 500,000 people pass across that border illegally. The wall is being built to protect Mexico's southern border with Guatemala.

Officials are being quoted as saying that the purpose of the wall is to prevent the flow of contraband and illegal aliens from crossing the border.

Yes, there are humanitarian issues regarding Guatemala that prompt their citizens to flee the country. The trouble we have here is that the wall is being built in Chiapas Mexico along the border with Guatemala. It's probably time to ask President Felipe Calderón about the double standard.

On the other hand and related to the question of security on the U.S. southern border, here are some observations made in a trip across Interstate 8 from Palm Springs California to Tucson Arizona (on purpose to avoid traffic patterns in Phoenix). Most of that border is unguarded. Along one stretch of open area, there were open structures that looked like 3-D triangles made of PVC piping through which humans and all types of wild life could easily pass. Driving that route you pass one of the 32 permanent Border Patrol checkpoints on I-8 East approximately 15 miles east of Yuma. Along the way, we passed at least one other security stop going east, and had gone through two heading west. Granted that we didn't fit any profile, but driving in a 24 foot Winnebago, the cursory examination of the vehicle was surprising. If you talk to people who own ranches that are traversed by people flowing across the U.S.-Mexican border, consistently you will hear that many of the people are not Mexican or Hispanic looking. We have a problem and it seems pretty clear that we are not paying attention to it.

September 14, 2010

On Terrorism

Prof. Jeff Addicott, Director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University School of Law in San Antonio was interviewed on his view on counterterrorism policy.

"We have to remember that we are at war," Addicott said. "This is the longest war we've had in our history. It started on 9/11, still continuing today."

Addicott calls it straight and hard.

September 11, 2010

September 11th Clearly Remembered

According to Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, there have been 11 known threats against New York City since September 11th. There are constant on-going threats, some that are real, and others that are not. Not all of the threats are against U.S. soil, but some are. On the one hand there are arguments that al Qaeda central has become diffused and less influential. Yet there is the alternative belief that a decentralized al Qaeda unified by the singular belief and urgency to execute bin Laden's fatwa is as dangerous and vile as those who flew the planes in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the flight that crashed in Shanksville on the morning of September 11th.

On September 10th, 2001, none knew what would happen the next day. We had gone to bed, never imagining what would occur or how our lives would change. Few, if any people, knew the names al-Zawahiri or bin Laden or Zarqawi or Ghadan or others. Most people never gave it a thought. Most people had never heard of the Hart-Rudman Commission and even fewer had read or even glanced at the reports in which the attacks were presaged.

I had overslept that morning of September 11th and was getting ready for work watching CNBC as I did every morning when the first plane hit at 8:49am. Joe Kiernan was at first incredulous that a small plane could "run into" the World Trade Center Towers. But it was worse.

We knew it for sure when people began leaping from the windows a hundred stories up to escape death by fire.

I dressed hurriedly and left for my office just after the second plane hit and drove north toward my office. In the "Carolina blue sky" just 30 miles to my west I saw the smoke rising. All airplanes had been banned from the NYC skies. It was eerie driving with the top down in my convertible seeing and hearing nothing overhead. I got to my office and on the side street dozens of fire trucks were lined up preparing to go to Manhattan. How many of those firefighters never came home, I will never know.

Then, the buildings fell crumbling to the ground and spreading acrid smoke along with burning and pulverized humanity. From the smoke rose tears, and a new America was born, for some more than others. Since that day, tears stream from my eyes whenever I think of those moments or hear any of the American anthems.

On Saturday, September 15th, the smoke rising from the rubble pile was visible for miles; but my wife and I had gone to our favorite spot at Jones Beach where on a normal day, you could see the Lower Manhattan skyline with the Towers rising majestically in the near distance. That morning, it was just smoke from where the Towers had stood, and Battleships patrolling off the coast. Six months later on March 11, 2002 thousands of NY'ers ventured out in the cold to see the 1st Memorial, the Towers of Light, soar to the sky.

It has been said that a failure of imagination was a factor leading to September 11th. Who could have ever imagined those attacks? Yet, some believe that our inability to imagine things even worse, could lead to events even more unimaginable.

No amount of time and no volume of tears can ever clear my eyes of the memories of what happened that day or cleanse my vision. As time has passed, my emotions have heightened, not abated. It is in the solemn memory of those who died that day and for everyone who now defends our Country that we can never forget what happened that day.

And for that reason, in response to an article by CNN's Fareed Zakaria posing that today we continue an overreaction to the attacks, it is important to wonder how anyone can come to that conclusion .

Pardon me while I clear my eyes, scratch my head and wonder the motivation of a journalist taking the position that our responses to September 11th were excessive and have sustained for too long. How has the U.S. overreacted to the attacks and to al Qaeda? Zakaria says:

I mean it in two senses. We didn't spend a lot of time in the year after 9/11 -- once we had taken it on, once we had started chasing these people around the world, measures which I strongly supported then and still strongly support -- whether that had been effective and whether we had broken up the organization and made it far more difficult for them to operate. And therefore, what was the real nature of the threat going forward? I think it's clear that al Qaeda is a much-diminished force. Yet, it still has the power to inspire a series of local organizations around the world, but it has very little power to direct these high-profile terrorist attacks itself. The reaction to my point that al Qaeda is weaker than we think has surprised me only because I've made this point since 2004, and I've made it repeatedly.

He speaks of over response, "over this" and "over that." Were it not an asymmetric war, were it not an elusive enemy, were it not so hard to "reach out and touch someone" in the sense having direct contact and access to "certain high value targets," there are many people who would argue that we have not yet reacted enough.

September 8, 2010

September 11th - Things Forgotten

The threatened abominably despicable proposed act of Terry Jones, the pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville Florida to burn a Koran on September 11th makes it imperative to speak out.

His is a "place of worship" with 30 or so members about to sully the memories of nearly 3,000 Americans murdered in the attacks of September 11th. The proportion of the loss compared to the number of people about to perform a travesty is striking and stark. September 11th is undoubtedly a day that affected every American citizen, some more than others, others in ways different from the rest. But in taking the inflammatory step of burning a copy of the Koran in some faint and feeble attempt to "remember the victims of September 11th" Jones' threat is both sickening and perverted.

Since September 11th many people have taken numerous steps to illuminate and educate the populace about what happened. In a very real sense the Global War on Terrorism is being fought because it is truly a war on ignorance and bigotry. Bin Laden declared a jihad against the United States and the West in his now infamous fatwa of February 23, 1998 ) for those who are capable, here is the fatwa in the original Arabic).

In order to understand the last nine years you must understand the first 24 hours of the war -- and recall your own feelings in those 24 hours. First, the attack was a shock, its audaciousness frightening. Second, we did not know what was coming next. The attack had destroyed the right to complacent assumptions. Were there other cells standing by in the United States? Did they have capabilities even more substantial than what they showed on Sept. 11? Could they be detected and stopped? Any American not frightened on Sept. 12 was not in touch with reality. Many who are now claiming that the United States overreacted are forgetting their own sense of panic. We are all calm and collected nine years after.

• Remember the fear we all felt on September 11 and 12.
• Remember the American pride when Congress stood united on the steps of the Capitol on September 12.
• Remember the bravery of the first responders, many of whom perished in the aftermath of the attacks.
• Remember the families of the dead, some who dove to their deaths from the top floors of the World Trade to avoid being burned or crushed to death.
• Remember the resolve of everyone who has fought and some who died in the fight against Global Terrorism
• Remember that political correctness is not a replacement for knowing the enemy (it is not Islam, it is the radical, fundamentalist jihad, even if political correctness argues against calling it what it is).
• Remember that "they" still want to attack, whether in the U.S. or abroad and they have the patience and resolve to wait.

It is not at all intended that this entry be politically correct. But, perhaps some union of faiths, between the Western World and the Islamic World can emerge from the uproar that this little man in Gainesville Florida has spawned.

The greatest failure of American intelligence was not the lack of a clear warning about 9/11 but the lack, on Sept. 12, of a clear picture of al Qaeda's global structure, capabilities, weaknesses and intentions.

America's greatest failure could well be allowing a little man like Terry Jones to hijack the righteousness of our mission to fight and defeat global extremism.

I know that many are asking to ignore Jones and not bring attention to his threats. The lesson is probably that radical fundamentalism of any variety is destructive. General David Petraeus knows well that if Jones follows through on his misdirected threat, it will cost American lives.

Regardless of political persuasion and "rationales," from a political and policy perspective, inflaming emotions makes no sense at all. Sept 11th is a sad and tragic day. "Ich bin ein New Yorker."

References from the Stratfor article, "9/11 and the 9-Year War" are interspersed through this entry. 9/11 and the 9-Year War is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

September 7, 2010

Shock: Iran Stockpiling Enriched Uranium

If it weren't deadly serious, it would be funny to note how different the IAEA's approach to Iran has changed since the departure of Muhammed ElBaradei at the UN nuclear watchdog's helm. In its latest report, the IAEA warns that Iran is on the brink of a nuclear weapon, having stockpiled at least 22 kilograms (47 lbs.) of enriched uranium enriched to at least 20% purity.

The agency's report comes in spite of the recent imposition at the United Nations of a fresh round of sanctions against Iran and will heighten fears of an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear plants. The prospect of an attack had receded only recently with American assurances that Tehran was more than a year away from acquiring a bomb. The Vienna-based nuclear watchdog said Tehran had maintained its absolute defiance of international pressure to curb its programme despite the imposition of harsh sanctions in May. The IAEA has grown increasingly alarmed at Iran's behaviour and the latest report, which will be presented to the agency's governors at a meeting next week, lambasted Tehran on a series of fronts.

Rather than seeing his primary responsibility to be to investigate and report on nuclear programs, ElBaradei saw his "brief" to be to ensure that "countries don't go headlong into killing each other," a job description he offered in repsonse to a question from the BBC on the nuclear standoff between Iran and the United States.

I wrote on this at National Review in ElBaradei's New Brief, Same as His Old Brief, and Elbaradei's words in two intrerviews were enlightening for the uninitiated.

ElBaradei said in the al-Arabiya interview, "I always think of resigning in the event of a military strike," because he "would conclude that there is no mechanism left for me to defend." He went on to say, "I am doing this out of the conviction that I am defending shared values." What values are shared -- presumably with the Iranian mullah regime -- is unclear.

However, keep in mind that this is the same ElBaradei who told the BBC that "I have no brief other than to make sure we don't go into another war or that we go crazy into killing each other. You do not want to give additional argument to new crazies who say 'let's go and bomb Iran.'" That's quite a different "brief" than a role in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon through inspection regimes.

Unfortunately, ElBaradei's only actual "brief" is to make continued assessment of the Iranian nuclear program. His agency has no enforcement mechanism and thus reports to the UN Security Council when measures of enforcement are required. In fact, he and his agency have no input on enforcement or consequence at all. Monitor and report -- that's the IAEA's job.

ElBaradei oversaw days where the UN nuclear watchdog would bow to Iranian requests, like firing IAEA inspectors like Chris Charlier who get too close to Iran's nuclear truth.

In April 2006, Mohamed ElBaradei made a much-anticipated trip to Tehran to meet with Iranian officials amid a deadlock between the West and the Iranian regime over the nuclear crisis surrounding their suspected nuclear weapons program. The IAEA Director's mission, in his words, was to "come to Tehran to discuss with Iranian officials to resolve the remaining issues in the way of verifying Iranian nuclear program." His statements while in Iran were both public and conciliatory, including the proclamation that "We have done our inspection works. No diversion has been found and Iran has the right to enjoy nuclear energy."

He left with little progress...for the West. At the time, we wrote, "ElBaradei went to Iran and nothing happened. Or did it?"

What none of us knew at the time was that something quite tangible indeed had happened, according to (former) head IAEA Iran inspector Chris Charlier.

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, demanded that ElBaradei fire Chris Charlier and remove him from the inspection team entirely. (Also see Regime Change Iran, Anti-Mullah, Security Watchtower and Worldwide Standard.)

According to Charlier and at least one other IAEA inspector in the Die Welt report, firing Charlier is precisely what ElBaradei immediately did in what can only be called a stunning acquiescence. There was, apparently, far more to ElBaradei's conciliatory tone in April - in both rhetoric and substance - than met the public eye.

Until now.

The IAEA seems to have returned to its function of analyzing, investigating and reporting on nuclear programs and proliferation - whatever the results may be - and leaving the issues of conflict resolution to the UN Security Council rather than usurping and/or guiding them with carefully calibrated reports and statements.

So it's quite a shock to hear that Iran is stockpiling enriched uranium. Well, maybe not. But if you took ElBaradei's reports and interviews at face value during the Iranian nuclear crisis until his recent departure, you probably are.

September 4, 2010

Export License Required for "Death Devices"

In a new rule effective July 15, 2010, the U.S. Department of Commerce has added "equipment designed for the execution of human beings" to the Commerce Control List (CCL). This means that any company seeking to export "electric chairs, lethal chemical injection tables or other execution equipment to any foreign country must first obtain a U.S. export license."

Previously, the CCL included implements of torture like thumbscrews, thumbcuffs, fingercuffs and spiked batons as being totally banned from export. Still permitted by the Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) because they apparently have crime control purposes are implements such as stun cuffs, shock sleeves, and shock belts. The BIS Mission is to "advance U.S. national security, foreign policy, and economic objectives by ensuring an effective export control and treaty compliance system and promoting continued U.S. strategic technology leadership."

It is important to understand that the BIS and the CCL are essential elements to our protecting critical technologies, especially those used in military applications from being exposed to or falling into the "wrong hands." It's a bit surprising that execution equipment was not already on the list.

September 2, 2010

Terror Dry Run, Cluelessness Or Lawfare?

Was the incident earlier this week involving two airline passengers of Yemeni origin really a terrorist dry run as initially reported? Was it all just a big misunderstanding as is now being reported as claimed by the Department of Homeland Security? Or was it somewhere in between - an act of lawfare in an attempt to deliberately cause a stir that could later be used in an American court of law to support a claim af racism, harassment and anti-Muslim bias?

Something never really added up in the details available from the 'terrorist dry run' event this week. Perhaps now it is beginning to add up. Perhaps. After sharing the information known at the time in 'Dry Run: Al-Soofi And The Jihadi 'Unmanned' Aerial Drone,' that 'something' went ignored.

As noted by Pajamas Media's Annie Jacobson, the Department of Homeland Security began to backtrack from the suspicion of a terrorist dry run through the New York Times. DHS is unconvinced, after investigation and interrogation, that the men have any ties to terrorism. With more information than we can observe, we should take them at their word and judgment.

While Dutch authorities have released the two suspect passengers, Ned May at Breitbart's Big Peace cites an article in the Netherlands' De Telegraaf newspaper, saying that "One of the two men arrested at Schiphol [Hezam al-Murisi] was not only suspected of preparing terrorist attacks but also of arson. His lawyer Klaas-Arjen Krikke confirmed this Tuesday." The suspicion of "preparing terrorist attacks" referred to by May is almost certainly the current instance and not another in his past. Otherwise he would have almost certainly been on the terror watchlist and equally as certainly not recommended for Dutch release by DHS.

However, the manner of packing they chose is still suspect at worst, curious at best. The contents included a cell phone taped to a full bottle of Pepto-Bismal, a bundle of cell phones taped together, a bundle of watches taped together, two loose cell phones, a boxcutter and three large knives.

pepto.jpg

Not one of the suspicious (or suspiciously packaged) items, but all of them. If a dry run is to be ruled out, then this either indicates that al-Soofi is a completely clueless traveler just "packaging gifts" in a unique way as suggested to the New York Times, or that he put all of these items into his checked baggage in order to raise red flags and the expected response on purpose. The explanation of the former is ignorance. The explanation of the latter is most likely lawfare, hoping to spring a civil suit claiming anti-Muslim bias, racial discrimination and damages.

As if on cue, one of the suspected (or formerly suspected) passengers has a lawyer claiming damages already. Ned May translates:

The Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reports:
The two Yemenis who were released Wednesday after they had been detained since Monday on suspicion of terrorism, have been greatly damaged. This is the conclusion of Klaas-Arjen Krikke, the lawyer for one of the two [Hezam al-Murisi]. "They have been put down world wide by name as terrorists. [...] But my client is very happy that he has been released," says Krikke. "He hopes soon to be with his family again. But what has happened here will not win the beauty prize. In particular, the Americans are responsible for that. Scandalous! [...] My client seemed to have nothing to do with the suspected suitcase. That was absolutely clear. Yet he became involved with the whole mess," the Dutch lawyer stressed. "I must say however, that the prosecution and the police in recent days have worked very hard to clarify the matter quickly. But the Public Prosecutor (OM) has had the courage to weigh the information honestly and then release the suspects."

No lawsuits appear to be brewing for the Netherlands. However, the United States is a different matter altogether. His Dutch attorney has perhaps telegraphed this in saying, "In particular, the Americans are responsible for that. Scandalous!"

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