...the reality of ISIS and what this group seeks is opaque to the public, and to policymakers not clued into the private salons where the details of secrets can be discussed. Even among those policymakers, the compartmentalized national security establishment means that no one really grasps the whole picture. The attempt to get the US into a war in Syria a year ago was similarly opaque. The public cannot make well-informed decisions about national security choices because information critical to such choices is withheld from them. It is withheld from them at the source, through the classification-censorship process, then by obfuscations in the salons and think tanks of DC and New York, and then finally through the bottleneck of the mass media itself.
The Solution to ISIS Is the First Amendment
by Matt Stoler [more inside]
In This Horror Film, Blood Is All Too Real [New York Times] ‘Terror at the Mall’ on HBO
documents an Attack in Kenya.
One year ago, gunmen from the Shabab militant group in Somalia laid siege to the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Armed with AK-47s and grenades, they stalked their victims from a gourmet burger restaurant at the entrance to the vegetable aisle of a grocery store at the back.
The British filmmaker Dan Reed assembled thousands of hours of footage gleaned from more than 100 security cameras inside the mall, video from television crews and modest cellphones, as well as still photographs. Then he and his team tracked down more than 200 people and interviewed 82 of them on camera, many survivors or their rescuers. [more inside]
is a 1994 action comedy film directed by James Cameron and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Tom Arnold. The film was a huge hit, and is noteworthy in that it featured visual special effects considered impossible
only a few years prior. It's been 20 years since it was released
. Time for a revisit, then. [SPOILERS if you haven't seen this movie.] [more inside]
Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, was a dangerous place to be in the late 1970s
. With bombs, shootings, British Army Patrols, riots on the streets, and The Ramones
and New York Dolls
on the turntable, the most punk thing 5 Catholic lads could do was to sing upbeat songs about adolescent lust
, getting nowhere with said girls
, and the general struggles
of being young
. In the bleeding heart of The Troubles
, The Undertones
escaped by dreaming of a life more ordinary
. [more inside]
was an American late-night, half-hour political talk show hosted by Bill Maher that ran from 1993 to 2002, first on Comedy Central and then on ABC. Four guests (usually including at least one comedian) would debate topics across the political spectrum in what Maher once described as “The McLaughlin Group on acid.” Of the 1300+ episodes produced, 190 can be viewed on YouTube. [more inside]
The Interpreters We Left Behind.
"As our troops pull out of Iraq
and Afghanistan, we're abandoning fixers and translators to the dangerous countrymen who view them as traitors. Asylum in the U.S. could be their last hope. If only we'd let them in
Inside the Kafkaesque World of the US’s "Little Guantánamos"
We sat together on her couch, her small, eight-year-old hands clutching a photo of her father, Yassin Aref. “My daddy only held me twice before I was five,” Dilnia told me. For the first five years of her life, she only knew him as the man on the other side of a plexiglass window in a communication management unit in an Indiana federal penitentiary.
Prisoners describe the communication management units, or CMUs, as “Little Guantánamos.” In 2006, the Bureau of Prisons created two of these units to isolate and segregate specific prisoners, the majority of them convicted of crimes related to terrorism. The bureau secretly opened these units without informing the public and without allowing anyone an opportunity to comment on their creation, as required by law.
Writing In The Gray Areas
- "Are some acts so revolting that the people who commit them do not deserve a hearing?" [more inside]
Ibragim was a womanizer. He was kind to children. He had a sweet tooth, and a temper.
Who killed three men in Waltham, Massachusetts, on September 11 2011? And could solving that case have prevented the Boston Bombings? The answers may never be clear, because the chief surviving suspect, Ibragim Todashev, was shot by the FBI while allegedly on the brink of confessing. Journalist Susan Zalkind
's investigation turned up many more questions about the Bureau's handling of the case than it answered. It's also been featured on This American Life
the first link contains photos of Todashev's dead body.
Mark Danner has been writing a series in the New York Review Of Books
: Rumsfeld's War And Its Consequences Now
A bare two weeks after the attacks of September 11, at the end of a long and emotional day at the White House, a sixty-nine-year-old politician and businessman—a midwesterner, born of modest means but grown wealthy and prominent and powerful—returned to his enormous suite of offices on the seventh floor of the flood-lit and wounded Pentagon and, as was his habit, scrawled out a memorandum on his calendar:
NSC mtg. with President—
As [it] ended he asked to see me alone…
After the meeting ended I went to Oval Office—He was alone
He was at his desk—
He talked about the meet
Then he said I want you to develop a plan to invade Ir[aq]. Do it outside the normal channels. Do it creatively so we don’t have to take so much cover [?]
The Simple Facts About Mass Shootings Aren't Simple At All
The first step in stopping future mass shootings is figuring out what we know and working from there. Unfortunately, the real first step is getting rid of a bunch of stuff we “know” that turns out to be wrong. [more inside]
60 Words And A War Without End: The Untold Story Of The Most Dangerous Sentence In U.S. History.
"Written in the frenzied, emotional days after 9/11, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force
was intended to give President Bush the ability to retaliate against whoever orchestrated the attacks. But more than 12 years later, this sentence remains the primary legal justification for nearly every covert operation around the world. Here’s how it came to be, and what it’s since come to mean." [Via]
The Rendition Project
is the most recent and the most thorough attempt to render visible the extraordinary scope of the global system of detention sites, linked by the covert transfer of detainees across national borders (via Geographical Imaginations
which discusses the project in the context of earlier visualizations). The Project includes first-hand accounts
, a timeline
, and the Rendition Flights Database
and interactive map (the world's largest compilation of public flight data relating to the rendition program). [more inside]
The legal framework of terrorism has been ... complex. Under the Bush Administration, terrorists were deemd to be "unlawful enemy combatants
," and not afforded the protections of the III Geneva Convention
. The policy, thought not the name
, has continued under the Obama Adminstration, and this indeterminate legal status has significantly complicated
efforts to try or release
However, there is an older legal model
that may suffice: piracy
. (previously [more inside]
When the car exploded, the same two words occurred to him, and to the ticket taker, and to every other person who saw or heard the blast, which could be heard on the other side of Kano, Nigeria’s second largest city: Boko Haram. That neither they, nor practically anyone else in Nigeria, knew what Boko Haram was exactly or why it would want to bomb a bus station was beside the point.
Officially, according to the Nigerian government, Boko Haram is a terrorist group. It began life as a separatist movement led by a northern Nigerian Muslim preacher, Mohammed Yusuf, who decried the country’s misrule. “Boko Haram” is a combination of the Hausa language and Arabic, understood to mean that Western, or un-Islamic, learning is forbidden. In 2009, after Yusuf was killed [BBC, The Guardian]—executed, it’s all but certain, by Nigerian police—his followers vowed revenge. [more inside]
The Sound of Terror: Phenomenology of a Drone Strike
Opponents of drone strikes say they violate international law and have caused unacknowledged civilian deaths. Proponents insist they actually save the lives of both U.S. soldiers, who would otherwise be deployed in dangerous ground operations, and of civilians, because of the drone’s capacity to survey and strike more precisely than combat. If the alternative is a prolonged and messy ground operation, the advantage of drone strikes in terms of casualties is indisputable, and it is not my intention to dispute it here.
But the terms of this debate give a one-sided view of both the larger financial and political costs of drones, as well as the less than lethal but nonetheless chronic and intense harm continuous strikes wage on communities. [more inside]
Inside the Nanga Parbat Murders
— One of the worst massacres in mountaineering history happened this summer in Pakistan. Will it happen again?
from Outside Online
, July 30, 2013 (more details in Climbers Recount Murder on Famous Pakistan Peak
at National Geographic
and Chilling Accounts of Nanga Parbat Massacre
). One Pakistani Taliban
group claimed the attack was retribution for a U.S. drone strike that killed Wali-ur-Rehman
on May 29, 2013. After a dangerous investigation
by Pakistani Army forces and local police, 20 perpetrators
by August 19, 2013.
Glenn Greenwald's partner was detained at Heathrow airport for nine hours
, his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles confiscated. Glenn Greenwald calls it a failed attempt at intimidation
. "...to start detaining the family members and loved ones of journalists is simply despotic. Even the Mafia had ethical rules against targeting the family members..."
Early this morning (midday in the Middle East), al-Qaeda launched a hashtag on Twitter to solicit advice on "suggestions for the development of jihadi media". JM Berger, writer of the national security/terrorism blog IntelWire
, noticed this
, and decided that they could use some help
. The good word was spread across the national security and terrorism Twitterspace, and they successfully hijacked the hashtag from al-Qaeda
. [more inside]
Two searches meant a surprise visit.
Local police visited a Long Island family allegedly because of their recent Google searches.
First discussions from the Atlantic
, the Guardian
, and Hacker News
. [more inside]
On Tuesday, details began to emerge about a failed attempt to detonate a pressure cooker bomb outside the BC Legislature in Victoria on Canada Day
, a day on which few politicians would be present and the lawn packed with families. Independent publication The Tyee examines what role the RCMP played in the bomb plot
while reviewing the history of so-called 'honeypot' investigations used by the FBI in the US.
Imagine two politicians: One preaches fear and excessive "security," while the other says terrorism is a negligible risk.
They hold, like me, that risk is part of life, and that while some security is necessary, we should mostly just refuse to be terrorized and get on with our lives. Fast-forward 10 years. If I'm right and there have been no more terrorist attacks, the preacher of fear takes credit for keeping us safe. But if a terrorist attack has occurred, my government career is over.
Did you hear the one about the KKK-member in NY who made a death ray?
In a weird twist, he targeted Jewish Groups--for sales. "An industrial mechanic with General Electric Co., who is also allegedly a member of the Ku Klux Klan, designed a deadly, mobile radiation device that he tried to sell to Jewish groups and then to a southern branch of the Ku Klux Klan, according to a federal complaint unsealed Wednesday in Albany" (found via TPM
Art, so difficult to value
, is an ideal currency
if you want to frustrate the banking regulations
of the Patriot Act. So much easier than shipping honey
. But who keeps this market orderly
? And why would such an important person branch into other illegal activities such as gambling operations
? Did he bore of backgammon
did an American counterterrorism agency map the entire Muslim world as a terror zone? And why was their map 500 years out of date.(via
“The United States is not at war with Islam
,” President Obama said last week at the National Defense University, in a speech that declared an end to America’s “wartime footing” in the fight against terrorism.
Meanwhile two weeks ago
"Asked at a Senate hearing how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, 'At least 10 to 20 years.' . . . A spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today - atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted.
Former CIA officer John Kiriakou (previously
) is serving a 30 month sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Loretto, Pennsylvania, and has sent a letter describing his experiences there
. [more inside]
At just after 2:20pm this afternoon, two men exited a crashed vehicle
in Woolwich, South East London, close to the Royal Artillery Barracks near the corner
of John Wilson St and Artillery Place. Armed with a knives, they proceeded to attack young male pedestrian. [more inside]
Jane's Jihad: the new face of terrorism
. A Reuters series in four parts.
The case was so serious, authorities said, that they charged the woman, Colleen LaRose, with crimes that could keep her in prison for the rest of her life. Now, as she awaits sentencing, a months-long Reuters review of confidential documents and interviews with sources in Europe and the United States -- including the first and only interview with Jihad Jane herself -- reveals a far less menacing and, in some ways, more preposterous undertaking than what the U.S. government asserted. [more inside]
Funeral home director Peter Stefan: "This is what we do.... I'm burying someone who is dead."
While protesters demonstrate in front of his funeral home, creating a burden for local law enforcement, Peter Stefan works the phones to find a cemetery willing to accept Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body and field media inquiries. Meanwhile, Tsarnaev's body is washed by his uncle in preparation for burial. No cemeteries agree to accept the body
and plans to inter it at a prison fall through. Ultimately a "compassionate individual
" steps forward so the saga can come to an end.
It's been five years
since the death
of Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh
in Damascus. No one ever claimed responsibility for killing him. Hezbollah publicly blames
Israel's Mossad, a charge they unsurprisingly deny. So, who killed The Driver? [more inside]
When police carried out a routine stop-and-search of her boyfriend on the London Underground, Gemma Atkinson filmed the incident. She was detained, handcuffed and threatened with arrest. She launched a legal battle, which ended with the police settling the case in 2010. With the money from the settlement she funded the production of this animated film, which she says shows how her story and highlights police misuse of counterterrorism powers to restrict photography
. [more inside]
What started as a report of a convenience store robbery near the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology last night has sprawled into a chaotic manhunt for the perpetrators of the recent terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon
The deadly pursuit, involving a policeman's murder, a carjacking, a violent chase with thrown explosives, and the death of one suspect
, has resulted in Governor Deval Patrick
ordering an unprecedented lockdown of the entire Boston metropolitan area
as an army of law enforcement searches house by house for the remaining gunman.
The Associated Press has identified the duo as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his 19-year-old brother Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev
, who remains at large. Both are immigrants
from wartorn Chechnya
in southwestern Russia.
The Guardian liveblog is good for quick updates, and Reddit's updating crowdsourced timeline of events
that has often outpaced mainstream media coverage of the situation. You can also get real-time reports straight from the (Java-based) local police scanner
"At the finish line of the Boston Marathon, two explosions have left multiple people injured."
. CBS Boston has a live video feed up
of the finish line.
Frequently dismissed as trivial or unimportant because untrue, rumors are a potent in the information war that characterizes contemporary conflicts, and they participate in significant ways in the struggle for the consent of the governed. As narrative forms, rumors are suitable to a wide range of political expression, from citizens, insurgents, and governments alike. The authors make a compelling argument for understanding rumors in these contexts as "narrative IEDs," low-cost, low-tech weapons that can successfully counter elaborate and expansive government initiatives of outreach campaigns or strategic communication efforts. Narrative Landmines - The Explosive Effects of Rumors in Syria and Insurgencies Around the World [more inside]
Twenty years ago
, on February 26, 1993
, a truck bomb exploded in the garage of the North Tower of the World Trade Center
, killing six people and an unborn child. More than 1,000 were injured. [more inside]
The Evolution of Irregular War
- Insurgents and Guerrillas From Akkadia to Afghanistan
Pundits and the press too often treat terrorism and guerrilla tactics as something new, a departure from old-fashioned ways of war. But nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout most of our species' long and bloody slog, warfare has primarily been carried out by bands of loosely organized, ill-disciplined, and lightly armed volunteers who disdained open battle in favor of stealthy raids and ambushes: the strategies of both tribal warriors and modern guerrillas and terrorists. [more inside]
It begins, "The man who shot and killed Osama bin Laden sat in a wicker chair in my backyard, wondering how he was going to feed his wife and kids or pay for their medical care."