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]
The Shooter. 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."
1. Mrs Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. Pity. A signature strike leveled the florist’s. The Disposition Matrix. Anti-Drone Camouflage: What to Wear in Total Surveillance. Drone City. Books Not Bombs.
In 2010, journalist David Axe spent a month in the Congo reporting on the Lord's Resistance Army. When he returned, he wrote a book titled "Army of God: Joseph Kony's War in Central Africa", illustrated by Tim Hamilton and edited by Matt Bors. The book first appeared online, but the paperback rights were acquired by publisher Public Affairs, with plans to publish an expanded edition in 2013. The deal included an advance, which was wired to Hamilton's account. That's where the U.S. Treasury department comes in. Specifically, The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). [more inside]
Kathryn Bigelow's striking bin Laden manhunt thriller Zero Dark Thirty arrives in wide release tonight on the heels of a final artful trailer -- one with oddly familiar musical accompaniment. The funereal hymn, a cover of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" (lyrics), deftly recasts the 90s power ballad as a haunting dirge of quiet grief, shattered ideals, and a singleminded focus on revenge, a perfect distillation of the film's profoundly grim thesis. But while the song may be fitting, it wasn't composed for the project -- it's just the latest success story from Belgian women's choir Scala & Kolacny Brothers, whose mournful reinterpretations of classic and modern rock -- catapulted by their rendition of "Creep" in The Social Network -- have made them famous around the world, with star turns in the likes of Homeland ("Every Breath You Take") and Downton Abbey ("With or Without You"). Cover comparison site WhoSampled offers a list of YouTube comparisons between the covers and the originals; look inside for more of their work in movies and television. [more inside]
The most-watched show in the history of the National Geographic Channel isn't Wild, Taboo or even the longest-running documentary series on cable tv: Explorer. It's Doomsday Preppers, a show that documents the "lives of otherwise ordinary Americans" as they prepare for the end of the world. [more inside]
'Homeland,' Obama’s Show. The award winning TV show does little to alleviate the myths and misconceptions about Arabs and Muslims, writes Joseph Massad, a scholar at Columbia University. "The racist representation of Arabs is so exponential, even for American television [..] that one does not know where to begin." [more inside]
Murder of an Idealist. "For six hours on September 11, the American compounds in Benghazi, Libya, stood siege. When the attack was over, J. Christopher Stevens's body was pulled from the wreckage—the first U.S. ambassador killed by militants in over thirty years. Since then, his death has been politicized and the details of the attack distorted. Sean Flynn straightens out the story of Stevens's last days in Libya—and reveals the true believer we lost that day."
The Permanent War (video). "This project, based on interviews with dozens of current and former national security officials, intelligence analysts and others, examines evolving U.S. counterterrorism policies and the practice of targeted killing." Part 1: Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists. Part 2: A CIA veteran transforms U.S. counterterrorism policy. Part 3: Remote U.S. base at core of secret operations. [more inside]
Our leaders -- of both parties -- have systematically infantilized Americans to believe that perfect security is attainable. This is one reason the White House reacts so defensively to any intimation that its conduct of the war on al-Qaeda is less than perfect. It’s one reason Republicans cynically argue that the administration is incompetent in its prosecution of the war, and in its mission to keep U.S. personnel alive. So long as both parties react so small-mindedly and opportunistically to the terrorist threat, we won’t be able to have a rational, adult conversation about the best ways to wage this war. - Jeffrey Goldberg, Benghazi Attack Brings Infantilizing Response
Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan. An extensive new study (PDF) by human rights lawyers from Stanford and NYU examines the impact of drone strikes on civilians in Pakistan, including the strategic effectiveness of the policy as well as the psychological impact on those living in constant fear that they might come under attack. [Via]
The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), or People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, is an Iranian dissident group that has been formally designated for the last 15 years by the US State Department as a "foreign terrorist organization". When the Bush administration sought to justify its attack on Iraq in 2003 by accusing Saddam Hussein of being a sponsor of "international terrorism", one of its prime examples was Iraq's "sheltering" of the MEK. Its inclusion on the terrorist list has meant that it is a felony to provide any "material support" to that group. Now, in the with the support of A-list American politicians who have been handsomely compensated for their efforts, the MEK are being delisted. [more inside]
Who's the most interesting speaker at this year's Values Voter Summit? It's almost certainly "former terrorist" Kamal Saleem, who claims to have smuggled weapons in to the United States and carried out missions for the likes of Yasser Arafat, Moammar Gadhafi, and Saddam Hussein before finding Christ and founding his ministry. He's appeared on The 700 Club, spoken at the Air Force Academy, and written a memoir, but Kamal might not have the history he claims to [more inside]
August was one of the deadliest months in Afghanistan, for both civilians and soldiers. The death toll was increased by so-called 'green-on-blue' attacks by members of the Afghan National Army and police forces on ISAF and US forces. [more inside]
"To aid the national security community in imagining contemporary threats, the Australian Security Research Centre (ASRC) is organising Australia’s Security Nightmares: The National Security Short Story Competition. The competition aims to produce a set of short stories that will contribute to a better conception of possible future threats and help defence, intelligence services, emergency managers, health agencies and other public, private and non-government organisations to be better prepared." (via)
Joe Biden commemorates 9/11 - tear-inducing
"Hundreds of Kashmiri militants who left home as young men two decades ago have begun to return, middle-aged and disillusioned. What happens to them now?"
Guardian/Greenwald: US drones are coming back after initial attacks to target first-responder rescuers.
Early Sunday morning a man entered a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing six and wounding three, and was killed in a shootout with police SWAT personnel. [more inside]
He turns to the girl. "It would be really nice," he says, "to have a cigarette now."— Sean Flynn writes the story of what happened on July 22nd a year ago [single page] when Anders Behring Breivik carried out a bomb attack and massacre in Norway that killed seventy seven people, and how those who survived and those who lost loved ones have dealt with the trauma. [Warning: It's not the easiest read, emotionally]
"Yeah," she says without looking at him.
"Do you think the shop is open?"
The girl laughs and Adrian laughs, and then they laugh about their water-wrinkled fingers and the cabaret scheduled for tomorrow night that probably won't happen, and they keep laughing, because there is nothing else to do until someone finally gets them off Utøya.
Last year, Wired reported that 'The FBI is teaching its counterterrorism agents that “main stream” [sic] American Muslims are likely to be terrorist sympathizers; that the Prophet Mohammed was a “cult leader”; and that the Islamic practice of giving charity is no more than a “funding mechanism for combat.”' (previously) The FBI pledged reform, but the materials appeared to be deeply embedded. After the President ordered a review, the FBI 'purged' the documents from training materials. Earlier this year Wired reported that 'U.S. Military Taught Officers: Use ‘Hiroshima’ Tactics for ‘Total War’ on Islam.' [more inside]
The FBI has orchestrated "14 out of the 22 most frightening plans for attacks [on U.S. soil] since 9/11" according to the NY Times' counting. As noted previously though, Mother Jones' investigative report found that "all [but three] of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings" and one third of terrorist defendants were actually led by an FBI agent provocateur, often outside contractors. A Rolling Stone blogger has now called out the FBI for "singling out ideological enemies [of the State]", including the FBI's recent Ohio bridge plot, while ignoring much more dangerous right wing groups, including white supremacists. [more inside]
The NYT reports on how a Secret 'Kill List' tests Obama's principles and will [more inside]
To Profile or Not to Profile? A Debate between Sam Harris and Bruce Schneier.
"Experimental adaptation of an influenza H5 HA confers respiratory droplet transmission to a reassortant H5 HA/H1N1 virus in ferrets." After an extensive, months-long debate, one of two controversial papers showing ways the H5N1 "avian" influenza virus could potentially become transmissible in mammals with only 3 or 4 mutations was published in Nature today. The journal included an editorial on the merits and drawbacks of "publishing risky research" with regard to biosafety. The debate included an unprecedented recommendation by The US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) to block publication -- a decision they later reversed. (Via: 1, 2) Nature's special report has additional articles, including interviews with the teams behind both papers.
The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has released its analysis of 17 de-classified documents captured during the Abbottabad raid where Osama Bin Laden was killed. They also released the documents themselves, available in the original Arabic as well as in English translation. A Pastebin version of the English translations has been posted for easy searching.
According to an FBI press release and various news sources, five "self-proclaimed anarchists" were arrested in connection with an alleged plot to blow up an Ohio bridge. [more inside]
On April 12, Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to 17 and a half years in prison. The sentence has renewed worries about the extent to which political speech might be counted as material support for terrorism and possible effects on Al Qaeda recruitment efforts. One wonders just how far the law might go. [more inside]
An ex-CIA officer John Kiriakou has been indicted under the Espionage Act for disclosing classified information to journalists. [more inside]
Body scanners attacked again as US blogger Jon Corbett who blogs for TSA Out of Our Pants! exposes how to beat the body scanners, carrying a metal box in a secret shirt pocket through security at two airports. [more inside]
... it was notable for the nation’s top law enforcement official to declare that it is constitutional for the government to kill citizens without any judicial review under certain circumstances. ... “Some have argued that the president is required to get permission from a federal court before taking action against a United States citizen who is a senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or associated forces,” Mr. Holder said. “This is simply not accurate. ‘Due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same, particularly when it comes to national security. The Constitution guarantees due process, not judicial process.” [more inside]
For more than a decade, questions have lingered about the possible role of the Saudi government in the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, even as the royal kingdom has made itself a crucial counterterrorism partner in the eyes of American diplomats. Now, in sworn statements that seem likely to reignite the debate, two former senators who were privy to top secret information on the Saudis’ activities say they believe that the Saudi government might have played a direct role in the terrorist attacks.
"From the ground, drones are terrifying weapons that can be heard circling overhead for hours at a time."
"What's that buzzing sound?" Foreign Policy's third annual War Issue focuses on what it calls "Barack Obama's Secret Wars," including My Drone War, in which a Pakistani journalist for Newsday and the NYT describes what drone warfare looks and sounds like from the ground; The Obama Doctrine, which argues drone warfare is a failing strategy in both Yemen and Pakistan; The Evolution of Drone Warfare: A Photo History, 1917-2010, and more. The package also includes two takes on cyberwar - Cyberwar is still more hype than hazard and Cyberwar Is Already Upon Us - along with a lot of interesting links.
Philadelphia's Fox 29 News does an undercover investigation on the possible terrorist threat posed by unguarded chemicals in labs. Mistakes are made.
"Muslim-American Terrorism in the Decade Since 9/11" (PDF) is a report by Professor Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina, published by the Triangle Center for Terrorism and Homeland Security. The TCFTHS is a collection of experts in the "Research Triangle" of North Carolina, associated with Duke, UNC and NC State and RTI, the independent research institute dedicated to aggregating and marketing the research resources of these three institutions. [more inside]
A UK man who downloaded recipes on how to make explosive devices has been jailed under the controversial Section 58 of the Terrorism Act 2000 which makes it a crime to be "in possession of records of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism". [more inside]
This past November, news broke of a rather odd domestic terror plot that had been broken up by the FBI. Four senior citizens in northern Georgia who met regularly at a local Waffle House, were allegedly planning to spread ricin and botulinum toxin in Atlanta and Washington, DC, in order to kill millions of people and "save the Constitution." But was there ever really a conspiracy?
"The online world of Islamic extremists, like all the other worlds of the Internet, operates on a subtly psychological level that does a brilliant job at keeping people like Abumubarak clicking and posting away -- and amassing all the rankings, scores, badges, and levels to prove it. Like virtually every other popular online social space, the social space of online jihadists has become "gamified," a term used to describe game-like attributes applied to non-game activities. It turns out that what drives online jihadists is pretty much exactly what drives Internet trolls, airline ticket consumers, and World of Warcraft players: competition." [more inside]
My Guantánamo Nightmare. Lakhdar Boumediene was imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay for seven years without explanation or charge until his case made it to the Supreme Court, leading to a decision which bears his name and his release ordered by a federal judge. The NYTimes has his and another account from another former detainee: Notes From a Guantánamo Survivor. [Via]
Hand On Your Gun is a music video dedicated to suit-wearing arms dealers and champagne-drinking depleted uranium droppers from British-Iraqi rapper Lowkey. A few of his other videos: Obama Nation, Terrorist?, Obama Nation part 2, Soundtrack To The Struggle
Makoto Hirata, a senior member of doomsday cult Aum Shinrikyo and one of three remaining fugitives from the group, has turned himself in to police after more than sixteen years on the run, leading to questions about the timing of his surrender now, after all these years. While Aum is best known as the group responsible for the deadly sarin-gas attack on Tokyo's subway system that killed 13 people and injured more than 6000, Hirata is wanted on suspicion of taking part in a different crime, the kidnapping and murder of Kiyoshi Kariya, the brother of an ex-Aum member who had left the group. Despite the fact that police stations and koban (police boxes) throughout Japan have prominently displayed wanted posters of the three Aum Shinrikyo fugitives for the past 16 years, Hirata had remained at large and hadn't had plastic surgery, leading to police speculation that he must have been helped by others while on the run.
"Since 9/11, the U.S. has spent more than $1.1 trillion on homeland security." To walk through an airport with Bruce Schneier is to see how much change a trillion dollars can wreak. So much inconvenience for so little benefit at such a staggering cost. And directed against a threat that, by any objective standard, is quite modest.
The Pakistanis Have A Point: Sure they can be infuriating, not to mention duplicitous, paranoid and self-pitying. But you try being a U.S. ally. -Bill Keller, NYTimes Magazine [more inside]