Department of Homeland Security

Disaster Preparedness And Response Funding Has Plummeted Since 2008

Any police, fire, or public health officials reading this who have been on the job since the early 2000s? Remember after 9/11, when the federal government made tons of money available to state and local governments to bolster disaster preparedness and response capabilities? I remember it clearly, as I used to help obtain these funds for the fire department I used to work at.

Since leaving the public safety field, I’ve heard a lot of this funding has dried up. According to a UPI piece I just finished reading, it looks like I heard right. From their website on January 9:

U.S. disaster funding distribution is deeply inefficient, with huge cash infusions disbursed after a disaster, only to fall abruptly later, researchers say.

Dr. Jesse Pines, director of the Office of Clinical Practice Innovation at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences… said the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York City and Washington prompted large increases in government disaster preparedness funding to help communities respond and recover after man-made and natural disasters. However, this funding has dropped considerably since 2008

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

How considerable? I pulled up a paper from The Institute of Medicine Forum on Medical and Public Health Preparedness for Catastrophic Events (January 7 final submission date) which Dr. Pines helped author. From the piece entitled “Value-Based Models for Sustaining Emergency Preparedness Capacity and Capability in the United States”:

The Department of Homeland Security administered 5 key grant programs to state and local governments during the period 2002-2007. These programs were to include the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), the State Homeland Security Program (SHSP), the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program (LETPP), the Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS), and the Citizen Corps Program (CCP). The total appropriation for these five programs increased from $315.7 million in federal year (FY) 2002 to $1.66 billion in FY 2007…

In addition to the five key DHS-funded programs, HHS administered the Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) program and the Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP). From FY 2006 to FY 2007, these programs received more than $2.1 billion in grants to all 50 states in addition to U.S. territories and 4 metropolitan cities (New York, New York; Washington, DC; Los Angeles, California; and Chicago, Illinois)…

From FY 2008 to FY 2013, appropriations have been falling for emergency preparedness. For example, in FY 2010, Congress appropriated $3.05 billion to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for preparedness grants to “strengthen out nations’ ability to prevent, protect, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters and emergencies.” In FY 2012, this appropriation was reduced to $1.35 billion- a 56 percent cut. During the same period, FEMA pre-disaster mitigations grants declined from $100 million to $35.5 million- a 65 percent cut. SHSP funding was reduced from $2.06 billion in FY 2003 to $354.64 million in FY 2013- an 82 percent cut. UASI was less affected but nevertheless was reduced from $596.35 million in FY 2003 to $558.74 million in FY 2013. Funding for seven key initiatives in DHS totaled $3.08 billion in FY 2003. By FY 2013, DHS funding was focused on only three categories of funding totaling $968.38 million- a total percentage cut of almost 70 percent…

The decline in [PHEP] funding from 2008 to 2013 has been slightly more than 17 percent, with a total of 31 percent since FY 2004…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Disasters don’t wait until there’s money in the till again, so it’s incredibly disappointing to hear of these cutbacks. As was pointed out earlier in the paper:

Since the September 2011, 2001, attacks, there have been periodic but unremitting public health emergencies across the United States. Weather events such a Hurricane Sandy, H1N1, the Boston marathon attack, and outbreaks of foodborne illness from Salmonella and E. coli serve as examples of major local and national public health emergencies demonstrating that no community is immune…

And what if a major terrorist attack occurs? Fine time for funding to be cut with that prospect looming. Consider what a distinguished Harvard professor whose work I first became familiar with back in graduate school said at a forum in April 2007. From Graham T. Allison, director of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and author of Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe:

This debate asks how likely is it that terrorists will explode a nuclear bomb and devastate a great American metropolis. In the judgment of former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, the likelihood of a single nuclear bomb exploding in a single city is greater today than at the height of the Cold War. Nuclear Terrorism states my own judgment that, on the current trend line, the chances of a nuclear terrorist attack in the next decade are greater than 50 percent. Former Secretary of Defense William Perry has expressed his own view that Nuclear Terrorism underestimates the risk.

From the technical side, Richard Garwin, a designer of the hydrogen bomb who Enrico Fermi once called, “the only true genius I had ever met,” told Congress in March that he estimated a “20 percent per year probability with American cities and European cities included” of “a nuclear explosion—not just a contamination, dirty bomb—a nuclear explosion.” My Harvard colleague Matthew Bunn has created a probability model in the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science that estimates the probability of a nuclear terrorist attack over a ten-year period to be 29 percent—identical to the average estimate from a poll of security experts commissioned by Senator Richard Lugar in 2005.

“The chances of a nuclear terrorist attack in the next decade are greater than 50 percent.”

By the way, Nuclear Terrorism was published back in July 2005.

I wonder what Dr. Allison would say America’s odds are now eight-and-a-half years on?

It’s only a matter of time before the next major man-made or natural disaster happens on U.S. soil. While public safety and public health personnel will strive to do all they can to lessen the impact of such events, ongoing cutbacks could have possibly impacted planning and preparedness for the incident and the overall response.

Keeping all this in mind, there’s probably no better time than the present for Americans to step up and take charge of their own emergency preparations.

You can read that paper (.pdf format) over on the Institute of Medicine website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“Experts: U.S. disaster funding deeply inefficient.” UPI.com. 9 Jan. 2014. (http://www.upi.com/Health_News/2014/01/09/Experts-US-disaster-funding-deeply-inefficient/UPI-52981389329033/). 16 Jan. 2014.

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FBI Director: ‘Risk Of That Spectacular Attack In The Homeland Is Significantly Lower’ Than Before 9/11

I heard that FBI Director James B. Comey was on Capitol Hill yesterday speaking before Congress. I was curious to find out what he had to say about potential terrorist threats out there. Timothy M. Phelps reported on the Los Angeles Times website yesterday:

The terrorist threat to Americans is greater overseas than at home and is significantly lower than before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, continuing a years-long trend, U.S. officials told a Senate committee Thursday…

“Because we took the fight to the enemy and got our act together in the last 12 years in very, very important ways, the risk of that spectacular attack in the homeland is significantly lower than it was before 9/11,” Comey told the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Randy Beers shared Director Comey’s assessment and was quoted by the Times as saying:

The dispersion of the Al Qaeda brand in North Africa, in Yemen, in Somalia and in other places- and as it is appearing to manifest in Syria now- means that the kinds of activities that will be undertaken are likely to be undertaken overseas, rather than directed against the homeland.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

While what Comey and Beers said makes sense concerning terrorist activities are more likely to be directed at American interests overseas, I can’t help but think this is only for the time being. From what I’ve taken away from Middle East terror experts, it’s just a whole lot easier for the bad guys to stay local and fight Americans in Afghanistan, for example, than attempting to infiltrate the U.S. homeland and pull something big off there. And according to the Associated Press on November 3:

Washington is expected to keep about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, provided the security agreement is signed and includes immunity from prosecution by Afghan courts.

So this scenario might continue on for a while.

Still, it must remembered that Al-Qaeda’s stated objective still remains the following (as noted by the Director of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Graham T. Allison, in a Council on Foreign Relations debate back on April 20, 2007):

Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith has stated al-Qaeda’s objective: “to kill 4 million Americans—2 million of them children—and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Which, if you think about, really leaves Al-Qaeda no choice but to attack the U.S. ‘homeland” sooner or later in order to achieve such numbers, provided they have the capability of doing so of course.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Phelps, Timothy M. “Officials say terrorist threat on U.S. soil is declining.” Los Angeles Times. 14 Nov. 2013. (http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-fg-wn-us-terrorist-threat-declines-20131114,0,2603061.story#axzz2kj9HI8Ps). 15 Nov. 2013.

“American, NATO officials offer mixed reports on readiness of Afghan troops ahead of withdrawal.” Associated Press. 3 Nov. 2013. (http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/11/03/american-nato-officials-offer-mixed-reports-on-readiness-afghan-troops-ahead/). 15 Nov. 2013.

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9/11 Anniversary Terrorism Threat

This Wednesday marks the 12th anniversary of 9/11. And according to the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, they do not have any specific information concerning a terrorist attack being planned for the occasion. From the Associated Press right before the weekend:

The government is aware of no credible or specific information that points to any terror plot tied to the anniversary of the September 2001 attacks, according to a new confidential threat assessment from the FBI and Homeland Security Department obtained by The Associated Press.

The new assessment, dated Thursday, said that intelligence agencies remain concerned that Al Qaeda and its affiliates are committed to carrying out attacks on Western targets. But it said there was no information pointing to any known plot. The bulletin made no mention of Syria, even as President Barack Obama sought congressional approval to use military force against the Syrian government.

Then again, the September 11, 2001, plot was pretty much under the radar too, figuratively and literally.

Remember, as I blogged back in June 2011, Osama bin Laden’s successor in Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, still has a point to prove concerning doubts over the operational capabilities of the terrorist organization and his leadership abilities.

At the same time, I can’t help but suspect Al-Qaeda might wait to see if the United States attacks Syria, at which point they- along with other terror groups- will attempt to retaliate “in defense of the Muslim faith.”

Stay frosty in the coming days…

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

“FBI, Homeland Security: No credible or specific intel of threat tied to 9/11 anniversary.” FOX News. 6 Sep. 2013. (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/09/06/fbi-homeland-security-no-credible-or-specific-intel-threat-tied-to-11/). 9 Sep. 2013.

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Repeat Of The 1992 Los Angeles Riots Coming This Summer?

Following up on last night’s post abut urban warfare training exercises in U.S. cities, I noted how one Midwest-based writer recently claimed that an unnamed “high-ranking, military source” in the Department of Homeland Security says the military exercises, conducted jointly with local law enforcement, are being conducted to desensitize urban dwellers in preparation for mass civil unrest in American cities. This is supposedly being done out of fear a currency devaluation, astronomical gas prices, and resistance to more gun “control” which will combine to produce civil strife in America’s urban areas this summer.

Like I wrote yesterday, “take it or leave it” concerning the credibility of this claim. But let’s just suppose for an instant the above is true and these really are the reasons for the exercises.

If that’s the case, then the powers-that-be may have overlooked one more potential flashpoint:

The trial of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin that’s set to begin on June 10.

Yamiche Alcindor reported on the USA TODAY website on February 5:

Trayvon Martin would have turned 18 Tuesday.

Instead, lawyers for George Zimmerman, the man accused of murdering the teen, and prosecutors were back in court, where a judge denied a motion to delay the June 10 trial date and heard arguments about evidence…

In court Tuesday, Judge Debra Nelson denied a motion by Zimmerman lawyer Mark O’Mara to delay the trial date. O’Mara argued that the prosecution has been slow to turn over evidence and that he does not have enough time to prepare his case…

“We’re four months away from trial,” Nelson said. “The court has no reason to continue the case.”

If George Zimmerman is found innocent of the teen’s death, will one or more American urban centers experience rioting not unlike what took place in Los Angeles in 1992 in the wake of the Rodney King trial verdicts?

By itself, I think it’s possible. In conjunction with other miseries, even more so.

And just to remind everyone of just how bad the 1992 Los Angeles riots really were:

• 53 deaths
• 2,000 injured
• 3,600 fires
• 1,100 buildings destroyed
• Up to $1 billion in material losses

And don’t forget the looting…


“1992 LA Riots – Defenseless Store Owner Confront Rioters with Hammer”
YouTube Video

Let justice take its course, but it might be a good idea to keep an eye on that trial and when it’s going to be wrapping up. Especially for the city-dwellers out there.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Alcindor, Yamiche. “Judge denies request for delay in Zimmerman trial.” USA TODAY. 5 Feb. 2013. (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/02/05/trayvon-martin-hearing-birthday/1892419/). 23 Feb. 2013.

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Urban Warfare Training Exercises To Desensitize, Prepare For Mass Civil Unrest In Cities?

The City of Chicago is providing support for a routine military training exercise in and around the Chicagoland area on April 16 -19. This routine training is conducted by military personnel in cities across the country, designed to ensure the military’s ability to operate in urban environments as service members meet mandatory training certification requirements and prepare for upcoming overseas deployments.

The training sites have been carefully selected to minimize the impact on the daily routine of residents.

The training is not open to the public.

-City of Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications (OEMC), April 16, 2012

Back when I blogged about Chicago hosting an urban warfare training exercise for U.S. military personnel in April 2012, I mentioned other major American cities had experienced something similar: Boston (July 2011) and Los Angeles (January 2012).

Since that time, countless other municipalities have hosted this training.

However, in that April 16 post I pointed out the U.S. military was already busy developing its urban warfare training resources, including the construction of mock cities. I wrote:

Now, I’ve heard the U.S. military has been busy developing its urban warfare training program for some time already. Spencer Ackerman wrote in the Wired.com blog Danger Room back on January 18, 2011:

American soldiers spent seven years patrolling the urban neighborhoods of Iraq; its troops battled insurgents there block-by-block and house-by-house. Now that the Army is getting out of Iraq, it wants to make sure its urban combat skills don’t wither away. So it today it gave Lockheed Martin a contract worth up to $287 million to build Urban Operations Training Systems — essentially, giant simulation facilities and modules to help soldiers get ready for life in the big, bad city.

Versions of those training systems can be as simple as shipping containers tricked out to resemble multi-story houses and arranged in village formations, so soldiers can practice how to seize a building without causing needless damage. The Army’s got an entire 1000-acre facility in Indiana it uses to train soldiers in urban combat.

As for the Marines? From the CBS Channel 2 (Los Angeles) website on January 25, 2011:

A 1,560-building mock city has risen in the Southern California desert.

The $170 million Marine Corps urban training center at the Twentynine Palms military base, some 130 miles northeast of Los Angeles, is roughly the size of San Diego.

The Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center facility uses mock cities and role players to prepare Marines and sailors for urban terrain missions.

If our armed forces already have such resources, what’s with the urban warfare training in American cities then?

I added this about the Chicago training at the time:

I wonder if the exercise isn’t related to counter-terrorism.

Responding to an “American Mumbai” or dirty-bomb attack, perhaps?

However, these days, a Midwest-based writer and decorated Navy veteran is claiming that an unnamed “high-ranking, military source” in the Department of Homeland Security says the military exercises, conducted jointly with local law enforcement, are being conducted to desensitize urban dwellers in preparation for mass civil unrest in American cities. David Bard wrote on “progressive liberal” sociopolitical commentary blog The Allegiant on February 6:

I spoke with a high-ranking, military source in DHS. Preferring to remain unnamed for obvious reasons, he told me, “DHS and DOD are conducting desensitizing exercises all across the U.S.,” he paused, then added, “we’re being prepared for mass civil unrest in major U.S. cities. DOD will be expected to help – when we’re requested.”

I asked if there was a timeline for expecting civil unrest in our cities and why should we expect it to begin with. I was told that there were many reasons, but that the continued devaluation of our currency, the predicted history-setting prices for gasoline this summer and the continued gun control debate are forming a perfect storm of civil discontent. When this storm hits, it will most assuredly produce mass casualties. When does DHS expect this to happen? This summer.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I can’t speak for Mr. Bard’s credibility, so “take it or leave it” as it concerns this explanation for the urban warfare training.

Still, I’ve heard similar talk about the purpose being to prepare for civil strife since I first blogged about those exercises in spring of last year.

You can read Bard’s entire piece here on The Allegiant. Disturbing stuff.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

Ackerman, Spencer. “Lockheed Gets Big Bucks to Prep Soldiers for Urban War.” Danger Room. 18 Jan. 2011. (http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/01/lockheed-gets-big-bucks-to-prep-soldiers-in-urban-war/). 22 Feb. 2013.

“$170M Mock City Built For Marine Training In Twentynine Palms” CBS Channel 2 (Los Angeles). 25 Jan. 2011. (http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2011/01/25/170m-mock-city-built-for-marine-training-in-twentynine-palms/). 22 Feb. 2013.

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Jesse Jackson Calls For Department Of Homeland Security To Patrol Streets Of Chicago

“State lawmakers, Rep. John Fritchey, 11th, and Rep. LaShawn Ford, 8th, are calling for Governor Quinn to deploy the Illinois National Guard to Chicago’s violent areas… 113 people have died in Chicago so far this year.”

-NBC Chicago website, April 26, 2010

113 murdered in Chicago from January to late April 2010, and some state legislators were calling for the Illinois National Guard to be deployed.

506 “official” homicides in 2012, and it’s the Department of Homeland Security that’s now being requested to patrol the streets of Chicago in an attempt to put a halt to escalating “gun violence.”

On February 1, the Chicago-based Rainbow PUSH Coalition (RPC) announced in a press release:

Chicago, IL (Friday, February 1, 2013) — Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and Rainbow PUSH Coalition call for immediate Federal Intervention and Homeland Security in Chicago as January homicide totals exceeded 45. This morning, in Chicago, a woman’s van was riddled with bullets as she was executed on a major highway. Two days ago, a 15-year-old Dr. Martin Luther King College Prep honor student, who had recently performed as a majorette at the President’s inaugural ceremony, was killed after trying to seek shelter from the rain less than a mile away from the President’s home. Another student was shot but survived. The gunman is still at large. Days before these tragedies, seven people were killed, 6 from gunshots, all in one day; most of their murders have been unsolved. Reverend Jesse Jackson reaffirms that gun control reform is critical and the ban on assault weapons paramount.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Reverend Jackson repeated his call for federal intervention before a march on the South Side this Saturday. Renita Young reported on the Reuters website that same day:

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and relatives of victims of fatal shootings in Chicago urged President Barack Obama on Saturday to come back to his hometown and address the gun violence plaguing the city.

Before a march on the city’s South Side, Jackson, a former Democratic presidential candidate, said America’s third most populous city needed more help than Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police superintendent Garry McCarthy could offer.

“When the president shows up, it shows ultimate national seriousness,” said Jackson, a Chicago resident. He also called for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help patrol the streets of Chicago.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“America’s third most populous city needed more help than Mayor Rahm Emanuel and police superintendent Garry McCarthy could offer.”

Sounds like even the Reverend Jackson recognizes the Chicago Police Department could use some more manpower these days.

“He also called for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help patrol the streets of Chicago.”

When I hear calls for the National Guard, Homeland Security, or some other entity to descend upon the “City By The Lake,” I think of Bruce Willis’ line as General William Devereaux from the 1998 film The Siege:

The Army is a broad sword, not a scalpel. Trust me, senator- you do not want the Army in an American city.


Military, CPD on Chicago streets after July 1966 rioting (no volume)
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

“Reverend Jackson And Rainbow/PUSH Call for Federal Intervention in Chicago.” Operation Rainbow PUSH. 1 Feb. 2013. (http://www.rainbowpush.org/news/single/reverend_jackson_and_rainbow_push_call_for_federal_intervention_in_chicago#). 4 Feb. 2013.

Young, Renita D. “Chicago marchers urge Obama to come home to address gun violence.” Reuters. 2 Feb. 2013. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/03/us-usa-crime-chicago-idUSBRE91200X20130203). 4 Feb. 2012.

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U.S. Border Patrol Agents Shoot Mexican Citizen

Sounds like Mexico isn’t too happy with “Los Gringos” these days. From the Associated Press Monday:

A Mexican citizen has been fatally shot by U.S. Border Patrol agents on the border with Texas in an incident that the Mexican government is calling a disproportionate use of force.

The Border Patrol said Saturday that agents had opened fire along the Rio Grande on the Texas-Mexico border after being pelted by rocks and having a gunman point a weapon in their direction from the Mexican side of the river…

“The Mexican government has said once again that the disproportionate use of force for purposes of immigration enforcement is unacceptable under any circumstances,” the Foreign Ministry said.

“After being pelted by rocks and having a gunman point a weapon in their direction from the Mexican side of the river.”

Firearm instructors routinely tell their students never point their guns at anything they don’t intend to destroy/kill.

And last I heard, Border Patrol agents are permitted to use lethal force if they feel their lives are threatened. From the Borderland Beat blog back on September 4, 2010:

She [U.S. Border Patrol spokeswoman Rosalinda Huey] said agents are authorized to fire their weapons any time they feel lives are at risk, even into Mexico.

“As long as our agents feel their life is in danger, they are allowed lethal (force),” she said.

After this incident, I have to wonder if agents aren’t given new “marching orders” along the lines of the following. From Perry Chiaramonte on the FOX News website on June 29:

Border Patrol agents in Arizona are blasting their bosses for telling them, along with all other Department of Homeland Security employees, to run and hide if they encounter an “active shooter.”

It’s one thing to tell civilian employees to cower under a desk if a gunman starts spraying fire in a confined area, say members of Tucson Local 2544/National Border Patrol Council, but to give armed law enforcement professionals the same advice is downright insulting. The instructions from DHS come in the form of pamphlets and a mandatory computer tutorial.

“We are now taught in an ‘Active Shooter’ course that if we encounter a shooter in a public place we are to ‘run away’ and ‘hide’” union leader Brandon Judd wrote on the website of 3,300-member union local. “If we are cornered by such a shooter we are to (only as a last resort) become ‘aggressive’ and ‘throw things’ at him or her. We are then advised to ‘call law enforcement’ and wait for their arrival (presumably, while more innocent victims are slaughtered).”

This reminds me of a scene from the 1986 sci-fi film Aliens:

GORMAN: Apone! Look… we can’t have any firing in there. I, uh… I want you to collect magazines from everybody.
HUDSON: Is he fuckin’ crazy?
FROST: What the hell are we supposed to use man? Harsh language?

Hasta luego.

Sources:

“Mexico says citizen shot by US Border Patrol agent near Texas.” Associated Press. 9 July 2012. (http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/07/09/mexico-says-citizen-shot-by-us-border-patrol-agent-near-texas/?test=latestnews). 9 July 2012.

Gerardo. “Border Patrol agents exchange gunfire across U.S-Mexico border.” Borderland Beat. 14 Sep. 2010. (http://www.borderlandbeat.com/2010/09/border-patrol-agents-exchange-gunfire.html). 9 July 2012.

Chiaramonte, Perry. “Border Patrol union blasts Homeland Security instructions to ‘run away’ and ‘hide’ from gunmen.” FOX News. 29 June 2012. (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/06/29/border-patrol-union-claims-homeland-security-safety-course-promotes/). 9 July 2012.

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Explosives Found At Swedish Nuclear Power Plant

At first I thought the following from the land of ABBA may be an attempted act of nuclear terrorism, but upon reading further, I’m not so sure. Still, the event should probably serve as a wake-up call for the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies tasked with protecting our energy infrastructure. From the Associated Press this morning:

Security was ramped up at Sweden’s three nuclear power plants Thursday after explosives were found on a truck at the southwestern Ringhals atomic power station. Police said they were investigating possible sabotage.

Bomb sniffer dogs detected the explosives during a routine check Wednesday afternoon by security staff while the truck was in the power plant’s industrial area near its high security enclosure. Police declined to describe the amount or type of explosive material found.

Bomb technicians said the material lacked a detonating device, meaning there was no danger of an imminent explosion.

Four nuclear reactors are at Ringhals, 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Sweden’s second-largest city, Goteborg.

According to MSNBC.com, Ringhals’ four reactors produce nearly 20 percent of the Scandinavian country’s electricity.

Sources:

“Sweden on alert, explosives found near nuke plant.” Associated Press. 21 June 2012. (http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/06/21/explosives-found-near-swedish-nuclear-plant/). 21 June 2012.

“Suspected explosives seized at nuclear plant in Sweden.” MSNBC. 21 June 2012. (http://worldnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/06/21/12330952-suspected-explosives-seized-at-nuclear-plant-in-sweden?lite). 21 June 2012.

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Thursday, June 21st, 2012 Energy, Europe, Government, Terrorism No Comments

Authorities Concerned About ‘Lone Wolf’ Terrorist Attacks On Anniversary Of Osama Bin Laden’s Death

On May 1, 2011, Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs taking part in Operation Neptune Spear in Pakistan. With the one-year anniversary of his death fast approaching, intelligence agencies are concerned about a possible retaliatory strike(s) by Muslim extremists. Mike Levine wrote on the FOX News website this morning:

Just days before the one-year anniversary of Usama bin Laden’s death, federal authorities are telling partners around the country there is no specific, credible threat to the U.S. homeland but they remain concerned “lone wolf” terrorists could use the date to avenge the former Al Qaeda leader’s death.

In an intelligence bulletin issued late Wednesday, the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Northern Command note that terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab in Somalia, Northern Africa’s Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Pakistani Taliban have called for revenge against the United States for killing bin Laden during the May 1, 2011, raid on his hideout in Pakistan.

The bulletin says Al Qaeda or its affiliates would view an attack “on this anniversary as a symbolic victory,” especially in the wake of losses suffered by Al Qaeda through U.S. drone attacks and other efforts overseas.

In addition, according to the bulletin, authorities remain concerned that so-called “lone-wolf” extremists not already identified “will execute attacks with little or no warning on or about the anniversary of bin Laden’s death.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Levine added that the intelligence bulletin cited Al-Qaeda’s emphasis on symbolic dates to launch terror attacks, and that Muslim extremists might be particularly motivated to carry out a strike in retaliation for recent controversies including Koran burnings and the desecration of corpses in Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, Steven Chase wrote about the concern over “lone wolf” terrorists on The Globe and Mail (Canada) website. From the article:

Richard Fadden, director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, also acknowledged Monday that al-Qaeda’s switch to a sole-actor approach to inflicting damage is presenting a problem for Western anti-terrorist agencies…

Mr. Fadden predicted al-Qaeda’s recent embrace of smaller, leaderless acts of terror is a sign of things to come.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has as recently as last fall published an online magazine called Inspire that called for “open source jihad” and instructed readers to how to carry out their own attacks, he noted. “How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom” was the title of article in the Summer, 2010, issue.

“My colleagues in Britain, Australia and the United States are of the same opinion: We are seeing an increase in the number of people who are acting on their own,” he said.

“When there are a certain number of people involved, there is a possibility of intercepting communications; the chances of errors are far greater. But when there’s one person who’s not talking to anybody, [counterterrorism agencies] have to be really lucky.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

In addition, Fadden pointed out that the “lone wolf” approach not only attracts the ideologically-driven, but those with “serious personal problems” as well- making them more unpredictable.

It might not be a bad idea ratcheting up one’s vigilance in the coming days.

Sources:

Levine, Mike. “Feds urge vigilance 1 year after bin Laden’s death.” FOX News. 26 Apr. 2012. (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/04/25/feds-urge-vigilance-1-year-after-bin-laden-death/). 26 Apr. 2012.

Chase, Steven. “Al-Qaeda switching tactics, CSIS warns.” The Globe and Mail. 23 Apr. 2012. (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/al-qaeda-switching-tactics-csis-warns/article2411810/?utm_medium=Feeds%3A%20RSS%2FAtom&utm_source=Politics&utm_content=2411810). 26 Apr. 2012.

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Welcome To Amerika?

Who hasn’t heard of this one by now: Barack Obama is transforming the United States into a socialist country.

While I personally believe Americans are witnessing the strengthening of a plutocracy- rule by the wealthy, transcending political parties- there’s no shortage of Americans who still think we’re headed towards socialism.

I happened to stumble on a Yahoo! News piece this weekend that originated from the news and opinion website The Blaze, a project of former FOX News personality Glenn Beck. What caught my attention was the title- “Are We Headed Toward the Constitution or the Communist Manifesto? This Breakdown Tells You.” Tiffany Gabbay wrote Sunday:

During his Thursday morning radio broadcast, Glenn Beck asked if America, on its current trajectory, is headed toward the values and principles of the Constitution, or rather, those of the Communist Manifesto.

To glean greater insight, The Blaze expanded on each of the Manifesto’s 10 planks and juxtaposed them with modern day American society. The picture revealed, while perhaps not shocking, is unsettling to say the least.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)


Some background music, Comrade?
“Red Army Choir: Oh Fields, My fields.”
YouTube Video

Gabbay’s comparisons in the article are indeed thought-provoking. And I found what she said about “plank” number 4, confiscation of property of all emigrants and rebels, particularly interesting. Militia members, preppers, survivalists, firearm owners, opponents of the political party in power, and Americans making a lot of money and/or with sizeable assets might want to take note. From the piece:

4. Confiscation of property of all emigrants & rebels

This Manifesto pillar is perhaps best laid out in the recent string of government crackdowns on “homegrown militias.” Those who have paid careful attention to Janet Napolitano know that one of Homeland Security’s preoccupations of late has been the “rise” of “homegrown militias.” With this in mind, the department is likely honing in on anyone considered an “opposition group,” be they merely survivalists or those with a more militant bent.

Some may recall the Michigan militia, or “Hutaree,” as they are known — a group of anti-government “rebels” who were allegedly engaged in preparations for a potential future clash with federal agencies. The defendants were accused of conspiring to overthrow the U.S. government, a planned assassination of a police officer, and an ambush of that officer’s funeral with explosives in order to incite an uprising against the Federal government. While the anticipated attack never actually occurred, this did not stop the Feds, under the blessing of Attorney General Eric Holder, from raiding the Hutaree’s various outposts, confiscating its members’ arms and waging an all-out legal battle against the group.

At the end of March, 2012, presiding U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts dismissed the most serious of the charges against the Hutaree, leveling a staggering blow to the Fed. She said the members’ hatred of government did not amount to a conspiracy to overthrow it.

It remains unclear whether the Hutaree were indeed poised to be the aggressors of a violent assault or if they were simply anti-big-government, “good ol’ boy survivalists preparing to “defend themselves” against a perceived government threat. But the Federal agencies’ indictment of the group perhaps reveals how government will deal with homegrown “threats” — be they real or perceived — moving forward.

Another key element, and one that warrants mention due to its relevance in modern day America, is the confiscation of citizens’ weapons. Those who have felt their Second Amendment rights slowly whittle away understand that disarming the public is a crucial step vital to ensuring the state’s grip over its citizenry. In fact, one of the first tasks performed by the then-fledgling Soviet state was the confiscation of citizens’ private arms — even hunting rifles. By stripping people of the ability to defend themselves, the authoritarian state could reign over the vulnerable Russian populace. Many Americans consider this a highly plausible reality given increasingly stringent gun laws and regulations spread across all 50-states.

It should also be noted that IRS liens, levies and seizures are all means by which the Federal government can confiscate a “rebel” entity’s assets — one instance being the recent IRS “shakedown” of Tea Party members. And, in terms of “emigrants,” taxing the off-shore income and assets of American citizens, or causing Americans to give up their U.S. citizenship and flee to foreign lands to avoid abusive U.S. taxes, is yet another means by which the Fed’s confiscatory, overreaching tentacles are changing the American landscape. Statistics point out a rising trend

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Like I said, it’s a thought-provoking piece, which you can read in its entirety on the Yahoo! website here.

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‘Shadow CIA’ Calls End Of Terrorism A ‘Myth’

One last post about terrorism this week. Scott Stewart of the global intelligence company Strategic Forecasting, Inc., or STRATFOR, has authored a series of Security Weekly reports entitled “Fundamentals of Terrorism.” The first of these, “The Myth of the End of Terrorism,” was released on February 23. It’s a good, informative read, and serves as a reminder that just because major terror attacks directed against the United States and its interests haven’t been too successful lately, the threat hasn’t gone away. Reprinted with permission of STRATFOR:

The Myth of the End of Terrorism

By Scott Stewart

In this week’s Geopolitical Weekly, George Friedman discussed the geopolitical cycles that change with each generation. Frequently, especially in recent years, those geopolitical cycles have intersected with changes in the way the tactic of terrorism is employed and in the actors employing it.

The Arab terrorism that began in the 1960s resulted from the Cold War and the Soviet decision to fund, train and otherwise encourage groups in the Middle East. The Soviet Union and its Middle Eastern proxies also sponsored Marxist terrorist groups in Europe and Latin America. They even backed the Japanese Red Army terrorist group. Places like South Yemen and Libya became havens where Marxist militants of many different nationalities gathered to learn terrorist tradecraft, often instructed by personnel from the Soviet KGB or the East German Stasi and from other militants.

The Cold War also spawned al Qaeda and the broader global jihadist movement as militants flocking to fight the Soviet troops who had invaded Afghanistan were trained in camps in northern Pakistan by instructors from the CIA’s Office of Technical Services and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate. Emboldened by the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, and claiming credit for the subsequent Soviet collapse, these militants decided to expand their efforts to other parts of the world.

The connection between state-sponsored terrorism and the Cold War ran so deep that when the Cold War ended with the Soviet Union’s collapse, many declared that terrorism had ended as well. I witnessed this phenomenon while serving in the counterterrorism Investigations Division of the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) in the early 1990s. While I was in New York working as part of the interagency team investigating the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a newly appointed assistant secretary of state abolished my office, declaring that the DSS did not need a Counterterrorism Investigations Division since terrorism was over.

Though terrorism obviously did not end when the Berlin Wall fell, the rosy sentiments to the contrary held by some at the State Department and elsewhere took away the impetus to mitigate the growing jihadist threat or to protect diplomatic facilities from it. The final report of the Crowe Commission, which was established to review the twin August 1998 bombing attacks against the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, explicitly noted this neglect of counterterrorism and security programs, as did the 9/11 Commission report.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks triggered a shift in international geopolitics by leading the United States to concentrate the full weight of its national resources on al Qaeda and its supporters. Ironically, by the time the U.S. government was able to shift its massive bureaucracy to meet the new challenge, creating huge new organizations like the Department of Homeland Security, the efforts of the existing U.S. counterterrorism apparatus had already badly crippled the core al Qaeda group. Though some of these new organizations played important roles in helping the United States cope with the fallout of its decision to invade Iraq after Afghanistan, Washington spent billions of dollars to create organizations and fund programs that in hindsight were arguably not really necessary because the threats they were designed to counter, such as al Qaeda’s nuclear briefcase bombs, did not actually exist. As George Friedman noted in the Geopolitical Weekly, the sole global superpower was badly off-balance, which caused an imbalance in the entire global system.

With the continued diminution of the jihadist threat, underscored by the May 2011 death of Osama bin Laden and the fall in Libya of the Gadhafi regime (which had long employed terrorism), once again we appear on the brink of a cyclical change in the terrorism paradigm. These events could again lead some to pronounce the death of terrorism.

Several developments last week served to demonstrate that while the perpetrators and tactics of terrorism (what Stratfor calls the “who” and the “how”) may change in response to larger geopolitical cycles, such shifts will not signal the end of terrorism itself.

The Nature of Terrorism

There are many conflicting definitions of terrorism, but for our purposes we will loosely define it as politically motivated violence against noncombatants. Many terrorist acts have a religious element to them, but that element is normally related to a larger, political goal: Both a militant anti-abortion activist seeking to end legalized abortion and a jihadist seeking to end the U.S. military presence in Iraq may act according to religious principles, but they ultimately are pursuing a political objective.

Terrorism is a tactic, one employed by a wide array of actors. There is no single creed, ethnicity, political persuasion or nationality with a monopoly on terrorism. Individuals and groups of individuals from almost every conceivable background — from late Victorian-era anarchists to Klansmen to North Korean intelligence officers — have conducted terrorist attacks. Because of the impreciseness of the term, Stratfor normally does not refer to individuals as terrorists. In addition to being a poor descriptor, “terrorist” tends to be a politically loaded term.

Traditionally, terrorism has been a tactic of the weak, i.e., those who lack the power to impose their political will through ordinary political or military means. As Carl von Clausewitz noted, war is the continuation of politics by other means; terrorism is a type of warfare, making it also politics by other means. Because it is a tactic used by the weak, terrorism generally focuses on soft, civilian targets rather than more difficult-to-attack military targets.

The type of weapon used does not define terrorism. For example, using a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device against an International Security Assistance Force firebase in Afghanistan would be considered an act of irregular warfare, but using it in an attack on a hotel in Kabul would be considered an act of terrorism. This means that militant actors can employ conventional warfare tactics, unconventional warfare tactics and terrorism during the same campaign depending on the situation.

Terrorist attacks are relatively easy to conduct if they are directed against soft targets and if the assailant is not concerned with escaping after the attack, as was the case in the Mumbai attacks in 2008. While authorities in many countries have been quite successful in foiling attacks over the past couple of years, governments simply do not have the resources to guard everything. When even police states cannot protect everything, some terrorist attacks invariably will succeed in the open societies of the West.

Terrorist attacks tend to be theatrical, exerting a strange hold over the human imagination. They often create a unique sense of terror dwarfing reactions to natural disasters many times greater in magnitude. For example, more than 227,000 people died in the 2004 Asian tsunami versus fewer than 3,000 on 9/11, yet the 9/11 attacks produced a worldwide sense of terror and a geopolitical reaction that has had a profound and unparalleled impact on world events over the past decade.

Cycles and Shifts

A number of events last week illustrate the changes happening in the terrorism realm and demonstrate that, while terrorism may change, it is not going to end.

On Feb. 17, the FBI arrested a Moroccan man near the U.S. Capitol in Washington who allegedly sought to conduct a suicide attack on the building. The suspect, Amine el Khalifi, is a clear example of the shift in the jihadist threat from one based on the al Qaeda core group to one primarily deriving from grassroots jihadists. As Stratfor has noted for several years, while these grassroots jihadists pose a more diffuse threat because they are harder for national intelligence and law enforcement agencies to focus on than hierarchical groups, the threat they pose is less severe because they generally lack the terrorist tradecraft required to conduct a large-scale attack. Because they lack such tradecraft, these grassroots militants tend to seek assistance to conduct their plots. This assistance usually involves acquiring explosives or firearms, as in the el Khalifi case, where an FBI informant posing as a jihadist leader provided the suspect with an inert suicide vest and a submachine gun prior to the suspect’s arrest.

While many in the media tend to ridicule individuals like el Khalifi as inept, it is important to remember that had he succeeded in finding a real jihadist facilitator rather than a federal informant, he could have killed many people in an attack. Richard Reid, who many people refer to as the “Kramer of al Qaeda” after the bumbling character from the television show Seinfeld, came very close to taking down a jumbo jet full of people over the Atlantic because he had been equipped and dispatched by others.

Still, the fact remains that the jihadist threat now predominantly stems from unequipped grassroots wannabes rather than teams of highly trained operatives sent to the United States from overseas, like the team that executed the 9/11 attacks. This demonstrates how the jihadist threat has diminished in recent years, a trend we expect to continue. This will allow Washington to increasingly focus attention on things other than jihadism, such as the fragmentation of Europe, the transformation of global economic production and Iran’s growing regional power. It will mark the beginning of a new geopolitical cycle.

Last week also brought us a series of events highlighting how terrorism may manifest itself in the new cycle. On Feb. 13, Israeli diplomatic vehicles in New Delhi, India, and Tbilisi, Georgia, were targeted with explosive devices. In Tbilisi, a grenade hidden under a diplomatic vehicle was discovered before it could detonate. In New Delhi, a sticky bomb placed on the back of a diplomatic vehicle wounded the wife of the Israeli defense attache as she headed to pick up her children from school.

On Feb. 14, an Iranian man was arrested after being wounded in an explosion at a rented house in Bangkok. The blast reportedly occurred as a group was preparing improvised explosive devices for use against Israeli targets in Bangkok. Two other Iranians were later arrested (one in Malaysia), and Thai authorities are seeking three more Iranian citizens, two of whom have reportedly returned to Iran, alleged to have assisted in the plot.

While these recent Iranian plots failed, they nonetheless highlight how the Iranians are using terrorism as a tactic in retaliation for attacks Israel and Israeli surrogates have conducted against individuals associated with Iran’s nuclear program.

It is also important to bear in mind as this new geopolitical cycle begins that terrorism does not just emanate from foreign governments, major subnational actors or even transnational radical ideologies like jihadism. As we saw in the July 2011 attacks in Norway conducted by Anders Breivik and in older cases involving suspects like Eric Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh and Theodore Kaczynski in the United States, native-born individuals who have a variety of grievances with the government or society can carry out terrorist attacks. Such grievances will certainly persist.

Geopolitical cycles will change, and these changes may cause a shift in who employs terrorism and how it is employed. But as a tactic, terrorism will continue no matter what the next geopolitical cycle brings.

The Myth of the End of Terrorism is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

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10th Anniversary Of 9/11 One Month Away

One month before the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the U.S. government claims there are no “specific or credible” threats directed against the United States related to this upcoming date. Reuters’ Jeremy Pelofsky wrote last week:

There have been no credible or specific threats against the United States yet ahead of the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday…

“We have no specific or credible threats involving the 9/11 anniversary to date,” she told reporters during a news conference on an unrelated subject.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

As much as I hope no terror attacks materialize this September 11, I’m guessing Al-Qaeda must desperately want to pull something off on or around that date. I pointed out back on June 13:

Hmm… consider this. In the past several weeks, three of Al-Qaeda’s most important figures have been killed, including:

• Osama bin Laden, the founder of Al-Qaeda
• Ilyas Kashmiri, a top Pakistani militant and senior Al-Qaeda operative believed to be behind some of the deadliest attacks in India and Pakistan
• Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the most wanted terrorist in Africa and planner of the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania

Taking the above setbacks- and the natural desire for retaliation- into consideration, and seeing that this year marks the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks (Al-Qaeda is allegedly fond of anniversaries), I suspect Al-Qaeda will attempt to carry out a major attack against the United States or its interests abroad by the time September 11th rolls around this year. Of course, a lot will depend on the effect the deaths of bin Laden, Kashmiri, and Mohammed has on Al-Qaeda, and their capacity to carry out such an operation in the coming months in light of the recent success enjoyed by America and her allies in the “War on Terror.”

Here’s hoping for a big FAIL on Al-Qaeda’s part.

And on June 28 I added:

Recent suggestions that Al-Qaeda is on the run and that their new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is “a bit of a loser,” as a source close to the Obama administration has called him (source: The Telegraph)- in conjunction with those recent setbacks suffered by Al-Qaeda- may motivate the Egyptian surgeon to push for a major attack against the United States and/or its allies as soon as possible. With all its symbolism and accompanying celebrations, the Fourth of July weekend could have significant appeal for Al-Qaeda and al-Zawahiri to not only strike a blow against the United States, but dispel doubts over the operational capabilities of the terrorist organization and the leadership abilities of al-Zawahiri right from the get-go.

Thankfully, Independence Day Weekend came and went this year without a bigger bang than what’s usually expected. However, the coming major anniversary of the terrorist group’s biggest success to-date may not only be tempting to Al-Qaeda as it concerns another operation being directed against America, but offers yet another ideal opportunity for Ayman al-Zawahiri to demonstrate his leadership to the rest of the organization.

Finally, Pelofsky noted in his piece:

One DHS and FBI bulletin issued to law enforcement agencies after that raid warned that as of February 2010, bin Laden and al Qaeda were discussing the possibility of derailing trains in the United States on the September 11 anniversary this year.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

As their leader discussed attacking the U.S. homeland this September 11, I have to wonder if Al-Qaeda isn’t more determined than ever to pay tribute to the martyred bin Laden- and see his wishes fulfilled.

The U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities may not have encountered any “specific or credible threats” related to the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. However, I wouldn’t exactly be parking the fighter planes wingtip to wingtip around that time, if you know what I mean.

Source:

Pelofsky, Jeremy. “U.S. sees no credible threats before 9/11 anniversary.” Reuters. 3 Aug. 2011. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/03/us-usa-sept11-dhs-idUSTRE7724SX20110803). 12 Aug. 2011.

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Planes, Trains Appeal To Al-Qaeda

Recently, I’ve had a hunch that Al-Qaeda would very much like to carry out a major attack against the United States or its overseas interests on notable dates- July 4th weekend and the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, in particular. From last month:

Taking the above setbacks- and the natural desire for retaliation- into consideration, and seeing that this year marks the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks (Al-Qaeda is allegedly fond of anniversaries), I suspect Al-Qaeda will attempt to carry out a major attack against the United States or its interests abroad by the time September 11th rolls around this year. Of course, a lot will depend on the effect the deaths of bin Laden, Kashmiri, and Mohammed has on Al-Qaeda, and their capacity to carry out such an operation in the coming months in light of the recent success enjoyed by America and her allies in the “War on Terror.”

-Survival And Prosperity, June 13

With all its symbolism and accompanying celebrations, the Fourth of July weekend could have significant appeal for Al-Qaeda and al-Zawahiri to not only strike a blow against the United States, but dispel doubts over the operational capabilities of the terrorist organization and the leadership abilities of al-Zawahiri right from the get-go.

-Survival And Prosperity, June 28

Such suspicions of potential terror attacks on these dates weren’t unfounded, apparently. From the Wall Street Journal’s Siobahn Gorman on July 15:

Osama bin Laden was working to assemble a team of militants to attack the U.S. on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, according to communications Navy SEALs seized from his Pakistani hideout when they killed the al Qaeda leader this spring.

Bin Laden and his operations chief, Attiyah Abd al-Rahman, swapped views about the composition of the attack team, with bin Laden repeatedly rejecting names that Mr. Rahman suggested, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence taken from the bin Laden compound…

Plans for an anniversary attack were one of the few specific potential threats to emerge from the trove of documents and other materials taken from bin Laden’s residence in Abottabad, Pakistan, in the May 2 raid. An initial analysis of the evidence said al Qaeda hoped to attack trains in the U.S., possibly on the anniversary of Sept. 11

Much of the other threat information in the trove of materials was general in nature or well known, such as al Qaeda’s interest in attacking trains.

In the days following the bin Laden raid, officials said the materials seized from the compound showed enthusiasm for carrying out attacks on dates of symbolic significance, prompting U.S. officials to worry about July 4 and Sept. 11. But officials didn’t disclose at that time that there had been specific planning for another attack on Sept. 11 this year.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

In addition to trains, planes still hold massive appeal for the terrorist organization. From the Associated Press on July 21:

Ten years after al-Qaida used hijacked airliners as missiles to attack the United States, terrorists continue to target aviation more than any other potential U.S. vulnerability, Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano said Thursday.

Discussing airline security since 9/11, Napolitano revealed in the AP interview:

Aviation continues to be the most-often referenced intel that we receive.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Al-Qaeda might have sustained some serious setbacks lately, but I wouldn’t dismiss them and the threat they pose just yet.

Sources:

Gorman, Siobhan. “Bin Laden Plotted New Attack.” Wall Street Journal. 15 July 2011. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304521304576446213098582284.html?mod=WSJ_hp_LEFT
TopStories). 26 July 2011.

“AP Interview: Planes still top of terror wish list.” Associated Press. 21 July 2011. (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/07/21/ap-interview-planes-still-top-terror-wish-list/?intcmp=obnetwork). 26 July 2011.

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Al-Qaeda Planning Fourth Of July Weekend Terrorist Attack?

As I mentioned back on June 13th, with all its recent setbacks, it’s a good bet Al-Qaeda is not only itching for revenge, but wants the world to know they’re still capable of carrying out operations against its enemies. Despite the obvious attraction the fast-approaching July 4th weekend offers terrorists, there seems to be an air of indifference over the potential for an attack over the Fourth of July holiday, save the mention of its possibility in a recently-released FBI/DHS summer security bulletin. Richard Esposito, Jason Ryan, and Pierre Thomas wrote on the ABC News website yesterday:

The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security have issued their annual summer holiday “Security Awareness” Bulletin, a six-page document that notes that just last year al Qaeda had identified the July Fourth weekend as ideal for an attack, and urges vigilance, but stresses there is no “specific or credible information” that al Qaeda or its affiliates have any plans to disrupt Independence Day.

“As of February 2010, al Qaeda was contemplating large attacks in the homeland on symbolic dates and specifically identified U.S. Independence Day as a key date,” the bulletin says.

“We currently have no specific credible information that any plotting targeting the homeland was developed based on this reporting and are uncertain how widely al Qaeda’s interest in timing attacks for symbolic dates has been shared or accepted within the group or among its affiliates and allies,” the bulletin says.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

According to the joint security bulletin, large gatherings are most at risk. From the piece:

The report also notes that large gatherings, such as the hundreds of thousands who congregate to enjoy New York City’s annual fireworks display, make “especially attractive targets during the holiday season.”

“Such targets offer the opportunity to inflict mass casualties, with the added objectives of causing economic and psychological damage on the United States,” the bulletin says.

Recent suggestions that Al-Qaeda is on the run and that their new leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is “a bit of a loser,” as a source close to the Obama administration has called him (source: The Telegraph)- in conjunction with those recent setbacks suffered by Al-Qaeda- may motivate the Egyptian surgeon to push for a major attack against the United States and/or its allies as soon as possible. With all its symbolism and accompanying celebrations, the Fourth of July weekend could have significant appeal for Al-Qaeda and al-Zawahiri to not only strike a blow against the United States, but dispel doubts over the operational capabilities of the terrorist organization and the leadership abilities of al-Zawahiri right from the get-go.

Enjoy the coming weekend- but watch your back.

Sources:

Esposito, Richard, Ryan, Jason, and Pierre Thomas. “FBI and DHS Urge Vigilance on July 4.” ABC News. 27 June 2011. (http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/fbi-dhs-urge-vigilance-july/story?id=13944689). 28 June 2011.

Spillis, Alex. “Is al-Qaeda on the run?” The Telegraph. 23 June 2011. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/al-qaeda/8595385/Is-al-Qaeda-on-the-run.html) 28 June 2011.

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Beware A Beslan-Style Attack Against U.S. Schools

On Monday, I finished reading a book by Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent C.J. Chivers entitled The Gun, which discusses the origins and global impact of the Avtomat Kalashnikova, or AK-47, assault rifle. Interesting book for Kalashnikov fans and users of the platform, but potentially infuriating to supporters of the “black rifle,” or M-16 assault rifle, who insist the firearm’s initial shortcomings were exaggerated. The former Marine captain wrote:

The early M-16 and its ammunition formed a combination not ready for war. They were a flawed pair emerging from a flawed development history. Prone to malfunction, they were forced into troops’ hands through a clash of wills and egos in Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara’s Pentagon. Instead of a thoughtful progression from prototype to general-issue arm, the M-16s journey was marked by salesmanship, sham science, cover-ups, chicanery, incompetence, and no small amount of dishonesty by a gun manufacturer and senior American military officers. Its introduction to war was briefly heralded as a triumph of private industry and perceptive management, but swiftly became a monument to the hazards of hubris and the perils of rushing, and a study in military management gone awry.

Ouch. Anyway, while digging up more info on Chivers, I discovered that the New York Times senior writer received a National Magazine Award for his Esquire magazine piece on the Beslan, Russia, hostage-taking incident that took place in September 2004. On September 1, 2004, armed terrorists took more than 1,100 people hostage- including 777 children- at School Number One in the town of Beslan, North Ossetia, Russia. On the third day of the crisis, Russian security forces stormed the school and defeated the terrorists. 334 hostages, including 186 children, died in the event, and hundreds more were injured.

While some Pollyannas may think the “war on terror” is over now that Osama bin Laden is dead, realists in the counter-terrorism community continue to warn of potential terrorist attacks being launched against American interests here and abroad. Such strikes may even be expedited now as the result of the Al-Qaeda leader’s demise. Concerning terrorist acts being directed against the general public in the United States, Al-Qaeda “sleeper cells” may already be on the prowl within our borders. Richard A. Clarke, a counter-terrorism “czar” in the Clinton and both Bush administrations, wrote in the New York Times back on August 14, 2005:

Are there such sleeper cells here? An F.B.I. analysis, reported earlier this year, said that ”efforts to date have not revealed evidence of concealed cells . . . acting as sleepers.” Agonizing over the possibility that his agents had missed something, the F.B.I.’s director, Robert Mueller, admitted to being ”very concerned about what we are not seeing.” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, however, said that U.S. agencies ”are very active and aggressive in pursuing these cells,” adding, ”We’re continuing to conduct active investigations of other cells.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Someone doesn’t seem to be on the same page here.

In addition, Abdul Hameed Bakier of the Washington, D.C.-based think-tank The Jamestown Foundation (former chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit Michael Scheuer is a senior fellow with Jamestown) pointed out more indications these cells might exist. Bakier wrote on January 15, 2008:

A 2005 FBI report stated that the agency had been unable to find conclusive evidence of the existence of such cells (ABC News, March 9, 2005), though comments on jihadi websites suggest that they exist. The militants are aware of the FBI’s concern about sleeper cells in the United States; each time pertinent information is released in U.S. media, jihadi posters write comments and prayers for the success of those cells.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Even if sleeper cells don’t exist, how hard would it really be for an Al-Qaeda “strike force” to enter the United States across either of our borders. I used to handle immigration matters for a former U.S. Senator, and heard countless stories of how people got into the country illegally (“I followed a hiking trail that began on the Canadian side of the border, and the trail ended on the United States side, where I called a buddy to pick me up.”). I mean, if John Q. Alien can do it…

Regardless, if Al-Qaeda operatives are given the green light to carry out terrorist strikes against the U.S., despite all the homeland security measures put in place after 9/11, these individuals will still have a cornucopia of available targets to attack.

And no where is our soft underbelly more exposed than with the schools.

While a number of schools and districts have been proactive in planning and preparing for events ranging from the armed intruder to large scale man-made and natural disasters (funding and assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Education and other entities have helped significantly), exceptions abound. And such shortcomings make a Beslan-style hostage taking event attractive to terrorists wanting to strike at the heart of America with minimum initial fuss. Consider the following from Chivers’ Beslan piece, and the extent to which the terrorists caught the Russians off-guard:

The terrorists seemed to be everywhere. Zalina saw a man in a mask sprinting with a rifle. Then another. And a third. Many students in the formation had their backs to the advancing gunmen, but one side did not, and as Zalina sat confused, those students broke and ran. The formation disintegrated. Scores of balloons floated skyward as children released them. A cultivated sense of order became bedlam…

For many other hostages, recognition came slowly. Aida Archegova thought she was in a counterterrorism drill. Beslan is roughly 950 miles south of Moscow, in a zone destabilized by the Chechen wars. Police actions were part of life. “Is it exercises?” she asked a terrorist as he bounded past.

He stopped. “What are you, a fool?” he said.

Along with a Mumbai-style terrorist attack that I discussed back on April 28, the potential for a Beslan-type incident taking place on American soil should be taken seriously by the authorities and general public. Especially as these assaults have proved to be a success for the terrorists. If each of these worked once before, wouldn’t it make sense that the bad guys would be giving serious consideration to carrying out similar operations again?

You can read C.J. Chivers riveting Beslan piece on the Esquire website here. Be advised that it’s pretty graphic.

Sources:

Chivers, C.J. The Gun. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010.

Clarke, Richard A. “Finding the Sleeper Cells.” New York Times. 14 Aug. 2005. (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/14/magazine/WLN111054.html). 25 May 2011.

Bakier, Abdul Hameed. “The “Lone Wolf” and al-Qaeda Sleeper Cells in the United States.” Terrorism Focus (The Jamestown Foundation). 15 Jan. 2008. (http://www.jamestown.org/programs/gta/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=4653&tx_ttnews[backPid]=246&no_cache=1). 25 May 2011.

Chivers, C.J. “The School.” Esquire. 14 Mar. 2007. (http://www.esquire.com/features/ESQ0606BESLAN_140). 25 May 2011.

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