• Radicalization

    Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, recently revealed that 60 foreign fighters who joined ISIS and other terror groups in Syria and Iraq are now back and living in Canada. Their fate has sparked fierce debate in Canada’s Parliament between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer. Scheer has expressed concerns about the national security threat posed by these fighters, while Trudeau pledged to prosecute those who broke Canada’s anti-terrorism laws. Despite the sensitivity of the issue, especially when the safety and security of Canadian citizens are at stake, Trudeau’s approach could therefore be deemed the most effective and efficient. The Conservative approach, meantime, not only indicates a “once a terrorist, always a terrorist” mindset, it also capitalizes on fear and stigmatization of Muslims, and does little to resolve the issue of homegrown radicals.

  • Terrorism

    Even though domestic killings and nonterrorist mass shootings kill more Americans than terrorism and undermine our security, these acts typically don’t lead to calls for radical preventive measures. But if two acts of violence kill or injure similar numbers of people, have similar effects on victims and communities, and spread fear and terror, we, as a society, should see them as equally abhorrent, regardless of whether they are ideologically motivated. And we should see the goal of preventing such acts as equally urgent. Most of us, however, don’t. And that’s unfair. It’s unfair to the victims of mass killers and domestic violence, whose safety and security are not regarded as warranting the same outrage and demand for radical preventive measures that terrorist killings call for.

  • Violence

    Anthropologists have debated for decades whether humans living in tribal communities thousands of years ago were more or less violent than societies today. Researchers wonder whether the question of more or less violence is the wrong one — what if it’s a matter of scale? In a new paper, the researchers present data showing that the size of a society’s population is what drives the size of its “war group,” or number of people of fighting age who defend it. They also show that the size of the war group is what determines the number of casualties in a conflict.

  • Terrorism

    A 27-year old Bangladeshi immigrant who lived in Brooklyn was detained by the police Monday morning after detonating an explosive device in the New York City subway tunnel during the morning commute. The suspect, Akayed Ullah, was injured in the 7:20 a.m. attempted attack, as were three passers-by. The explosion occurred in a passageway near 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, in midtown Manhattan near Times Square. The injuries were not life-threatening.

  • Hemispheric security

    An Argentinian judge on Thursday ordered the arrest of the country’s former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, accusing her of covering up Iranian involvement in the 1994 bombing at the Buenos Aires Jewish center that killed 85 people and wounded 300. The former president, who now serves as a senator, is accused of signing a 2012 deal with Iran that would have allowed senior Iranian officials implicated in the attack to be investigated in their own country, rather than in Argentina.

  • Nuclear terrorism

    Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels said they fired a cruise missile at a nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates raising the specter of nuclear terror. It is the second time this year that the Houthis claimed to have fired missiles towards the emirate. They said a few months ago that they had “successfully” test fired a missile towards Abu Dhabi.

  • Terrorism

    The May 2017 Manchester Arena bombing could have been prevented, a report by the former Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation has revealed. David Anderson QC’s report suggests there were opportunities to reopen the case, raising the possibility the attack could have been stopped. Newspaper headlines, however, are misleading, neglecting the nuance in Anderson’s report that the decision to ignore or misinterpret the intelligence on Abedi was “understandable” in the circumstances, overlooking the complex nature of counter-terror investigations. So, could the Manchester bombing really have been prevented?

  • Surveillance

    The German government will next week discuss sweeping new surveillance powers aimed to improve public safety. The proposal to be discussed would require operators of car and house alarm systems to help police and security services in their efforts to spy on potential terrorists or criminals.

  • Iran

    Speaking at the 2017 Reagan National Defense Forum in California, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster said that “about 80 percent of Assad fighters are Iranian proxies in Syria to establish a land bridge over into the Mediterranean,” as he warned of the “prospect of Iran having a proxy army on the borders of Israel.” McMaster stated, “What the Iranians have done across the Middle East is fuel and accelerate cycles of violence so that they can take advantage of chaos and weak states to make them dependent on Iran for support.”

  • Religious violence

    Last week, President Trump retweeted to his nearly 44 million followers a series of videos purporting to show Muslims assaulting people and destroying Christian statues. These videos, originally shared by an extremist anti-Muslim group in the U.K., were shown to be inaccurate and misleading. Our research may shed light on why President Trump shared anti-Muslim videos with his followers. As the White House press secretary said, his decision was a direct response to a perceived threat posed by Muslims. However, religious threat is not a one-way street. Attacking Muslims is not likely to stop religious conflict, but instead increase religious tension by fostering a spiraling tit-for-tat of religious threat and prejudice that increases in severity over time. This type of cyclical process has long been documented by scholars. If people who feel discriminated against because of their religion retaliate by discriminating against other religions, religious intolerance is only going to snowball. If President Trump really wants to stop religious violence, social psychology suggests he should refrain from it himself.

  • Synthetic biology

    Synthetic biology, also called “gene drives” or “bioengineering” – a field that uses technologies to modify or create organisms or biological components – can be used to benefit mankind, but may also be used by terrorists and nation-states to develop design pathogens which could be unleased to kill tens of millions of people. Critics of gene drives are alarmed by the fact that the U.S. military has been the main funder of synthetic biology research in the United States. Given the possible security vulnerabilities related to gene drives developments, a new report by the National Academies of Sciences proposes a framework to identify and prioritize potential areas of concern associated with the field. “While biotechnology is being pursued primarily for beneficial and legitimate purposes, there are potential uses that are detrimental to humans, other species, and ecosystems,” says one of the report’s authors. A nonprofit monitoring synthetic biology research releases new documents ahead of a key UN scientific conference on bioengineering.

  • Terrorism

    Earlier today (Thursday), Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security for a hearing on “World Wide Threats: Keeping America Secure in the New Age of Terror.” Duke said that DHS is addressing the evolving threat landscape and moving past traditional defense and non-defense thinking. DHS is enhancing its approach to homeland security and bringing together intelligence operations, interagency engagement, and international action in innovative ways.

  • Hate groups

    Early on Wednesday morning, President Donald Trump retweeted three anti-Muslim videos — one of them fake — which had earlier been posted by Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of the vehemently anti-Muslim British hate group Britain First. Fransen was convicted last year by a British court for harassing a woman wearing a hijab – in front of the woman’s children. Here is a brief backgrounder of Britain First and its history.

  • Iran

    Israel passed a message to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad through an intermediary that it would take military action in Syria if Iran is allowed to establish a permanent military presence in Syria. Israel has not intervened in the Syrian conflict, but has taken action to prevent the transfer of sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah and to prevent military infrastructure being established on its border.

  • Drone assassins

    A new short film from the Campaign Against Killer Robots warns of a future where weaponized flying drones target and assassinate certain members of the public, using facial recognition technology to identify them. Is this a realistic threat that could rightly spur an effective ban on the technology? Or is it an overblown portrayal designed to scare governments into taking simplistic, unnecessary and ultimately futile action? Two academics offer their expert opinions.

  • Counterterrorism

    Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the young but dominant figure in Saudi Arabia, on Sunday convened a meeting in Riyadh of top defense officials from forty-one Muslim countries for the first summit of the Islamic Military Counterterrorism Alliance. Saudi Arabia announced the alliance in December 2015 to fight “terrorism,” singling out the “Islamic State” (IS) as a disease tarnishing the name of Islam. Analysts note that the real target of the new alliance may not be Islamist extremism, but Iran. All the alliance members are Sunni-majority or Sunni-led countries. The alliance does not include Shiite Iran; Syria, which is ruled by Alawite president Bashar al-Assad; or Iraq, which is led by a Shiite government.

  • Bioengineering

    The gene editing technique CRISPR has been in the limelight after scientists reported they had used it to safely remove disease in human embryos for the first time. Concerns are mounting that gene editing could be used in the development of biological weapons. In 2016, Bill Gates remarked that “the next epidemic could originate on the computer screen of a terrorist intent on using genetic engineering to create a synthetic version of the smallpox virus”. More recently, in July 2017, John Sotos, of Intel Health & Life Sciences, stated that gene editing research could “open up the potential for bioweapons of unimaginable destructive potential.” Biological warfare is not an inevitable consequence of advances in the life sciences. The development and use of such weapons requires agency. It requires countries making the decision to steer the direction of life science research and development away from hostile purposes. An imperfect international convention cannot guarantee that these states will always decide against the hostile exploitation of biology. Yet it can influence such decisions by shaping an environment in which the disadvantages of pursuing such weapons outweigh the advantages.

  • IEDs

    Policymakers’ efforts to reduce threats from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) should include greater oversight of precursor chemicals sold at the retail level – especially over the internet – that terrorists, violent extremists, or criminals use to make homemade explosives, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences. While retail sales of these precursor chemicals present a substantial vulnerability, they have not been a major focus of federal regulations so far.

  • Terrorism

    A packed mosque in Egypt’s North Sinai was attacked by gunman earlier today, at the height of Friday prayers. The gunmen set off explosives and opened fire, killing at least 285 people and wounding about 300 in the deadliest ever attack on Egyptian civilians by Islamic terrorists. The attack took place at the Rawdah mosque in the town of Bir al-Abd, about forty kilometers west of the North Sinai capital of el-Arish. The Sinai has seen repeated deadly attacks by Islamist militants in the last four years.

  • Guantanamo

    The controversial Guantanamo Bay Detention Center has been largely out of the headlines during the last year — that is, until President Donald Trump recently threatened to send New York terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov to the shadowy prison in Cuba. Former President Barack Obama had promised to shut down Guantanamo Bay on various occasions dating back to his 2008 presidential campaign, but failed to do so during his eight years in office. Andy Gordon, who served as counsel to the general counsel at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from April 2009 to October 2010 and who is now an adjunct professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law says: “Guantanamo was a huge mistake with no real forethought, and we will be paying for this for a very long time.”