• Perspective

    Prior to September 25, 2001, the United States used two primary tools to designate terrorists. In 1995, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order 12947 in an effort to provide the State and Treasury Departments the legal authority to designate terrorist groups who were disrupting the “Middle East Process.” E.O. 12947 was narrowly scoped and did not provide the United States the ability to sanction groups or individuals disconnected from violence in the Middle East. Two years later, Congress passed legislation providing the State Department the ability to designate Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) pursuant to the Immigration and Nationality Act. “Simply put, terrorism designations, much like the threat posed by al-Qaeda, were an afterthought before 9/11,” Jason Blazakis writes. That changed last week when President Donald Trump updated E.O. 13224 to expand both State and Treasury’s ability to wield sanctions against terrorists.

  • Perspective: Homegrown terrorism

    The United States faces a surging domestic terrorism threat in the homeland. In the aftermath of the El Paso and Dayton shootings in the first weekend of August, more than 40 people were   arrested for threats to commit mass attacks by the end of that month. GW Program on Extremism suggests two ways to achieve a more effective and coordinated multisector response to the domestic terrorism threat. First, specific criminal statutes for domestic terrorism offenses need to be enacted that penalize the commission of specific violent crimes. Acknowledging concerns that new criminal statutes related to property damage may stifle legitimate protest, new criminal statutes could be limited to violence against persons and providing material support to terrorists. Second, the list of proscribed foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) should include far-right actors outside of the United States.

  • Internal displacement

    More than 10 million new internal displacements were recorded between January and June 2019, according to a new report. Of the total, 3.8 million were triggered by conflict and violence, while disasters triggered a record seven million new displacements. The fact that the vast majority were associated with storms and floods suggests that mass displacement by extreme weather events is becoming the norm. 

  • Perspective

    In her new book, How to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bari Weiss writes that Jews in the West, especially in Europe, are confronted by a “three-headed dragon.” First, there is an antagonistic environment for Jews, thanks in large measure to the rapid growth of Islamism on the Old Continent. Second, there is ideological vilification by the political Left, which increasingly regards Israel as an illegitimate state serving no other purpose than as a bastion of Western (read: white) colonialism. Third, there is a recrudescence of reactionary populism on the political right that, while often professing sympathy for Israel, evinces a fervent commitment to blood-and-soil politics that seldom ends well for Jews.

  • Perspective

    In the last three years, Israel has engaged in a broad campaign to eliminate Iran’s strategic footprint in the Levant, which has grown exponentially over the past half-decade as a result of the Islamic Republic’s campaign in support of the Syrian regime. Iran’s effort has allowed it to establish an expeditionary presence along Israel’s northern border—one that, over the past few years, has prompted a significant Israeli military response.

  • Perspective

    Gavin Mortimer, a British historian living in France, writers in The Spectator that the claim that there are “no go” zones in Paris and other French cities – that is, areas where the police does not patrol for fear of encountering violence — is wrong. “There aren’t any no-go zones in France for the police,” he writes. “There are, however, a growing number of zones that the police enter knowing their chances of emerging unscathed are slight. In the parlance of politicians and the press, these districts are described as sensible (sensitive) or défavorisé (disadvantaged), and last year the government launched an ‘urban reconquest’ of sixty of the most troublesome with the deployment of foot patrols by police.” Mortimer quotes the French historian Georges Bensoussan, who wrote that in many French urban areas, a parallel society has taken root.

  • Extremism

    Extremism has tended to refer to both violent and non-violent forms of political expression, whereas terrorism is predominantly violent. To be an extremist could mean anything from being a nationalist, a communist, to being an animal rights activist – as long as this ideology is regarded as extreme relative to the government’s position. But extremism and terrorism should not be simply interlinked, and it is worrying that more and more the meaning of terrorism is extended to cover both violent and non-violent extremism.

  • The Troubles

    This month marks the 50th anniversary of the outbreak of violence in Derry, Northern Ireland, in what has become known as the Battle of the Bogside. The August 1969 riots, involving local communities and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), are often referenced as the events which marked the beginning of the 30-year conflict commonly known as the Northern Ireland Troubles.

  • Perspective

    Far-right ideology in the military and among veterans must be stamped out as it has “nothing in common” with the U.K. armed forces’ values, Johnny Mercer, a new defense minister, has said. Mercer, now presiding over the new Office for Veterans’ Affairs, created by Boris Johnson, asserted that many voters feel dispossessed by the political make-up of parliament, and that hard-right groups were trying to attract soldiers and veterans with undeliverable promises. “I get it,” he said, “but going to these people is a fool’s errand and I’ll do everything I can to stamp it out. It’s totally out of keeping with our ethos, values and standing as an organization.”

  • 9/11: 18 years on

    Americans paused Wednesday to mark the 18th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The deadliest attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor in 1941, the events of September 11 permanently changed America’s perception of national security and prompted then-President George W. Bush to declare war on terrorism and invade Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda had training grounds.

  • Perspective

    Sept. 11, 2019 marks the 18th anniversary of the deadliest terrorist attack in world history. It also marks a generational shift, with American children born after that date entering adulthood having grown up with their country perpetually fighting a so-called war on terror. “The events of 9/11 are increasingly a memory, and without education that memory can easily become a caricature,” Daniel Byman writes in Foreign Policy. “Capturing all the nuances surrounding 9/11 is vital, but the proper response today also requires recognizing that terrorism is constantly evolving, and when it strikes again it may not come from an expected or familiar source.”

  • Perspective: 9/11 mystery

    Foreign interference and hostile state espionage are a bigger threat to Australia’s security than terrorism, one of the country’s top spy chiefs has warned. Duncan Lewis, the outgoing head of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), identified three challenges security confronting Australians: terrorism, cyber warfare; and foreign interference and espionage. But the latter was on a “growth trajectory” and is a greater threat than terrorism, he told a Lowy Institute forum in Sydney.

  • Perspective: Terrorism

    Al-Qaeda has diminished in policy and public debates. U.S. policymakers have shifted their attention to countering an assertive China and a vicious Putin, and in recent intelligence assessments of threats, al-Qaeda has dropped on the priority list. The U.S. public’s concern about the threat of international terrorist groups has declined over the past few years. In addition, there is policy fatigue toward counterterrorism. While many politicians still worry about the electorate’s sensitivity to terrorism by groups like al-Qaeda, they also question the cost of maintaining the fight. The current policy mood and competing national security priorities need calibration with al-Qaeda’s trajectory. Al-Qaeda remains committed to targeting the United States, has improved political control of major factions and rebuilt meaningful capabilities, and now seems poised to take advantage of a permissive strategic environment in Afghanistan. Addressing these strengths will continue to be a challenge for the United States and deserves sustained attention from U.S. policymakers.

  • Perspective: Hemispheric security

    Last week, several former commanders of Colombia’s largely demobilized rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) released a video in which they announced a “new phase of armed struggle.” Only three years ago, those same men—known best by wartime aliases, Iván Márquez and Jesús Santrich—participated in negotiating the end of a decades-long conflict with the Colombian government. But in the video, their presence was a stark reminder of the fragility of the peace accords on the ground.

  • Perspective: Extremism

    The unanimous election of a neo-Nazi politician in Germany as the head of a town council, thanks to votes from rival party members, has sparked outrage among senior political figures. Stefan Jagsch of the far right-wing extremist National Democratic Party (NDP) became the council leader for Waldsiedlung, in the district of Altenstadt, 30 kilometers (18 miles) northeast of Frankfurt, on Thursday. Jagsch was appointed with help from local members of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), plus opposition groups Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Free Democratic Party (FDP), prompting calls from these parties’ national leaders for the decision to be reversed. The Altenstadt city council members representing the CDU, SPD, and FDP said they had no choice since Jagsch was the only candidate on the ballot.

  • Perspective

    An Islamist insurgent group al-Sunnah wa Jamaah (ASWJ) killed seven people in northern Mozambique in July, part of a series of terrorist attacks beginning in October 2017. The threat to the country and the region is real, and Mozambique’s current approach threatens to escalate the crisis. The experience of other African countries provides an instructive lesson: A hardline response that depends solely on repression will only make things worse.

  • Perspective: Designer pathogens

    Fourteen labs in the United States are working on creating mammalian-airborne-transmissible, highly-pathogenic, avian-influenza live viruses. These viruses are examples of lab-created potentially pandemic pathogens that bring up questions reflecting real concerns: Should details of this dual-use research be published? Could lab-created potentially pandemic pathogens be accidentally released from a laboratory into the community and seed a human pandemic? Could they be employed as biological weapons? The probability of accidental release into the community from one of the laboratories in this research enterprise is uncomfortably high. For these and other lab-created potentially pandemic pathogens, just one laboratory-infected researcher could seed a pandemic. Furthermore, a laboratory worker with hostile intent could introduce a potentially pandemic pathogen into the community.

  • Perspective

    A mass shooting by a white supremacist in El Paso that killed 22 people has renewed calls to enlarge the government’s powers to prosecute “domestic terrorism.” Proponents of these proposals, many of whom are former law enforcement officials, make two main arguments: that a new domestic terrorism statute would allow the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to catch perpetrators before they are able to carry out an attack, and that formal charges of “domestic terrorism” would demonstrate that the government treats white supremacists with the same seriousness that it treats those associated with ISIS or other groups overseas. Neither is convincing.

  • Perspective

    Antifa is an umbrella movement comprising people of various ideologies who are united in their opposition to white supremacism, neo-Nazism and fascism. Some elements of antifa — especially anarchists, along with Marxists, Maoists, and anarcho-syndicalists, who are usually among the most visible, vocal and violent elements which take part in antifa protests – endorse, and participate in, political violence Does all of that make antifa a terrorist organization? Scott Stewart writes for Stratfor that the short answer is no — if for no other reason that antifa isn’t really a group or organization to begin with. “But even if elements that participate in the antifa movement espouse political violence to oppose white supremacists, that doesn’t make it a terrorist group — presidential threats to declare it one notwithstanding. Nevertheless, the more forceful aspects of the ideology’s direct action are likely to result in disorder on the streets and damage to property, presenting a problem for any person or business that happens to find itself in the way,” Stewart writes.

  • Perspective: Biothreats

    The Department of Homeland Security stored sensitive data from the nation’s bioterrorism defense program on an insecure website where it was vulnerable to attacks by hackers for over a decade, according to government documents reviewed by the Los Angeles Times. The data included the locations of at least some BioWatch air samplers, which are installed at subway stations and other public locations in more than 30 U.S. cities and are designed to detect anthrax or other airborne biological weapons, Homeland Security officials confirmed. It also included the results of tests for possible pathogens, a list of biological agents that could be detected and response plans that would be put in place in the event of an attack.