• Pandemics

    There are thirty civil wars underway around the globe, where civilians are dealing with death and destruction as well as public health emergencies exacerbated by the deadly march of conflict. And yet today, of the nearly 200 countries on this planet, only six nations — three rich ones and three poor ones — have taken steps to evaluate their ability to withstand a global pandemic. “The bottom line is that despite the profound global threat of pandemics, there remains no global health mechanism to force parties to act in accordance with global health interests,” says one expert. “The unpredictability of a serious infectious outbreak, the speed with which it can disseminate, and the fears of domestic political audience can together create a powerful destabilizing force,” says another.

  • Extremism

    New research released the other day by ISD, a counter-extremism NGO, reveals increasing collaboration among extreme far-right groups globally. The report shows how extreme right groups have been opportunistically, and effectively, bridging ideologies and adapting their tone to manipulate legitimate social grievances – immigration, freedom of speech, and terrorism – in order to reach and radicalize mainstream parties and movements.

  • Hate groups

    This growing domestic menace deserves more attention than it’s getting. I consider domestic terrorism a more significant threat than the foreign-masterminded variety in part because it is more common in terms of the number of attacks on U.S. soil. The number of violent attacks on U.S. soil inspired by far-right ideology has spiked since the beginning of this century, rising from a yearly average of 70 attacks in the 1990s to a yearly average of more than 300 since 2001. Despite an uptick in far-right violence and the Trump administration’s plan to increase the Department of Homeland Security budget by 6.7 percent to $44.1 billion in 2018, the White House wants to cut spending for programs that fight non-Muslim domestic terrorism. The federal government has also frozen $10 million in grants aimed at countering domestic violent extremism. This approach is bound to weaken the authorities’ power to monitor far-right groups, undercutting public safety.

  • Hate groups

    A panel of experts met last week at Harvard University’s Kennedy School (HKS) to examine the U.S. white nationalist movement’s rise to prominence and discuss ways to counter it. One panelist was R. Derek Black, a former white nationalist activist whose father, Don Black, created Stormfront, the internet’s first and largest white nationalist site. When the moderator asked whether white nationalists tended to be seen as “people from Alabama,” Black replied that most of the stereotypes are inaccurate. “There’s a strange misconception that it’s a trailer park movement, or that it’s people who haven’t thought through their beliefs. But think about it. Who has the resources to travel across the country for rallies? It’s not a wealthy movement, but it’s bankers, lawyers, people with good jobs.”

  • Chemical weapons

    Since 2011, the Assad regime has killed hundreds of Syrian, and injured thousands, through the use of chemical weapons. Chemical agents are different from explosive chemicals, which cause localized destruction through force. Sarin gas, for example, a nerve agent which has been used in many attacks in Syria, can diffuse into the atmosphere and spread for hundreds of miles. Researchers are working to develop an intelligence system for chemical plume trajectory tracking, which is critical for national safety against impending chemical threats.

  • Terrorism

    The former Argentinian foreign minister Hector Timerman testified in court on Tuesday under the allegations that Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s administration conspired with Iran to hide the Islamic Republic’s role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. The judicial investigation is based on the complaint of the late Argentinian prosecutor Alberto Nisman that Kirchner sought a secret deal with Iran in connection with the 1994 bombing.

  • Agroterrorism

    The increasing rate of emerging and reemerging animal diseases, along with threats and attempts by those with nefarious intent to attack food and agriculture, point to the need to reduce the biological risk to America’s food and agricultural sector. That is the finding of a new report released Tuesday by the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense.

  • Biothreats

    When violent attackers use biological agents to inflict harm, not only must law enforcement attribute the crime to the correct perpetrator, they must also identify the pathogens used and their sources exactly and quickly. That was the focus of a special meeting last week hosted by the Blue Ribbon Study Panel on Biodefense.

  • Travel ban

    To the surprise of many experts, the Trump administration’s revised travel ban removed Sudan – but added Chad, a Muslim majority country in the Sahel region of Africa. Chad’s inclusion has befuddled observers as well as the Chadian government and the African Union. Based on my experience working at the State Department, including a period of time when I was focused on the Sahel, I went looking for reasons that would lead the U.S. to ban Chadians. I found more questions than I was able to answer. Sanctioning a country that has been an ally to the United States on its top national security priority – terrorism – does serve as a red flag to other countries. Some countries will seek to stay on the United States’ good side. Others, especially in Africa, may eye China as an alternative, more reliable partner.

  • Dirty bombs

    Radiological material falling into the wrong hands is a constant security concern for governments around the world. Border agencies must scan incoming vehicles and freight for radioactive material, which is a challenging task, as huge volumes of both move across borders each day. Imperial College London’s physicists have developed two devices for detecting nuclear materials.

  • Terrorism & guns

    According to the authoritative Global Terrorism Database (GTD), firearms accounted for about 55 percent of fatalities in terrorist attacks even though guns were used in less than 10 percent of terrorist events. Attacks involving more common weapons such as explosives, incendiary weapons and vehicles, or melee weapons had fewer fatalities than attacks involving firearms.Among industrialized countries, the United States has the highest proportion of terrorist attacks in which the perpetrators used firearms.

  • Mass shooting

    Reducing news coverage of rampage shooters’ personal information, like their names and photos, could be a deterrent to future mass shooters, according to researchers. The researchers identify three consequences of current news coverage, which typically includes publishing names and faces of mass shooters in initial and follow-up coverage: mass shooters’ fulfillment and incentive to achieve notoriety; competition among offenders to maximize victim fatalities; and copycat and contagion effects.

  • Lone-wolf killers

    On 20 September, only days before the Las Vegas mass shooting, DHS issued an 11-page report warning that “unaffiliated lone offenders” were one of the biggest threats to large public gatherings. The report did not refer to Las Vegas, but rather noted security concerns about public events – including sports events — in the South-Central areas of the United States. The 20 September report is similar to an unclassified, for-official-use-only “Joint Special Event Threat Assessment,” issued by DHS and the FBI in December 2016, which warned of the threats to public events in Las Vegas, especially New Year celebrations. “Unaffiliated lone offenders and [homegrown violent extremists] are of particular concern,” the document said.

  • Terrorism

    Hamas has rejected the Palestinian Authority’s demand for disarmament and has vowed to hold onto its weapons to fight Israel. The terrorist group’s Politburo Chief, Ismail Haniyeh, said in an interview with Egyptian television that “there are two groups of weapons: There are the weapons of the government, the police and security services.”

  • Biothreats

    Looming budget cuts within DHS are doing little to qualm concern that state and local infrastructure is unprepared to handle a biological or chemical attack. “We are much better prepared than we were” post-9/11,” said one expert “But we are not where we need to be, and the progress is, in some cases, somewhat fragile.”

  • Considered opinion

    The United States needs answers for questions not just about the nature of Islamist movements, but also about the more politically difficult question of what the United States should do about them. How the United States and Europe should respond—or even whether they should treat Islamist parties as distinctive in the first place—has been a contentious question since at least the early 1990s. The Arab Spring, two decades later, brought this “Islamist dilemma” back to the fore, and Washington found itself, again, conflicted.

  • Lone-wolf killers

    Radical jihadists directed or inspired by ISIS, al-Qaeda, or materials posted on the internet, pose a threat in the United States – and in Europe. In the United States, however, the bigger threat has come from a different kind of attacker, one with no ties to religion – be it Islam or another religion: White American men. Since Trump took office, more Americans have been killed by white American men with no connection to Islam than by Muslim terrorists or foreigners.

  • Lone-wolf killers

    Lone offender attacks – sometimes called “lone wolf” attacks – make headlines fairly regularly. It’s not just the single shooter killing dozens and injuring hundreds in Las Vegas, but also shootings in Washington and Texas shopping centers. In Nice, France; Orlando, Florida; and elsewhere, atrocities committed by individuals apparently acting alone have surprised and concerned the public and authorities alike. Because just one person is at the center of the event, these sorts of attacks can seem more puzzling and be harder to explain than, say, bombings or shootings by organized terrorist groups. That also makes them more difficult to detect and prevent. It is not always easy to “make sense” of lone-offender attacks. But by understanding their origins, elements and context, we can avoid misconceptions and more accurately describe the problem. That will be a key to helping detect and prevent these kinds of attacks.

  • Las Vegas shooting

    Stephen Paddock’s shooting spree lasted about 12-14 minutes – but he was able to kill 59 people and wound more than 500. The reason: He used a technique called “bump stock” to turn two of his semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic ones, capable of firing between 500 and 800 rounds a minute. Automatic rifles are heavily regulated and difficult to buy in the United States, but the perfectly legal bump stock method allows would-be mass shooters to circumvent the automatic weapons ban.

  • Hate groups

    Members of the leadership of several evangelical Christians late last week urged President Donald Trump to condemn white supremacists more forcefully and unequivocally — specifically those in the alt-right. A letter circulating among pastors who belong to the group notes Trump’s efforts to denounce the white supremacists, but urges the President to go further in condemning the alt-right “by name.” “This movement has escaped your disapproval,” the letter said.