• 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.

  • Perspective: School shootings

    A school in the United States has spent $48 million redesigning its buildings with curved corridors, hiding places, and cement barriers in a bid to thwart mass shooters. The project at Fruitport High School in Michigan is aimed at reducing casualties in the event of an attack by hampering the sight lines available to a gunman in corridors. Cement barriers are being installed in hallways for pupils and teachers to take cover. Classroom windows looking on to hallways are being covered with impact-resistant film. Each classroom will also have a corner, called a “shadow zone,” that is not visible from the hallway.

  • Perspective: Domestic terrorism

    There is a big push for the federal criminalization of domestic terrorism. Andrew C. McCarthy writes that the impulse, of course, is understandable but the push is attempting to address a non-problem because “There are no meaningful impediments to federal investigation and prosecution of domestic terrorism.” He adds: “We should never have to wait for foreign powers to attack before taking action to thwart them. With our own citizens, however, the line we draw is the planned or actual use of force. Until that threshold is crossed, anti-government agitation is protected, regardless of how obnoxious it may be.”

  • Extremism online

    Online hate thrives globally through self-organized, scalable clusters that interconnect to form resilient networks spread across multiple social media platforms, countries and languages, according to new research. Researchers developed a mapping model to track how these online hate clusters thrive. The model outlines challenges to dismantling online hate groups worldwide.

  • Extremism online

    For years, YouTube has officially prohibited content which promoted or condoned violence or incited hatred against individuals or groups based on core characteristics such as ethnicity, gender and sexual identity, and religion. In June 2019 it updated that policy with specific prohibitions against ideologies like white supremacy, which asserted the superiority of one group in order to justify discriminating against or persecuting other groups. An analysis by ADL’s Center on Extremism found that a significant number of channels on YouTube’s platform continue to disseminate anti-Semitic and white supremacist content despite the company’s June 2019 crackdown on hate speech.

  • Perspective

    Terrorism is not owned by a particular organization or ideology. Rather, it’s a tactic deployed by anyone looking to use violence for some political or religious aim. And having not only government officials but everyday people understand that is key to catching additional would-be attackers before it’s too late.

  • Perspective

    Robert Levinson, who served as the deputy director of U.S. Southern Command’s office in Washington, writes that after 9/11, it was made clear to the Southern Command that the fight against Al Qaeda would receive many more resources and much more attention that the effort to contain the FARC – the Marxist insurgency which had operated in Colombia since the early 1960s. The reason: The FARC was not considered a terrorist organization of “global reach.” You fight local terrorists by strengthening local governments and governance, while global terrorists involve much broader and more complicated efforts. Levinson writes: “By now it may be time to consider whether terrorism variously categorized as being inspired by white supremacy, white nationalism, Neo-Nazi, etc., and its various manifestations and adherents, has reached the threshold of “terrorists of global reach” who are now claiming victims in the United States homeland.”

  • Perspective

    “Left of boom” is a phrase frequently used by FBI agents to describe the FBI’s post-9/11 strategy to detect, disrupt and dismantle terrorist threats before acts of violence occur. Imagine a timeline where “boom” represents the moment the bomb goes off or an attack occurs: “Left of boom” means sometime before that moment. In the international terrorism arena, the U.S. has federal statutes that permit intervention left of boom, such as terrorism transcending national boundaries, providing material support to a foreign terrorist organization and attempt and conspiracy provisions for each. These statutes permit investigators to identify criminal behavior earlier in the timeline, and intercept subjects before their plans reach completion. No such laws exist for domestic terrorism.

  • Terrorism

    With the end of its territorial caliphate, the Islamic State will almost certainly attempt a comeback. Such efforts will require money. A new RAND report examines the group as an insurgency and a self-styled caliphate, with a focus on how the group managed its finances. The report recommends that the U.S. government will need to stay involved with counter–Islamic State activities across several lines of effort, including counter-finance and potentially including military action.

  • Perspective: War narratives

    The Trump administration appears poised to announce, within days or weeks, a deal with the Taliban that will involve a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. If that happens, the administration may soon find itself in a new battle over public opinion. The question then would be: Did the United States win or lose? The answer depends partly on the terms of a potential deal, but also on the public narrative that forms around it.Following the Vietnam War, a narrative developed among the U.S.-military officer corps that civilian leaders had stabbed military leaders in the back by cutting a deal to withdraw U.S. troops, rather than allowing them to win. The legacy of the Afghan War—now in its 18th year—will similarly depend on whether civilians, veterans, and current military personnel believe the United States won or lost.

  • Perspective: Terrorist financing

    Terrorists have been slow to join other criminal elements that have been drawn to Bitcoin and have used it for everything from drug purchases to money laundering. But in recent months, government authorities and organizations that track terrorist financing have begun to raise alarms about an uptick in the number of Islamist terrorist organizations experimenting with Bitcoin and other digital coins.

  • Perspective: Domestic terrorism

    Pittsburgh, Tallahassee, Poway, Jeffersontown and now El Paso—these American communities have been the scene since 2018 of the most lethal mass shootings connected to white supremacist ideology, but there have been many other lesser attacks and foiled plots. In the U.S., such terrorism has now eclipsed international jihadist terrorism in both frequency and severity. Clint Watts writes in the Wall Street Journal that the formula for responding to America’s white supremacist terrorism emergency is quite clear—in part because of the U.S. hard-won experience fighting jihadists from al Qaeda and its spawn, Islamic State. “We must swiftly and carefully apply the best practices of the two decades since Sept. 11, 2001, to counter this decade’s domestic terrorist threat—by passing new laws, increasing resources and enhancing investigative capabilities,” he writes.

  • Perspective: Biodefense

    The Trump administration’s attempt to deploy a scientifically disputed system for detecting airborne anthrax or other infectious agents in terrorist attacks is facing increased scrutiny from a bipartisan group of House members. in a three-page letter, four Democrats and Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee asked the Government Accountability Office to conduct an in-depth scientific evaluation of the new system, called BioDetection 21. Officials from the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, signaled that they plan to open the inquiry.

  • Perspective: Biotdefense

    The Laboratory Response Network (LRN) is a collaborative federal effort run by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in cooperation with other federal agency and public health partners. The U.S. Army Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) Special Pathogens Laboratory at Fort Detrick is one of only three National Laboratories at the top of the protective umbrella of the LRN structure, along with those operated by the CDC and the Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC), responsible for specialized characterization of organisms, bioforensics, select agent activity, and handling highly infectious biological agents. It begs the question then, what happens when an important component of the nation’s biopreparedness infrastructure fails to meet CDC biosafety requirements and has its Federal Select Agent certification pulled?

  • Extremism

    The independent U.K. Commission for Countering Extremism is earlier this month published eight peer-reviewed academic papers on the causes of extremism, extremism online, and approaches to countering extremism. The papers cover the arguments on the causes of extremism, the complex relationship between social media and extremism, as well as discussions on how to best counter extremism.

  • Extremism

    The Obama administration’s program to prevent individuals from embracing violent extremism was deeply flawed, according to a new report. The Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Initiative was plagued by vague goals, the lack of a budget or administrative structure, and the failure to address all forms of violent extremism, particularly white supremacy. In addition, the initiative was opposed by many Muslim-Americans, the report says.

  • Catastrophe

    People around the world may be worried about nuclear tensions rising, but I think they’re missing the fact that a major cyberattack could be just as damaging – and hackers are already laying the groundwork. The threat of a new nuclear arms race is serious – but the threat of a cyberattack could be as serious, and is less visible to the public. So far, most of the well-known hacking incidents, even those with foreign government backing, have done little more than steal data. Unfortunately, there are signs that hackers have placed malicious software inside U.S. power and water systems, where it’s lying in wait, ready to be triggered.

  • Perspective

    Domestic right-wing terrorists, like the man accused of the shooting last weekend in El Paso, are not so different from their radical Islamist counterparts across the globe — and not only in their tactics for spreading terror or in their internet-based recruiting. Indeed, it is impossible to understand America’s resurgence of reactionary extremism without understanding it as a fundamentally religious phenomenon.