• Iran

    The United States imposed sanctions on Thursday on five Iranian entities over their involvement in developing ballistic missiles and signaled that more punitive measures are in play in response to the Islamic Republic’s crackdown of anti-government protests. The five designated companies are all subsidiaries of Iran’s Shahid Bakeri Industrial Group (SBIG), which is part of the Iranian Defense Ministry.

  • Homegrown terrorism

    Intense media coverage of a so-called “alt-right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which turned deadly last August fueled the notion that far-right violent extremism in the United States in 2017 was a growing and severe threat. But has it really increased? The average number of far right-inspired attacks from 1990 to 2016 was 7.5 per year, and the average number of victims was 11 per year (these figures exclude the 1995 Oklahoma City attack, in which 168 people were killed, and attacks by far-right extremists in which ideology appeared not to have been a motive). In 2017, there were 8 far right-inspired attacks, which killed 9 people. If the number of fatal far-right extremist attacks in 2017 was average, why is there a perception of an increase? The short answer would be that ideologically motivated homicides are not the only way to measure extremism. More importantly, in many ways, an “average” year demonstrates the perseverance and deadliness of far-right extremism, with its fringe ideology continuing to appeal to a minority of Americans. For decades, it has adapted to cultural and technological shifts in American society, for example, utilizing the internet and social media for recruitment and the proliferation of extremist ideas. Far-rightists also pose a grave threat to racial, ethnic, religious and other minorities in the United States. Whether they are wearing white hoods and burning crosses or wearing button-up shirts and carrying Tiki torches, the underlying ideological tenets of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, paranoia and anti-government sentiments pose a violent risk to the American public.

  • Terrorism

    This is the end of 2017, but the complete, authoritative numbers relating to terrorism in 2016 are finally in. These numbers show that for the second year in a row, the total number of deaths caused by terrorism has declined. The reduction in deaths is encouraging, but despite this 2016 was the third deadliest year since 2000. While the intensity of terrorism in many countries has decreased, it continues to spread to an increasing number of countries.

  • Radical leftist militancy

    A far-left militant group calling itself the Redneck Revolt says it aims to put “the red back in redneck” – “red” as in communist red – and use aggressive tactics to promote social justice and protects minorities. Armed members of Redneck Revolt can often be seen providing protection to minority groups such as Black Lives Matter and to other left-leaning groups conducting marches and demonstrations. Redneck Revolt insists that the group should not be compared to another leftist militant group — the Anti-fa group. Members of Redneck Revolt explain the difference as mainly one of tactics: Anti-fa are willing to engage in property destruction, cover their faces in “black bloc,” and occasionally punch Nazis on the street. “We don’t do that,” a member of Redneck Revolt said firmly. “We do everything within the law.”

  • Hemispheric security

    For the first time, an Argentinian judge ruled that Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor investigating Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires and the agreement made by former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner with Iran, was murdered. Judge Julián Ercolini’s ruling comes in the same month that Kirchner, former foreign minister Hector Timerman, and several of Kirchner’s colleagues were indicted for treason over Nisman’s allegations that her and her team covered up Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing.

  • Aviation security

    Each day, more than twenty-six thousand commercial flights transport passengers and cargo to destinations around the world. S&T’s Commercial Aircraft Vulnerability and Mitigation (CAVM) program supports testing and evaluation efforts to assess potential vulnerabilities and evaluate countermeasures that can mitigate the impact of explosives on commercial aircraft. Newer generations of commercial aircraft fuselages are being made with composite materials, such as carbon fiber reinforced plastic, so CAVM needs to develop a sustainable and representative testing solution in order to all evaluations of new composite aircraft structures to explosive-based threats could continue as needed.

  • Biosecurity

    The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) yesterday announced it was ending its three-year moratorium on funding of gain-of-function research, that is, research which aims to make extremely dangerous viruses even more dangerous in order to find a vaccine or cure for them. The U.S. government instituted the ban in 2014, against the backdrop of rising worries that these “gain-of-function” studies would allow scientists to increase the ability of the infectious disease to spread by enhancing its pathogenicity, or its ability to cause disease. Scientists who supported continuing research involving enhancing the transmissibility of infectious disease were not helped by a series of safety mishaps at federal research facilities.

  • Radicalization

    Mental health trusts in England are now to play a vital role in processing the huge number of citizens referred under the government’s counter-terrorism strategy, known as Prevent. A new policy announced in November by the Home Office means urgent psychiatric care will now be provided by mental health trusts to those people with psychological problems who are referred to Prevent. But this will remove them from a pipeline of support under a program called Channel, aimed at those suspected of radicalizing. No one could possibly object to the provision of mental health care to those in need. But on deeper inspection, the integration of mental health trusts within the Prevent strategy reveals profound confusion within counter-terrorism policies. And the move could give health professionals perverse incentives to actually refer patients with mental health needs to Prevent – because they think it might get them help quicker.

  • Iran nuke deal

    The Obama administration obstructed a campaign by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to monitor and prosecute Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, in order to solidify the 2015 nuclear accord with the Islamic Republic, according to a news report. The campaign, called Project Cassandra, launched in 2008, was aimed at disrupting Hezbollah’s weapons and drug trafficking practices, which included smuggling cocaine into the United States. Over the years, the Lebanese-based terror organization had morphed from a Middle East-focused military and political group into an international crime syndicate.

  • Biosecurity

    Biology and biotechnology have entered a digital age, but security policies around such activities have not kept pace. New research outlines how the evolving nature of biotechnology should sound alarm bells for new ways to keep life sciences assets safe. This could be from accidental cyber-physical breaches, or more nefarious threats.

  • Biosecurity

    Biosecurity prevents unauthorized access, loss and intentional release of biological pathogens, information and equipment that may cause harm. Biosecurity professionals from across the United States and Mexico gathered on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus 7-8 December, the first time a biosecurity conference of this scope had taken place in Arizona and one of the largest ever to be held in the United States. Leaders in the field shared multidisciplinary approaches and perspectives on biosecurity.

  • National security strategy

    In a speech later today, President Donald Trump will outline his administration’s national security strategy, which portrays the world as a more competitive arena for the great powers. The administrations of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama emphasized great power cooperation while focusing on emerging threats such as terrorism, disease, and climate change. “After being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition returned,” the new national security document says.

  • Terrorism

    New legislation — “Shielding Public Spaces from Vehicular Terrorism Act” — instructs DHS to develop tools to address evolving terror tactics, including vehicular attacks. The bill also ensures that first responders can use vital Homeland Security Grant Program and Urban Area Security Initiative funding to address security vulnerabilities of public spaces, such as bus stops, bike paths, and other mass gathering locations.

  • Terrorism & health

    Survivors of a terror attack have an increased risk of frequent migraine and tension headaches after the attack, according to a study. “We know a lot about the psychological effects of terror attacks and other extreme violence on survivors, but we don’t know much about the physical effects of these violent incidents,” said the study’s author. “Our study shows that a single highly stressful event may lead to ongoing suffering with frequent migraines and other headaches, which can be disabling when they keep people from their work or school activities.”

  • Biosecurity

    The Biological Weapons Convention Meeting of States Parties (MSP) was held last week, with many participants not knowing what to expect after last year’s failure of the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) Review Conference. One attendee noted that “the role of the NGOs felt even more important in such a disjointed climate where the future of the BWC was in many ways, up in the air. The importance of support and pushing for future cohesion regarding not only the intersessional process (ISP), but also S&T developments, was a significant point within the NGO statement.”

  • Hemispheric security

    Last Thursday, Argentinians woke up to a political earthquake as the federal judge Claudio Bonadio, who investigated the role of the government of ex-President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in covering up Iran’s involvement in the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center, indicted Kirchner, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, as well as other government officials. Experts argued that the treason charge brought against Kirchner and a number of her top aides vindicates the late Alberto Nisman’s investigation into the 1994 AMIA bombing.

  • Radicalization

    The Department of Defense has awarded four social science professors $794,000 to research the effects of extremist propaganda on different personality types, as well as the effects of different counter-messaging strategies. The research will answer basic questions about the effects of exposure to online extremist messages and counter-messages, such as: What kind of messaging is most effective? What are the short- and medium-term results of exposure to extremist messages and counter-messages? What personality characteristics in viewers make them more or less receptive to different kinds of messages?

  • 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.