Government

  • Leader of Khorasan Group in Syria killed in U.S. airstrike

    The leader of the Khorasan Group, an al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group in Syria, was killed on 8 July in a U.S. airstrike in Syria, the Pentagon said. Kuwait-born Muhsin al-Fadhli, who had a $7 million bounty on his head from the U.S. government, was killed when a vehicle in which he was traveling near the Syrian town of Sarmada was hit by a missile. Islamic State has captured the headlines, but security experts say that Khorasan may pose a more immediate danger to the United States and Western European countries.

  • Central African Republic on verge of becoming a failed state

    The Central African Republic (CAR), one of the poorest countries in the world, suffers not only from mass atrocities and misrule, but also a dangerous dependence on aid, said the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in a report released the other day. Since early 2013 over half of CAR’s population has been the victim of sectarian violence which has cost over 6,000 deaths, leaving 2.7 million people in need of emergency assistance. Harvests have decreased by 58 percent and 1.52 million people are food insecure.

  • House Appropriations Committee approves DHS spending measure

    The House Appropriations Committee approved its FY 2016 spending bill funding homeland security programs. The bill provides DHS with $39.3 billion in discretionary funding, which is $337 million below the amount enacted for FY 2015 and $2 billion less than the president’s request. The committee’s consideration of the measure was dominated by acrimonious debate over sanctuary cities, and House appropriators adopted three Republican-sponsored amendments related to the killing of a San Francisco woman by an immigrant who was in the United States illegally after being deported to Mexico several times.

  • Initiative launched to expose those who fund, profit from wars in Africa

    Oscar-winner actor George Clooney, in an effort to tackle corruption in war zones, on Monday launched an initiative to identify and help bring to justice individuals funding and profiting from Africa’s deadliest conflicts. Clooney and U.S. human rights activist John Prendergast launched the project, called The Sentry, which will investigate money flowing in and out of conflict zones, and pass on the information to policymakers to take action.

  • U.S. thwarted “over 60” ISIS-linked plots, but missed Chattanooga attack: McCaul

    Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the United States was successful in thwarting “over 60” would-be terrorist attacks by “ISIS followers” in the last year. Referring to the attack in Chattanooga, Tennessee, McCaul said: “What keeps us up at night are really the ones that we don’t know about and I’m afraid that this case really falls into that category.” He added: “If it can happen in Chattanooga, it can happen anywhere, anytime, anyplace and that’s our biggest fear.” McCaul also advocated “taking the war” to what he called “cyber commanders” of terrorist groups overseas. “We need to hit these guys, these cyber commanders who are sending these Internet directives out to attack, attack, attack in the United States. We need to identify them and take them out.”

  • Syrian Kurdish militia says ISIS used poison gas in attacks on militia fighters

    A Syrian-Kurdish militia and a group monitoring the Syrian war have said Islamic State used poison gas in attacks against Kurdish-controlled areas of north-east Syria in late June. The Kurdish YPG militia said ISIS had fired “makeshift chemical projectiles” on 28 June at a YPG-controlled area of the city of Hasakah, and at YPG positions south of the town of Tel Brak to the north-east of Hasakah. In January, Kurdish sources in Iraq said that ISIS used chlorine gas as a chemical weapon against Kurdish peshmerga fighters on 23 January. In the previous Islamist insurgency in Iraq – in Anbar province, in 2006-2007 – there was evidence of chemical use by the insurgents. The insurgents in 2006-2007 were members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which later transformed itself into ISIS.

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  • Extremist groups use social media to lure recruits, find support

    In the past, extremist groups have used tools and forums which were available: Rallies, pamphleteering, and marching in parades were the primary means used for recruitment and spreading their message. Now, as is the case with many other individuals and groups, these efforts have adapted to more contemporary media to target college and university campuses, to gain new members or, at least, sympathy to their cause. They now use the Internet to conduct forums and publish newsletters, a method that exposes potentially millions to their message.

  • Questions raised about Kaspersky’s close ties to the Russian government

    Kaspersky Lab is a Moscow-based company which sells security software, including antivirus programs. The company has 400 million customers, and it ranks sixth in revenue among security-software makers. Since 2012, the company began to replace senior managers with people with close ties to Russia’s military or intelligence services. The company is also helping the FSB, the KGB’s successor, in investigating hacks – and people in the know say the company provides the FSB with the personal data of customers. The company’s actual or perceived alliances have made it a struggle to win U.S. federal contracts.

  • Libyan factions, outside powers use southwest Libya tribes in proxy war

    Since September last year, a bloody war has been raging between the Tuareg and Tebu, two indigenous tribes in the remote Saharan oasis town of Ubari, in Libya’s rich southern oil fields near Libya’s border with Algeria, Niger, and Chad. Each side is supported by different Libyan factions and outside forces, all vying for control of the mineral-rich and politically volatile area. As the United States and Europe grow more concerned about the growing presence of ISIS in Libya, they have begun to pay more attention to the war between the Tuareg and Tebu and the potential it offers for ISIS for more mischief.

  • CBP violated rules in deporting thousands of unaccompanied children

    A U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) audit says U.S. Border Patrol agents were in violation of agency rules when, between 2009 and 2014, they deported thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children. The GAO said that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) repatriated 93 percent of unaccompanied children under age 14 from Mexico and Canada – and did so without documenting what procedures they followed to ascertain that the children would be safe when they return to their home countries.

  • Buhari replaces Nigeria’s top military leaders as fight against Boko Haram intensifies

    Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, made defeating the Islamist Boko Haram insurgents his top priority, and earlier this week he took the first decisive step toward achieving this goal: He sacked the defense minister; the commanders of the army, navy, and air force; the head of the defense intelligence service, and the national security adviser. The Boko Haram insurgency, which began in 2009, has killed as many as 15,000 and displaced 1.5 million people.

  • The science behind the deal

    The main U.S. objective of the deal with Iran is to decrease the riskiness of Iran’s civilian nuclear program to a point which (1) future nuclear weapon production would be unlikely, and (2) if Iran does cheat, it would be detected with reasonable certainty. Have the objectives been achieved in the deal signed 14 July? It is important to keep in mind that it is not reasonable for opponents of the deal to demand 100 percent certainty in verifying the agreement and it is also not necessary. A cost-benefit analysis is always done to determine what is feasible. Often this is not understood, and unreasonable demands may be placed on the verification regime.

  • The nuclear deal with Iran: Highlights

    The details of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed yesterday, 14 July 2015, in Vienna are complicated and mostly of technical nature, but the agreement itself is not much more than a bargain between the world’s powers and Iran: Iran agreed to accept the imposition of exceedingly strict limits on its nuclear program in exchange for a return of its frozen assets and the lifting of the crippling sanctions the United States, the EU, and the UN had imposed on it for its refusal to live within the strictures of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which it is a member.

  • New U.K. surveillance review calls for a fresh start in the law for interception of communications

    After a year of investigation and consultation, the U.K. Independent Surveillance Review has delivered its conclusions to Prime Minister David Cameron. The authors presented their report, A Democratic License to Operate, yesterday (14 July 2015). The Review shows how a democracy can combine the high level of security the public has a right to expect, and also ensure the respect for privacy and freedom of speech that are the foundations of a democracy. The panel unanimously calls on government, civil society, and industry to accept its recommendations and work together to put them into practice.

  • Mass. man arrested for planning ISIS-inspired attack on a college campus

    Alexander Ciccolo, 23, who is also known as Ali Al Amriki, was arrested by the FBI for planning to carry out an Islamic State-inspired attack on one or two Boston college campuses, using guns and improvised explosives, including a pressure-cooker bomb like the ones used in the Boston Marathon bombing. Ciccolo was arrested after he took a delivery of four guns on 4 July. He was under surveillance by law enforcement since September, when his father, a Boston police captain, alerted federal authorities about his son’s growing infatuation with Islam and the Islamic State. Ciccolo told a cooperating witness that his attack would be concentrated on dormitories and a cafeteria, according to court documents, “and would include executions of students broadcast live via the Internet.”