Government

  • The military option against Iran: Not a single strike, but a sustained campaign

    The new, 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator, or MOP, is one weapon the United would likely use if a decision is made to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. Military analysts say that while the destruction of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure will not be easy, it can be done. They also agree that it would halt Iran’s nuclear program only temporarily, and that it would take Iran three to four years to rebuild its nuclear capacity. “A single military strike would only delay an Iranian drive for a finite period so a credible military option would have to envision a long-term campaign of repeated follow-up strikes as facilities are rebuilt or new targets identified,” says one analyst. “This is within the U.S. capability, but would require policy consistency and sustained determination across several U.S. administrations. What is crucial is not the bomb, but a multiyear campaign of vigilance and precise intelligence of new targets.”

  • Studying terrorists' social-media recruiting power in order to negate it

    Last month a United Nations panel asked social-media companies such as Twitter and Facebook to respond to how terrorist groups use their networks to spread propaganda or recruit members with increasing success. As these terrorist groups, such as ISIS or al-Qaeda, evolve their social-media skills, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Minerva Project is funding a research project by a team of researchers who will be monitoring these groups’ advancements and trying to determine how their online actions can be negated.

  • In attacks on Egyptian targets, Sinai Islamists emulate ISIS tactics in Syria, Iraq

    An ISIS-affiliated Islamist group says it is in control of several cities in northern Sinai, following heavy fighting Wednesday in which nearly seventy Egyptian soldiers and more than 100 Islamists were killed. It is not yet known how many civilians were killed in the fighting, which is continuing this morning. Analysts say that the escalation of the fighting in Sinai, and the Islamists’ changing tactics, mean that what we are witnessing is an all-out war between the Egyptian state and the militants, a war which is coming to resemble the war conducted by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The comparisons between the Sinai Islamists and ISIS should not be overdrawn, though. There are many important differences between the situation in Syria and Iraq, on the one hand, and the situation in Egypt.

  • Islamist militants kill more than 60 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai attacks

    At least sixty Egyptian soldiers have been killed so far in several coordinated attacks this morning by ISIS militants on Egyptian military positions and political buildings in the Sinai Peninsula. The attacks, which according to Egyptian sources involved more than seventy Islamists, included the simultaneous explosion of car bombs and at several locations. Islamists militants in northern Sinai, which borders Israel and the Gaza Strip, have battled the Egyptian security forces for years. After the Muslim Brotherhood was removed from power in July 2013, and after thousands of the movement’s followers were killed and jailed and it was banned, the Islamists in Sinai expanded their activity inside Egypt, getting support from some of the followers of the Muslim Brotherhood.

  • Studying the connections between organized crime, terrorism in Eurasia

    Eurasia is a major international drug trafficking hotspot that supports insurgent movements and terrorism, and it is an important site where terrorism and transnational organized crime intersect, according to the grant application. The breakup of the Soviet Union, which eliminated some terrorist organization funding, and the U.S. crackdown on money laundering and financial operations that supported terrorism after 9/11 have led terrorist groups to rely more heavily on organized crime. The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded researchers a $935,500 grant to study the connection of organized crime, terrorism and insurgency in Eurasia.

  • Privacy by design: Protecting privacy in the digital world

    It is a fact of modern life — with every click, every tweet, every Facebook Like, we hand over information about ourselves to organizations which are desperate to know all of our secrets, in the hope that those secrets can be used to sell us something. What power can individuals have over their data when their every move online is being tracked? Researchers are building new systems that shift the power back to individual users, and could make personal data faster to access and at much lower cost.

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  • Turkish forces to enter Syria to create buffer zone along border

    Turkey, for the first time since the war in Syria began four years ago, is preparing to send troops into Syria. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has authorized a change in the rules of engagement which were agreed to by the Turkish parliament, and the changes would allow the Turkish army to strike ISIS and Assad regime targets. The goal of the new policy is not new: to create a buffer zone inside Syria for Syrian refugees fleeing the regime’s bombing, but Erdogan has also suggested that the main target of the intervention, if it takes place, will be to prevent the Syrian Kurds from creating a Kurdish state in the Kurdish regions of Syria.

  • Afghans do not view U.S.-led war in their country as “their war”: Report

    Afghan security forces, like their fellow citizens more generally, do not view the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan as “their war.” This is a primary policy-relevant conclusion reached in one of two new reports issued last week by the Costs of War Project at Brown’s University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. Members of the Afghan National Police Force (ANP) do not see the war as their own; they participate as a means of employment to make a living and support family members, particularly given the lack of economic opportunities after thirty-five years of armed conflict and foreign occupation.

  • 2014 uncertainty over renewal of Terrorism Risk Insurance Act changed consumer behavior

    Terrorism insurance take-up rates dropped off toward the end of 2014, due to the anxiety stemming from the unexpected expiration of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (TRIPRA). Through much of 2014, there was uncertainty whether Congress would renew the program, which initially passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This uncertainty led customers, and potential customers, to change their insurance buying plans.

  • California's strict vaccine bill would not allow vaccination waiver

    Last Thursday, the California State Assembly passed SB227, an amendment to the current vaccine bill which would eliminate a waiver for parents to opt out of having their children vaccinated. The proposal passed on a 46-31 vote and is now going back to the Senate this week to confirm the amendments.Under SB277, students who are not vaccinated would have to be homeschooled or participate in off-campus study programs.

  • Anti-government extremism most prevalent terrorist threat inside U.S.: Law enforcement

    U.S. law enforcement agencies rank the threat of violence from anti-government extremists higher than the threat from radicalized Muslims, according to a report released last Thursday by the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security (TCTHS). The data were collected in early 2014, before security agencies began noting increased activity and recruitment of Americans by the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS). In follow-up telephone interviews with law enforcement personnel, the officers did not modify their initial responses in light of ISIS threats within the United States.

  • Internet facilitates radicalization of Westerners, even as reasons vary

    Since the early 2000s the Internet has become an important tool for the global jihadist movement. Nowhere has the Internet been more important in the movement’s development than in the West. A new study says that while dynamics differ from case to case, it is fair to state that almost all recent cases of radicalization in the West involve at least some digital footprint. Jihadism is a complex ideology that mixes religion and politics. The study confirms, however, the importance of its religious aspect for many of those who embrace violence — a fact some studies have dismissed.

  • Two terrorists attack U.S.-owned factory in France, decapitating one worker

    The French police is investigating what appears to be a terrorist attack on a factory owned by a U.S. gas company after a decapitated body and a flag with Islamist inscriptions were found in a factory in south-east France belonging to a U.S. gas company. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said one of the attackers was killed by a firefighter, and that other firefighters captured the second attacker, who was identified as Yessim Salim. Cazeneuve told reporters that Salim was under surveillance by the French security services since 2008. The severed head was found on top of the gate at the entrance to the factory.

  • Iran offered nuclear help in exchange for tighter restrictions on weapons-related technology

    The talks between the P5+1 and Iran over a nuclear deal resumed on Wednesday, and sources say that Western powers have offered Iran high-tech reactors in exchange for further curbs on those aspects of Iran’s nuclear program which would make it possible for it to “break out” of the confines of the deal and build a nuclear weapon. The Western powers promised to supply Iran with light-water nuclear reactors instead of its nearly completed heavy-water facility at Arak, which could produce enough plutonium for several bombs a year if completed as planned. One of the major goals of the P5+1 negotiators has been to reduce the Arak reactor’s plutonium output, thus blocking Iran’s plutonium path to the bomb. It offers cooperation with Iran in the fields of nuclear safety, nuclear medicine, research, nuclear waste removal, and other peaceful applications.

  • California Republicans introduce bill to improve Western water reliability

    Republican members of the California congressional delegation yesterday introducing a bill to modernize water policies in California and throughout the Western United States. The bill has the support of the entire California Republican delegation, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and chairman of the Western Caucus. The bill’s authors say that H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, aims to make more water available to families, farmers, and communities in California and bordering Western states. The bill takes aim at what the authors describe as the “dedication of vast quantities of water to protect certain species of fish listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) [which] is a significant obstacle hindering water delivery in Central and Southern California.” H.R. 2898 will require federal agencies to use current and reliable data when making regulatory decisions, which in turn will provide more water for communities in need.