Government

  • Boston's aging pipes leak high levels of heat-trapping methane

    The aging system of underground pipes and tanks that delivers natural gas to Boston-area households and businesses leaks high levels of methane, with adverse economic, public health, and environmental consequences. Now a group of atmospheric scientists at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) has produced hard numbers that quantify the extent of the problem.

  • U.S. officials: 6,000 ISIS fighters and “more than half” of the group’s leadership killed

    The U.S.-led airstrikes campaign has “taken more than half” of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) leadership, U.S. ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones said. Jones said the airstrikes were having a “devastating” effect on ISIS. “We estimate that the airstrikes have now killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq,” Jones said. He added that the airstrikes have “destroyed more than a thousand of ISIS vehicles inside Iraq.”

  • Radicalized Muslims from Central Asia flock to Syria to join ISIS

    The Islamic State (IS) is attracting Central Asians to Syria and fostering new links among radicals within the region. Unless the five Central Asian governments develop a credible, coordinated counter-action plan, including improved security measures but also social, political and economic reforms, growing radicalism will eventually pose a serious threat to their stability.

  • Saudi Arabia constructing 600-mile wall along its border with Iraq

    Saudi Arabia has been busy since September busy building a 600-mile East-to-West barrier which will run along its Northern border with Iraq.The primary purpose of the wall is to keep out Islamic State (ISIS) militants who have claimed that their goals are the eventual takeover of the holy cities of Mecca and Medinia, which lie well inside of Saudi Arabia’s borders.

  • European govts. urge U.S. tech companies to remove terrorist-related postings from sites

    The terror attacks in Paris have led French and German authorities to call on U.S. tech firms to help identify terrorist communications and remove hate speech from social media sites. The United Kingdom has also, for several months now, pressed Internet firms to be proactive in removing extremist content such as videos of sermons by radical Islamic preachers or recruitment material, from their sites. These recent requests for more cooperation between U.S. tech firms and European governments contrast with calls from many of the same governments who, following the Edward Snowden leaks, criticized U.S. tech firms for being too close to law enforcement agencies.

  • Researchers try to develop a methodology for predicting terrorist acts

    While counterterrorism agencies rely on surveillance and other forms of classified data to predict terrorist attacks, researchers and analysts are attempting to define what terrorism is and how it has evolved over time in order better to identify trends and patterns in terrorist activities. This better understanding may help predict the next major attack. Reliable predictions would be helpful not just for counterterrorism experts, but also for insurance underwriters who must consider the terrorism risk faced by large projects.

  • OBL’s assistant on trial in New York for 1998 bombing of U.S. Nairobi embassy

    Yesterday’s jury selection in a Manhattan courtroom brought tears to the eyes of many victims of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. Khalid al-Fawwaz, alleged assistant to Osama Bin Laden, will stand trial for his part in helping plan the attack and for operating an al-Qaeda media office in London between 1994 and the time of his arrest. Prosecution of those involved in the 1998 attack has been slow, but progress has been made. Six men involved in the bombing were sentenced to life sentences in November 1998, several other participants of the attack have been killed abroad, including Bin Laden, but four remain at large.

  • Europe to tackle Jihadist radicalization in prison

    The problem of prison radicalization is raising complicated questions for lawmakers and security officials across Europe. One problem: Thousands of Europeans have joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and experts say that if apprehended upon returning home, these jihadists will be interned in European jails and continue their mission of radicalizing others, leading to an intensification of the problem of prison radicalization.

  • Belgium terror raids and Paris attacks reveal urgent need for pan-European security

    In the immediate aftermath of major attacks in Paris, counter-terrorism raids in Belgium saw two suspected terrorists killed and another arrested. These incidents have dramatically raised the sense of insecurity across Europe — and they’ve done so at a time when Europe’s security infrastructure is struggling to cope with the threats it faces. European security agencies, both internal and external, must urgently improve their co-operation and co-ordination. After all, Europe’s security challenges know no borders, and they must be dealt with as such. The recent counter-terrorism operations and arrests across Europe show that security agencies are moving toward quicker and sharper preventative action. What they do not demonstrate is that there is yet any seriously coordinated approach to European security. Achieving that is central to reducing the sense of insecurity across Europe at a frightening and dangerous time. But there is little sign Europe is confident about how to do it without undermining the very freedoms it is trying to protect.

  • Paris suing Fox News over false report about Muslim “no-go” zones in city

    Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, said the city would sue Fox News for what she said was the network’s false reporting on the city following the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the kosher grocery store. Hidalgo was referring to assertions by several Fox TV shows’ hosts and guests that there were “no-go zones” in Paris — that is, neighborhoods where non-Muslims and even police would not enter. During one broadcast, Fox News showed a map of Paris on the screen which outlined seven such purportedly no-go zones.

  • EU launches a series of counterterrorism initiatives

    Using Europol, which has new authority to collect information on people who have never been convicted of a criminal offense, the EU is planning to create a more centralized intelligence sharing system which will allow security services to monitor and track suspects throughout the union. EU officials are also looking to improve information sharing with Arab countries.

  • Proposed changes to CFAA, RICO would criminalize cybersecurity research: Critics

    Cybersecurity professionals are concerned that the White House’s proposed changes to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) and the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, could criminalize cybersecurity research. The legislative proposals would make accessing public documents illegal if the documents’ owner would not have approved; create stricter punishments for anyone convicted of a cybercrime; and would allow the government to seize assets connected to cybercrimes. The White House also proposes upgrading hacking to a “racketeering” offense.

  • Islamic fundamentalism is not a marginal phenomenon in Europe

    A comprehensive new comparative study of religious dispositions among European Muslims and Christians finds that between 40 percent and 45 percent of European Muslims have fundamentalist religious ideas. The percentage goes down among the young and among individuals with higher social and economic status. A PEW Research Center study, using the same criteria for fundamentalism, found that Islamic fundamentalists make up slightly more than 30 percent of U.S. Muslims. Only 4 percent of European Christians are fundamentalists. Fundamentalist beliefs among both Muslims and Christians are closely associated with hostility toward other out-groups, including homosexuals, Jews, and Westerners (in the case of Muslims) or Muslims (in the case of Christians) – but violence does not necessarily form part of a fundamentalist ideology (thus, the Jewish Neturei Karta of the Christian Amish are at the same time among the most fundamentalist religiously and the most violence-averse). The research quotes other studies which found that between 10 percent and 15 percent of European Muslims are prepared to use violence to defend their faith, but that the increase in the propensity for violence among Muslim fundamentalists is a relatively recent phenomenon — of the last two or three decades.

  • Kathryn Bigelow and the bogus link between ivory and terrorism

    It is often said that if something is repeated often enough, it becomes accepted as true. This has certainly been the case for the link between terrorism and the poaching of elephants for the ivory trade. As with any illegal activity, it is very difficult to obtain reliable data on the size of the ivory trade, but it is clear that the allegations linking ivory to terrorist groups are exceedingly weak. Those who keep asserting, for example, that Somali terror group al-Shabaab trades in ivory clearly have something to gain from pushing the link between ivory and terrorism beyond the available evidence. However, it is also clear that in the long run it is not only their own credibility that is at risk but that of a whole conservation movement. Conservationists have focused large on messages of doom and gloom that often sound as if holding humanity for ransom if the environmental crisis is not addressed. If we are serious about keeping the public’s trust, we must ensure that we are driven by evidence, not the hype, lest we become the boy who cried wolf.

  • Israeli strike in Syria kills Hezbollah commanders, six Iranian officers

    Israeli helicopter on Sunday fired missiles at a 3-car convoy near the village of Mazrat al-Amal on the outskirts of Quneitra. The convoy was traveling inside Syria, two or three miles from the Israeli border, carrying Jihad Mughniyeh, the son of former Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed by Israel in February 2008. In all, twelve people – six Hezbollah members and six Iranian military commanders and soldiers — were killed in the attack, in addition to Mughnyyeh. They include two Hezbollah officers — field commander Mohammad Issa, who goes by the nom de guerre “Abu Issa,” and Ismail al-Ashhab – and Abu Ali al-Tabtabai, also known as “Abu Ali Reza,” the Iranian Commander in the Syrian Golan Heights.