• Killing Terrorist Leaders Gets Attention, But It Doesn’t Stop Terrorism

    For nearly two decades, American leaders have stressed the need to address the root causes of terrorism. More often, though, they focus on something else: killing terrorists. Much like the end of the territorial caliphate, Baghdadi’s death won’t end the group as a whole, or the threat it poses. The so-called kingpin strategy of pursuing terrorist leaders to defeat the groups they lead has had mixed results historically. So why does the United States pour so many resources and risk so many lives in pursuit of such dubiously effective ends? “The kingpin strategy provides instant gratification, and of course [addressing] root causes is something … that takes years if not decades,” Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations, said.

  • As Russia Makes 2020 Play, Democratic Campaigns Say They Are in the Dark, and Experts Fear U.S. Elections Are Vulnerable

    Several Democratic presidential campaigns targeted by a Russia-based operation on Facebook’s popular Instagram app said they had been unaware of the new foreign disinformation efforts until the tech giant announced them publicly last week, raising alarms that American democracy remains vulnerable to foreign interference even after three years of investigations into the Kremlin’s attack on the 2016 election. Some said they were unnerved by the nature of the recent Instagram posts, which seemed to target battleground states and demonstrated a nuanced understanding of the dynamics at play in the 2020 Democratic primary race.

  • Addressing the National Security Threat of White Supremacist Terrorism

    In 2018, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) tracked 50 extremist-related murders, 49 of which were committed by far-right extremists and the majority specifically perpetrated by white supremacists. In the past decade, far-right extremists were responsible for 73 percent of extremist-related murders in the U.S. The Aug. 3 shooting in El Paso took the lives of 22 people, making it the most violent white supremacist attack in 50 years. Jonathan Greenblatt and George Selim write that white supremacist violence is on the rise—but it is not new. Not unlike groups such as the Islamic State that are attempting to push back on modernity, white supremacists rage against trends like demographic change and globalization. Their anger toward outsiders typically is racial in nature, as they rail against “brown” or “black” people, and they perceive the Jewish people as their ultimate enemies, responsible for a global conspiracy that includes “open borders,” “multiculturalism” and “globalism” as strategies to engineer “white genocide.”

  • Baghdadi’s Final Humiliation

    Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the hirsute rapist whom hundreds of thousands of Islamic State supporters considered their absolute leader, died Saturday during a U.S. military raid in northwestern Syria’s Idlib province. His death will definitively end an era that had already, in a sense, ended, if not with a whimper then with an inglorious bleating of complaints from his own flock. For years now, the hardest thing for outsiders to understand about the Islamic State has been its ability to inspire—to get some Muslims to leave comfortable circumstances to fight and die. For the past year, even as the world has diverted its attention from ISIS, the group’s ability to inspire has been severely diminished, and almost no one is leaving home to die for ISIS, or choosing to die in suicide attacks for ISIS at home. The inspiration is gone, and the party is over, for now. And although Baghdadi has obtained the martyrdom he sought, he got it in the end not as a caliph but as just another bloody hairball in a pile of rubble.

  • Trump’s Syria Troop Withdrawal Complicated Plans for al-Baghdadi Raid

    President Trump’s abrupt order three weeks ago to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria disrupted the meticulous, patient planning which was underway for killing al-Baghdadi, and forced Pentagon officials to speed up the plan for the risky night raid before their ability to control troops, spies, and reconnaissance aircraft disappeared with the pullout, senior officials said. Al-Baghdadi’s death in the raid on Saturday, they said, occurred largely in spite of, and not because of, Trump’s actions. Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said on Sunday that “The irony of the successful operation against al-Baghdadi is that it could not have happened without U.S. forces on the ground that have been pulled out, help from Syrian Kurds who have been betrayed, and support of a U.S. intelligence community that has so often been disparaged.” He added: “While the raid was obviously a welcome success, the conditions that made the operation possible may not exist in the future.”

  • Russia Will Test Its Ability to Disconnect from the Internet

    Russia will test its internal RuNet network to see whether the country can function without the global internet, the Russian government announced Monday. The tests will begin after Nov. 1, recur at least annually, and possibly more frequently. It’s the latest move in a series of technical and policy steps intended to allow the Russian government to cut its citizens off from the rest of the world. Patrick Tucker writes that RuNet isn’t expected to improve the online experience for Russian people or companies. It’s all about control, making the country more technologically independent, and reducing the Putin regime’s vulnerability to popular uprising.

  • AI Could Be a Disaster for Humanity. A Top Computer Scientist Thinks He Has the Solution.

    Stuart Russell is a leading AI researcher who co-authored the top textbook on the topic. He has also, for the last several years, been warning that his field has the potential to go catastrophically wrong. In a new book, Human Compatible, he explains how. AI systems, he notes, are evaluated by how good they are at achieving their objective: winning video games, writing humanlike text, solving puzzles. If they hit on a strategy that fits that objective, they will run with it, without explicit human instruction to do so.

  • Bomb Attacks Are Now a Normal Part of Swedish Life

    “Normalization” is a term that we have come to associate with domestic violence: the victim begins to think of abuse as a part of everyday life. Paulina Neuding writes that explosions have become so normalized in Sweden that SVT, Sweden’s equivalent of the BBC, did not even mention the three explosions in the country’s capital on its national news program that evening. The explosions were left to the local news. Wilhelm Agrell, professor of intelligence analysis at Lund University, has warned that the situation has become so dire that the integrity of the Swedish state is in jeopardy. “The state’s monopoly on violence, the actual token of a sovereign government, has been hollowed out bit by bit and no longer exists,” he wrote a few weeks ago. “The armed criminal violence is having effects that are increasingly similar to those of terrorism.”

  • With anti-Semitism on the Rise Again, There Are Steps Everyone Can Take to Counter It

    Keeping track of all the attacks against American Jews these days is just about impossible unless it’s your full-time job. Jamie Levine Daniel, Jodi Benenson, and Rachel Fyall, all professors of public administration, write that “As we work to train government and nonprofit leaders to address issues like anti-Semitism, we also have identified four simple steps that anyone can take to counter it.”

  • New UN Report on Online Hate Speech

    Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, recently gave a highly promoted speech about the importance of protecting freedom of expression online—which was immediately criticized as taking too binary a view of the issues and presenting a false choice between free expression and Chinese censorship. Evelyn Douek writes that by contrast, David Kaye, the United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the freedom of opinion and expression, in a 9 October report, offered a very real reckoning with the trade-offs involved in protecting free speech while dealing with the real harm caused by some forms of expression, and is an attempt to find guiding, consistent standards. “There is still a lot of work to be done, not least by the companies themselves, to make this a reality,” Douek writes. “But this latest report will be a useful and influential guide in that process.”

  • Concerns Persist about Fate of Captured Islamic State Terrorists

    Fears that Turkey’s offensive in northeastern Syria allowed untold numbers of captured Islamic State terror group fighters to escape may be overblown, according to U.S. officials. Since Turkish-backed forces crossed the border and began clashing with Kurdish fighters aligned with the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), there have been reports of SDF-run prisons coming under attack and of IS fighters running free. But Wednesday, the U.S. insisted almost all of the estimated 12,000 captured IS fighters, including about 2,000 fighters from outside Syria and Iraq, were still behind bars.

  • Emerging Risk: Virtual Societal Warfare

    The evolution of advanced information environments is rapidly creating a new category of possible cyberaggression which involves efforts to manipulate or disrupt the information foundations of the effective functioning of economic and social systems. Researchers are calling this growing threat “virtual societal warfare.”

  • They’re Not All Racist Nut Jobs – and 4 Other Observations about the Patriot Militia Movement

    The so-called patriot movement is grabbing headlines once again, as its members pledge to protect Trump supporters at the president’s campaign rallies across the country. The patriot movement is a fragmented and fractious coalition of groups that distrust the federal government. Members believe the government is impeding their rights and liberties – but the movement is not monolithic, and it less black and white. Despite public perceptions, few members of the various appeared to be mentally ill or outwardly racist. Instead, their grievances and principles stem from a range of motivations, personal circumstances and political philosophies.

  • Trolls Exploit Weaknesses of Social Media Platforms to Spread Online Hate, Report Finds

    Social media platform design enables online harassment, as trolls often carry out coordinated attacks on a target by leveraging key platform features, according to a new report. Such features include the ability to be anonymous online, to create multiple accounts by one person, the fact that there is no limit to the number of messages one user can send to another, and the use of personal networks as weaponized audiences.

  • How a Weaponized Dollar Could Backfire

    United States foreign policy under President Donald Trump continues to run counter to America’s traditional post-war objectives. Should the U.S. carelessly relinquish leadership of the global multilateral order, the dollar might eventually lose its own long-standing primacy.