• SurveillanceMore powers, tighter monitoring: Germany reforms its intelligence service

    The Bundestag has passed a comprehensive reform of the BND, Germany’s main intelligence service. The legislation strengthens government monitoring of intelligence powers, and allows the BND to carry out certain types of surveillance activities. The reform is a response to two recent developments: the 2013 Snowden revelations that the BND had spied on German citizens on behalf of the NSA, and the growing concerns about terrorism in Europe. The new legislation thus gives the BND more powers – but subjects it to tighter judiciary monitoring.

  • Military challengesSpecial forces should be at the heart of Britain’s military planning

    By Ian Shields

    What sort of military does the United Kingdom need to deal with a rapidly changing set of potential threats? As Western countries increasingly move away from the conventional foe — one that is easily identified, armed in a similar way and which, most critically, thinks in a similar way, and therefore in a conventional and predictable manner – it’s time to reappraise the sort of armed forces required for the future. It is no longer the size of your arsenal of firepower but how well it is employed that matters. Organizations such as Islamic State understand that well: their actions are carefully targeted to achieve maximum effect with limited resources. With technology on the Western side, the best counter to this present – and likely future – threat, will be to adopt in turn Voltaire’s maxim and concentrate increasingly on special, and specialized, forces.

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  • Terrorism & encryptionU.K. police charges man with terrorism over researching, using encryption

    Samata Ullah, a 33-year old Briton, earlier this month was charged in a London court with six counts of terrorism, one of which related to researching and using encryption. Privacy advocates say that a controversial statute under British law criminalizes, in the name of combatting terrorism, actions which, on their own, are perfectly legal.

  • Countering violent extremism Effective counter-extremism policy in the U.S. would focus on individuals, not entire communities

    The Obama administration’s domestic CVE policy has strained relations with an entire religious community, in large part because its policy perceives American Muslims through a security lens. The CVE efforts primarily consist of outreach to Muslim leaders to keep the community onside and encourage information sharing about vulnerable youth — but the community rarely knows about youth who are radicalized in their midst, and the vast majority of Muslims do not embrace violent extremism. Of the world’s jihadi foreign fighter population, there have been approximately 250 people mobilized out of 3.3 million Muslims in America (a mere .000075 percent). The U.S. government should jettison a community-oriented approach, and instead focus on individuals who have demonstrated a clear and sustained interest in jihadist propaganda, not an entire faith-based community.

  • ISISISIS fighters coming home after Mosul defeat pose threat to EU countries

    ISIS supporters who left Europe to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq have been fleeing from Mosul in the face of the U.S.-led coalition offensive – and European security officials say that as they come back home, they would pose a “serious threat” to European security. Experts warn that as the group loses power, the fighters will return home and continue the ideological battle on their home turf, even if the group is no longer in control of territory in the Middle East.

  • Torture chambersIraq maintained a secret “torture chamber” in diplomatic mission in New York City

    The Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein kept what it called a “detention room” – a euphemism for a torture chamber — in the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Iraq, a five-floor apartment building on 79th Street. One of the rooms in the mission was converted to a torture chamber after Saddam seized power in Iraq in 1979. Saddam’s security police used the space to imprison Iraqis living in the United States – at times for up to fifteen days — and use the prisoners as leverage against their family members back in Iraq. Quite a few uncooperative prisoners were killed, and their bodies shipped back to Iraq in diplomatic boxes.

  • Radiation risksDeveloping tests for radiation absorbed in nuclear emergency

    In a large-scale nuclear or radiological emergency, such as a nuclear detonation, hundreds of thousands of people may need medical care for injuries or illness caused by high doses of radiation. To help save as many people as possible and better prepare the nation for the health impacts of such catastrophic emergencies, HHS will sponsor late-stage development of two tests, known as biodosimetry tests, which can determine how much radiation a person’s body has absorbed.

  • Radiation risksHHS bolsters U.S. health preparedness for radiological threats

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) says that as a part of its mission to help protect Americans’ health following even the most unthinkable of disasters, it is purchasing two medical products to treat injuries to bone marrow in victims of radiological or nuclear incidents. Bone marrow is essential to producing blood.

  • ISISSyrian opposition easily captures Dabiq – town central to ISIS apocalyptic theology

    Syrian opposition fighters backed by the Turkish military took over the town of Dabiq, facing only “minimal” resistance from ISIS fighters, who had control of the town since 2014. Analysts say that ISIS token resistance was surprising, considering the fact that ISIS propaganda had depicted the battle for Dabiq as an apocalyptic final battle between Muslims and Christians, heralding the end of days. Still, ISIS theologians – perhaps sensing that the combined forces of the Syrian opposition and Turkey would easily defeat the ISIS forces in Dabiq — two weeks ago offered an interpretation in ISIS al-Naba online publication, saying that the battle at Dabiq would not, after all, herald the apocalypse.

  • Domestic terrorism3 Kansas men arrested for plotting massive attack on a complex housing Somali refugees

    The Garden City, Kansas police on Friday arrested three members of a far-right militia group for plotting to bomb an apartment complex in Garden City, in which about 120 Somali refugees live. The complex also houses a mosque. Supporters of far-right nationalist ideology – sometime referred to as “alt-right” – have been using an apocalyptic language, which has been adopted by Donald Trump, describing the refugee program as an “invasion” of the country which amounts to “national suicide” for the United States.

  • Domestic terrorismDefining – and monitoring -- domestic terrorism in the U.S.

    Domestic terrorism in the United States “is not just a function of a couple of militia related guys taking over something out West. It’s not just a bunch of white supremacist in white hoods,” says Thomas Brzozowski was appointed to lead the Justice Department’s new domestic terrorism office a year ago. In the past, a host of groups such as anarchists and the Ku Klux Klan have been under surveillance by the federal government. When the FBI was formed in the early twentieth century, communists and later anti-war activists, women’s rights organizations, and civil rights groups came to be viewed as domestic threats. Brzozowski says that today’s Justice Department is more sensitive to the free exercise of civil liberties.

  • HezbollahHezbollah cell charged with laundering Colombian drug money in Miami

    Three men linked to the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah were accused of laundering drug money on behalf of the Colombian cartel after authorities said they illegally moved $500,000 into Miami banks. The arrest underscores increased law-enforcement scrutiny on the role of Middle Eastern terror groups who use financial networks in Latin America to earn untold millions off drug profits.

  • BioterrorismNew candidate vaccines against the plague show promise

    The plague of Black Death infamy has had the power to strike fear in people since the Middle Ages — and for good reason. Once someone begins to show symptoms, the disease progresses very quickly and is almost 100 percent fatal without prompt treatment. Antibiotic-resistant Y. pestis strains have been isolated from plague patients and can be engineered for use as a bioweapon. Researchers have developed new potential vaccines that protect animals against the bacteria that causes the deadly plague.

  • Gangster jihadEuropean jihadists and the new crime-terror nexus

    A new study of European jihadists and the increasing convergence between criminal and jihadist milieus, challenges long-held assumptions about radicalization, recruitment, and how to counter terrorism. The presence of former criminals in terrorist groups is neither new nor unprecedented. But with ISIS and the ongoing mobilization of European jihadists, the phenomenon has become more pronounced, more visible, and more relevant to the ways in which jihadist groups operate. In many European countries, the majority of jihadist foreign fighters are former criminals.

  • ISIS propagandaAs ISIS loses ground in Syria and Iraq, its propaganda output sharply declines

    Relentless air and ground attacks by the U.S.-led coalition have been inflicting increasing pain on ISIS – from killing more than 50,000 ISIS fighters, decimating the organization’s leadership, and forcing it to abandon vast swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. A new study found that another victim of ISIS’s accumulating defeats has been the organization’s vaunted propaganda machine. The Islamist group’s propaganda specialist shave been producing only a small number of videos and images compared to their prodigious output two years ago.