• German Domestic Intelligence Chief on the New Wave of Hate

    In an interview with Der Spiegel, Thomas Haldenwang, the director of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, discusses the new threat of extremism in the wake of the Halle attack and his agency’s need for greater authority in the monitoring of such threats. “What’s new is the international dimension,” Haldenwang said. “Right-wing extremism as we know it was long a particularly German phenomenon. But now, we see Anders Breivik in Oslo, Brenton Tarrant in Christchurch, Patrick Crusius in El Paso, the perpetrator in Halle. It’s like links in a chain, almost an international competition. Another insight is that it appears that no deep ideology is needed to radicalize and develop plans for attacks. All that’s needed is this emotion, hate, incitement, the web-based instigation and this convergence of people who, on the basis of simplistic messages often rooted in fake news, arrive at this world view and think they have to strike immediately.”

  • Syrian Chaos Breathing Life into Islamic State

    Turkey’s incursion into northeastern Syria appears to be giving Islamic State new life, but U.S. counterterrorism officials caution the terror group’s next moves are far from certain. The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, warn Islamic State is well-versed in using regional conflicts to its advantage, having done so in Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in the aftermath of the Arab Spring.

  • What Can We Glean from a Bean: Ricin’s Appeal to Domestic Terrorists

    Just as policymakers have been slow to acknowledge and act upon the threat of domestic CBRN (chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear) terrorism, timely research on the issue is scarce as well. Ricin is one of the more dangerous agents of domestic terror. As government agencies acknowledge the threat domestic terrorism poses, policymakers and law enforcement should take ricin seriously as a potential weapon.

  • How to Protect America after the Syria Withdrawal

    President Trump’s impulsive, rash decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria has created a situation in which the United States is a far weaker position to fight ISIS. “The No. 1 U.S. priority in Syria is to maintain the detention facilities and encampments and keep pressure on ISIS. This will be difficult, given the Turkish assault as well as the deal the SDF has struck with the Syrian regime since the U.S. withdrawal announcement,” Joseph Votel and Elizabeth Dent write. “There is only so much America can do with no troop presence as other powers rush in to fill the void.”

  • Indecision in Washington Compounded the Kurds' Dilemma

    The American military presence in northeast Syria was always an anomaly, unlikely to be sustained indefinitely. The manner of its termination has nevertheless proven inept and unnecessarily costly. If the military advantages of partnering with the YPG were clear, it was equally clear that none of their neighbors would indefinitely tolerate an independent Kurdish state. Turkey was most agitated by this scenario given the Syrian Kurds’ links to the Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, a designated terrorist group that has waged a low-grade insurgency against the state for decades. In the end it appears the Tump administration proved unable to choose among its competing interests in Syria, James Dobbins and Jeffrey Martini write. “Statesmanship requires the ability to choose between sometimes unpalatable alternatives. Statecraft requires a rigorous process of refining and a timely means of deliberating on those alternatives. These qualities have been notably lacking in charting the administration’s Syria end game thereby compounding the unavoidable costs of withdrawal with charges of betrayal and a retreat under fire.”

  • If Germany Can’t Stop the Rise of White Nationalism, How Can Canada?

    Between 2017 and 2018, anti-Semitic and xenophobic crimes both rose nearly 20 percent in Germany. In June, following the assassination by a neo-Nazi of Walter Lübcke, a conservative politician who supported Chancellor Angela Merkel’s immigration policies, the BfV, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, busted Nordkreuz, an extremist organization which compiled a kill list of 25,000 liberal politicians considered “pro-refugee” while also acquiring weapons, 200 body bags, and quicklime, which prevents the rotting that makes corpses smell. The BfV says that it is now tracking 24,100 known right-wing extremists in the country, of which 12,700 have been classified as violent. “That these developments are happening in Germany, a country known for an unflinching view of its own horrific past, might be considered surprising,” Sadiya Ansari writes. “And if Germany is struggling to contain this [extremists’] threat, what does that mean for countries that haven’t been as vigilant?”

  • From Hateful Words to Real Violence

    The Gilroy Garlic Festival. The Poway Chabad synagogue. The Charleston Emanuel church. The El Paso Walmart. One common denominator in these mass shootings and countless others? A perpetrator whose interactions in online white supremacist networks played a part in inciting, energizing, and detonating racial hatred into real violence, says UNLV sociologist Simon Gottschalk. Gottschalk has studied how interacting in online white supremacist networks can convert hateful words into real violence.

  • Bioweapon Threat Didn’t End in Cold War, Experts Warn House

    Picking apart flaws in the government’s system of monitoring for bioweapons, a panel of scientists warned House lawmakers Thursday that America is grossly unprepared for a bioterrorist attack. Asha George, executive director of the Bipartisan Commission on Biodefense, noted that U.S. funding for bioweapons protection has been on the decline since the end of the Cold War — this in spite of the relative ease by which terrorist groups can weaponize biological agents or, even more easily, get their hands on materials that have already been weaponized by the former Soviet Union.

  • In the Deepfake Era, Counterterrorism Is Harder

    For many U.S. intelligence officials, memories of that 9/11 terrorist attacks remain fresh, searing, and personal. Still hanging over the entrance to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center is a sign that reads, “Today is September 12, 2001.” It’s a daily reminder of the agency’s determination to prevent future attacks—but also of the horrifying costs when intelligence agencies adapt too slowly to emerging threats. For a decade after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the CIA and the FBI were mired in Cold War structures, priorities, processes, and cultures even as the danger of terrorism grew. The shock of 9/11 finally forced a reckoning—one that led to a string of counterterrorism successes, from foiled plots to the operation against Osama bin Laden. But now, nearly two decades later, America’s 17 intelligence agencies need to reinvent themselves once more, this time in response to an unprecedented number of breakthrough technologies that are transforming societies, politics, commerce, and the very nature of international conflict.

  • U.S. Pushing for Cease-fire After Turkey's Push into Northern Syria

    The United States says diplomatic efforts are on “high gear” to press for a cease-fire after Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, as Washington tries to get the situation under control, according to a senior State Department official. Trump’s hasty decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria was met with a bipartisan chorus of criticism. “Abandoning this fight now and withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria would re-create the very conditions that we have worked hard to destroy and invite the resurgence of ISIS,” the Senate majority leader Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) said. “And such a withdrawal would also create a broader power vacuum in Syria that will be exploited by Iran and Russia, a catastrophic outcome for the United States’ strategic interests.”

  • Western States Must Repatriate IS Fighters and Their Families Before More Escape Syrian Camps

    For more than a year, European powers have dallied over the question of what to do with the tens of thousands of Islamic State (IS) fighters and adherents captured following the fall of the so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq. Now the U.S. decision to withdraw troops and Turkey’s subsequent invasion of northern Syria on 9 October means the West has lost the luxury of inaction.

  • Persistent Anti-Semitism Hangs over EU

    Anti-Semitic hate speech, harassment, and fear of being recognized as Jewish — these are some of the realities of being Jewish in the EU today. It appears to be getting worse, finds a major repeat survey of Jews from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, the largest ever of its kind worldwide.

  • The Yom Kippur Shooting in Halle, Germany: The New Terrorism Reality

    The far right is beginning to dominate the terrorism stage in the Western world. It was responsible for every single extremism-related killing in the United States in 2018—including six mass-casualty incidents. Last year was the most violent in terms of U.S. terrorism since 1982. These networked adversaries, operating within a loose, leaderless ideological framework, are a different kind of terrorist. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s new Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism and Targeted Violence highlights this, noting the proliferation of perpetrators writing manifestos rather than being motivated by radicalizers or taking orders from commanders. Bruce Hoffman and Jacob Ware write for the Council of Foreign Relations that the Yom Kippur shooting in Halle, like Christchurch, represents the confluence of three significant trends in terrorism: a rising far right, the targeting of places of worship, and the use of social media and livestreams.

  • Trump’s Syria Withdrawal Is a Boon for ISIS — and a Nightmare for Europe

    With the surprise withdrawal of US forces in Syria and the subsequent — and immediate — commencement of Turkish military operations against Syrian Kurdish forces, chaos has ensued. Kurdish forces are claiming that hundreds of ISIS prisoners have escaped at the Ain Issa detention facility while fighting raged nearby, while two officials told the New York Times that the U.S. military had failed to secure 60 or so high-value detainees before its forces departed. President Donald Trump, however, has assured Americans that his new approach would not prove a threat to the US homeland, saying, “They’re going to be escaping to Europe.” Daniel Byman writes that Europeans, to be sure, will not find this reassuring.

  • Disinformation and Terrorism

    Most of the discussions that take place around the concept of disinformation–false information spread deliberately to deceive–typically focus on the role of nation-states like Russia and China. But violent non-state actors, including terrorist groups, rely on disinformation as well, and some groups have developed fairly sophisticated disinformation capabilities. The objectives of these non-state actors can vary but are almost always some combination of spreading fear and terror, recruiting new followers to the cause, radicalizing individuals, and confusing and distracting public safety officials in order to sap finite resources.