Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • Assessing the risk of terrorism at the Winter Olympics

    The Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, open tomorrow. New background report examines history of terrorism in Russia and acts of terrorism directed at the Olympics Games and other sporting events. “The analysis [in the background report] indicates that there is no consistent increase or decrease in the frequency of terrorist attacks during the Olympics, suggesting that efforts to reinforce security are generally effective at mitigating any potential threats that may exist,” says Erin Miller, program manager for the START’s Global Terrorism Database (GTD) and the author of the report.

  • Two Austrian athletes threatened with kidnapping if they compete at Sochi

    Two Austrian athletes — Alpine skier Bernadette Schild and skeleton racer Janine Flock, the current European champion— have received letters warning them to cancel their plans to compete in the Sochi Winter Games. The letters said that if they did attend the Games, they will be kidnapped. The letters are in line with threats made by Islamist militants in the Caucuses that if the Winter Games opened as scheduled on Friday, then the athletes participating in the Games, the spectators, and Russian security personnel would all be considered fair targets for attack. Similarly threatening letters were last month sent to delegations in several countries.

  • Kansas debating expanding definition of terrorism

    Lawmakers in Kansas are debating a bill to expand the definition of “furtherance of terrorism” and allow victims of acts of terrorism to seek civil penalties from those convicted of terrorism. House Bill 2463 is modeled after an Arkansas law passed following an attack on a military recruiting office by Abdulhakim Mohamed. The foiled bomb plot at the Wichita airport in December 2013 gave Kansas persuaded lawmakers to emulate Arkansas’ example.

  • Islamist Syrian rebels train foreign fighters for terrorist attacks in home country

    The numbers of Australian Islamists who have traveled to Syria to join the anti-regime rebels far exceed those of Australian Islamists who have traveled to other conflicts, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is especially worrisome since Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups in Syria are gaining ground in their campaign to recruit foreign fighters to launch terrorist attacks when they return home. U.S intelligence has discovered training complexes in Syria for foreign fighters to learn techniques which equip them with the know-how to conduct terrorist acts when they go back to their home countries.

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  • National Guard units help states ward off cyberattacks

    Governors across the United States are mobilizing their states’ National Guard units to combat threats from cyberattacks. The state of Washington was the first state to assign the state’s National Guard cybersecurity responsibilities. The state recognized the potential of its National Guard as a cyberforce when it realized that many of its soldiers, who are full-time employees and part-time soldiers, worked for tech employers such as Google, Boeing, Cisco, Verizon, and Microsoft.

  • Eco-terrorist sentenced to five years and ordered to read Malcolm Gladwell’s book

    Last Monday, Chief U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken imposed a 5-year sentence on radical environmental activist Rebecca Rubin for her involvement in several acts of arson, including the burning of Vail Colorado’s Twin Elks Lodge which caused millions of dollars in damage. Rubin spent almost eight years living underground, giving herself up to the FBI last October. She pleaded guilty to arson, attempted arson, and conspiracy to commit arson in connection with a radical environmental group calling itself The Family. Judge Aiken also ordered Rubin to read Malcolm Gladwell’s 2013 book David and Goliath, explaining that Rubin might learn a thing or two about non-violent environmental advocacy while serving her sentence.

  • Barrier technology strengthens protection at Navy ports

    Advanced technology rules the day in modern warfare — yet one very real threat to the U.S. Navy comes from a simple but deadly enemy strategy: small speed boats laden with explosives ramming into ships in harbor. Now a new maritime security barrier, developed with support from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), could provide a quantum leap in existing sea-port protection.

  • U.S. will seek death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

    The U.S. Justice Department announced that the United States will seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 20-year-old accused of detonating two bombs the Boston Marathon last Aril, killing three people and injuring more than 200 others. The younger Tsarnaev faces thirty counts in the bombing, including use of a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and the bombing of a public place. Since 1964, the federal government has only executed three people, including Timothy Mc­Veigh who was convicted in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

  • Report: 60 percent increase in terrorism in “arc of instability” across North Africa, Sahel

    North Africa and the Sahel region have witnessed an alarming increase in terrorist activities – a 60 percent increase in 2013 over the previous year. Extremist formations and their associates, such as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Boko Haram, Ansaru, Ansar Dine, Ansar Al-Sharia, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), al-Mourabitoun, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MLNA), Al-Shabaab, and militant recruits from the Polisario-run refugee camps and other displaced persons have been active in Libya, Algeria, Mali, and Tunisia, but also in countries neighboring on the region, from Kenya and Somalia in the east, through Chad and the Central African Republic, to Niger, Nigeria, and Mauritania in the west.

  • A first: Constitutionality of NSA warrantless surveillance challenged by terrorism suspect

    Jamshid Muhtorov, a refugee from Uzbekistan now facing terrorism charges in Colorado, is the first criminal defendant who, as part of his lawyers’ defense strategy, is challenging the constitutionality of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program. Muhtorov filed a motion Wednesday in federal court in Denver to suppress any evidence obtained through the agency’s surveillance program on grounds that it was unlawful. In July 2013 the Justice Department reversed an earlier policy, and now informs defendants whether the case against them, in whole or in part, is based on information obtained through warrantless surveillance. To date, six months after the review process at Justice was launched, Muhtorov and Mohamed Mohamud, a Portland, Oregon teenager who had been convicted after an FBI sting operation of attempting to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, are the only defendants to receive such a disclosure.

  • New anthrax-killing virus could offer new ways to detect, treat, and decontaminate anthrax bacillus

    From a zebra carcass on the plains of Namibia in Southern Africa, researchers have discovered a new, unusually large virus (or bacteriophage) which infects the bacterium that causes anthrax. The novel bacteriophage could eventually open up new ways to detect, treat, or decontaminate the anthrax bacillus and its relatives that cause food poisoning. Bacteriophages are often highly specific to a particular strain of bacteria, and when they were first discovered in the early twentieth century there was strong interest in them as antimicrobial agents. The discovery of penicillin and other antibiotics, however, eclipsed phage treatments in the West, although research continued in the Soviet Union.

  • U.S. weapons shipped to moderate Syrian rebels after secret congressional approval

    U.S. and European sources have confirmed that U.S.-manufactured light arm have been flowing to moderate Syrian rebels in the south of Syria, and that Congress has approved funding to continue the shipments for the next few months. The weapons, which are being delivered to the rebels through Jordan, include both light arms and heavier weapons such as anti-tank rockets. The shipments, however, do not include shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles.

  • Israeli jets destroy Hezbollah-bound advanced Russian missiles stored near Latakia

    Large warehouses near the port city of Latakia, where the Assad regime stored advanced Russian missiles before shipping them to Hezbollah, were destroyed by aerial attack late Sunday. Israel has already launched six attacks in 2013 on Syrian arms shipments to Hezbollah — on 30 January, 3 May, 5 May, 5 July, 18 October, and 30 October. The attack on 5 July was on storage facilities in the same Latakia area, where Syria kept a large quantity of advanced P-800 Oniks anti-ship missiles, also called Yakhont missiles. Three weeks after the attack, U.S. sources said that the attack did not succeed in wiping out all of the missiles. “American officials said that further Israeli strikes are likely,” the New York Times reported on 31 July.

  • Russia imposes strict security measures on the Sochi region

    In preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Russian authorities have been increasing security measures to discourage Islamist militants who have threatened to disrupt the games with “all means that Allah allows.” More than 70,000 soldiers and police officers will guard the Olympic facilities and the sprawling city of Sochi. In addition, Russia will be using SORM (System for Operative Investigative Activities) to monitor every mobile telephone call, e-mail, SMS, and Internet chats originating from or going into the Sochi region during the Games.

  • Value of list of state sponsors of terrorism questioned

    The U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, created in 1979, originally included Libya, Iraq, South Yemen, and Syria. Cuba was added in 1982, Iran in 1984, North Korea in 1988, and Sudan in 1993. The list currently contains four countries — Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. Experts question the value of the list, since the four countries listed are not the only countries that currently support, engage in, or ignore acts of terrorism, according to news reports from the State Department, and the inclusion of Cuba has more to do with U.S. domestic politics than Cuba’s current policies, as the State Department’s 2012 Country Report on Terrorismconcluded that “There was no indication that the Cuban government provided weapons or paramilitary training to terrorist groups.”