Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • Competition among political forces, not religious fundamentalism, inflames anti-Americanism in the Muslim world

    Historically, domestic political divisions within Muslim politics have fallen between secular elite and fundamental Islamic elite factions, with both groups laying claims to anti-American grievances; that competition is most intense not in the most deeply observant Islamic countries, but rather in countries where divisions between secular and religious factions are sharpest; in those countries, competition between political forces — not religious fundamentalism — appears to spark the greatest anti-American sentiment

  • Iran could test-fly ICBMs capable of striking U.S. within three years: Pentagon

    A Pentagon report submitted to Congress on 29 June says Iran continues to make large strides in virtually all conventional, unconventional, and nuclear categories; the report focused most extensively on Iran’s inventory of ballistic missiles, and warned that Iran may be able to test-fly an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), capable of striking American soil, within three years’ time; Iran also continues to supply men, money, training, and even sophisticated weapons systems to some of the world’s best-known terror groups

  • Space radiation detection technology to be used for homeland security

    Common radioactive sources emit gamma rays while nuclear bomb material emits both gamma rays and neutrons; because neutrons and gamma rays are electrically neutral, it is difficult to ascertain properties such as the direction of origin or energy level of the radioactive source; University of New Hampshire scientists are re-engineering instruments originally built for detecting radiation in space for homeland security purposes

  • Another top Syrian defection signals growing Sunni disaffection

    Nawaf Fares, Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, has defected and joined the anti-Assad forces; Fares is also the chief of the Sunni tribe Uqaydat, which controls long stretches of the border area between Syria and Iraq; since 1970, one of the central motifs of the Assad regime – father and son – has been an emphasis on cohesion among the Syrian people in an effort  to unify the diverse Syrian society; the regime has enjoyed the support of Alawites, Druze, Christians, and moderate Sunnis; the defection of a second leading Sunni supporter of the regime in as many weeks — Brig. Gen. Manaf Tlas defected last week – is one more indication that Syrian society is fracturing along ethnic and religious lines

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  • UN includes Iran in drafting treaty aiming to stop arms proliferation to terrorists, rogue states

    The UN Conference of the Arms Trade Treaty is tasked with drafting an international treaty aimed at stopping arms proliferation to terrorist groups and rogue states; the UN appoints Iran to be one of the vice presidents of the committee; the UN Watch watchdog groups says that appointing Iran to oversee the drafting of a treaty dealing with sending arms to terrorists “is like choosing Bernie Madoff to police fraud on the stock market”

  • Study: Islamist extremists emphasize self-defense, not world domination

    A common belief in the West is that al Qaeda wishes to impose Islam everywhere; this might be a pipe dream for the group, but a new study of their use of religious texts suggests that Islamists’ goals are much more modest

  • Experts: If Arafat was poisoned, it was not by polonium-210

    In a report last week, Al Jazeera claimed that the cause of Yasser Arafat death in 2004 was poisoning by the radioactive substance polonium-210, and that Swiss scientists found high concentrations of polonium in the cloths Arafat wore in his last days; experts say that the laws of physics make this theory impossible: Polonium-210 has a half-life of 138 days, meaning that half of the substance decays roughly every four-and-a-half months; since only miniscule amounts of the substance would suffice to kill someone, it is not possible that eight years after Arafat’s death, such high levels of the material would still be found in his belongings; put another way: for polonium-210 to be discovered today in Arafat’s clothing at such high levels would mean that such large quantities of the material had to be used – unnecessarily — eight years ago, that not only Arafat, but his entourage and many of the doctors, nurses, and patients at the Hôpital d’instruction des armées Percy where he was treated would be dead as well of radiation poisoning

  • Fort Hood incident report calls for sweeping changes in FBI’s approach

    A report of the 2009 Fort Hood shooting will recommend eighteen specific changes which will make the FBI more likely to detect such insider threats earlier; the report, written by William Webster, the former director of the FBI, will be on the desk of Robert Mueller, the current FBI director, next week; the report’s authors focused on the FBI and the agency’s more than a hundred Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) and how they handled and acted on counterterrorism intelligence before and after the shootings … and the FBI’s remedial measures in the aftermath of Fort Hood

  • Did Arafat die of radioactive poisoning?

    When Yasser Arafat was taken seriously ill in October 2004, and then died in a Paris hospital the next month, many Palestinians charged that he was poisoned by the Israeli Mossad; his widow refused to permit an autopsy, so the poisoning theory could never be proved; now, Swiss scientists who examined items of clothing Arafat wore in his last days say these items contain a significant – and highly unusual – levels of polonium-210, a toxic radioactive material; the Russian secret service used polonium in 2006 to kill Alexander V. Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who became a critic of Putin’s Russian government; Arafat’s widow and the Palestinian Authority call for Arafat body to be exhumed to determine whether or not he was poisoned

  • Viewing terrorist attacks on TV increases pain intensity

    A new study finds that exposure to media coverage of terrorist missile attacks increases pain levels in people already suffering from chronic pain

  • Mali crisis deepens as Islamists tighten grip over breakaway Azawad

    The al Qaeda-affiliate Ansar Dine extended its control of Azawad, the Mali break-away region, by wresting control of the city of Gao from rival Tuareg forces; Mali’s neighbors announce that they have troop commitments from three west African countries for a military operation against Azawad Islamists; an advance party of European military and civilian security advisors is already operating in northern Niger in preparation for the military campaign, and behind-the-scenes discussions at the Security Council will soon yield a UN resolution authorizing the African Union to sent military forces to Azawad to oust the Islamists and reunify Mali

  • Nuremberg lives: Should Iran’s leaders be charged with incitement to genocide?

    Earlier this week, at a UN forum on the global drug trade, Iran’s vice president Mohammad-Reza Rahimi delivered a speech which the New York Times described as “baldly anti-Semitic”; Rahmini charged that the Jews, among other things, are responsible for, and are in firm control of, the global drug trade, and that gynecologists are killing black babies on the orders of Jews; law professors Alan Dershowitz and Irwin Cotler argue that the openly anti-Semitic pronouncements by Iran’s leaders, and the repeated threats they make against the Jewish people, merit bringing Iran’s leaders before the International Criminal Court to face charges of incitement to genocide

  • Congressional panel: political correctness hobbles efforts to deal with insider threat posed by Islamic radicals

    The House Committee on Homeland Security held a series of hearings on Islamic radicalization in the United States, and last week issued a report based on the hearings; one section deals with the insider threat Islamic radicals pose for military communities; the committee’s majority says that one reason the U.S. military is not more effective in dealing with this insider threat is that the approach to the problem is governed by political correctness

  • Preparing for Olympic terrorism

    Three previous Olympiads — Munich 1972, Atlanta 1996, Athens 2004 — were targets of terrorists or extremists; there is no specific information to indicate that terrorists have targeted the forthcoming London games, but a terrorism experts says the 2012 Summer Games offer terrorists an attractive target

  • Report: Updated DHS risk assessment of Kansas lab still “technically inadequate”

    Congress was unsatisfied with a 2010 DHS risk-assessment study of the proposed National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility (NBAF) in Manhattan, Kansas, and asked for a new study of the risks, and an evaluation of the new study by the National Research Council; the evaluation says that some of the risk reduction noted in the new DHS risk assessment may be explained by improvements to the latest design plans for the facility, but that despite these improvements, the updated DHS assessment underestimates the risk of an accidental pathogen release and inadequately characterizes the uncertainties in those risks