Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • NSA surveillance leads to San Diego conviction of al-Shabaab supporters

    Three Somali men residing in San Diego were sentenced to prison on Monday for aiding al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist organization. The sentencing hearing in a San Diego federal court came four days after the men lost their bid for a new trial, requested after discovering that the charges were supported by evidence from theNational Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program.U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller denied the defense’s request to dismiss the NSA surveillance-generated evidence, saying the collection of the evidence did not amount to a warrantless search, and that while the agency’s surveillance programs were controversial, the protocol that was followed aligns with the law.

  • Al Qaeda-linked Lebanese group attacks Iran’s Beirut embassy

    Retaliating against the growing involvement of Hezbollah in Syria, and the growing involvement of Iran — Hezbollah’s masters – in Lebanon, Sunni extremists sent two suicide bombers to destroy the Iranian embassy in Beirut. The two explosions – one caused by a suicide bomber on a motorcycle, the second by a suicide truck carrying more than 100kg of explosives — killed at least twenty-three people, wounded more than 150, and caused extensive damage to one of Lebanon’s most heavily guarded compounds.

  • Cyberattacks more serious domestic threat to U.S. than terrorism: FBI

    The heads of the Federal Bureau of Investigation(FBI), Department of Homeland Security(DHS), and National Counterterrorism Center(NCTC) have declared cyber attacks as the most likely form of terrorism against the United States in the coming years. “That’s where the bad guys will go,” FBI director James Comey said about cyberterrorism. “There are no safe neighborhoods. All of us are neighbors [online].”

  • France to offer counter-terrorism support to Libya

    French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has confirmed that France is considering providing Libya additional aid in counter-terrorism and police training. Since the NATO-supported revolt removed Muammar Gaddafi from office two years ago, Libya has not had an effective central government, and the country has turned into a battleground for rival militias and al Qaeda-linked militants.

  • view counter
  • Security agencies concerned about plastic guns

    The Undetectable firearms Act of 1988, which makes it illegal to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, process, transfer, or receive a firearm which is not detectable by walk-through metal detection, is set to expire on 9 December 2013. If Congress fails to reauthorize the law, plastic guns will no longer require metal components which are detectable by metal detectors. “When these 3D firearms are manufactured, some of the weapons can defeat normal detection such as metal detectors, wands, and it could present a problem to public safety in a venue such as an airport, an arena, a courthouse,” says ATF assistant director Richard Marianos.

  • Sticks over carrots: the rationale of Assad’s counterinsurgency “madness”

    Counterinsurgency (COIN) efforts by the West, particularly over the past decade, have emphasized the limitation of violence and the importance of the local population. Western COIN practice focuses on establishing the perception of state legitimacy in the area around which the insurgency is taking place. The objective is to sway influence away from the insurgents and towards the regime by providing security, services, stability and growth. By contrast, Syrian efforts in counterinsurgency have not only avoided securing the civilian population, but have actively targeted it. Whereas Western COIN prioritizes “the people,” the Syrian strategy focuses on the elimination of the militant opposition regardless of the collateral violence. Assad’s “enemy-centric” approaches to counterinsurgency utilizes intense violence — targeting of refugees, schools, hospitals, and using chemical weapons — to divide public support from the insurgency by punishing the civil population.

  • view counter
  • GAO says TSA’s costly behavioral detection program falls short

    The Government Accountability Office(GAO) said last week that DHS may have wasted $1 billion on the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program. SPOT aims to spot terrorists by detecting “anomalous” or suspicious behavior. The anomalous behavior – perspiration, fidgeting, restlessness – is supposed to be the result of high levels of stress, fear, or deception. Individuals who exhibit anomalous behavior are subject to additional security screening.

  • U.S. designates Nigeria’s Boko Haram a foreign terrorist group

    The State Department on Wednesday designated the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organization. The designation makes it possible for the United States to freeze the assets of the organization and its leaders and members, impose travel bans on members of the group, and prohibit Americans from offering material support to the organization. The department also designated Ansaru, a Boko Haram splinter faction, as a foreign terrorist organization. The United States says the designation would help the Nigerian government in fighting the growing threat of domestic Islamist terrorism.

  • Illegal population flows and African security

    FOI, the Swedish research institute, brought together scientists and experts from a number of countries to take part in a one-day conference at Medelhavsmuseet in Stockholm on illegal population flows and their consequences in Africa.

  • Kenya, Somalia to create joint anti-terrorism task force

    Al-Shabaab’s attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi last month has prompted security officials in Kenya and Somalia to consider the creation of a joint task force which will share intelligence, monitor activity, and track finances relating to terrorist groups operating in East Africa. Also under discussion is the establishment of a joint East African paramilitary force with jurisdiction throughout the region.

  • War experiences harden group alliances

    War is hell, and according to new research, experiencing its horrors can cause people to have a greater affinity for members of their own group, particularly if they are exposed to warfare in early adulthood or later in childhood. The researchers say that these effects have the potential to explain why conflict sometimes leads to cycles of war and sometimes stimulates nation-building in its wake.

  • Weakening cybersecurity to facilitate NSA surveillance is dangerous: experts

    In the wake of revelations about the NSA surveillance programs, an expert on surveillance and cybersecurity recommended a re-evaluation of those surveillance practices that weaken commercial products and services. These practices include weakening standards and placing “back doors” into products that are accessible to U.S. government agencies. The expert – Jon Peha, former chief technology officer of the FCC and assistant director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology — said deliberately weakening commercial products and services may make it easier for U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct surveillance, but “this strategy also inevitably makes it easier for criminals, terrorists and foreign powers to infiltrate these systems for their own purposes.”

  • U.S. drone strike kills top al-Shabaab bomb maker

    The U.S. military has confirmed the killing of Ibrahim Ali Abdi, also known as Anta Anta, the explosives specialist who headed al-Shabaab’s bomb-making efforts with an expertise in suicide missions, road-side explosives, car bombs, and other homemade bombs. The administration had been reluctant to follow in Somalia the punishing drone campaign it has been conducting in Pakistan and Yemen for fears that such a campaign might transform al Shabaab from a regional organization focused on repelling foreign troops – from Kenya, Ethiopia, and the African Union — from Somalia into a group which adopted al Qaeda’s agenda to strike the West at every turn. The killing of Anta, and the failed raid three weeks ago to kill another Shabaab leader, Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, are indications that the administration has decided to escalate the fight against the Somali group.

  • Perspectives on terrorism and responses to it

    The Strategic Multi-Layer Assessment office within the Office of the Secretary of Defense has published a new white paper, in Looking Back, Looking Forward: Perspectives on Terrorism and Responses to It Strategic Multi-layer Assessment, which offers discussions of different perspectives of terrorism and approaches to understanding the phenomenon. The papers cover topics ranging from strategic and adaptive considerations of terrorism to analytical considerations.

  • Nigeria, Israel cooperate in fighting terrorism

    Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan last week led a large Nigerian delegation to an official visit in Israel to discuss cooperation in fighting terrorism. “There is no doubt that Israel has had decades of experience in combating terrorism. Nigeria can benefit tremendously from your experience in this area,” Jonathan told President Shimon Peres. The two countries have also seen an expansion of trade relationship between them, with more the fifty Israeli companies operating in Nigeria.