• U.S. district court dismisses 9/11 victims' case against Saudi Arabia

    U.S. district judge George Daniels in Manhattan on Tuesday dismissed claims against Saudi Arabia by families of victims of the 9/11 attacks. The victims’ families accused the country of providing material support to al Qaeda. Judge Daniels said Saudi Arabia had sovereign immunity from claims for damage by families of nearly 3,000 people killed in the attacks, and from insurers which covered losses suffered by building owners and businesses. “The allegations in the complaint alone do not provide this court with a basis to assert jurisdiction over defendants,” Daniels wrote.

  • Iran not invited to a UN summit on ISIS because U.S. designates it as a state sponsor of terrorism

    The United States did not invite Iran to Tuesday’s UN summit on combating Islamic State and other violent extremist groups because the Department of State still designates Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. It is not likely that Iranian president Hassan Rouhani would have participated in the summit even if Iran were invited. Observers note that the fact that Iran has not been invited to a meeting to discuss a coordinated strategy to defeat ISIS, a Sunni militant group Iran regards as an enemy, is yet one more illustration of the institutional and political obstacles to U.S. cooperation with Iran beyond the nuclear deal the two sides agreed to in July.

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  • NYC mayor urged not to participate in federal counter-extremism program

    More than twenty civil rights, legal, and interfaith organizations have urged Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York and his top aides not to take part in a White House initiative which aims to counter violent extremism in the United States. “The premise of CVE [Countering Violent Extremism] programming is that the adoption or expression of extreme or ‘radical’ ideas [places] individuals on the path toward violence, and that there are observable ‘indicators’ to identify those ‘vulnerable’ to radicalization, or ‘at risk’ of being recruited by terrorist groups,” the 21 September letter to the mayor argued. “This is simply not true. Despite years of federally funded efforts, researchers have not developed reliable criteria that can be used to predict who will commit a terrorist act.”

  • DOJ grants fund research into homegrown terrorism

    The University of Arkansas (UA) and Arkansas State University (ASU) will receive grants from the Department of Justice (DOJ) totaling over $900,000 to study domestic radicalization. UA will receive $399,531 to identify behavioral characteristics of homegrown terrorists who were able to evade arrest or neutralization for a long period of time to determine how their longevity affects potential recruits and the overall sustainability of larger terror groups. ASU will receive $508,403 to study how violent domestic extremists use the Internet to organize like-minded individuals, disseminate ideas and recruit new members.

  • U.K. to deploy troops in Somalia, South Sudan to foster “less terrorism and less migration”

    British prime minister David Cameron has said that hundreds of British troops will be deployed to Somalia and South Sudan to train African peacekeeping forces in order to foster “less terrorism and less migration.” Over the years the United Kingdom has contributed to many peacekeeping missions, but now its role is largely limited to providing about 280 troops participating in the current mission in Cyprus. The United Kingdom has also given about £260 million in aid to South Sudan since the start of the civil war in December 2013.

  • Islamist who took part in destroying Timbuktu monuments sent to the Hague to face charges

    An Islamic extremist charged with involvement in the destruction of religious buildings in the historic city of Timbuktu in Mali in 2012 has been arrested Saturday and sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Legal scholars note that Ahmad Al Mahdi Al Faqi, aka Abu Tourab, is the first suspect in ICC custody charged with destroying religious or historical monuments, which is a war crime. The court said in a statement he was a member of Ansar Dine, an Islamic extremist group with links to al-Qaeda which ruled the break-away northern Mali from April 2012 to February 2013. Ansar Dine joined with separatist Tuareg forces to drive the Mali army out of northern Mali – an area the size of France – and declare the independent state of Azawad. Abu Tourab is charged with participation in the destruction of ten historic buildings, including mausoleums and a mosque in Timbuktu.

  • Bi-partisan Senate bill to make it easier for terrorism victims to sue foreign governments

    A bill sponsored by a bipartisan group of Senators and which was introduced last week would make it easier for victims of acts of terrorism to sue foreign governments and private-sector bodies financing and supporting terrorism. In December, Senators passed, by unanimous consent, an identical bill, but the House adjourned before taking up the measure. The bill’s sponsors said that the language is aimed at federal appellate court rulings which created uncertainty about when terror victims can sue.

  • The stories of Islamic State defectors

    Much has been written about the young men and women who join the Islamic State. We are familiar with their biographies and pathways, backgrounds and motivations. But virtually nothing is known about those who quit: the “defectors” who did not like what they saw, abandoned their comrades, and fled the Islamic State. Yet their stories could be key to stopping the flow of foreign fighters, countering the group’s propaganda, and exposing its lies and hypocrisy.

  • UN inquiry to determine who is responsible for chemical attacks in Syria

    Russia has withdrawn its objections to a UN investigation into identifying the culprits responsible for chemical attacks in Syria, allowing a probe to begin, UN diplomats said Thursday. For the last two years, Russia had insisted that a series of UN investigative teams sent to Syria would be limited to finding out whether or not chemical weapons had been used, but would be barred from identifying who was responsible for launching them.

  • Insider threats, organizational rigidity pose challenges for U.S. national security: Study

    U.S. national security faces rising challenges from insider threats and organizational rigidity, a Stanford professor says. A new study says that in the past five years, seemingly trustworthy U.S. military and intelligence insiders have been responsible for a number of national security incidents, including the WikiLeaks publications and the 2009 attack at Fort Hood in Texas that killed 13 and injured more than 30. The study’s author acknowledges the difficulties of learning lessons from tragedies like 9/11, the NASA space shuttle accidents, and the 2009 Fort Hood shooting. She notes that policymakers tend to attribute failure to people and policies. While seemingly hidden at times, the organizational roots of disaster are much more important than many think, she added.

  • Remains of two IRA “disappeared” found and identified

    Two bodies found in an Irish bog were confirmed by DNA tests to be the remains of Séamus Wright and Kevin McKee, two of the IRA’s “disappeared.” The two members of the Provisional IRA (PIRA) in west Belfast vanished in 1972, and were likely kidnapped, interrogated, then killed by the PIRA. Of the seventeen people killed by the IRA and then disappeared during the Northern Ireland Troubles, the remains of thirteen have been found and identified. Four people remain on the disappeared list.

  • Data show drone attacks doomed to fail against ISIS in Syria

    This week, the Washington Post published a story about a new U.S. plan to use lethal drone strikes in Syria to destroy ISIS capabilities on the ground. The desire to do something — anything — to destroy the capabilities of a group so luridly destructive is understandable, but our haste to show results will likely result in a hollow victory at best. But there is a problem: there’s no evidence that drone strikes work. On the contrary, ample evidence shows drone strikes have not made Americans safer or reduced the overall level of terrorist capability. The strikes amount to little more than a waste of life, political capital, and resources. Drones cannot deliver victory over ISIS, but in any event, lacking a cohesive, articulate political strategy for governance and post-ISIS reconstruction, no military solution can produce the results we’re looking for. Lacking the political strategy, more of the same in Syria promises no better.

  • A first: U.K. drone strike kills Briton in Syria

    British prime minister David Cameron revealed that a U.K. drone strike, which he had authorized, has targeted and killed Reyaad Khan, 21, a U.K. citizen who was a senior prominent member of Islamic State. It was the first targeted killing of a British citizen by U.K. drone. Another British citizen who was an ISIS member, Ruhul Amin, 26, was in the car carrying Khan and was also killed in the attack. Cameron said that three days later, a U.S. drone strike, carried out in coordination with the United Kingdom, killed a third British citizen — Junaid Hussain, 21. The Obama administration has said that only one American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, was taken out in a targeted killing.

  • Mighty Saber demonstrates post-nuclear detonation technical forensics capabilities

    In late 2013, a team of more than fifty scientists from across the U.S. laboratory and industrial complex began preparing for Mighty Saber with the goal of demonstrating and evaluating post-detonation technical nuclear forensics capabilities following a simulated detonation of a nuclear device in an urban environment. Mighty Saber, which ran from 27 July to 21 August 2015, successfully met each of its objectives, including demonstrating U.S. government post- detonation nuclear forensics processes; the value of prompt diagnostics data provided by the Discreet Oculus ground-based sensor network; and how prompt diagnostics complements radiochemistry in providing a robust post-detonation nuclear forensics capability.

  • Determining the age of fingerprints

    Watch the imprint of a tire track in soft mud, and it will slowly blur, the ridges of the pattern gradually flowing into the valleys. Researchers have tested the theory that a similar effect could be used to give forensic scientists something they’ve long wished for: A way to date fingerprints. Even the approximate age of a fingerprint can have a critical bearing on forensic results, as it can rule out some prints as being too old to be relevant to a crime scene. Military forensics experts would like to be able to date the multitude of fingerprints found on improvised bombs used by insurgents to winnow out prints of individuals who may simply have handled the components in a shop from those of the actual bombmakers.