Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • No technologies currently available to track, disable small drones

    Monday’s drone incident on the White House lawn exposed a security gap that Secret Service and counterterrorism officials have been studying for years, but for which they have yet to develop a solution. Four days before the incident, lawmakers examining White House security protocols in response to a series of intrusions, were warned by a panel of experts that the Secret Service’s inability to identify and disable drones remained a top vulnerability, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.Security experts say proposals for a higher fence around the White House, together with increased surveillance and environmental sensors, are not enough to easily to identify and disable a drone before it lands.

  • Belgium confronting home-grown jihadist threat

    Belgium is Europe’s biggest per capita contributor of fighters to Syria and law enforcement officials fear that at least seventy of 350 Belgian fighters have returned home equipped with skills they learned on the battle field. The Belgian government had brought the concern to national attention in an October document warning about the “danger of violent jihadism that threatens to spread in our society.” Belgian officials have not found a link between the Paris attacks earlier this month and planned attacks in Belgium in the following days – attacks thwarted by swift police preemptive action — but common elements include: a clustering of radicals in a small area, the connection between petty criminality and jihadist violence, and the role of prison as an incubator for extremism.

  • Women more active in extremist Islamist groups than previously thought

    About 10 percent of ISIS recruits from Europe, and about 20 percent of recruits from France, are women. Though they tend to play a supportive role in the Islamic extremism narrative, women can be just as radical. “What’s very striking is that she’s not an exception; she’s an example of a trend,” one expert says of Hayat Boumeddiene, the 26-year old partner of Paris gunman Amedy Coulibaly. “There tends to be an assumption with women that they’re doing it under influence, they’re being forced or tricked. But I think there’s a more complicated story here, feelings of alienation.”

  • NYPD’s radicalization report criticized

    In a Sunday morning interview on 970 AM The Answer, New York Police Department(NYPD) deputy commissioner for Intelligence and Counterterrorism John Miller criticized a 7-year old report on Islamic radicalization in New York City. The report, “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,” published by the NYPD Intelligence Division under former police commissioner Ray Kelly, came under fire after a series of articlesdetailed some of the division’s counterterrorism operations, including the monitoring of prominent Muslims and Muslim communities in New York City. Those articles contributed to the closure of the unit, which conducted the NYPD’s surveillance operations on New York’s Muslim communities.

  • Why the fight against Islamic State is not the success we’re told it is

    Ministers from twenty-one countries gathered in London on January 22 to discuss the fight against Islamic State (IS). They had their photo opportunity and issued their statements. US secretary of state, John Kerry, told them that almost 6,000 jihadists had been killed, and almost 700 square kilometers of Iraqi territory retaken. But at the end of the day, all of this had precious little to do with the issue of how to confront IS’s political, military, and social expansion. There are alternatives that could really challenge the IS: an Iraqi Kurdistan with real international recognition and support, an Iraqi government answering to all communities, a Syrian opposition supported in a political vision that overcomes not only the jihadists but the Assad regime. But the London summit proved these things are still out of reach — or at least too much for the allies to openly contemplate.

  • Genetic safety switches curb bioterror risk

    The potential threat of bioterrorism using man-made biological organisms could be curbed, thanks to a new method. Synthetic biologists — who can design and modify the DNA of living organisms to give them novel, useful functions — have devised a way of containing their products to help ensure that they work only as intended.

  • Yemen upheaval hobbles U.S. counterterrorism efforts there

    Following the abrupt resignation of Yemen’s president, prime minister, and cabinet after Iran-backed Shi’a Houthi rebels took over the presidential palace, the United States has halted some counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda militants operating inside the country. The move has dealt a blow to what President Barack Obama recently called a successful counterterrorism partnership between Yemen’s president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the United States. “The [Yemeni government’s] agencies we worked with . . . are really under the thumb of the Houthis. Our ability to work with them is not there,” said a senior U.S. official closely involved in monitoring the situation.

  • Islamic radicalization takes place in prison, but the numbers are small: Experts

    In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris nearly three weeks ago, terrorism experts say that in addition to monitoring mosques known for extremist views, there is a need to investigate the role of prisons in the recruitment and radicalization process.”Prisons have been called universities of crime for a long time,” says one expert, so the “idea is simply being applied to terrorism so prisons might become universities of radicalization, and in some cases that has proven to be true.” The same expert notes, however, that while the connection between prison and Islamic radicalization is undeniable, “millions of prisoners have gone through Western penal systems and only about fifty went on to commit terror crimes.” He adds: “We shouldn’t think that prisons are manufacturing terrorists like automobile parts — if so, they’re doing a lousy job.”

  • U.S. officials: 6,000 ISIS fighters and “more than half” of the group’s leadership killed

    The U.S.-led airstrikes campaign has “taken more than half” of the Islamic State’s (ISIS) leadership, U.S. ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones said. Jones said the airstrikes were having a “devastating” effect on ISIS. “We estimate that the airstrikes have now killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq,” Jones said. He added that the airstrikes have “destroyed more than a thousand of ISIS vehicles inside Iraq.”

  • Radicalized Muslims from Central Asia flock to Syria to join ISIS

    The Islamic State (IS) is attracting Central Asians to Syria and fostering new links among radicals within the region. Unless the five Central Asian governments develop a credible, coordinated counter-action plan, including improved security measures but also social, political and economic reforms, growing radicalism will eventually pose a serious threat to their stability.

  • Saudi Arabia constructing 600-mile wall along its border with Iraq

    Saudi Arabia has been busy since September busy building a 600-mile East-to-West barrier which will run along its Northern border with Iraq.The primary purpose of the wall is to keep out Islamic State (ISIS) militants who have claimed that their goals are the eventual takeover of the holy cities of Mecca and Medinia, which lie well inside of Saudi Arabia’s borders.

  • European govts. urge U.S. tech companies to remove terrorist-related postings from sites

    The terror attacks in Paris have led French and German authorities to call on U.S. tech firms to help identify terrorist communications and remove hate speech from social media sites. The United Kingdom has also, for several months now, pressed Internet firms to be proactive in removing extremist content such as videos of sermons by radical Islamic preachers or recruitment material, from their sites. These recent requests for more cooperation between U.S. tech firms and European governments contrast with calls from many of the same governments who, following the Edward Snowden leaks, criticized U.S. tech firms for being too close to law enforcement agencies.

  • Researchers try to develop a methodology for predicting terrorist acts

    While counterterrorism agencies rely on surveillance and other forms of classified data to predict terrorist attacks, researchers and analysts are attempting to define what terrorism is and how it has evolved over time in order better to identify trends and patterns in terrorist activities. This better understanding may help predict the next major attack. Reliable predictions would be helpful not just for counterterrorism experts, but also for insurance underwriters who must consider the terrorism risk faced by large projects.

  • OBL’s assistant on trial in New York for 1998 bombing of U.S. Nairobi embassy

    Yesterday’s jury selection in a Manhattan courtroom brought tears to the eyes of many victims of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi. Khalid al-Fawwaz, alleged assistant to Osama Bin Laden, will stand trial for his part in helping plan the attack and for operating an al-Qaeda media office in London between 1994 and the time of his arrest. Prosecution of those involved in the 1998 attack has been slow, but progress has been made. Six men involved in the bombing were sentenced to life sentences in November 1998, several other participants of the attack have been killed abroad, including Bin Laden, but four remain at large.

  • Europe to tackle Jihadist radicalization in prison

    The problem of prison radicalization is raising complicated questions for lawmakers and security officials across Europe. One problem: Thousands of Europeans have joined Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and experts say that if apprehended upon returning home, these jihadists will be interned in European jails and continue their mission of radicalizing others, leading to an intensification of the problem of prison radicalization.