Terrorism and counterterrorism

  • Expatriate Jihadists operating in Syria explain views, alarm West

    More than 3,000 Westerners — among them 70 Americans — are believed by intelligence and counterterrorism officials to have traveled to Syria to join the war against the government of president Bashar al-Assad. Many of them engaged in what they believe is a holy war. This increase in the number of expatriate jihadists has led to a more aggressive response by security officials. In Britain, the Home Office stripped more than twenty individuals of their citizenship, and in just the first three months of this year there was a spike of more than forty “Syria-related arrests.”

  • Growing Jihadist threat demands new U.S. strategy to combat terrorism: RAND study

    There is a growing terrorist threat to the United States from a rising number of Salafi-jihadist groups overseas, according to a new RAND study. Since 2010, there has been a 58 percent increase in the number of jihadist groups, a doubling of jihadist fighters, and a tripling of attacks by al Qaeda affiliates. The most significant threat to the United States, the report concludes, comes from terrorist groups operating in Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. There is a medium-level threat from terrorist groups operating in Somalia, Iraq, Libya, Lebanon, Nigeria, and Algeria. There is also a low-level threat from Salafi-jihadist groups operating in such countries as Tunisia, Mali, and Morocco.

  • Floridian is first known American suicide bomber in Syria

    Floridian resident Moner Mohammad Abusalha is the first known American suicide bomber in Syria’s civil war. His death last May came as a surprise to U.S. counterterrorism agencies, which had lost track of him once he entered Syria. Some 12,000 foreign fighters have so far taken part in the Syria civil war — 3,000 of them from Western countries — and the inability to track these foreign fighters reflects a troubling blind spot for Western intelligence agencies. U.S. intelligence services are further hampered by legal restrictions which limit the monitoring of U.S. citizens and their communications.

  • With massive presence of foreign fighters, Syrian conflict resembles 1980s Afghanistan war

    A new report by the Soufan Groupestimates that in just three years, 12,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Syria to support various rebel groups fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad. U.S. and Israeli intelligence previously estimated that there were 7,000 foreign fighters in Syria at the start of 2014. Security experts are comparing the situation to the influx of foreign fighters into 1980s Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, which saw 10,000 foreign fighters battle the Soviets in the decade-long conflict that spawned al-Qaeda.

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  • House passes measure requiring review of intelligence sharing practices

    In the bill is the first legislation written in response to shortcomings revealed by the Boston marathon bombings,the House of Representatives last Friday approved a measure which requires the FBI, DHS, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to review their information sharing practices and report back to Congress within ninety days. Post-bombing investigation concluded that had intelligence agencies shared information on Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings, prior to the incident, local law enforcement authorities may have been able to monitor Tsarnaev’s actions.

  • Urgent need: Dirty bomb detection technology which does not rely on helium

    It has taken 4.7 billion years for Earth to accumulate our helium reserves, but these reserves are dwindling at an alarming rate, and will be exhausted by around 2025. The supplies we have originated in the very slow radioactive alpha decay that occurs in rocks, and there is no chemical way to manufacture helium. The Department of Defense and other agencies use Helium-3 (He-3) to detect neutrons emanating from Special Nuclear Material (SNM) in order to counter the threat of nuclear-fueled explosives such as dirty bombs. Since the supply of He-3 is rapidly drying up, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) awarded a $2.8 million contract to Alion Science and Technology to develop a replacement technology which will detect neutrons without relying on He-3.

  • China implements airport-like security checks at crowded train stations

    China’s terrorism problem is worsening as a growing Uighur-led Islamist militancy has emerged in response to the Chinese government’s tough stance on ethnic problems in the Uighur homeland of Xinjiang in west China. In response to the growing security risks, Beijing passengers are now subject to security checks before their train commute.

  • Scientists: immediate action required to address superbugs’ threat

    Scientists warn that drug-resistant superbugs demand an immediate, serious response and that the steps required to plan for these pathogens were not properly taken in previous decades. “[A] world without effective antibiotics would be ‘deadly,’ with routine surgery, treatments for cancer and diabetes and organ transplants becoming impossible,” says one scientist. The scientists warn that if action is not taken immediately, the massive health gains made since Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1928 will be lost forever.

  • Scientists urge U.S. to do more to detect, prevent use of bioweapons

    Carefully targeted biological weapons could be as dangerous as nuclear weapons, so the United States should invest more resources in developing technologies to detect them, scientists say. What is especially worrisome is that “The advent of modern molecular genetic technologies is making it increasingly feasible to engineer bioweapons,” says one expert. “It’s making people with even moderate skills able to create threats they couldn’t before.” There is another worry: “A high-tech bioweapon could cost only $1 million to build,” the expert adds. “That’s thousands of times cheaper than going nuclear. Iran’s centrifuges alone cost them billions.”

  • Preventing ethnic violence: Full integration or full separation

    What if we could use science to understand, accurately predict, and ultimately avoid, ethnic violence? A new study argues that the key to peace is either completely to integrate or completely separate people based on cultural, linguistic, and ethnic differences.

  • Impasse over abducted girls as Nigeria admits it has no military option

    Military and intelligence personnel from France, the United States, Israel, and Britain have been in Abuja and in the field for three weeks now, in an effort to help the Nigerian military develop a plan to deal with the plight of the more than 200 abducted girls. After three weeks in Nigeria, these Western diplomats, and military and intelligence officials, concede that the Nigerian military and government are just not up to the task. “There is a view among diplomats here and with their governments at home that the [Nigerian] military is so poorly trained and armed, and so riddled with corruption, that not only is it incapable of finding the girls, it is also losing the broader fight against Boko Haram,” the New York Times reported. The paper continued: “That the hope of many across the globe [for the safe return of the girls] rests on such a weak reed as the Nigerian military has left diplomats here [in Abuja] in something of a quandary about the way forward. The Nigerian armed forces must be helped, they say, but are those forces so enfeebled that any assistance can only be of limited value?”

  • Port security technologies demonstrated in Gothenburg, Sweden

    FOI, the Swedish Defense Research Agency, conducted a demonstration in Gothenburg of technology designed to improve the security of ports around the world. One of the reasons for the research into countering intrusion is that many ports find that they lack good and affordable tools for seaward surveillance, and so find it difficult to guard against terrorist attack and organized crime such as theft, smuggling, and stowaways. FOI has, therefore, created a system that is capable of detecting divers, swimmers, or small craft which might attempt to approach the quayside or a vessel tied up alongside.

  • U.S. officials: Nigerian military too corrupt, inept to defeat Islamists, rescue girls

    U.S. officials have been unusually frank – and unusually public — in their assessment of the competence and effectiveness of the Nigerian military. The officials presented their analysis last Thursday, when they were questioned by lawmakers about whether the Nigerian military was capable of rescuing – or even locating – the more than 260 girls abducted by Boko Haram last month. U.S. military and intelligence officials said that even with international help, the Nigerian military was too corrupt and too incompetent to play a meaningful role in rescuing the girls. “We’re now looking at a military force that’s, quite frankly, becoming afraid to even engage,” Alice Friend, the Pentagon’s principal director for African affairs, said of the Nigerian military. “The Nigerian military has the same challenges with corruption that every other institution in Nigeria does. Much of the funding that goes to the Nigerian military is skimmed off the top, if you will.” There is another obstacle to U.S. military help to Nigeria: Friend told lawmakers that finding Nigerian army units which have not been involved in gross violations of human rights has been a “persistent and very troubling limitation” on American efforts to work with the Nigerian military.

  • Behind the Boko Haram headlines, slavery in Africa is the real crisis

    The mass kidnapping of schoolgirls by terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria is neither a new nor rare occurrence. Boko Haram has been active in Nigeria for five years and is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Africa’s slavery crisis. In Nigeria, there are tens of thousands of people bought and sold every year, according to Africa experts. The majority are children: in 2003, the International Labor Organization estimated that as many as six million Nigerian children had been trafficked at some time in their lives. In Africa as a whole, the scale of the problem is vast and far beyond the resources currently allocated to fight it, let alone sufficient to help victims. Experts estimate that $1.6 billion profit (an amount larger than the GDP of eight African countries last year) derives from African and Middle Eastern slavery annually.

  • Calif. Terrorism suspect to remain in jail, for now

    Last Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Allison Claire ordered the release of alleged supporter of foreign terrorists, Nicholas Michael Teausant, on $200,000 bail under restrictive conditions.. Teausant will remain in jail, however, because the judge accepted the request by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Hitt to allow prosecutors to take the matter to U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez on Tuesday.