• Seeking clarity: Making gray-zone activity more black and white

    An emergent type of conflict in recent years has been coined “gray zone,” because it sits in a nebulous area between peace and conventional warfare. Gray-zone action is not openly declared or defined, it’s slower, and is prosecuted more subtly—using social, psychological, religious, information, cyber and other means to achieve physical or cognitive objectives with or without violence. The lack of clarity of intent—the grayness—makes it challenging to detect, characterize, and counter an enemy fighting this way. DARPA launches a new program called COMPASS, to develop software that would help clarify enemy intent by gauging an adversary’s responses to various stimuli.

  • Iran has at least 10 military bases in Syria

    Iran has a network of 10-13 military bases in Syria according to a new study. The study includes a map of Iranian bases, details of each base and an analysis of the strength of the main Shia militias operating in Syria. The bases have tens of thousands of troops from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC), as well as missiles and transfer facilities to support Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shia militia.

  • Former Argentine president to stand trial for covering up terror attack on Jewish center

    Argentina’s former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will go to trial on charges that she participated in the cover-up of Iranian officials involved in the 1994 terror attack in a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. In a 26-page ruling by Judge Claudio Bonadio, the former president and eleven former government officials were ordered to stand trial and were accused of the cover-up and abuse of power. One of those officials is ex-foreign minister Hector Timerman.

  • Britain deploys specialist troops in city where ex-Russian spy collapsed

    Britain has deployed specialist troops to remove potentially contaminated objects from the site where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were found unconscious after a suspected nerve-agent attack. Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, have been in hospital since they were found on a bench outside a shopping center in the southern English city of Salisbury on 4 March.

  • Toxicologist: Lab with “military capability” likely made poison used on Russian ex-spy

    British investigators have announced that a “nerve agent” was used in an attempt to murder Russian former spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March. But they have not specified what nerve agent was used in the attack. Alastair Hay, a professor of environmental toxicology and a member of the British government’s advisory group on chemical warfare agents, said about the likely source of the toxic substance: “I think it’s more a case in which we are talking about a military capability. If you are a diligent chemist, you will find procedures for making sarin and tabun and various other chemical agents. But there’s the complexity in making it and how efficient the reaction is. And, of course, there is the risk of exposure in making something, too. So containment to make sure that the laboratory person is not exposed is absolutely crucial. So I think, really, what one is looking at here is probably more a military-type manufacture. But again, we just have to wait and see.”

  • Nerve agents: what are they and how do they work?

    The first nerve agents were invented by accident in the 1930s when researchers were trying to make cheaper and better alternatives to nicotine as insecticides. In their search, German scientists made two organic compounds containing phosphorus that were very effective at killing insect pests. However, they soon discovered that, even in minuscule amounts, the substances caused distressing symptoms in humans exposed to them. The two substances – too toxic to be used as commercial insecticides in agriculture – became known as tabun and sarin. Since then, other nerve agents have been developed, but much less is known about them, although they are thought to work in broadly the same way. Unlike street drugs, nerve agents cannot be made in your kitchen or garden shed, on account of their toxicity, even in tiny amounts. Synthesis of nerve agents requires a specialist laboratory, with fume cupboards. As more details emerge from the case of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, we’ll know more about the precise substance used and how it should be tackled. Either way, nerve agents are horrendously lethal and chemical warfare is an obscene use of chemicals.

  • Record expansion of U.S. hate groups slows during Trump’s first year

    A new analysis explains why, as President Donald Trump goes past his first year in office, the pronounced, decades-long expansion of U.S.-based hate groups has slowed to a crawl during the first year of his administration. “[H]ate groups tend to grow in response to threats emerging from environments where social groups perceive their standing to be uncertain or at risk,” says an expert on hate-based social movements. “Hate incidents, in contrast, are most likely to rise primarily in response to expanding opportunities to act. Whether perpetrated through established extremist organizations or by free-standing adherents, such actions are most likely when those who desire to commit them perceive lower costs or risks.”

  • Extremists exploit gun control debate to promote hatred of Jews

    White supremacists are attempting to exploit the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, and the ensuing debate over gun control to push an anti-Semitic agenda. Many of these white supremacists are publicly framing the battle over gun control as a struggle between beleaguered whites who want to preserve their traditions in the face of a Jewish onslaught. The ADL says that white supremacists’ anti-Semitic attacks intensified in the wake of NRA head Wayne LaPierre’s 22 February speech to CPAC. LaPierre, perhaps unknowingly, used terms which are buzzwords white supremacists associate with Jews, such as “European-style socialists.” LaPierre said, “A tidal wave of new European-style socialists [has seized] control of the Democratic party.” The only people LaPierre mentioned as examples of people using “social engineering” to try to take away the guns and freedoms of Americans were two Jewish businessmen, Michael Bloomberg and George Soros.

  • Suspected nerve-agent attack in U.K. an “appalling, reckless crime”

    The substance used on 4 March to injure an ex-Russian spy ad his daughter was a nerve agent – but the British police say it was rarer than sarin or VX nerve agents, thus making the involvement of Russian state labs in the production of the substance certain. A spokesman for British Prime Minister Theresa May said the attack on Skripal and his daughter was an “appalling and reckless crime.” Skripal’s son Sergei, 44, died on a visit to Russia last year under mysterious circumstances.

  • U.K. counterterrorism unit takes over probe into Russian ex-spy's illness

    Britain’s counterterrorism police took over the investigation into the sudden and severe illness of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter as media reported that Skripal’s son died last year of unknown causes on a visit to Russia. Scotland Yard announced that its counterterrorism unit would take charge due to the case’s “unusual circumstances” after Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned that any involvement of a foreign government in the incident would not go “unpunished.”

  • Name your poison: Exotic toxins fell Kremlin foes

    The sudden illness in Britain of a Russian former spy has drawn comparisons with another poisoning in the United Kingdom – the 2006 assassination by Vladimir Putin’s agents of Russian former-spy-turned-Kremlin-critic Aleksandr Litvinenko. In using various poisons – some of them esoteric — to have his critics and adversaries killed inside Russia and abroad, Putin is continuing a storied KGB tradition. Here is a closer, if brief, look at some of the poisons Russian government agents have used on their lethal missions.

  • Small-drone threats to infantry units require development of countermeasures

    The emergence of inexpensive small unmanned aircraft systems (sUASs) that operate without a human pilot, commonly known as drones, has led to adversarial groups threatening deployed U.S. forces, especially infantry units. Although the U.S. Army and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) are developing tactics and systems to counter single sUASs, a new report emphasizes the need for developing countermeasures against multiple sUASs — organized in coordinated groups, swarms, and collaborative groups — which could be used much sooner than the Army anticipates. The committee that conducted the study developed a classified report that details its findings and recommendations, along with an unclassified public version that discusses key background issues presented in this news release.

  • Ecoterrorists suspected in acid attack on German energy executive

    German ecoterrorists are the main suspects in an acid attack on a German energy executive, which has left him badly injured. Bernhard Günther, the CFO of energy giant RWE’s green subsidiary, Innogy, was struck as he crossed a park in Haan, a well-to-do suburb of Düsseldorf, on Sunday. Left-wing groups – the most famous one the Rote Armee Fraktion (aka Baader-Meinhof group), which was active in West Germany from the early-1970s to the mid-1980s – have attacked and killed a score of German business people in the last four decades.

  • Atomwaffen, extremist group whose members have been charged in five murders, loses some of its platforms

    At least four technology companies have taken steps to bar Atomwaffen Division, a violent neo-Nazi organization, from using their online services and platforms to spread its message or fund its operations. The action comes after ProPublica reports detailing the organization’s terrorist ambitions and revealing that the California man charged with murdering Blaze Bernstein, a 19-year-old college student found buried in an Orange County park earlier this year, was an Atomwaffen member.

  • Bioengineers today emphasize the crucial ingredient Dr. Frankenstein forgot – responsibility

    Mary Shelley was 20 when she published “Frankenstein” in 1818. Two hundred years on, the book remains thrilling, challenging and relevant — especially for scientists like me whose research involves tinkering with the stuff of life. Talk of “engineering biology” makes a lot people squeamish, and technology can turn monstrous, but I read Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” not as an injunction against bioengineering as such. Rather, the story reveals what can happen when we – scientists and nonscientists alike – run away from the responsibilities that science and technology demand. Victor Frankenstein was certainly careless and perhaps a coward, unable to own up to the responsibility of what he was doing. We now know that science is best conducted with humility, forethought and in the light of day.