Over-the-Horizon Counterterrorism | Eroding Terrorists’ Trust in Cyberspace | 4chan: ‘Cheering Section’ for Violence, and more

Canadian Online Searches for Far-Right Material Increased During Pandemic, MPs Told  (Elizabeth Thompson, CBC)
The number of Canadian online searches for material related to far-right extremist groups spiked sharply during the pandemic, an expert in online violent extremism told members of Parliament Tuesday. Vidhya Ramalingam is co-founder of Moonshot, which monitors and researches violent extremism. She said the number of such searches in the Ottawa area climbed even more after Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s government declared a state of emergency in February in response to the truck convoy protest. Ramalingam said her organization began tracking Canadian online engagement with violent far-right extremist groups in February 2019. “In little over a year, we tracked over 170,000 individual searches for IMVE [ideologically motivated violent extremism] content across Canada,” she told members of the public safety and national security committee. “As Canadians spent more time online as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic and lockdown, the engagement increased. Searches for far-right content increased 19 per cent weekly during lockdown measures. In Ottawa, we tracked a 35 per cent increase after Ontario’s state of emergency was declared.” Canadians also have been seeking out far-right conspiracy theories online, Ramalingam said.

How to Erode Terrorists’ Trust in Cyberspace: The Role of Intelligence Services  (Manuel Ricardo Torres-Soriano, GNET)
One of the most crucial missions entrusted to intelligence services in the fight against jihadist terrorism is carried out on the Internet. The way in which this mission has been undertaken is one of the least-known facets of the war on terrorism. In stark contrast to the intense public scrutiny received by covert programs such as leadership decapitation operations by armed drones and other interventions using paramilitary forces, anti-terrorist operations in cyberspace continue to be a little-known dimension. Actions have been conducted covertly for much of the time and the lack of transparency can be explained by concern over the need to protect the procedures used. The operations draw on the same resources and knowledge that facilitate cyber-intelligence operations against state actors. Those involved have taken the view that providing information on such interventions poses a risk that sensitive procedures would be revealed. Moreover, the information could be used by state adversaries to thwart active intelligence operations. However, the rise of the Islamic State and its territorial expansion in Syria and Iraq resulted in a noticeable opening up of information of this nature. By way of example, the need to convince public opinion that all available means were being used led the United States Cyber Command to acknowledge publicly for the first time that it was conducting offensive operations in cyberspace to combat Islamic State.  

‘Cheering Section’ for Violence: The Attacks That Show 4chan Is Still a Threat  (Justin Ling, Guardian)
The Washington DC shooting was the most recent to spawn out of the extremist culture of unregulated ‘chan’ message boards

U.S. Police Trainers with Far-Right Ties Are Teaching Hundreds of Cops (Julia Harte and Alexandra Ulmer, Reuters)
On social media, Richard Whitehead is a warrior for the American right. He has praised extremist groups. He has called for public executions of government officials he sees as disloyal to former President Donald Trump. In a post in 2020, he urged law enforcement officers to disobey COVID-19 public-health orders from “tyrannical governors,” adding: “We are on the brink of civil war.” Whitehead also has a day job. He trains police officers around the United States. The Idaho-based law enforcement consultant has taught at least 560 police officers and other public safety workers in 85 sessions in 12 states over the past four years, according to a Reuters analysis of public records from the departments that hired him. A Washington state training commission in 2015 temporarily banned Whitehead from advertising courses on its website because of instructional materials that referred to a turban-wearing police officer as a “towel head” and contained cartoons of women in bikinis, according to emails from the commission to Whitehead that were reviewed by Reuters. Other marketing literature touted Whitehead’s “deception detection” technique that, among other things, teaches officers not to trust sexual-assault claimants if they use the word “we” in referring to themselves and their assailant.

Climate Security, Energy Security, and the Russia-Ukraine War  (Mark Nevitt, Just Security)
Shifting away from fossil fuels from Russia and other petrostrates “offers a rare geopolitical ‘win-win’” on climate and energy security.

Intelligence and the War in Ukraine  (Naveen Shaaban Abdalla et al., War on the Rocks)
Almost every descent into war comes with speculation, accusations, and counter-accusations of intelligence failure. And, indeed, it is obvious to note that intelligence agencies are most often criticized when things apparently go wrong. Politicians especially enjoy the deflective properties of the term “intelligence failure.” It redirects attention from poor political decisions toward the usually anonymous technocrats of the intelligence world, a community as consistently doubted and demonized in the public discussions as it is lauded and lionized. Since the Bush administration’s dissembling over Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, intelligence communities derided the public use of intelligence products. Once bitten, twice shy. The role of intelligence during the run-up to, and since, the invasion of Ukraine represents an entirely new chapter in the political and diplomatic use of intelligence in international affairs. This is for two distinct but related reasons. First, the year preceding the Russian invasion represents a resounding and instructive success in a branch of intelligence more notorious for its miscalls: strategic warning intelligence. Second, decades of growing public transparency about intelligence, paired with unprecedented transformations in the capabilities and availability of open-source intelligence, made it possible for politicians, diplomats, and defense communities to reveal, challenge and warn of Russia’s warlike preparations and intentions.

New Ideas for Over-the-Horizon Counterterrorism in Afghanistan  (Jonathan Schroden, Lawfare)
Managing the terrorism threat in the Taliban’s Afghanistan is both difficult and necessary. The U.S. withdrawal and the Taliban’s return to power, however, have made it far harder for the United States to monitor and strike the Islamic State-Khorasan, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups active in the country. Experts propose, and evaluate, several “over-the-horizon” options that, while difficult, offer the possibility of managing the terrorism threat in Afghanistan without any boots on the ground and no friendly government with which to work.