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ICG Risk Blog - [ Contrast in torpor and agility: DHS-DoD-DoJ and Abu Maysara al Iraqi ]

Contrast in torpor and agility: DHS-DoD-DoJ and Abu Maysara al Iraqi


The redacted DHS Challenges in Consolidating Terrorist Watch List Information is damning enough in its conclusion that failed DHS oversight and poor interagency cooperation have failed to produce a single consolidated watch list, but a leaked FOUO copy makes it clear than more essential basics are not being covered. The redactions are as much example as specific blunder. Redaction examples in bold face:

A number of additional challenges, such as [such as identifying links between violent criminals and terrorism], privacy, [and duplicative federal activities related to watch list programs], could be pursued in the context of a centrally coordinated approach to watch list management.

Although TIPOFF data was being shared, the extent of sharing was inconsistent among other watch list systems. [Very little terrorist information was shared with state and local law enforcement.] Where information was shared, it was not supported by common architectures because individual agencies developed and implemented interfaces with other federal agency watch list systems on an ad hoc basis.

It is worth reading both versions split screen to see what was considered appropriate for exclusion. If we cannot shoot straight in this seemingly straightforward area, how can we presume to detect and preempt the genuinely dangerous?

Contrast our DHS-DoD-DoJ performance to the unified masterpiece of propaganda, public relations, and enlistment of Abu Maysara al Iraqi, or father of Maysara the Iraqi, a person or persons unknown to US authorities. Abu Maysara continuously evades US efforts to silence him/them while delivering the jihadist message, acting as a spokesman for Abu Musab Zarqawi, while building a cult following for Zarqawi. For Arabs, it is Abu Maysara that controls the propaganda war with the US by issuing frequent reports so that the jihadist message "does not become lost in the media blackout that America imposes in order to deceive its people and its allies."

Messages follow a rigid format, "always in Arabic [opening] with a standard greeting such as, "In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful," [then] the heart of the message [of the event or the attack], written in flowery language [that favors] ellipses, half-sentences" and mixing incident details with religious invocations.

Adulatory responses go unanswered. "He doesn't respond to requests for information… never replied … never gets involved in the discussion [and] never explains himself."

Abu Maysara is the apogee of terrorist/jihadist use of the internet, going beyond clandestine target research, communication, planning, and fund raising to attaining "direct control over shaping their own image and that of their foes" outside the control of established (enemy) news feeds. Peter Bardazzi echoes my comments in Beheadings as ascendant psywar that jihadists are using items such as the beheading videos to show jihadist dominance and opposition humiliation while drawing adherents, specifically noting that "the videos were changing popular sentiment about the war in Iraq the same way the images of fighting during the Vietnam War affected public opinion."

First appearing in January 2004 in the password-protected Muntada Al-Ansar and Islah chat rooms, Abu Maysara has continually moved his/their website around the world, the US included, often to unsuspecting hosts so as to provide a continuous presence to a widening audience that has forced him/them to solve thorny technology issues such as the ability to widely disseminate relatively dense video images that evade suppression by the authorities.

The application of YouSendIt of Campbell, California (originally designed to help families and colleagues trade pictures, videos, and multimedia presentations) to jihadist video propagation is inspiring in its brilliance. By the time officials are aware that a video is in the wild, compressed versions have already been anonymously distributed to global chatrooms beyond the reach of recovery.

It also appears that Abu Maysara can learn and adapt when it hears a good suggestion. A reader's idea that the Englishman, Kenneth Bigley, be made to beg for his life may have been the first time that Abu Maysara reshaped his/their agenda as within days Bigley did not follow the Americans Armstrong and Hensley, but was begging on video, in the orange jumpsuit of execution, in chains, in a cage, for his life.

Talk about mastery of medium and message, defining dominance and impotence in a stroke. And we can't get out a single bad guy list.

From a Virtual Shadow, Messages of Terror
By Ariana Eunjung Cha
Washington Post
October 2, 2004

DHS Challenges in Consolidating Terrorist Watch List Information
Leaked FOUO and Federal redacted
Office of Information Technology
OIG-04-31 August 2004

Effort to Create Terror Watch List Is Falling Behind, Report Finds
October 1, 2004

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  Terrorism Public  


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