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White hats and black hats will produce interacting swarms of rootkits, trojans, worms, adware and spyware


While Sony's recent botched DRM rootkit implementation (timeline coverage in parts I, II, and III) brought the term rootkit into the public domain and drew a remarkably quick retraction, it is only the harbinger of a group of interacting themes that I believe will make Richard Clarke's cybersecurity admonitions seem meek:

1.DRM content silos in audio, video and the workhorse print sector

2. Ostensibly "white hat" commercial construction of flawed, exploitable DRM implementations

3. Black hat criminal penetration efforts for cracking commercial gain

4. Symbiotic and parasitic interaction between white and black hat implementations

5. Black hat exploits combining unrelated white hat DRM audio, video and text implementations in concert with other secondary weak points.

6. Post-discovery recovery of white hat implementations open a cyclic growth of new holes

7. Antiviral protection providers will face heuristic hurdles in identifying a threat from a feature

8. Additive (and continuing) social engineering attacks in which individuals will violate personal and corporate security for pleasure or convenience

9. Long Tail legacy interaction of all the above

Suzi Turner's Rootkits galore: part I is recommended as a introductory piece and all of its links are useful. Then move to the bookends of Bruce Schneier's Sony's DRM Rootkit: The Real Story which points out the foot-dragging of security firms in flagging, developing and distributing fixes, and Larry Seltzer's overlooked Tough Decisions: Heuristics and Threats which points out the difficulty for security firms in trying to "acquire every version of every major commercial program to test it for malware" and yet insure that they do not "start falsely detecting legitimate software as malicious."

The lessons learned for content producers are not as sound as one might think. While bloggers had much to do with calling attention to Sony's XCP DRM suite, it was more likely the potential liability that Sony would face by malicious exploitation of the holes of that suite that saw it pulled from the market. Sony still has a second DRM suite called MediaMax in use since 2003, "the first copy restricting technology that installed software in an attempt to block ripping and copying." MediaMax is not as dangerous as XCP but still acts as spyware.

Worse, Sony's revenues have not suffered from the revelations of its digital rights excesses nor have many record stores reported significant backlash against Sony titles. (While Sony has reported a loss for the quarter, it is due to a sales slide in TV and Walkman purchases compounded by a lack of hit cinemas from its film unit.) It appears that many purchasers are unaware of the fault embedded in the CD that they purchased and so the holes in their personal PCs remain in place.

As one cannot see content providers relenting from attempts at DRM, I would expect that a swarm of unannounced, even obscured, DRM tools to proliferate. Even if they are speedily found, their numbers will rise, further complicating the virus update process, while nimble crackers will rush zero-day exploits into service to exploit a transient vulnerability. The impact on commercial firms whose employees continue to bring in CDs to mount on the office PCs and who cannot quickly mount new releases across their networks cannot be overestimated.

For now, it is recommended to disable autoload (or auto-play) on your personal PCs to prevent auto-inhalation of unannounced DRM tools. Then examine the directories on the volume, e.g., CD, with care before you proceed. Corporate users should edit their enterprise Group Policy to "disable auto-play from every single computer in the Enterprise globally."


SANS: Cybercriminals targeted popular applications, network systems in 2005
BY Michael Arnone
Published on Nov. 22, 2005

The Twenty Most Critical Internet Security Vulnerabilities (Updated) ~ The Experts Consensus
Version 6.0 November 22, 2005
SANS Institute

Tough Decisions: Heuristics and Threats
By Larry Seltzer
November 21, 2005

Sony sailing past rootkit controversy
By John Borland, CNET
Published on ZDNet News
November 21, 2005, 12:42 PM PT

Rootkits galore: part I
Posted by Suzi Turner @ 9:52 pm
November 18, 2005

Sony's DRM Rootkit: The Real Story
Bruce Schneier
Schneier on Security
November 17, 2005

Sony rootkit: The untold story
Posted by David Berlind @ 11:16 am
November 18, 2005

TRUSTe to legitimize adware
Posted by Suzi Turner @ 10:34 pm
November 16, 2005

Sony's Uninstaller Is Worse than Its DRM
By Larry Loeb
Security IT HUB
November 15, 2005

Sony Secretly Installs Rootkit on Computers
Bruce Schneier
Schneier on Security
November 01, 2005

Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far
Mark Russinovich
Mark's Sysinternals Blog
Monday, October 31, 2005

Gordon Housworth

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The halcyon days of the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance (DPG)


Part 1

Too few of today's readers remember how controversial (also here) the leaked 1992 Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) was in 1992. (This leaked DPG has apparently not been printed in full. Longest excerpts are at the end of this article.) A background snippet is in order:

Prepared by OSD and published in the odd year, the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) contains "defense strategy and the guidance for key planning and programming priorities to execute that strategy." The DPG is a primary product of OSD planning as it is the SecDef's "strategic plan for developing and employing future forces." The stated formulation of the DPG is supposed to reflect "military advice and information recommended by the CJCS [Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff]; service long-range plans and positions on policy and other matters advanced by Service Secretaries; and CINC [Commander in Chief] appraisals of major issues and problems bearing on command missions."

This was the first post-Soviet DPG; the Cold War was over and there were expectations of a 'peace dividend' and some stand-down in US forces abroad. Instead the DPG spoke in stern terms of maintaining sole US superpower status and thus moving to quash potential regional hegemons that included the USSR's successor, Russia shorn of its former satellite republics, but also Germany, Japan and India, maintaining US force status overseas, retain the capacity to fight a multi-front war, and formally introduced preemption of another state's use of what we now call WMD (chemical, biological and nuclear weapons) even "where our interests are otherwise not engaged."

The leaked DPG of February 1992 dispensed with the idea "that American efforts would be centrally multilateral" and caused an uproar as it stated "We will go with whoever we can convince to bring us along and, at the same time, we'll try to keep the coalitions behind us." The more politic draft of May 1992 deleted explicit references to Germany, Japan and India while saying "Our principal strategic goal is to preserve these coalitions. And only if they fail, will we act alone," but the damage was done. Many domestic and international constituencies were taken aback, categorically ill at ease with a self-appointed monopole, a benevolent, sole-source guarantor of world peace. As late as 2004, I noted:

One cannot grasp the flow of near-superpower political action without adding China and Russia to France's view that "Its sacred duty is to check American power by publicly and ostentatiously objecting to it from without. The French are so concerned by the dominance of American powermilitarily, economically, culturally, and technologicallythat a former French foreign minister felt the need to coin a new word to describe it: hyperpuissance, or "hyperpower." Think of it this way: France thinks the United States has so much power that the French language didn't have a word for it.

There is a valid school of thought that the 1992 DPG was a continuation of US containment policy that rose from George Kennan's 1947 Foreign Affairs article, The Sources of Soviet Conduct, then written anonymously, that called for an end to appeasement, but the 1992 draft went well beyond containment, calling it "an old idea, a relic of the cold war," in the process enshrining unilateralism and dispensing with the primacy of alliances formed in World War II. As it was classified Secret No Forn [Foreign], the DPG was presumably not to be shared with even NATO allies.

The three drafting authorities for the 1992 DPG were Paul Wolfowitz, then undersecretary of defense for policy, Dick Cheney, then defense secretary, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, called to State, and later Defense, by his former professor, Wolfowitz. At the time of the 2002 National Security Strategy, Wolfowitz was second at Defense, Cheney was Vice President and Libby was Cheney's chief of staff.

Frontline's 2003 interview with Barton Gellman is recommended. Regarding the final public 1992 DPG draft:

The overall guiding language got much softer. But one important thing to keep in mind is this is a document that is designed to direct the military services, how they should spend their money, how they should structure their divisions and their air wings. Even though the language softens, they were told, "Your requirements are that you need to be able to pull off each of these seven scenarios in the appendix." Those scenarios continue to be a dual war with Iraq and North Korea, or repelling a Russian invasion of Lithuania. The sort of philosophical guidance got softer, but the hard planning didn't.

Regarding the 2002 National Security Strategy:

Whatever they say about who drafted it [such as Phil Zelikow's denial of linkage] and whether the world is a little bit different now than it was 10 years ago, I see a very strong overlap between the [National Security Strategy] as expressed today, and the first and very muscular draft of the 1992 [DPG]. You have many of the same players who are in primary positions of influence. You simply have to lay the documents side by side, and you will see huge areas in which they're the same, and frankly very few in which there are striking differences.

Regarding the Bush43 administration's approach to international condominium:

Bush has a very strong conception of America as consensus shifter, and as a country that can change what the market will bear globally in terms of balance of power, in terms of leadership of unfriendly countries, in terms of the use of tools that include economic sanctions and military force. Clinton saw himself much more as the steward of alliances and of consensus that moved in the right direction. He didn't see himself as someone who could change the overall thrust, I think, of global policy.

One is left to presume that the US approached Iraq in 2002-2003 with the 1992 no "nation building" lineage intact.

The glimmer of a new multilateralism to follow.

The National Security Strategy of the United States of America
The White House
September 2002

Keeping the U.S. First; Pentagon Would Preclude a Rival Superpower
Barton Gellman
Washington Post
March 11, 1992

U.S. Strategy Plan Calls for Insuring No Rivals Develop
A One-Superpower World
Pentagon’s Document Outlines Ways to Thwart Challenges to Primacy of America
By Patrick E. Tyler
March 8, 1992

Excerpts from Pentagon’s Plan: ‘Prevent the Re-Emergence of a New Rival’
New York Times
March 7, 1992

The Sources of Soviet Conduct
By 'X'
(George Kennan)
Foreign Affairs
July 1947

Gordon Housworth

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Lengthening 'long war' in the Arc of Instability


With the Horn of Africa, part of Thomas Barnett's "ozone hole" of Globalization, hotting up yet again, I thought it useful to recap recent themes of US military strategy from what I might call benevolent, preemptive, domination (preventing the emergence of a rival superpower) to unilateralist Globocop to multilateralist Globocop in light of lessons learned - and being learned - in Iraq, world opinion of US actions and intent as evidenced by Iraq, and the ability of a US electorate to respond correctly over the time span required. For background, see Rescuing the descent of nation-states: strong, weak, failed, and collapsed.

Iraq has had an extraordinary effect on military readiness - leave aside whether you believe the effect worthwhile - and I submit that it has diverted assets that should long ago been positioned along the Arc. The impact and long tail of Iraq looms so large (infinitely more so in Muslim eyes) that it is difficult to speak of "post-Iraq" era, i.e., the US could evacuate Iraq tomorrow and the "post-Iraq" phase would hardly have commenced given that we will have to deal with its aftermath in Iraq, the Middle East, the Muslim World, and the developed world that will increasingly become a more accessible target for terrorists. I find it ironic that one of the architects of the Arc of Instability concept, Thomas Barnett, stated that:

The reason I support going to war in Iraq is not simply that Saddam is a cutthroat [or] because that regime has clearly supported terrorist networks [but] that the resulting long-term military commitment will finally force America to deal with the entire [region defined by the Arc] as a strategic threat environment.

Given Barnett's vision of the Arc and its threats to the developed world, one wonders if he still holds this opinion. I would opine that Iraq has been a expensive distraction that has discredited our aims (in both Muslim eyes and a goodly portion of the US electorate) and blunted our ability to affect the new multilateralist approach that is emerging at the military level out of sight of Iraq in such commands as the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF) based in Djibouti.

Barnett defines a Functioning Core, or Core, that where "globalization is thick with network connectivity, financial transactions, liberal media flows, and collective security, and I will show you regions featuring stable governments, rising standards of living, and more deaths by suicide than murder," and a Non-Integrating Gap, or Gap, where "globalization is thinning or just plain absent, and I will show you regions plagued by politically repressive regimes, widespread poverty and disease, routine mass murder, and—most important—the chronic conflicts that incubate the next generation of global terrorists":

  • "Disconnectedness defines danger," i.e., "If a country is either losing out to globalization or rejecting much of the content flows associated with its advance," it will be within the Arc, or Gap.
  • Bound the region containing the majority of US post-Cold War military responses, "namely the Caribbean Rim, virtually all of Africa, the Balkans, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and Southwest Asia, and much of Southeast Asia," and you define the Arc.

That is about two billion people with a grievance and no hope. Barnett sees bin Laden and al Qaeda as "pure products of the Gap" and its most "violent feedback to the Core." If al Qaeda is now a franchise, even a replicable idea, the Core has a problem given the weapons and tradecraft that can easily flow into an area devoid of state control.

At the Gap's margins, Barnett described "seam states" at which the Core will have to "seek to suppress bad things coming out of the Gap." Given that "classic seam states" in the 2002-2003 period were "Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Greece, Turkey, Pakistan, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Indonesia," the threats to the Core from these seam states are only growing in 2005-2006.

Again, one wonders how Barnett now views Iraq as a springboard to containing the Arc given what has transpired. British military historian, Correlli Barnett (no relation), answered harshly in December 2003 (but had publicly predicted an Iraqi invasion a "wreck" prior to the March 2003 invasion):

The truth is that the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq serve as bitter object-lessons in how not to conduct an anti-terrorist campaign. Washington must recognise that combating terrorists is essentially a job for special forces like the SAS, for the police or gendarmerie (or troops trained in a gendarmerie role) and, above all, for good intelligence (meaning, at best, spies inside al-Qa’eda cells) and not a job for heavy-weight hi-tech firepower.

Rather than kicking down front doors and barging into ancient and complex societies with simple nostrums of ‘freedom and democracy’, we need tactics of cunning and subtlety, based on a profound understanding of the peoples and culture we are dealing with an understanding up till now entirely lacking in the top-level policy-makers in Washington, especially in the Pentagon.

As of late 2003, Correlli Barnett felt that despite US predations into al Qaeda ranks that it was al Qaeda imposing its will on the US and enjoying the initiative. In "a classic case of strategic overextension," the two US military occupations had "simply opened up long American flanks vulnerable to increasing guerrilla attack."

As to timeframes in an insurgent conflict:

[T]here can be no quick fixes of the kind so congenial to the American temperament. It took the British colonial government in Malaya 12 years, from 1948 to 1960, to defeat the communist guerrillas. The vain British attempt to defeat the IRA lasted from 1969 to 1994, when the present armistice was concluded.

As to the establishment of democracy:

Nor can there be quick fixes when it comes to creating stable democratic regimes in countries fractured by ancient rivalries tribal, religious and racial. The shooting war in Bosnia ended eight years ago, and in Kosovo four years ago. Yet in both countries only the continued presence of large international garrisons to enforce the peace prevents a relapse into civil strife.

As to blowback against the US:

In the meantime, the hostility within Iraq and in the wider Islamic world towards the American viceregal regime makes it desirable that administrative as well as military responsibility for Iraq should be vested as soon as possible in the UN, acting through a UN high commissioner, preferably a Muslim.

Writing in Parameters in late 2003, Donald Chisholm sets out the task for us to understand friend and foe in the Arc and hopefully not repeat recent missteps:

Just as cultural differences make it difficult to discern an adversary’s intentions, the probability of effectively manipulating his perceptions also decreases as his cultural distance from our own increases—quite apart from the historic American habit of telegraphing our moves. If Thomas Barnett is correct in his assertion that the focus of American foreign policy and military action for the foreseeable future will be along the so-called "arc of instability" from the Caribbean Basin through Africa to South and Central Asia and across to North Korea—and I am persuaded that he is—then the United States will be addressing an extraordinarily heterogeneous array of state and non-state threats across a vast and varied geographic area, with the only common threads being unstable social, economic, and political systems, and the near complete absence of democracy and modern institutions. Thus, we will be almost exclusively confronting non-Western foes about whom we know relatively little. Although the detailed, in-depth cultural knowledge necessary for a basic understanding of enemy will and perception across the "arc of instability" is, at least in principle, susceptible of acquisition, gaining such knowledge will require considerable capital investment, systematic effort, and time.

To date, there is little indication such investment and effort has been made. Notwithstanding, for example, Vice Admiral Arthur Cebrowski’s [another of the authors of the Arc of Instability and a proponent of network-centric warfare] call for "regional expertise" as integral to the success of "network-centric operations," the focus has been on technology and hardware. As Edward Smith has recently had to remind us,

Precise effects-based warfare will demand more than sensor-based awareness. It will require us to identify both the specific vulnerability we need to act against and the desired result. To do this, we need to know the enemy. The process of creating such knowledge of the enemy will draw on sensor information, to be sure, and will be subject to some time compression as a result, but is much more a matter of creating regional expertise and extensive regional and technical intelligence databases. In short, we will find ourselves reintroducing the human dimension into the loop and expanding our reliance on functions that must be carried out over months and years, and essentially, must be completed before the battle even begins.

Even should we materially advance our regional expertise, military commanders and civilian leaders will still have to accord such factors significant weight in their planning and decisionmaking.

The halcyon days of 1992 to follow.

Why al-Qa’eda is winning
Correlli Barnett
The Spectator
13 December, 2003
Mirror, also here

The Risk of Optimism in the Conduct of War
Donald Chisholm
Parameters, Winter 2003-04, pp. 114-131

Transforming for Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations
Edited by Hans Binnendijk and Stuart Johnson
Center for Technology and National Security Policy
National Defense University
November 12, 2003

Pentagon Moving Swiftly to Become "Globocop"
By Jim Lobe
Foreign Policy In Focus
June 12, 2003
Printed in Asia Times, Jun 14, 2003]

Cebrowski: Emerging Global Threats Require New Methods Of Operation
Aerospace Daily
May 14, 2003

The Pentagon's New Map
Thomas P.M. Barnett
Volume 139, Issue 3
March 2003

The Economics of the 'Arc of Instability'
Ron Duncan, Satish Chand
Asian-Pacific Economic Literature
Vol. 16 Issue 1 Page 1 May 2002

Network Centric Warfare: Where's the beef?
Edward A. Smith, Jr
Submission to the Naval War College Review

Gordon Housworth

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The imperiling of validity of source, and validity of datum from source


The increasing clouding of provenance, content, context and interpretation of information both inside government and without, notably the fourth estate that is supposed to comment on the actions of government, is very disturbing. I am as worried by the actions of Miss Run Amok (Judith Miller) and her Executive Editor Bill Keller at the Times as I am the apparent Bush43 administration assertions of Iraqi nuclear weapons capacity when the "DIA did not trust or believe the source of" those assertions. If readers to my right and left are discomfited by this note, I may just have achieved my goal.

Writing in Blog speed, visibility, deception, and counterdeception, Feb 2005:

Traditional journalists have rightly commented that some bloggers rush materials on-line without sufficient fact checking and that due process should reign, which means the journalists' due process speed and not the medium's speed. Rubbish says I, these people might as well be Xerxes flogging the sea. Highstreet press has acknowledged the trend by permitting/nudging their serving journalists to put their own blogs.

The key for an open source analyst as myself is identifying an accurate datum regardless of provenance:

Figures vary on the percentage of open versus covert sources, but 90+% figures consistently cling to the open source category. Yes, one must apply the same critical analysis as one would do with classified data, starting with validity of source and validity of datum from source, but the data is there and it is often free of a central overriding institutional filter.

The intertwining of validity of source (sometimes called source reliability) and validity of datum from source (sometimes called information validity) is often overlooked outside the intel community as a valid source can periodically pass invalid data while a valid datum can emanate from an unreliable source.

While I have long said that commercial practitioners do not collect enough information in first instance (cultivate enough sources), and then do not apply a meaningful confidence factor to what is collected, my concern is turning to the willful manipulation of data, even deception (where there is no expectation of its presence) so as to rob the reader of a means of forming an accurate assessment. As omissive or comissive deception is at play, I suggest this trio:

Returning to Miller, I submit that The Reporter's Last Take is a damning indictment regardless of gender to the point that anything that she has or will write is suspect in my opinion. In the dupe category, I am no more comfortable with Keller and I recommend readers to Will Bunch's The Editor Who Cried 'Wolfowitz' in which Bunch cites two early pieces by Keller, the 2002 The Sunshine Warrior and the 2003 The Boys Who Cried Wolfowitz. (Mirrors of both articles now in archive are cited below.) To read those pieces today, especially Sunshine Warrior, in the light of what we now know of the failed planning for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Wolfowitz's participation in that planning, the kindest thing to say of Keller is that he is a distressing easy sale for a bridge in Brooklyn. Unlike Miller, Keller remains at the Times in the position of executive editor. No joy there.

Shifting to government, it is difficult for this analyst to escape the opinion that administration pre-war intelligence analysis utilized very selective sources and very selective data from those sources to construct their threat assessment and its presentation of evidence to the electorate was flawed to the point of being misleading. One can see the requirement of protecting Iraqi nuclear, chemical and biological WMD as a rationale for war when one reads Wolfowitz's comments to Vanity Fair's Sam Tannenhaus:

"The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason… there have always been three fundamental concerns. One is weapons of mass destruction, the second is support for terrorism, the third is the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. Actually I guess you could say there's a fourth overriding one which is the connection between the first two."

We now know that reasons one and two were erroneous, the third was not a motivator for war and the fourth is a conjunction of the erroneous. It must be daunting when the two primary legs of support are removed. While Jehl's Report Warned Bush Team About Intelligence Doubts speaks of the use of known dubious sources (Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi and Curveball) to support a cherry picking justification for war, it is instructive to read the attachments (here, here and here) to Levin's press release. It is difficult to square the circle when one accepts the existence of the "earlier and more skeptical" 2002 DIA report.

It would appear that the practice of employing selected, continually shifted data (as earlier rationales are discredited) has cost the administration dearly. Always an excellent site for the analysis of polls, Mystery Pollster makes thoughtful analysis on this slip and points to Polling Report Iraq data on the question if the administration were themselves misinformed by bad intelligence, intentionally misled, or lied to provide a reason for invading Iraq. Scroll through the polls by Pew Research Center, Nov 3-6, 2005; ABC News/Washington Post Poll, Oct 30-Nov. 2, 2005; CBS News Poll, Oct 30-Nov 1, 2005; and CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll, Oct 28-30, 2005. The numbers are grim.

Add to this the White House's self inflected wound of attempting to rewrite history by changing Scott McClellan's reply in a press conference caught on video tape to the inverse in the White House transcript and then try to get Congressional Quarterly (CQ) and Federal News Service (FNS) to do likewise. Wonkette's The White House's War on Transcripts is excellent. Adding insult to injury, the White House continues the denial when it could have so easily issued a correction that McClellan misspoke.

The net result for this analyst is to doubt more and more of what emanates from government and the supposedly lofty high street press, yet even here newspaper and print hold a far higher trust factor than TV. I do concur in the poll's ranking of PBS and NPR as the most trustworthy.

Newspapers Rate High in Public Trust Factor, But Public Broadcasting Tops All Media
By Miki Johnson
Editor & Publisher
November 10, 2005 1:40 PM ET

The Reporter's Last Take
In an Era of Anonymous Sources, Judy Miller Is a Cautionary Tale of the Times
By Lynne Duke
Washington Post
November 10, 2005

Miller and the Times Agree to Part Company
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post
November 10, 2005

The Editor Who Cried 'Wolfowitz'
By Will Bunch
Editor & Publisher
November 09, 2005

White House Stands by 'Not Accurate' Quote in Dispute
By Joe Strupp
Editor & Publisher
Published: November 09, 2005 11:30 PM ET

The White House's War on Transcripts
Nov 8, 2005

Report Warned Bush Team About Intelligence Doubts
New York Times
Nov 6, 2005

Levin Says Newly Declassified Information Indicates Bush Administration’s Use of Pre-War Intelligence Was Misleading
Senator Levin Press Office RELEASE
November 6, 2005

DIA Letter

Administration Statements on Iraq Training al Qaeda in Chemical and Biological Weapons

Administration Statements About Iraqi – al Qaeda Links

Survey Finds Most Support Staying in Iraq
Public Skeptical About Gains Against Insurgents
By Richard Morin and Dan Balz
Washington Post
June 28, 2005

The Boys Who Cried Wolfowitz
New York Times
June 14, 2003
Fee Archive
Cache here and here

Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz Interview with Sam Tannenhaus, Vanity Fair
Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz Friday, May 9, 2003
United States Department of Defense
Updated 29 May 2003

The Sunshine Warrior
New York Times
September 22, 2002
Fee Archive
Cache here, here and here

Gordon Housworth

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Fighting them in France, not Iraq, so that we do not have to fight them here at home


Whereas the Bush43 terrorism strategy is "to fight them over there [in Iraq], so that we do not have to fight them here at home," has not worked given the assets authorized to attempt the job, and that we are actually "producing more terrorists than [we are] eliminating, fighting them with France and in France may at least offer a glimmer of a cost-effective response.

In early 2004, I observed in Europe's value after Atocha that "the European bloc… is now more valuable than ever. The Abu Hafs Al-Masri Brigade put them in play and they must now work out a means to engage… A certain amount of US antipathy towards the French could even drain away if the French intel services engage in earnest. (Remember that the French government has its own quite significant issues with its Muslim minorities.)… The French have never endured a Church Commission and its aftermath, and its security services never suffered the equivalent of the "Levy Guidelines" as did the FBI."

I had also noted that "It is most valuable to have the FEBA (Forward Edge of the Battle Line) on their soil instead of ours" which would be an instant replay of the US-USSR Cold War confrontation that, had it gone hot, would have seen a NATO-Warsaw Pact confrontation on European soil. We could see the new NATO mission in the medium term to be anti-terrorism on, and entering, European soil.

The disclosure of the Alliance Base, a cooperative venture between the French General Directorate for External Security (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure -DGSE) and the CIA revealed that the French had already engaged with US intel assets in 2002 and was in the vanguard of recognizing a Muslim terrorist threat since the 1994 airliner hijacking by Algerians intent on crashing it into the Eiffel Tower. As the French saw the 11 September attacks as part of a "part of the jihadist campaign against Western civilization, Chirac ordered terrorist intel sharing in real-time "as if they were your own service."

Analyzing transnational terrorist movements with the intent to surveil or interdict, Alliance Base is said to funded from the CIA's Counterterrorist Center's classified "foreign liaison" account. The US adds its global surveillance assets while France adds "its harsh [Napoleonic] laws, surveillance of radical Muslim groups and their networks in Arab states, and its intelligence links to its former colonies."

The key elements in the French counter-terrorism strategy are the privileged relationship between intelligence services and dedicated magistrates, as well as the qualification of acts of terrorism as autonomous offences punishable by increased penalties. The specific offence designated ‘association’ or ‘conspiring to terrorism,’ makes a pre-emptive judicial approach possible. Meanwhile a sophisticated system named Vigipirate (security alert plan) of nation-wide, pre-planned security measures were developed. After the July 2005 attacks in London, Vigipirate was put in stade rouge (level red) swiftly invoking a large number of extra security measures in public places and public transport throughout France and along its borders.

The French intel community is tracking five trends;

  • Growing importance of the filière Irakienne (Iraqi network) network recruiting for the Iraqi insurgency
  • Recruitment networks operate Europe-wide with recruiters traveling back and forth between various European cities
  • Expectation that Iraq jihadist veterans will return to France to continue jihad
  • New category of Islamic extremists, almost all offspring of immigrants, "younger, more frustrated, and more radicalized than the French jihadists of the 1990s"
  • Apparent change in focus of the Algerian-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an offshoot of the GIA, beyond the borders of Algeria

French skill and cooperation was masked by the 2003 belief of the Chirac administration that "U.N. inspections had successfully contained" Iraqi WMD programs, and of senior anti-terrorism magistrate, Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere who "saw no connection between Iraq and al Qaeda" which made them a target of Pentagon ire, Rumsfeld's in particular. It is a marvel of DGSE-CIA-State Department cooperation and Alliance Base member states (US, UK, France, Germany, Canada and Australia) overcoming their parochial fears and interests, that the alliance prevailed. (Even Germany gets an 'end-run' around its laws barring its criminal investigative assets sharing data with its intel assets, as its members can read the collective traffic.) It strikes this analyst as bizarre that anyone in authority in the US could risk public attack upon the French given the value of the cooperation. I can only agree with Wilkerson that "it was totally irrational, even dumb."

Housing Europe's largest Muslim population, French and US "terrorism experts are desperate to take terrorist-group recruiters and new recruits off the streets, and have been willing to put their own anti-terrorism laws into the service of allies." Some useful background:

One wonders if the French are using the Alliance Base to bridge its "several agencies and departments within the same agency involved in counter-terrorism" and frequently "act as little kingdoms, invoking inevitable problems of coordination": The National Police houses the French Secret Service (DST), the General Intelligence Service (RG) and the National Anti-terrorism Division (DNAT). The Defense Ministry's DGSE "has a role in countering terrorism and in addition both the Gendarmerie and the Judicial Police in Paris maintain counter-terrorist judicial and intelligence capabilities." One wonders if the forthcoming (2006) sharing of one location and resources by the DST, RG and DNAT was an offshoot of Alliance Base, a recognition that cooperation from without would sooth cooperation from within. The threats on offer certainly cry out for convergence and cooperation.

That need has vaulted with the discovery that Islamist terrorists have acquired four black market MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense System) shoulder-fired Soviet missiles in Chechnya, likely Strela-2 (SA-7 Grail) or Strela-3 (SA-14 Gremlin) but could even be the Igla (SA-18 Grouse). It is instructive that CDI estimated in mid-2003 that over 700,000 MANPADS "are thought to have been produced in the past thirty years" but their proliferation only came to the forefront once access to black market missiles merged with the aims of terrorists and non-state actors. We can expect to see an increase in MANPAD attacks of a global scale as commercial airliners, with the exception of El Al and possibly some others, no not possess the countermeasures to deflect attack.

In what I would now undoubtedly surmise to be an Alliance Base case in progress, two missiles were "destined for cells operating in France" to attack aircraft at Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport while the other two "were to be sent to a Palestinian group operating in Lebanon." Worse, the trail was lost in Turkey and allied "intelligence and security agencies [are said to] not know what has become of the missiles or who might have control over them." Adding to the when, not if, mentality, recent al Qaeda communications suggesting that their assets focus on economic targets as diverse as Japan and China. [Update: Chinese Ministry of Public Security has withdrawn this alert as "not credible."]

Complicating the immediate European situation, Bruguiere notes that Iraq "is a major factor in the recruitment and radicalization of young Muslims throughout Europe [in a] process [that] is happening faster than ever before":

"They have the capacity to shift (from fundamentalist to radical to jihadist) to convert very quickly; some of them within two weeks." Some of these Muslims are converts to Islam, many have European passports, and may belong to ethnic or national groups that have not previously attracted the attention of security agencies.

Bruguiere sees Europe as the natural expansion chamber for al Zarqawi jihadists and that the Chechen MANPADS "were destined for groups in France loyal to al-Zarqawi. Investigators have also uncovered evidence of direct communications between European cells and al-Zarqawi operatives based in or near the Middle East."

France must now deal with this threat amidst a low grade Muslim immigrant demonstration across France (various links below), but it is interesting to note the French street rioters are not the most dangerous actors. Alexis Debat, a former French defense ministry official and now a contributing editor to the National Interest, was one of the very few to call attention to the fact that the most immediately dangerous actors were those not on view:

A lot of Islamic leaders, by the way, a lot of - you mentioned fatwas, but a lot of - even Salafi leaders are coming out and saying we have to stop the violence. And one of the most interesting phenomenons about these riots is that for the most part, the neighborhoods where the Salafi influence is [strongest,] where radical Islam is the most influential are the neighborhoods that are the most quietest now and it has to do with the fact that these neighborhoods, this rebellion is being channeled through religion.

Debat places the riots in no-win situation where even the "white" French cannot create enough jobs for themselves, much less jobs for Muslim minorities that face 20-40% unemployment:

[The riots are] about the lack of trust in the French government by these people -- the lack of trust in the French elite to make a difference. Today there is no organization or institution to channel this anger because those political parties have been totally discredited.

Today a French Muslim has one-eighth to one-tenth the chance of a non-Muslim French national with a non-Muslim name to get a job… [There] is a pervasive, very dark racism in French society that associates the second generation Muslims, these second generation immigrants with trouble.

[No] French government in the past twenty, thirty years has been able to create the conditions of economic growth and social integration in these poor immigrant neighborhoods to the point that the second generation immigrants were torching the cars now, feel like second class citizens. So it is not just an adjustment that is needed, but a true cultural revolution to make sure that these people are not excluded from the mainstream French community to kind of plug that racial divide between the white French and the immigrant French.

The Alliance Base as its work cut out for it and its contributors.

Riots Continue Despite Curfew Threat
8 Nov 2005
8 Nov 2005 -
Yahoo! News

Arabs Bear Brunt of French Police Racism: Report
By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent
Islam Online
November 8, 2005

Failed Policies, Marginalization Sparked Riots: Bove
By Hadi Yahmid, IOL Correspondent
Islam Online
November 8, 2005

New powers to tackle French riots
BBC News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 November 2005, 15:02 GMT

News Hour
November 7, 2005

Timeline: French riots
A chronology of key events
BBC News
Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 13:19 GMT

Maps: Riots in France
BBC News

The deaths that set Clichy ablaze
BBC News
Last Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2005, 10:44 GMT

As Youth Riots Spread Across France, Muslim Groups Attempt to Intervene
By Molly Moore
Washington Post
November 5, 2005

France; 250 Arrested
The Associated Press
November 5, 2005; 1:59 PM

A New Terrorist Threat In Europe
Sheila MacVicar
Nov. 4, 2005

France's disaffected Muslim businessmen
BBC News
Last Updated: Friday, 4 November 2005, 13:59 GMT

Rioters Attack Trains, Schools and Businesses in the Paris Suburbs
Villepin Urges 'Return to Calm,' but Government Offers No Plan to End Violence
By Molly Moore
Washington Post
November 4, 2005

French Rioting Spreads as Government Seeks an Answer
By Molly Moore
Washington Post
November 3, 2005

Anger Erupts In Paris Suburb After Deaths Of Muslim Boys
Teens Were Electrocuted Attempting to Avoid Police
By Molly Moore
Washington Post
November 2, 2005

Headscarf defeat riles French Muslims
BBC News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 November 2005, 17:41 GMT

Meet the United States’ Unlikely Ally in the Terror Wars
By Jeff Stein, National Security Editor, CQ Staff
Oct. 28, 2005 – 8:02 p.m.
Private subscription, not yet mirrored
Congressional Quarterly National Security

France Says Extremists Are Enlisting Its Citizens
Police Assert Some Trained in Mideast Could Attack Paris
By John Ward Anderson
Washington Post
October 19, 2005

Evaluating the Effectiveness of French Counter-Terrorism
By Ludo Block
Global Terrorism Analysis
Jamestown Foundation
Volume 3, Issue 17 (September 8, 2005)

France refuses to confirm or deny existence of joint US spy base
The News
July 05, 2005-- Jamadi Al Awwal 27, 1426 A.H.

Ministère des Affaires étrangères
Points de presse

US and France have secret anti-terrorism centre
4 July 2005

Help From France Key In Covert Operations
Paris's 'Alliance Base' Targets Terrorists
By Dana Priest
Washington Post
July 3, 2005

The MANPAD Menace?
Center for Defense Information
August 15, 2003

Gordon Housworth

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Marked non-response by French authorities to Muslim unrest rising from Clichy-sous-Bois


I admit to astonishment that the "deeply aggressive and ferocious" Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS), as well as the Gendarmerie Mobile (part of the Gendarmerie Nationale), have not been turned loose on French Muslim demonstrators. (One of the slogans and posters of the May 1968 demonstrations was "CRS = SS" along with a poster of a CRS officer with police baton and a CRS officer with police baton and SS logo.) Anyone who thinks that the US has a police state capacity has never seen the CRS and Gendarmerie in action, and they are only two of the robust French police assets:

France's two national police forces responsible for civil law enforcement agency are the National Police (Police Nationale) with primary jurisdiction in cities and large towns and the National Military Police (Gendarmerie Nationale) with primary jurisdiction in smaller cites, rural and border areas. The Gendarmerie Nationale is divided into the gendarmerie départementale (local policing functions throughout French territory) and the gendarmerie mobile (crowd and riot control, security of public buildings, policing requiring large personnel levels such as counterterrorism patrols). The Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS) are riot control assets that form part of the reserves of the French National Police. The CRS and the gendarmes mobiles are said to have similar missions.

I submit that a 2004 private note in the aftermath of the Atocha bombings, sent to a colleague displeased with the French, is instructive, especially as the woman mentioned, a US national, fully expected to be raped and killed, never to reappear from the underground French detention cell in which she was held. No US consul was notified by French authorities before or after her detention:

Now [the French] are more valuable than ever. Now they are in play and they are working out a means to engage. You want the FEBA (Forward Edge of the Battle Line) out there and not here. As they engage, they pick up intel on a wide spectrum of interests to us that should allow us to hit the wider infrastructure, logistics, and C&C.

Despite all the prattle about liberty and democracy, the French security forces and national police are ruthless beneath the surface. Example: I have a friend, an American national with legal Parisian residence, that was disappeared for some ten days for interrogation as to why the address book of a dead Palestinian had her name and address in it. This event was some fifteen years ago. Yes, she was a red diaper baby of socialist parents so was seen as a likely fellow-traveler, but her story started off like the French interrogations in Algeria…

Remember that it was only the French and the Russians that ended kidnapping and killing of their nationals in Lebanon. Each informed the pertinent authorities that they would decide who was guilty (note that I said 'decide' and not 'adjudicate') and then kill the grandparents, children, and grandchildren before the perp went. For men who were willing to die themselves, this variation of the Columbian "Leave no seed" killing stopped matters cold…

The 1968 response by French authorities was so substantive and so many restrictions and bans were being affected that the May 68 demonstrators responded with, Il est interdit d'interdire, or It is forbidden to forbid. A French colleague once told me that as more actions were proscribed that the more obscure, interdit d'trufé, or forbidden to truffle, made its appearance.

[For those that wish to pursue the trove of posters rising from May 1968, go here as a link to Chants Revolutionnaires de Revoltes et de Luttes. Politics aside, the graphics are remarkable. I always liked SALAIRES LÉGERS, CHARS LOURDS (Small wages, large tanks).]

As one who was a contemporary to the May 1968 student riots and the resultant French military police response, I find the current absence of determined response by French authorities to pose many questions. The answer may, in part, lie in the outcome of the May 68 events: De Gaulle's efforts to use police forces to quell student strikes only led to street battles followed by a national general strike involving more than half the French workforce. De Gaulle had created a military operations headquarters to deal with the resistance, dissolved the National Assembly and called for new elections. Had leftist trade unions and the French Communist Party not deflated the issue, the government would have fallen.

History is not enough as the circumstances and constituencies are different. More to be learned.

The deaths that set Clichy ablaze
BBC News
Last Updated: Sunday, 6 November 2005, 10:44 GMT

Timeline: French riots
A chronology of key events
BBC News
Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 13:19 GMT

Maps: Riots in France
BBC News

Violence exposes France's weaknesses
By John Simpson
BBC World Affairs
Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 14:34 GMT

Gordon Housworth

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Maritime piracy versus maritime terrorism in the Seabourn Spirit hijacking episode, part 2


Part 1

Whereas maritime piracy has an ancient tradition, maritime terrorism is recent. Maritime terrorism commenced not with the Achille Lauro in 1985 but in 1961 when Portuguese and Spanish rebels protesting the Franco (Spain) and Salazar (Portugal) regimes hijacked the Portuguese cruise liner, Santa Maria, in the Caribbean, ultimately releasing the vessel, passengers and crew without incident.

Piracy is "effectively the nautical equivalent of everyday crime" whom Phoenicians and Greeks offer the first recorded instances. Piracy is legally accepted as a universal crime, i.e., anyone committing piracy can be stopped and arrested by any nation, but the distinction between maritime piracy and maritime terrorism is a 19th century creation. US v. Brig. Malek, 1844, inferred that an act of piracy must be a crime of commercial purposes only. Piracy law did not shift until the 1958 Convention on the High Seas and the 1982 Law of the Sea. The Law of the Sea retained nearly identically the piracy clauses of the earlier Convention on the High Seas, enshrining the necessity of committing the acts "for private ends… on the high seas outside the jurisdiction of any state."

The Convention on the High Seas distinguished maritime piracy and maritime terrorism, in that "political terrorism is not committed for person gain, but to bring attention to a political goal" thus not covered under the Convention. After the PLF hijacked the Italian luxury liner, Achille Lauro, in 1985, murdering a passenger in the process which led to the terrorists being tried in Italian courts not for piracy but for murder and hijacking. The resulting 1992 Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts Against the Safety of Maritime Navigation strengthened the Law of the Sea as relates to any attempt to hijack a vessel, or commit a crime aboard a vessel, regardless of motive, should be prevented by the international community and that the perpetrators must be tried by the apprehending nation or extradited to one who will.

Unfortunately the signatories of the 1992 Convention are limited. The states most challenged by piracy are not signatories, e.g., Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cote D’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, and Brazil. China is a signatory but accused of very problematic fulfillment of its Convention obligations. The IMB has stated that "pirates know that if they come into a Chinese port, they can get cooperation." Examples:

  • In 1995 the freighter, Anna Sierra, and its sugar cargo was taken to the Chinese port of Beihai "known for its lenient government and thriving market in stolen goods" with the intent "to transfer the sugar to a prearranged Chinese buyer." Discovered, China did not release the vessel yet set the pirates free while selling the cargo and demanding a dockage fee.
  • In 1998 the tanker, Petro Ranger, and its jet fuel cargo, was taken to Hainan where Chinese authorities accused the ship's owners of "collaborating with the pirates, later selling half the cargo retained as "evidence" and freeing the hijackers.

The Petro Ranger's captain noted that he was interviewed:

by both the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Public Security Bureau (PSB). He found that the PLA was concerned as to how the incident would look internationally and thus seemed more prone to react strongly against the pirates. The PSB on the other hand seemed more in the control of the local authorities who are almost certainly linked with the piracy business.

The UN takes little direct action against piracy, save for an annual Law of the Sea resolution containing obligatory clauses condemning piracy and encouraging all nations to sign the 1998 Rome Convention. What action is does take is through the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and even that is modest at best. Direct action has been the purvue of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).

International Maritime Bureau (IMB)
Division of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)

International Maritime Organization (IMO)
UN organization responsible for monitoring maritime activities

28 Sep 05

Terrorism and the Travel Industry, Part 1 and Part 2
Moderator: David Unger; Panellists: Francesco Frangialli, Pedro Argüelles, Isabel Aguilera, William Fell, Victor Aguado
International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security
March 9, 2005

Topic Area B: Maritime Piracy
Harvard WorldMun 2003
Special Political Committee
March 2003

Shipping after the September 11th Attack: Preparedness Threat Scenarios and Security Measures
By Eivind Dale and André Kroneberg
Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute
May 15, 2002

Bandits in the Global Shipping Lanes
New York Times

Published: August 20, 2000
Fee archive
Free Mirror

Gordon Housworth

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Maritime piracy versus maritime terrorism in the Seabourn Spirit hijacking episode


The apparent maritime piracy attack (as opposed to maritime terrorism) using machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades on the MS Seabourn Spirit (photo) off the coast of Somalia is so long overdue. I simply can't imagine why it has taken/is taking so long since the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking (also here) for al Qaeda or the odd criminal group to take down a floating city for robbery, ransom or terrorism. Recently rated one of the world's best cruise ships, the Seabourn Spirit is an especially lucrative target as it is an high-end vessel whose passengers pay some $10,000 to $20,000 per person per fortnight. A colleague and I recommend against taking cruise ships and are even leery of ferries in certain areas.

One wonders if the recent Somali hijackings of the UN World Food Program (WFP) relief vessels and their sequestration in Somali ports was a series of practice runs to work out procedures and test interdiction responses. (There is some suggestion that this is the case.) Unless the weather conditions and sea state were accommodating, it is also interesting to see the kind of "speedboats" that ventured out 160 KM (100 miles) where most vessels assume themselves at low risk. One also wonders if they were loitering with a tender waiting for the intercept. (Surveillance for route, crew, cargo and sailing times is a straightforward affair.)

While this is being billed as attempted robbery (piracy), one wonders what the passenger manifest would show as a person of interest to either or both kidnappers or terrorists. In October 2005, the UN said that both the new Somali government and warlord groups were buying weaponry in preparation for a "military showdown" so this attempted hijacking could simply be a ransom attempt to defray expenses beyond the usual smuggling of drugs, weapons and people and less headline grabbing vessels.

While the attack was repulsed, the liner had to disclose some of its escape and evasion tactics for review by future attackers:

  • Crew drills designed to deter "people trying to get on the ship that you don't want on the ship"
  • Scuttling attacking boats with the cruise ship's wake
  • Attempting ramming
  • Rapid course corrections and flank speed
  • Suppressing alarms to contain on-deck passenger movement
  • Sonic blaster, or Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), a non-lethal weapon "developed after the 2000 attack on the USS Cole off Yemen as a way to keep operators of small boats from approaching U.S. warships"

Even if this attack was ransom and robbery, these attackers mingle with those intent on terrorism thereby forming an ample talent reservoir for future actions by pirate and terrorist alike.

From a terrorism standpoint, "Cruise manslaughter" via attack on cruise ship or passenger vessel, ranked high early on after 11 September, along side the "Trojan Box" container on a RO/RO ship or other ship carrying containers, chemical contamination via attack on chemical carrier, explosion via attack on LNG carrier and destruction of offshore oil and gas production node and supply network. The capture of a cruise liner that could be sailed close enough to shore to get 24/7 media coverage and then detonated and sunk, or taken into a port and detonated next to a refinery or a natural gas terminal. A major twofer.

New enablers are emerging via modern yachtjacking. Yachtjackers rose in the 1970s as drug cartels used hijacked yachts to transport drugs, then declined in the late 1980s as drogistas selected transportation with less repercussions and more capacity. Yachtjacking returned with a vengeance in the 1990s with spiking violence, loss of life and economic damage. I now see indications that mega yachts are being surveilled as "attack boats" whose helicopters can add to the offensive capabilities of the mega yachts in terrorist hands. There are newsletters for mega yachts that discuss such matters in muted tones.

The failure of the PLF (also here) escape plan from the Achille Lauro (surrender in exchange for safe passage, by the Egyptian airliner being forced down in Sicily) can be solved in various ways, e.g., a suicide team that does not intend to escape but rather to make a statement, or commandeering the vessel to a 'safe' shore such as Somalia where the hijackers could assume it possible to fade into waiting assets and then disappear.

The necessary conditions for successful piracy as opposed to terrorism, especially suicide terrorism, are:

  • Potential reward outweighs potential risk
  • Safe havens for hiding, affecting repairs, obtaining supplies, and selling off stolen goods
  • Operational locations where detection is difficult
  • Minimal governmental efforts attempting to detect pirates

A general lack of the rule of law where piracy takes place is advantageous. The most effective deterrent to piracy has been military action. Diplomacy has made only modest inroads. (In the colonial "Golden Age" of piracy, the operative enabler were the wealthier "colonial families in the Americas, especially merchant families, would buy goods from pirates and resell them at higher rates. There were also numerous ports throughout the Americas where, for the right price, pirates could safely go for repairs and supplies.")

For states like China and Somalia, the piracy problem is "as linked with corrupt government officials as it is with organized gangs." Many states struggling with piracy are "also some of the world’s poorest nations for the obvious reason that the people living there are often desperate to make a living, no matter what the cost.. often have the least resources to fight the problem, and considering that the victims are often from other nations, fighting piracy is never at the top of their agendas":

In fact many attacks, especially those off the coast of Africa and South America, are geared towards stealing such mundane items as rope or paint, which can then be sold for enough to allow these people to make a living. While such attacks are clearly not terribly damaging economically to shipping companies, the prevalence of such attacks carries a large human toll. On a basic level, the number of crew deaths is rising dramatically from attacks.

Part 2

Pirates blast liner
Daily Telegraph (AU)
November 07, 2005

Pirates May Have Also Attacked U.N. Ship
The Associated Press
Nov 6, 2005 12:52 pm US/Central

Cruise ship attack highlights threat from Somalia
By Daniel Wallis
Source: Reuters
06 Nov 2005 13:29:24 GMT

Unprecedented increase in piracy attacks off Somalia
ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB)
20 October 2005

Second UN food aid ship hijacked in Somalia
UN News Centre
13 October 2005

28 Sep 05

Terrorism and the Travel Industry, Part 1 and Part 2
Moderator: David Unger; Panellists: Francesco Frangialli, Pedro Argüelles, Isabel Aguilera, William Fell, Victor Aguado
International Summit on Democracy, Terrorism and Security
March 9, 2005

Yachting industry takes notice of joy-riding terrorists
By Lisa H. Knapp
Triton Nautical News for Captains and Crews
Vol 2, No. 4
July 5, 2005

Radical Islam and LNG in Trinidad and Tobago
Energy Security
Institute for the Analysis of Global Security
November 15, 2004

(Radiological attack on a cruise ship in the territorial waters of Barbados)
Co-sponsored by the Government of Barbados, Organisation of American States (OAS) through the Inter American Committee Against Terrorism (CICTE)
5 July 2004

Topic Area B: Maritime Piracy
Harvard WorldMun 2003
Special Political Committee
March 2003

Shipping after the September 11th Attack: Preparedness Threat Scenarios and Security Measures
By Eivind Dale and André Kroneberg
Norwegian Marine Technology Research Institute
May 15, 2002

Bandits in the Global Shipping Lanes
New York Times

Published: August 20, 2000
Fee archive
Free Mirror

International Perspectives on Maritime Security

Gordon Housworth

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Iraq replaces Palestine as militant Islam's crie de guerre, part 2


Part 1

Having often said that Muslims live in a past glory for which we (the West) give them no credit, it should come as no surprise that Muslims speak in an 'informed code' that we have not taken the effort to pierce. Thus bin Laden could say during the 1991 Operation Desert Storm that the US had destroyed Baghdad worse than its sacking by the Mongol Hulagu in 1258 and it was understood by the faithful.

Commencing in the early 13th Century, various Mongol generals descended on China, India, Afghanistan, Persia, Turkestan, and Russia. "For the cities and cultivated places in the Mongols’ path, they were a natural disaster on the order of an asteroid collision." Five hundred years of construction by the Abbassid caliphate had made Baghdad the wonder of the Islamic world and an irresistible target to the Mongols. Then as now, Sunnis repressed Shiites and the latter supported the Mongols. The caliph’s vizier, a Shiite, may have actively assisted Hulagu. Its sacking left it in ruins and what was not destroyed was completed in 1401 by the Turkic - and Muslim - Tamerlane. (Notice the habit: It is the infidel foreigner, Hulagu, that is remembered for blame and not the local Muslim, Tamerlane.) Baghdad was without further consequence until petroleum and European Great Power politics touched it in the early 20th Century.

The attraction of Baghdad is great in Sunni eyes, reaching mythic proportions:

Many Muslims believe that the Mongol destruction of Baghdad and of the caliphate was the worst misfortune ever to befall Islam. With it, the faith’s first period of flowering came to a decisive close… Historical speculations about what might have been if the disaster had never occurred go in various directions, some tending toward the wild. A book on Arab cultural identity published in the nineteen-fifties quoted a high official in the Syrian government who said that if the Mongols hadn’t destroyed the libraries of Baghdad, Arab science would have produced the atom bomb long before the West.

Western readers must understand that there is an ancient subtext at play here, one that most in the West are unaware of its symbolism but is palpable to Arabs and Muslims. In a Crusader Redux, great Muslim cities are occupied or leveraged by Western infidel powers; US/Coalition forces in Baghdad, the West's pawn, Israel, in Jerusalem and the presence and/or effect of US presence and impact on Mecca and other holy sites in the Arabian Shield. A colleague noted that Damascus can be included as it played a pivotal point in the Crusades and is now under pressure by the US, Europe and the UN. All other things being equal, this foreign presence is a rallying cry to nationalists and jihadists alike. See Putting bin Laden into the perspective of Islam, Part IPart II and Apocalyptic Islam.

Thus bin Laden can connect the US and Coalition forces to Hulagu and Muslim heads will nod. We stand convicted at the onset. After having initially ignored Palestine in favor of pursuing activities in the Arabian Shield and Southwest Asia, bin Laden adopted the Palestinian issue as a force multiplier for his own aims, giving it added potency.

By the time of the 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US had inherited centuries of distrust as yet another infidel Crusader along with at least two generations of pan-Arab enmity over its support of authoritarian Arab regimes and Israel alike, but US actions took only three years to move Iraq into primacy over Palestine as an Arab rallying call, recruiting tool, training ground for both in-country and 'transient' insurgents, vastly more effective base of insurgent operations than Afghanistan ever was, less ethnically identifiable base than Afghanistan offered, and a means to extend radicalization to Muslims beyond the Arab bloc.

Having allowed that to happen, we have failed to develop the means or the will to repair it. Conversely, al Zarqawi and his mujahideen organization have a clear plan to continue their operation by three targeting categories, each called a "political axis":

  • First axis, "isolate the American army": Target Arab translators cooperating with US military, the police and the National Guard
  • Second axis, targeting of Arab and foreign ambassadors: Target the Arab diplomatic corps to "isolate the [apostate] Iraqi government from the international community, and from neighboring countries"
  • Third axis, targeting of infidel militias, and the symbols of Unbelief and atheism the Shi'ites: Target non-Sunni militias such as the al-Badr Brigades, "who are supported in the first place by Iran, the filthy Shi'ite state and in the second place by Syria." 
The goal is to position al Zarqawi as the "true heir to the mother of modern jihad":
"al-Qaeda in Iraq is re-establishing other al-Qaedas spreading the jihad in all parts of the globe just as the mother al-Qaeda organization did from Afghanistan."

Al Zarqawi has expanded his Iraqi campaign to Muslim extremists populating "at least 24 groups, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to much smaller organizations in Indonesia" comprising "nearly 40 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe." Much of this growth has occurred since the 2003 invasion by the US, and is now said to have created a "network that rivals Osama bin Laden's."

Al-Zarqawi is a hero to extremists. One of the London suicide bombers equated al-Zarqawi with bin Laden and al Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri. In a video released last month, the bomber cited the three as his heroes… The persistence of [al-Zarqawi organization] attacks and subsequent media exposure have made al-Zarqawi the public face of al Qaeda and the broader insurgency. He has become so central to al Qaeda's operations that some evidence suggests he is providing money to bin Laden.

On a broader horizon, the letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's number two, to al Zarqawi is instructive in defining the plan to establish an Islamic Caliphate in Iraq in place of a secular regime, and then expand it (leave aside its authenticity as these four stages are validated elsewhere):

  • First stage: expel US forces
  • Second stage: "Establish an Islamic emirate... over as much territory as [Al-Zarqawi] can... in Sunni areas" of Iraq, and do it quickly "in order to fill the void stemming from the departure of the Americans"
  • Third stage: Spread jihad to neighboring countries
  • Fourth stage: All-out war with Israel, which may coincide with stage three

It remains to be seen if this Salafization of the Iraq conflict, which MGen Richard Zahner calls "an insurgency hijacked by a terrorist campaign," will be allowed to continue once a combination of Baathists and Iraqi nationalists achieve their goals. It is possible that both will exist in uneasy condominium for some time to come thereby allowing al Zarquari to preside over a neo-Taliban exclusion zone to continue his efforts.

Beyond the more identifiably religious, are the nationalists, Baathists included, whose motives for contesting US forces are independent of a religious jihad. Ghosh's nationalist facilitator is a case in point:

[His] dealings with jihadist groups have left him suspicious about their long-term goals in Iraq. "I've had many conversations with them, and I keep asking, 'What is your vision?'" he says. "They never have a straight answer." He fears they want to turn Iraq into another Afghanistan, with a Taliban-style government. Even for a born-again Muslim, that's a distressing scenario. So, he says, "one day, when the Americans have gone, we will need to fight another war, against these jihadis. They won't leave quietly."

Experts say US is losing war on terror
By David Morgan
1 November, 2005
Note Yahoo uses the original Reuters text (below) only altering the title.
Bush critics conclude U.S. is losing war on terrorism
By David Morgan
1 November 2005, 12:14pm EST

Al-Zarqawi as Master Strategist in Iraq, Rising Leader of the Global Jihad
By Stephen Ulph
Terrorism Focus
Jamestown Foundation
Volume 2, Issue 20 (October 31, 2005)

Professor of Death
EXCLUSIVE: An Iraqi insurgent leader reveals how he trains and equips suicide bombers and sends them on their lethal missions
By Aparisim Ghosh
Oct. 24, 2005
Original scrolled to
Mirrors at Time here and here
Mirrored in Iran

U.S.: Zarqawi A 'Daily' Threat
Oct. 22, 2005
Same text under different titles
U.S.: Zarqawi's Connections Grow Globally
Last Updated: Saturday, October 22, 12:51 PM EDT
U.S.: Zarqawi's Terror Network Growing
Oct 22, 5:52 PM EDT

Zarqawi 'Hijacked' Insurgency
By Bradley Graham
Washington Post
September 28, 2005

Destroying Baghdad.
New Yorker
Issue of 2005-04-25
Posted 2005-04-18

Iraq War Diverting Resources from War on Terror, Experts Say
by Warren P. Strobel
November 26, 2003
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Gordon Housworth

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Iraq replaces Palestine as militant Islam's crie de guerre


There are moments when a feeling is crystallized, when impressions are made concrete, and that happened again for me listening to Aparisim Ghosh, Time senior Baghdad correspondent, responded to the question, Would a fair and equitable solution to the Palestinian situation destroy the philosophical underpinning to Middle East terrorism:

That might have been true a year ago, certainly two years ago, but now that train, I'm afraid, has long since left the station. In Iraq, bombers come and participate in the jihad for its own sake and there is very little reference to Palestine at all. In fact, I have the suspicion that elsewhere in the world that Iraq is now replacing Palestine as one of the clarion calls for jihad. [Transcription from audio by this writer]

Party to a discussion of the motivations behind suicide bombers, Ghosh is a skilled observer who has accomplished some superb reporting in first interviewing a bomber in training who later carried out his mission and recently an Iraqi handler, a nationalist, who has shepherded some thirty bombers through their missions (also here).

In a stroke, one realizes that Iraq replaces Palestine as militant Islam's crie de guerre. Thirty years of US sanctioned (abetted or worse in Arab eyes) Israeli occupation that had made the Palestinian issue the polestar of political navigation for the moderate Arab-on-the-street has been superseded. But in the process, the occupation gave rise to mounting Palestinian frustration and hopelessness that created an impression that there was no other viable option to affect Israel's body politic than to pursue suicide bombing.

It becomes especially evident when Ghosh and Robert Pape, author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism, discuss motivators. More arrestingly, religion is NOT the important criterion for a suicide volunteer. The principal stimulus to volunteering IS foreign occupation which increases nationalist resistance. (Religion is, however, a multiplier when the foreign occupying power has a religion different from the local community which the terrorists can exploit to their benefit. We needlessly play into their hands when POTUS speaks carelessly of 'crusades' as the jihadists, and adopting Baathists, refer to us as [Christian] Crusaders to be repulsed a second time.)

Suicide terrorism is a quintessential asymmetrical attack tool in that suicide coercion is the inverse of the military coercion of the larger, ostensibly stronger power. The "presence of foreign combat troops on territory that the terrorists prize" cuts across all other drivers, be it religion, social status, revenge, poverty, or low education. Following the success of Hezbollah and its Iranian handlers in dissuading the US, France and Israel to remain in Lebanon, other asymmetric groups adopted the strategy (although much of the technical advances have been made by the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka). Of the terrorist campaigns since 1980 that Pape has studied, 13 have concluded while 5 are still ongoing. Of the 13, 7 resulted in territorial gains for the terrorists while 6 did not. Pape writes:

"The main purpose of suicide terrorism is to use the threat of punishment to compel a target government to change policy and most especially to cause democratic states to withdraw forces from land the terrorists perceive as their national homeland."

As observed in prior posts, suicide terrorism is a form of weaponry that terrorist groups, secular and religious, operate at a level above the suicide bombers. Suicide attacks are efficient weapons in that they have an effective homing capacity combined with obstacle avoidance and best timing of detonation. A colleague's private note stated:

As a weapon, suicide terrorism generally cuts in half the time for the protective side to perform [Boyd's] OODA loop. We’ve seen both volunteer and coerced suicides in terrorism and one could argue that the risk of letting free will into the equation is very carefully managed even with the ‘volunteers.’ [The] horror of the suicide within the homicide is a distraction, much as [is] the attack itself. [An essence of the process is that the] main objective of terrorism is to cause the target to do harm to itself.

While we are less accustomed to thinking of ourselves as social animals in modern life, we are [just that as well as serving] as the accessible part (of the target). As we identify with the victims, we identify ourselves with the target. That this all works outside of terrorism, identifying with another, is so obvious that it is almost concealed.] The trick for the terrorist is in the selection of victims that induce this ‘identifying with’ or ‘belonging to’ connection, and maybe also in ensuring that the right images happen. Certainly, the more immediate that connection, the more effective the result of a successful attack from the terrorist’s perspective.

Both Ghosh and Pape agree that suicide bombers themselves are "walk-in volunteers with little or no exposure to violence" and their suicide attack is their first and only exposure to violence. Pape also notes that post-1980 all suicide terrorism targets have been democracies as they are the softer, more vulnerable target in that they suffer public accountability with "low levels of cost tolerance and high ability to affect state policy." While I do not put Russia in the democratic category, I would agree that state censorship could only forestall a popular backlash against their Afghan excursion. (It will be interesting to see how this nominally authoritarian state deals with its Chechen problem.)

Pape states the reality of needing to "find a lasting solution to suicide terrorism that does not compromise our core interest in maintaining access to one of the world’s key oil-producing regions." Dying to Win points to the need for counterterrorist strategies that defeat the current pool of suicide terrorists while deflecting or disarming the forthcoming emergence of a larger pool. Pape paints a steep slope that is not now being pursued, certainly not with sufficient competence, consistency, or funding, combining such actions as thoughtful concessions to occupied areas that rob terrorist groups of their support and possibly their legitimacy among the sea in which they swim, reconciliation with Muslim states and developing core alliances with Iraq and Saudi Arabia to combat of anti-Americanism in the Middle East.

Based upon how poorly we're doing in those areas, and our presumed reticence to engaging in what would amount to a race war, one must question our relative lack of attention and investment in alternative fuels.

Part 2

A Look at Suicide Bomber Networks
Interviews with: Hany Abu-Assad, Palestinian director of Rana's Wedding and Paradise Now about Palestinian suicide bombers, Aparisim Ghosh, Time senior Baghdad correspondent, and Robert Pape, professor at the University of Chicago; author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism
Talk of the Nation
31 Oct, 2005

Professor of Death
EXCLUSIVE: An Iraqi insurgent leader reveals how he trains and equips suicide bombers and sends them on their lethal missions
By Aparisim Ghosh
Oct. 24, 2005
Original scrolled to
Mirrors at Time here and here
Mirrored in Iran

Suicide Bombs Potent Tools of Terrorists
Deadly Attacks Have Been Increasing and Spreading Since Sept. 11, 2001
By Dan Eggen and Scott Wilson
Washington Post
July 17, 2005; A01

Suicide bombings as military strategy
Expert: Attacks motivated by logic, not religion
By Henry Schuster
June 30, 2005; Posted: 12:05 p.m. EDT (16:05 GMT)

Inside the Mind of an Iraqi Suicide Bomber
In a rare interview, a "terrorist" in training reveals chilling secrets about the insurgency's deadliest weapon
Original scrolled to

Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism
by Robert Pape
ISBN: 1400063175
Random House, 2005

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  Terrorism Public  


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