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Continued Chechen prowess in the face of superior Russian numbers


The 21 June attack against the capital of Russian Ingushetia, Nazran, adjacent to Chechnya, bore the hallmarks of superb tactics, reconnaissance, and execution common to Muslim Chechen fighters, although the Russians believe the attack to have been a mix of Chechen and Wahhabi jihadists. In any case, it was superb tactics against an ostensibly larger but ill-prepared force.

Separatist Chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov had vowed in an RFE interview that rebels would shift their tactics against Russian security services. "Ingushetia may have been chosen because of its weak defenses and taxed capabilities. The province has hosted tens of thousands of Chechen refugees for years. Ingushetia's authoritarian leader, a Kremlin loyalist, forced the last refugee camp to close recently - though many have refused to return."

Oksana Antonenko, of the Russia and Eurasia program at IISS London (International Institute of Strategic Studies) questioned the Chechens' ability to sustain these tactics, noting that "the Russians have been quite successful in destroying large-scale military formations, so what is now left of the resistance of the rebels is a relatively small group;" unnamed Russian officials said that "just 500 rebels remain in thick mountain forests of southern Chechnya along the border with Georgia;" and in May 2004, Interfax news "quoted a regional Russian military chief asserting that rebels "are in fact completely disorganized" and on the run in groups of two or three.""

Somehow, about 200 of them got together for a superbly planned attack.  I think that, at least in public, everyone is underrating the Chechens. The coordinated, cross-border attacks into Ingushetia on 21 June temporarily took operational control of Russian territory by:

  • Simultaneous infiltration of multiple cities by night
  • Overwhelming fire and maneuver against rural police posts and barracks, achieving total surprise
  • Assumed command of a "network of road checkpoints and traffic circles," dressed as Russian and Ingush police
  • Summary execution of all police, military, and judiciary personnel that presented their ID at those checkpoints
  • Exfiltration before daylight

The Chechens killed 97, some two-thirds of those military and police, with an added 105 wounded.

A word about the Chechens as part of mountain border tribes: tribes in such harsh geography at a transit point between jurisdictions often resort to smuggling as livelihood. (The Basque corridor across the Pyrenees from northern Spain and southwestern France is another example.) Once the smuggling corridor is open, the value per kilo of the products that transit the corridor rises, which in the case of the Chechens has been become drugs, weapons, and specialized illegal aliens. Chechens have long had a criminal corridor across the Georgian border up to Moscow. Atop this, the Chechen culture has prized a warrior mentality and prowess that towers above those around them. A short but useful view of Chechen history and demography, admittedly hagiographic in its preface, is Who are the Chechen? I would also point the reader to the Council on Foreign Relations' Chechnya-based Terrorists.

For a decade prior to 11 September, the US saw fit to hammer the Russian Federation with its 'human rights violations against the Chechens, ignoring Chechen criminal history,  The US view largely reversed after the Manhattan and Washington attack, and became more pointed as Chechen soldiers move west in Bosnia, north into Russia, and south and east into the Stans and now likely Iraq.

Even under fierce, massed attacks by Russian troops and artillery -- where admittedly the early Russian troops were poorly trained and miserably and brutally officered -- the Chechens regrouped and counterattacked at high value weak points, even as the Chechen capital, Grozny, was reduced to a war zone worthy of Stalingrad. This is a group that had the skill and forethought to plant explosives in advance in a VIP seating area of Grozny's Dynamo stadium for a ceremony commemorating Soviet victory in World War II, killing the pro-Moscow Chechen President, Akhmad Kadyrov, and the commander of Russian troops in Chechnya, Gen Valery Baranov. This is the group that infiltrated Khankala, Russia's main military headquarters in the North Caucasus, in order to down a Russian MI-26 heavy-lift troop helicopter executing a 'safe descent' procedure that presumed no hostile forces underneath its tight downward columnar spiral. More than a hundred died when this huge helicopter crashed, and in a mine field at that.

Chechens earlier attacked Samara, a 'critical path' city in the Russian energy system that ships oil to Novorossiysk and Druzhba, on 4 June. The upshot was a near interruption of 3 million barrels of oil that served Central and Eastern Europe.  Again the attack was elegantly simple: a kilo of plastic explosives placed next to existing gas cylinders. In a stroke, the Chechens could have put a severe strain on global oil supplies.

Chechnya and its Muslim fighters continue to demonstrate an enormous capacity to operate outside their territory and, within reason, to widely export their combatants.  To the degree that al Qaeda can co-opt Chechen fighters to their cause, they will measurably improve al Qaeda's lethality and scope of operations.

Police in Ingushetia Tell of Rebel Assailants' Skill
New York Times
June 26, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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Systematic digital infection via compromised corporate web sites


As I write this, infection requires no more than a PC user merely visiting a co-opted website, but this time the corrupted sites are not the fringe of marginal sites or IRC chat rooms but mainstream and include such stalwarts as "auction sites, price comparison sites and financial institutions," including banks.

Poorly secured mainstream corporate websites are being penetrated and malware is being inserted that exploits two IE flaws for which Microsoft has yet to release a patch and for which no antivirus vendors have established detection and neutralization for the Trojan. There is presently no defense save for:

  • Setting IE browser security to high (which makes a number of sites nonfunctional)
  • Choosing a different browser than IE
  • Using a Mac
  • Staying off the web

Setting a frequented site as trusted is problematic as the site's IT folks may have been sloppy, as distinct from the veracity of its legitimate content, and thereby open to exploit. Using a properly setup firewall might at least block, or alert the owner to illegal outgoing traffic.

I have written often of the impact of the failure to prevent bad guys from operating inside our decision cycle, or in combat terms, operating inside the OODA Loop of your opponent as defined by John Boyd. In This exploit tool is fearsome. It should be on your box, I speak of a 'a loop trip of a matter of days and hours may be reduced to minutes.' This attack reduces it to zero. No defense, no active virus or passive worm, just pay a visit. Dick Clarke is again vindicated.

The Internet Storm Center tracks the growing list but maintains that it "won't list the sites that are reported to be infected in order to prevent further abuse." I think otherwise, feeling that the harsh glare of public identification will make the victims finally look to securing the web servers. "Researchers" offers a good lay description but if you want the geek details, go to the "Handler's Diary."

The perp or perps are assumed to be mainstream criminal gangs intent on inserting spamware or a part of larger activities of Russian organized crime groups, or perhaps one in the same.  The level of sophistication of the attack is high, it is customized malware and not a script kiddy copycat, the redirect sites are in Russia, and it would appear to be well funded:

"When a victim browses the site, the [inserted malicious] code redirects them to one of two sites, most often to another server in Russia. That server uses the pair of Microsoft Internet Explorer vulnerabilities to upload and execute a remote access Trojan horse, RAT, to the victim's PC. The software records the victim's keystrokes and opens a back door in the system's security to allow the attacker to access the computer."

I have often mused that sufficiently well-funded criminal gangs will form their own 'antivirus/anti-exploit' group (or buy or penetrate an existing one) for the purpose of surreptitiously identifying exploit opportunities and so stay perpetually ahead of the good guys. Microsoft surely understands the need to develop a more secure browser and a vastly simpler patch scheme, but now the ante has been raised.

Your OODA Loop is now zero and could stay that way, on and off, for some time. That will do wonders for Internet commerce.

Researchers warn of infectious Web sites
By Robert Lemos
June 25, 2004, 9:03 AM PT

Handler's Diary June 24th 2004
Updated June 25th 2004 01:27 UTC
* {update #2} .org dns problems, RFI - Russian IIS Hacks?
RFI - Russian IIS Hacks?

Gordon Housworth

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Once again, defining the unglamorous yet screamingly obvious US intelligence needs


The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence has sent its review to the full House of the President's fiscal year 2005 budget request, "covering all major intelligence programs within the National Foreign Intelligence Program, the Joint Military Intelligence Program, and the Tactical Intelligence and Related Activities accounts, and also covering functional capabilities, such as human intelligence, analysis, counterintelligence, counternarcotics, and counterterrorism."

In its FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS, the Committee said that its "in-depth study of three broad topics" within the Intelligence Community were deserving of particular note, all related to the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT):

  • Language capabilities
  • Intel on Iraq prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom
  • Interrogation and treatment of detainees in Iraq and other locations

After all the obligatory obeisance comments, the Committee said that five areas needed buckets of attention, money, resources, and management (my words, not the Committee's) in properly prosecuting the GWOT:

  • HUMINT (human intelligence) capabilities
  • Intel analysis
  • language capabilities
  • management of disparate intel IT systems
  • counterintelligence capabilities

The Committee returned to these areas with a vengeance in the topic of AREAS OF SPECIAL INTEREST, highlighting "areas of concern that it believes must be addressed with a high priority by the Director of Central Intelligence, (DCI) as the leader of the Intelligence Community, if intelligence sufficient to protect our national security is to be obtained and provided to policy makers."

"Global Human Intelligence Collection" led the list, noting that "all is not well in the world of clandestine human intelligence collection (HUMINT). The DCI himself has stated that five more years will be needed to build a viable HUMINT capability":

"After years of trying to convince, suggest, urge, entice, cajole, and pressure CIA to make wide-reaching changes to the way it conducts its HUMINT mission, however, CIA, in the Committee's view, continues down a road leading over a proverbial cliff. The damage to the HUMINT mission through its misallocation and redirection of resources, poor prioritization of objectives, micromanagement of field operations, and a continued political aversion to operational risk is, in the Committee's judgment, significant and could likely be long-lasting."

The Directorate of Intelligence (DI) was a close second, "suffer[ing] from disinvestments resulting from the so-called `peace dividend' of the 1990's. It was not until the World Trade Center and Pentagon were struck that senior DI management began to realize just how desperate the need is for an expanded and experienced analytic cadre."

The Committee notes four developments that "seriously undermine and degrade the relevance of the DI":

  1. Unsustainable surges in DI personnel to cover crisis issues.
  2. Culture of analytic risk aversion, (senior DI managers do not want risk taking--and that they will not stand by an analyst who has made the wrong prediction).
  3. Continuing overemphasis by senior DI managers on current intelligence reporting instead of on the longer-term, predictive, strategic intelligence forecasting.
  4. Senior DI managers still do not have the ability to drive collection priorities.

The Committee rounded out its needs list with:

  • CIA compensation reform (rethinking Pay for Performance (PFP))
  • National Reconnaissance Office funding and direction
  • Intelligence community language capabilities
  • Assessing the Terrorist Target
  • Information sharing
  • Counternarcotics/HUMINT operations
  • Enterprise information technology (IT) architecture

For what was said to be at times a highly partisan row over the final report, the above items get my vote. I lay many, if not most, of the problems against which we struggle today to the lack of the above recommendations. Fund it without dispatch and implement it well.

558 [To accompany H.R. 4548]
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
JUNE 21, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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China's opposing arcs: population and productivity


Mainstream China watchers focus on immediately tangible items as diplomatic initiatives, growth rates, manufacturing output, energy and raw material demands while leaving more distant items as demography to the statisticians, so it is rare to see China's Time Bomb: The Most Populous Nation Faces a Population Crisis complement the likes of The Graying of the Middle Kingdom.

Highly coercive population controls (such the 1979 one-child rule) begun a generation ago now see families reproducing below the replacement rate of 2.1 offspring -- down at 1.3 to 1.8, even as preferences for male offspring have spiked the number of illegal female abortions. Yes, those practices shaved off 300 million people, but now China is growing old, growing male -- and pampered "only children" at that.

Falling fertility and rising longevity will see working-age population beginning to shrink as current baby boomers begin to retire -- and only 25% will have pensions -- causing a massive dependency burden. Unemployment and underemployment will swing into labor shortage, causing wrenching changes for an economic model that has presumed an inexhaustible stream of cheap labor.

Private savings are now held in state-controlled banks where the bulk is invested in plants and infrastructure with only minor amounts for social welfare. The simultaneous impact of a shrinking labor pool, capital competition, and rising taxes could well impact China's development model. "Graying" points out that recent reforms are not working:

  • Large gaps in coverage
  • Widespread evasion
  • Prohibitive payroll tax rates
  • Empty personal accounts

And that genuine reform in time will be difficult:

  • Lack of central government enforcement
  • Immature capital markets with nascent legal, regulatory, and communications infrastructure
  • No guarantee that personal accounts will be genuinely funded and individually owned

If China cannot depend on the stimulation of state-controlled capital investment and cannot continue to lift the wellbeing of Chinese citizens, one wonders how the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) will retain its "mandate from heaven" to govern, especially so if its contest with the PLA (People's Liberation Army) gets out of hand.

While China could raise retirement ages and consent to ease the one-child rule, I think that these are more at the margin, especially in the medium term. My opinion is that China must vastly increase its productivity and profitability in most if not all critical path sectors.

One would expect exceedingly intense effort to build China's intellectual property base, expand its R&D and university base, increase its investments in "sunrise" industries such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, advanced manufacturing, and agribusiness, while securing long term access to energy and raw materials, making its mainstream manufacturing much more profitable and efficient as well as investing in novel cash generation models.

China's population pyramid for 2000, 2025, and 2050 leaves no room for error. Productivity growth must outpace population decline if China is to grow rich before it grows old.

China's Time Bomb: The Most Populous Nation Faces a Population Crisis
New York Times
May 30, 2004, Sunday

The Graying of the Middle Kingdom: The Demographics and Economics of Retirement Policy in China
By Richard Jackson & Neil Howe
CSIS Global Aging Initiative
Center for Strategic and International Studies
May 25, 2004

International Database (IDB)
U.S. Census Bureau

IDB Data Access--Display Mode
U.S. Census Bureau

Gordon Housworth

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Letting slip the essential link between political power and agricultural power


This note elaborates on the closing theme of Energy conservation was much easier for toasters: the rising challenge to a linchpin of US economic dynamism, food crop exports. This is one of the items that I feel are usually invisible to voters and many of the political elites and for which the distraction of the war on terror saps administrative focus to formulate a timely response.

It is worthwhile to look at the postwar landscape of US agricultural production rise that has provided both revenues (some 12% of US GDP) and significant sway over global agricultural agreements:

  • Both the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China had plunged into mad forms of collectivization stripped of any market incentive advantage along with population relocations that played havoc with production.
  • India was desperately poor and underdeveloped, seeking to ward off starvation in which even imported grain often rotted at railhead due to lack of transportation.
  • Argentina and Brazil suffered various authoritarian, military, and otherwise ineffectual regimes that blunted general productivity such that high per capita incomes at the beginning of the 20th century then declined.
  • Crop and animal enhancements were in their infancy, even in the US in the early postwar decades.

Wheat leads the change:

  • Over 90 nations now grow wheat, many at lower cost than the US and with greater proximity to key consumer markets.
  • The PRC (China) became the world's largest wheat producer after a sustained self-sufficiency effort.
  • India rose to significant world exporter as it released part of its substantial wheat reserves.
  • Russia has returned to the world wheat market as it rebuilds its Black Sea wheat belt.
  • US wheat acreage has shrunk to its lowest level since the 1970s.
  • US suffers the 'rich man's disease" of desiring imported foods.
  • Emerging food powers pour money into infrastructure (ports, rail, and navigation) while the US does not.
  • Emerging food powers have land for the taking (that the US does not) and suppresses environmental groups (which is politically difficult in the US)
  • Dwindling US production percentage raises farmers' risk as price swings due to shortages or climate do not favor US producers (loss mitigation).
  • Rising risk to US farmers raises demands for federal subsidies.
  • Biotechnology advances, first from the US and now other nations, are for sale to any global competitor.

It should be remembered that the 'cost of doing business' is far less in developing and underdeveloped nations as opposed to the US or Europe as business regulations, environmental and pollution control, and respect of tribal populations are mainly the interest of developed nations who have put the necessities of shelter, food, and survival behind them.

Livestock is not immune either. Just as US beef exports have catastrophically tumbled over fears of mad-cow disease (US beef was banned in more than 70 countries), Brazil is roaring onto the world market: "Brazilian agriculture has the benefit of vast pasturelands, low labor costs and a talented entrepreneurial class."

Agricultural power and political power are handmaidens. Brazil will contest any US commodity market that it can enter and will find welcome support from China and South-South allies. Brazilian infrastructure is being built at breakneck speed, often with Chinese assistance.

Barring new agricultural breakthroughs, the wildcard in the glide slope of US agricultural decline is China. It's governmental statistics are suspect in any category (witness the cooking of the books over the SARS epidemic) as in so many parts of Asia, the Americas, and Africa. It is unclear whether its current surplus will translate into net importer or exporter. It clearly wants independence from foreign markets in all key raw materials and food stuffs and will continue its drive for self-sufficiency.

New Farm Powers Sow the Seeds Of America's Agricultural Woes
Long a Buyer of U.S. Wheat, Russia Is Now a Threat; Economic Clout at Risk
Mr. Grenz Contemplates Soy
June 18, 2004; Page A1

How a Brazilian Cattle Baron Shakes Up World's Beef Trade
Mad Cow Boosts Mr. Russo And His Grass-Fed Herd; A Bullish Move in Israel
One Alligator and 13 Rabbis
June 22, 2004; Page A1

Famine to Feast: China's Attempt To Feed Itself Roils Wheat Trade
June 18, 2004; Page A8

Gordon Housworth

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Prison populations: a flash mob to be reckoned with


In Vengeful flash mobs, I had spoken of flash mobs and smart mobs, how originally innocuous flash mobs can turn deadly and how smart mobs could well challenge, even overpower, the C3 (command, control, and communication) capacities of opposing police and peacekeepers, or create an effective, flat P2P comm network for directing all manner of actions.

Just as I had mentioned my favorite flash mob example, a 2002 Nigerian Muslim rampage over impiety to the prophet Muhammad over an imported Miss World beauty pageant during Ramadan, the Texas Department of Corrections offered another: prison inmates using smuggled cellphones. Texas prison electronic surveillance found, for example, that members of a violent group, the Texas Syndicate, were using cellphones from within the prison to manage their criminal affairs on the outside. Other US inmate cellphone pastimes are purchasing drugs, planning escapes, and coercing witnesses. Cellphones are provided by corrupt guards and service workers due to their current size, weight, and metal content.

I was reminded that a major orchestrated flash mob riot of prison inmates using cellphones occurred in 2001 across 29 prisons in Brazil "in which 15 people were killed and 8,000 guards and relatives visiting the prisons were held hostage":

"The uprising was planned by a drug-trafficking ring inside Carandiru called First Capital Commando, and timed to take advantage of visiting hours. Sunday conjugal visits were established after the 1992 riots as a distraction for convicts, who each receive at least 30 minutes of private time in their cramped cells.

Inmates used cellphones smuggled in with the help of corrupt guards to co-ordinate the state-wide revolt. The First Capital Commando leaders were angry 10 gang members had been transferred on Friday from Carandiru to prisons in other states.

"This riot proves they're a very powerful organization," a local television reporter said. "They were flexing their muscles. The Governor of the state has now said he will negotiate directly with the gang members.""

It is said that technology has no loyalty and is open to any hand. As technology becomes smaller, wearable, and concealable, more capacity will fall to a wider number of groups. Cellphones and their chargers are being smuggled into prisons now. As they miniaturize, they will be harder to detect and smuggling can better bypass the guard conduit. The prison smart mob is closer that we think: KeyComputing is selling a highlighter-sized miniature personal server, Xkey, for the pockets of mobile workers. Think of what prisoners could smuggle in and out, or organize with such a device. Xkey has a USB port so it could be connected to a phone.

First Capital Commando sound much like the Texas Syndicate. Interestingly, the Texas Syndicate rivals are the Aryan Brotherhood, La Nuestra Familia, Mexican Mafia, Mexikanemi, and the Mandingo Warriors. Think of that collective lot as a group of smart mobs. Prison guards will be outclassed.

Inmates Use Smuggled Cellphones to Maintain a Foot on the Outside
New York Times
June 21, 2004

Hostages held in Brazilian prison refuse to leave
Fears for captors: Troops retake control of 29 prisons after synchronized riots
Marina Jiménez, National Post, with files from news services
February 20, 2001

Gordon Housworth

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Energy conservation was much easier for toasters


Suddenly, It's Hip to Conserve Energy reminds us that an earlier president (Reagan) mandated energy-efficient appliances for household applications and as a result "household energy use has fallen because of power-efficient appliances and technology-smart homes prodded along by tight new building codes" and so "capita energy use has remained about the same over the last 20 years" even as total use has risen with population growth and fuel-inefficient vehicles.

Our automakers resist higher fuel economy standards even as "Americans still use 10 times more gasoline per capita than the world average." Congress may not explicitly link fuel taxes and a "third rail" backlash but it seems like that in their resistance to touch the subject. Americans conserve under duress, such as the oil shocks of the 1970s and rolling blackouts of 2001, but it is a transient affair that reverts to mass consumption.

Toasters and refrigerators are less complex than automobiles and less wrapped up in the American psyche, but something must give. We have previously spoken of the impacts of the Hubbert curve on declining oil production and the rising contestants for the stocks that remain. Yet Hybrid Vehicles Hit the Heartland...Barely makes clear that only fringe areas on either coast along with some cities have even a modicum of interest in fuel efficient vehicles. Yes, we drive long distances (but not as long as Australians), transport larger families, and often carry more things, but until someone elects to 'follow the money' and so force, in one or more ways, better energy efficiency, we remain yoked to the politics of oil, or a proliferation of nuclear plants, or both.

I wonder how we will fare as the one of the key engines of US economic gain -- food grains -- is challenged by the likes of Russia and Brazil. How will we perceive oil if we have the same difficulty in paying for it as might some third world nation.

Suddenly, It's Hip to Conserve Energy
New York Times
June 20, 2004

Hybrid Vehicles Hit the Heartland...Barely
New York Times
June 19, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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Vengeful flash mobs: rural third world nationals demonstrate facile use of technology


C3 (command, control, and communication) is becoming increasing inexpensive to the point that cell phones, pagers, and PDAs can produce human events of amazing speed. What came to be called a flash mob was a harmless creation in the US:

  • Flash mob: A group of people who are organized via various mass communications to appear from out of nowhere to come together at a specified place and time, to perform predetermined (usually whimsical) actions for a brief period of time, and then quickly disperse.

As we will see below, the harmless flash mob can turn deadly when passions are inflamed. As tools become more pervasive, the flash mob will mutate into a smart mob and then police, constabularies, peace keeping, and occupation forces will have their hands full in dealing with an opponent that likely has faster, flatter communications than they do:

  • Smart mob: "Mobile communication devices, peer to peer methods, and a computation-pervaded environment are making it possible for groups of people to organize collective actions on a scale never before possible."

And if that peace keeping or occupation force is from another culture where an unintentional slight can launch an action of which the peace keeper is unaware of the cause and thus deprived of a means to defuse, things will spiral quickly out of control.

My favorite example to date was the Nigerian flash mob that set out to kill a newspaper journalist -- and in this case the creators of the misstep were local nationals, just not of the same religion. In retrospect, it sounds daft: The wife of the president wants to improve tourism and so imports a Miss World beauty pageant to Lagos during Ramadan.

The trigger was a journalist's comment that, "Muslims thought it was immoral to bring ninety-two women to Nigeria and ask them to revel in vanity. When will Muhammad think? In all honesty, he would have chosen a wife from one of them."

Solidarity text messages began to fly on GSM phones to alert the nation's Muslims to the blasphemy. The journalist went into hiding under a death sentence, the paper's bureau chief escaped being hacked to death by machetes by minutes, the paper's offices were set ablaze, and an embargo was placed on the paper's circulation in northern Muslim states.

As the original article has scrolled into archive:

"Even before the staging of its grand finale, which has now been shifted to December 7, a seemingly sponsored publication on the licentious beauty parade has sparked off a violent protest in the country.

Irked by the publication of a provocative cover story titled "Miss World: The World on their feet," which cast aspersions on the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in ThisDay newspaper of Saturday November 16, Muslims came out en masse at the Kaduna State branch office of the newspaper, just as a fatwa (religious decree) has been passed for the beheading of the writer of the offensive story as stated in an anonymous letter signed by one Sheikh Abdulkareem Abdullahi and sent to Weekly Trust.

The fatwa states that: "Isioma Daniel has committed a blasphemy against our noble prophet (SAW). Her offence is no less severe than that of Salman Rushdie who wrote the Satanic Verses to defame our prophet (SAW). Therefore, any Muslim who finds her should behead her for the sake of Allah and His rasul (SAW)."

There is much to be learned from this sad story:

(1) Third world nationals can demonstrate a facile use of technology.

(2) A fatwa for execution can be passed at the drop of a hat, even in a non-majority Muslim country, in this case calling for the beheading of the female writer of the offending story.

(3) Local Muslims lamented the lack of a sharia governed state such that the fatwa could be carried out with dispatch. Nigerian politics still resonates from this outcome.

(4) Sensitivity training is in order for those dealing with Muslims. Holding a "wiggle and giggle" event during Ramadan is not ideal, even if the idea came from the president's wife, the contestants were imported, and the principal consumers were outside the nation.

(5) Western sensibilities can get us into severe trouble with Muslims such that we can ignite a religious war in what we thought was a modest tactical situation. That does not mean that one cannot fight but rather one must be able to bring much more force to bear if the situation requires it.

(6) Is it any wonder that the Islamic governments with which we are now dealing on terrorist matters, have to tiptoe around the opinions of their nationals and so move "slowly" on issues of paramount interest to the US and the West? The article is worth a read to drive home the point of the sensitive temperaments on the street in many of the Islamic states that are our putative allies.

(7) Nigeria lifts some of the finest (lightest and easiest to refine) crude oil about. A more contentious issue with more lasting effect could impact what has increasingly been relied upon by the US as a stable source.

When I think of the missteps we have occasioned in Iraq, I marvel that we escaped more violent flash mob events there.

As a postscript, the paper's apology had no effect:

"[E]minent Islamic scholars are insisting that the writer of the offensive story cannot jump death sentence for blasphemy. Malam Rufa'i Adamu, the administrative secretary of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Nigeria (NSCIA) who spoke in his capacity as a concerned Muslim told Weekly Trust that though the ordinary Muslim may be helpless as Nigeria is not a sharia state, under normal circumstances, the culprit should die. "You cannot escape death no matter the interpretation one may adopt. Of course, one is free to seek to repent, which scholars said may be accepted. But the truth is that death is the final punishment, he said."

The Miss World Pageant was moved to London.

Fury Trails Miss World Pageant
Weekly Trust (Kaduna)
By AbdulFatah Olajide & Aliyu Askira in Kaduna
Lagos & Kaduna
November 22, 2002

Gordon Housworth

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Deposing the 'servant government': listening to the cant of the Patriot right

The American Patriot right is one of three essential classes of terrorists that we follow:
  • Foreign, non-state (al Qaeda and related organs)
  • Domestic, Patriot/radical right
  • Domestic, Single-interest

Along with at least one hybrid:

  • Temporary marriages of convenience between elements of the radical right and external terrorists (much like that made between radical right hate groups and black Muslim/extremist groups in the 60s)

It is grim reading to sup from the founts of the likes of the National Alliance, Racist Skinheads, Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Confederates, Council of Conservative Citizens, and Black Separatists.  Yet one of the most interesting and fastest growing categories is the "single-interest" category that includes ELF (Earth Liberation Front) and ALF (Animal Liberation Front) who have moved from indirect harm, e.g. tree spiking, to property damage to direct personal harm. Our sources tell us that the FBI is devoting quality effort to the single-interest folks as their 'hate profile' is directed at anyone that interferes with their sole vision, which in the case of the ELF and ALF is an untrammeled animal-friendly wilderness/environment. To read their materials is to the read the materials of the Patriot right or al Qaeda and its affiliates with different nouns. Expect this category to see significant growth. It is my opinion that the single-issue types are very bright and more savvy in commercial and technological terms than the patriot right, who now outnumber them.

In an earlier note, I spoke of the value of "committed" collectors and investigators, those whose passion to search out and document what would be obscure or tedious work for the rest of us. I turn to them again, this time Talking Tough from Southern Poverty Law Center.

"Talking" reports on the Give Me Liberty 2004 conference of the We The People Foundation & We The People Congress in January 2004, held adjacent to CPAC 2004, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. Give Me Liberty speaks a language alien to us as it focused on the belief that "the 1st Amendment Right to Petition and its power as the legal tool to reclaim Freedom and restore Constitutional Order" will free these folks from federal control and taxation.

It is not enough to look at Liberty session titles such as "What Must A Free People Do With Evidence That The Servant Government Is Taking Over The House?" or "The Constitution v. The Federal Reserve System." In the case of the federal reserve, "Talking" gets to the repetition of the 1980s Posse Comitatus term, "banksters," "banking class," and worse that allege, with some venom that the Federal Reserve is an "illegal private cartel secretly owned by a small group of greedy bankers" that is "perpetrating a fraud against the American people." One speaker noted "And Jesus' only violent act was to throw out the money changers."

Mel Gibson's father, Hutton, was a featured speaker who offered a diatribe against "an alliance of the government and the banks" that is leading us to "the New World Order and one-world government." Hutton went on to suggest that US citizens "secede and kick the feds out." Pat Buchanan's sister, Angela, said, "I believe we must have a revolution. Hopefully, it will be a bloodless one." A less tolerant speaker said, "If they confiscate the guns, I think there will be war. And I hope there will be war instead of letting it happen."

It is also worth following up the praise for the Liberty Dollar, a parallel currency to federal currency offered for sale to the general public by NORFED (National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve Act).  The construct of its legitimacy is worth a read.

Unspecified violence against the state remained a consistently stated option if the state did not 'respond' properly to the group's petitions.

So as we focus on al Qaeda and the beheading of Paul Johnson Jr in Saudi Arabia, we must remember that we have very vocal, assimilated citizen-adversaries closer to home.

Talking Tough
By Heidi Beirich
The Year in Hate, 2004
Intelligence Report
Southern Poverty Law Center

Gordon Housworth

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The delicate, unmentionable foundation of the 9/11 Commission's findings for 16 June


Having already touched on the content of the two 9-11 Commission reports and related testimony for 16 June, 2004, Overview of the Enemy and Outline of the 9/11 Plot, I thought it useful to draw together the threads that speak to the sources for goodly portions of the information presented: sustained, off-books detainee interrogation.

Recent portions of the commission's staff reports and testimony are sweeping in the unclass exposure of how al Qaeda worked (I use past tense and a new generation of middle managers is in place and so things may be/must be different in some respects). Around the edges there is mention of the contribution of key interrogations to that understanding. To the degree that is true, it begs the questions as to who, where, and how. We know some of the 'who,' but little of the 'where and how,' but one must not jump to the conclusion that every interrogation is Abu Ghraib writ large.

One in particular, Hambali (Riduan Isamuddin), once considered to be al Qaeda's key operative in Asia, is said to be jabbering away without duress on Diego Garcia. (For those not following his interrogation, it is admitted that Hambali may be practicing some deception, but his data has been corroborated by other means.) One not so likely to cooperate is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al Qaeda chief of operations and architect of 11 September, captured in Pakistan, yet he is said to be providing sound information. Given the seminal position of this individual, I would think that very serious attention is being paid to his interrogation and 'just say no' is not an acceptable option.

Khalid is among the high value ghost detainees invisible to the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross). While the US has acknowledged holding detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq, it has not mentioned Diego Garcia. (This island's isolation in the Indian Ocean is both boon and curse -- a boon to isolation and a curse to transparently and quickly moving in interrogation teams.) Khalid's interrogation techniques are said to be demanding and to include the 'washboarding' ostensibly now outlawed at Abu Ghraib.

I am leading the reader to make their own value judgment as to the merit of retaining a high value target such as Khalid where he is and under his current conditions of incarceration as it is one thing to read the commission transcripts as an antiseptic document and possibly another to consider their full means of construction, i.e., do ends justify means. I urge readers to follow their conclusions to a logical end instead of just stopping with a keep or release.

I am already on record as stating that I "favor the Israeli model in which we formally deny and selectively employ over a blanket rejection that puts dangerous tools into the hands of the unsupervised and unskilled while opening our already low global image to further predation and our troops to further peril."

To guide your decision I would recommend two earlier notes: Gresham's Law of Competitive Behavior and Applied competitive behavior: al Qaeda humint targeting.

In "Gresham," I comment that, "We are going to have to make increasingly difficult decisions to resolve the survival of our national wellbeing and polity in the face of increasing aggressive adversaries armed with potent weaponry and waging a war unlike any that we have experienced." "Life is indelicate when one’s continued existence is at odds with one’s ethics, especially when the foe is assuredly not a Geneva signatory and feels that he can torture and kill you at will to achieve his aims."

As I noted in Applied competitive behavior: "The Battle of Algiers", neither answers nor comfort are easy to obtain.  While we are mired in an armed struggle, I maintain that the solution goes well beyond the military realm and will demand a timeframe and political adjustments that the US will find daunting. Your mileage may vary.

The Terrorist Talks: Al-Qaeda's top man in Asia sings to interrogators about the group's operations
TIME, Sunday, Oct. 05, 2003

US hides high-profile prisoners
By Jon Manel
BBC Radio 4 Today programme reporter
Published: 2004/05/21 16:23:52 GMT

Focus: The confessions of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Sunday Times (UK)
March 28, 2004
Christina Lamb in Kabul

Gordon Housworth

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