Hundreds of hand-wired satellite TV dishes in slums without sanitation
- Gordon Housworth [ 4/16/2004 - 15:52 ] #
NewsHour, 15 April, carried an audio clip on Al Hurra (The Free One), a US sponsored TV channel broadcasting to 22 Middle Eastern countries with 170 million potential listeners that is fighting for space among the some 130 satellite stations now in the Middle East.
Yes, al Hurra has blundered badly, perhaps very badly, commencing its inaugural broadcast with talking head interviews so reminiscent of other state sponsored stations and failing to report news of critical interest to listeners at the same level of priority coverage.
Yes, US diplomatic circles have voiced considerable frustration over earlier efforts, and many potential listeners say that, "If U.S. policy in the region was sound and convincing, they would not resort to cosmetic means to improve their image."
Yes, its sibling Arabic-language radio, Radio Sawa, or in English, begun two years earlier is doing better.
But as the NewsHour clip pointed out that in slums "too poor to have plumbing and sanitation," it was easy to spot the "hundreds of hand-wired satellite TV dishes."
Yes, we desperately need to balance our approaches to Israel and the Palestinians, but we must continue this program -- and continue to improve it -- as some will admit to watching it in private.
As the audio concludes, "The stakes are huge, nothing less than the hearts, minds, and attitudes of the Arab world."
Think what the Voice of America did for the US during the Cold War. Al Hurra could be the cheapest weapon that the US ever inserted into the middle east.
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Blowback on French institutional coupling of politics and business
- Gordon Housworth [ 4/16/2004 - 12:46 ] #
I found the extended criminal trial over French culpability in the collapse of the large California insurer, Executive Life, in the early 1990s, less interesting as a marker of a declining Franco-American relation than as a window into a very tight coupling of French politics and business (supported by intelligence) that assumes ('presumes' might be a better word) a "political solution" can always be relied upon to sweep away the putative laws and treaties in force between any partner, competitor, and customer.
In a series of court proceedings that predated by far the second Iraqi invasion, one negotiated settlement after another fell through as the French "couldn't accept that there was not a political solution," and that the criminal matter being pursued by US federal court would proceed unimpeded.
Now the French government has pleaded guilty to a criminal count, paid a packet over and above the bailout costs already borne by their taxpayers, and is staring down the bore of 'big money' in the US civil suit to follow. It must astonish the French just as it has, and still does, the Chinese, say, when they expect the US in suppress activities of Chinese dissidents here in the US.
On the reverse, US businesses are lulled into a false sense of security when they go overseas assuming that the 'script as written are the words that make it into the movie.' It does not work that way and US firms need to have a risk mitigation strategy in place when they go so that their investment is protected.
As one who has advised US firms in resisting the deprecations of combined French political, intelligence, and industrial assets in the energy sector, part of our guidance to mid-size energy firms operating in Africa are to:
Be offshore in partnership with at least one other major US player. Third world governments are less prone to interfere with the super majors.
If no US player is possible, be offshore in partnership with at least one major non-US player that has similar interests and risk assessments. Areas where the French have an overwhelming presence carry added risk.
Postwar France has deemed its right to a foreign policy independent of NATO to rest upon its nuclear Force de Frappe and its suzerain over Francophone Africa. France exercises that suzerain aggressively by using all its state and commercial assets. (The French are not all that pleased of our presence in non-Francophone Africa for that matter. Witness our rapprochement with Libya. In a stroke, we divert both Libyan spending and Libyan crude oil to the US -- crude oil that was flowing inexpensively across the Med to France, a point not lost on the US government.)
Do read the article as it is a delicious tale. And do armor up your risk detection and risk amelioration posture when you venture offshore into a region, or an industrial segment, of high value to France. Or Israel, or Germany, or Russia, or the PRC:
How Insurance Spat Further Frayed U.S.-French Ties
Paris Forks Over $375 Million In Executive Life Dispute; Gucci Owner Pinned Down
California's Civil Suit Looms
By JOHN CARREYROU and GLENN R. SIMPSON
Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
April 16, 2004; Page A1
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Muslim extremist sites borrow e-commerce tools
- Gordon Housworth [ 4/15/2004 - 10:32 ] #
Ref my earlier note on sites offering guidelines for prioritized attacks on Western commercial and private humint targets, these sites also offer their own form of 'sign-up here" along with tradecraft instructions. Al Jazeera (in English) is tame in comparison to Maktab-al-Jihad. Both are worth reading from time to time as you will wonder if you and they are on the same planet. Not much room for compromise here.
Our tools work just as well for them as they do for us. I find it interesting that the most conservative wings of Muslims and jihadists that would take themselves, and presumably ourselves had they the option, back to a seventh century apogee in terms of cultural horizon are only too willing to harvest 21st century communication tools to get there.
This article details some of the offending sites as well as efforts to take them down. As of this writing the Islamic Jihad site may be installing a new Apache web server version, but still validates its URL; the Hamas page is returning "page cannot be displayed;" and the Al-Qaeda site remains in 'takeover state.'
But al Fateh for children and Maktab-al-Jihad for adults are alive and well, as well as many more.
Activists Crusade Against E-Jihad
IPS-Inter Press Service International Association (Rome)
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The wisdom of laying siege to Najaf
- Gordon Housworth [ 4/15/2004 - 08:18 ] #
Before starting any discussion on Arabs and Middle Eastern Muslims, I keep in mind this Bedouin saying:
"My full brother and I against my half-brother, my brother and I against my father, my father's household against my uncle's household, our two households (my uncle's and mine) against the rest of the immediate kin, the immediate kin against non-immediate members of my clan, my clan against other clans, and, finally, my nation and I against the world."
The many-to-many relationships of interacting clans is much more useful to understanding this area than is the concept of a nation-state. Indeed, Saddam Hussein acted much like Josip Broz Tito in Yugoslavia in restraining this web of conflicting relations that US forces released at the fall of Saddam.
Juan Cole (Middle East history at the University of Michigan) writes with much nuance on the region. In a recent PBS Newshour interview with Ray Suarez, both Cole and Reuel Gerecht (ex CIA DO now at the American Enterprise Institute) weighed in on the merit of entering Najaf. Both academic and operative were firmly against it. I find it astonishing that we can be massing at the gates of what a US commander has called the 'Shite Vatican.' Yes, I appreciate the threat of force as a negotiating tactic but if our bluff were called we would face a fearsome endgame. Here is a snippet of that exchange:
RAY SUAREZ: Well, Professor Cole, the commanding officer of those troops, U.S. troops outside Najaf, said today, 'look at this as the Shiite Vatican, a single shot in Najaf could outrage the Shia majority.' He seems to be well aware of the delicacy of his mission. Is that a good analogy? Is Najaf the Shiite Vatican?
JUAN COLE: It is an excellent analogy and it should be remembered that the implications of U.S. invasion of Najaf would go far beyond Iraq.
All the Shiites in the world, in Lebanon, in Iran, in Bahrain and Pakistan and Afghanistan would be outraged by such an action and there would be terrible repercussions possibly for the United States in moving in this way.
And the problem is the U.S. military authorities have said that they want to either capture or kill Muqtada al Sadr. I don't understand this aspiration. If they capture him, there will be demonstrations by all of his fanatical followers -- and they are not miniscule in number. Every day in many cities until he is released, there will be hostage taking in hopes of trading hostages for him. If he is killed, then they will go into a guerilla insurgency. There has to be a third way -- possibly finding a way to exile him to a neighboring country without harming him.
Having US forces (read Infidels) at the gates of the Shite Vatican at all, much less without a plan other than to lay siege, is numbing. It is difficult to operate solely on unclass information, but one wonders who is thinking of the immediate secondary effects much less the longer term effects. It reminds me of the change that I so often level at Israelis in their dealings with the Palestinians: They win every battle and lose every war.
Even as I write things are moving rapidly as the US has enlisted Iran to offer temporary sanctuary to al Sadr after he surrenders to the grand ayatollahs who will then negotiate with US authorities. Cole is surprised that the US would seek Iranian assistance, thinking it a "sign of real desperation on the part of the Bush administration to turn to the Axis of Evil for help."
Cole warns that once Iran is in Iraqi politics that it will not be easy to get it out.
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Staff Statement No. 11 identifies critical path identification failure
- Gordon Housworth [ 4/14/2004 - 11:59 ] #
My ears were ringing as Philip Zelikov read the summary of Staff Statement No. 11, "The Performance of the Intelligence Community." It was the lead paragraph of the section, Warning and the Case of Aircraft as Weapons:
"Since the Pearl Harbor attack of 1941, the Intelligence Community has devoted generations of effort to understanding the problem of warning against surprise attack. Rigorous analytic methods were developed, focused in particular on the Soviet Union. Several leading practitioners within the Intelligence Community discussed them with us. They have been articulated in many ways, but almost all seem to have at least four elements in common: (1) think about how surprise attacks might be launched; (2) identify telltale indicators connected to the most dangerous possibilities; (3) where feasible, collect intelligence against these indicators; and (4) adopt defenses to deflect the most dangerous possibilities or at least get more warning. Concern about warning issues arising after the end of the Gulf War led to a major study"
The staff report noted that "laboriously developed" methods to detect [Soviet] surprise attack had languished, save for interest in al Qaeda's NBCR (nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological) weapons.
Report 11 then enumerated a large numbers of attempted uses of aircraft as weapons, but noted:
"These past episodes suggest possibilities. Alone, they are not warnings. But, returning to the four elements mentioned above [the] CTC did not analyze how a hijacked aircraft or other explosives-laden aircraft might be used as a weapon. If it had done so, it could have identified that a critical obstacle would be to find a suicide terrorist able to fly large jet aircraft. This had never happened before 9/11."
What was not explicitly stated is that these episodes happened over some years in diverse regions on the watch of many analysts under different reporting structures. There was no unifying trigger theme. This is the failure to understand a critical path of the terrorist's supply chain that we have pressed upon in our private distributions: terrorist access to, and control of, the flight deck. Our analysis showed that from Mohammed Atta's arrival into the US, the goal was access and control of a flight deck, first with light twin-engine aircraft converted to 'crop dusters,' and only when that approached failed, did Atta and the group shift to commandeering flight decks of commercial aircraft. We have seen that argument extended to freight and cargo aircraft and we have since made the argument that flight deck control can be remote as in UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) here and here.
Richard Clarke told the committee that he "attributed his awareness to novels more than any warnings from the Intelligence Community." Airliner-as-weapon was not the only failed analysis:
"There was, for example, no evident Intelligence Community analysis of the danger of boat bombs before the attack on the U.S.S. Cole in October 2000, although expertise about such means of attack existed within the Community, especially at the Office of Naval Intelligence."
In hindsight, it is effortless to connect the lack of visualization of a hijacked aircraft-as-weapon (or inflatable boat as weapon) to absence of identified telltale indicators, to no collection requirements against those telltales, to no effective means of deflection. That will not protect us from all future threats. Far from it.
Yes, al Qaeda has pursued certain themes, but it can craft new ones without warning, so to dwell solely on existing themes is to fight yesterday's war. What we must constantly do is look at where are weak, where we allow the perp to penetrate our perimeter or allow him or her to get "close enough," where there are exploitable lapses in our command, control and communication. Only then can we try to think asymmetrically as al Qaeda does so well.
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What is al Qaeda learning from the 9/11 Commission? How will we know?
- Gordon Housworth [ 4/13/2004 - 19:45 ] #
Learning is a two way street, and I am not speaking of Republicans and Democrats. We know that al Qaeda and other skilled militants "go to school on us," watching us, our military posture, our attack and defense procedures, our weapons (so that they can defeat, copy, or obtain), and our leverage points.
Nowhere amid the political slanging and efforts to 'pin my tail on your donkey,' do I see anyone asking, What are they learning from the 9/11 Commission and its proceedings - both public testimony and unclass commission documents? What do they see that we dwell upon and what we ignore? What changes in their operations and tradecraft might we expect from their analyses, i.e., what will they stop doing and start doing? How will we know, e.g., what precursors or fuzzy events will signal a shift?
While these questions have passed in and out of mind during the proceedings, a datum that Pickard (acting Director FBI) shared today drove it home.
This is an excellent opportunity for open-source collection and analysis to take an untainted look at the accumulated public record. My concern is that we are in such a spasm of self-discovery and blame fixing, that no one is performing an analysis on our proceedings. Failure to do so can open a window for an unexpected attack.
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Richard Kerr, former Deputy DCI, and others on PBDs
- Gordon Housworth [ 4/13/2004 - 09:34 ] #
Richard Kerr, former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, and a preparer of PDBs noted in an NPR interview this morning that the PDB is a "continuity document," that many of its items may be prepared a few days in advance of 'publication,' and that many items rise from an analyst's desk and are refined - as opposed to being written by Kerr or his successor. Kerr had prepared PDBs for Presidents Reagan and Bush.
I also call your attention to a valuable item at The National Security Archive (George Washington University), "The President's Daily Brief" By Thomas S. Blanton, Updated April 12, 2004.
Among the useful items on this page are:
The White House Fact Sheet titled "The August 6, 2001 PDB" that was released along with the 6 August PDB section, in a Q&A format.
A background briefing plus Q&A from two individuals that asked to be referred to as "senior White House officials": White House Briefing on Release of the August 6, 2001 President's Daily Brief Excerpt "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in U.S.," April 10, 2004.
While these latter two documents might be construed as a reasonably sympathetic administration view, they do offer additional information on the PDB.
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Only the zealot and the lucky "have it" on the PDB
- Gordon Housworth [ 4/13/2004 - 07:21 ] #
The release of the al Qaeda snippet from the 6 August PDB occasioned a number of pundits, some of whom I otherwise admire, lining up to slang this document into whichever political camp they preferred. Some in this readership may have done likewise.
I am still trying to figure out what I think I read. Perfectly clear, you say? Rubbish. Let me share a related example: How many of you are aware that if Condi Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission had been under a court of law (such as Clinton's impeachment trial) that her responses would have landed her in contempt of court on multiple occasions? She and the administration knew that the public watching would not know that and, as this was not a court proceeding, she could move to control the limited public time and make her questioners look like ogres. This takes nothing away from her performance. I am just telling you that I might have seen something different that you did.
As to the PDB, without knowing it, we are all trying to interpret one of the smallest distribution "newsletters" on the planet, the President's Daily Brief. It is said to be the most closely held document in a government where chimney building is rampant and control over information is power. The PDB is said to be an art form, a daily document that tries to be forceful without being alarmist. (There are in fact many pressures to resist alerts, many for good reasons.) Supposedly anything seen to hold a smoking gun "goes downtown" immediately and does not wait for the PDB, although a later PDB may well reflect follow-up and tracking.
Any reader familiar with my writings has heard me speak of misevaluating a "still frame from a motion picture." So it is with this PDB snippet. Its release will demand more information in order to put it in the appropriate context. Each PDB is a ten plus page document, so we need to know where the snippet sat in the order of issues of that PDB, how many other related items preceded and followed it in other PDBs, what steps did the president put in place as a result, and what follow-up occurred when to what effect. There are likely more questions to ask.
While my jury is still out, I am reminded that in previous great surprises such as Pearl Harbor (where we knew the Japanese were going to attack but did not guess Pearl) and Normandy (where the Germans knew that the Allies were going to launch an amphibious invasion but did not know where and so did not alert the proper divisions) that we may not always know the precise where and when even we are reading some of the enemy's mail.
On the other hand, I am remember that the first months of the Bush administration were marked by what has been called the "incuriosity" of the sitting president in foreign affairs. As I am adjacent to the Canadian border, my Canadian colleagues relish the question put to candidate Bush shortly after he had been stung in a pop quiz about foreign leaders. Candidate Bush fell victim to a foreign affairs trap when he responded on-air to a "comic posing as a reporter made up a story that Canadian Prime Minister "Jean Poutine" had endorsed him as "the man to lead the United States into the next millennium." (Canada's prime minister at the time was Jean Chretien and he did not endorse any US candidate.)
To hear the Canadians tell it, Bush fell into the flattery trap (as had the governor of Michigan and a top Bush adviser to the same question) and replied that, "I appreciate his strong statement, he understands I believe in free trade," Bush replied.
Poutine is a plate of french fries smothered in gravy and cheese curd popular in Quebec.
Again I submit that only the zealot and the lucky think that they "have it" on the PDB. We need more information to make a reasoned decision.
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FBI as a contender for 11 September culpability
- Gordon Housworth [ 4/11/2004 - 13:03 ] #
As the FBI attempts to transforms "into an agency that can prevent terrorist acts, rather than react to them as criminal acts, " a reader must be diligent in seeking a thoughtful, apolitical analysis of the issues and options for the bureau, DoJ, and Congress.
I do not pretend to understand the GAO but I am told by some I trust that it can play a bit of politics in what it chooses to investigate and can certainly be fed information backchannel upon which it can launch an investigation. The CRS, or Congressional Research Service, is a research arm of Congress that, to my notice, not been accused of same.
Although CRS reports are not readily available to the public, they can be harvested as a source of thoughtful and balanced information that has the ability to draw upon resources through the government. Heretofore they come down as PDFs but, perhaps because of its recent release (6 April), RL32336, "FBI Intelligence Reform Since September 11, 2001: Issues and Options for Congress" by Alfred Cumming and Todd Masse has has been found as an HTML page.
As you might imagine while bureau supporters and detractors alike agree that the bureau's reforms to gather intel by penetrating terrorist cells is a worthy goal, its supporters opine that the "FBI has a long and successful history of such penetrations when it comes to organized crime groups, and suggest that it is capable of replicating its success against terrorist cells" whereas its detractors "say recruiting organized crime penetrations differs dramatically from terrorist recruiting [and that strategic intelligence collection is a qualitatively different function than gathering information on criminal activity]."
I am not alone in the opinion that the bureau 'too often responds to a crime scene' instead of assuming a leading interagency posture needed to gather proactive intel. It is also no secret that I feel that we need an MI-5 equivalent. Yes, I know that is expensive and time consuming but I am price elastic in its achievement as the last figure that I saw for the cost of 11 September was 95 billion in 2001 dollars. I have had the opportunity to read transcripts from some of the cell calls from the towers. Not I, thank you very much.
I am aware of some difficulties within DHS, that resolution will exceed the near-term, and that they are not in a position to provide such an interagency-intersource analysis capacity. I also am of the opinion that there is not enough genuine asymmetrical threat analysis in all the agencies, FBI included. An example is the standard FBI security audit which is a qualitative analysis without a specific counterthreat analysis as opposed to a qualitative approach that moves forward into the shooters mission to identify them in their surveillance period.
While new bureau recruits are said to be steeped in national security and counterterrorism, foreign and domestic, it is very difficult to shift a reactive law enforcement mentality into a proactive intelligence approach to terrorism. The FBI will have to demonstrate that it can quickly gain the capacity to "collect, analyze and disseminate domestic intelligence so that it can help federal, state and local officials stop terrorists before they strike."
The CRS report goes so far as to criticize FBI leadership for their lack of experience in intelligence, thus calling into question the ability of current reforms to achieve the needed transformation. Whether by design or by serendipity, this debate regarding the future of the FBI and policy choices available to legislators, crosses the 9/11 Commission's work in attempting to determine who knew what when.
As I read items such as Briefing on Al Qaeda Included Specifics I wonder if the FBI will be set up as the group to take the fall -- or at least the lions share of culpability. I had thought that it might be Rice but given the gentle nudges in the Times and Post, the FBI grows in contention.
Briefing on Al Qaeda Included Specifics
White House Says Declassification of Pre-9/11 Document Will Be Delayed
By Walter Pincus and Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, April 10, 2004; Page A05
RL32336 -- FBI Intelligence Reform Since September 11, 2001: Issues and Options for CongressApril 6, 2004
Alfred Cumming, Specialist in Intelligence and National Security, Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division
Todd Masse, Specialist in Domestic Intelligence and Counterterrorism, Domestic Social Policy Division
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Latin American graft: collateral damage of war on terror
- Gordon Housworth [ 4/11/2004 - 10:49 ] #
For more than a decade, Miami has been said to be the 'capital of Central America.' Gaining residence in that capital, and retaining the means to support oneself there, may be slightly less easy than in the past due to two tools occasioned by the Patriot Act:
(1) Pursuit of US assets of foreigners convicted of corruption in their native countries
(2) Denial or revocation of visas for PEPs (politically exposed persons)
Corruption in Latin America: Harder graft notes that historically, visas could be revoked only for crimes such as drug-trafficking, war crimes, and immigrant smuggling. Concerns over national security are driving an attack on public corruption and its illegal web of moving money, people, and objects that can be co-opted as a "dual use" tool by terrorists attempting to smuggle explosives, weapons, or operatives into the US or to launder its own money.
Given the porosity of our southern and maritime borders, and the proximity of fertile grounds, this is useful even if it temporarily disrupts the current channels.
I am surprised that the second driver is a new found desire not to squander US funds on corrupt regimes. As Louis said, "I'm shocked - shocked - to find gambling is going on in here!"
Corruption in Latin America: Harder graft
Apr 7th 2004 | MIAMI
From The Economist print edition
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