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The Iranian Threat

Saudi Cyber Attack Seen as Work of Amateur Hackers Backed by Iran

October 28th 2012

hacker keyboard

Digital security experts say a major August cyber-attack at Saudi Arabia's top oil company appears to be the work of amateur hackers working on behalf of a nation state, and several signs point to Iran as their sponsor. The experts say the methods apparently used by the hackers to damage many of Saudi Aramco's computers pose new challenges to other companies based in the region, and to Western powers engaged in cyber warfare with Iran. Several hacker groups quickly claimed responsibility for the August 15 attack on Aramco, but their identities have remained a mystery and their online claims have not been verified.

Iran Accused as Cyber Attacker
The New York Times  reported Tuesday that unnamed U.S. intelligence officials believe the attack's real perpetrator was Iran. But it said the officials offered no specific evidence to support their claim. Earlier this month, Iran's National Center of Cyberspace dismissed the U.S. allegation as politically motivated. Saudi Aramco has not commented on the perpetrators of the cyber-attack, citing an ongoing investigation. Seculert, an Israel-based security company specializing in advanced threat detection, said the Aramco hackers may be affiliated with a government because the virus they deployed was designed to do more than just destroy hard drives.

The Edge of Terrorism

Kidnap More Westerners Wherever You Can, new al-Qaeda Video Urges

October 28th 2012


Al-Qaeda's current leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, is urging rampant kidnapping of Westerners, especially Americans, by his Muslim followers in a new video. Zawahri also is advising jihadists throughout the world to join the Syrian rebellion and to insist that the Egyptian government implements Sharia law. The Egyptian-born Islamist, who rose to the position of al-Qaeda's top leader after the killing of Osama bin Laden, spoke in a video that's more than two hours in length. Zawahri's videotaped message was originally released on Wednesday two weeks after the radical cleric released a filmed statement calling for more violent protests against the U.S. because of a film mocking the Prophet Mohammad being posted on YouTube by an American.

"We are seeking, with [Allah's help], to abduct [other Americans] and to incite Muslims to capture the citizens of the countries that are fighting Muslims in order to release our captives," he said. In his vitriolic message, he ordered his Muslim followers to continue Egypt's revolution until Sharia law is that nation's constitution. He also said that Muslims who join the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria should push for Syria to become an Islamist nation. Read more ..

Broken Borders

Obama Border Patrol: National Security on the Cheap

October 27th 2012

Border Patrol

President Barack Obama's and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's plan to provide new equipment and technology for the U.S. Border Patrol remains on the back-burner with the budgeted money being used to implement the administration's de facto Amnesty program for over a million illegal aliens, according to Homeland Security Newswire on Tuesday.

The leadership at the National Border Patrol Council -- the Border agents' collective-bargaining organization --continue to complain about their members being stuck with outdated equipment. For example, the alarm sensors now in use were originally said to be able to put Border Patrol agents in position to capture 90 percent of border invaders, but the Department of Homeland Security's own inspector general reported that a mere 4 percent of the alarms were confirmed cases of smugglers and border crossers, while 34 percent were false, or nuisance, alarms and 62 percent were undetermined. Read more ..

The Drug Wars

Pocket Litter: The Evidence That Criminals Carry

October 27th 2012

mexican police dudes

On Oct. 12, a pregnant medical doctor from Guadalajara, Mexico, attempted to enter the United States through the San Ysidro border crossing. The woman reportedly wanted to give birth in the United States so that her child would be a U.S. citizen. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers arrested the woman, who has since been charged with visa fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

Ordinarily, the arrest of a Mexican national for document fraud at a border crossing would hardly be newsworthy. However, this case may be anything but ordinary: Authorities have identified the woman as Alejandrina Gisselle Guzman Salazar, who reportedly is the daughter of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, one of the world's most wanted men. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Israel and the Weapons Factory Bombing in Sudan

October 27th 2012

IDF F-16s

The Israeli air force on Wednesday destroyed a weapons factory in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, during a well-planned, well-timed sneak attack, an Israeli counterterrorism source stated. The factory also manufactured chemical weapons. According to the Israeli source, Sudan, which is predominately Muslim, has for years been an accommodating arms supplier for the terrorist group Hamas, which now controls the Gaza Strip along with other radical Islamist organizations.

Sources said that the Israeli government reported to news reporters that four Israeli military planes attacked and destroyed the arms factory in Khartoum around midnight Sudanese time. The Israeli military attack ignited a huge fire in the destroyed weapons plant and surrounding buildings, according to the description given by the Israeli government. Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

The Benghazi Attack: Some Thoughts

October 26th 2012

Libyan rebels celebrate

"The real reason behind Benghazigate: Was Obama gun-walking arms to jihadists?" Frank Gaffney, The Washington Times, 22 October 2012  
On 9/11/2012 Ambassador Christopher Stevens was in Benghazi on what one can assume was hardly a pleasure trip. Since being named ambassador earlier that year he had been an observer as Libya's historical regions-Tripolitania in the west, oil-rich Cyrenaica in the east, and the Fezzan in the south-were reverting to their traditional fissiparous ways.  Tribal alliances were falling apart while the Sufi Senoussi brotherhood had revived in the east, the Muslim Brotherhood was very active in Tripoli, and the Fezzan was a no-man's-land where ethnic Toubou and Tuareg controlled trade routes into Africa's Sahil.  Most ominous of all, the Islamists were active everywhere. And the chaotic situation in Libya itself has allowed the various groups to husband weapons in what observers fear will eventually be a bloody showdown. Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Is Iron Dome a Failure? The IDF Explains

October 26th 2012

X band radar

Of the 86 rockets that were launched from Gaza into Israel in recent days, only 8 were intercepted by the Iron Dome air defense system. This appears to be a relatively small success rate when considering the billions of dollars that went into its development. The Algemeiner wanted to know why, despite the plaudits and praise, we are still seeing images of destruction and suffering at the hands of missiles being launched from Gaza. IDF spokesperson, Captain Eytan Buchman, explained.

On how the system works: “Because of the quantity of rockets fired it would be unrealistic to try to intercept every rocket. So what it does is it projects where the rocket is expected to land based on the trajectory of the rocket. So if we identify that a rocket is going to land in a populated area, or some other strategic site we initiate the interception process. This process happens within 15-30 seconds. So within 15-30 seconds we have to identify a rocket launch, figure out a trajectory and then figure out the best path on which to send an interceptor missile.” Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Hizbullah’s Unspoken War in Syria

October 25th 2012

Hezbollah rally

As the fighting in Syria intensifies, the conflict has already spilled over the border into Lebanon, threatening the fragile sectarian balance holding that country together and sparking yet another blood-spattered internal conflict. Although the clashes are still limited to the ill-defined border areas between the two countries and in the northern Lebanese town of Tripoli, still, the latest car bombing in Beirut on October 19 (the first since 2008) which targeted senior Lebanese intelligence official Wissam al-Hassan, who led the investigation that implicated Syria and Hizbullah in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, was most probably the result of Syrian–Hizbullah cooperation and could herald an expansion of the domestic Lebanese conflict between supporters and opponents of the Assad regime. Hassan was the brains behind the uncovering of a bomb plot that led to the arrest and indictment in August 2012 of former Lebanese minister Michel Samaha, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, in a setback for Damascus and its Lebanese allies including Hizbullah. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Did Israel Strike an Arms Factory in Sudan?

October 25th 2012

Heron Drone
Israeli Heron drone

Did Israel just bomb an arms factory in Sudan?

The Sudanese government is claiming that Israel sent four jets to destroy an arms factory Wednesday morning, killing two. Reportedly, 60 percent of the factory was totally destroyed by the strike, while 40 percent was partially damaged. "We believe that Israel is behind it," adding "Sudan reserves the right to strike back at Israel."

Israel has reportedly undertaken military action in Sudan before. Although the newly independent and mostly Christian South Sudan is a staunch ally of Israel, the Muslim-dominated north Sudan is a hotbed of terrorism and fundamentalism. It has long been believed that many of the arms used by Gaza terrorist groups were manufactured or bought in Sudan and then smuggled into the Strip via Egypt. In 2009, Sudan also blamed Israel for a strike on an arms convoy reportedly headed to the Gaza Strip. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Hamas Continues to Pepper Israeli Border Region with Rockets

October 25th 2012

Hamas Rocket

Violence has flared on the Israeli border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, leaving at least four Palestinians dead and several people in Israel and Gaza wounded. Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted several rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza. But dozens of other rockets and mortar shells crashed into Israel hitting a number of houses.

​​Eli Nitzan’s house took a direct hit at a farming community in southern Israel. “There was a loud explosion like I have never heard before and I have heard a lot of explosions,” Nitzan told Israel Radio. “Fortunately the shrapnel flew over our heads, otherwise I would be dead.” Israel is blaming Iran and the Islamic militant group Hamas that rules Gaza for the attacks. “Iran is supporting terror attacks now against us in Gaza," said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We will fight and we will hit them very, very hard, very hard. The way to fight terror is to fight terror, and that we shall do with great force.” Read more ..

Israel's Looming Attack

Brothers in Arms: Would Hizballah and Hamas Join Iran in a War Against Israel?

October 24th 2012

Gaza Qasam Rocket

There is a prevalent view that in the event of an Israeli strike on Iran, Tehran’s proxies in Lebanon and Gaza – Hizballah and Hamas – would join in retaliation against Israel. A more likely scenario, however, is that those groups’ participation will be limited at best. Hizballah must consider its crumbling support from the weakened Assad regime, as well as popular opposition within Lebanon to its role in military conflict with Israel. Hamas’ recent feud with Iran over the group’s lack of support for the Assad regime could render it reluctant to assist in the fight against Israel.

The widely-expected response of Hizballah and Hamas to an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran includes military action against Israel. This thinking is logical in light of the fact that Iran is a major sponsor of both terror groups. This article, however, reaches the conclusion that one of two scenarios will play out, in which the two groups either respond on a smaller scale or stand down completely. Read more ..

The Edge of Piracy

Pirate Attacks are Down in 2012

October 23rd 2012


Sea piracy has fallen to its lowest level since 2008, including a sharp decline off the coast of Somalia. However, the International Maritime Bureau warns Africa’s Gulf of Guinea is growing increasingly risky for shipping. There have been 233 reported pirate attacks worldwide in the first nine months of this year. That’s down from more than 350 during the same period last year.

Pottengal Mukundan is director of the International Maritime Bureau, which runs the Piracy Reporting Center. He said, “The numbers so far this year are down from the last few years. I think particularly with Somalia we have to be a little careful, and wait for the end-year statistics to see if this is a sustained trend. But so far, the numbers are encouraging.” Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

How to Vet Potential Allies in Syria

October 23rd 2012

Anti Assad insurgents

Determining the suitability of armed opposition elements as potential recipients of military assistance is complex and challenging. In Syria, such groups are numerous, rapidly evolving, and highly varied in ideology. Nevertheless, they do not pose an impenetrable mystery. Some are longstanding actors in the rebellion and currently hold or are contesting important areas of the country; a number of Free Syrian Army commanders are public personalities and can be contacted with relative ease. Vetting such actors is a critical prerequisite to providing military assistance, based on the recognition that not all armed elements should receive aid, and that some units are more worthy of aid than others.
Moreover, vetting must not be done just in terms of outcomes on the battlefield -- equal consideration must be given to the roles that armed units will play after the regime falls. Given the fragmented nature of the Syrian opposition to date, and the lack of Western intervention to support the protest movement, those who are taking literal shots at Bashar al-Assad now are almost certain to be calling the shots as the regime gives way. Read more ..

The Iranian Threat

Romney A Better Negotiator with Iran--Says Senor

October 22nd 2012

Ahmadinejad triumphant

Senior Romney foreign policy adviser Dan Senor on Monday said that Romney would be a more effective negotiator with Iran than is President Obama. 

“I think a lot of Americans would probably agree he’d be the better guy to be at the negotiating table on behalf of the United States than President Obama, given that we are four years closer today to Iran getting a nuclear weapon than we were when President Obama took over,” said Senor in an interview with NBC’s “Today.” Senor was asked about a New York Times report claiming the administration has agreed to a framework for resuming one-on-one negotiations with Iran over Tehran’s nuclear program and if Romney would also hold direct talks if elected. Senor said a President Romney would consider a range of options, including negotiations to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal, and said Romney could be a more effective negotiator in talks with Iran.

“It’s going to be a comprehensive strategy and we should utilize a range of tools in our toolkit in achieving that diplomatic outcome and Gov. Romney’s not going to rule anything out. He’s been very clear about that for some time,” said Senor.  Read more ..

Mali on Edge

African Leaders Prepare for Military Intervention in Northern Mali

October 21st 2012

Tuareg warriors

High-level delegations from the United Nations, West African bloc ECOWAS, and the African Union met with Malian leaders Friday to develop a coherent strategy for tackling the crisis in northern Mali, where al-Qaida linked militant groups have taken control. Mali’s interim President Dioncounda Traore urged representatives from ECOWAS, the African Union, European Union, United Nations and other key partners to act immediately in addressing the deteriorating situation in the north.

Traore assured attendees of the total cooperation of the Malian government, and said it would not falter because those present were there as friends, brothers and partners at a time when the pooling of resources is the only response to the security challenges that Mali is facing. Traore described the situation as a “race against time” against a “common enemy” and said that these challenges represent a risk for the Sahel, for West Africa, for the Sahara, for Africa and for the world. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Tensions High in Lebanon After Deadly Bombing

October 20th 2012

Lebanese protesters

Tensions are high in Lebanon a day after a deadly bombing that killed the country's police intelligence chief and at least seven other people.  Militiamen forced businesses to close in the the coastal port city of Tripoli, and army troops shot at protestors blocking roads in the Bekaa Valley.  

Lebanese Army tanks deployed along strategic routes in the capital Beirut Saturday, removing burning tires and rubbish which protesters had dumped to block traffic. Army troops also fanned out in the coastal cities of Sidon and Tripoli, as well as across the Bekaa Valley. he deployments came after the Lebanese government met in an urgent session at the presidential palace in Baabda to discuss Friday's explosion which killed police Colonel, Wissam al-Hassan who was the senior police intelligence officer in the country.  Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

U.S. and UN Slams 'Barbaric' Beirut Bombing, Syria Blamed By Some Lebanese

October 20th 2012

Beirut Bombing Oct19 2012

The White House has condemned "in the strongest terms" what it calls a terrorist attack in Beirut that killed a top security official and seven others. In a statement, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said the United States will stand with the Lebanese government to bring to justice those responsible "for this barbaric attack,"  which killed the head of the intelligence division of Lebanon's domestic security forces, Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan. The UN Security Council also denounced the blast, which occurred on October 19.

Guatemalan ambassador and acting Security Council President Gert Rosenthal read out a Security Council statement, which "strongly condemned the terrorist attack...which killed Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan...and caused numerous deaths and injuries, including among civilians." Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Preserving the Syrian Paper Trail

October 18th 2012

Battle for Aleppo

When the regime of Bashar al-Assad is destroyed or pushed out of Damascus, it will leave behind a wrecked capital and unparalleled record of supporting terrorist groups and covert deals with Russia, Iran and North Korea. What we understand of that record will be shaped by the documents that are preserved and analyzed. What Syrians will understand about forty years of rule by the fascist Baath party and its crimes against the Syrian people also depends on preserving something vital yet almost out of sight: the regime's archives and files.

The Assad regime's internal repression is understood but poorly documented. The destruction of the city of Hama in 1982 that killed perhaps twenty-five thousand people with explosives, bulldozers and poison gas is the best-known example. But human-rights organizations and Syrian dissidents have far longer lists of crimes. Who ordered and executed these? Who were the middle managers and field agents? Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Defining Al Qaeda and its Persistent Goals

October 18th 2012

al Qaeda Fighters
Al Qaeda's Abu Hamza

The Obama administration's efforts to counter the threat posed by al Qaeda and the wider jihadist movement have been a contentious topic in the U.S. presidential race. Political rhetoric abounds on both sides; administration officials claim that al Qaeda has been seriously crippled, while some critics of the administration allege that the group is stronger than ever. As with most political rhetoric, both claims bear elements of truth, but the truth depends largely on how al Qaeda and jihadism are defined. Unfortunately, politicians and the media tend to define al Qaeda loosely and incorrectly.

The jihadist threat will persist regardless of who is elected president, so understanding the actors involved is critical. But a true understanding of those actors requires taxonomical acuity. It seems worthwhile, then, to revisit Stratfor's definitions of al Qaeda and the wider jihadist movement. Read more ..

Broken Government

Following the Shooting death of Mexican Teen, Calls emerge for Border Oversight

October 17th 2012

Click to select Image

An El Paso-based immigrant advocacy and human rights organization has renewed a demand for Washington to establish an independent oversight and review commission tasked with examining transparency, institutional violence and “the overall border enforcement strategy and its impact on border communities and families.”

The Border Network for Human Rights made the call following last week’s shooting death of 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez allegedly by a Border Patrol agent at the international line separating Nogales, Arizona, from its sister city of Nogales, Sonora.

The young man was shot six times from the U.S. side of the border while he was in Mexico, according to a lawyer representing the victim’s family. Quoted in the local press, the Border Patrol said shots were fired from U.S. territory when its agents were accosted by rock throwers after observing smugglers toss drugs over a border fence. “Verbal commands from agents to cease were ignored,” the Border Patrol said. U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Victor Brabble added that video footage of the incident was turned over to the FBI. Read more ..

Mali on Edge

EU Considers Intervention in Mali to Control Islamic Terrorists

October 17th 2012

french cops

Officials from the European Union said on Monday they would draw up plans for a military training program complete with advisors to help Mali's army regain control of the Islamist-dominated north of the country. But the Islamic terrorists have already begun threatening and plotting against EU members such as France.

For example, French police officials on Thursday said they arrested a group of Islamists who were planning suicide bombings in Paris in retaliation for France's policy regarding Mali and the French government's push for assisting the Mali government. According to officials, these Islamists also were recruiting Jihadist fighters to join al-Qaeda and other groups who are participating in the uprising against the Assad-regime in Syria. According to the French police, a total of 12 suspects were arrested at different times, different days and at different locations beginning at the start of the week. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Hamas Terrorists Shoot Anti-Aircraft Missile at Israeli Aircraft

October 16th 2012

Russia S-A Strela-2 missile

An anti-aircraft missile was fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza last week at an Israeli aircraft but missed its target, the Hebrew language newspaper Yediot Aharonot reported Tuesday.

According to the report the missile was smuggled in from Libya. Israeli authorities have worried that the missiles could be used against the Jewish state since an estimated 1,000 of them went missing from Libya’s arsenal in the aftermath of the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. The Russian made Strela-2 surface-to-air missile system can hit aircraft flying as fast as 1,118 miles an hour and at altitudes up to 7,500 feet.

According to military sources it is believed that after a relative lull in the conflict, Hamas is intending to escalate the conflict with Israel. Such provocations could signal their intent to do so. Commercial aircraft have already been told to avoid flying over Gaza. Read more ..

China and America

Retaliation Likely Against U.S. Companies Doing Business with Chinese Telecoms

October 16th 2012


Analysts say this week's U.S. congressional report that called two Chinese telecoms a threat to national security is likely to prompt China to retaliate against U.S. businesses. The House Intelligence Committee report warned U.S. companies against doing business with China's largest phone equipment companies, Huawei and ZTE.Released on October 15, the bipartisan report said the telecom giants could use their equipment to spy on the U.S., citing what it described as "a close relationship" with China's Communist Party.


So far, Beijing has only issued stern complaints about the report in official press briefings and state media editorials. But analysts say more moves are likely to come. Read more ..

The 2012 Vote

Obama Reportedly Weighing Military Strike Against Libya Attackers

October 16th 2012

Apache Helicopters

The White House is considering a strike against militants responsible for the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others — if and when it can track down the perpetrators, The Associated Press reported. The AP, citing current and former administration officials, reports that the Obama administration is weighing whether the short-term payoff of retribution against al Qaeda for the Sept. 11 attack in Libya is worth the trade-off of potentially elevating the group's stature. There is also concern about alienating governments that could help fight terror in the region, according to the AP.

The United States has put special operations forces on standby and moved drones in the skies above Libya, which would be ready to strike from Libya to Mali in response to the attack. The report follows news last week that the Joint Special Operations Command was preparing information on suspects for potential missions to kill or capture the militants. Read more ..

The Edge of Crime

Justice Department designates MS-13 Transnational Criminal Organization

October 15th 2012

Mara Salvatrucha

The United States Treasury Department on Friday announced that officials have designated the violent and powerful gang MS-13 as a "transnational criminal organization." MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, originated in El Salvador and a large chapter was set up by immigrants, many of them illegal, in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas.

While the Treasury Department claims MS-13 has about 30,000-members nationwide, the FBI estimate its membership closer to 50,000.

The designation, which is similar in scope to the Terrorist designation list, allows the United States government to seize assets from the MS-13 gang. The group makes millions of dollars in profits from drug-trafficking and other criminal activities, according to the Treasury Department. Besides the United States, MS-13 has thousands of members in Mexico, Central America, and even Canada. According to law enforcement sources in Washington, the Treasury Department's sanctions make it illegal for American companies, citizens, and banks to conduct business with them. Read more ..

Mexico on Edge

Massive Cross-Border Contraband Implicates Mexican Officials

October 14th 2012

Mexico marijuana seizure

A great deal of government and media chatter is focused on the U.S.-Mexico trade in drugs, guns and illicit cash. Yet much less attention is paid to the flow of other contraband products, perhaps less sexy to the mass media, but arguably having an equal or greater impact on the economy, environment, public health and state coffers of the border region and far beyond. In Ciudad Juarez and southern New Mexico, a recent series of law enforcement actions and news reports exposed a few more shadowy corners of the massive contraband economy.

On October 1, Ciudad Juarez municipal police who were reportedly probing a homicide ended up in a warehouse in the La Cuesta section of the Mexican border city. Inside the building, officers found 120 boxes of illegally imported Chinese cigarettes and 18 cases of Torres and Buchannan’s whiskies, the latter brand a trendy and pricey booze popular among the free-spending set in Mexico. The items were discovered concealed in used bus tires that were packed in a truck trailer parked inside the warehouse, as well as in a pair of vehicles.

In addition to detaining five persons, city police seized three vehicles, including one with U.S. license plates. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Israeli Air Force Strikes Gaza Terror Cell

October 14th 2012

Fighter Jets

The Israeli Air Force struck a Gaza rocket launching crew moments after they launched an attack earlier today. “This afternoon a terrorist squad fired a rocket from the central Gaza Strip at Israel and was targeted, moments following, by IAF aircraft. A hit was confirmed,” said the IDF in a release to reporters.

The IAF initiative is the 4th strike on Gaza terror infrastructure in the last 24 hour period, and comes as Israel moves to stem a recent uptick in rocket attacks. “Over 500 rockets have hit Israel since the beginning of 2012, over 40 in October alone,” said the IDF statement. Two rockets fired this morning from the Strip exploded in areas in the Eshkol Regional Council.

According to Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot citing “Palestinian sources”, one terror operative was killed instantly, and another terrorist died of his wounds in hospital. Two other were injured according to the report. AFP provided more information on those killed in the strike naming them as Ezzedine Abu Nasira, 23, and Ahmad Fatayer, 22. Read more ..

The Edge of Terrorism

Terrorism Risk Greatest for Subway and Rail Commuters

October 13th 2012

NYPD and flag

Despite homeland security improvements since September 11, 2001, subway and rail commuters face higher risks of falling victim to terrorists and mass violence than frequent flyers or those engaged in virtually any other activity. And while successful criminal and terrorist acts against aviation have fallen sharply, those against subways and commuter trains have surged. These are among the findings of a new study by Arnold Barnett, George Eastman Professor of Management Science at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, who will deliver a presentation titled “Has Terror Gone to Ground?” at the INFORMS Annual Meeting in Phoenix on October 15.   

Barnett found that during the period 1982-91 deliberate acts of malice caused 1,327 deaths worldwide among air travelers, but none on subways/commuter trains.   But between 2002-11, the pattern reversed: there were 203 aviation deaths and 804 among subway/rail commuters.     Read more ..

Turkey-Russia The Edge

Turkish-Russian Tensions Could Spread to Middle East

October 13th 2012

Syrian passenger plane

Russia pressed ahead with an angry flow of rhetoric Friday, demanding that Turkish authorities reveal exactly what type of munitions they claim to have found aboard a Syrian airliner forced down over Turkey on Wednesday.  The incident comes as Russian-Turkish relations grow increasingly tense. 

The Kremlin strongly denies Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's claim that Russian-made munitions were aboard a Syrian plane intercepted by Turkish jets. Soli Ozel, who teaches international relations at Istanbul's Kadir Has University, warns that the dispute could escalate.

"The Russians are obviously blistering and the Turkish government has the obligation to provide evidence that there was ammunition on the plane.  And if they can't, I am sure the Russians are going to be even more bitter. I am sure they are going to respond to this,"  Ozel said. Read more ..

The Defense Edge

Panetta Says US Boosting Cyber Defense

October 13th 2012

hacker keyboard

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has revealed some details of U.S. plans to deal with a massive cyber attack. Those plans include launching a possible cyber-offensive in what some analysts say is a message to Iran. With thousands of enemy cyber-actors probing the Pentagon’s systems millions of times a day, the secretary of defense has spoken about the threat of a massive cyber attack before. But his warnings late Thursday in New York have been the strongest yet.

“This is a pre-9/11 moment. The attackers are plotting,” said Panetta.

Panetta said it is no secret that Russia and China have advanced cyber capabilities and he said Iran has also undertaken concerted efforts to use cyberspace to its advantage. U.S. officials have blamed Iran for a massive cyberattack two months ago on systems at the Saudi company Aramco and a natural gas company in Qatar. The assault, known as Shamoon, infected 30,000 computers. Read more ..

North Korea's Nukes

Were North Korean Nuclear Tests Faked? New Seismic Findings Raise Questions

October 13th 2012

NK Military Parade Apr 2012

This spring, a Swedish scientist sparked international concern with a journal article saying that radioactive particles detected in 2010 showed North Korea had set off at least two small nuclear blasts--possibly in experiments designed to boost the yields of much larger bombs. Shortly after, the pot was stirred with separate claims that some intelligence agencies suspected the detonations were done in cooperation with Iran. Now, a new paper says the tests likely never took place—or that if they did, they were too tiny to have any military significance. The new report, by seismologists at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, will be published later this month in the journal Science & Global Security, where the earlier paper also appeared.

It is generally accepted that North Korea has carried out at least two nuclear test explosions, in 2006 and 2009. The Lamont scientists studied both those blasts via the seismic waves they generated. They concluded that the second test—thought to be in the range of about 2 to 4 kilotons—was five times more powerful than the first, though still dwarfed by the weapons of established nuclear powers. (A kiloton equals the explosive energy of 1,000 tons of TNT.) Read more ..

Israel on Edge

Drone Intrusion Over Israel a Reminder of Simmering Regional Tensions

October 12th 2012

Israeli Jet Diving

A small, mysterious unidentified drone quietly made its way into Israeli air space last week. Trailed by two F-16I Israeli fighter jets, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flew across southern Israel, after intruding in from the Mediterranean Sea and passing Gaza, possibly in an attempt to blend in with local Israeli drone traffic.

The intruding drone had no explosives attached to it, but was carrying surveillance equipment. As it crossed the northern Negev desert, flying over an uninhabited area, one of the fighter pilots received the order to shoot it down.

Seconds later, a missile fired from the fighter struck the object, and sent burning debris to the ground. Down below, IDF Engineering Corps soldiers were already waiting to collect the pieces and bring them back for analysis.

It's not every day that a hostile drone can be found in Israeli skies. The last time it happened was in 2006, when Hezbollah sent a low-flying explosives-laden UAV toward greater Tel Aviv during the Second Lebanon War. It was intercepted by fighter jets long before it could reach its target. Read more ..

The Battle for Syria

Iran and Turkey Compete for Middle East Power

October 12th 2012

Assad and Erdogan

As both armies exchanged fire for a week, Turkey’s president, Abdullah Gul, warned that “the worst case scenario we have all been dreading” was unfolding. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said: “… we are also not far from war.” Syrian spokesmen sought to stress that Turkish power was looming over the Arab states as a whole from the north. As Turkey began to make political recommendations about the composition of a post-Assad government, Syria’s information minister responded by playing on old Arab fears that Turkey wanted to control the Arab world by naming “the custodians” of Damascus, Mecca, Cairo and Jerusalem. He rebuked Ankara by also remarking: “Turkey is not the Ottoman Sultanate.”

Syria is not alone in looking suspiciously upon the reassertion of Turkish power. On Oct. 2, the Iraqi cabinet decided to annul all agreements which provided the basis of the Turkish military presence in Iraq that has lasted for 16 years. Turkey has maintained bases in Iraq since 1997, as well as armored artillery units. The U.S. military in Iraq provided an important buffer between Iraqi and Turkish forces, especially in the sensitive Kurdistan region. With the U.S. out of Iraq, Turkish forces are now being asked to withdraw. Read more ..

The Cyber Edge

Panetta’s Cyber Warning: ‘This Is a Pre-9/11 Moment’

October 12th 2012

Shadowy Computer User

The Pentagon is mobilizing its cyberwarfare arsenal in preparation for a massive assault on U.S. networks that could “paralyze the nation,” said Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta. “A cyber attack perpetrated by nation states or violent extremist groups could be as destructive as the terrorist attack of 9/11,” Panetta said Oct. 11 in a speech to corporate leaders of Business Executives for National Security, a nonpartisan group.
Panetta, along with Frank J. Bisignano, chief operating officer of JP Morgan Chase & Co., received the BENS Eisenhower Award, following a black-tie dinner at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, in New York City. Hostile network penetrations are nothing new at the Department of Defense, whose 15,000 computer systems are routinely targeted by hackers and industrial spies. But Panetta is now warning that even more destructive cyber weapons are being aimed at the United States. He is directing the Pentagon to begin ramping up network-security efforts, and he is calling on the private sector to help by sharing intelligence about suspected or actual attacks.

The Islamic Winter of Rage

France Confronts Home-Grown Islamist Terrorist Cells

October 12th 2012

french riot police toulouse mar 2012

Following the arrest of a terror cell responsible for planning and executing a grenade attack on a Jewish store in Sarcelles, France, earlier this year, the country’s interior minister has spoken out regarding the threat that homegrown Islamist terrorists pose to all French citizens and French Jews in particular.

“We know that there are dozens, even hundreds of individuals who are capable of organising themselves like the group that has just been dismantled,” Interior Minister Manuel Valls said. “Several other similar groups are being watched. There’s a real threat. Radical Islamism…thrives on fantasies, on hatred towards our country and towards French Jews.”

The comments come just days after police raids across France to arrest members of the terror cell responsible for an attack on a kosher grocery store in September. A man named Jeremie Félix Louis-Sidney, who was a French national and converted to Salafist Islam, and is believed to be the man who carried out the September attack, was killed during the raid on his Paris apartment after he opened fire on police.

An explosives lab, nearly 30,000 Euros, and a list of Jewish organizations in France were among the finds in police raids that took place from Cannes to Torcy. Read more ..

Th Edge of Terrorism

The Evolution of the Terrorist's Tradecraft

October 11th 2012

al Qaeda Fighters

The terrorist tradecraft does not happen in isolation. The practitioners of terrorist tradecraft conduct their activities in the midst of other people -- the authorities attempting to identify them and thwart their plans as well as civilians. Terrorist tradecraft also does not remain static. It is constantly evolving. These changes are prompted not only by countermeasures put in place to prevent terrorist attacks but also by advances in technology -- a powerful force that can serve to either nullify old tradecraft practices or to provide new tools to the purveyors of terror.

Terrorism is an enduring reality. While geopolitical changes may cause a shift in the actors who employ terrorism as a tactic, terrorism will continue to be used no matter what the next geopolitical cycle brings. It is, and will continue to be, a tactic used by militant actors who want to confront a militarily superior enemy. Focusing on the tradecraft used in attacks and charting its changes and trends not only permits observers to understand what is happening and why but also provides an opportunity to forecast what is coming next. Read more ..

The Islamic Winter of Rage

Yemeni Security Official Killed at U.S. Embassy in Sanaa

October 11th 2012

Embassy Attacks 9-12-12

Security officials say a gunman on a motorcycle has killed a Yemeni security official employed by the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa. The officials say the shooter opened fire on a car carrying Qassem Aqlani as he traveled to work on Thursday. The unidentified attacker then fled the area. Security officials said the attack resembled those carried out by al-Qaida, but that it was too early to say if the group was behind the shooting.
Yemen's government has been battling to regain territory from al-Qaida's Yemen branch after militants seized control of parts of the country's south last year.

The Edge of Terrorism

Indonesia Uncovers 'Credible' Terror Threat

October 10th 2012

Indonesian security forces

Indonesian police say they have uncovered "credible evidence" of a planned terror attack on dignitaries attending a Friday ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the deadly Bali bombings. Bali police chief I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana said Wednesday that the country's security has been raised to its highest level ahead of the ceremony on the resort island.

"From the information we gathered, we have detected signs of an attack targeting dignitaries who will attend the event," he said. "Therefore, the police and army forces including the community have made sure of their readiness."

Yoga Ana said over 2,000 security personnel have been deployed, and all entry points to Bali, including airports and seaports, are being monitored. Among the world dignitaries expected at the ceremony is Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who said on Wednesday she is determined to attend despite the terror threat. The October 2002 attacks on two Bali nightclubs killed 202 people, including 88 Australians and seven Americans. Read more ..

The Arab Winter of Rage

State Dept. Now Contradicts Initial Claims on Benghazi Attack

October 10th 2012

Libyan rioters at US consulate Sep 2012 #1

Senior State Department officials on Tuesday refuted claims by administration members that the deadly attack in Libya on the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11 was provoked by an anti-Islam video. As a House hearing prepares to investigate the security of American personnel in the tumultuous country, two senior State Department sources told reporters that attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi did not happen as a result of protests. An official explained, in detail, what happened on the night that U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed by an armed group of militants.

Stevens spent the day inside the Benghazi compound, which served as one of two U.S. bases in the city, "because it is 9-11, out of prudence, he has all his meetings on the compound," the unidentified official explained. "They are out in the street in front of the compound, everything is calm at 8:30 p.m., there is nothing unusual - there has been nothing unusual during the day at all outside," the official said. Read more ..

Mali on Edge

N. Mali Militias Train Youth to Fight

October 9th 2012


Northern Malian self-defense militias are uniting and training young men and women how to fight, as they prepare for a future offensive to the North. The militias reflect a growing impatience among Malians to retake the territory from al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants who seized control in April.

Leaders of the new generation of the Ganda Koy revived their militia in April, shortly after armed Tuareg and Islamist groups seized Mali’s three northern regions. The volunteers, young men in plastic sandals and athletic shorts and young women in tee-shirts and cloth wrap skirts, get a crash course in how to be soldiers. Commander Djibril Moussa Diallo was among the ex-military officers who founded the Ganda Koy, in opposition to the Tuareg rebellions of the 1990s. He smiles as he watches recruits march in formation. Read more ..

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