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2011 September 03 Saturday
CIA Secret Flights Detailed In Court Case

Many flights where the US Central Intelligence Agency moved suspected terrorists around are now a matter of public record.

WASHINGTON — On Nov. 8, 2002, a Richmor Gulfstream, Tail No. N85VM, took off for Shannon Airport in Ireland, then to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, on a flight that paralleled the arrest that month of USS Cole bombing suspect Abd al-Nashiri.

It was the first of a run of secret long-distance flights by the Gulfstream between 2002 and 2005 that paralleled the suspected movements of captured al-Qaida and other terrorist leaders who vanished into CIA-run black prisons after their arrests following the Sept. 11 attacks.

You might expect the CIA to keep this sort of stuff secret. But a billing dispute between two companies involved in these flights has spilled into public records filed in a lawsuit. Apparently the CIA made no effort to prevent this from happening.

Incompetence or calculation?

The CIA operates with the power of a sovereign government and has been given legal authority to do things with a degree of secrecy that most agencies are not allowed to have. Does it lack the legal authority to, say, buy its own airplanes and then operate them without record of where they've been? Can't it rent an airplane with a contract that does not record where the airplane is going to go? Maybe just rent by the 25,000 mile increment?

Anyone understand how competent the CIA is at keeping secrets it really wants to keep?

By Randall Parker    2011 September 03 10:03 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2011 May 08 Sunday
The Unsecret Trail To Bin Laden

Does it hurt future US intelligence operations that the key steps to Bin Laden's death are detailed in news reports?

One day last year, a trusted courier for Osama bin Laden answered a phone call that might have been wholly unremarkable except for one thing — the National Security Agency was apparently listening in.

Isn't this useful information for terrorists? Also, if it took the US government almost 10 years to find the bastard then doesn't it need to protect what small advantages it has? Really, it it takes 9+ years to find 1 guy who is living in a conspicuous building (barbed wire, CCTV cameras, high walls) down the street from the Pakistani military academy then the budgets of the NSA, CIA, etc require enormous outlays per accomplishment.

We get to hear an intercepted phone conversation with Bin Laden's courier Arshad Khan (Abu Ahmad al-Kuwait).

First they turned up al-Kuwaiti’s family, who were still living in the Arabian Gulf. With the discovery of his real family name, the high-tech sleuths of the National Security Agency began monitoring their communications and brought in satellites, unmanned drones and telephone eavesdropping. Then the breakthrough came.

“Where have you been? We’ve missed you. What’s going on in your life? And what are you doing now?,” inquired an old friend of the courier one day in a catch-up telephone call.

I even learned from that article that one of the Navy SEALs, who need to keep their identities secret, is 6 feet tall.

Interrogation results are supposed to have been helpful.

It is widely reported that the detained 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gave his US interrogators the pseudonym of a man he described as Osama bin Laden’s most trusted courier, whose whereabouts were tracked last fall to a fortress-like compound in Abbottabad city, some 75 miles north of the capital Islamabad.

An Al Qaeda guy captured in Iraq gave up the name of Bin Laden's courier.

Then in 2004, top al-Qaida operative Hassan Ghul was captured in Iraq. Ghul told the CIA that al-Kuwaiti was a courier, someone crucial to the terrorist organization. In particular, Ghul said, the courier was close to Faraj al-Libi, who replaced Mohammed as al-Qaida’s operational commander.

So the Iraq war eventually led to the death of Bin Laden.

Update: Here's another contrarian take on the death of Bin Laden: Ferdinand Bardamu is mad that we let our "ally" Pakistan hide Bin Laden and we were so slow to find him. It certainly illustrates the limits to American power. But then so do the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, the Libya stalemate, and our large trade deficit.

Update II: Did Leon Panetta manage to pull off the operation to kill Bin Laden in spite of Valerie Jarrett's opposition and Obama's reluctance? We did this thing in spite of the President and one of his favorite advisors?

By Randall Parker    2011 May 08 07:22 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (17)
2011 May 02 Monday
How Much Of Pakistan's Government Complicit On Osama?

Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI is seen by one British counterterror official as a group of fiefdoms working independent of each other at cross- purposes.

In the past, small, trusted units of the Pakistani security forces have worked with U.S. counterterror agencies to capture fugitives such as Ramzi Binalshib, a Sept. 11 suspect arrested in Karachi in 2003 after a fierce gun battle. But now there are fears that the leadership of the ISI, the dominant institution in Pakistan, has lost control not only of its militant allies but of the spy agency itself.

"I grow ever more cautious of talking of ISI as a coherent organization," said a veteran British counterterror official who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. "The individual directorates are remarkably autonomous and even work at cross purposes. So you are dealing with one directorate that works side-by-side with us...But then you have another running proxy operations all over South Asia. It's remarkable how little strategic command and control is exercised from the top."

But the rogue individual directorate theory for Osama's conveniently located hide-out does not seem plausible. A single ISI directorate that needed to work against the will of the military and other directorates would face too much risk placing Bin Laden so close to key elite Pakistani military installations. The height of the walls, expense of the complex in such a poor country, and other characteristics made the place unusual.

In 2009 a couple of UCLA geography professors and their students figured out Abbottabad and another Pakistani city were likely to be where Bin Laden was in hiding. They theorized risks are lower in cities and published a paper about it. They expected him to be in a building with high walls around it.

By Randall Parker    2011 May 02 10:54 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (8)
2011 February 16 Wednesday
London Tube Bomber Trainer Freed By USA

He apparently helped US intelligence so much that he got released early.

An American jihadist who set up the terrorist training camp where the leader of the 2005 London suicide bombers learned how to manufacture explosives, has been quietly released after serving only four and a half years of a possible 70-year sentence, a Guardian investigation has learned.

The unreported sentencing of Mohammed Junaid Babar to "time served" because of what a New York judge described as "exceptional co-operation" that began even before his arrest has raised questions over whether Babar was a US informer at the time he was helping to train the ringleader of the 7 July tube and bus bombings.

Aside: We should revoke citizenship for all American jihadists? If one so fundamentally rejects what America stands for then why not make them an ex-citizen?

I'd like to know what intelligence he provided that was so valuable that it justifies not locking him up for decades. I'd also like to know why we wasn't just killed along with anyone else involved in the London 7/7 bombings.

By Randall Parker    2011 February 16 11:10 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
2010 December 14 Tuesday
Large Security Zones In Cities Due To Terror Fear

Security zones are like small police states in cities.

DENVER (Dec. 14, 2010) – A decade after the 9/11 attacks, significant parts of America's most prominent downtowns remain largely sealed off as `security zones,' but a newly published study by University of Colorado Denver professor Jeremy Németh says this has led to blighted landscapes, limited public access and a need for a new approach to urban planning.

"Our most open, public cities are becoming police states," said Németh, assistant professor of planning and design whose study was recently published in Environment and Planning A. "While a certain amount of security is necessary after terror attacks, no amount of anti-terror architecture would have stopped the 9/11 attacks, or the Madrid or London subway bombings. And by limiting access and closing off space, we limit the potential for more `eyes on the street' to catch possible acts in the process."

This is a cost of both Muslim immigration and government reactions to it. The proper place to stop the threat isn't up close in cities. Better to draw the line at national borders or beyond.

Gotta have the proper clearance.

Németh's study, the first to compare public and private security districts in more than one city, looked at areas of downtown Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco and found that while each city values and protects potential targets equally, what is deemed off-limits varies widely.

For example, 35.7 percent of New York's civic center district is within a `security zone,' meaning it is accessible only to for those with proper clearance, while only 3.4 percent of San Francisco's civic center area has the same designation. Meanwhile, 23-acres of public space in Los Angeles sit in a `security zone.'

I watch old TV shows and movies and feel nostalgic for the days when people walked into airports to greet people just as they get off of airplanes and where people could just walk into all public buildings. What a great open society we lost.

A new style: architecture of fear. Why not use castle motifs so that when people look at these security zones they think of knights and princesses? Castles might lighten the mood, give cities more of a Disneyland feel.

Németh said the zones not only affect the appearance of landmark buildings but also reflect an 'architecture of fear' as evidenced, for example, by the bunker-like appearance of embassies and other perceived targets.

By Randall Parker    2010 December 14 08:29 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
2010 December 11 Saturday
What Muslim Terrorists Really Accomplish

How do Muslim terrorists change the world? As a result of their activities what is changing most?

  • Governments watch their citizens, non-citizen residents, and visitors more closely.
  • Governments develop computer systems to monitor credit card transactions, phone calls, airline reservations, and other data feeds.
  • Governments cooperate more closely in intelligence and police investigations.
  • Governments suppress more speech. Governments enforce more political correctness and suppress statements of the obvious.
  • Governments restrict the right of free association.
  • Governments subject their citizens to more indignities, notably at airports but in other realms as well.

So terrorists strength the power of the state and reduce the independence of individual governments. Terrorists also effectively reduce free speech by those who criticize Islam and Muslim immigration. Terrorists hasten the day when a real world government emerges and cause governments to justify losses of freedom.

By Randall Parker    2010 December 11 10:28 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (11)
2010 February 17 Wednesday
8 Airport Security Stages In Toronto Bound For US

8 stages of security checking in Toronto for US-bound flights.

To get through airport security in Toronto for a flight to the United States, you now have to go through eight different screening lines or ID checks. Most passengers either get a pat-down or have their carry-on bags unpacked on tables, with every toiletry kit and pajama pair carefully checked.

Imagine that ethnic profiling, age profiling, nationality profiling, sex profiling, and psychological profiling were all used. There's be no need for 8 stages of security checks for the vast bulk of the passengers.

Arrive 3 hours early - or just stay home?

Passengers are told to show up early for flights to the U.S.—often three hours or more, even for 90-minute flights from Canada and Mexico. And the light passenger loads have made it easier on security screeners.

Supporters of high speed passenger rail ought to repeatedly state: Security procedures in train stations are very light. No 8 levels of checking.

I wish I was wealthy like Al Gore and could travel on private jets. Al doesn't have to go thru all this security as he flies around the world telling people not to burn up fuel flying around the world.

By Randall Parker    2010 February 17 10:43 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2010 January 04 Monday
Modest Proposal On Airport Security

Let people who are getting on an airplane search each other and their carry-ons. Move the ticket zone back up to the concourse and have people show their tickets and walk into the sitting area. Then as people go to get on the airplane let the other passengers decide who to search. Passengers could all agree to let on granny or granddad or a teenager mother with a baby. They could question some others and ask to look thru the carry-ons or pat down still others. Tell the passengers 5% of each flight has to be thoroughly checked. Okay, who to choose?

The people who get on the airplane are the ones who are putting their lives at risk. I'm guessing they'll pick out a guy like Richard Reid, the Jamaican shoe bomber or Nigerian Muslim Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. When your own life is at stake you won't put much truck in politically correct mythology about human nature.

By Randall Parker    2010 January 04 08:29 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (16)
2010 January 01 Friday
Pilots To Decide On Pillow And Blanket Usage

On a recent flight a retarded kid kept kicking my seat behind me while one of caretakers (might not have been a mother) kept reaching across the aisle to try to distract him. I tried suggesting to the flight attendants that they shuffle people around so that the adults traveling with the retarded kid could sit directly on both sides of the kid. The flight attendants weren't buying. Episodes like that come on top of the passage thru security to make me hate flying. Well, the recent attempt by a Nigerian Muslim (who had an apartment in Londonistan of course) to blow up an airplane descending on Detroit has the US government making all sorts of absurd rules to try to save passengers. Would you believe that hiding the flight map will protect anyone? It is that hard to know that an airplane is 10 or 20 minutes away from landing?

The back and forth between agency officials and airline executives has taken place on conference calls and through the airlines’ trade group and may have resulted in the relaxation of some of the stiffest requirements that the T.S.A. put in place over the weekend.For instance, the airlines have been able to turn in-flight entertainment systems back on after they were ordered shut down during international flights because their maps show the locations of planes.

If you are on a long flight and sound asleep you might be woken to take away your blanket and pillow when the airplane is an hour away from landing. But the pilot might grant you a reprieve. I'm thinking the pilots will ask the flight attendants if any of the passengers look like potential terrorists.

The pilots can now decide whether passengers are allowed to move about in the last hour of a flight and if they can keep their pillows and blankets, instead of requiring them to stay seated with nothing in their laps.

In case a guy with a Middle Eastern or East African accent (or perhaps a British accent with Middle Eastern or East African appearance) you best bring a warm coat since you won't be able to count on a blanket for the whole flight. These are the indignities that political correctness inflicts on us.

I have a much more effective idea: Stop all Muslim immigration and offer legal Muslim residents money to leave. Muslim radicals living in Western countries are going to end up killing more people and the security procedures around airports will probably get worse Any idea how much x-ray radiation we'll get when governments start requiring full body x-ray scans of passengers? At that point trains become a lot more appealing even though they are slow.

Update: "ET" captures the potential of air travel.

Next time you need a prostate exam, just go on an airline trip and have the security check it while they are 'in there.'

Get irradiated when you travel? Or repeal the ban on public nudity?

The agency also has announced plans to buy 150 "backscatter" machines, which use low-level X-rays to create a two-dimensional image of the body, from Rapiscan Systems, a unit of OSI Systems Inc. Those machines, which cost $190,000 each, are being deployed in U.S. airports now.

By Randall Parker    2010 January 01 01:10 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (11)
2009 January 24 Saturday
Hot Potato Game On Who Takes Guantanamo Detainees

A released Guantanamo detainee is suspected of involvement in bombing the US embassy in Sana Yemen.

BEIRUT: The emergence of a former Guantánamo Bay detainee as the deputy leader of Al Qaeda's Yemeni branch has underscored the potential complications in carrying out the executive order that President Barack Obama signed that the detention center be shut down within a year.

The militant, Said Ali al-Shihri, is suspected of involvement in a deadly bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Yemen's capital, Sana, in September. He was released to Saudi Arabia in 2007 and passed through a Saudi rehabilitation program for former jihadists before resurfacing with Al Qaeda in Yemen.

Appearing along with al-Shihri in a recent Jihadist video is another former Guantanamo detainee.

Three other men appear in the video, including Abu al-Hareth Muhammad al-Oufi, identified as an Al-Qaeda field commander. SITE later said he was prisoner No. 333.

Is there a Guantanamo detainee No. 666? If so, who is he? A charismatic fellow perhaps?

While most of the Guantanamo detainees are going to be released back out into the wild somewhere (including maybe the US and Europe - see below) 50-100 detainees will be tried in US courts.

The number of detainees who may face federal trials — by various estimates, 50 to 100 of the remaining Guantánamo inmates — is tiny by the standards of the federal prison system, which currently holds 201,375 people in 114 facilities, according to Felicia Ponce, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Those include 9 detention centers that hold defendants awaiting trial, 21 high-security penitentiaries and a supersecure prison in Florence, Colo., where several convicted terrorists are already locked up.

If any of those prosecuted jihadists are not convicted or get sentences shorter than their lifespans then where will they be released?

It is considered inhumane (really, I am not making this up) to send some of the Guantanamo detainees back to their countries of origin. The European Union had previously indicated a willingness to accept some of these detainees as refugees if we would just close Guantanamo (funny the things people will promise when they are trying to pose as morally superior). They kinda like war refugees. Isn't this funny? I mean, okay, the Western countries are decadent and pathetic for even considering to do this in the first place. Albania - the Muslim European country that helped Kosovar Albanians push the Christian Orthodox Serbs out of Kosovo - took 5 whole Chinese Uigher freedom fighters/terrorists (take your pick). But the US is expected to take the rest.

European nations are mainly looking at the 60 of the 245 detainees who have been scrutinized and cleared for release – but cannot go home to China, Algeria, Uzbekistan, Russia, Syria, Libya, and other states, due to fears of reprisal.

Albania took five Chinese Uighers in 2006. Some human rights groups have called for the Obama administration to take the remaining 15 Uighers as a show of good faith.

Couldn't Saudi Arabia, birthplace of Islam, take in these devout Muslim believers? Are these Muslim warriors fighting for Islam?

Former Reagan and Bush Sr US DOJ lawyers David B. Rivkin Jr and Lee A. Casey argue that civilian courts are not the appropriate place for handling terrorists who are at war with the United States.

The Bush administration chose the law-of-war paradigm because the international law of armed conflict gives the U.S. maximum flexibility to meet the jihadist threat, including the right to attack and destroy al Qaeda bases and fighters in foreign countries. The alternative legal framework, the civilian criminal-justice system, is unsuitable for several key reasons. Civilian criminal suspects quite obviously cannot be targeted for military attack. They can be subjected only to the minimum force necessary to effect an arrest. They cannot -- consistent with international law -- be pursued across national boundaries. And finally, they are entitled to a speedy trial in a public courtroom. These rules cannot be ignored or altered without constitutional amendment.

In addition, the type and quality of evidence necessary for convictions in civilian courts is simply unavailable for most captured terrorists. One federal district judge recently concluded that although the government's information on one detainee was sufficient for intelligence purposes -- that is, he presumably could have been targeted for deadly attack -- it was insufficient to hold him without trial.

I've read some innocent people got swept up and imprisoned by the US during the war in Afghanistan. Does the US government still hold any remaining such people due to a lack of place to release them to that is not in the US?

By Randall Parker    2009 January 24 02:57 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2008 March 02 Sunday
Marc Sageman On Terrorism And Welfare

If you get a chance watch the C-SPAN segment of Marc Sageman speaking at the New America Foundation about terrorists. Sageman studies them as a social scientist and has made many useful observations about terrorists. His most recent work focuses on Muslims who live in the West. At one point he put up a slide showing that while 60 people have been arrested as Muslim terrorists in the United States by contrast 2400 have been arrested in Europe. He also says the 60 in the US were not hard core guys for the most part (can you say "entrapment"? sure). Why the difference? Europe has more Muslims. But also, and more importantly, the European welfare state gives young Muslims lots of time to sit around bored and grumbling. As my grandmother used to say "Idle hands are the devil's workshop".

Sageman says that the biggest state sponsors of terrorism are therefore the Western European welfare states. They pay most of the incomes for most of the terrorists active in the West.

There's an obvious conclusion here: We need to invade the European Union and overthrow all the welfare states. We could take over Europe and make it a colony. We could hire British former Hong Kong administrators and tell them to run Europe just as they ran Hong Kong: Low taxes and little in the way of welfare programs. Make everyone work like mad. That'll greatly reduce the terrorist threat.

Our occupation administration could also rid Europe of Muslim terrorists by deporting the Muslims. That would greatly reduce the terrorist threat from Western countries. We could even tell the Europeans that once we deported all the Muslims we'd allow them to restart their welfare states and then we'd withdraw.

If we did all that we'd still face one problem: Canada. What to do about Canada?

I'm thinking it might be time to force the break-up of Canada. In order to dilute the power of the Anglophone whites the French in Quebec have supported the multiculturalist claptrap that has made possible the large scale immigration of many Muslims to the Canadian welfare state. So the French north of our border are a root cause of the Muslim terrorist threat.

By Randall Parker    2008 March 02 07:56 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (14)
2007 August 19 Sunday
Foreigner ID Card To Reduce Terrorist Threat?

Rudy Giuliani wants foreigners to carry biometric ID cards while in the United States.

EVERY foreigner in America, including British visitors, would be required to carry an ID card bearing photograph and fingerprints under plans drawn up by Rudolph Giuliani, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.

Giuliani is hoping to cement his status as the Republican favourite by promising to enforce immigration and border controls, drawing on expertise in combating crime from his time as mayor of New York. He announced last week that all foreigners, including holiday-makers, would be obliged to carry a “tamper-proof” biometric card, which could be issued at ports of entry.

“If you don’t have that card, you get thrown out of the country,” Giuliani said. He intends to call it a Safe card (for secure authorised foreign entry).

Um, how is this going to help? Think about it. Suppose you are a terrorist. You want to move around inside the US. You manage to get a driver's license. Maybe it has your real name on it. Maybe it has a fake name. A cop pulls you over for speeding. He asks for your "Safe" card. You reply "But I have US citizenship! I have no need for a Safe card". Well, how can the cop know? Only if initial issuance of a driver's license includes an entry in a database that marks the person as a visitor would the cop know for sure that a claim of citizenship was false.

If we can know someone is a foreigner then what? Millions of foreigners are living and moving around inside the United States. Few will come into contact with law enforcement personnel and few of those contacts will provide law enforcement personnel any reason to suspect a person is a Muslim terrorist.

Yet pollster Scott Rasmussen finds that an overwhelming majority of the American public favor a universal ID card for foreign visitors.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters nationwide favor cutting off federal funds for “sanctuary cities” that offer protection to illegal immigrants. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that just 29% are opposed. Republican Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney proposed such a plan earlier this week.

By a 71% to 16% margin, voters also favor a proposal that would require all foreign visitors to carry a universal identification card as proposed by another GOP Presidential hopeful, Rudy Giuliani. Seventy-four percent (74%) also favor the creation and funding of a central database to track all foreign visitors in the United States.

Lots of illegal alien Mexicans are driving around without a drivers license or car insurance. A "Safe" card would then become just another document they don't have that doesn't keep them from living here for months and years. We need real border control. We need aggressive efforts to round up the illegals who are already here.

Our problem with terrorism comes from Muslims. It doesn't come from atheistic Europeans or Hindu Indians or Zoroastrians or Buddhists or Chinese engineers or Japanese business executives. We do not need Muslim immigrants. Letting in Muslim immigrants or Muslim visitors does not improve our society. If we didn't let in Muslims we wouldn't need to worry about their overstaying visas. Until we adopt immigration and visa policies aimed at keeping out the Muslims proposals like a visitor ID card will be just another political gimmick sold by political candidates to the rubes.

By Randall Parker    2007 August 19 11:14 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2007 August 08 Wednesday
Newt Gingrich Sees War On Terror As Phony

Newt would rather end our reliance on Saudi oil as a more effective way to fight terrorism.

Washington — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Thursday the Bush administration is waging a "phony war" on terrorism, warning that the country is losing ground against the kind of Islamic radicals who attacked the country on Sept. 11, 2001.

A more effective approach, said Gingrich, would begin with a national energy strategy aimed at weaning the country from its reliance on imported oil and some of the regimes that petro-dollars support.

"None of you should believe we are winning this war. There is no evidence that we are winning this war," the ex-Georgian told a group of about 300 students attending a conference for collegiate conservatives.

We need technological innovations to end our need for oil. The development of ways to power cars without use of fossil fuels would yield many benefits including cleaner air and less cash for the Saudis to use to spread Wahhabi Islam. Better battery technology that can power cars long distances will reduce the threat from terrorism.

Update: We also need to simply keep Muslims out of the West. If they weren't living among us they couldn't try to set off car bombs, bus bombs, train bombs, and airplane bombs. But this simple and effective response is beyond the pale as far as the gatekeepers of political correctness are concerned.

By Randall Parker    2007 August 08 11:25 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
2006 August 20 Sunday
British Want Profiling Against Terrorists

The British government is considering using profiling based on ethnicity and religion in order to choose who to scrutinize more closely.

UK transport officials are said to be considering introducing passenger profiling on grounds including ethnic origin and religion.

Supporters say it could cut the delays caused by universal security checks after the uncovering of a possible plot to bring down planes - others say it will cause resentment and improving technology is more important.

A British Muslim high ranking police officer opposes profiling.

Chief Superintendent Ali Dizaei said plans to profile air passengers would create an offence of "travelling while Asian".

Current policy hassles everyone and so we are all guilty of the offense of "travelling while human". The opponents of profiling want to make everyone suffer inconveniences that are necessary for only a small subset of the total population. They expect us to believe the little old Christian lady from Des Moines is just as likely to be a terrorist as a young Muslim from London. This is absurd.

European Union ministers are discussing the idea of using profiling throughout Europe. They ought to use profiling when deciding who to allow in as immigrants.

BRUSSELS, August 18, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Increasing interest in "ethnic profiling" at airports is one of the upshots of a high-level EU antiterror meeting that took place in London on August 15-16.

Although the issue was not formally discussed at the meeting featuring interior ministers from a number of EU countries, ministers and officials in their private comments acknowledged it is considered by some as a promising way to help prevent future terrorist attacks.

Yes, of course it is a promising way to prevent terrorist attacks. Young Muslim males are most likely to carry out terrorist attacks.

A British YouGov survey found that 55% of the British public wants profiling. The question they were asked was "Passenger profiling is a recent term used to describe the process of selecting passengers based on their background or appearance. Would you like to see 'passenger profiling' introduced?"

Profiling seems eminently sensible. A person is orders of magnitude more likely to be a terrorist if young, male, and with Middle Eastern or south Asian appearances. People who attend a mosque are orders of magnitude more likely to be terrorists. Why waste police resources on the vast majority who do not fit terrorist profiles? Those same resources could produce much better results if common sense is applied to sizing up potential threats.

Robert Spencer argues that profiling is necessary.

Profiling, of course, is imperfect. Islam is not a race. Adherents of the jihad ideology can be found among all races: as John Walker Lindh, Jose Padilla, Richard Reid, Ismail Royer, and Hasan Akbar can attest. All those men have in common is that they are converts to Islam -- a phenomenon that doesn't necessarily have any outward signs. Nonetheless, the fact remains that young Middle Eastern males have committed a disproportionate amount of violent terror attacks in recent years. Accordingly, it is simply a waste of resources to subject all airline passengers, from grandmothers to toddlers, to equal scrutiny, while refusing to spend more time investigating passengers who come from the group from which most terrorists spring nowadays.

Over at View From The Right Lawrence Auster points to an article which reports on US officials going so far to oppose profiling that they gave a behind-the-scenes tour of security operations at O'Hare airport in Chicago to members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

In a meeting, Brian Humphrey, Customs and Border Patrol’s executive director of field operations, assured CAIR officials that agents do not single out Muslim passengers for special screening and that they must undergo a mandatory course in Muslim sensitivity training. The course teaches agents that Muslims believe jihad is an “internal struggle against sin” and not holy warfare.

Customs agents involved in the CAIR tour at O’Hare tell WorldNetDaily they were outraged that headquarters would reveal sensitive counterterrorism procedures to an organization that has seen several of its own officials convicted of terror-related charges since 9-11.

How disgusting.

A Sunday Times of London editorial entitled "The enemy within" shows how far along the debate about Muslim terrorism has moved in Britain.

Peter Clarke, deputy assistant commissioner at Scotland Yard, says at least three other serious plots by home-grown terrorists have been disrupted since last year’s July 7 attacks on the London Underground. The danger seems ever present.

It is now self-evident that there is an enemy within Britain who wants to destroy our way of life. Most of this relatively small group of fanatics are British-born Muslims who have been educated here and brought up within our tolerant democracy.

But the Times editorialists come up short in their attempts to explain why so many British Muslims are hostile to the host society.

Why is Britain such a breeding ground for these young men, for that is what most of them are? Much can be ascribed to timidity on behalf of the authorities, wedded as they are to a multiculturalism that isolates many young men in ghettos and a reluctance to espouse British values through our schools and institutions. That appeasement was epitomised by the sanctuary offered to extremist Islamic groups in Britain — “Londonistan” — in the pathetic hope that it might offer some form of immunity from violence.

Appeasement is certainly part of the problem. Multiculturalism is part of the problem. But do the Brits get bombed by Hindus? Why aren't Hindus a threat as a result of multiculturalism? Or Buddhists? Or atheists? Easy answer: They all are not Muslims. Islam is the root problem. Islam and Western civilization are not compatible.

The rest of us should not have to deal with the consequences of Muslim desires to make us all submit to their backward religion.

Mark at Western Survival argues Muslims who come to the West behave as colonists, not immigrants.

An immigrant comes to a new country willing to become part of that country, to adopt its way of life, customs, language, even religion.

A colonist comes to a new land to pursue economic opportunities and/or to escape persecution in his homeland. A colonist is perfectly happy with his people's language, religion, culture, and way of life. He is not coming to become part of the native people, but to establish or expand an outpost for his people in new territory. This was exactly the situation of the pilgrims here in North America.

Steve Sailer argues we should disconnect Western and Muslim societies from each because because the rules that Westerners and Muslims want to live under are incompatible and we just create avoidable animosity by mixing as much as we do.

Perhaps the most quoted social philosopher of our time famously asked:

"Can we all get along?"

Well, when it comes to Muslims and Westerners, the answer is:

No, we can't.

So, deal with it. When we get in each other's faces, we get on each other's nerves. It's time to get out of each other's faces.

Westerners and Muslims don't agree on the basics of social order and don't want to live under the same rules. That shouldn't be a problem because that's what separate countries are for. We should stop occupying their countries and stop letting them move to ours.

Makes sense to me.

Steve also argues for a buyout of citizenship of Western Muslims where Muslims will get cash offers to return to Muslim countries. Good idea.

By Randall Parker    2006 August 20 11:39 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (40)
2005 September 06 Tuesday
Ottawa Visitor's Guide Gets Wrongly Suspected Terrorist Tortured

Oops.

The map was of huge interest to U.S. border guards, who grilled Canadian truck driver Ahmad El Maati for hours about it. So, too, did interrogators in Syria and Egypt, where Mr. El Maati says he was tortured and repeatedly asked about the map's provenance.

The Globe and Mail has learned that the map -- scrawled numbers and all -- was in fact produced and distributed by the Canadian federal government. It is simply a site map, given out to help visitors to Tunney's Pasture, a sprawling complex of government buildings in Ottawa, find their way around.

"All my problems started with that map," says Mr. El Maati, who was interrogated about the document while held in filthy prisons in Syria and Egypt, where he says he was tortured to extract information for Canadian authorities.

Next time you read about evidence for a supposed terrorist plot keep in mind the threshold of evidence can be pretty low.

Yet in the past four years, the "terrorist map" has taken on almost mythic qualities. It has figured in various leaked accounts describing thwarted al-Qaeda plots to blow up targets in Ottawa, including the Parliament Buildings and the U.S. embassy.

Read the whole thing. This would be Keystone Kops funny if it didn't get a guy tortured and held for a couple of years.

Update: Jody Neel paints a more complicated picture of El Maati. Also see here for more. Not sure what to make of this story.

By Randall Parker    2005 September 06 02:21 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (12)
2005 June 01 Wednesday
Aero Contractors Fills The Shoes Of Air America

A New York Times article reports that a company called Aero Contractors now provides the air transport services for the US Central Intelligence Agency that the legendary Air America provided until 1976. Since 9/11 Aero Contractors has expanded.

Behind a surprisingly thin cover of rural hideaways, front companies and shell corporations that share officers who appear to exist only on paper, the C.I.A. has rapidly expanded its air operations since 2001 as it has pursued and questioned terrorism suspects around the world.

An analysis of thousands of flight records, aircraft registrations and corporate documents, as well as interviews with former C.I.A. officers and pilots, show that the agency owns at least 26 planes, 10 of them purchased since 2001. The agency has concealed its ownership behind a web of seven shell corporations that appear to have no employees and no function apart from owning the aircraft.

"When the C.I.A. is given a task, it's usually because national policy makers don't want 'U.S. government' written all over it," said Jim Glerum, a retired C.I.A. officer who spent 18 years with the agency's Air America but says he has no knowledge of current operations. "If you're flying an executive jet into somewhere where there are plenty of executive jets, you can look like any other company."

Some of the C.I.A. planes have been used for carrying out renditions, the legal term for the agency's practice of seizing terrorism suspects in one foreign country and delivering them to be detained in another, including countries that routinely engage in torture. The resulting controversy has breached the secrecy of the agency's flights in the last two years, as plane-spotting hobbyists, activists and journalists in a dozen countries have tracked the mysterious planes' movements.

A jet also arrived in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, from Dulles on May 31, 2003, after the killing in Saudi Arabia of Yusuf Bin-Salih al-Ayiri, a propagandist and former close associate of Mr. bin Laden, and the capture of Mr. Ayiri's deputy, Abdullah al-Shabrani.

Flight records sometimes lend support to otherwise unsubstantiated reports. Omar Deghayes, a Libyan-born prisoner in the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has said through his lawyer that four Libyan intelligence service officers appeared in September in an interrogation cell.

Aviation records cannot corroborate his claim that the men questioned him and threatened his life. But they do show that a Gulfstream V registered to one of the C.I.A. shell companies flew from Tripoli, Libya, to Guantánamo on Sept. 8, the day before Mr. Deghayes reported first meeting the Libyan agents. The plane stopped in Jamaica and at Dulles before returning to the Johnston County Airport, flight records show.

The same Gulfstream has been linked - through witness accounts, government inquiries and news reports - to prisoner renditions from Sweden, Pakistan, Indonesia and Gambia.

The NY Times article several of the front companies associated with Aero Contractors: Pegasus Technologies, Tepper Aviation, Premier Executive Transport Services, Crowell Aviation Technologies, and Stevens Express Leasing (and most or all of these companies do not appear to have web sites - unless a reader can find one?). Well guess what? Tepper Aviation needs C-130 pilots.

Comments: Tepper Aviation, Inc is an air cargo company operating 3 L-382G-30 (civilian C-130) aircraft worldwide out of our home base in the panhandle of Florida. We are looking for pilots with C-130 experience for full time employment. Since we recently acquired the third aircraft we are increasing our crew complement. We presently have sufficient Flight Engineers and loadmasters but are looking for pilots and mechanics. Mechanics are required to have C-130 experience and an A&P license. All positions require relocation to the Florida panhandle area. Any interested parties should submit a resume to Tepper Aviation, Inc ATTN: Bobby Owens P.O. Box 100 Crestview, FL 32536.

As the article mentions, just as there are train spotters who watch for various models of trains so there are aircraft spotters. Check out this page of Tepper Aviation aircraft spotted at various commercial and military airports in Europe.

By Randall Parker    2005 June 01 04:05 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2005 March 21 Monday
Terrorist Attack Scenarios Report Accidentally Released

The US Department of Homeland Security has written up 12 terrorist attack scenarios and 3 natural disaster scenarios in a document entitled National Planning Scenarios which showed up on a Hawaii state government web site.

WASHINGTON — A truck driven by terrorists goes down the streets of five large cities over two weeks quietly spraying anthrax spores, ultimately exposing 328,000 people and killing 13,300 while costing the economy billions of dollars.

It's a chilling possibility, one of 15 doomsday scenarios that Homeland Security authorities developed at the request of President Bush to better focus funding and to help state and local officials plan for terrorism and natural disasters.

The three most deadly scenarios outlined iin this report are explosion of a liquid chlorine tank (17,500 dead), a truck that sprays anthrax in 5 cities (13,500 dead - that is the NY Times figure), and the obvious nuclear bomb. Note that out of those three the one that is most avoidable is probably the attack on the chlorine tank. If chlorine processing plants were sited in very low population density areas and heavily automated to boot then blowing one up couldn't kill very many people. So what is the cost of moving a chlorine processing plant?

The problem with avoiding deaths from anthrax is that a lot of people would develop advanced infections before even a single patient was properly diagnosed. That would give the anthrax in their bodies time produce a lot of toxins. If anthrax diagnoses can be made earlier then very few people would have to die. The pathogen is easily killed off by a wide range of antibiotics and antibiotics delivered in the first few days of infection would prevent the bulk of the toxin production. The ability to detect an attack in its early states could greatly reduce the death toll. Though if a truck was driving from city to city to spray anthrax the challenge would become to figure out for which cities to do massive administration of antibiotics and to have enough drugs to use for this purpose. Obviously, sensors developed to detect an anthrax attack and deployed in cities would make that job much easier. The death toll from an anthrax attack could be greatly reduced by development of drugs that neutralize anthrax toxins and some promising preliminary work to develop anti-toxins has been done. Another possibility is the development of a really cheap and fast test that could be easily performed in emergency rooms. That would likely lead to detection of an attack at an earlier stage.

There are lots of ways to kill people and generate huge economic costs.

By contrast, terrorists using a small aircraft to spray chemical blister agent over a packed college football stadium would leave 150 dead and 70,000 taken to hospital, costing $500 million (£261 million).

...

If terrorists released sarin gas into the ventilation systems of three large office buildings, it would kill 6,000 and cost $300 million.

Note that so far Al Qaeda has been a combination of too dumb and too damaged by US and allied intelligence and law enforcement operations to carry out any big attacks post-9/11.

The report also included 3 natural disaster scenarios.

To ensure that emergency planning is adequate for most possible hazards, three catastrophic natural events are included: an influenza pandemic, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake in a major city and a slow-moving Category 5 hurricane hitting a major East Coast city.

I am personally worried more about getting killed in the outbreak of a new deadly strain of flu than I am about any of the terrorist scenarios. If avian flu establishes itself in human populations we'd all be in danger of dying.

Oops, release of the report was a mistake.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Wednesday it was a mistake for Hawaii to post a confidential report on its Web site, but the department will continue to communicate openly with state and local authorities about potential terror threats.

The released report was on Hawaii's web site for over three months before it was noticed by the mainstream press. My guess is there are enough radical Islamic hot heads out there trolling the internet that they managed to get a copy before it got pulled. There is an obvious lesson from all this: We ought to try harder to keep terrorists from crossing our borders.

State officials claim the report was not marked as secret or confidential or anything that suggested it not be released to the public. But Chertoff makes it sound like the report was pulled simply because it was not a finished product.

''My understanding is that this was an error,'' Chertoff said.

Noting the report was still in draft stages, Chertoff said Homeland Security wanted ''a finished product out there. So that's unfortunate. But it's not going to deter us from working closely with our state and local partners in fashioning these plans.''

Any discussion of our greatest vulnerabilities and what to do to lessen those vulnerabilities inevitably tips off our enemies as to what those vulnerabilities are and how best to exploit them. But in most cases the public discussion seems necessary. In the cases where reducing vulnerabilities will cost a lot of money a public airing is necessary to be able to form a consensus on whether some cost must be incurred. Also, some of the outlined methods of attack are pretty obvious and have been discussed publically on other occasions.

One reason terrorism is so attractive to terrorists is that terrorist attacks can be so visually dramatic. Fear of a chlorine tank's exploding and killing tens of thousands of people is a small thing compared to the threat of natural mutations in influenza viruses producing a strain that could kill tens or perhaps hundreds of millions of people. Yet there are far smallers effort under way to develop protections against a killer flu strain than against various terrorist attack scenarios.

By Randall Parker    2005 March 21 12:06 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2005 February 17 Thursday
Iraq Draining Special Forces

On the StrategyPage site a blurb about difficulties in scaling up the special forces has a hidden lesson. (my bold emphasis added)

The "operators," Special Forces troops qualified to go out into the field and deal with terrorists, or any other situation, are not numerous. Three years ago, there were 3,850 of them. Special Forces training schools turned out about 350 new ones each year. Soon after September 11, 2001, it was decided to double the number of operators, but in three years, the number has only increased to 3,950. The Special Forces schools are turning out 620 new operators a year. The major cause for the inability to increase the number of Special Forces is not casualties. Losses from death and disability have been less than a hundred. Most of the losses have been from experienced operators retiring (if they have at least 20 years of service), or just quitting (if not) to take better paying civilian jobs.

Well stop and ask yourself: What are these better paying civilian jobs? My guess is the vast bulk of those jobs are in Iraq for security of Western contractors working there doing rebuilding. So the invasion of Iraq is causing the draining of special forces into the private sector. Plus, there are no doubt special forces soldiers tied down in Iraq who are still serving in the US military. Therefore the number of "operators" available for use outside of Iraq is lower now than it was before 9/11. Next time someone claims that Iraq has not been a distraction from the war against terrorists here's another reason to cite for why it has been.

If anyone comes across any articles on the number of ex-Special Forces serving in Iraq as private contractors please post in the comments.

Update: The original source for this story appears to be a Rowan Scarborough article in the Washington Times (same article here) and it is about the Green Berets specifically.

The Army is producing slightly more Green Berets as the chiefs of U.S. regional commands, called combatant commanders, place increased mission demands on the commandos. The five groups boast 3,950 Special Forces-qualified soldiers today, compared with 3,850 three years ago.

I've previously read reports that a similar pattern is happening with other elite forces such as SEALs and Delta Force. If anyone comes across information about the staffing levels of those other elite units please post links in the comments.

Update II: The Navy SEALs are not able to keep staffed at full strength.

In addition, the Pentagon's 2006 budget proposal calls for increasing the current special forces by 1,200 military and 200 civilians. There are about 49,000 people in U.S. special forces today.

Yet some special operations branches already can't meet their authorized strength. The Navy SEALs have only 89 percent of the enlisted personnel they're supposed to have, Raines said, while an Army spokesman said the Green Berets are running at about 98 percent of expected strength.

Note that contrary to the argument of one person in the comments the military itself refers to all the soldiers in the special operations branches as "special forces".

By Randall Parker    2005 February 17 01:54 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (16)
2005 January 13 Thursday
Heather Mac Donald: How to Interrogate Terrorists

In the Winter 2005 edition of City Journal Heather Mac Donald says that in response to the Abu Ghraib abuses of prisoners by prison guards even previously acceptable interrogation techniques were ruled off-limits in the US government. Even before the Abu Ghraib scandal the existing approved and accepted interrogation techniques were totally failing against Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners.

The interrogation debate first broke out on the frigid plains of Afghanistan. Marines and other special forces would dump planeloads of al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners into a ramshackle detention facility outside the Kandahar airport; waiting interrogators were then supposed to extract information to be fed immediately back into the battlefield—whether a particular mountain pass was booby-trapped, say, or where an arms cache lay. That “tactical” debriefing accomplished, the Kandahar interrogation crew would determine which prisoners were significant enough to be shipped on to the Guantánamo naval base in Cuba for high-level interrogation.

Army doctrine gives interrogators 16 “approaches” to induce prisoners of war to divulge critical information. Sporting names like “Pride and Ego Down” and “Fear Up Harsh,” these approaches aim to exploit a detainee’s self-love, allegiance to or resentment of comrades, or sense of futility. Applied in the right combination, they will work on nearly everyone, the intelligence soldiers had learned in their training.

But the Kandahar prisoners were not playing by the army rule book. They divulged nothing. “Prisoners overcame the [traditional] model almost effortlessly,” writes Chris Mackey in The Interrogators, his gripping account of his interrogation service in Afghanistan. The prisoners confounded their captors “not with clever cover stories but with simple refusal to cooperate. They offered lame stories, pretended not to remember even the most basic of details, and then waited for consequences that never really came.

The US military interrogators in Afghanistan were expected to follow Geneva Convention rules in their treatment of prisoners even though the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters did not qualify to be treated according to Geneva rules.

The Geneva conventions embody the idea that even in as brutal an activity as war, civilized nations could obey humanitarian rules: no attacking civilians and no retaliation against enemy soldiers once they fall into your hands. Destruction would be limited as much as possible to professional soldiers on the battlefield. That rule required, unconditionally, that soldiers distinguish themselves from civilians by wearing uniforms and carrying arms openly.

Obedience to Geneva rules rests on another bedrock moral principle: reciprocity. Nations will treat an enemy’s soldiers humanely because they want and expect their adversaries to do the same. Terrorists flout every civilized norm animating the conventions. Their whole purpose is to kill noncombatants, to blend into civilian populations, and to conceal their weapons. They pay no heed whatever to the golden rule; anyone who falls into their hands will most certainly not enjoy commissary privileges and wages, per the Geneva mandates. He—or she—may even lose his head.

I personally see no advantage to the US in forgoing the practice of torture against terrorists. The only reason I'd hesitate would be in the cases where the prisoners might not really be terrorists. I would have imposed tough criteria for identifying someone as a potential Al Qaeda member. However, once such an identification was made with a high degree of certainty then I do not see a moral reason for refraining from torture. Though there is a practical reason to refrain from torture. See my previous post about Mark Bowden's writings on torture for an explanation of why the infliction of pain should be refrained from as long as possible. In a nutshell: some people who fear pain will be unbearable find that they can bear it once it is inflicted. So best to hold off on inflicting pain. But the possibility of infliction of pain has to be made credible for the fear of it to be effective.

US military terrorist interrogators decided that anything the US Army inflicted on US soldiers was acceptable to do to terrorists. This decision provided a fairly large set of unpleasant and stressful interrogation techniques.

Even so, terror interrogators tried to follow the spirit of the Geneva code for conventional, uniformed prisoners of war. That meant, as the code puts it, that the detainees could not be tortured or subjected to “any form of coercion” in order to secure information. They were to be “humanely” treated, protected against “unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind,” and were entitled to “respect for their persons and their honour.”

The Kandahar interrogators reached the following rule of thumb, reports Mackey: if a type of behavior toward a prisoner was no worse than the way the army treated its own members, it could not be considered torture or a violation of the conventions. Thus, questioning a detainee past his bedtime was lawful as long as his interrogator stayed up with him. If the interrogator was missing exactly the same amount of sleep as the detainee—and no tag-teaming of interrogators would be allowed, the soldiers decided—then sleep deprivation could not be deemed torture. In fact, interrogators were routinely sleep-deprived, catnapping maybe one or two hours a night, even as the detainees were getting long beauty sleeps. Likewise, if a boot-camp drill sergeant can make a recruit kneel with his arms stretched out in front without violating the Convention Against Torture, an interrogator can use that tool against a recalcitrant terror suspect.

Did the stress techniques work? Yes. “The harsher methods we used . . . the better information we got and the sooner we got it,” writes Mackey, who emphasizes that the methods never contravened the conventions or crossed over into torture.

It says something about the Geneva Convention that what the US Army can legally do to US soldiers is, strictly speaking, a violation of the Geneva rules.

Under a strict reading of the Geneva protections for prisoners of war, probably: the army forbids interrogators from even touching lawful combatants. But there is a huge gray area between the gold standard of POW treatment reserved for honorable opponents and torture, which consists of the intentional infliction of severe physical and mental pain. None of the stress techniques that the military has used in the war on terror comes remotely close to torture, despite the hysterical charges of administration critics. (The CIA’s behavior remains a black box.) To declare non-torturous stress off-limits for an enemy who plays by no rules and accords no respect to Western prisoners is folly.

One has to wonder what the CIA is up to. Heather quotes one source that claims Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was subjected to dunking under water and that is supposedly the most extreme measure being used by the CIA in conducting interrogations.

The most important point that Heather makes is that what military police did at Abu Ghraib is unrelated to the rules that were governing interrogators at Guantanamo, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. But the political reaction to Abu Ghraib caused further restrictions on real interrogators working on real Al Qaeda terrorists.

The idea that the abuse of the Iraqi detainees resulted from the president’s decision on the applicability of the Geneva conventions to al-Qaida and Taliban detainees is absurd on several grounds. Everyone in the military chain of command emphasized repeatedly that the Iraq conflict would be governed by the conventions in their entirety. The interrogation rules that local officers developed for Iraq explicitly stated that they were promulgated under Geneva authority, and that the conventions applied. Moreover, almost all the behavior shown in the photographs occurred in the dead of night among military police, wholly separate from interrogations. Most abuse victims were not even scheduled to be interrogated, because they were of no intelligence value. Finally, except for the presence of dogs, none of the behavior shown in the photos was included in the interrogation rules promulgated in Iraq. Mandated masturbation, dog leashes, assault, and stacking naked prisoners in pyramids—none of these depredations was an approved (or even contemplated) interrogation practice, and no interrogator ordered the military guards to engage in them.

The invasion of Iraq, by leading to the events of Abu Ghraib and the resulting political fall-out and further restrictions on interrogators, has hampered the fight against terrorists. Of course the invasion of Iraq has also harmed US interests in other ways related to the battle against terrorists. Also, even without Abu Ghraib the rules controlling interrogators were far too limiting. So the Iraq invasion made a bad situation even worse.

Restrictions on interrogation techniques in Iraq are surely costing many American lives and Iraqi lives as well.

That experiment is over. Reeling under the PR disaster of Abu Ghraib, the Pentagon shut down every stress technique but one—isolation—and that can be used only after extensive review. An interrogator who so much as requests permission to question a detainee into the night could be putting his career in jeopardy. Even the traditional army psychological approaches have fallen under a deep cloud of suspicion: deflating a detainee’s ego, aggressive but non-physical histrionics, and good cop–bad cop have been banished along with sleep deprivation.

Can the US government stop terrorism without getting useful information from terrorists via interrogation? I guess we are going to find out.

By Randall Parker    2005 January 13 07:27 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (15)
2004 November 21 Sunday
Heather Mac Donald: Opposition To Religious Profiling Hampers Anti-terrorist Defenses

In the City Journal Heather Mac Donald has a long and excellent article about the restrictions on religious and ethnic profiling and how those obstacles are making it difficult for law enforcement personnel to prevent terrorist attacks. Among the many stupid policies of the United States government are legal actions by the US Department of Transportation against airlines for alleged discrimination against Arabs and other Muslims.

The anti-discrimination hammer has hit the airline industry most severely—and with gruesome inappropriateness, given the realities of 9/11 and the Islamists' enduring obsession with airplanes. Department of Transportation lawyers have extracted millions in settlements from four major carriers for alleged discrimination after 9/11, and they have undermined one of the most crucial elements of air safety: a pilot's responsibility for his flight. Because the charges against the airlines were specious but successful, every pilot must worry that his good-faith effort to protect his passengers will trigger federal retaliation.

The DoT action against American Airlines was typical. In the last four months of 2001, American carried 23 million passengers and asked ten of them (.00004 percent of the total) not to board because they raised security concerns that could not be resolved in time for departure. For those ten interventions (and an 11th in 2002), DoT declared American a civil rights pariah, whose discriminatory conduct would "result in irreparable harm to the public" if not stopped.

On its face, the government's charge that American was engaged in a pattern of discriminatory conduct was absurd, given how few passenger removals occurred. But the racism allegation looks all the more unreasonable when put in the context of the government's own actions. Three times between 9/11 and the end of 2001, public officials warned of an imminent terror attack. Transportation officials urged the airlines to be especially vigilant. In such an environment, pilots would have been derelict not to resolve security questions in favor of caution.

Somehow, DoT lawyers failed to include in their complaint one further passenger whom American asked not to board in 2001. On December 22, airline personnel in Paris kept Richard Reid off a flight to Miami. The next day, French authorities insisted that he be cleared to board. During the flight, Reid tried to set off a bomb in his shoe, but a stewardess and passengers foiled him. Had he been kept from flying on both days, he too might have ended up on the government's roster of discrimination victims.

Heather says the government "civil rights" (and I quote that since they aren't really defending civil rights) establishment doesn't want to admit that, hey, Muslim terrorism is commited by (are you ready for this?) Muslims. No, Muslim terrorism is not carried out by Zoroastrians. Nope, it is not perpetrated by worshippers of Kali or Vishnu or even of Mahasamatman (and will anyone even get that reference?). Nor is planned and executed by Mormons. None of those guys. Its the Muslims stupid.

Any discussion about how the government should identify Muslim terror suspects has been couched as a referendum on "racial profiling." But "racial profiling" is irrelevant. What is at issue is religious profiling. By definition—by Usama bin Ladin's own definition when he called on all Muslims to kill Americans wherever they can find them—Muslim terrorists must be Muslim. Because religious identity is not always apparent, however, national origin or ethnic heritage should be available as surrogates. Needless to say, Muslim identity should be at most only one factor in assessing someone's security risk. Unfortunately, the much-heralded 9/11 Commission report, while correctly naming the nation's primary threat as "Islamist terrorism," contains not one word about what the proper role of Muslim identity should be in locating such terrorists, a topic evidently too hot to touch.

Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta and some of Satan's Helpers at the American Civil Liberties Union are major players in the evil quest to prevent Americans from being properly defended against Muslim terrorism. But of course George W. Bush bears the blame for appointing Mineta and allowing him to act like such an evil moron. At the same time, all of Lucifer's minions who donate money to the ACLU help to fund the Devil's work in this realm. So there is a big cast of morally defective supporting characters who will some day take their places in various of Dante's circles in hell.

Transportation Department secretary Norman Mineta bears much of the responsibility for the government's irrationality regarding airline security. He infamously maintained in an interview that a grandmother from Vero Beach, Florida, should receive the same scrutiny at the airport as a young Saudi male, and he constantly warns that domestic internment—as in World War II—may be just around the corner. And behind Mineta stands a permanent civil rights bureaucracy fixated on American racism. The same Transportation Department lawyer, for example, who complained in 1997 that the early prototype of CAPPS I might pull out "too many" people of the same ethnicity—Sam Podberesky—led the recent discrimination actions against the airlines. Without strong intervention from Mineta, DoT's anti-discrimination machine, like most of those in the government, would run on autopilot, even though its priorities have been proved disastrously wrong.

In the government's wake, the private civil rights bar, led by the ACLU, has brought its own airline discrimination suits. An action against Northwest Airlines is seeking government terror watch lists, Northwest's boarding procedures, and its cabin training manual. If these materials got loose, they would be gold to terrorists trying to figure out airline security procedures.

Norm should be interned for dereliction of duty. No, wait, that is not right. He didn't just neglect his duty. He betrayed it and worked against it.

Be sure to read Heather's full article if you want to learn more reasons to be enraged at the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of modern liberalism in both its left-liberal and Trotskyite neocon variants.

By Randall Parker    2004 November 21 02:38 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (15)
2004 November 08 Monday
France Keeps Former Guantanamo Detainees Locked Up

Hey, the French government has no problem with "do as we say, not as we do".

PARIS -- In many countries of Europe, former inmates of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been relishing their freedom. In Spain, Denmark and Britain, recently released detainees have railed in public about their treatment at Guantanamo, winning sympathy from local politicians and newspapers. In Sweden, the government has agreed to help one Guantanamo veteran sue his American captors for damages.

Not so in France, where four prisoners from the U.S. naval base were arrested as soon as they arrived home in July, and haven't been heard from since. Under French law, they could remain locked up for as long as three years while authorities decide whether to put them on trial -- a legal limbo that their attorneys charge is not much different than what they faced at Guantanamo.

This is the same government that has been so vocal in criticizing the United States for holding Muslim prisoners in Guantanamo. In spite of their hypocrisy I actually admire their pragmatism. They are quite willing to defend their interests and the interests of their own citizens. Good for them.

The US government keeps those detainees in Guantanamo in order to keep them outside of the jurisdiction of US courts, the due process clause of the US constitution, other relevant clauses, and of course the court rulings which have legislated various other rights. This sort of tactic seems necessary for the US government when fighting asymmetric warfare.

The French make heavy use of ethnic profiling. How politically incorrect. And of course how admirable and productive.

France has embraced a law enforcement strategy that relies heavily on preemptive arrests, ethnic profiling and an efficient domestic intelligence-gathering network. French anti-terrorism prosecutors and investigators are among the most powerful in Europe, backed by laws that allow them to interrogate suspects for days without interference from defense attorneys.

The US government uses immigration law to preemptively lock up possible terrorists on immigration law violations since most terrorists in the US are not US citizens. But there are very likely many French citizens of Arab descent who are involved in terrorist activities. So the French government needs to be more blatant (and the French constitution apparently makes this easier to do) in how it runs roughshod over the rights of individuals in order to prevent terrorist attacks. Of course, if the threat becomes large enough in the United States (i.e. if terrorists manage to launch some new attacks that kill thousands of people) Guantanamo and immigration law violations will be seen as insufficient to deal with the threat. Then I predict some way will be found to get around constitutional rights of both US citizens and foreigners here legally.

Update: Also see my related posts Heather Mac Donald: Government Panel Opposes Google Searches By Spies and Privacy Concerns Block Response To Terrorist Threat.

By Randall Parker    2004 November 08 01:48 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2004 September 14 Tuesday
Seymour Hersh On Botched Guantanamo Interrogations

Seymour Hersh has a new book coming out Chain of Command : The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib

But the interrogations at Guantánamo were a bust. Very little useful intelligence had been gathered, while prisoners from around the world continued to flow into the base, and the facility constantly expanded. The CIA analyst had been sent there to find out what was going wrong. He was fluent in Arabic and familiar with the Islamic world. He was held in high respect within the agency, and was capable of reporting directly, if he chose, to George Tenet, the CIA director. The analyst did more than just visit and inspect. He interviewed at least 30 prisoners to find out who they were and how they ended up in Guantánamo. Some of his findings, he later confided to a former CIA colleague, were devastating.

"He came back convinced that we were committing war crimes in Guantánamo," the colleague told me. "Based on his sample, more than half the people there didn't belong there. He found people lying in their own faeces," including two captives, perhaps in their 80s, who were clearly suffering from dementia. "He thought what was going on was an outrage," the CIA colleague added. There was no rational system for determining who was important.

Two former administration officials who read the analyst's highly classified report told me that its message was grim. According to a former White House official, the analyst's disturbing conclusion was that "if we captured some people who weren't terrorists when we got them, they are now".

Mark Bowden (of Black Hawk Down fame) has written that experts on interrogation say that infliction of pain can be counter-productive and should be resorted to only as a last resort. One reason for this is that subjects of torture fear the threat of pain but that once they actually experience the pain manyfind they can handle it better than expected. Another reason to hold back on delivering pain is that patient and talented interrogators sometimes manage to turn the interrogatee to shift his loyalties so that he begins to provide accurate information voluntarily. Read all his links at that post of mine. One conclusion I reached from reading them is that if some facility is inflicting pain on large numbers of its inmates then it is a very unprofessonal operation. Well, that is what Donald Rumsfeld has set up and defended in Guantanamo Bay.

I am disgusted by the Bush Administration because they are more interested in inflicting pain out of a macho desire to get even than they are in actually defending us from future attacks. Take the most expert and experienced advice on how to set up professional interrogation facilities? That just doesn't feel tough enough to them - and who wants to do all the mental work required to think through complex arguments anyway? Or seal the Mexican border to prevent entry of terrorists? That flies in the face of Bush's quixotic and foolish gambit to get Hispanic voters.

Bush is not acting in our interests. I don't know that John Kerry would be any better. But even if you are a very partisan Republican for the sake of your country recognize just how many ways the Bush Administration's policies are harmful for our country and our security.

The 9/11 Commission's recommendations on visa and immigation policy represent a good starting point for a rational and effective response to the terrorist threat. Better immigration and border control policies would not only reduce the risk of future attacks but reduce the crime rate, reduce the demands for social spending, raise living standards for America's poorest, and reduce crowding and pollution.

By Randall Parker    2004 September 14 03:35 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2004 August 09 Monday
Will Vehicle Bombers Come To The USA?

An article in the Washington Post discusses various facets of the car and truck bomb threat and how easy it is to make a very powerful vehicle bomb.

On April 19, 1995, disillusioned Persian Gulf War veteran Timothy J. McVeigh and Army washout Terry L. Nichols blew the face off the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City with a 5,000-pound mixture of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, killing 168 people.

The bomb was instructive in its power and ease of assembly. Equivalent to 4,100 pounds of dynamite, the blast damaged 312 buildings, cracked glass as far as two miles away and inflicted 80 percent of its injuries on people outside the building, up to a half-mile away. ATF officials had never studied the effects of a vehicle bomb larger than about 1,200 pounds, an ATF explosives expert said.

The components came largely from a Kansas co-op. Nichols bought two tons of fertilizer in 50-pound sacks starting seven months before the attack. McVeigh also was careful to avoid detection, renting a Ryder truck from a Junction City, Kan., body shop one state away from his target.

Today, it remains difficult to detect similar activity. Nearly 5 million tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer are sold each year in the United States. None of it is regulated, although its explosive properties are used in mining and construction and by armies around the world. Government controls are resisted by farm and chemical lobbies, who say they would burden law-abiding citizens and not thwart terrorists. U.S. law permits farmers to mix it with fuel oil for personal demolition uses.

The US government is erecting blast barriers near a fairly small number of government buildings and is going to place larger spaces between streets and newly constructed buildings in the future. But lots of large buildings already exist that are very close to streets. Also, most buildings have roads leading right up to them for underground parking lots and docks for unloading supplies. So barrier defenses against truck bombs are of fairly limited use.

Note hat McVeigh and Nichols didn't have to commit suicide in order to carry out a deadly attack. If Muslim terrorists can make it inside the United States with sufficient money and training to carry out vehicle bomb attacks they would face pretty favorable odds of succeeding in killing a lot of people. The resulting fear and the ways people would respond to that fear would exact large economic costs beyond the economic and human costs of the actual attacks.

What we do not know at this point is just how effective intelligence and law enforcement agencies are being at disrupting Al Qaeda operations. Only time will tell as to whether the tempo o terrorist attacks is headed upward or downward in Western countries. So it is hard to calculate the cost-benefit ratios of various potential defenses against terrorism.

Should a wave of vehicle bomb attacks begin in the United States then one response to consider would be the implemention of a registry for purchasers of ammonium nitrate with required proof of citizenship or legal residence. Every place that sells fertilizer could install a biometric identifier system to scan retinas or other physical features to verify identity. All purchases could be tracked and large purchasers could be required to seek a permit for making a purchase. There would be real economic costs to such a system. Therefore its implementation seems unlikely in advance of domestic bombing attacks.

In my view it makes sense to implement more effective border control, immigration, and visa policies to make it more difficult for terrorists to enter the United States in the first place. However, at this point the elites still oppose more effective control of who gets into the United States and we are probably going to have to wait until more attacks happen in the United States before public anger forces the hands of the politicians.

By Randall Parker    2004 August 09 01:51 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (4)
2004 July 28 Wednesday
Imperial Hubris Author Interviewed On Al Qaeda

Editors Philip Giraldi, Kara Hopkins, and Scott McConnell of The American Conservative have scored with an absolutely great interview of the anonymous CIA agent author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism. The anonymous agent (who really needs a neat pseudonymous name) says Al Qaeda is an insurgency, not a conventional terrorist group.

TAC: I was interested in your analysis of terrorism versus insurgency …

ANON: I worked on the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan and watched the organizational structure and the ability of the Afghan insurgent groups to absorb tremendous punishment and survive, and then I worked for the next period of my career on terrorism, where the groups were much smaller. Their leadership is more concentrated, and if you hurt them to a significant degree, they cease to be as much of a threat. They are lethal nuisances, not national-security risks. Al-Qaeda is not a terrorist group but an insurgency with an extraordinary ability to replicate at the leadership level. When Mr. Johnson was executed in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi authorities killed four al-Qaeda fighters, one of them named Mukrin. Within four hours, al-Qaeda’s media enterprise had issued a statement acknowledging the death of Mukrin, appointing his successor, and providing a brief résumé.

TAC: You suggest that al-Qaeda would be delighted to have George Bush stay in the White House because nothing could be better for their international objectives. How do you see this playing out in terms of—this is totally hypothetical—a potential terrorist incident, somewhat like the bombing in Spain?

ANON: I said that al-Qaeda itself has said that it could not wish for a better government than the one that is now governing the U.S. because, on the policies of issue to Muslims, al-Qaeda believes this government is wrong on every one and thus allows their insurgency to grow larger to incite other groups to attack Americans.

He provides a list of things the United States either does or is perceived as doing that motivate Muslims to support Al Qaeda. If you click through and read the interview come back and post in the comments about what, if anything, we should do to change US foreign policy on each of those items. Also, before accusing him of being an appeaser note his absolute willingness to cause major collateral damage that kills a lot of Muslims as part of any operation to attack Al Qaeda. He's no dove. Yet he sees major errors in Bush Administration policy against Al Qaeda and in dealing with the Muslims.

The whole interview is intriguing as all get-out. Go click through and read the whole thing.

Also see my previous post that links to a Spencer Ackerman interview of this same CIA agent.

Update: In a USA Today interview the anonymous intelligence agent an unwillingness to face the religious nature of Islamic terrorists is hampering our ability to think clearly about Bin Laden.

Q: When you talk about the mind-set of the country on the war on terror, where do you think the misconceptions come from? The media, politicians? A: It's trite to say, but the idea of political correctness is very, very important in terms of the performance of the intelligence community. How many times has USA TODAY, or The New York Times or The Washington Post discussed the role of Islam as a motivating factor in bin Laden's appeal in the Muslim world? I can't remember it very frequently. The director of intelligence and the president say al-Qaeda represents the lunatic fringe of the Muslim world, which, on the face of it, is absurd. But there is no one talking about Islam as a motivating factor for war.

There were times when our ancestors went to war to defend their faith. So, the debate is very constricted, not only in America but certainly within the intelligence community. We do a lot of analysis by assertion rather than by reality. Somehow the argument that someone is fighting for his faith is seen as a negative. So we assert that only gangsters do that. We make bin Laden into a gangster. But it doesn't get you anywhere.

That interview is also worth reading in full.

The Boston Phoenix has revealed Anonymous's identity as CIA agent Michael Scheuer.

Nearly a dozen intelligence-community sources, however, say Anonymous is Michael Scheuer — and that his forced anonymity is both unprecedented and telling in the context of CIA history and modern politics. "The requirement that someone publish anonymously is rare, almost unheard-of, particularly if the person is not in a covert position," says Jonathan Turley, a national-security-law expert at George Washington University Law School. "It seems pretty obvious that the requirement he remain anonymous is motivated solely by political concerns, and ones that have more to do with the CIA..."

Click through and read that article as well. Very insightful.

Kevin Drum says Anonymous thinks democracy promotion is not going to help much if at all.

As he adds in our interview, “My argument, I think, taken from the whole book, is that we've left ourselves with no option but the military option, and our application of military force against our foe, whether it's Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else, has not been particularly intimidating. They've ridden out two wars. They're on the offensive at the moment. What are we left with? If we don't use our military power, we really just sit and take it.”

Since he doesn’t see much promise in an ideological (read: democracy promotion) campaign, or in trying to alleviate the “hopelessness” of the Muslim world (which he calls “cant” in the section quoted above), the military option is the one he relies the heaviest on, and his conception of what’s militarily necessary is very wide-ranging. The prospect of energy self-sufficiency and foreign disengagement (He writes, “There is no greater duty today’s Americans can perform for their nation and posterity than to finally abandon the sordid legacy of Woodrow Wilson’s internationalism, which soaked the twentieth century in as much or more blood as any other “ism”) can do something to diminish the need for war to an unspecified degree, but can’t substitute for it.

There is an important point that Drum alludes to: US policy options have become so circumscribed by the narrow way so many policy issues have been framed that Anonymous is trying to shock us by arguing that the US has no option left other than the Shermanesque scorched Earth approach of killing lots of people with large amounts of collateral damage of innocents. Why is he trying to shock us? In part so we won't repeat the timidity of the Clinton and early Bush Administrations in terms of constraints upon military actions. But he's also trying to stun us into reexamining the assumptions underlying a broad assortment of policy areas and debates.

In an interview with Andrea Mitchell Anonymous (who I'll henceforth call "Mike") makes the point that, yes, as long as we won't reexamine our policies ruthless war is our only option.

Mitchell: "And what are you going to say to those who say that this is anti-American and that this is a really prejudiced approach? What do you say to those who say that your call for a war against Muslim people, is really only going to make the situation worse?"

Anonymous: "I wonder how much worse the situation can be, in the first instance. We continue to believe that somehow public diplomacy or words will affect the anger and hatred of Muslims. And I'm not advocating war as my choice. What I'm advocating is, in order to protect the United States, it is our only option. As long as we pursue the current policies we have, until we have a debate about those policies, there's not a lot we can do. We won't talk them out of their anger, we won't convince them we're an honest broker between the Israel and the Palestinians. We won't convince that we're not supporting tyrannies in the Arab world from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean.

"It's the only option. It's not a good option; it's the only option. And I'm not saying we attack people who aren't attacking us. But in areas where we realize our enemies are, perhaps we have to be more aggressive."

"Mike" is a very reasonable guy in my estimation.

Update II: "Mike" says the domestically oriented Terrorist Threat Integration Center is draining CIA agents away from fighting Al Qaeda on their home grounds.

Some experienced CIA experts have been reassigned to the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, or TTIC. The unit, formed after Sept. 11, combines specialists from numerous agencies to fuse domestic and foreign information on terrorist threats. It has no direct role in killing or capturing terrorists overseas.

"You drain all of these experienced officers away from the organization that is doing the most to defend you and put them in the TTIC, which is basically an analytic domestic organization which will not do anything in Pakistan, Afghanistan or anywhere else," he said.

"Mike" says the jihadists will be flocking to Iraq for a long time to come.

"We have waged two failed half-wars and, in doing so, left Afghanistan and Iraq seething with anti-U.S. sentiment, fertile grounds for the expansion of al-Qaida and kindred groups," he wrote in one passage in the book.

In an interview this week, Mike, said Monday's transfer of authority in Iraq is likely to do little to curtail insurgent attacks.

"Iraq, with or without a transfer of power, will be a mujahadeen magnet as long as whatever government is there is dependent on America's sword," he said.

"Mike" says we are in a lose-lose situation with Iraq and Afghanistan.

Currently we're in a lose-lose situation both in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we stay we bleed. If we go, the problem festers even worse. The United States, I believe, needs to have a debate about its policies in the Middle East. All a set of policies that have been on autopilot for about 25 years. Before you can draft a policy to defeat Bin Laden you have to understand that our policies are, in part, what drives him and those who follow him.

An excerpt from Mike's book includes his list of US policies that tick off Bin Laden.

While important voices in the United States claim the intent of U.S. policy is misunderstood by Muslims, they are wrong. America is hated and attacked because Muslims believe they know precisely what the United States is doing in the Islamic world. They know partly because of Osama bin Laden's words, partly because of satellite television, but mostly because of the tangible reality of U.S. policies. We are at war with an al Qaeda-led, worldwide Islamic insurgency to defend those policies -- and not, as President Bush mistakenly has said, "to defend freedom and all that is good and just in the world."

Keep in mind how easy it is for Muslims to hate the six U.S. policies bin Laden repeatedly refers to as anti-Muslim:

• U.S. support for Israel that keeps Palestinians in the Israelis' thrall.

• U.S. and other Western troops on the Arabian Peninsula.

• U.S. occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

• U.S. support for Russia, India and China against their Muslim militants.

• U.S. pressure on Arab energy producers to keep oil prices low.

• U.S. support for apostate, corrupt and tyrannical Muslim governments.

Only when U.S. leaders stop believing that bin Laden and his allies are attacking us for what we are and what we think can we put aside our ill-advised and hallucinatory crusade for democracy -- our current default response.

What notably is missing from this list? Things people do in the United States: Sinful dancing, pre-marital sex, mini-skirts, recreational drug use. Bin Laden is parochial in a sense. He cares about what happens in Muslim countries more than what happens in non-Muslim countries. He care about what happens in Arab countries more than what happens in non-Arab yet Muslim countries. He cares more about what happens in Saudi Arabia in particular - in part because he is from there and in part because Mecca and Medina are located on Saudi territory. Bin Laden is most angry and driven to change conditions in the places he cares most about. With that as a starting point and his Muslim religious beliefs as a source of his political desires a different view of his motives emerges. The US is first and foremost a target because of US involvement with the House Of Saud and secondarily with other neighboring countries.

Of course the Taliban government which Bin Laden propped up in Afghanistan was corrupt and tyrannical. So it is really the "apostate" part about various Arab governments that ticks off Bin Laden. He is a firm supporter of Islamic theocracy. Bin Laden is very enthusiastic about Islam and Islamic political rule. Islam has no place for the separation of church and state and neither does Bin Laden.

The theory that democracy will "drain the swamps" of support for Islamic terrorism is based on the assumption that democracy will produce such better government that people will feel more justly treated and their living standards will rise so they feel less aggrieved and resentful. Well, the lack of democracy is not the biggest obstacle to economic advance in the Middle East or elsewhere. But higher incomes are a necessary precondition to successful democracy anyhow. Plus, there are lots of other reasons democracy isn't in the cards for the Middle East.

Given that the threat from Al Qaeda is long term the United States would greatly benefit from an immigration and border control policy that enables us to far better keep out Muslim terrorists. Also, as "Mike" agrees, we need an energy policy aimed at the reduction of world demand for oil.

By Randall Parker    2004 July 28 04:37 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (33)
2004 July 06 Tuesday
US Military Developing Computer Game To Learn Language, Culture

Regular ParaPundit readers are aware that I consider it a big mistake for the US military to deploy soldiers to Afghanistan and Iraq with so little training in local language and culture. Well, the US military appears to be aware of the seriousness of this deficiency. A New York Times report has brought to my attention a research program by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Defense Advanced Project Research Agency (DARPA) to build a local language and culture training game for the Special Operations Command of the US military.

Sergeant Smith is not a real soldier, but the leading character in a video game being developed at the University of Southern California's School of Engineering as a tool for teaching soldiers to speak Arabic. Both the game's environment and the characters who populate it have a high degree of realism, in an effort to simulate the kinds of situations troops will face in the Middle East. Talle is modeled on an actual Lebanese village, while the game's characters are driven by artificial-intelligence software that enables them to behave autonomously and react realistically to Sergeant Smith. The Tactical Language Project, as it is called, is being developed at U.S.C.'s Center for Research in Technology for Education, in cooperation with the Special Operations Command. From July 12 to 16, real Special Forces soldiers at Fort Bragg in Northern California will test the game and put Sergeant Smith through his paces.

The characters in the game respond to the game-players actions by increasing or decreasing their trust in him.

One of their most critical beliefs is their trust level, Ms. Si said. If Sergeant Smith behaves appropriately, he will gain the characters' trust and they will help him; if not, he is likely to cause suspicion.

A USC press releases provides a lot more detail. (worth reading in full if this sounds interesting)

Part of the system, the “Mission Skill Builder,” resembles an intensive version of the language laboratory programs that have been in use for generations. in these students imitate and practice words and phrases pronounced by native speakers.

“While our system is similar to drill-and-practice language programs that have been in use for some time, the Skill Builder incorporates some important innovations,” Johnson said.

These include:

  • speech recognition technology that is able to evaluate learner speech and detect common errors;
  • pedagogical agent technology that provides the learner with tailored feedback on his performance; and
  • a learner model that dynamically keeps track of what aspects of the language the learner has mastered and in what areas the learner is deficient.

The game sounds like it is structured in ways very much like conventional adventure games with the added complexities that the game player must be able to speak Arabic into language recognition software and the simulated agents are written by experts in artificial intelligence to embody a lot of Arabic culture in their values and behavior

The examination or application part of the training system, the "Mission Practice Environment," is still more innovative. It is designed to give students an unscripted, unpredictable, and therefore challenging test of their mastery of these elements.

In this segment, students wearing earphones and microphones control a uniformed figure moving through a Lebanese village, complete with outdoor coffee bar. They meet animated Arabic speakers, who (thanks to artificial intelligence driven voice recognition programs) can carry on free-form conversations.

"These AI figures can understand what the students say, if it's said correctly - or won't, if it isn't. And they will respond appropriately," said Johnson.

In the exercise, after exchanging greetings the student learns the names of locals, the name of the place, the identity of the local headman and the location of his house, and must follow these directions through the game interface to get there.

"In typical videogame fashion, the idea is to get to the next level," said Johnson. "In this game, in order to get to the next level, the learner has to master the linguistic skills."

The program already has features to adapt it to each individual user, noting consistent errors or difficulties, which can be targeted for extensive or remedial practice.

So far, researchers have completed approximately seven hours of the program. The full program will have about 80 hours of instruction, and introduce perhaps 500 carefully chosen words of the "Levantine" Arabic spoken in Lebanon to learners. If all goes as planned, the system may be deployed next year.

Computer automation is the future of education in general. Computers are cheap and their patience unlimited. Computer games that correct your errors and automatically record and report on progress are needed across a large range of domains of knowledge unrelated to the US military. This is a sign of things to come.

By Randall Parker    2004 July 06 04:52 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (13)
2004 June 04 Friday
Heather Mac Donald: Government Panel Opposes Google Searches By Spies

Heather Mac Donald reports on the latest neo-Luddite privacy insanity that is hobbling attempts to protect us from terrorism committed in the name of Islam.

The committee demands that counterterrorism analysts seek court approval to mine the Pentagon's own lawfully acquired intelligence files, if there is a chance that they might contain information on U.S. citizens or resident aliens -- basically all intelligence files. Eyeball scrutiny of those same files, however, requires no such judicial oversight. This rule suggests a bizarre conceit that the automation of human analysis, which is all data mining is, somehow violates privacy more than the observation of those same items by a person. In fact, the opposite is true. A computer has no idea what it is "reading," but merely selects items by rule.

The advisory committee's technophobia does not end with intelligence analysis. It would also require the defense secretary to give approval for, and certify the absolute necessity of, Google searches by intelligence agents. Even though any 12-year-old with a computer can freely surf the Web looking for Islamist chat rooms, defense analysts may not do so, according to the panel, without strict oversight.

Well, there goes any fantasy I ever had about becoming a secret agent for the US government in the war against Islamic terrorists. There is no way I would give up Google searches. If government spies are not going to be allowed to use Google then what technologically savvy person is going to want to become a spy?

A Google ban would lead to some interesting questions. Could a CIA agent use Google from his home? Also, just how far would the Google ban reach? Would it extend to all Defense Department employees? Would all the .mil readers who find my blog via Google (and there are some just about every day - are they spying on me? Am I a threat?) no longer be able to do so? Should the ban be extended to all of government? After all, regular government workers could potentially be recruited to do computer searches for DIA or CIA agents. Best to err on the side of privacy protection if you are a privacy extremist.

Also, if intelligence agents are going to be banned from doing computer searches for information then should Ctrl-F be disabled in their copies of Microsoft Word? Also, the Windows Explorer utility for file management has a search function for searching all the files on a disk. Should Microsoft make special national security version of Windows and Office that disable all searching functionality? Heck, why should spies be allowed to have computers at all? The privacy extremists say all this automation is encroaching on our liberties somehow or other. So then is the solution simply to outlaw government use of computers?

As Heather points out, the commercial databases of purchases and other economic activity are routinely bought and sold between companies with few restrictions. Searches through those databases with computers will not violate our privacy any more than it is already routinely violated by private industry.

I wonder how many people will have to die before intelligence agents will be allowed to fully utilize modern technology in their attempts to protect us. I guess we will find out.

See my previous post about Heather's writings on privacy and the response to the growing terrorist threat: Privacy Concerns Block Response To Terrorist Threat.

By Randall Parker    2004 June 04 08:03 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (19)
2004 April 27 Tuesday
Spengler On Achilles Heels Of the West And Islam

Spengler says the West and Islam have different emotions that give each a specific Achilles Heel. (strongly recommended to read in full)

Radical Islam has risen against the West in response to its humiliation - intentional or not - at Western hands. The West can break the revolt by inflicting even worse humiliation upon the Islamists, poisoning the confidence of their supporters in the Muslim world.

But radical Islam yet may horrify the West into submission, not only by large-scale acts of terrorism against Western countries, but also by provoking the West into mass destruction of life in the Islamic world. By operating in the midst of civilian populations, Islamist radicals put Western counter-insurgency in a delicate position. The Western response must be harsh enough to humble its adversaries, without turning the stomach of the Western population itself. To do this requires intelligence precise enough to target enemy resources without killing too many civilians.

Basically, Spengler is arguing that the West must carry out even more precise killings of its enemies. This will make Islam seem powerless in the face of a more technologically advanced non-Islamic civilization. Spengler's argument for a Western aversion to horror sounds right. Though if the terrorists ever manage to attack the West with weapons that kill hundreds of thousands or millions that horror will dissipate for a time.

Spengler also argues that Israel is actually an asset to the United States because simply by existing so successfully Israel is "an ever-present source of humiliation to the Muslim sense of self-worth."

Seen in Spengler's terms the problem with the Iraq invasion and occupation is that allows Islam and tribal insurgents in Iraq to force US military to respond in ways that end up killing civilian bystanders. This invokes both Muslim anger and Western horror. However, if the US can very selectively kill the Islamic jihadis in Iraq then the humiliation of the Islamists will weaken the faith of many Muslims and reduce the appeal of terrorism.

The United States needs both excellent intelligence in Iraq and weapons systems developed to allow more precise killings. On the latter count what is needed most of all are ways for soldiers down on the ground in urban environments to rapidly identify the sources of small arms fire and to more precisely respond exactly to the shooters. Robots and very small flying Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) could both help to solve this problem. The US Army is already beginning to deploy a sound processing system mountable on Humvees that quickly locates the direction and distance of sniper fire. Imagine tying that to cameras that rapidly find the shooter and that direct a gun to precisely target return fire.

Spengler is right to see the limited intelligence gathering capability of the CIA as an Achilles Heel. Certainly the CIA needs more agents and far more talented agents who are out in the world penetrating Islamic terrorist organizations. But the CIA is just one part of the US intelligence establishment and that establishment as a whole is hobbled by a combination of the legacy of the 1970s Church Committee investigation and modern day Luddite privacy fanatics. The best person to read on that is Heather Mac Donald. See my previous post Privacy Concerns Block Response To Terrorist Threat and click through on the links in that post to read arguments on how information technology can make a decisive difference in the battle against terrorist networks.

For more on what ought to be done to respond to the Islamic terrorist threat see Andrew McCarthy's essay in Commentary entitled The Intelligence Mess: How It Happened, What to Do About It

As Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has observed, weakness is provocative. The fecklessness of meeting terrorist attacks with court proceedings—trials that take years to prepare and months to present, and that, even when successful, neutralize only an infinitesimal percentage of the actual terrorist population—emboldened bin Laden. But just as hurtful was the government’s promotion of terrorism trials in the first place. They were a useful vehicle if the strategic object was to orchestrate an appearance of justice being done. As a national-security strategy, they were suicidal, providing terrorists with a banquet of information they could never have dreamed of acquiring on their own.

Under discovery rules that apply to American criminal proceedings, the government is required to provide to accused persons any information in its possession that can be deemed "material to the preparation of the defense" or that is even arguably exculpatory. The more broadly indictments are drawn (and terrorism indictments tend to be among the broadest), the greater the trove of revelation. In addition, the government must disclose all prior statements made by witnesses it calls (and, often, witnesses it does not call).

Update: Again, read Spengler's full essay. One of his most striking points is to question the value of attempting to avoid offending Muslim sensibilities. If his argument is correct then excessive deference to Muslim sensibilities (e.g. the British government's recent decision to exempt Muslim women from having their photos taken for ID cards) is counterproductive. My own intuition is that Spengler is correct.

By Randall Parker    2004 April 27 10:14 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2004 April 05 Monday
Privacy Concerns Block Response To Terrorist Threat

Heather MacDonald observes in a Wall Street Journal article entitled "The 'Privacy' Jihad" that there are privacy Luddites who disapprove of all use of computers for identifying and tracking terrorists. (note: the WSJ article is adapted from a longer article originally written for the City Journal)

The privacy advocates -- who range from liberal groups focused on electronic privacy, such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center, to traditional conservative libertarians, such as Americans for Tax Reform -- are fixated on a technique called "data mining." By now, however, they have killed enough different programs that their operating principle can only be formulated as this: No use of computer data or technology anywhere at any time for national defense, if there's the slightest possibility that a rogue use of that technology will offend someone's sense of privacy. They are pushing intelligence agencies back to a pre-9/11 mentality, when the mere potential for a privacy or civil liberties controversy trumped security concerns.

Heather reviews the computer systems projects that were being developed for use against terrorists (e.g. Total Information Awareness) that have been cancelled and also identifies a number of projects that are currently threatened. The privacy fanatics have gone so far as to cause a battlefield information system to be cancelled.

Arnold Kling argues that the basic moral outlook of liberals about how to raise children colors their view of terrorism in a way that hobbles their ability to effectively respond to the threat it poses.

Fundamentally, the "nurturance" model has no mechanism for coping with terrorism. It is easy and comfortable for liberals to express anger at President Bush, who represents the opposite "strictness" model. However, liberals are empty-handed when it comes to providing meaningful, constructive suggestions for policy. There simply is little or nothing within the "nurturance" paradigm that is useful for dealing with murderous fanatics.

Kling points out tha the conservative "strictness" style of punishing children to make them do good also has problems when translated into a response against the terrorist threat. Speaking as a hawk myself I can say that while the willingess of hawks to use military force to go after enemies is a needed impulse it is not by itself sufficient and, if used indiscriminately, can backfire. We need a number of approaches. Neither the gut instinctual responses of liberals or of conservatives are sufficient to handle the Muslim terrorist threat.

Kling is reluctant to embrace David Brin's proposal in Brin's book Transparent Society to allow all the public access to all electronic surveillance equipment. Brin believes the death of privacy is inevitable but that freedom can be protected by allowing that universal access to surveillance equipment. Kling worries that people are not ready to responsibly use their ability to watch each other with electronic surveillance technology.

My concern with Brin's approach is that I think that it requires a citizenry that is well educated and adapted to the environment that he envisions. Before we reach that point, an elite could have used surveillance technology to install a permanent tyranny. Perhaps eventually we will evolve to the transparent society that Brin proposes. For now, however, I believe we need a formal structure to preserve liberty -- a constitution of surveillance, if you will.

Kling argues for a constitutional amendment to create a domestic intelligence agency with a parallel agency to oversee and investigate its activities. Liberal critics of the Patriot Act and other Bush Administration responses to terrorism who cite Richard Clarke as an expert on what the Bush Administration should have done ought to take note that Richard Clarke also supports creation of a domestic intelligence agency.

My own take on the need for surveillance to counter the terrorist threat is that the response to terrorism differs from the response to regular crime in one very important way: with regular crime it is more acceptable to identify and catch criminals after they have committed crimes whereas with terrorism the emphasis is on catching the perpetrators before they carry out attacks. Since we can't read minds (at least not yet) there seems an obvious need for computer systems that detect patterns in behavior that will identify terrorists. We can't look through enough data to pick up signs of terrorist preparations unless we use automation. The automation even has advantages in that computers can be programmed to be more selective in what they pay attention to. Human surveillers are inevitably going to pay attention to aspects of behavior that we'd just as soon not have law enforcement personnel watching (like law enforcement personnel who, say, watch a sex act through a window during a stake-out).

The trend toward the surveillance society is already well underway in any case. See, for example, my FuturePundit post, Most Surveillance Cameras In NYC Privately Owned and Cell Phone Cameras And Personal Privacy. I agree with David Brin on the inevitability of the death of privacy. See my FuturePundit Surveillance Society category archive for more on the technological trends that make that outcome inevitable. The opposition to the use of computers and surveillance devices to fight terrorism really is a form of modern Luddism.

Greater domestic surveillance will eventually come about in response to future terrorist attacks. If Brin's idea of a Transparent Society can not protect freedom under conditions of greater invasions of privacy then we face a future in which we will have less freedom.

Update: In her longer City Journal article Heather MacDonald explains how the TIA project could have linked all the al-Qaeda operatives together before 9/11.

Why DARPA’s interest in commercial repositories? Because that is where the terror tracks are. Even if members of sleeper cells are not in government intelligence databases, they are almost certainly in commercial databases. Acxiom, for example, the country’s largest data aggregator, has 20 billion customer records covering 96 percent of U.S. households. After 9/11, it discovered 11 of the 19 hijackers in its databases, Fortune magazine reports. The remaining eight were undoubtedly in other commercial banks: data aggregator Seisint, for example, found five of the terrorists in its repository.

Had a system been in place in 2001 for rapidly accessing commercial and government data, the FBI’s intelligence investigators could have located every single one of the 9/11 team once it learned in August 2001 that al-Qaida operatives Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaq al-Hazmi, two of the 9/11 suicide pilots, were in the country. By using a process known as link analysis (simpler than data mining), investigators would have come up with the following picture: al-Midhar’s and al-Hazmi’s San Diego addresses were listed in the phone book under their own names, and they had shared those addresses with Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehi (who flew United 175 into the South Tower of the World Trade Center). A fifth hijacker, Majed Moqed, shared a frequent-flier number with al-Midhar. Five other hijackers used the same phone number Atta had used to book his flight reservations to book theirs. The rest of the hijackers (who crashed in Pennsylvania) could have been tracked down from addresses and phones shared with hijacker Ahmed Alghamdi, a visa violator—had the INS bothered to locate him before the flight by running his name on its overstayer watch list.

Heather explains how an advanced set of computer systems might have averted some or all of the 9/11 attacks:

Going beyond link analysis from known suspects, TIA inventors hoped to spot suspicious patterns in data even before they could identify any particular suspect. For example, on 9/11, the airline-passenger profiling system flagged as suspicious nine of the 19 hijackers as they attempted to board, including all five terrorists holding seats on American Airlines 77, which flew into the Pentagon; three of the hijackers on American Flight 11; and one hijacker on United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania. Security procedures at the time prohibited airport personnel from interviewing flagged passengers or hand-searching their carry-on luggage—a mad capitulation to the civil liberties and Arab lobbies.

Instead, a machine would have scanned the checked luggage of the nine flagged hijackers for explosives, and an airport agent would have confirmed that they actually boarded with their bags. But had a pattern-recognition system been in place—and assuming that five flagged passengers on one flight was an abnormal pattern—authorities might have investigated further and noticed that the five flagged passengers were all Middle Eastern men. Link analysis would then have shown extensive connections among them. Had security agents overcome their fear of a racial profiling charge, they might have interviewed the five and found troubling inconsistencies in their stories, meriting further inquiries.

While the Muslim terrorists hate many aspects of modernism it is ironic that the United States government is more constrained in its ability to use technology to fight terrorists than the terrorists are in their fight against the United States and the West.

By Randall Parker    2004 April 05 01:45 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2004 March 31 Wednesday
Oddly Clarke Is More Critical Of Bush Than Of Clinton

John Lehman, Republican member of the 9-11 Commission and former Navy Secretary under Ronald Reagan, was on the PBS NewsHour news show talking about Richard Clarke and the 9/11 Commission hearings. He said that in public Clarke focuses his criticism on Bush. But in private hearings he has been extremely critical of Clinton in ways that do not come out in public. This seems odd. Clarke has been portrayed in the press as a non-partisan professional just doing his job and some have reported that Clarke is a Republican. Yet in the 2000 election Clarke admitted to Tim Russert that he voted for Al Gore.

MR. RUSSERT: You voted for Al Gore.

MR. CLARKE: Yes, I did.

A fanatical obsessor about the danger of Al Qaeda would vote for Al Gore? What also seems odd in light of what the Clinton Administration did and did not do about terrorism is that In his book Clarke portrays Clinton very favorably.

In his book's 291 pages, Clarke comes across as impatient and sometimes angry with everyone who disagrees with him, including the CIA (except for Director George Tenet) and the FBI (particularly former director Louis Freeh). His frustration with Bush and Rice, who demoted him, permeates the book. But his respect for President Clinton is clear. Clinton, Clarke writes, had "seen earlier than anyone" that terrorism would become a major threat.

It is hard to square Clarke's view of Clinton with the objective facts of the history of Clinton Administration national security policy decision-making. Is Clarke just another in a long line of people who were charmed by Clinton into believing that Clinton shared the same beliefs and values as they did? I've come across a number of accounts of people who have met Clinton who report he made them feel as if he was giving them his undivided attention and that he agreed with them and appreciated what they were doing. So was Clarke charmed by Clinton and then did Bush, by demoting him to a lower level of the bureaucracy and by his treatment of Clarke, make Clarke feel less appreciated? That seems at least a plausible explanation for Clarke's sharper public criticism of Bush than of Clinton.

So let us look at the record of this President Bill Clinton who Clarke thinks understood the threat of terrorism. Clinton did not do much to improve funding for anti-terrorism efforts.

Clarke's tenor says it is an outrage that the Bush team approved more CIA counterterrorism spending in principle, but hadn't yet made it happen. Really? In the 1990s, more resources were supposed to go to the CIA, but "baseline spending requests, and thus core staffing, remained flat. The CIA told us that Clarke kept promising more budget support, but could never deliver."

Before 9/11 very few people in either the CIA or FBI were working on Al Qaeda.

Years of inadequate funding for counterterrorism programs left America with dangerous shortages in personnel and technology. During the 1990s, funding for the intelligence agencies remained even or dropped in some years. (21) The various intelligence agencies reported that their greatest problem in dealing with bin Laden was the combination of not enough resources, too many requirements and too many priorities. (22)

While the numbers are disputed, no more than 30 people in the FBI were assigned to work on al-Qaeda prior to 9/11. In the CIA, the number might have been as low as only three agents. (23) The intelligence community was lacking in linguists and analysts trained to understand al-Qaeda. The FBI had so many foreign language documents connected to terrorism that were untranslated, it was difficult to keep track of them all. In addition to shortages in funding, terrorism-related documents were left untranslated often upon the direct order of supervisors inside the FBI, in order to help push for bigger budgets in the future. Agent Sibel Edmonds testified directly to this problem. (24) More than 65% of the intelligence research specialists working for the FBI were not qualified for their positions. (25)

I have read no reports claiming that Bush decreased the numbers working on Al Qaeda. Therefore those are the numbers assigned to work on Al Qaeda as a left-over from when Clinton was President. So how can Clarke put such a positive spin on how Clinton saw the nature of the threat? It is not like Clinton responded to the threat by securing funding for a major ramping up of the anti-terrorist effort. Clinton was in office for 96 months and then Bush was in office for only 7 months before 9/11 happened. If we are to believe Clarke's own August 2002 off-the-record comments then in those 7 months the Bush Administration decided to increase CIA covert operations funding five fold to go after Al Qaeda. Yet Clarke reserves the bulk of his public criticisms for Bush.

What to make of this? Former FBI agent Gary Aldrich served in the Clinton White House and left in 1996 to write a very critical book on the Clinton Administration entitled Unlimited Access: An FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House. Aldrich takes a very dim view of Clarke's attempt to pin the bulk of the blame for 9/11 on Bush rather than on Clinton.

When Unlimited Access came out, few in Washington cared much about national security. The Soviet Union had collapsed and the Hard-Left enjoyed the false theory that resources and attention to national security and defense could be redirected to more important matters, like gays in the military and national health care. The National Security Counsel began tracking rain forest depletion and environmental changes, as well as world-wide poverty and food supplies. These were the priorities for Mr. Clarke’s NSC. Moreover, since Clarke worked in the Clinton White House for eight long years, he knew this better than most.

Aldrich sees Clarke as having presented 3 different versions of the "truth". I can't be bothered to count versions but there are inconsistencies in his claims and it doesn't seem like Clarke is being particularly fair about his presentation of his version of events. By obsessing about Al Qaeda Richard Clarke was obsessed about the right thing. But he either has partisan motivations or his demotion by the Bush Administration caused him to have festering resentments or he's become so bent out of shape thinking about his obsession that he's lost the ability to be objective about it. The result is that he's spinning (and I suspect intentionally) for Democrats to influence the coming election by presenting a rather distorted view of US policy failures in responding to the events that led up to 9/11.

Update: Rich Lowry points out that if we leave aside what Richard Clarke says about the relative quality of the response of the Clinton and Bush Administrations to the terrorist threat he makes a number of proposals that are worth consideration. For instance, Clarke says the FBI is institionally incapable of doing an adequate job in response to the terrorist threat.

"And we'd have to explain to the American people in a very compelling way why they needed a domestic intelligence service, because I think most Americans would be fearful of a secret police in the United States. But frankly, the FBI culture, the FBI organization, the FBI personnel are not the best we could do in this country for a domestic intelligence service."

Many activists in the Democratic Party complain about John Ashcroft and the Patriot Act and try to demonize Ashcroft as a promoter of large scale invasions of privacy. Yet the Patriot Act is a smaller step in the direction that Clarke promotes. Where do these same critics of the Bush Administration stand on Clarke's proposal for a domestic security agency that would have the power to spy on people who have not committed any known crimes? As I've argued previously, since we can't read minds nothing less than ethnic and religious profiling combined with a great amount of surveillance and data mining of electronic records will be sufficiently effective to stop the bulk of terrorist attacks. On top of that we need much better immigration and border control policies aimed at making it far more difficult for Muslim terrorists to make it into the United States or to stay in the US beyond the expiration of their visas once they get here.

By Randall Parker    2004 March 31 01:11 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (29)
2004 March 28 Sunday
Richard Clarke Off The Record In August 2002

Richard Clarke seemingly disagrees with Richard Clarke. Here is a previously off-the-record briefing that Richard Clarke gave to reports in August 2002 about Bush Administration decisions in early 2001 on what to do about Al Qaeda.

And the point is, while this big review was going on, there were still in effect, the lethal findings were still in effect. The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.

So, point five, that process which was initiated in the first week in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, five-fold, to go after Al Qaeda.

The sixth point, the newly-appointed deputies — and you had to remember, the deputies didn't get into office until late March, early April. The deputies then tasked the development of the implementation details, uh, of these new decisions that they were endorsing, and sending out to the principals.

Over the course of the summer — last point — they developed implementation details, the principals met at the end of the summer, approved them in their first meeting, changed the strategy by authorizing the increase in funding five-fold, changing the policy on Pakistan, changing the policy on Uzbekistan, changing the policy on the Northern Alliance assistance.

And then changed the strategy from one of rollback with Al Qaeda over the course of five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of Al Qaeda. That is in fact the timeline.

Was Clarke being honest in the quote above? Or was he trying to put the best light on Administration policy on behalf of his then-employer President Bush? Is Clarke's big beef about the pre-9/11 Bush Administration that it took the Bush Administration 6 or 7 months from the time it took office to reach final approval for a big change in policy against Al Qaeda?

Well, I wish the Bush Administration had moved more quickly too but put it in context. Bush had 7 months in office before the 9/11 attacks. Previous to that Bill Clinton had 8 years or 96 months in office to deal with Al Qaeda. I am critical of Bush for an inadequate response to Al Qaeda and the threat of terrorism post-9/11. For instance, see my previous post for some of the immigration policy changes that could be implemented. But 7 months at the beginning of a new Presidential Administration does not strike me as a very long time to make a major foreign policy change.

The pre-9/11 portrayal of what Bush did or did not do seems to miss the point that the opening months of any new US Presidential Administration is taken up just trying to staff up and get started. The size of the policy changes needed to stop an attack like 9/11 just could not be done in 7 months given the many obstacles that Bush was faced with. It took a successful attack to, for instance, move Congress to break down some of the barriers between law enforcement and intelligence gathering. What was broken about the US pre-9/11 anti-terrorist response went deeper than any President's policies.

Much of what was broken in US intelligence and covert operations goes all the way back to the Church hearings into CIA conduct back in the 1970s and the subsequent restraints put upon CIA freedom of action. The result was that the CIA became an agency that was more reluctant and less able to run agents and conduct covert operations.

In the mid-'70s, packed hearing rooms heard of botched attempts on the life of Cuba's Castro that ranged from exploding cigars to acid in his shoes. In the wake of the just-completed Watergate hearings, the cautions stuck. At the end, assassination was no longer viewed as a legitimate tool of foreign policy, and the CIA was no longer considered a top career path for the "best and brightest."

Clarke is in the ranks of those who see the pre-9/11 CIA as having been so punished for doing covert operations that the institution as a whole was extremely reluctant to find justification for carrying out operations against enemies.

Many CIA senior managers, he said, had been "dragged up into this room and others and berated for failed covert action activities." The lesson that hit home was that "covert action is a very dangerous thing that can damage the CIA as much as it can damage the enemy," he added.

Post-9/11 standards of what is acceptable behavior for the FBI, CIA, and other US government agencies are being applied retroactively to judge pre-9/11 decisions. This retroactive move to judgement is coming from the political party that was the strongest supporter of the pre-9/11 standards that held back US intelligence and domestic law enforcement agencies from aggressive investigation of and operations against possible terrorists. There is an historical parallel between this and the treatment of high level US Army and Navy officers stationed at Pearl Harbor at the time that the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941. It becomes clear just how much a double standard is at work here when we consider how many of the decisions made since 9/11 would have been impossible to take before 9/11. It seems very unlikely, for example, that the Bush Administration could have gotten Congress pre-9/11 to approve allowing intelligence agents access to evidence collected by law enforcement agents collected while investigating terrorism. Yet investigation of the first WTC attack turned up evidence that could have been used to show connections between those attackers and Al Qaeda if only the FBI, DOJ, and CIA had been legally allowed to compare notes.

Given that the Democratic Party's leaders are not making substantive policy proposals that would improve the US response to the terrorist threat it is hard to take seriously their excited reaction to Richard Clarke's book. They want better performance by intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies. But at the same time they stand in the way of proposals such as the DOD Total Information Awareness project.

There is a fundamental difference between trying to find terrorists and trying to find regular criminals. In the case of conventional criminals it is considered acceptable to try to find them after they have commited a visible crime. But to discover terrorists only after they have launched an attack is widely and correctly seen as unacceptable. Yet it is difficult to identify terrorists in advance because terrorists attempt to blend in and outwardly act law-abiding. Therefore it is difficult to discover them without sifting thru a lot of data about a large number of mostly innocent people to find patterns that seem odd. But leading Democrats in Congress (and not a few libertarian minded Republicans) are opposed to this approach. Given that mind reading is not an option it is not clear to me how terrorists can be stopped without a great deal of analysis of information about mostly innocent people.

Another area that is not getting the amount of attention it deserves from either major party is energy policy. Energy policy could be used to fight terrorism in the longer term. It is possible to accelerate the rate of development of energy technologies (see bottom of post) to reduce the world's demand for Middle Eastern oil and thereby reduce the amount of money available to the Wahhabis and the terrorists. If we fail to do that the US looks set to lose influence in the Middle East as China's demand for oil grows. The Democrats are not proposing a massive research and development program to obsolesce oil. They can't get beyond ranting about SUVs or against their opposition to the development of the Alaska National Wildlfe Refuge (ANWR) development to see that we need a massive shift in our energy policy.

While I am critical of the Bush Administration's response I do not see the Democrats promoting a better alternative. The Democrats are just as opposed to ethnic profiling of terrorists as the Bush Administration is with its TSA inspectors randomly pulling little old white ladies out of line in airports for frisking. The Democrats are just as opposed to effective border control and against restrictions on Muslim immigration. Still, I'd welcome evidence to the contrary. Has anyone come across prominent Democrats putting forth proposals for fighting Al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists that go beyond what the Bush Administration is doing?

By Randall Parker    2004 March 28 06:35 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (5)
Bush Accused Of Being As Lax About Terrorism As Clinton

Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post sums up the reactions to Richard Clarke's arguments about the Clinton and Bush Administration responses to terrorism.

Clarke's 1998 and 2000 proposals were not formally adopted by the Clinton administration, but most of the ideas, except his call for continuous bombings of al Qaeda and Taliban targets, served informally to guide policy. Clarke submitted both proposals, along with a request for short-term actions, to the Bush team on Jan. 25, 2001. The suggestions formed the basis for the Bush strategy that was adopted nearly eight months later.

Many Clinton Administration officials thought Clarke was making a mountain out of a molehill.

"He was despised under Clinton," said Ivo H. Daalder, who worked under Clarke in the Clinton National Security Council on issues other than terrorism. James M. Lindsay, who also worked under Clarke, concurred that people "thought he was exaggerating the threat" and said he "always wanted to do more" than higher-ups approved.

A lot of Democrats are using the release of Richard Clarke's book (entitled Against All Enemies: Inside America's War On Terror) as an occasion to levy criticisms at Bush for what he did or didn't do in the first 7 months of his Administration before 9/11. I only wish these Democratic Party critics of Bush were willing to support obvious efforts that could be taken to make us safer from terrorists. For instance, we could make it far harder for terrorists to enter the country illegally and to stay illegally.

One proposal that might have stopped the 9/11 attacks would be to make all drivers license expiration dates for foreigners expire on the same date as visas expire. 9/11 terrorists Mohammed Atta and Hani Hanjour were visa violators who were pulled over for speeding. They could have been deported right then. So then why aren't the Bush Administration officials being grilled by Democrats on why they haven't enacted a requirement for drivers license expirations when visas expire? If the Democrats were sincere in their concern about stopping terrorist attacks wouldn't better ID systems be a great place to start? Identity fraud is a growing problem for a number of reasons and the terrorist threat is just one of them. But isn't the threat of terrorism alone reason enough to prevent identity fraud and to stop immigration law violations?

I'd love to see the Democrats become willing to demonstrate the sincerity of their criticisms of the Bush Administration's handling of the threat of terrorism within US borders. A good place to start would be with immigration policy. We should do a lot more to keep out the bad apples and to deport the ones who are already here. Another area where the Democrats could get ahead of Bush would be by showing a willingness to do ethnic and religious profiling of airline passengers. I'm not expecting the Democrats to embrace either tougher immigration policies or the effective use of profiling. But if they did they would help to protect us against terrorism.

By Randall Parker    2004 March 28 02:03 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2004 March 23 Tuesday
Clarke Right About Bush On Al Qaeda?

Richard Clarke, a former US National Security Council senior figure under Reagan, Bush II, Clinton, and George W. Bush, has written a new and highly controversial book entitled on Amazon Against All Enemies : Inside the White House's War on Terror--What Really Happened (and seemingly everywhere else in including in Amazon's art work for the book entitled Against All Enemies: Inside America's War On Terror). This book offer's an insider's very critical account of counterterrorism policy under a succession of US Presidents and offers an especially critical view of the current Bush Administrations handling of the threat of terrorism both before and after the 9/11 attacks by focusing on Iraq rather than on Al Qaeda.

Clarke then tells Stahl of being pressured by Mr. Bush.

"The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.

"I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.'

"He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report."

Clarke continued, "It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. ... Do it again.'

"I have no idea, to this day, if the president saw it, because after we did it again, it came to the same conclusion. And frankly, I don't think the people around the president show him memos like that. I don't think he sees memos that he doesn't-- wouldn't like the answer."

Clarke sees Administration moves against Al Qaeda as insufficient even after 9/11.

"The president, he said, 'failed to act prior to September 11 on the threat from al Qaeda despite repeated warnings and then harvested a political windfall for taking obvious yet insufficient steps after the attacks.' The rapid shift of focus to Saddam Hussein, Clarke writes, 'launched an unnecessary and costly war in Iraq that strengthened the fundamentalist, radical Islamic terrorist movement worldwide.' "

I agree that the post-9/11 response has been insufficient. US troops were pulled out of Afghanistan to get ready for the invasion of Iraq. How can that be justified given that there were (and still are) Al Qaeda people including senior Al Qaeda leaders operating along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border? Now after the Iraq invasion the US military is gearing up for more operations in Afghanistan and the US obviously must be behind recent Pakistani attacks on Arabs and other foreign groups on the Pakistan-Afghanistan. All that could have been done sooner if Bush hadn't distracted his Administration with Iraq.

The claim that the Bush Administration was not actively seeking to make major moves against Al Qaeda pre-9/11 is especially interesting. Recall back in May 2002 there were press reports claiming that the Bush Administration had developed a National Security Presidential Directive in the summer of 2001 to overthrow the Taliban and attack Al-Qaeda worldwide which reached Condoleezza Rice's desk just a few days before the September 11, 2001 attacks.

WASHINGTON, May 16 — President Bush was expected to sign detailed plans for a worldwide war against al-Qaida two days before Sept. 11 but did not have the chance before the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, U.S. and foreign sources told NBC News.

THE DOCUMENT, a formal National Security Presidential Directive, amounted to a “game plan to remove al-Qaida from the face of the Earth,” one of the sources told NBC News’ Jim Miklaszewski.

I can't find an article that reports on when Bush decided to order a plan to overthrow the Taliban but my memory is that another report I read from around May 2002 had White House or other top sources saying that Bush ordered the development of that plan in May or June 2001. If anyone can find a URL about this from a credible source please post it in the comments.

In an interview that puts a rather different spin on that May 2002 report Richard Clarke says that plan to attack Al Qaeda and overthrow the Taliban actually began to be developed under the Clinton Administration and received very little attention from the Bush Administration.

JB: Condoleezza Rice wrote today in response to your book - that the Bush administration did have a strategy for eliminating al-Qaida and that the administration worked on it in the spring and summer of 2001? Is that true?

RC: We developed that strategy in the last several months of the Clinton administration and it was basically an update on that strategy. We briefed Condi on that strategy. The point is that it was done before they came to office and she never held a meeting on it. It was done before she asked for it.

If that plan had been in the works for so long then why didn't the plan reach Rice's desk until a few days before 9/11?

Clarke says that when he tried to talk about Al-Qaeda terrorism Paul Wolfowitz tried to talk about what he believed was Iraqi support for terrorism.

April was an initial discussion of terrorism policy writ large and at that meeting I said we had to talk about al-Qaida. And because it was terrorism policy writ large [Paul] Wolfowitz said we have to talk about Iraqi terrorism and I said that's interesting because there hasn't been any Iraqi terrorism against the United States. There hasn't been any for 8 years. And he said something derisive about how I shouldn't believe the CIA and FBI, that they've been wrong. And I said if you know more than I know tell me what it is, because I've been doing this for 8 years and I don't know about any Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the US since 1993. When I said let's start talking about Bin Laden, he said Bin Laden couldn't possibly have attacked the World Trade Centre in '93. One little terrorist group like that couldn't possibly have staged that operation. It must have been Iraq.

Clarke can not easily be dismissed as a Democratic Party partisan.

Most acquaintances do not regard him as a partisan. Clarke was viewed as a hawk and "true believer" by many within the Clinton administration, and Clarke himself says he is an independent who is registered as a Republican.

"You can't accuse him of being passive or too liberal on foreign policy," said Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA official who worked with Clarke in the Reagan years. "He's very abrasive and aggressive and pushes his point of view very hard."

Clarke didn't mesh well with the tribal Bushies.

And in February 2003, two months after the White House blocked his selection as deputy secretary of the new Homeland Security Department, he submitted his resignation.

Bush invited Clarke to his office for a goodbye chat. Associates said senior White House officials thought he didn't fit into its low-key, consensus-oriented style. "The administration is very tribal, very-close knit, and Dick was not part of their crowd," Simon said.

Back in February 2002 Bob Woodward and Dan Balz reported that on September 17, 2001 George W. Bush was already convinced that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks.

As for Saddam Hussein, his father's nemesis, the president ended a debate that had gone on for six days. "I believe Iraq was involved, but I'm not going to strike them now," he said, adding, "I don't have the evidence at this point."

So then did Bush decide to push the idea of a WMD threat to justify an attack on Iraq when intelligence investigations couldn't find credible evidence of an Iraqi involvement in 9/11?

One claim of Clarke, that Bush wanted him to focus on finding a connection between 9/11 and Iraq, seems quite plausible given that Woodward shows Bush as a strong believer in the idea of Iraq involvement in the days immediately after 9/11. It is also plausible given Bush Administration rhetoric connecting the attack on Iraq with the response to terrorism.

For more on Clarke, Bush, Iraq and Al Qaeda see See Steve Sailer's right hand column blog which unfortunately doesn't include permalinks for those posts at this point. If you come to this post of mine weeks or months later then check out Steve's March 2004 monthly archive for the material I'm referring to.

By Randall Parker    2004 March 23 02:49 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (6)
2004 March 04 Thursday
Immigration Policy Plays Big Role Making Canada Terrorist Haven

Canada's National Post has managed to get access to a recent report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) which claims terrorists see Canada as an appealing base from which to raise funds and engage in other activities to support terrorist networks.

In a 22-page assessment of the security threats facing the nation, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service said international terrorists are still using the country as a base for waging worldwide political and religious violence.

"Terrorism of foreign origin continues to be a major concern in regard to the safety of Canadians at home and abroad," says the Oct. 10, 2003, report, titled "Threats to Canada's National Security." "Canada is viewed by some terrorist groups as a place to try to seek refuge, raise funds, procure materials and/or conduct other support activities. ... Virtually all of the most notorious international terrorist organizations are known to maintain a network presence in Canada."

The report follows on the heels of the October 2003 US Library of Congress report Nations Hospitable To Organized Crime And Terrorism (PDF format) which lists Canada as a nation hospitable to terrorists.

According to a 2001 report by the U.S. Department of State, “Overall anti-terrorism cooperation with Canada is excellent, and stands as a model of how the United States and other nations can work together on terrorism issues.”580 Canada has assisted and cooperated with the United States on all fronts of the current war against terrorism. It has, for example, frozen the assets of suspected terrorists and is working closely with the United States to improve security along their common borders. Canadian and U.S. customs and immigration agencies, police forces, and intelligence agencies have a long history of cooperation on border security. This coordination has been strengthened in recent years through formal arrangements such as the U.S.-Canadian Bilateral Consultative Group on Counterterrorism Cooperation (BCG) and the Smart Border Action Plan.581

According to numerous intelligence and law enforcement reports, however, terrorists and international organized crime groups increasingly are using Canada as an operational base and transit country en route to the United States. A generous social-welfare system, lax immigration laws, infrequent prosecutions, light sentencing, and long borders and coastlines offer many points and methods of entry that facilitate movement to and from various countries, particularly to the United States. These factors combine to make Canada a favored destination for terrorists and international organized crime groups.

The report dwells at length on how Canadian immigration policy plays such a major role in making Canada a hospitable environment for terrorist operations.

Third, particular systemic and institutional characteristics make Canada hospitable to international terrorists and criminals. David Griffin, Executive Officer of the Canadian Police Association, explained:

Our proximity to the United States of America makes Canada extremely vulnerable, however it is our lax immigration policy, open borders, weak laws, archaic justice system, an even weaker corrections system and under enforcement that make us extremely attractive to the sophisticated criminal.584

In a 1999 Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) report entitled “Exploitation of Canada’s Immigration System: An Overview of Security Intelligence Concerns,” CSIS Director Ward Elcock is quoted as saying that “in most cases, [terrorists] appear to use Canadian residence as a safe haven, a means to raise funds, to plan or support overseas activities or as a way to obtain Canadian travel documents which make global travel easier.” According to the report, more than 50 terrorist groups are believed to be operating in Canada, including the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the Tamil Tigers, Sikh extremists, the Kurdistan Workers Party, Hizballah, and extremist Irish groups.585 According to a 1999 report by Canada’s Special Senate Committee on Security and Intelligence,

Illegal migration into Canada—primarily through the refugee determination system— persists as a concern from two perspectives. First, it is a means by which terrorists may circumvent Canada’s vetting process abroad and enter in search of a temporary or permanent haven. Once in Canada, they may conduct fundraising or other activities or, in a very few cases, organize acts of violence in Canada or against other countries. Second, large volumes of illegal migrants provide the stream in which a few terrorists can ultimately gain entry to the United States by circumventing Canadian and United States border controls.586

Canada has arguably the most generous asylum system of any country in the world. Aliens have a substantially higher chance of gaining asylum in Canada than in the United States. In 1999, Canada granted asylum to 54 percent of applicants, compared with 35 percent in the United States. This condition, combined with easy entry into the United States from Canada, explains why Canada is a primary transition point for smuggled aliens.587

Perhaps until recently, there has also not been widespread concern that Canada could be the victim of a terrorist attack. Sensitivity to civil liberties combined with this low threat perception has made both the adoption and the enforcement of tougher immigration laws and strong counter terrorism measures more difficult. The fact that the 2002 bill designed to make Canada’s immigration laws less favorable to terrorists and international criminals is entitled the “Immigration and Refugee Protection Act” serves as an indication of the prevailing concern for or priority placed upon civil liberties in Canada.

Crimes committed in Canada are not considered relevant to asylum requests unless they would bring more than ten years of imprisonment. 588 This provision means that most of the criminal means by which terrorists raise funds—such as fraud, theft, and counterfeiting—would not disqualify them for asylum, even if they are found guilty. The same can be said for a portion of the illegal activities engaged in by international organized criminal groups.

Upon arriving at a Canadian port of entry, an individual claiming refugee status normally is released, with no provision for monitoring, rather than being detained pending investigation, as is the practice in Great Britain and the United States.589 As their claim is under consideration, such claimants can receive work permits, welfare payments, and housing and health care from the government.590 Deportation orders seldom are carried out for those whose refugee claims are denied.591

As of April 2003, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board had a backlog of 53,000 asylum cases. A 2003 report by Canada’s Auditor-General said Canada has lost track of 36,000 people who have been ordered to leave the country over the past six years. The report also notes

I hope it does not take a terrorist attack on the United States launched from Canada to bring enough pressure to bear to fix the problems with lax Canadian immigration policies that make it so easy for Islamic terrorists to find their way to Canada. But my guess is that, yes, it will take an attack traceable at least in part to Canada to get the Canadian government to make a big change in their immigration policies. But even then Canada may not really attack the problem if the US government response to date is any indication of what we can expect from the Canadian government. Given the unwillingness of the US government to make large immigration enforcement changes to reduce the threat of terrorism this inadequate Canadian response to the terrorist threat should not be too surprising.

By Randall Parker    2004 March 04 02:29 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2004 January 25 Sunday
Madrassah Schools In Pakistan Remain Entirely Unreformed

The Pakistani government is making no progress reforming the curricula at private Islamic fundamentalist madrassah schools in Pakistan.

Declaring that no institutions in Pakistan would be above the law, Musharraf's government promised that it would register all madrasas to obtain a clear idea of which groups were running which schools, insist that all madrasas adopt a government curriculum by the end of 2002, and stop madrasas and mosques from being used as centers for the spread of politically and religiously inflammatory statements and publications.

Two years later, no presidential ordinance to regulate madrasas has been promulgated, and the government openly assures the clergy that it will not interfere in madrasas' internal affairs. Most madrasas in Pakistan remain unregistered.

Top officials in the Bush Administration see the madrassa school in Pakistan as a serious problem. See previous posts Rumsfeld Sees Madrassah Schools As A Problem To Work On and US, Pakistani Officials Meet Over Madrassah Schools Issue. But it is obvious that Pervez Musharraf doesn't have either the power or the resources or the motivation to reform curricula in Madrassahs.

Given that Saudi Arabia is stuck in an internal power struggle between reformists and Islamists it is also unlikely Saudi Arabia's school curriculum is improving. So over 2 years post 9/11 there are no signs that one basic contributing factor to Islamic terrorism is changing for the better. Also keep in mind that the Saudis are spending more per year to spread Wahhabism than the Soviets spent per year to spread communism. Some of that money goes to fund Madrassah schools that teach a Wahhabist curriculum.

Part of the US response to this state of affairs should be to make visas much harder to get for people from countries with large numbers of students attending schools that teach Islamic fundamental school curricula which teach hostility toward non-believers.

By Randall Parker    2004 January 25 06:11 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2004 January 07 Wednesday
Entertaining World Reactions To US Anti-Terrorism Measures

New security measures required by the United States including armed marshals on some international air flights and fingerprints on visas of all entering the United States have led to sniffing condescension from the European Union and outrage from Brazil over the fingerprinting requirement. (NY Times, free reg. req'd)

Michel Ayral, an air transport director for the European Union in Brussels, described the carrying out of the new security measures in a telephone interview as "unilateralist and impetuous."

...

"I consider the act absolutely brutal, threatening human rights, violating human dignity, xenophobic and worthy of the worst horrors committed by the Nazis," the judge, Julier Sebastiao da Silva, said last week in a court order subjecting all Americans entering Brazil to the same practice.

The Brazilians are getting back at us, that is for sure. Any American going to Brazil will be fingerprinted. Talk about tough. Talk about hardball. Those Brazilians are not to be trifled with. We understand that now. The US State Department, demonstrating its infinite capacity for losing sight of what is important versus what is funny, decided to complain to the Brazilian government about the ruling rather than laugh in their faces. What a waste of an opportunity.

So by this point you might be expecting the French to be haughtily sniffing at the Nazi, xenophobic, unilateralist, and impetuous American security measures. But the French interior minister complains the United States has not gone far enough.

On the other end of the spectrum are countries like France, which has long fought its own battle against terrorism. For Nicolas Sarkozy, the French interior minister, who owes much of his popularity to a tough approach to crime and terrorism, the American measures do not go far enough. "We share the analysis of the American services that we live in a very tense period and what is required is increased vigilance," Mr. Sarkozy said last Friday. "I prefer that we are reproached for having too many security measures than too few."

The article reports that Sarkozy's request for fingerprints to be included in not just visas but passports as well was turned down by the US State Department. The US government just won't face up to the tough job of fighting terrorism whereas France is ready to do whatever is necessary. Did some immigrant lobby or the Saudi Ambassador complain about the passport fingerprinting requirement? Did the State Department hold back out of fear of further outraging the Mandarins in Brussels? Can the French find the means to bring Colin Powell and George W. Bush to their senses?

Sarkozy believes in preemption before the threat is even certain.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday supported that assessment, saying during a visit to Charles de Gaulle airport outside Paris: "I much prefer to act too soon rather than too late."

Sarkozy thinks it is legitimate for one country to ask another country to increase its security measures.

France's Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy also defended the US measures. "When a friendly nation asks us to step up security on our side, no one can reproach it for that. I prefer that we be criticized for having too many (security) checks than for not having enough," he said in Paris.

Sarkozy has continously shown support for US flight cancellations even as Mexican President Vicente Fox has predictably found reason to fault the United States.

Friday, a spokesman for Mexico's President Vicente Fox questioned decisions by the United States on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day to scrap AeroMexico's Flight 490 from Mexico City to Los Angeles. The New York Times reported that one unnamed U.S. official said the British Airways flights were canceled Friday not out of safety concerns, but because the pilots refused to fly with armed marshals on board. The French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, however, called U.S. requests "legitimate."

We can count on our tough French allies to stand by us even as Washington wavers in the face of Mexican and Brazilian pressure. But with Karl Rove busy attempting to placate immigrant groups and Muslim groups in an election year and with the Bush Administration still unwilling to take many prudent measures what we need is for Jacques Chirac to call up President Bush and tell him those immortal words: "Look George, this is no time to go wobbly".

By Randall Parker    2004 January 07 07:52 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 December 02 Tuesday
Lee Kuan Yew On The Western Response To Islamic Terrorism

Jim Miller points to a column by Fareed Zakaria where Zakaria interviews Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore on terrorism.

“The Europeans underestimate the problem of Al Qaeda-style terrorism,” he said. “They think that the United States is exaggerating the threat. They compare it to their own many experiences with terror—the IRA, the Red Brigade, the Baader-Meinhof, ETA. But they are wrong.”

HE WENT ON: “Al Qaeda-style terrorism is new and unique because it is global. An event in Morocco can excite the passions of extremist groups in Indonesia. There is a shared fanatical zealousness among these different extremists around the world. Many Europeans think they can finesse the problem, that if they don’t upset Muslim countries and treat Muslims well, the terrorists won’t target them. But look at Southeast Asia. Muslims have prospered here. But still, Muslim terrorism and militancy have infected them.”

Still, Lee sees the US response as too one-dimensional.

“The Americans, however, make the mistake of seeking largely a military solution. You must use force. But force will only deal with the tip of the problem. In killing the terrorists, you will only kill the worker bees. The queen bees are the preachers, who teach a deviant form of Islam in schools and Islamic centers, who capture and twist the minds of the young.”

But Lee recognizes that, of course, US soldiers can't burst into mosques and cart away radical preachers. There is no military strategy for dealing with fundamentalist preachers that is morally acceptable. Lee thinks the US and Europe need to present a more united bloc and he believes that German and French rhetoric critical of the US actually serves as propaganda that Islamic radicals use to recruit more terrorists.

Lee thinks the West needs to support the moderates both in rhetoric and through substantive action to provide resources to help the more moderate Muslims. But I see Lee's advice and Bush's democratization campaign to be incompatible to some extent. If, for instance, elections were held in Saudi Arabia it is quite possible that the populace of Saudi Arabia would vote in a government that was even more fundamentalist than the one they currently have. Jordan, Syria, and Egypt similarly would probably get more Islamic governments if they had truly free elections.

The US needs a strategy to deal with the Islamists that has many more dimensions to it:

  • Defund the Saudis and Iranian Mullahs. Engage in a massive program to fund basic research in a large range of energy technologies with the goal of developing energy sources that are cheaper than oil from the Middle East.
  • Change and toughen immigration policy rules and enforcement to reduce the flow of Muslims into both Europe and the United States. Make it much easier to deny permanent residency and citizenship to anyone of questionable loyalties.
  • Fund secular education in the Muslim countries. Note that the Bush Administration has begun to provide educational funding in Pakistan and Indonesia. But it is not clear how that money will be spent.
  • Fund more radio stations and satellite TV stations to present facts and ideas that counter the propaganda that regional Muslim media put out.
  • Fund new Middle Eastern studies departments in universities that do not get any funding from Middle Eastern sources and which do not have faculties that are radical and hostile to the United States. Our government needs to be able to recruit people who understand the Middle East and Islam whose primary loyalties are to the United States. That is hard to do given the way American academia works now.
  • Provide large financial incentives and training to US diplomats, intelligence agents, and soldiers to develop fluency in Arabic and other languages spoken in Muslim countries.
  • Pursue a more effective strategy of preemption against Iran and North Korea. It is necessary to prevent the eventual spread of nuclear weapons into so many hands or else terrorist use of such weapons will become much more likely.
By Randall Parker    2003 December 02 09:21 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2003 November 03 Monday
Rumsfeld Sees Madrassah Schools As A Problem To Work On

Donald Rumsfeld on Tim Russert's TV show NBC Meet The Press:

Russert: Let me turn to your memo of October 16th which has been leaked and share it with our viewers and ask you to talk about it: "With respect to global terrorism, the record since September 11th seems to be: We are having mixed results with al Qaeda. Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas, the schools, and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us? It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog." Don't know if we are winning or losing?

Rumsfeld: Let me explain that. It's not that we don't know if we are winning or losing in Iraq or Afghanistan. We know what's happening there. The point I was making is this: if there are 90 nations engaged in the global war on terrorism, and if they are out arresting, capturing, killing terrorists, if they are out there putting pressure on their bank accounts, making it harder for them to raise money, making it harder for them to transfer money, making it harder for terrorists to move across borders, all of which is true, good progress is being made.

The question is that I posed -- and I don't know the answer -- is how many new terrorists are being made. How many of these schools are being led by radical clerics and are teaching people that they thing they should do with their lives is to go out and kill innocent men, women and children to stop progress, to torture people, to prevent women from being involved in their country's activities? How many schools are doing that, and how many people are being produced by that? And the question I posed was, you can't know in this battle of ideas how it is coming out unless you have some metric to judge that, and there isn't such a metric. It doesn't exist. Therefore my point was in the memo that I think we need -- the world needs to think about other things we can do to reduce the number of schools that teach terrorism, not just continue -- we certainly have to continue doing what we're doing and going after terrorists wherever they are, and capturing them and killing them. But I think we also have to think about how we the world, not just the United States -- this is something well beyond our country or the Department of Defense -- how we reduce the number of people who are becoming terrorists in the world.

We are in a fight whose progress we can not easily measure. That itself is cause for major concern. The US has a great conventional military but most of the major events in this fight do not involve conventional military fighting. All the other events are what are hard to measure. That there are debates in the United States and Europe over the best way to proceed and over how well we are doing should therefore not be too surprising.

Keep in mind that just because a metric for progress on a particular front is not available is not a reason to put little effort into that front. Most notably I see the inadequacy of US attempts to influence opinion in North Korea as a huge mistake because for one or two billion dollars a year we could get a great deal of information about the outside world into the minds of the most isolated people on the planet. Whether there would be any results in terms of helping to stop North Korea's nuclear arms development efforts is hard to say. But all the alternatives are unattractive and we ought to take a stab at it.

Note that Rumsfeld has also separately called for an agency to fight the war of ideas. Rumsfeld seems far more eager to take the fight into non-military dimensions that does the Bush Administration as a whole.

When Tim Russert pressed Rumsfeld on future projections of troop levels in Iraq here is what Rumsfeld had to say>

I made a conscious decision at the outset of these conflicts to not pretend I knew something I didn't know. And what I have said is just that. I have said it is not knowable.

Now, if you think about Bosnia, we were told by the administration back then that the American forces would be out by Christmas. That was six and a half years ago. They're not out yet. That was -- that -- the effect of that was not consciously misleading -- I'm sure they believed it. They were that wrong -- six and a half years wrong. I don't intend to be wrong six and a half years. I intend to have people understand the truth, and the truth is no one knows. But why is that question not answerable?

He is correct about the unknowable nature of the size and length of some of the commitments the United States has taken on. Consider an historical parallel. In 1945 the US military advanced across Western Europe and it is still there. The biggest reason for its remaining, the Soviet threat, did not come to an end until about 1990. Some conflicts take a long time to play out. Any conflict that is a product of a deep-seated conflict in values and beliefs which can not or should not be decided on a conventional battlefield will last for a long time.

Rumsfeld on ABC This Week:

Will: The president has been criticized, even ridiculed for saying that some of the attacks on us indicate that we're making progress and this is desperation on the part of the Ba'athist remnant. Is it a good thing to bring the terrorists in, as they're coming in, to a killing ground that might be favorable to us? It's not New York. We do have a lot of troops there. It's not a jungle. It's easier to find and fight there. Should we -- I mean, this is grim to say, but should we welcome this?

Rumsfeld: Well, of course, you never welcome war or conflict. You wish that there were ways to avoid it. It is -- the president's point was important. He said that the terrorists are targeting success and so what he meant was when they kill the woman on the Governing Council, they're trying to not have there be an Iraqi Governing Council working with the coalition. When they attack the police academy graduating Iraqis who are going to help provide for Iraqi security, that is targeting success. And I think his point is well taken.

You're right, to the extent foreign terrorists come into the country and we have forces there, and Iraqi forces, and coalition forces, and U.S. forces, and we're able to capture or kill them, that's a good thing. It's better doing it there than in Baltimore or in Boise, Idaho.

Our concern, however, is that what we need to do is to find ways to make sure we're winning the battle of ideas and that we reduce the number of terrorists that are being created in the world that are being taught to go out and murder and kill innocent men, women and children and cut off people's tongues and fingers.

Will: Is there any way to measure that, the supply?

Rumsfeld: There is no way to measure it because you don't know what's happening in each one of these radical cleric schools that are teaching people that. But we have to engage that battle of ideas, just as we have to engage terrorists where they are.

Rumsfeld is certainly arguing for applying more techniques to the battle againt fundamentalist Islam. Mind you, he's not going to say "fundamentalist Islam" and will try to define the nature of the enemy in the narrowest terms possible. The difficulty with naming and describing the nature of the enemy poses a major problem for the formulation of strategy for this conflict. The contrast with the Cold War is obvious: Communists were bad. Communism was bad. Communists were not allowed in the government or the military or to become citizens or to work in jobs that had national security implications.

This view of communists was of course a simplification but a necessary one. Some communists were no doubt pacifistic or incapable of being any kind of threat. Some were too afraid to want to fight. But the most prudent thing to do at the time was to treat them all as a threat. But there is a more nuanced way of looking at the effect of a belief system upon its believers. Think of the body of all believers as reacting in a range of ways to the same core teachings due to genetic and environmental factors that influence their ways of perceiving reality. Some may naturally be more hostile and given a religiously directed target for their hostility they will attempt to attack enemies. Others, due to innate personality differences, will learn the same beliefs but react in ways that leave them feeling less aggressive or less threatened.

In my view each religion and even each sect within a religion causes a unique distribution of beliefs and behaviors upon its believers. One religion might produce terrorists at the rate of one per billion believers. Another religion, given the same circumstances, might produce terrorists at the rate of one per thousand. In this view the terrorists are not anomalies. They are points on a continuous distribution of reactions to the same set of beliefs. But this is not a view that American or European leaders are going to embrace publically.

One interesting question about the US and Western reaction to Islamic terrorism is why was the definition of a communist enemy much more encompassing than the definition of an Islamist (and even that word has limited currency) enemy in the current conflict?

  • In part this is a reflection of the fact that the leaders of the Muslim nations are reluctant to openly challenge the United States. They do not have the cohesiveness and raw military power of the Soviet Union had at the end of WWII. In the absence of clear nation-state challengers the United States can not fight the conflict as a conventional military campaign.
  • Another reason is that it is acceptable in the United States to label a secular ideology as having no redeeming value but religious beliefs are viewed as fundamental rights and having inherent good due to their supernatural subject matter. There is, therefore, a great reluctance to label a religion as the enemy. This is in part due to a desire to avoid a repeat of the religious wars of the Protestant Reformation period of Europe.
  • Also, to legitimize the labelling of one religion as the enemy would open up the door for others to label other religions as enemies. Members of other religions would rather avoid getting into that territory.
  • To label a religion as an enemy would make the number of people who see themselves in conflict with the United States much larger. Quite reasonably, the US leaders don't want to see 1.3 or so billion Muslims become more motivated to feel hostility toward the United States.
  • Especially in Europe people from less developed countries are viewed as responding with hostility because of their role as victims of the history of Western imperialism. In a subtle form of racism they are not even granted the recognition of being able to be in conflict with the West due to a fundamental clash of values due to their embrace of a value system that is not Western.
  • A Western strain of thought in a belief in a kind of unversalism of values ("We are the world") contributes to the ability of Europeans to interpret the reaction of Muslim countries only thru the lens of the history of imperialism.

The upshot of all this is that it is difficult to formulate and sell to the public a strategy which is sufficiently effective to have a chance of succeeding. Should we keep all Muslims from immigrating to the United States in order to keep out the most threatening ones? Can't do that because we can't admit that being a Muslim makes one more likely to be a threat (even thought it is true). Should we engage in a massive research effort to obsolesce oil as an energy source in order to stop the flow of money from around the world to the Middle East where it funds Madrassahs and terrorist organizations? Makes sense to me. But the Bush Administration is at pains to avoid the inference that we are in some kind of Clash Of Civilizations.

The problem with the Bush Administration taking the position that we are fighting only a small number of terrorists is that support for the terrorists is found among large numbers of Muslims and many Muslims do believe they are in a Clash Of Civilizations. If the Bush Administration saw it necessary to maintain a large gap between public rhetoric and their substantive actions I could understand the necessity of doing so. Certainly a number of policies that would help us could be sold on grounds other than on the basis that Islam is an inherently dangerous religion to non-Muslims. But I see the Bush Administration response to date to be inadequate.

On the argument that the Bush Administration response is inadequate due inadequacies in strategy see Vladimir Dorta's post The War On Terror, A Double Mistake. My major point of disagreement with Vladimir is that I do not see how pressure on Pakistan and Saudi Arabia can help all that much and it might even backfire. I think our ability to apply pressure to cause Muslim governments to change is limited and the effect would tend toward delegitimizing those governments in the eyes of their publics. Being more an admirer of Sun Tzu than Clausewitz I favor more indirect approaches such as making it difficult for Muslims to travel to the United States, developing technologies that will reduce the world demand for Persian Gulf oil, and a much larger effort to influence Arab and other Muslim opinion in ways both direct and indirect. Vladimir and I have argued this out in email and he already agreed on the last point and agrees the other elements are worth doing.

Update: Paul Wolfowitz echoes Rumsfeld's call to deal with the madrassa school problem.

Wolfowitz picked up the same theme on Thursday in a speech at Georgetown University, where he described madrassas as "schools that teach hatred, schools that teach terrorism" while providing free, "theologically extremist" teachings to "millions" of Muslim children.

One way to counter those schools, Wolfowitz said, would be to cut off the funding that often comes from Saudis promoting Wahhabism, a particularly austere and rigid form of Islam. But he suggested that a better way would be to channel support to people who oppose the schools, though he acknowledged that "we're not very good at doing that yet."

One problem: Most Al Qaeda terrorists have come from Saudi Arabia. They fund their own schools. The whole world buys their oil to give them the money to do this. What can we do about that short of invasion? Spend billions per year on research into newer sources of energy that could be made more cheaply.

George W. Bush is trying to influence Indonesia's schools with US aid.

Washington''s concerns about the spread of radical and anti-U.S. ideas in some Islamic school systems spurred a pledge to Indonesia this week for funding to help improve the quality of the country''s education system.

During President Bush''s brief stopover Wednesday in Bali, where he held talks with President Megawati Sukarnoputri and met with religious leaders, Bush announced a new six-year, $157 million program for this purpose.

But Indonesian religious leaders have already objected to the idea of American money influencing the curricula of Indonesian schools. Will the money end up significantly reducing the number of Indonesian children who are taught Islamic fundamentalism in school?

Another report on US funding for Indonesian schools:

President Bush has also promised $157 million to help improve education in the country's schools, including Islamic boarding schools called pesantrens. The funds are needed, especially as the Saudis are pumping in money to replace Indonesia's tolerant Islam with its own Salafist version. However, Indonesia has been reluctant to clamp down on existing extremist pesantrens that have been breeding grounds for terrorists, even those run by Jamaah Islamiya. Many of these schools are still functioning, including Al-Mukmin Ngruki, the largest source of Indonesian jihadists.

Rumsfeld even mentions US prisons as a terrorist recruiting ground.

Rumsfeld: And probably will always be lacking. In other words, it's probably not knowable how many people are being recruited. Somewhere in a jail in America, in a madrasa school that's taught by a radical cleric somewhere in one of 20 other countries of the world. We can't know how many there are, but what I do know, I think, is that we need to engage in that battle of ideas. We need to be out there encouraging people not to do that. Rather, they should be learning things like language or math or things that they can provide a living from.

By Randall Parker    2003 November 03 01:14 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
2003 October 22 Wednesday
Rumsfeld Asks: Are We Winning Or Losing The Global War On Terror?

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has written a memo to his top folks Gen. Richard Myers, Paul Wolfowitz, Gen. Pete Pace, and Douglas Feith asking them are we winning or losing the global war on terror? (another copy available here)

Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the US?

Does DoD need to think through new ways to organize, train, equip and focus to deal with the global war on terror?

Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?

Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists? The US is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions.

Rumsfeld says they lack the metrics to even know whether the number of terrorists or the size of the threat posed by terrorists is going up or down. How could such metrics be fashioned? Is it difficult to track enrollment in madrassas? Even if that could be done it would seem difficult to track the curricula of those schools to discover whether the curricula are becoming better or worse on average from the standpoint of American and more broadly Western interests. Even harder it seems would be to track the number of people in terrorist training camps or deployed as sleepers or operatives in various countries. How do you measure people who try to blend in?

As for our costs versus the costs for the terrorists: asymmetric warfare really does favor terrorists. The biggest technique the US could try to bring to bear to counter the advantages the terrorists have would be massive information collection. But initiatives such as Total Information Awareness have run up against considerable domestic political opposition. Tighter border control also faces considerable opposition both by general pro-immigrationists and by Muslim groups and diplomats who don't want tougher criteria appled to Muslim applicants for visitation and residency. It is not clear that there exists a politically feasible strategy for countering the advantages enjoyed by the terrorists on the domestic front.

On the international front what should be done? Are madrassas really a big source of terrorists? Could US aid pull a signficant number of students out of madrassa schools in, say, Pakistan? At what yearly cost and with what effect on the total number of terrorists? Are government schools in Saudi Arabia a bigger source of terrorists? What can be done about Saudi Arabia short of invasion?

Rumsfeld is pushing this memo into the public debate.

Three members of Congress who met with Rumsfeld Wednesday morning said the defense secretary gave them copies of the memo and discussed it with them.

"He's asking the tough questions we all need to be asking," said Rep. Jim Turner, D-Texas.

The American political debate has lost sight of a difficult problem as it has drifted more and more toward partisan politics as usual as the 2004 elections approach. This seems like a pretty astute move on Rumsfeld's part.

The United States lacks a grand strategy to deal with the twin threats of terrorism and nuclear proliferation. As Henry Sokolski argues in Taking Proliferation Seriously the international rules and norms governing nuclear power and proliferation are in need of major changes and yet neither the Bush Administration nor its critics in the Democratic Party (which is more of a domestic issues-only party) is making an argument for those changes.

As part of the Grand Strategy that the US doesn't currently have the US also needs an aggressive energy research program to obsolesce fossil fuels.

Update: Turns out that Rumsfeld didn't want his memo released.

"If I wanted it published, I would have written it as a press release, which I didn't," Rumsfeld said after a closed-door meeting with senators on Capitol Hill.

Well, it is great that it was released. We get to hear a more critical internal view of how the war against terrorists is going.

By Randall Parker    2003 October 22 04:08 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (2)
2003 October 07 Tuesday
Mark Bowden On Coercive Interrogation And Torture

Mark Bowden, author of Black Hawk Down has written an article about coercion and torture in interrogation in The Atlantic Monthly which is not on-line. But he did an interview about the article which is on-line. Bowden thinks coercion is necessary in interrogation in some situations.

You conclude that "coercion should be banned but also quietly practiced," because legalized coercion, even when closely regulated, is the ultimate "slippery slope." Yet if coercion is officially banned, how will Americans come to a consensus about what kind of coercion is and isn't appropriate? It's hard to have a debate about something that officially doesn't happen.

Well, I think that part of the strategy here of the current Administration is not to have a debate on it—not to talk about it. And that's actually a very smart way of handling this. Because this is a realm where a certain amount of two-facedness is called for, unfortunately. I believe that it would be wrong to license all coercion, but by the same token, I believe that it would wrong not to practice it in certain cases. So I agree with Jessica Montell, the very articulate activist I interviewed in Israel, in saying that if the law bans torture, at least those people who are practicing coercion have to face the possibility of being held accountable for their actions. The law acts as a constraint on the use of coercion. But it's also unrealistic under the present circumstances to conclude that anybody is ever going to be brought to justice for violating the spirit of international agreements against torture.

I don't agree with his formulation of how coercive interrogation should be regulated. Interrogators should not have to put themselves legally at risk so that we can derive security benefits from what they learn from interrogation. It seems quite unfair to expect them to do this. It also seems counterproductive. The best interrogators in what is, by Bowden's own admission, basically more an art than a science, shouldn't be discouraged from practicing their craft because the public at large is whimsical and could decide to punish them once the public feels safe again. The public does not deserve to take no risks of its own while forcing those who defend the public safety to place themselves in a position of being punished at some time in the future after the benefits have been gained and the public is feeling more morally self-righteous and less fearful.

The public shouldn't be allowed to morally have it both ways. Ditto for leaders. This is corrupting and unfair to those who protect us and dishonors them.

The interview is worth reading in full.

Update: Bowden's October 2003 Atlantic article on interrogation and torture is available on the web.

We hear a lot these days about America's over powering military technology; about the professionalism of its warriors; about the sophistication of its weaponry, eavesdropping, and telemetry; but right now the most vital weapon in its arsenal may well be the art of interrogation. To counter an enemy who relies on stealth and surprise, the most valuable tool is information, and often the only source of that information is the enemy himself. Men like Sheikh Mohammed who have been taken alive in this war are classic candidates for the most cunning practices of this dark art.

Bowden has another essay which is on whether there are circumstances when torture is justified.

Zubaydah's is a much rarer case. With him, we are talking about using torture to extract valuable, lifesaving information. Here's how Michael Levin, a philosophy professor at City College in New York, makes the argument: Suppose a nuclear device is about to be detonated in a large city. A captured terrorist has information that can prevent this, but he refuses to divulge it. Can we torture him to learn what he knows? Levin argues that under these circumstances, it would be "morally mandatory."

By Randall Parker    2003 October 07 01:25 AM Entry Permalink | Comments (1)
2003 August 18 Monday
Will Terrorists Going To Fight In Iraq Help Or Hurt US War Against Terrorism?

The New York Times reports that terrorists are passing over the border into Iraq daily to fight US occupying forces.

"Iraq is the nexus where many issues are coming together — Islam versus democracy, the West versus the axis of evil, Arab nationalism versus some different types of political culture," said Barham Saleh, the prime minister of this Kurdish-controlled part of northern Iraq. "If the Americans succeed here, this will be a monumental blow to everything the terrorists stand for."

Recent intelligence suggests the militants are well organized. One returning group of fighters from the militant Ansar al-Islam organization captured in the Kurdish region two weeks ago consisted of five Iraqis, a Palestinian and a Tunisian.

This brings to mind a recent column by Arnold Kling comparing the World War II Battle Of The Atlantic with the war against terorists entitled Sink The Terrorists.

American navy leaders resisted the convoy system. They preferred a "search and destroy" approach, which would enable the navy to act independently of merchant ships. However, this proved inefficient, because submarines were difficult to find.

With convoys, on the other hand, the U-Boats would reveal their presence when they attacked. At that point, destroyers and other escorts could swing into action.

President Bush's reaction to terrorist attacks in Iraq ("Bring 'em on") is reminiscent of the convoy theory. We would prefer the terrorists to be active where we have the properly-armed, well-trained forces to fight them.

Well, can the US fight terrorists in Iraq any more effectively than if, say, those same terrorists are moving around in other Arab countries running operations to attack sites that have many Westerners? If the terrorists currently travelling to Iraq to be Jihadists fighting against US forces were not faced with the prospect of US soldiers in Iraq to ambush would those same people take the battle to some other place or would they just stay home dreaming of attacking the US?

The answers to these and similar questions are far from clear. But it seems reasonable to think that it is a lot easier for, say, a Jordanian or Egyptian extremist hot head to get himself to Iraq than to get himself to, say New York City or Washington DC. Once in Iraq it is also a lot easier for such an extremist to hook up with sympathizers for the simple reason that there are far more co-religionists around who are more likely to agree with him that America is evil and needs to be fought. The areas where the radicals will attack US forces in Iraq are not battlefields. Iraq is not the mid-Atlantic with nothing but ships and submarines battling it out with all present clearly on one side or the other. So the Battle of the Atlantic is not a tight fit in terms of historical analogy for what is going on in Iraq. Still, Kling's argument has some merit. But lets look first at some of the points against his argument. Here's a summary list of reasons why the presence of US forces in Iraq will increase the amount of opportunities the Islamists have to attack US forces:

  • Iraq is close to other countries that have many Islamic radicals in their populaces.
  • Sunni Muslims are a substantial portion of the population in Iraq. Some of them are radicals.
  • Iraq is fairly disorderly and no longer has an effective internal intelligence operation.
  • Saddam's loyalists will gladly use the Muslim radicals as tools against the US forces.
  • US forces are in Iraq and out in public in densely populated areas.
  • US forces are reluctant to aggressively respond to attacks in densely populated areas.
  • Since the populated areas have regular civilian populaces routinely out in large numbers US forces can not lay down defensive perimeters where the opposition might want to set booby traps. The US forces can't just watch for a rare occasional human movement and monitor it for suspicious activity. The density of the civilian populace is a form of camouflage for the movement of hostile forces dressed as civilians.

All of these factors argue against a net benefit for the US of US forces fighting Islamists in Iraq. Another problem is that the US press is likely to go negative (much of it already has) about the prospects of US occupation forces getting the upper hand against the groups currently conducting attacks against the occupation. Whereas in WWII the US and Britain were clearly resolved that they had no choice but to fight on no matter how grim things got by contrast substantial portions of the US elites and populace doubt the necessity of a prolonged fight in Iraq.

However, there is a potential upside for the US should the insurgency campaign in Iraq last for years:

  • If the US is able to gradually get the upper hand, infiltrate resistance groups, and kill a lot of Islamists it will shake the faith of at least some of the Islamists that they are gaining ground.
  • The organized resistance, to the extent that the Baathist leaders can keep on feeding in foreign fighters, will leave trails of evidence that leads back to the leaders. There are many Baathists who the US would not have arrested and jailed or killed if those Baathists just gave up when Saddam's regime fell. Many of them could cause problems by corrupting and blackmailing Iraqi members of the new government. But by supporting continued fighting those Baathists put themselves at risk of considerable jail time or death. So the US might be able to better reduce Baathist influence if the insurgency continues for a longer period of time.
  • The presence of foreign Sunni fighters operating from the Sunni areas of Iraq may strengthen the feeling of common cause with the US in the minds of many Iraqi Shiites. Keep in mind that the Shiites are the majority and their views are therefore incredibly important.
  • Iraq is serving as a useful laboratory for the US military to try out new tactics and equipment for fighting terrorism and urban insurgencies. The US military's learning curve and development of equipment may be greatly accelerated by what is going on in Iraq. The development of superior systems for information collection (e.g. automated surveillance cameras) and analysis could make a big difference.

It is not clear which side will benefit from continued fighting in Iraq. If you see any factors I've left out that weigh on one side or the other then add them to the comments.

By Randall Parker    2003 August 18 05:37 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (3)
2003 August 11 Monday
Canadian Government Weak In Fighting Terrorism

Toronto journalist Stephen Brown says the RCMP and CSIS are at odds with the Liberal Party over how hard to try to root out terrorists.

One American official partially answered the question when he said Canadian anti-terrorism forces working in the trenches don't believe the higher-ups in government take the terrorist threat in Canada serious enough. Chretien proved that himself when, immediately after 9/11, he announced there were no terrorist cells in Canada. Again, a Canadian security agency, this time the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, had to go behind his back to the media to set the record straight. It informed the country 50 different terrorist groups were operating within Canada's borders, a fact it had already imparted several times to the prime minister. A vindictive Chretien responded by slashing CSIS's budget for contradicting and embarrassing him in front of the nation.

The other part to the answer is that the Liberals are Canada's party of multiculturalism. They fear losing the ethnic votes they need to stay in power, if certain groups become too offended by the War on Terror's security measures.

The reluctance to offend specific ethnic and religious groups hobbles the US response to terrorism as well. The Hispanic lobby fights against close tracking and hunting down of illegal aliens because so many Hispanics are illegals. This makes it easier for Islamic terrorists to enter and live in the US. At the same time, attempts to cater to Muslims as a voting bloc lead to both weaker immigration policies and obstacles in the way of FBI attempts to infiltrate mosques and Islamic groups.

As long as some group (whether it be ethnic, national, or religious in identification) is going to demand kid glove treatment once their members come here I see that as an argument to keep them out in the first place.

By Randall Parker    2003 August 11 02:09 PM Entry Permalink | Comments (0)
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