Thursday, July 28, 2011

U.S. Military Serviceman Arrested in Alleged Attack on Fort Hood

One AWOL soldier (and perhaps more later) has been arrested in Killeen, TX outside of Ft Hood. Details at this point are unclear if this was a legitimate plan or the rantings of a disgruntled soldier. Ft Hood was the site of an attack by Nidal Nissan who killed 13 and wounded 30 back in 2009. Ft Hood is home of First Arm West and the First Armored Cavalry Division amongst other brigades and regiments. Ft Hood is a large base and has a huge on base population of soldiers, civilians, and contractors.

Security on any given military facility starts outside the wire with passive detections systems alerting military police of approaching threats. At the gates, military police or contract security personnel check IDs. Depending on threat levels, vehicles may be physically searched before they are allowed on base.

Once past the security perimeter, things look much a city with roving military police patrols. Other than MPs, no one else on base is permitted to be armed. Someone like Nissan could have brought a weapon on legally to fire at the range. Once inside the perimeter, he could then start shooting people.

The latest incident at Ft Hood raises some questions for the military. The most obvious source of problems is the stress brought on by many years of deployments. Soldiers are taken away from their families and friends for a year at a time where they are exposed to danger and violence. Upon returning home, a difficult supervisor or bad appraisal could be all it takes to set in motion a violent attack.

The military tends to look out very well but looking back inside is still overlooked. Our surveillance systems are top notch and are designed to look at what's coming. We have very little capability to look back at what might already be here.

The last ten years have been grueling on all branches but the Army and Marines the most since they engage in close quarter combat. I don't think we truly understand what repeated deployments has done to our service members. I still maintain we know even less about the effects on female military members who have been in combat.

The other problem is what we just saw in Norway. Andres Breivik committed the greatest mass murder in the history of modern Norway. He posted several pictures of himself as a commando and decorated military officer. According to everything I've been able to research, Breivik was never in the military and actually had an exemption from military service. The pictures then show a "wanna-be" who fancied himself as a military here to legitimize his self-esteem.

Even in the US military, we have the wanna-be who never deployed or was never in combat (you vets know who I mean, the guy that claimed he went to the Q-course but can only score a 180 on his AFPT). These are the ones the military tends to forget about. The returning soldier from a combat area is screened and their battle-buddies (or wingman in the USAF) helps support and look out for them.

The wanna-be is left feeling jealous of the real combat veterans. They may invent some ridiculous fantasy about their record. For the most part, that's where it ends. Others however start to deteriorate more as teh gap widens between their fantasy world and reality.

The wanna-be exists outside the military as well. The guy who pretends to part of the local SWAT team or who has been secretly trained in the lost ninja arts. For the most part, we can safely ignore these people. However, every once in a while the wanna-be isn't satisfied with mere fantasy and we get the Andres Breivik reaction.

I'm sure neighbors and friends would describe Breivik as a nice guy. Translated, he didn't say much and kept his grass cut. We don't need to start getting paranoid of one another but in these times, if someone makes you feel uncomfortable you may want to pay a little more attention.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Conservatie extremism

Sometime towards the end of the Cold War, the term "narco-terrorist" was coined to link the drug cartels with terrorists (Marxist/Lennist groups lost a major sponsor when the Soviet Union fell). Somewhere between the Pam Am 103 bombing and 9/11, we started to hear of radicalized Islamists who were Muslims with a tendency to commit violent acts against the West.

Labels make it easier to identify groups with similar behaviors and to direct intelligence activities. The shortfall is when you are looking for "radicalized Islamists" you tend to overlook activities that do not fit into that label. To further exacerbate this weakness, funding is often tied to the label so activities that aren't related to say "radicalized Islamists" don't get funded.

Now there already is a new term, conservative extremists which is different (according to the Financial TImes) from radical right-wing terrorism. Radical right-wing terrorism is primarily a political ideology represented by groups such as neo-Nazis. Conservative extremists are motivated by theology (conservative Christianity) as well as political ideology (pro-Israel). The combination of religious and political ideology sets this new groups to be diametrically opposed to Islam.

"Conservative extremism" explains why Breivik is from a Scandinavian country. According to the Financial Times article (linked at the bottom), "In addition to Norway’s Progress party – of which Mr Breivik was a member – the anti-immigrant Danish Peoples’ party, the rehabilitated neo-Nazi Sweden Democrats, the True Finns, Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and France’s National Front have become electoral forces in recent years.
Norway and the Nordic countries have in the past had relatively large neo-Nazi movements. While the Sweden Democrats have been able to enter national politics, most other groups have faded over time."

Breivik wrote a 1,500 page manifesto which borrows heavily from Ted Kaczynski's manifesto (the Unabomber). He seems to be trying to link his motives to other groups yet most of the conservative Scandinavian groups have disavowed him.

Right wing violence is nothing new to Europe but Scandinavia has managed to keep activities primarily as political. Breivik may come to symbolize the current generation that are not satisfied with projected means of resolution, they want their iPad 2 now! Whatever his political leanings, it is obvious that Breivik felt the political route was too long and cumbersome and turned to the more expedient route of violence.

In one sense, he was correct. We may never have heard of political activist Breivik outside of Norway. The whole world has heard of Breivik the terrorist.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Norway attacker was a political Terminator

Thanks to Quimbob for sending me this link. As often happens, we want to focus on the terrorist and lose focus on what might else have been at work. In this case, the Utoya camp was not so much a summer camp as a political training camp. At least one witness mentioned in a CNN interview that he only became politically active after attending this camp.

Eighty-two of Norway's future political activists have been killed. The media will make this out to be a lone gunman without considering the political motivations for his actions. This is not excusing it, just adding more dimension to what will inevitably will become a cliched terrorist in the minds of the media.

The picture of him in Masonic dress is also misleading. He may have been a Mason at one time but we don't know if he is still in good standing or may even have been expelled. Unlike in the US where Masonic lodges follow either Scottish or York rite, Norway follows Swedish Rite. The Swedish Rite demands members be Christian and not just that they believe in a supreme being. That is consistent with reports that he is a fundamentalist Christian.

Daily Kos

Police aren't ruling out more suspects in Norway attacks

CNN is reporting that the police are not ruling out more suspects in the bombing. One of the reports about the incident referred to Anders Behring Breivik as a "lone nut". The media and conspiracy theorists have never been satisfied with the lone gunman theory dated back to the Kennedy assassination. It doesn't mean it isn't possible, just that we have a hard time accepting a lone perpetuator of mass violence (although TV and movies portray this very scenario all of the time).

In the same manner, security experts and intelligence analysts are looking for the Islamic connection. You just can't be a terrorist these days without being part of Al Qaeda or some other radicalized Islamic group, don't you know. Of course if comes to pass that Breivik is not part of an Islamic movement, he can always be cast part of the right-wing extremist movement.

The Internet is flooded with a picture of Breivik in Masonic regalia. The conspiracy theorists are salivating at this "proof" of a Masonic/Illuminati connection. We don't even know at this point if Breivik was really a Mason or if he just posed in Masonic regalia. One report claimed that all of Breivik's photos on his Facebook account (and I'm assuming the Masonic picture as well) were all uploaded only a week before the bombing.

The Norway bombing and massacre now has the rest of the world thinking that it isn't just radicalized Islamic terrorist groups you have to worry about, now anyone could be a terrorist. And after all, isn't that what all terrorists want us to worry about?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The New Face of Terrorism?

CNN is running this picture of a suspect in the Norway bombing and shootings. As of now, 91 are dead in the Norway attacks. One of the targets was a youth camp where around 600 were attending. The suspect dressed as a policeman opened fire and killed 84 campers in a shooting spree that witnesses say lasted nearly two hours.

Norway has been throughout most of the 20th and 21st centuries are neutral country more known for its fiords than for invading countries or persecuting minorities. Like much of Scandinavia, Norway is a progressive country with very liberal policies towards immigration. The openness towards immigrants may have be the motive behind the attacks.

The last time Norway had been at war was during the Nazi occupation. Since then, Norway has been a very peaceful place to visit and live. The attack had the kind of success most terrorists can only dream of; an almost paradise wrecked by violence against children. The media and governments will be pontificating about the events for weeks.

The attack comes less than two months from the ten year anniversary of 9/11. It seems ominously coincidently and will have both security professionals as well as conspiracy theorists conjecturing on the timing. Gun control advocates will be beating their drums for disarmament and the NRA loyalists will be launching counter-attacks. DHS will be revamping screening procedures and will be asking for more money to purchase high-tech equipment to detect future attacks.

At the end of the day, none of that would have mattered. At least one person (perhaps more) attack a soft target and was successful. We cannot fortify every single summer camp, little league baseball game or high school football game. If someone wants to commit violence, they will find a way.

The Norway attack stands as a stark reminder that even in Utopia, violence can strike. Oh and it doesn't take a radicalized Muslim either!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Terror Warning Warns of Insider Threat to Infrastructure

"A new intelligence report from the Department of Homeland Security issued Tuesday, titled Insider Threat to Utilities, warns "violent extremists have, in fact, obtained insider positions," and that "outsiders have attempted to solicit utility-sector employees" for damaging physical and cyber attacks." ABC News

On one hand, it really is no surprise that Al Qaeda may already have operatives here in country. It was the same way 10 years ago. The targets mentioned in the ABC article are also no surprise. Water system have the potential of effecting the largest number of people. Nuclear power plants have been in the news lately since the Fukishima disaster. Their safety records and reports of violations make them even likelier targets for attack.

What is surprising about this report is since her appointment, Secretary Napolitano has been stressing border security. This then raises the question of how effective was her efforts to secure the border? The Obama Administration seems schizophrenic on this issue having DHS on one hand stress the need to secure the borders but the rest of the administration fighting for less strict immigration policies. You can pursuit both without essentially neutralizing both.

We are less than two months away from the tenth anniversary of 9/11, more reports will surely surface claiming another plot. The challenge is going to be remaining vigilant without becoming panicked or cynical.

ABC News

Monday, July 18, 2011

British force in Afghanistan was 'unacceptably' weak: report

As I've said before, military officers and NCOs in the US armed forces are required to attend and graduate various professional military education requirements throughout their careers. Over and over, officers and NCOs hear how battles were lost because the political leadership would not support going in with more troops. The incidents portrayed in "Blackhawk Down" were the result of the Clinton administration refusing to send in armor to support the ground forces. Vietnam holds multiple examples of civilian leaders in Washington D.C. selecting targets for the military in theater. The Bush Administration sent Marines into Iraq hundreds of kilometers beyond their doctrine and logistical lines could support (fortunately the Iraqi military did not present much resistance).

Now this report shows the British were sent in too light to handle Afghanistan. The results were high casualties.

Colin Powell believes you should only send in the military when all other options have been exhausted. Once you decide to send in the troops, you need to send them in so overwhelmingly that not only is victory assured but your enemy will regret ever resorting to war. Waging war on the cheap, or trying to minimize the presence of forces, only results in troops needless dying for no gain.

Yahoo! News

Not Our Problem

Ever wonder how the Department of Defense ends up spending millions or even billions of dollars over the original plan? Read on;

Not Our Problem: Boeing's decision to aggressively price its KC-46A tanker proposal—to the extent that the company expects to lose money in developing the aircraft for the Air Force—is not disconcerting to the Defense Department, said Pentagon acquisition executive Ash Carter. "It's not our problem because it's a fixed-price contract and it was written with the protections for the taxpayer," stated Carter last week during a Brookings Institution-sponsored symposium on the defense budget in Washington, D.C. Boeing is under a $4.9 billion fixed-price incentive firm contract to develop the KC-46A tanker and deliver the first airplanes by 2017. The company is liable for all costs above the $4.9 billion ceiling. Carter said the fixed-price contract mechanism means that the Pentagon is not left "open-endedly liable" if the costs do exceed the ceiling. Thus, Boeing's strategy of losing money in development "in the hopes of making money in the production phase" is "not a problem from the department's point of view." Carter gave the keynote address during the July 15 event.

Does someone who holds degrees from Yale and Oxford, as Dr. Carter does, really believe the DoD isn't going to pay for this underbid later in systems upgrades and modifications?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

TSA warns of surgically implanted bombs

TSA efforts seem to always focus on some type of explosive. First we had the shoe bomber and then the liquid explosives scare with Abdulmuttalab providing the exception that proves the rule.

I'm not certain how likely inserting explosives under the skin is in reality. It seems like a great way to kill a would be terrorist by messing up the procedure. Even if the procedure works, you still risk the human bomb prematurely detonating.

A far more likely scenario, and one TSA is not able to detect, would be a terrorist who has been intentionally infected with small pox. The individual could fly into say Chicago O'Hare and then proceed to touch as many passengers transiting through the terminals as possible. Passengers would not show signs until much later by which time numerous others would have been exposed. No risk of the bomb going off too soon. Zero chance of being detected by TSA.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Global race on to match U.S. drone capabilities

A quick history lesson seems in order.

World War II was the inevitable result of the First World War. The result of WWII was the Cold War. The United States set itself up as one superpower when it ended the war with Japan by dropping two atomic bombs. The USSR was diametrically opposed and escalated its own nuclear weapons program. The two former Allies would now become opponents in a non-shooting war that would last over 4 decades.

The Cold War came very close to becoming hot in 1962 during the Cuban Missile crisis. Otherwise, nuclear weapons were built to intimidate the other side into not using theirs. The Cuban Missile crisis lead in part to President Kennedy's support and use of special forces. Special forces can be used quickly and inexpensively compared to conventional forces. Inserting a few teams runs a much lower risk of inciting a full blown war.

The Cold War can be called an arms race but it wasn't until President Reagan that this strategy could be masted. President Reagan struck on a bold strategy of breaking the Soviet economy by forcing them to spend more and more of their capital on weapons and personnel. His "Star Wars" strategy was more about getting the Soviets to believe then to field any weapons. The Soviets bought into "Star Wars" and spent money they really didn't have in trying to counter it. Eventually, the Soviet Union goes bust in 1991.

Nature abhors a vacuum so the Cold War gets replaced by the global war on terrorism. Unlike the Cold War, the Global War on Terrorism lacks two opposing superpowers. No superpowers, no arms race or at least so it first appeared.

The United States led the way technologically, much as it did in WWII, this time using drones. Drones take the same elements of special forces (quick, inexpensive, and low risk) and add the elements of airpower. Having an unmanned aircraft on high altitude orbit with precision guided munitions is a very intimidating platform. As no troops are involved, politicians and Constitutional scholars will be locked in arguments as to whether or not the President needs Congressional approval to launch a drone strike.

The US has been unwilling to sell armed drones or the technology to anyone other than their closest allies. Drones are affordable for most nations to develop. China, India, Russia, to name a few, see the market potential are beginning to fielding armed drones.

The Washington Post article points out a potential of this new arms race. Unmanned drones makes it much easier to start shooting at someone without committing troops. Without troops, is it really a war?

Drones can be launched without risking the loss of troops meaning public outrage will be low to non-existent. An unmanned drone, unless it gets shot down, will be hard to identify the country of origin. Even if found, did the Chinese really use it or simply another country that bought the technology?

Drones introduce another problem. Manned aircraft need to operate from airfields or carriers. This means radars and satellites have time to detect the flight path. Drones can be launched from almost anywhere and can fly under most radars near the ground clutter. Satellites can only see the drone if they are looking at that particular part of the earth and may not have enough time to pick it out amongst ground clutter. A series of small drones launched against a major city could be devastating.

Star Wars showed drones as clumsy walking robots that could not hit the broad side of a barn with automatic fire. Real drones are flying weapons platforms that can strike anywhere, anytime.

The Washington Post

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Boarding Pass Arrest: Nigerian Who Slipped by Airport Security a 'Storyteller'

ABC reported this story on Thursday. TSA protocols are at best a one size fits all strategy to detecting potential threats. Since 9/11, the concern has been to prevent another hijacking involving the use of explosives. The emphasis allows other threats to slip by such as fake credentials. TSA screeners are more focused on what the passenger is carrying versus their intentions, demeanor or even apparently their credentials. The focus on content versus intent has lead to the embarrassing reports of children being patted down or elderly women being humiliated. The passengers were not cooperating in revealing their contents or submitting to a search. There appeared to be at no time realization by the screener or supervisor that there was no intent by these passengers.

Watch police officers who walk a beat. They are able to dismiss background noise from people on the street and focus in on those that are or have committed crimes. The TSA scanners need to learn this street cop approach. Gaddafi is threatening attacks in Europe but the United States could just as easily be attacked. In Butler county (just to the north of Cincinnati), there was an arrest of a teenager thought to be part of an international cyber terrorist network.

There are threats out there but I'm not certain if current TSA protocols are nimble enough to stop them.

ABC News

Air Force and Navy flying thousands of missions over Libya as Obama says U.S. is only playing a limited role

First, a correction. I've been referring to the air operation over Libya as "Odyssey Dawn" but since NATO has taken over the correct title is "OPERATION Unified Protector". Odd how after weeks of reading about Libya this was the first article (at least that I've read) that made a point of using the correct name.

According to the Mail Online, 'Since 31 March, the U.S. has flown a total of 3,475 sorties...Of those, 801 were strike sorties, 132 of which actually dropped ordnance.'

The Obama administration will take great pains to point out how few were actually strike sorties. What will get overlooked is the cost associated with maintaining that kind of OPSTEMPO (while still maintaining air operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan plus all of the air refueling missions to support aircraft transiting between the states and the AOR). The numbers also show that with the United States, NATO has some serious gaps in their ability to perform air suppression and ISR missions. Air suppression requires specialized aircraft and munitions so these relatively low numbers may in fact be much more expensive. The ISR or intelligence-surveillance-reconaissance missions are primarily flow by drones but the US has only a limited number of these aircraft. Most are deployed in Afghanistan. Being unmanned does not mean these are inexpensive to operate. The sensors and downlinks are quite expensive to operate and maintain. Having a drone auger into the ground is a very costly risk, especially for a non-US operation.

The taxpayer may never know the true cost of "Unified Protector" but as the old saying goes, there ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

Mail Online

Friday, July 1, 2011

Defiant Gaddafi threatens Europe

Gaddafi's manic behavior and various costumes make it easy to dismiss him as a nut. He has remained in power for over 40 years and as the Al Jazeera article points out, his troops have withstood 15 weeks of NATO airstrikes.

Well he must surely be full of himself if he thinks he can attack the European continent, right? During the early 1980s, Gaddafi was looking for anyone who can teach his operatives about radio controlled bombs and found the Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA). In exchange for teaching Libyan terrorists about radio detonated bombs, the PIRA got access to Libyan training grounds. It is hard to imagine that over the years Gaddafi let his European contacts fall to neglect. His threats should be taken very seriously.

Al Jazeera English