Tag Archives: ISIS

Commentary: A Look Back With a Bleak Future

Although we are in a New Year, I would like to look back. The reason seems so clear to me. The facts we face today are so stark that they portends what the future holds. Life will undoubtedly be more difficult on all fronts in the many months to come.

Trumping up a nuclear rivalry with Russia’s Putin, our new president is being goaded by a dictator who is cash poor but more than anxious to anti-up the stakes in a nuclear armament race. This bravado will create greater chances for a deadly error, and clearly the cost of this fatal game is better spent on other issues. This is especially true with a president-elect who evidences more respects WikiLeaks then our own national intelligence capability.

With a trade war on the horizon, not with Putin who does not have the stakes to come to the financial table, but with a much more powerful financial giant who has enormous assets and investment in our country — China. In the past I have written of China’s control of a segment of the U.S. economy. It would be best to partner with this foe than the one that controls Siberia. Turkey deploys more weaponry to its border with Syria to face the innocent young, old and injured that flee from its dictator. Turkey a lynch-pin in that region of a hostile world is not our friend and certainly an enemy of democracy. Today it partners more with Russia then the U.S. The mid-East and North Africa is home to 22 countries all but one is a democracy. We have just finished a year with horrific attacks on humanity in Syria and beyond. The world merely looked on. “Looking on” in unacceptable silence or, worse still, with empty words is deplorable. No animal in the wild kills with the same velocity and scope as the human. It has been said a million times fold, an animal kills to feed itself and its family. Humans kill, at times, for reasons anchored in ancient history and not present reality. How much more barbaric can we become.

I have been reading about the Reformation period in England and I am horrified not by the poverty, inequity and base cruelty that existed and was then reinforced, but that we have not come very far in man’s-inhumanity-to-man in over five hundred years. Cruelty committed beyond any definition — thru nonfeasance and malfeasance, by inaction and by action.   All committed by the hand of man.

We draw lines in the sand and then ignore our own threats. We permit others to act barbaric, as we respond with bravado rhetoric, sit on our own hands, and then shake our heads in disbelief. Tantrums (both Democratic and Republican) with no long-range thinking prevail at the highest levels of our government. And I predict, because of what I will describe below, the situation will only be worse in 2017.

The threat of violence today has escalated by waves of mass migration—uncontrolled mass migration that cumulated in 2015 and is an intensifying brewing-pot of viciousness. The number of illegal migrants reaching Europe’s border jumped sharply in the first four months of 2014, suggesting then that year’s total could be on track to overtake the 140,000 refugees who arrived during the 2011 Arab Spring. The story became far worse and more critical with time. A quick look at the past 20 years of illegal immigration have confirmed to many that unknown numbers will and are attempting to reach Britain by crossing the continent and using Calais as a staging post. This, as French authorities continue to demolish squatter camps near the Channel, as immigrants attempt to cross to the UK.

Since the American intervention in Somalia in 1992, the more developed nations have had the ability to quickly organize and put into place sufficient ground forces to overrun territory in chaos. As reported widely, the problem more than often was there was no credible group to replace the faulting government, and what ensued were frustration and anger that led to the rise of splinter groups of the defeated terrorist forces.

Europe today is experiencing its worst refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War. In 2016, hundreds of the continent’s overtaxed, overextended border guards (of whose work we read very little) travelled to Warsaw for their yearly review. The issues—today– how do EU border guards and they management forces face its biggest challenge in two decades– with hundreds of thousands of refugees that pour over weak boarders into France, Greece, Germany, Italy and Hungary. All at the same moment, these countries are more than inept in their negligent attempts to deal with those with violence and terrorism agendas. Those who have already arrived are integrating deeper into the population and executing their deadly plan: Bastille Day in Nice and Christmas in Berlin. In December, the Islamic State claimed that it had carried out 1,034 suicide attacks in 2016. That number, as reviewed by experts, is impossible to verify, but they did agree that the total has been climbing for several years now. The number of people willing — even eager — to sacrifice for the “cause” is staggering. Mass integrated planning by the EU is now beyond merely necessary but vital across Europe.

ISIS has learned to accomplish what al Qaeda could never develop—a simple terrorism act to capture a bold print international headline: a truck, a willing driver, a mass of un-expecting citizens brought together violently can produce a killing of countless persons within seconds and without a single explosive or shot fired. To digress for a moment, as noted by Kakov Lapin in a special report to IPT News: “Hamas launched a public relations campaign in recent days, aimed at capitalizing on a deadly truck attack in Jerusalem. The campaign sheds a light on Hamas’s plans to encourage and launch jihadist atrocities, but also on its vulnerability to the arrival of ISIS as an ideology and movement.” A “movement” that is engulfing all of Western Europe, as I write this sentence.

In December, the WSJ published a magnificent in-depth analysis written by Matthew Dalton, describing the critical situation across Europe. He writes, and supports with hard facts, that the latest attacks “has laid bare multiple failings in Europe’s security apparatus, including poor cooperation between national governments, porous borders and lack of biometric data to identify people who use false identities.” This monumental indictment cannot be misconstrued to fit any positive conclusion. In early January, the WSJ again published a devastating article detailing “Belgium’s Botched Hunt for ISSI”. It can read almost as a parody of the famous film “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight”. The authors of this article describe the botching, by the Belgium police, when they had multiple chances to catch the ISIS terror cell that carried out the Paris and Brussels attacks –“and muffed every one”. Their source: a confidential report prepared for the Belgium Parliament.

Compounding these problems is the rise of Islamic State ability to strike almost at will in Europe although being beaten on the traditional battle field. At year’s end, we find security services, across Europe, overwhelmed in their ability to follow and track not merely the jihadist presence but the potential threats among the newly arrivals. Islamist groups employed, as was the general published belief, the surge of refugees to smuggle their operatives into Europe. It has been described in countless articles that most of the terrorists traveled from Syria through the Balkans and then Central Europe, moving with the hordes of refugees in the summer and fall of 2015.

To understand a crucial part of the migration and terrorism issues in Europe, one must understand the border controls in Europe and in turn to be aware of the Schengen Zone. This part of Europe is composed of 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and any other type of border control at their mutual borders. This large geographic zone functions as a single country for international travel purposes and is named after the Schengen Agreement, which for a time eliminated border controls with the other Schengen members and strengthened border controls with non-Schengen countries. With the terrorist attacks and migration crisis in late 2016, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Norway, Poland and Sweden temporarily imposed controls on some or all of their borders with other Schengen states. Previously, in 2015, after the Paris attack, France declared a state of emergency which stepped up its boarder control measure with other Schengen states.

A quick review of the history of the Berlin attack suspect Anis Amri, who arrived in Europe in 2011, will underline the depth of the failure of European intelligence at this moment. The authorities in Italy and Germany have tried multiple times to send Amri back to Tunisia. They failed. Around the same time, he was released after four years in an Italian prison for starting a fire at a refugee shelter; he was allowed to leave Italy (with a criminal record). Nonetheless, he applied for asylum again in Germany. This “underscores the disorder of Europe’s refugee system.” Although the authorities ordered him to return to Tunisia, he headed to Germany, where he roamed freely, using a series of false identities, and sought asylum. Since the authorities don’t routinely fingerprint migrants or check their fingerprints against national criminal databases (freely discussed in the press and with what little facilities there are) he was able to travel as he desired. Evidence, however sketchy, has established that the Islamic State has sent dozens of operatives to Europe, over the past two years, and to Germany in particular. And, is simple to deduce, is that with the unraveling of ISIS strangleholds of Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, the obvious will occur–that many potential terrorists will disappear from the scene and attempt, one way or another, to enter Europe.

Aside from the security issues the humanitarian questions such as in Greece, wintry conditions have imperiled thousands of refugees in overcrowded camps, as described in the New York Times, prompting the E.U. to declare the situation “untenable.” While thousands displaced person from Mosul are in desperate need of life-saving aid, the security concerns and gloom are layer upon the humanitarian apprehensions and present a desperate picture ahead.

European security services race against time to detect the terrorist threats among the millions of refugees who arrived in recent years. But that is like closing the barn doors after the cows have fled. What is clear is that the Schengen border restraints remain sparse; the creation of “hot spots,” where officials conduct security checks of migrants, using high-speed internet connections to security databases, do not cover the porous country-side where both the migrant and terrorist can move freely and without detection. How many have arrived in the United States?

We live in a time with Western Europe in disarray both politically and socially. Their population is living in the shadows of constant and increasing terrorism. We live in a world struggling with the rise of an increasingly dark populist cloud, both at home and abroad, as we witness the plummeting of civility, diversity acceptance and truth.

For me, a defining moment was the day after the United States presidential election and one month before the first WSJ laid bare the state of the European deplorable security apparatus— helplessness to cope with its crisis of terrorism and immigration, we cancelled our trip to London and Paris.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

 

 

 

 

 

Commentary—Terrorism and Encryptology

 

A number of years ago as I clutched to the window ledge of car driven by a man whose eyeglasses seemed to have been made from the bottoms of coca cola bottles, I asked this security service official why his country’s “counterterrorist” services were so good at preventing terrorist attacks in his country. His answer was direct: “Because they (the terrorist) are not now that smart, but someday they will be.”

That day has long since arrived.

The date can be marked with the coordination and execution of the 9/11 attack. In retrospect, the logistics were quite astonishing; it was executed with immaculate precision, not on their own turf, but on ours.

A report by Anna Mulrine written about two months ago, but just arrived at my desk discussed how we confront terrorism has been transformed

The title of her article: “New encryption technology is aiding the terrorist, intelligence director says.” The intelligence director she refers to is the non-descript, bi-speckled James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). In that position he answers to and is directed by the President .He also serves as the advisor to not only the President himself but the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council in matters that relate to our national security. He also is head of a 16 member national intelligence community. Interestingly, federal law mandates that he also be an active-duty commissioned officer or have experience in military intelligence. The bottom line is that when this man speaks, we should listen very carefully.

A cautionary note: Critics claim that in crafting the legislation that created the DNI, it provided inadequate powers to improve the performance of the US Intelligence Community. Namely, the legislation creating the DNI left other important security agencies untouched. The need to hold onto power never changes.

This past week we are faced with mass murder in Orlando. This is the worst domestic attack of its kind in American history. We know there was a lone killer, born in the United States. The suspect, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, is a Muslim American of Afghan descent, and law enforcement agencies were investigating whether he had ties to or was inspired by Islamist extremism. An Islamic State group claimed the impetus for the attack, and across social-media outlets, Islamic State supporters cheered Sunday’s mass shooting, and called for more attacks on the West.

All this brings me to Ms. Mulrine’s report that new encryption technology is benefiting the terrorist. The playing field is becoming level. General Clapper noted — “The Edward Snowden” leaks, if nothing else, fast-tracked the sophistication of encryption technologies by “about seven years.”  And that is nothing but bad news for United States’ national security.

Clapper noted that the Islamic State is “the most sophisticated user by far of the Internet.” And they accomplish that because they have the resources and ability to go into the market place and purchase software that will “ensure end-to-end encryption” of their communications. In turn, he noted that this “had and is having major, profound effects on our ability” to collect intelligence, “particularly against terrorists”. This raises a particularly American long standing issue.

The publicized conflict between national security, privacy issues and those companies who refuse to divulge their user’s information creates — rightfully or wrong — road blocks in the fight not merely to stop but to at least contain the terrorist act. It increases the tension with those supporting the need for advanced security against cyber-attacks. Recently as February Clapper cited cyber-attacks as a greater threat than terrorism – and the blunt opposition to law enforcement against the development of so-called unbreakable encryption software that, they say, could hinder their search for terrorists. That said, he warned of yet the next step in this conflict with the development of an unbreakable encryption: it would “give the terrorists a pass” in its operational ability.  Think of those consequences and one can only shudder.

Clapper warned that ISIS has clandestine cells that are plotting more terrorist attacks in Germany, Italy, and England. This can only lead to the question: what if ISIS is defeated at home, how strong will they remain in plotting attacks abroad. Barbara Star, the CNN Pentagon Correspondent quoted a high racking counterterrorist official saying that ISIS “is not an army, It’s not about religion, it is not even a movement. It is a label covering mad and upset young man who can just say they are part of ISIS.” How does any part of law enforcement   respond to that?

To this end, the United States is stepping up efforts to promote more intelligence sharing. In my previous blog, I wrote of the proposed creation of a Secretary General for Intelligence within the NATO structure to improve not only how intelligence is shared but to expand its view of how analysis and information is shared. In the meantime, since the attacks on Paris and Brussels in January of last year, the US intelligence officials have learned that ISIS is clearly taking advantage of the migrant crisis in Europe, Clapper said. Nothing new was reveled in that statement but it doesn’t make it any less unsettling.

All this presents a daunting task for Europe, Clapper warned. There is a “fundamental conflict” between European Union incentives that drives the agenda to promote openness and free movement of people and goods with privacy. This “in some ways is in conflict with the responsibilities that each country has as a nation-state to protect the borders and securities of their nations and peoples.” This is all complicated by this week’s election in the UK weather or not to exit the EU. Even before the vote, the mere thought of exiting the UK has exacerbated normal volatility in the world’s stock markets and will have enormous bearing upon the security of all nation-states. Scotland has announced that if there is an exit by the UK from the EU, it will reexamine if it wants to remain within the UK; there are rumblings that it would also have lasting negative effect on peace in Norther Island. And there has been one assassination of a young member of the British Parliament.

If I were a “doctor” having just concluded a physical examination of these issues in the U.S., I would be more than merely concerned with its continued well-being. We live in a different world since 9/11 –The terrorist is not uninformed. The terrorist is sophisticated. The terrorist has learned to master the techniques utilized by the most advanced governments. The terrorist has learned to take advantage of the chaos in the Mideast, its flow into Europe and the political and social tensions around the world. The state of the patient’s national security “health” is not merely “not very good”—it’s in jeopardy of further very concerning deterioration. Political hysteria, in some quarters, does not address the problem.

Richard Allan,

The editor