It’s now July 9th, the days are getting much warmer, and I wish I were on the holiday my wife and I had planned. On my desk calendar the notation for today: Leave for London. Instead, I am in my pajama bottoms and a dress shirt top, thinking about the last few months. America was attacked in a park across the street from the White House, and the pandemic virus killed thousands more. We met our grandson, not in our apartment, but in a small neighborhood pocket park. Releasing myself from self –detention and heading home after a short walk, my temperature was taken by the people who guard the front door of my apartment house. I try not to think of “what next”.
Merging one into the other, the pandemic and national protesting has created the impression of a nation in suspended animation. There appeared to be nothing else occupying our attention. There should have been, and there will be a price to be paid.
Being so narrowly focused and preoccupied, our national security concerns are overtaken by others who seek to inflict harm. There are those who wait for and thrive on the chaos of others. And the present chaos has provided a wide window of opportunity for the domestic and international terrorist.
In the UK, Detective Superintendent Matthew Davison, Coordinator at Counter Terrorism Policing, noted with the uncertainty generated by the pandemic that young people are potentially more vulnerable to negative influences and exploitation, as they explore their concerns online. The terrorist/extremist groups troll in the same cyber space, looking to use our apprehension, fear and uncertainty of the pandemic as a vehicle to spread disinformation, fear and to encourage violence. We certainly see an unsettling uptick in violence in the U.S… The Department of Homeland Security uncovered plans that white radically motivated extremists, the followers of Neo-Nazi James Mason, are planning to use the COVID-19 as a bioweapon. This reminds me of the saran gas attack in the Tokyo subway systems many years ago.
There is ample evidence that terrorists are looking at new approaches and techniques, being inspired by the confusion and slaughtering statistics caused by the virus. They also see that professional sports around the globe are grappling with suspending or limiting their playing seasons. The stock market collapsed after being in the bull territory for 11 years, and the WHO declared a global pandemic as the President cut off travel from Europe. And those were the events only until March 11 of this year. All of this has duly been noted by the terrorist abroad and at home as they incorporate COVID “fear” as an additional tool, along with explosive material to be planted in the minds of the civil population. One command from the James Mason Neo Nazi group was quite clever directing its followers to fill their contaminated saliva in spray bottles and use the spray bottle as a weapon in particularly non-white areas.
The Turkistan Islamic Party is a known terrorist group with close ties to Al Qaeda, and it is looking to the pandemic to ravage its enemies. While Most of Hezbollah’s topmost commanders have been diagnosed with the COVID-19 virus, it hasn’t impeded its activities. The New Jersey Governor said violent Islamist extremists have used propaganda about the racial and political tensions in the country “to discredit the United States and motivate residents to accept their violent extremism and encourage supporters to conduct terrorist attacks.” There have been concerted efforts to disrupt police radios and take down websites in Minnesota, Illinois and Texas. Federal intelligence agents warned that law enforcement should be ready for such tactics as protests continue. The Department of Homeland Security issued a separate warning reporting that personal information of police officers nationwide is being leaked online, a practice known as “doxxing.” Last year was, in terms of domestic terrorism, the worst since the Oklahoma City truck bombing of a federal building on April 19, 1995, that killed 168 people, including 19 children– hundreds of others were injured. All this as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and signed by Iran, to contain its nuclear development and arsenal— has been unraveling as the world focuses on COVID-19.
On July 5, front page headline in the New York Times, a story that has been percolating for some weeks that a sergeant major in the German elite Special Forces, was arrested. This member of the selected forces was hiding kilograms of PETN, an explosive which is very similar to nitroglycerin, along with AK47 rifles, silences and thousands of rounds of ammunition along with a trove of stolen material from the German army. Found, also, were reams of SS neo-Nazi material. Clearly, this was an issue that had been present far too long, and too dangerous for Germany to ignore any further both domestically and internationally. The problem has deepened beyond what had been anticipated by the German Republic and more important the far-right has probably infiltrated its national security services.
As I was preparing to end this Commentary, it was reported that essential nuclear centrifuges in Iran’s uranium development program were severely damaged or destroyed in a fire of unknown origin. A number of high ranking Iranian officials have suggested such attacks could have been launched in a cyberspace attack by the United States or Israel. Iran, in today’s global tension, may last out with a cyberspace attack where it faces a level playing field compared to a conventional military conflict.
As noted in my last Commentary, the South China Sea is becoming more dangerous as the U.S. is steadily increasing its naval presence with massive naval war games.
And lastly, words do matter when they attack our national and cultural values as a nation, and are spoken by the President of the United States. On 4 July, the President signaled that as part of his reelection message, it is his intention to rally his base of white supporters with an ominous and dangerous depiction of the recent national protests. He darkly predicted that the country will be attacked by throngs of “angry mobs, sought to unleash a wave of violent crimes in our cities.” The statistics indicate that those “angry mobs” have been embraced by an overwhelming portion of the nation and major corporate enterprises.