The Increased Threat Of The Domestic Terrorist

In the very early 80s, as a professor on sabbatical leave from my law school, I wrote my first major security piece to be published in a White Paper series. Part of the article dealt with moles. Moles– as in persons who come to this country and burry themselves in our social structure, waiting to be told to do something drastic to our wellbeing.

The then dean of the “security world “a commentator was a renowned professor, who pontificated from a university office across the Atlantic Ocean in Scotland.

My article was sent to him for peer review prior to publication, and his short, tart comment was I should stick to writing things I knew about— period. That “period” was a bullet between my eyes. It remained there as I sulked in the corner until one day, to my astonishment; he plagiarized entire paragraphs from my work in a Time Magazine article. My White Paper was then promptly published.

Today, the person terrorizing — as in terrorist— the American public is not a mole. He or she is not slipping in the dark from some rusting freighter just docking in New Orleans. To the contrary he or she is in plain sight in some American town or city and, in some instances, wearing a sign or posting openly on the internet. And they have been deadly. Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people, 19 of them children and over 600 injured. In less than 9 years, domestic terrorists have killed 465 persons with hundreds more injured.

I have just finished reading a lengthy report by Home Land Security, and their comments are not meant for bedtime reflection. Having just published two commentaries for publication, one on our total radar/intelligence gap in the drone and missile attacks on the Saudi oil refineries, and the second, on the use of drones as a means of a terrorist attack on a major city —now to be confronted that my latest fear shoud be from those people on “any” American Avenue who walk around in tee shirts with swastika tattooed on their bulging muscles. My home grown terrorist in my old home town: the domestic terrorist.

In an article written by Ellen Nakashima, she notes that domestic terrorism attacks are as great a threat to the United States today as foreign terrorism, citing to the Department of Homeland Security’s new strategy report. What has changed since 9/11, according to the Department of Homeland security report, is the increasingly complex and evolving threat of terrorism and targeted violence. The diversity of terrorist threats is a broad span from al-Qaeda and the Islamic State and now the ethnically motivated and anti-authority violent extremism—the domestic individual terrorist. All aided by more-sophisticated and easily available weapons such as drones (as I have written in a recent posting).

As was the case sixteen years ago, the Department of Homeland Security report found that foreign terrorist organizations remain intent on striking the “Homeland”. Doing so whether through directed attacks or by inspiring disaffected, susceptible individuals in the United States. At this moment, we are faced with an equally growing threat from domestic actors who are as dangerous as the foreign terrorist. All coming together and motivated in an age of online radicalization and violent extremism. Unlike ISIS and other international terrorist organizations, the domestic terrorist – the lone wolf is more target oriented than ideologically driven — aiming at the individual or group. The lone wolf who is more difficult to identify is obsessed with whom his target represents in his life –the attack on a school or church.

Online extremist communities glorify the attackers, encouraging others to follow their footsteps. The copy-cat. The individual terrorist who upon arrest said: I completed my mission. The internet has made attackers more operationally competent and knowledgeable, as they use the Web to learn, and then perfect, technical information for their attacks. Domestic threat individuals often plan and carry out their acts of violence alone and with little apparent warning, in ways that impede the effectiveness of law enforcement success in investigation and, more important, its interdiction.

We must require more effective means of surveillance and counterintelligence which will, I assume, automatically generate the claims that will lead to the cry that our privacy is being invaded and the eroding of our civil rights; the slippery slope argument. There are trade-offs in life and as the world shrinks, becomes more diversified and individuals become technically savvy. And there are practical and workable methods of checks and balances at our disposal, so that we feel safe and are safe as we respect the individual rights of all persons.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

Did You Know — The Shadow War is Real

I was born in 1931. Then, a family radio was generally housed in a substantial piece of “furniture”. Ours was no different. It had doors, sat on legs and perched proudly in the living room. A Stromberg Carlson. For some reason we also had a smaller one that sat in our large dinette next to the kitchen.

I was eight and a half years old in September 1, 1939, and I heard that Hitler invaded Poland, but it made no great impression on me. Japan and China had long been at war, we saw that on the News Reels. That conflict was almost totally off my radar screen but for the group of Americans who flew fighter planes on behalf of the Chinese and were called the Flying Tigers. The nose sections of their planes were painted to resemble the teeth of shark. That hooked me.

From September 1939, the entire world rushed into what became a nearly 6 year war, and you had to be catatonic to be unaware that something was amiss even for an eight year old. Early on my world was not affected but for the refugee kids that I found myself having lunch with, under the watchful eye of my grandmother, in our kitchen during the school week.

The world was slow — much too slow — in responding to Hitler in Europe. And that was a flaw that would ultimately bring about the death of seven million people. Then I began to hear, as I headed off to sleep, the spirited conversations that seemed to always crop up over the weekend, when droves of my parent’s friends and relatives would descend into our living room to talk of the “phony war”. At the time the word and its meaning made no sense to me. The world in Europe was at war –there were thunderous declarations of war—but there were no overt hostilities. The French called this period the Drôle de guerre; and the Germans name was Sitzkrieg. . It was an eight-month period from the time war was declared by the UK and France against Germany on September 3rd 1939 to when Germany launched its invasion France and the Low Countries on May 10th 1940. During the phony war The Allies had created elaborate plans for numerous large-scale operations designed to end the German advancements, but it was too little and much too late. Thus, the phony war.

To me, none of this became frightening until the age of ten and half on December 7th and Pearl Harbor, and the induction into the army of an uncle I adored. The talk of a “phony war”, ceased and I never heard that expression again. There was talk of collaboration with Germany that involved not only the Baltic States, Poland, Hungry, Russia and, unthinkable to me, France. It wasn’t until last week that I had read of a “shadow war” for the first time and I was stumped again. This time, 79 years later, I had the internet and instant access to information but have come up with no hard definition. An example is the best method to describe this event.

On September 13th 2019, twenty some odd drones carrying deadly missals carried out a sophisticated, simultaneous attack on Saudi oil refineries and created an international disaster. (Please, see my previous blog and the use of drones in simultaneous attacks within New York City.) Almost immediately, the President of the United States announced that this nation (although not attacked) was “locked and loaded” and presumably ready to attack Iran. And on Monday, September 16th, the President said that the U.S. is prepared to respond to the attacks in Saudi Arabia. Have we become a surrogate for Saudis in an attack not aimed at the U.S? This sent me scurrying to one of my copies of our Constitution.

Article I, sometimes referred to as the War Power clause– vest in the Congress, not the President, the power to declare war. Toward the late afternoon of the 16th of September, although not attacked and with no consultation or consent of the Congress, this nation was aiming our military resources to trounce another nation who didn’t attack us. A commentator sarcastically wondered if the Saudis were anointed with the power conferred by Article I and not our own Congress. According to a report by MEMRI, the attack on the Saudi oil facilities “was an implementation of Iran’s explicit threats in recent months to target Saudi Arabia and the U.S. global economy”. It is also claimed by the Houthi rebels in Yemen, sponsored by Iran, that they are the actors who launched the drone attack against the oil refineries in Saudi Arabia, while the WSJ, on the 17th,  headlined that the “Saudi Oil Attack Originated In Iran, U.S. Says”. This is a perfect example of a—“shadow war”. Where one nation stands in– a surrogate for another — to further their common goals.

In the bitter conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the “shadow” combatants would be the United States on one side (armed and attacking on behalf of the Saudis) and the Houthi rebels in Yemen (armed and supported by Iran) attacking the Saudis on behalf of Iran.

It’s obvious that Iran has missiles, it has a nuclear program on the front pages of the world’s headlines, it has tanks with which it threatens the world, and it has exported terrorist militias. Iran has spent $500 billion on its missile and nuclear armament programs. It has spent $350 billion on the regional wars in the Middle East–almost one trillion dollars, “but its economy is collapsing and withering. Its economy is stagnant, yet it continues to threaten the world.” It has Russia at its back. What is also so very disturbing is that the successful Iranian attack represented an “American technological failure”, as not a single cruise missile or drone was stopped or destroyed.

Although until now there are no signs that Russia would decisively side in the favor of Tehran, if Iran’s confrontation with Saudi Arabia would intensifies — meaning something more that economic support. And this weekend that conflict did intensify with the potential of a “shadow war” with the U.S. stepping in for Saudis. Our Secretary of State said that Iran’s attack at Saudi Arabia was an attack of war. Against whom? Will Russia find it necessary to step in for Iran?

I will be sitting by my Stromberg Carlson

P.S.   As I was about to type my name and post this blog, another thought came to mind. I had no clear recollection of my geography and of the borders separating Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran, so I went to the maps of the area. If the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities came from the Houthi militia in Yemen, the failure to intercept the missiles and drones, notwithstanding the millions spent by Saudi’s in defense, would be very upsetting. If, on the other hand, the attacks originated in Iran that would verge on a shattering statement of the U.S. capabilities in the Arabian Sea. Let me explain: 1. Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen is probably over 500 miles from where the attack on the oil refineries took place. Depending upon the size of the drone, that might well be beyond their range of operation. 2. If on the other hand they were launched from Iran and flew directly across the Arabian Sea, they would have had to fly, as some point, literally through the spread of the radar network of U.S. Navy. If that were true it would be calamitous for our operational ability to not only defend our own naval ships in case of an attack but to fulfill its overall operational mission. There is a third possibility. According to the NYT, the Saudis have recovered pristine circuit boards from one of the cruise missiles (picture of the missile published on the 19th September) that fell short of its target. The analysis now runs that the missiles were launched from Iran and programmed to fly around the northern Persian Gulf through Iraqi air space instead of directly across the Gulf, thus avoiding the U.S. Naval radar. In any of these scenarios, the question now for President Trump, in what has truly become his growing political separation from potential allies growing, will he, like President George W Bush heading into Iraq 16 years ago, find he is largely alone in any retaliating strike or serious sanctions. Or will his hesitation to act embolden Tehran?

Richard Allan,
The Editor

Why?

I had just posted my latest blog about the lethal use of drones when a very dear friend, whom I have known since grade school, asked me why I couldn’t write something uplifting. He said I have done so much international traveling why not write about that. Stop providing us with the unsettling side of national security. Stop telling us that we may have to move back to the cave.

For the past 60 plus years I have seen a good part of the world, seen different cultures and tried to leave my comfort space to be able to be embraced by new or different ways to live.

I have walked a beach where the vast majority of the bathers were people recuperating from sex change operations. I have, on two very separate occasions, walked the streets of abject, unimaginable poverty and deformity. I have been a guest in the home of a person whose sole aim was to buy all the land surrounding his home so he could not see an alien chimney or driveway. I have seen and eaten food that cannot be described with my vocabulary.

Obviously, my friend doesn’t want me to write about most of this. He wants me to describe and take him happily with my words to those places of magical dreams— swimming off Bora Bora, sitting in a palatial apartment overlooking the Seine or the Louvre, drinking high tea at the Dorchester, pumping ice cold water from a well high on a mountain overlooking Lake George.

Last week, during a moment of “what I’d like to do at 88 years of age “other than think about getting up on the right side of the grass — is to fly a helicopter —be an analyst at the CIA, have a late night radio program in a small town in New England, be a piano player in a small pub anywhere. If given enough time, the list would go on. But as my father would say— “take the needle out of your arm“or my wife always with the wakeup words: “reality” and “responsibility”.

We’ve often talked that we worry not about our adult children but about the world of our “four boys” –our grandsons, who are growing older and taller and wiser.

I’ve known that my blog/ commentary ranks in the 70s of the 101 Intelligence sites, but I have no idea who really reads my comments other than the few friends and relatives who may comment weeks after publication. My hope is that — in my response to my old friend — there might be someone who reads the commentary who can change things, who can make a difference, who might be moved, however slightly, by my rantings and would be willing and able to take the next important step—so we no longer have to “worry “about the world of our grandchildren.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

We’ve Taken Our Eye Off the Prime Enemy

President Trump happens to be the loudest person on the planet earth and sucks the oxygen out all the others who are attempting to speak. Sound does not travel in a vacuum. And we have provided him a platform. We instinctively follow the noise and a loud trombone. We turn our heads to the sound of the drum. Tonight, I hear about yet another shooting and, not quite buried in the news, the gas lighting by a public official who has not been playing it straight with the American public— think of the attorney general. I decided I need to take a quiet break. A very dear boyhood friend asked me this afternoon: “can’t you write something funny”? And we agreed that we no longer worry about our children but fear what we are creating for our grandchildren. A dangerous, hostile environment that starts in the street and rises to the highest offices of government. And not just in the United States. America has always been “the” leader in the world, and the rest of the world is now following our steps in hate and domestic violence. “Beat them up and I’ll pay your legal fees”. Not some mob boss, but the president of the United States. The President is using trade wars and tariffs as a wrecking ball. The American farmer is living on life support with your tax dollars. The cost to you is 16 billions of dollars on top of 12 billion last year. And, however you might want to spin the facts, there is no such thing as clean coal. And you can watch each day as the stock market flirts with going lower and lower, as 40 percent of all Americans would struggle to meet a $400 emergence expense. That’s untenable, unacceptable and the list goes on. And as the facts get lost in the loud noise, our national security has been placed in jeopardy by our failure to appropriately focus our military ingenuity and resources. China built that Great Wall to keep out the invaders; presently it is building an even greater “wall” to embrace however far it can reach outward. China’s naval fleet is growing faster than any other fleet in the world, and after decades upon decades they are in the throes of controlling all the coastal water far from their shores. We presently sail thru the South China Sea at our peril. But that is only the tip of the rolling wave. Decade after decade we have been in one war after another with one eye on the large red star in Moscow and the other unfocused, failing to see the Chinese as a potential military threat much greater than the Russian dictator. They have changed the balance of power in the Pacific in two decades and are in the process of making our all but invincible aircraft carrier fleet obsolete and impotent. To compound our lack of focus, the Trump Administration has pulled money from ballistic missile surveillance programs to fund the Great Trump Wall on a desert stretch of barren land. While our navy is directed to conduct “freedoms of navigation” operations, in claimed territorial water, for the purposes of challenging what is clearly Chinese excessive maritime claims of control and dominion. The U.S. Department of Defense released an annual assessment of Chinese military power. That report revealed in stark terms that the Beijing’s artificially constructed islands (I have written about this in the past) were subject to considerable militarization throughout 2018. Beijing placed “anti-ship cruise missiles and long-range surface-to-air missiles on outposts in the Spratly Islands, violating a 2015 pledge by Chinese President Xi Jinping that ‘China does not intend to pursue militarization’ of the Spratly Islands . The area is already militarized and part of the total Chinese aggressive military movement. The traffic and trade war with China however controlling they are of our nation’s headlines and in turn our pocket books, the economic volatility will get worse and might end in all probability to erase all predicted financial gains this year. And we can look forward to decades of toe to toe world competition, with China our most powerful economic competitor. There will be a long term economic war of attrition and conflict between the two nations. Before I focus on the enlarging security challenges by the Chinese, it is obvious that most eyes are on Iran, underlined by the president’s constant references to an armed conflict with that nation. To put that in perspective: Although it is true that Iran has an elite naval force, it is of no consequence to the American navel capacity in that area of the world—the Straits of Hormus– a naval choke point between the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea. The Straits are a vital shipping line that Iran alleges it controls. If one would compare that to the dangers of conflict with China, Iran is mosquito that will disintegrate before American’s naval and air power. I don’t say that in a flippant manner, and I do not mean to minimize its importance, but it is imperative to understand the enormous difference in problems present and future that each of these nations present. With regard to China: the U.S. Navy’s Seventh Fleet has sailed thru the South China Sea to challenge China’s excessive maritime claims. China promptly responded that this aggressive act was provocative and an infringement on Chinese sovereignty and dangerous to international peace. This naval exercise followed a recent transit by two other warships through international waters in the Taiwan Straits. With outstanding reporting and analysis by Reuters excellent investigation team and Benjamin Kang Lim, we have been well schooled on how powerful China has become and its military ability to forcefully confront the U.S. military dominance. China’s biggest state-owned missile maker, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation Ltd, screened missiles that are specifically designed to attack aircraft carriers which have been, since the demise of the massive battleship, the mainstay of our military dominance. If you have a moment look at the size and shape of the latest aircraft carrier, you can only marvel on not only its size but its capacity to bring enormous destruction to the enemy far from its decks. “Across almost all categories (of missiles manufactured by the Chinese) of these weapons, based on land, loaded on strike aircraft or deployed on warships and submarines, China’s missiles rival or outperform their counterparts in the armories of the United States …” Beijing, has always been unrestrained by the INF Treaty (which the U.S. just cancelled unilaterally with Russia), in its deploying them in massive numbers. And their range of operation is very impressive: between 500 and 5,500 kilometers (3,418 miles). This includes the so-called carrier killer missiles like the DF-21D, which can target aircraft carriers and other warships underway at sea at a range of up to 1,500 kilometers, according to Chinese and Western military analysts. If these missiles are as effective as described, and it would be wrong to discount this information, they would give China a destructive capability no other military can boast. China’s advantage in this class of missiles is likely to remain for the foreseeable future, despite U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision in February to withdraw from the treaty in six months.” China is also making rapid strides in developing so-called hypersonic missiles, which can maneuver sharply and travel at five times the speed of sound. Presently, the United States has no defenses against a missile like this, according to Pentagon officials, and this positions China as having the most advanced defensive ballistic missile system in the world. Without sabre rattling, America is at a sever disadvantage to the power in the East. But it is important to note I have used the word “defensive” in terms of China’s power. The United States has 11 aircraft carriers, China just two. China is not looking to proactively engage the U.S. in a naval battle, but they are more than prepared to defeat the U.S. if it is the aggressor threating its claimed territorial waters. In addition, China has the capacity to push back its military as it looks to expand its influence over vast areas of the South China Sea, by quietly ramping up its naval and air incursions around Taiwan and pushing its operations into territory it disputes with Japan and others in the vast East China Sea. Two challengers have been posed to me: The first is China’s weapons have yet to face the reality of battle. China, I am reminded, has not fought a war since invading Vietnam in 1979. We, the U.S., have done nothing but test our hardware in war after war over the past two decades. What makes me so sure that China is our number one capable military adversary? And second, “if China were so very far advance in the military spectrum of international military jostling and has no fear of U.S. intervention wouldn’t they ‘just liberate’ Taiwan”. If in fact the description of China’s extraordinary missile ability is only 90 percent accurate, any aggressive moves by a multi U.S. Carrier fleet into or near the South China Sea in a real or perceived aggressive stance will invite the possibility of massive destruction. Are we willing to test China’s ability or resolve in this reckless way? Taiwan is and will never be a threat to China. It is an ongoing annoyance, a political embarrassment but nothing more. To “liberate” Taiwan would require a military operation and become a quagmire and an internationally diplomatic nightmare for China. We tend to think of China not as a nation, as we view England, France or Russia but as individuals who we have seen through the decades in our movies, televisions and characters in sitcoms. How many in the U.S. see the individual Chinese person. May I say on the one hand our responses boarder on racism while marveling at their mathematical genius? China is looking to replace the United States as the world leader and we do an immense disservice to our grandchildren if we ignore facts, rely upon stereo type, and market our aggressive military posture. Richard Allan The Editor

The Drone Overhead

When my son was very young, I bought him a model plane with a small kerosene motor. The plane was attached to a very long lanyard to control and manage the plane’s flight. One Sunday morning we traveled into Brooklyn to an empty schoolyard started the engine that was loud enough to wake the dead and flew the plane for no more than three minutes. We were scared to death we might lose control of this non deadly “thing”. Today we have drones and they are lethal.

If you’re so inclined you can buy one of the sophisticated toys drones on Amazon. The cheapest is $29.99, or if you’re really hooked, there is one for over $10,000. It’s the non-toys that concern me and should you. The United States’ drone (the “Reaper MQ9) shot down by Iran cost the taxpayers between 123 to 139 million dollars. A second U.S. drone was shot down since June by the Iranian allied Houthis. These are very expensive losses. A smaller one from Iran was destroyed by a specially trained group of our navy in the straits of Hormuz.

We all know that drones are not flown with a pilot in a cockpit (thus called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), but from, in many cases, thousands of miles away. They range in shape and size, some with enormous wing spans and can cost in excess of 4 million dollars for just one! They can carry multiple sets of bombs and “Hellfire” missiles (whose cost depending upon the model is in excess of 99,600 dollars for each one). They have multi-mission capability, multi-target precision-strike ability, and can be launched from multiple air, sea, and ground platforms. Some drones also have the capability to loiter overhead for 14 hours when reaching their target. I attempted to count the number the different types of military drones and stopped at ten. All American. What country doesn’t have a military drone? “There are at least 150 different military drone systems being used by 48 countries.” Drones range in size from a hummingbird size “Black Hornet to the massive 15,000-pound RQ-4 “Global Hawk. “There are at least 28 countries with armed drones in their military, and we know at least nine (the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan) have actually used them in operations. Six of those countries used an armed drone in just the last two years.” By consensus, the cutting-edge current UAV’s are flown by U.S., Israel and China. Most information regarding their operational capacity and components fall under the heading of “military secrets” and, thus, unknown.

To bring down an enemy drone, one of two procedures are generally followed: Jamming and Spoofing. Jamming is utilizing a transmission blocking signal to disrupt communications between a drone and the pilot and to take over control of the drone’s activity.  Spoofing a drone refers to a third party taking over the drone remotely by impersonating the remote control. It involves emitting a signal that is supposed to confuse the drone, so that it thinks the spoofing signal is legitimate (when in fact it isn’t).

What is clear is that our security (I am not referring to our privacy having a drone monitoring our backyard activity) is in jeopardy at any moment. I am not paranoid. A little less than one year ago, Christopher Wray, the FBI Director, said the risk of drone attack against the United States is “steadily increasing” due to their wide spread availability and ease of use”.

For 1500 dollars you can rig your civilian drone with a flame thrower. What I just learned, to my naive thinking, is that flame throwers are legal in a good part of this country and have the ability of throwing a 25 foot flame. Why would anyone want one other than to do damage.

The EU Security Commissioner noted that drones are” becoming more and more powerful and smarter,”  and warned within the last weeks, “which makes them more and more attractive for legitimate use, but also for hostile acts.”

This is not new news—and I have warned about that threat especially in crowded areas such as New York.  “And the real fear from a drone attack is that a chemical or biological payload could be delivered into the midst of a crowded space with relative ease.” According to Germany’s de Welt, France’s Anti-Terrorism Unit (UCLAT) issued a “secret report” for the country’s Special Committee on Terrorism. The report warned of “a possible terrorist attack on a football stadium by means of an unmanned drone that could be equipped with biological warfare agents.”

I have reported, before, on terrorist use of drones in the Middle East to mount attacks—countless Islamic State (ISIS) raids on the Iraqi frontline, recent attacks on Saudi targets and the Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad sharing video online of an attempted drone attack on Israeli tanks on the Gaza border. I said at the time, that security agencies focus on the possibility that a dangerous payload would target the West. Terrorist-drone threat has now become the topic of interest for those who try to anticipate the future methods of a terrorist attack. “Last year, at a closed meeting with one of the U.K.’s leading soccer clubs, the stadium’s security director told the room ‘there are two things that terrify us: a large vehicle driven at speed at thousands of fans as they head home after a match, and, of course, drones.’” The meeting room overlooked a stadium where “it is estimated that 50,000 plus people gather 25 plus times a year”. I remember, many years ago, reading a novel whose center theme was a dirigible attack on a football stadium during the Super Bowl.

FBI Director, Christopher Wray, told a Senate Homeland Security Committee last year that the terrorist threat from drones is escalating—such devices “will be used to facilitate an attack in the U.S. against a vulnerable target, such as a mass gathering”. A year earlier Wray had told senators that “we do know that terrorist organizations have an interest in using drones. We’ve seen that overseas already…the expectation is that it’s coming here. They are relatively easy to acquire, relatively easy to operate, and quite difficult to disrupt and to monitor.”

Islamic State propaganda posters have already depicted a drone attack on the Eiffel Tower in Paris and New York City. Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, has warned that the threat from drones “is outpacing our ability to respond…terrorist groups such as the Islamic State aspire to use armed drones against our homeland and U.S. interests overseas.”

Remember, ISIS operatives have extensive drone experience from the Middle East. A U.K. police counter-terror spokesperson commenting on drones: they “have been used on the battlefield and what’s used on the battlefield will eventually be adapted to be used on domestic soil.”

The relative ease — availability and execution — to support a drone attack alarms security agencies worldwide. What is clear is that the amount of explosives or missiles that can be carried by obtainable drones are not unlimited. But there is one explosive (as I will discuss further in this Commentary) that weights little in comparison to size and weight of conventional missiles, and has immense destructive power upon impact.

Less than five months after the alleged military defeat of ISIS in Syria, a report from the UN stated that the leaders of that terrorist group could launch international terrorist attacks. It was claimed that ISIS has reconnaissance potential targets and has positioned explosives. And, in today’s NYT (8.20.19) front page headline: “After ‘Defeat’ ISIS Rekindles In Middle East”—“Killing and Recruiting as U.S, Draws Down.” All this notwithstanding President Trump’s claim that the group has all but been eliminated as Al Qaeda sits quietly and safely in Afghanistan protecting the Talban leadership, and we are planning to begin to remove our troops on a public announced timetable that he derided many years ago. But they are not the only ones we should fear. Domestic attacks are on the rise and more deadly. Presently, domestic terrorists are not treated under a terrorism statute but under the general criminal law statutes.

New York has been called a lot of different names. Some of them pejorative, some anti-Semitic, some racist. New York was a different symbol for those who decided to strike us on 9/11.

If you want to hurt us you can. And if there are enough of you, you can want to destroy us. And you, in this world of information gathering at your fingertips, and with not too much of a stretch of one’s imagination, your actions can be devastating.

Pick a stretch of industrial land in Queens were one can find an ample number of empty factory warehouses. Move the equipment you will need into your empty building after the workers in the nearby occupied factories have left for the evening but before it gets too dark. Don’t attract attention. Assemble the drones you have purchased legally on Amazon, and attach the maximum weight of an explosive that each drone can carry. You might want to use Semtex, also known as “plastic”, and then wait. I have seen Semtex at work and was overwhelmed at the amount of damage a small amount can accomplish.

You want a clear day with the week following rainless and bright. Then at eleven o’clock in the morning when all the inborn traffic to Manhattan had peaked — Drone A and B will be flown the short distance into the base of the air control tower of JFK and LaGuardia airports. Drone C and D will be flown into the western tower of the Manhattan Bridge spanning the width of the bridge and anchoring its suspension cables. The Bridge carries 450,000 people each day. About 80,000 by automobile and the balance by four of the City’s subway lines from and to Brooklyn and Manhattan. Last, Drone D will be flown into the massive complex of the new, crowd gathering, Hudson Yards. Drone C and D will arrive at the bridge 10 minutes after Drone A and B struck JFK and LaGuardia airports. And Drone E will arrive 20 minutes later at Hudson Yards. Each attack 10 minutes apart.

The massive JFK and LaGuardia airports will be closed and disrupt domestic and international air traffic. The destruction and loss of a major element of the City’s subway and vehicular transportation venues systems would cause havoc, and the debris from the collapsed portion of the bridge would end what economic use there is of the East River. Hudson Yards would remind us of 9/11.

Aside from the lives lost— not nearly the number murdered in the 9/11 attack, and faced with major transportation systems incapacitated or crippled, the fear and panic created, spread and percolated would overwhelm and might eventually destroy the heartbeat of the City.

Some drones are toys; some in the future will deliver your Walmart package to your front porch and some……

Richard Allan,
The Editor

National Security: Where Is the Line Drawn?

America has been at war for a very long time. From the end of WWI to the “great” depression, when I was born, Europe and the U.S. celebrated. The 1929 depression was deep, and the reveling ended. My family was hit, and it hurt for a very long time.

It is hard to ignore that WWII and the effort to defeat Hitler was a significant event that brought jobs back to this country. It was also a time that we, in Brooklyn, had air raid wardens who wore helmets, and we participated in periodic air raid drills.  One very dark night, the air raid sirens went off when an unidentified plane flew over the City. This seemed like the real thing, so we took cover in our back hallway as my mother sat with my bed-bound grandmother.

We opened the widows to prevent shattering in the event a bomb landed near us. And to support our National Security, we bought war bonds as savings and gave them as gifts. There were war bond rallies headlined by celebrities to support the war effort –our national security.

When the hostilities ended, another war began. The Cold War.  And sitting here tonight, I don’t remember a time that “national security” was not an issue: from the evil of Joe McCarthy to the misguided Bay of Pigs Invasion, and the invasions in the mid-East or this country after 9/11.

I am not alone in tossing about the term “nation security”. It’s tossed as one might toss a handful of confetti. In 1979-1980 there were a very small handful of us writing about terrorism and national security. Today, it is a thriving cottage industry. Today, everyone is a national security expert. That claim has been parsed into small fragments for “in-depth” analysis by television appearances, in print and with a large focus by the federal government.

The cold war ended with the war in Korea. Korea is a country that most of us know little if anything about, and yet, it is, today, one of the centers of our muddled national security history. I know your first response to what I have written is that I have mischaracterized the name of that country. Prior to WWII and since the mid-1800s Korea was “owned” by the imperial kingdom of Japan. At the end of the war the uneasy allies, U.S. and Russia, had to decide the fate of the Japanese empire, including Korea. The fact that Russia came very late to the war in the Pacific, in order to have its finger in the political pie in that part of the world, a semiliterate state department genius decided the fate of Korea by cutting it in half. The northern portion went to Russian domination and the southern half, demarcated by the infamous 38th parallel, was ceded to the U.S. domination.   All this, notwithstanding before the end of WWII both the United States and the UK thought of Russia and Communism as a world threat and an attack on Western national security.

On June 25, 1950, the cold war ended and hostilities began with the Korean War. Some 75,000 soldiers from the North Korean People’s Army poured across the 38th parallel. One month later America entered the war on behalf of the pro-Western Republic of Korea (South Korea).  The motivating force behind our entering hostiles on the side of South Korea was the concern that this was a war against the military and political forces of international communism—thus our national security. Three of my closest friends served in the army. One of them described the horrific retreat his battle group suffered.  Meanwhile, American officials began to be concerned about the possibility of a widening conflict, and three years after hostilities began, the U.S. anxiously attempted to fashion some sort of armistice with the North Koreans. In the end, nothing was accomplished. The boundary between North and South Korea remained the 38 parallel.  In all, some 5 million soldiers and civilians lost their lives during the war. Forty thousand U.S. troops died and the same number were injured. We gained nothing. The Korean peninsula is still divided today at the same 38th Parallel. Our real national security issues with regard to Korea did not start with the end of WWII, but began in the 1980s with their  investment in nuclear weapons and their delivery. We did nothing, and so, today, we are behind the curve.

During the 1st century AD, the Chinese attempted to integrate the people of Vietnam.  Ultimately, the Chinese interference was unacceptable to the French colonists. In 1946, the First Indochina War began, as France sought to impose, once again, its colonial rule. The French fared badly and in 1954 suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Ho Chi Minh at Dien Bien Phu.

Similar to the attempts to settle political issues in Korea, Vietnam was subsequently divided at the 17 parallel with the promise of elections in the South. North Vietnam, with its capital Hanoi, was ruled by a Communist regime under Ho Chi Minh. South Vietnam, with its capital Saigon, was ruled by a pro-Western strongman and corrupt leader, Ngo Dinh Diem. In 1955, Diem refused to hold the promised elections and, backed by Hanoi in the north, Viet Minh forces began armed attacks in the south. In 1964, the Americans had an advisory position helping the South. After a contrived incident in the Gulf of Tonkin, LBJ used the event to start the Second Indochina War – known to the Vietnamese as the American War, which would ravage the country for almost 20 years.

In a misconceived attempt to contain Communism, the United States first sent advisers to assist the southern regime in 1960. By 1965, the air force had started regular bombing of the north, and U.S. combat troops had landed at Danang . By 1968, US troop strength had risen to more than half-a-million men, but that year’s offensive by the Viet Cong sapped Washington’s will to fight. In 1973 the last US combat troops were withdrawn. Within two years, in April 1975, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) had captured Saigon, and Vietnam was once again unified.

We were looking, once again, to contain the threat of world domination by communism. What was accomplished by our involvement to “allegedly “protect our national security? Nothing. It ravaged our nation in a long, costly war that did nothing for our national security. Viet Nam is a communist nation that does not represent a threat to the well-being of this nation. In fact, a massive factory in Hanoi that once produced uniforms for the Vietnamese Army now produces uniforms for our Olympic teams.

Dick Cheney, (Bush’s vice president) who some have called an evil person, wanted a war, and he found one after 9/11.  We have been embroiled in the mid-east since. Why? The claim of national security then extended to our national security “interests” and, still further, to a “national emergency.”

What is the definition of national security? There is none. Initially, it referred to our military defenses. It now encompasses all that is in the imagination of a presiding government, including the President’s blatant attempt to bypass Congress and create a “national emergency” to send arms to Saudi Arabia. And just as I was about to put the final period to this commentary, after my copy editor corrected my punctuation and spelling, an article hit the front page of the Sunday New York Times and then the Wall Street Journal, describing the new Cold War. The enemy is now China, whose investments in the U.S. have dropped 90% since the onset of the Trump administration and the trade war. But that is not the issue.  “Fear of China has spread across the government from the White House to Congress to federal agencies…where Beijing’s rise is unquestioningly viewed as an economic and national security threat and the defining challenge of the 21stcentury.”  Trump’s hawk-in-chief Bannon commenting on China’s building a war machine and aggressive economic stance said: “one side is going to win, and one side is going to lose.” “These are two systems that are incompatible.” Then one day later, in the WSJ, it was revealed that China has signed a secret deal with Cambodia (which Cambodia called “fake news”) permitting its armed forces to use a Cambodian navy base, as China looks to boast it military power. Remember, not only do we have bases all over the world, imbedded to protect our national security and extend our national interests, but, just revealed the U.S. has 150 H-bombs in Europe and Turkey. They are deployed at bases in Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey.

A rational definition of national security is as close as one can get: it is a nation’s ability to meet multiple threats to the well-being of its people and to survive as a nation-state at any given time. This definition does not factor in Clinton’s involvement in Bosnia, which clearly was not in any sense a challenge to our national security, nor Trump’ bombing Syria after its dictator’s use of lethal gas. “National security”,” interest”, “emergency” have become catch phrases that are frightening. Their indiscriminate use by an unscrupulous politician is untenable. We have created an undisciplined prescription for disastrous consequences — to the present and the future well-being of the nation.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

The Bad Seed(s) – Elections and Repression

Turkey and Poland are two geographically unrelated countries. The roots of their history and the present state of their governments are unrelated. They do form an emerging political mosaic that allows us to see into the future: an unhealthy nationalistic surge, and a domestic repressive political climate, and a “me” mentality. These conditions have created a danger to the dynamics of any form of democracy not only for the citizens of these two countries but will be the seeds seized upon to impact their neighbors and ultimately our own national security interests.   We see that moment in the rhetoric of our President and the acts of his ministers.

In Poland, during and after the German occupation in WWII, neither the people nor its government were anything but hostile toward minority groups. Some thought that when Lech Walesa came to govern in 1980, the country was on a path to democratic reform. Democracy ebbed and flowed during which the Country became a member of the EU and NATO. In 2015, the picture changed. As in the United States presidential election, Poland moved hard right and, in doing so, turned the Polish democracy on its head. In its latest move, the ruling party –Law and Justice—did the unthinkable in a democracy and ended the Country’s judicial independence. In a decisive move, the governing political party purged an overwhelming number of judges. It is tantamount to the Republican party dismissing those Justices on the Supreme Court they found to be counterproductive to their platform. In Poland, Judges who were not considered loyal to the ruling party were dismissed and replaced by those who were. Sound familiar?

Turkey, Istanbul, was once a beautiful country and city to visit. A country that was known for its marvelous array of spices, food and antiquities of wonder. A country that has moved from a democratic state to what could be defined as a dictatorship wrapped in a democratic election. Notwithstanding its present political stance and leadership, it is embraced by the United States because of geopolitical necessity in a troubled area of the world.

When we visited Turkey, it was a democratic nation-state. Today it is not. How did the country move so dramatically away from its democratic roots? What prompted its people to change their chant from democracy to embracing a man who was permitted to destroy an open, independent press? Turkey became a hard right Muslim nation and experienced a childish, attempted coup that failed. 150 members of the press have been arrested, and the working conditions of the press were best described in a report from Reporters Without Borders. Just three years ago, it ranked Turkey 149 out of 189 countries that support a free press. That ranking placed Turkey between two countries– one a failed state (Congo) and the other where journalists are regularly utilized as targets for murder (Mexico).

Turkey is a country where judges are indiscriminately rounded up and arrested by the Government. Where thousands of high ranking officers in the military either escape to another country or are arrested for alleged treason. Where thousands of police officers and hundreds of academicians were fired from their jobs with their passports confiscated. The Guardian has reported that the Turkish President has dismissed thousands of state employees under a so-called emergency decree for alleged connection to terrorist groups. At last count 130,000 people have been dismissed from their jobs with their passports confiscated during this period

The Associated Press has reported, as I am writing this commentary, that the state of emergency declared by newly reelected President Erdogen, after the failed coup and that has been in place for two years will be lifted. The emergency rule allowed the government to bypass parliament on all key issues. The latest nail in the democratic life of the people of Turkey is that the so-called “democratically” elected president’s role will be transferred to that of an “executive presidency” (no checks and balance in his authoritative control).There will be a completely revamped charter providing him greater authority as its president. In his latest decree the President has abolished the office of the Prime Minister. He will draft the budget and, as noted, chose the judges and have the ability to dismiss the Parliament at will. All this occurring as 12 non-governmental organizations, three newspapers and one television station were shuttered.

Despite the government’s decision to lift the state of emergency, a close look at the proposed statutes that will replace the emergency decree does nothing more than maintain the repressive status quo. The new laws would still allow the government to detain its citizens for an extended period without a criminal charge. The pending legislation would also give the government the power to stop people from leaving the country or traveling freely within the country. And to tighten control further, if you were “considered” a threat, you could be removed from your state job with your passport confiscated. To tighten control even further, if a person’s rights were revoked, the government had the right to penalize one’s spouse.

Clearly, the history in Poland, in the specifics, differs from that in Turkey. That is not the point. The point is that individual rights in both countries are being circumscribed by an elected government. The individual citizen, in both of these countries, has forfeited their rights through an election process. A process that has been cherished for generations, and that has been the method by which we elect a person who will respect and protect all of us. Where their story converges, is the lack of civility and spear point of those running for elected office. The aim of their political campaigns was to target the lowest common denominator—the masses. To demine and ridicule those least able to defend themselves. To promise anything and all things, rational or not for one voting group after another. Civility and truth was not a hallmark, and when a candidate’s approach was lacking in civility and honesty, it became permission for all to act similarly. The elections in Poland and Turkey did not become a debate about values but one of intolerance, bigotry, self-interest and in the end dishonesty. The mob won.

It matters not which way I turn, the sign posted is held high: “Me First”. What does that mean and at what cost to each of us? Why has the vocal majority become so angry and in turn vengeful? Why do we tell people— “go back to where you came from” — based on their language or color of their skin, their tribe or religion? All of us, at one time or another, other than the American Indian (and even they did not somehow materialize out of nowhere on this continent), came from “somewhere” else. Seventy years ago, my father told a black person, who was ill and could not afford to consult with a private physician, that a good alternative would be a doctor in an emergency room of a very fine nearby hospital. He was admonished: “I aint gonna sit on any bench next to a spick!” Why the anger and why the disgust? And that was seventy years ago.

The mob language today is often accompanied by threats of violence. What little civility and tolerance that exits is mocked and ridiculed by our leaders and chanted by the crowd turned mob. We are discarding and crippling the usual barriers that were a natural support of civility. The barriers that held us within permissible conduct are ignored by those in power and that conduct filters down to those who feel empowered, or believing they have been rejected or ignored thru the decades, and its “now their turn”. The crowd then becomes the catalyst for greater unacceptable behavior by the leaders. So, in Poland, the latest attack is against an independent judiciary, and it is destroyed; in Turkey, unless you are likeminded your rights and freedom are evaporated.

One is hard pressed to look at the international scene and find a country that is welcoming without conditions. And as we turn inward and view our own political system, there are those among us who today, and this is difficult to comprehend, openly support the candidacy of an avowed Nazi, a holocaust denier and a white nationalist, each running for elected office under the banner of an American flag and a national political party. How did that happen?

Two countries, Poland and Turkey, two different histories and cultures, and yet the more they are different, the more they seem the same, and the deadly infection they breed is spreading. And it is here.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

Hiding in Plain Sight

In the very early spring of 1988, I would hop a train to take me from my home in NoHo to the second stop in Brooklyn. Then, a short walk to Brooklyn Law School. Then three events changed the way I travel within the City.

One morning, as the subway moved slowly toward Brooklyn, the smell of smoke begin to permeate the car I was in. The train stopped. I was in the last car. Suddenly those in the forward cars started to move en mass to the rear where I was seated. The crowd attempted to open the back door to escape onto the tracks and away from the increasing presence of smoke. The door was locked. Some people tried to close the cars window others; wanted them open, and a fight broke out in the panic. Moments later the fire department arrived and led us to a catwalk then up a steep ladder to emerge in Foley Square. Sometime later, on the same subway line, a fire broke out in the subway tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn. The train stopped, my heart skipped and the train moved forward at a snail’s pace thru the fire to the first stop in Brooklyn.

In early spring of 1990, with all this in mind, and unrelated to these incidents, I met with the head of the New York City transit authority. During the meeting, I learned that there is a huge ventilation system built into our subway system to keep the air flowing within all our underground tunnels.  I immediately thought of the saran gas subway attack years before in Tokyo. And I have not been on the subway since. Saran is the deadest of all gases and was created by the Germans, but never used under Hitler’s orders.

Why all this comes to mind today is that our political and social scene, within the last two years, has changed dramatically and, with that, the increased power, size and platform of those people who would initially turn to violence to seek the ends they desire a violent shift to the very extreme right. And not just in the United States. In Europe we are witnessing the rise of populism, nationalism and the radicalization of large portions of society. Within the last few days, the National Socialist Movement (NSM), flying the Nazi flag, threatened armed violence to destroy those they deem “freaks” in Detroit.  That and other platforms motivate the individual –the lone wolf—the loner who believes all others have failed to move fast enough or strongly

enough to their conception of a proper form of society. They want to be the poster person for change, and they live among us in plain sight.

Like others who have concentrated on the operations of ISIS and other organizations of foreign terror, we have given little thought to the lone wolf in our midst until an event occurs and even then, we do not expand our investigation. It loses its headline factor. We must change our focus. We had been momentarily rocked in 2016, in Florida when a lone wolf attack took the lives of 49 people and wounded scores of others. In this past year, 11 people were murdered in a Pittsburgh synagogue, and there was yet another who mailed homemade bombs to liberal politicians and CNN. And most of us remember with horror Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City in1995. That attack killed 168 people and wounded 680 others. But what is seared in my mind were the scores of children, who were in a daycare center in that building who died. Two men and the death of 168 people.

None of these events have created a sustained law enforcement focus of the lone-wolf, his profile, his individual motivating force and how we combat that menace.  In a marvelous article written by John Ubaldi in “In Homeland Security”, we are introduced to that terrorist. “The actions by individual terrorists have become harder to detect, because these perpetrators often live in the shadows, operate alone, and do not communicate their plans or intentions to others.” They are, in most instances, unmarried and are politically and socially connected to the utterance of some extremist group. But they act outside the network or group they admire. In attempts to be able to track them, which is extremely difficult, law enforcement monitors the social networks looking for the extremist. But by the sheer size of those engaged in spuming their hate on social network, it is as if we were searching for a needle in the haystack. It becomes an almost impossible task to pinpoint the person likely to act out their views because, as noted, as loners although they might rant on places such as Facebook, they do not communicate their intentions to others. Undercover agents, while very effective in tracking a terrorist group activity, are not in most instances available to track the lone actor because of the size of potential individual actors.

In the 1970s, a Japanese man sought a visa to the US that was denied multiple times. Thru some fluke, the State Department ultimately granted his request. When he arrived in NYC, he rented a car and crisscrossed the US, living in his car, and buying empty fire extinguishers, nails and explosive ingredients. His intentions where to explode the car in Times Square. For some unknown reason, he stopped in the last service station on the New Jersey Turnpike before entering New York City. When he returned to his car, it was alleged by a state trooper that he drove out of the large parking area at an excessive speed. When stopped, the officer also alleged that he saw the bombs on the back seat, and he was arrested.  Notwithstanding a strong procedural attack on the arrest, he was convicted. Caught by sheer luck and convicted. If he had not stopped at the service station, in all likelihood, there would have been a successful terrorist attack. The lone wolf—those who live in “the shadow of Society.”   No defense. There have been multiple attempts to explode bombs in NYC, each has failed for one reason or another and not because we were tracking the particular terrorist, a lone wolf.

In June of this year at the G-20 meeting in Japan, the U.S. joined other nations in calling for social media companies to crack down on violent terrorism content on line. It is hoped that the social media would not permit the use of their platform to facilitate terrorism

Some have suggested that the social networks be more intrusively monitored by law enforcement.  Others have chanted “privacy” or the Second Amendment. I am reminded of a former colleague whose daily complaint was aimed at the police until the day they allegedly took too long to respond to his call. Clearly, there must be an accommodation between the two—law enforcement and privacy. We live in a fluid society with radical changes in demography, communications and easily obtained methods for mass violence.  Defense against the lone wolf must be viewed pragmatically. We don’t live in an ideal world; the “slippery slope” argument is never an appropriate argument, and reality must be our guiding principal.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

To Drone or Not to Drone

If you log on to Amazon and type in the word “Drones”, you are given an arms-length list of items you can purchase– from games involving the use of drones to flying your own drone. If you have watched enough episodes of your favorite spy thriller, such as “Homeland”, you will see at least one short scene of two American pilots sitting behind what appears to be a mocked flight simulator, but in fact, it is a replica of the equipment utilized to fly armed drones that may be thousands of miles away from the control center. This was an accurate portrayal of reality: the targets were initially suspected high-level terrorists speeding in a car caravan across a remote desert area or in a hut in the middle of a village. Today, the target of armed drones goes beyond that limitation, but as I write this commentary, Pakistan’s caretaker Prime Minister Nasir-ul-Mulk, described the killing of Pakistan Taliban chief, Mullah Fazlullah, in a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan as a “significant development in the fight against terrorism.”

And the American pilots presently controlling our armed drones, dressed not in a fighter pilot’s high altitude flight gear but in tailored non-flight uniforms, receive information from observers possibly thousands of miles away or by high power cameras attached to a drone. What has recently been reported is that many of those who pilot drones, far from harm’s way, have never seen combat because of the necessity of having combat trained men and women needed in the “real” battle zone.

Drones are low on the list of our daily vocabulary, but they are an integral part of our daily living to check the viability of utilities lines, to site checking long miles of above ground oil pipe lines to flying toy drones, as we did with model airplanes with tiny gas motors. Today, drones also play a decided role in one of our many ongoing wars. Most of which we are totally unaware of. The list of areas of the world that face drone warfare keeps expanding, as we sit basically ignorant of the government’s involvement with armed conflict from Islands in the pacific to the Mid-East and now being revealed in many parts of Africa.

For me, it was a quiet labor day weekend when I read an article by Rebecca Gordon that enticed me to go further to learn of our expanding use of this very singular weapon. My research led me to discover buried articles, describing the involvement of U.S. troops, arms and, most important, drones in Africa. Prior to the ultimately extensive revealing of the ambush of our troops in Nigeria, when four U.S. soldiers died in an October attack, if you were to give me a blank map of Africa, I would be hard-pressed to fill in eighty percent of the names of each nation-state. What surprised me was the extent of the use of drones beyond the Mid-East into Africa. The Pentagon’s Africa Command is presently building a facility named “Air Base 201” in Agadez, a town in Niger. Your taxpayer dollars will support this $110 million installation and will be the base of operation for MQ-9 Reaper armed drones. As reported by the US Air Force it will soon become the new centerpiece in an undeclared U.S. war in West Africa. The Air Force describes this drone as “…an armed, multi-mission, medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that is employed primarily against dynamic execution targets and secondarily as an intelligence collection asset. Given its significant loiter time, wide-range sensors, multi-mode communications suite, and precision weapons — it provides a unique capability to perform strike, coordination, and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets.

Reapers can also perform the following missions and tasks: intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, close air support, combat search and rescue, precision strike, buddy-lase, convoy/raid over watch, target development, and terminal air guidance. The MQ-9’s capabilities make it uniquely qualified to conduct irregular warfare operations in support of combatant commander objectives. “

What gave me pause was that this new base of drone operation is not the only base of U.S. involvement in that part of Africa. It turns out that the ambushed troops weren’t the only U.S. soldiers involved in firefights in Niger. The Pentagon has recently announced very quietly that there had been another clash in December of last year between Green Berets and a previously unknown group identified as ISIS-West Africa. This is not the only area of Africa that is subject to attacks. There have been at last count at least eight incidents, most of them in Somalia. Mz Gordan tells us, in her report, that U.S. drone strikes on Libya targets have increased under the present administration and, are usually launched from a secure non-combat base in Sicily. The new air base in Agadez, it is reported, will be able to strike targets in all these countries.

But this is not the end of the story, and what is missing from our daily sources of news is that the United States presently has another major drone base in Africa, in the tiny country of Djibouti which you will find on your map just across the Gulf of Aden and war ravaged Yemen. It is from that base that the U.S. has been pointing its strikes against targets in both Yemen and Somalia.

While looking at the newly created tariff trade war escalating between The United States and China, it is not surprising that the Chinese have recently established their first base in Africa in Djibouti, which is physically quite close to the US base of operation. China, as noted below, is also selling its attack drones to other countries.

The Times points out that this “approach (to the use of drones in combat)… for possible strikes in countries where Qaeda- or Islamic State-linked militants are operating, from Nigeria to the Philippines” is evolving. And under the Trump administration, it is no longer necessary that drone attack decisions only be made at the highest levels of government. “The requirement for having a “near certainty” of avoiding civilian casualties’ ― always something of an inter-governmental friction ― officially remains in place for now.” This march, Fox News (not a prime source of information for me) reported that the marines are planning to build a highly new and multipurpose drone, called the MUX, for Marine Air Ground Task Force Unmanned Aircraft System-Expeditionary. “The MUX will terrify enemies of the United States, and with good reason. The aircraft won’t be just big and powerful: it will also be ultra-smart. This could be a heavily armed drone that takes off, flies, avoids obstacles, adapts and lands by itself ― all without a human piloting it.”

The time for the widespread use of some form of military drone has arrived, not merely on the battle field by nation states but also by terrorist groups, and it appears that it is an underreported present threat world-wide. One report has stated that nine countries have used armed drones in combat: the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan. Those are the ones that have reported their use, but we can safely guess that there are other countries that are in the process of developing the armed drone. And similar to the traditional piloted operated fighter, the military drone falls into categories dependent upon how high they fly, their armament and their endurance of flight. Not surprising is that the United States and Israel are the top sellers of military drones with China following closely behind. What did surprise me was that India and the UK are among the largest of the purchasers.

On 9/11, after leaving my law school and prior to catching the last subway out of Brooklyn to Manhattan, I spent an hour on a high floor in a Brooklyn apartment overlooking the East River toward a large heliport jutting out into the river in the Wall Street area of Manhattan. Within minutes private planes disappeared from the landing site and a number of combat army helicopters appeared. It was my assumption that they were going to be utilized to evacuate high level government personal from the City. The late, brilliant Ian Cuthbertson set me straight: What was feared was there would be a follow-up attack by small, comparatively slow one engine planes that could not be intercepted by fast moving fighter jets and, thus, the use of the slower attack helicopters.

Which brings me to today: attack drones are not the little toys, similar to those one can purchase on Amazon. They are large enough and capable of transporting a large assortment of weapons including rockets. Why not explosives? Why not steal, manufacture or have them purchased by Iranian agents from China and then innocuously shipped in multiple stripped down parts to the waiting terrorist in the U.S. They could then be secretly reassembled and armed with explosives to be flown under the radar screen at numerous soft targets in New York, Washington or any other high value targets. Not unreasonable and real.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

The Invitation You Don’t Want

Do you know that, if you care to, you can log on to Amazon and, in addition to purchasing your groceries, you can obtain: “The Hacker Playbook—A Practical Guide to Penetration”. Then I stumbled onto an article that described an incredible, worldwide cyber-attack, and realized I know minus zero about cyberspace security or even hacking. I can tell you what hacking causes because almost everyone I know has had their e-mail hacked at one time or another.

How awkward and uncomfortable I felt writing a security-bent Commentary, as I was preparing to purchase a new computer and moving at the same time. My learning curve took a dramatic turn that brought me to a slew of wonderful articles and reports that opened a new world of understanding and, above all else, caution and continuing concern.

In one extensive report, I learned that last year (2017) there was cyberattack on a power grid in the United States, and even though it was horrific in scope and import, it drifted by unnoticed by most of the people I know. It has been claimed that there are those who beyond mere curiosity but with criminal intent, have the ability to shut down all our generated power and throw us into total darkness. And by that I do not mean just the lights in your home but to affect our all aspects of our being from individual and national finance to healthcare and cooking dinner to our basic forms of daily transportation.

The scope of the breach, first reported by the cybersecurity company Symantec in September 2017, revealed much about the way these attacks work. So much was revealed in its report, that the U.S. government turned it into a high valued investigation that produced a 16 page document. A team of cyber specialists from the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Bureau of Investigation placed the hackers’ tradecraft under its investigatory microscope and then disseminated its findings in the hope that the information would help prevent similar attacks – and keep this one attack from generating further chaos.

Experts say cyberspace communication is at a crucially vulnerable time in an age when hackers, whether motivated by disruption or bent on conducting wide scale cyber warfare, are constantly finding ways to infiltrate, corrupt and weaponize whatever touches the internet – often bit by bit. As I type this page I suddenly wonder is there someone looking-in that I am unaware of and what will they do with the information learned.

“It’s important to raise awareness,” said Mark Orlando, chief technology officer for cyber services at Raytheon. “…. details, if taken by themselves, might not seem that impactful. When presented with the entire story, we can see it was part of a larger, sustained campaign, potentially causing a lot of damage.”

The prospective for that type of damage is sweeping, said Constance Douris, who studies cybersecurity for the Lexington Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank that focuses on defense. She said hacking the power grid is essentially a newer way of attacking a traditional military target. Understand that a power grid is not merely a power vehicle for our individual and business life but constitutes a prime military target by any adversary.

“Everyone understands cyber is important, but they don’t quite understand why it needs to be protected,” she said. “Hospitals, banks, pipelines, military bases – all of these cannot operate without electricity. Protecting the grid from cyberattacks should not be neglected by any means.” Clearly, this is an understatement. Our cyberspace integrity is “crucial” to our national and individual wellbeing. It can be utilized as a silent massive attack against the United States. It is not as dramatic as three planes flying into well-known buildings but clearly and potentially more deadly.

Here’s how the cyber experts broke down the “work” of the hacker – and how businesses and by extension, individuals can protect themselves.

Hackers have the learned that the shortest distance between two points is not necessarily a straight line—thus instead of attacking the largest target (who are, by necessity and self-preservation on the alert) the hacker works his or her way through the “smaller, less secure companies” and networks. Jumping from one network to another and moving to larger networks one at a time. One of the attackers’ main strategies is to divide targets into groups. As one security expert put it: each of us must “manager our own systems and being as vigilant as you can.” And we have read in the press that the hacker can use misleading emails that will deliver malware right into your computer. Be careful of what mail you open, especially if you do not recognize the sender. The hacker knows who they are targeting by collecting as much information and intelligence that is available, so that the email received by the target is both reasonable and believable and therefore more likely to be opened. I recieve emails all the time from institutions with whom I have some business or professional relationship asking me to update information that they should not be requesting. I don’t open those messages. I receive telephone calls from people with far-east accents who tell me that I am having a problem with my computer and they can rectify the issue with a small payment and to allow them access to my computer.

Another method of crawling into your computer with malware is to corrupt a site that you visit often. When you log into that site which has been “altered to contain and reference malicious content,” the government investigation found that you will then be infected with the planted malware. Some refer to these sites as “watering-holes” where the malicious malware codes at planted. Common places are the information sites you generally turn to on a regular basis. As one person said to me: “You can catch a lot of fish that way.” Another method is by stealing the identity of an important member/employee of a target including their usernames and passwords. Here again that is usually accomplished through tricking that person with a false login page of an often utilized site.

The Department of Homeland Security and FBI uncovered yet another method of invading your computer: The hacker sends a document to its target, but it is sent in a manner in which it cannot be downloaded. The bait is to then to inform the target: “if you are having problems downloading this document”, to click “having trouble” — which takes the target to the program that contains the malware. Cleaver and destructive.

If your i-pad and i-phone are connected to your computer they are all invitations to the hacker to invade your world. Cancel those “invitations” with heightened awareness that “anyone” could be a target—anyone. And the results of those invitations can be catastrophic.

Richard Allan,
The Editor