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

Viewing Our Diminishing World Influence, Egypt and Israeli Military Coordination, And Why We Should Focus On Pakistan

From behind a fairly thick curtain of security comes news that at the highest government level, Egypt and Israel have coordinate aerial attacks against ISIS sympathizes within Egypt. This cooperation has been in place for more than two years relying upon unmarked Israeli drones, helicopters and jets— all with the approval of the Egyptian President. There is close and improving cooperation between the high military commands of both nations. At the same moment Egypt is flooding discovered tunnels dug by terrorists to create artificial bodies of water to raise fish.

Much of the remaining news in the world surrounding the Syrian war zones is turning uglier, more deadly and unpredictable each day:   Iran and Hizbullah have taken advantage of the cover of war in Syria to smuggle advanced weapons through Syria to Hizbullah sympathizes and fighters; the Soviet capital can credit itself to have pushed its way to be able to claim an equal footing with the U.S. in wielding both political and military power in that explosive Eastern Mediterranean world.

The news from the world surrounding Syria is not at all encouraging, with no decrease in the extreme violence and devastation inflicted upon civilians of all descriptions and associations, who appear to be fleeing in all directions and continue to be caught in the crossfire of a political war, with its incendiary propaganda and violence rained down in the form of all types of military hardware.

Lost in this loud, violent conflict is our attention to what is properly the most potentially dangerous marker on the table: Pakistan. We generally think of Pakistani/India—both nuclear powers and their seemingly endless conflict. What I suggest is that Pakistan, aside from its conflict with India, is a dangerous powder keg undermining our own interests and security.

Some background to this discussion: Pakistan as a country was created in 1997, and we have had a long diplomatic multi-faceted relationship since then. If you look at a U.S. State Department site, it will show that we have maintained a strong security relationship, which only intensified since a 2014 attack against its Karachi airport and army school. Economically, Pakistan’s largest export destination is the United States, but China is it largest trading partner. What is more important in the equation is the amount of civilian and military aid we supply each year and have for years on end. All, Washington has alleged, so “Pakistan becomes a more secure, prosperous and stable democracy.”

If we reach back 11 years we read the official reports that we are “increasingly concerned that member of Al Qaeda, its Taliban supporters, and other Islamist militants find safe haven in Pakistani cities.” Some of these Islamist forces express “solidarity with anti-United States forces”, along with al Qaeda militants having made alliances with “indigenous Pakistani terrorist groups “that are clearly anti-Western’. In early 2007, the outgoing Director of National Intelligence had the most reliable crystal ball: in two sentences the dilemma facing our national security was articulated: “Pakistan is a frontline partner in the war on terror. Nevertheless, it remains a major source of Islamic extremism and the home for some top terrorist leaders.” Al Qaeda was posing, he said, the single greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its interests. Remember: This is a county that possesses nuclear power. This is a country that allows dangerous anti-American terrorist groups to secure hideouts. This is a country in which “anti-U.S. sentiment is not just a phenomenon within elite Pakistani circles either; it extends to the Pakistani population as well.” “According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. favorability rating among the Pakistani people hasn’t cracked the 30 percent mark in thirteen years of public polling on the subject.” We are not welcomed, we are not accepted. But please send the next check. And we have sent millions upon millions of dollars in both civilian and military aid. To what avail?

Part of the complex relationship that pits us and Pakistan on a dangerous path is Pakistan’s almost emotional reflex reactions to US/India relations. “Pakistan cannot, will not, absolutely will never accept Indian dominance in this region. Even if (the president) tweets that Pakistan is an unfaithful and disloyal ally. It doesn’t matter. Pakistan’s national security posture is defined by how it perceives itself with respect to India.” Not said is how Pakistan views itself to the rest of the world and its own ideas of what constitutes self-preservation. And therein lies part of the crux in its relationship to the United States and our security interests. The other element is the country has shown little if an incentive to crackdown on groups such as the Jamaaat-ud-Dawa (Jud) which had been blamed by the United Nations for the 2008 attack on the Indian city Mumbai that left the city inflames and killed 166 persons.

We must be more rationally engaged—whether it takes “carrot and stick” in preventing Pakistan from doling out its tactical nuclear weapons (which most assuredly could and will fall into terrorists’ hands), discouraging with sufficient support to encourage Pakistan from reviving its nuclear proliferation activities, preventing a major Pakistan-India war (that would in all likelihood land hard on United States interests) , as well as clamping down on Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attacks in India in their ongoing seemingly endless nationalistic conflict and providing sanctuary to Afghan insurgents.

The United States has poured millions of dollars each year into Pakistan in the hope of influencing its mindset, but we must be more rational in our approach to this potentially dangerous nuclear power. We must not act like a street bully, and most important we must stop calling diplomats, heads of state and nations in common derogatory street terms if we hope to be a leader in the free world. It is a worthwhile and important first step that we will withhold two billion dollars in security assistance and have proposed to place Pakistan on a terror financial watch. Will that make a difference?

Richard Allan,
The Editor

The Escalating Dangerous Conflict Between Turkey and the United States

In order to appreciate our present, very dangerous relationship with Turkey, it is important to understand its world history however briefly reviewed: The Ottomans Empire lasted a bit over 624 years (ending in 1923). If you were to visualize a map of the Mediterranean Sea with your anchor in present day Turkey and then create a backward letter “C” – moving west on the rim of its northern and southern shores you would begin to visualize its vast control of that part of the world. In essence, the “empire” was an assemblage of voluntary and captured countries. Admittedly, the Empire became one of the most powerful and controlling world powers in all history.

The Empire was very much pro German before the start of WWI. I would suggest you go back to see the marvelous movie: Lawrence of Arabia. It deals with another aspect of the area’s history during the same time-frame as Lawrence led a revolt of the Arab people against the Empire. When the United States entered WWI it declared hostilities against Germany. The Ottoman Empire in April 1917, then severed its diplomatic ties with the United States. It wasn’t until 10 years later, long after the secession of hostilities, that formal diplomatic relations were re-established with the Ottoman Empire’s successor, now the created independent nation state, Turkey. For reasons that are immaterial at his juncture, the United States never declared war against the Ottoman Empire.

Turkey’s place, this very day, is front and center on the United States’ military and political map. The complexities created by the waring parities, local and international, in Iraq, the Syrian civil war, the fight against ISIS and the Kurdish peoples demand for nation status, has created an ongoing volatile conflict worthy of a Shakespeare drama. In this geo-political arena, two long allies– Turkey and the United States– have collided and have escalated their collision on a daily basis as they represent, at the same moment, different, overlapping and in some cases violently competing military goals and parties. In addition, Turkey’s political structure has undergone profound political upheaval that complicates the areas security and our long standing relationship. The future does not present a good picture for our interest in that region of the world as our diplomacy with succeeding administrations has been less than successful. America’s voice in that region is but a feeble croak.

The time line of the United States and its present day confrontation with an ever increasingly anti-American hostile Turkey can start with the Cold War and the West’s confrontation with the swelling political, geographic and aggressive engagements of the Soviet Union. A reasonable marking date is 1974, with the advent of the Truman Doctrine. The United States Congress chose Turkey, among other nations, as the recipient of extraordinary economic and military aid, with the heating of the Cold War. The Truman Doctrine would be the foundation, with its immense financial assistance to help to create a major Turkish military force now attached to NATO and a strong, hardened army in the war against ISIS forces. It would become the basis upon which these two countries would build their relationship for the next four decades. It is also prudent to know that 2.5 billion dollars found its way into Istanbul in just one twenty year period, and help jolted Turkey’s shift toward massive democratic reforms in the election process, political representation and substantial social restructuring, until its recent swift and politically violent flipping of that Muslin nation. Its present stance while not altogether hostile is clearly strongly anti-American.

There were political and military actions that the United States undertook in Iraq that caused increasing strident outrages in Istanbul, but those headlines did not became the reason for its political transformation. Today, Turkey can be defined as a quasi-dictatorship.

Turkey has fought a long, costly insurgent war against the Kurdish people in general and the Kurdistan Worker Party (the PKK) in particular. The PKK is recognized by the EU and the United States as a terrorist group. But, and equally important, there is more than one Kurdistan group seeking its people’s independence. Turkey has been involved in an increasingly hostile war toward the Kurdish people in general and their demands. (Either as an independent Kurdish state within the borders of its destabilizing neighboring state or within its own national boundaries.)

Turkey’s turn away from democracy and its norms began with Erdogan’s grab for political power in mid-2016. He accused the U.S. Military Command of siding with the architects of a failed coup while Istanbul arrested certain Pentagon contacts in Turkey. With the crushing of the coup, there were deep mass arrests ordered by Erdogan not only up and down the ranks within the army but also in the judiciary and civil service. Istanbul then demanded the United States government extradite a Turkish cleric and national living in the States as the coup’s instigator. The United States government, in turn, demanded that Turkey produce the “evidence” that the cleric was in fact connected with the attempted coup. The Turkish controlled press followed, claiming that a United States general was behind the coup which was followed quickly by the American suspension “indefinitely” of all non-immigrant visas from Turkey with the traditional tic-for-tac suspensions by Turkey.

To complicate both the political clash and the war on the ground, during the ongoing Syrian Civil War, the United States forces have been openly allied with the Kurdish YPG fighters and have been supporting them with military and logistic help. Turkey considers these Kurdish fighters in the same light as the PKK, namely as terrorists and has told Washington they will attack those Kurds with the same force as those they employed against the PKK. It has been alleged, in current headlines, that the deadly nanpan has been deployed against civilians in the town of Azaz in northern Syria. This puts the United States and Turkey in direct military conflict.

In addition, in its lurch from a secular democratic nation state, Turkey has joined Qatar as the prime source of funding to speed the spread of extreme Islamism “everywhere from western Africa to Southeast Asia”.

The news reports describing the area’s conflict both politically and on the battlefield is Russia’s physical arrival in the area with its continued support of Syria’s Assad against United States’ interests in the region. This in turn will not only complicate the delicate state of our security interests but complicate the ground hostiles. It will then stall or even more than likely collapse any meaningful democratic move in Syria’s future and will permit yet another tyrant, Assad to remain in office.

Intertwined is the predictable direct military clash between United States and Turkish forces with Russia sitting at Istanbul’s side. Turkey, which looks less each day like a NATO ally, it is claimed consulted Moscow before attacking U.S. Kurdish allies in northern Syria and has obtained surface air-to air missiles from its sponsor the Russians.

The future of the Kurdish people and their lives as a people is in jeopardy. And their outcome can be reliably predicted by examining the United States’ previous behavior– it will leave unconscionably yet another weaker ally in the lurch, as we did with the Iraqi Kurds in Kirkuk, and now to abandon the Syrian Kurds as soon as it is expedient, advantageous, and politic for us. Why do we choose the strongest military ally however faulted and compromised instead of the appropriate one?

Richard Allan,
The Editor

Racism and National Security – a Volatile Combination

The new cool in Europe is to be anti-Semitic especially new in Germany, according to Steve Emerson’s web site in an article written by Abigail R. Esman. And those throwing the bombs and horrific language are the old and new line Nazis but the new refugees fleeing from their own countries of oppression and violence.

When I was a child during the early years of WWII and in grammar school, it was at a time when my family didn’t have two nickels to rub together. Notwithstanding our own lack of funds, my grandmother would round up the kids of refugee families who were living on the wrong side of poverty and feed them lunch at the same time I came home for lunch. There was one boy I remembered well. My grandmother and mother would be trying to feed this gang and get us out in time to get back to school for the afternoon session, and he would stand up, pound on the table, and say: “I am rrrready, I am vating!” I wanted to respond, as young as I was—if you don’t like the service leave, but I dared not on more than one ground. Eighty years later I have never forgotten his arrogance and his sense of entitlement. Many years later, my father had a wonderful woman who cleaned his office. One day when she was complaining about having a bad cold and how expensive doctors were, he suggested she go to the emergency room of a local hospital a few blocks away. She looked in horror at my father and said: I ain’t gonna sit on bench with any of them spicks! This woman was black.

And now not only do we have vitriolic language pouring out of the White House, as I commented in my last blog, we have been introduced this week to a racist leader of the free world. The President of the United States.

The mandate of these Commentaries is the examination of national security. And we hold strongly to that directive. If we were to review the impact of racism or anti-any minority, we inevitably learn that we have simultaneously injured the very fabric that supports our national security. Pragmatically, we become less apt at fighting those who would attack or endanger our democracy in the form of traditional terrorism.

This reasoning is clearly supported by reality: once you have an attack by one segment of the population against another segment of that same community then vital security components must be diverted from one area of concern to another in order to maintain the safety of all. It does not take rocket science aptitude to understand the causal connection and the dilution of resources. Those who fail to do so, do at the risk of greater national violence that becomes endemic.

You may say if I and my neighbors call someone a “nigger”, a “spick rapist”, how have I diminished any portion of the security arrangements in my community? I haven’t physically attacked that “nigger or spick”, and thus trigger a response from law enforcement. The answer is so obvious:–words have consequence, and words inflame actions, and words incite people to act. There are people in this country who take at face value the truth of statements made by our elected officials. One of them being the President of the United States.

As reported in the New York Times, in 1923, the president of the American Museum of Natural History, Henry Fairfield Osborn, told an immigration conference that an unnamed European country was “making the United States a dumping ground for its undesirables.” His comments gained traction among a segment of the American population but fell on deaf years on the vast number of Americans who knew different and were proved correct by history. Forty-two years later in 1945, we were the strongest and most powerful nation in the world. The difference between 1923 and 2018 is the world has shrunk, arms of violence are larger and more powerful, bombs are smaller and more lethal and we have reinvented terrorism on a grander and deadlier scale. The spoken and written word travels further and faster and to more people instantly. When you call a nation a “shithole” that message is transmitted to the entire world within seconds. There are and will be consequences.

We need only look at “Germany, anti-Semitism is not just widespread: it is growing, particularly among the country’s hip youth” Abigail R. Esman. And she writes –“anti-Semitic attacks and regular calls for “death to Jews” have plagued Europe in recent months”. In the “Austrian capital, officials fined three pro-Israel activists last month for waving an Israeli flag near a pro-Palestinian demonstration”…” a man wielding a Palestinian flag smashed the windows of a kosher restaurant in Amsterdam.” And on New Year’s Eve, a man threw a rock at the window of the Amsterdam Chabad center. ” In an in-depth report for the Daily Beast, Josephine Huetlin describes the vast reach of German Jew-hate – from Muslim enclaves to far-right groups that support the up-and-coming political party, Alternatives fur Deutschland (AfD, Alternatives for Germany). “Indeed, AfD may signal the biggest threat going forward. According to Huetlin, AfD politicians believe that “the Central Council of Jews in Germany secretly controls the entire country.”

By surfing the net, you can read the comments of those that support the Trump rhetoric, and they do so without question. If you want to support those thoughts and comments that is fine, but to do so without question and without any objective analysis is dangerous. Not merely to oneself but to others. Democracy is dependent upon independent thinking not mass adherence or abidance by a master’s call. To do so is frightening, dangerous and un-American.

It is not politically correct to say: We do live in dangerous times. And we do, and to make these times less uncertain and more secure it is imperative that we have leaders that think before they speak and leave knee-jerk analysis in the waste-bin. But equally important, it is imperative that we, as individuals, “think” before we follow.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

Vitriolic Politics and National Security

President trump is sucking the air out of decency and the greatness of diversity by his direct and unsupported attacks upon ideas and people. These unprovoked attacks have no place in the form of democracy practiced in the United States. They have had, in turn, a profound and direct effect upon our national security. That is a fact, not an opinion, not a political statement.

A functioning democracy does not require that we all love each other. That would be utopia and not reality. Reality requires that if we do not agree with the position of our opposition – to any degree—there is, at the least, respect in the discourse. However intense, extreme or passionate. That is how a democracy works, that is how it has worked up until the present. We live in a dangerous time and it has become more dangerous not of necessity. Let me explain.

From Election Day, November 2016 to the 19 November 2016, hate crimes in the U.S. spiked– the “civil rights group, the Southern Poverty Law Center alleges that there have been at least 700 cases of hateful harassment or intimidation since the election. It ranges from swastikas at a baseball field and a playground to Pennsylvania high school students shouting “white power” in the hallway. It is a vivid throwback to the days of segregation at a high school bathroom in Northern California.” That wasn’t all. In the immediate aftermath of Election Day, a wave of hate crimes and lesser hate incidents swept the country — 1,094 bias incidents in the first 34 days. By far the most dramatic change was the enormous leap in anti-Muslim hate groups. And there are identifiable groups being terrorized just seven miles from the White House who aren’t eager to talk about it. Not only do they fear the potential violence, but they also fear being deported because a goodly number are undocumented.

Muslims are among the groups President Donald Trump has repeatedly singled out and targeted. He ran on a campaign promise to ban them and continues to share controversial anti-Muslim videos on social media. That incites individuals and groups to take the law—unlawfully—into their own hands to execute judgement as they seem fit.

The President has claimed that blacks killed 81% of white homicide victims. You can say that this claim is false. You can also say the President lied to inflame a segment of the white community—his voting base. The most glaring inaccuracies have to do with white homicide victims. Trump cast blacks as the primary killers of whites, but the exact opposite is true. That is Fact. By overwhelming percentages, whites tend to kill other whites. Similarly, blacks tend to kill other blacks. These trends have been detected, noted and written about for decades.

How the extreme right viewed the Trump election and how it would carry that victory forward was captured in the following quoted encapsulation:

“The reaction to Trump’s victory by the radical right was ecstatic. ‘Our Glorious Leader           has ascended to God Emperor,” wrote Andrew Anglin, who runs the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website. “Make no mistake about it: we did this. If it were not for us, it wouldn’t have been possible.” Jared Taylor, a white nationalist who edits a racist journal, said that “overwhelmingly white Americans” had shown they were not “obedient zombies” by choosing to vote “for America as a distinct nation with a distinct people who deserve a government devoted to that people.” Richard Spencer, who leads a racist “think tank” called the National Policy Institute, exulted that “Trump’s victory was, at its root, a victory of identity politics.” Trump’s election, as startling to extremists as it was to the political establishment, was followed by his selection of appointees with anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT and white nationalist sympathies. To lead his domestic transition team, he chose Kenneth Blackwell, an official of the virulently anti-LGBT Family Research Council. As national security adviser, he selected retired Gen. Mike Flynn, who has described Islam as a “malignant cancer” and tweeted that “[f]ear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” His designated CIA director was U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), who is close to some of the country’s most rabid anti-Muslim extremists.”

     This makes Muslim-Americans, blacks and other minorities that much more vulnerable and exposed to not merely discrimination but violence in the Trump era. Trump inspired violence by words and deeds. Despite the rights of equality and free speech guaranteed by the Constitution, the minority see their own lives as being threatened in the streets of their own towns, American cities, and the universities and colleges they attend.

From the New York Times we learn: “There are fliers depicting men in camouflage, wielding guns and an American flag, appearing in men’s restrooms throughout Texas State University: ‘Now that our man Trump is elected,’ they said, ‘It is time to organize tar and feather vigilante squads and go arrest and torture those deviant university leaders spouting off that diversity garbage.’ ”

What compounds the entire topic was underscored by a senior counterterrorism officer who sees casualties being escalated by our nation’s polices on weapons: “because our population of violent extremists has no difficulty gaining access to weapon that are quite lethal” said Nicholas Rasmussen, as he ended his five-year run at the National Counterterrorism Center, three of them as its director.

When we have domestic attacks on our own citizens or those who are peacefully in our country because of their ethnicity, country of origin, the color of their skin, the religion they might or might not adhere to, then you place in jeopardy all of us, because there is then a general collapse in the foundations that support our democratic fundamentals, traditions and civil rights. This applies to all of us. This type of violence is a direct attack on our national, domestic security. Terrorism is not limited to an attack by ISIS against our interests in some foreign city or country. Our security is in danger not merely from foreign forces from abroad attacking our national interest far from our national borders. But here, right at home. Americans –attacking other Americans—listening to the words and deeds of the President.

Richard Allan,
The Editor