Tag Archives: Counter-Terrorism

No Fixed Profile For A “Terrorist” – See Something? Say Something

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Image: STRATFOR

STRATFOR” ON SECURITY By Scott Stewart

  • Terrorism is a tactic used by radical extremists of many different ideologies, which means there is no fixed ethnic, religious or gender profile for what a “terrorist” looks like.
  • But while their motives may vary, all would-be attackers are still bound to generally follow the same attack cycle. Thus, tactics used to disrupt terrorism of one strain can also be successfully used against others.” _________________________________________________________________________

“Combating terrorism is not just the responsibility of the government but of society at large. “See something, say something” works, which is why the public must be educated on how to spot activities associated with the terrorist attack cycle. 

The Las Vegas Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested a 23-year-old man Aug. 8 who was allegedly plotting to attack Jewish houses of worship and bars frequented by the LGBTQ community in the city. In 2017, he began to frequent websites peddling a narrative that people who shared his extremist views were under attack. And as he began to relate to that narrative, he started frequenting online forums and social media groups that peddled even more radical messages that contained urgent and overt calls for violence. This eventually mobilized him to gather bombmaking materials and firearms, as well as establish contact with like-minded individuals to discuss potential targets and attack tactics. But little did he know that the co-conspirators he thought were his allies were actually undercover FBI agents who had been monitoring his online activity.

In many ways, the Las Vegas man’s actions and path to radicalization were quite similar to those of the jihadist security guard in Orlando who shot up the Pulse nightclub in 2016. This suspect, however, was radicalized not by the Islamic State but by U.S.-based white supremacist groups like Atomwaffen Division. This highlights that terrorism is not owned by a particular organization or ideology. Rather, it’s a tactic deployed by anyonelooking to use violence for some political or religious aim. And having not only government officials but everyday people understand that is key to catching additional would-be attackers before it’s too late. 

Different Ends, Same Means

Terrorist tactics such as bombings, armed assaults or vehicular assaults are used by militants who ascribe to a wide array of radical belief systems. Militants have also long copied successful propaganda techniques used by other groups, such as using the internet to radicalize, mobilize and operationalize attackers. This neutrality means that tactics used to combat one strain of terrorism can be effectively employed against others. Sting operations like the one used to catch the Las Vegas man, for example, have been successfully used against jihadists, anarchists and white supremacists alike in recent years.

Likewise, the steps a would-be attacker takes before conducting an attack — known as the terrorist attack cycle — are thus also ideologically agnostic in nature. The planning cycle for a vehicle bombing will, of course, look different from that of a mass shooting. But while the specific cycles may vary in length and complexity, those planning an attack must all progress through the same motions in the same order — that is, selecting a target; planning out their attack; conducting surveillance; conducting the attack; escaping the scene (if it’s not a suicide mission); and then exploiting their attack themselves or allowing it to be exploited by others. And at each step of the way, they are vulnerable to detection. 

Lone-Wolves Still Rarely Act Alone

Security forces in the United States, as well as the West in general, have gotten very good at disrupting terrorism connected to professional terrorist cadres associated with hierarchical groups, which is why radicals of various stripes have turned to the leaderless resistance model. Some have claimed that this model of terrorism makes the attack cycle obsolete, though I believe the opposite is true. In his article “Leaderless Resistance,” white supremacist Louis Beam wrote that it “becomes the responsibility of the individual to acquire the necessary skills and information as to what is to be done.” However, this is easier said than done. 

Such “lone-wolf” or grassroots attackers usually lack the type of training and sophisticated tradecraft of professional terrorist cadres, and thus often struggle with tasks such as planning, surveillance, operational security and bombmaking. As a result, most would-be attackers either reach out to other people for help first, or telegraph their intent to others through direct threats or statements, or more indirect means. This is what’s referred to as “leakage,” and it’s helped lead to dozens of sting operations in recent years that have stopped aspiring attackers before they cause harm. 

As illustrated by the Las Vegas case, a factor that drives such terrorists to seek help is that they’re often looking to conduct large, spectacular attacks that go far beyond their individual capabilities. The suspect had reportedly not only briefly served in the U.S. military, but had likely been experimenting with bombmaking for years. Yet despite having more applicable experience than most grassroots terrorists, it was still not enough to single-handedly pull off the kind of large-scale bloodshed he so desired — hence his decision to reach out for support.  

The suspect also allegedly told the undercover FBI employee that he intended to recruit enough people to form three squads of gunmen to attack a nightclub in Orlando. But the chances of recruiting this many people to participate in a terrorist plot without being detected — or infiltrated by an informant — are very slim in a place like the United States, where authorities are very effective at stopping such attacks. Consequentially, the attacker was identified and arrested before he had much opportunity to recruit confederates, as he was progressing through the early portions of his attack cycle.

The Importance of Civilian Surveillance  

Unfortunately, however, we cannot rely on law enforcement to monitor everything and everyone all the time. Their limited resources are primarily focused on detecting threats emanating from professional terrorist cadres due to the greater danger such groups pose to society at large. Thus, terrorists will inevitably slip through the cracks from time to time, and succeed in launching an attack. But in almost every case, there are pre-attack indicators that are either seen but not recognized, noted but not reported, or reported and then dismissed. 

Terrorists can take any shape or form. Their actions, however, are often predictable and thus detectable.

In the aftermath of an attack, people who had previously been in contact with the perpetrator almost always cite instances of “well, now that you mention it” or “now that I think about it” regarding their behavior. And indeed, the Las Vegas suspect had also long exhibited signs that he was isolated and troubled — with many of his high school classmates considering him “strange” or a “bit off,” especially in his interactions with women. 

Because of this, it is extremely important to educate people about what pre-attack behaviors look like — whether its making bombs, acquiring arms or conducting surveillance on a potential target (like an LGBTQ nightclub). Just as an educated and empowered workforce is the key to combating insider threats to companies and organizations, an educated and empowered citizenry is vital to helping combat the grassroots terrorist threat. We have already seen many cases in which a terrorist plot was successfully detected or thwarted by everyday civilians — or “grassroots defenders” — who reported suspicious behavior.

But the keyword here is “behavior.” In teaching people what to look out for, it’s equally important to stress that a certain ethnic or religious background does not a terrorist make, and should thus not be considered a red flag in and of itself. To effectively preempt an attack, it’s much more important to focus on the “how” of terrorism, rather than the “who.” As evidenced by the Las Vase case, terrorists can take any shape or form. But their actions are often predictable and in turn detectable.”

https://worldview.stratfor.com/article/mark-terrorist-behavior-not-ideology-security-terrorism-attack

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Scott Stewart
Scott Stewart, VP of Tactical Analysis

Scott Stewart supervises Stratfor’s analysis of terrorism and security issues. Before joining Stratfor, he was a special agent with the U.S. State Department for 10 years and was involved in hundreds of terrorism investigations.

Price Tag Of The ‘War On Terror’ Will Top $6 Trillion Soon

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Price Tag War on Terror

Image:  “Activist Post.com”

“MILITARY TIMES”

“The price tag of the ongoing “war on terror” in the Middle East will likely top $6 trillion next year, and will reach $7 trillion if the conflicts continue into the early 2020s, according to a new report out Wednesday.

About 23,000 U.S. and NATO forces are currently operating in Afghanistan in a non-combat, training-and-support role. About 14,000 of that group are American troops. More than 4 million veterans in America today served during the Iraq and Afghanistan war era.”


“The annual Costs of War project report, from the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs at Brown University, puts the full taxpayer burden of fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria over the last 17 years at several times higher than official Defense Department estimates, because it includes increases in Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs spending, as well as new military equipment and personnel.

“Because the nation has tended to focus its attention only on direct military spending, we have often discounted the larger budgetary costs of the post-9/11 wars, and therefore underestimated their greater budgetary and economic significance,” the new report states.

Direct military spending in Iraq and Afghanistan make up nearly $1.8 trillion in costs, but researchers estimate the long-term health care of veterans from those wars could equal or surpass that figure in coming decades.

They also charge that the Defense Department’s base budget has grown more than $900 billion over the last 17 years because of increased missions, recruiting costs and service member benefits brought on by the conflicts overseas.

“High costs in war and war-related spending pose a national security concern because they are unsustainable,” study author Neta Crawford said in the report. “The public would be better served by increased transparency and by the development of a comprehensive strategy to end the wars and deal with other urgent national security priorities.”

She also blasted current U.S. national security policy as “no strategy to end the wars other than more of the same.”

The full report is available on the project’s web site.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2018/11/14/price-tag-of-the-war-on-terror-will-top-6-trillion-soon/

 

 

Counter Terrorism Cost Since 911 – $2.8 Trillion – How to Control It

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Counter Terrorism Spending

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“War has sucked almost $3 trillion dollars from the US, according to a study by the respected Stimson Center here.

That figure includes expenditures for homeland security efforts, international programs, and the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria — and it does not include fiscal 2018. “


“After a small group of forlorn men huddled in the middle of Afghanistan succeeded in their plan to strike the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, America declared a global war against them.

(In their explanation of what they considered to be CT spending, the study group admits their estimate is “imprecise” in part because “it is subject to problematic definitions and accounting procedures.”)

March 1, 2003 photo of plotter of the September 11, 2001 attack Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

With that money, we’ve killed Osama bin Laden and a number of his lieutenants and followers. We have captured a number of his followers. We and our allies have killed many of those who sprang up to wave the black flag of Islamist nihilism from Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Somalia, Nigeria, Mali, Philippines, Britain, Netherlands, France, Germany and, yes, a few in America.

But terrorism persists, as it does as long as its root causes and enablers remain. The British learned this in Northern Ireland. Israel has learned this. America has learned this in confronting white nationalists and other extremists, including the few broken souls who have killed their countrymen in the name of Islam. Pakistan and India have learned this. And no one knows this better than the people of Afghanistan, whose country remains a central place in our troubled world of counterterrorism.

What percentage of America’s treasure has this consumed? Stimson’s answer: “Of $18 trillion in discretionary spending between fiscal years 2002-2017, CT (counterterrorism) spending made up nearly 16 percent of the whole. At its peak in 2008, CT spending amounted to 22 percent of total discretionary spending. By 2017, CT spending had fallen to 14 percent of the total,” their study notes. “Despite this drop, the study group found no indication that CT spending is likely to continue to decline.”

Islamic State propaganda video

Stimson makes five recommendations to improve our understanding of counterterrorism spending:

1. Create a clear and transparent counterterrorism funding report. Congress should reinstate and expand the statutory requirement that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) compile data and analyze governmentwide U.S. homeland security spending in its annual budget request. OMB should provide metrics that show Congress and the public the scope of counterterrorism spending relative to total discretionary spending and total spending, including mandatory spending.

2. Adopt a detailed agency-wide definition for counterterrorism spending. OMB and Congress should develop, adopt, and enforce a clear, usable set of criteria to define counterterrorism spending, including programs with the primary purpose of preventing, mitigating, or responding to terrorist attacks in the United States or overseas. This definition may be tailored to individual agency missions as long as agencies show how any counterterrorism spending addresses a credible threat to the United States.

3. Build on current accounting structures to anticipate future budget pressures. OMB should work with agencies to build on the current accounting structure to distinguish counterterrorism spending at the program, activity, and project levels, identifying ongoing vs. incremental emergency needs.

4. Tie the definition of war spending to specific activities. OMB and Congress should develop and implement clear criteria for terrorism-related spending through overseas contingency operations and other emergency authorities. This should include the cost of deploying U.S. troops to conflict zones; countering terrorist groups through military, diplomatic, or other operations; training foreign militaries; and conducting emergency military response activities within the United States that have a counterterrorism focus. Overseas contingency operations should be limited to such spending.

5. Require Congress to separately approve emergency or wartime spending. Congress should pass new legislation that requires it to vote separately to approve spending that is designated as war-related emergency or wartime overseas contingency operations spending before those funds can be obligated.

Several questions about our 17-years-and-counting effort to destroy al Qaeda and its many offshoots come to mind. I won’t pretend to answer them on this solemn day. I’ll leave it to our readers and policymakers to decide the answers.

NGA model of Bin Laden compound in Pakistan used to plan strike

Has this money been well spent?

Should we change how we spend our money to counter terrorism?

Is a largely military response the most effective way to tackle terrorism?

Should we change the roles of the FBI, the State Department and aid agencies in responding to terrorism and its causes?

Should we offer an amnesty to terrorists around the world and offer to help them and their families rebuild their lives?

Should intelligence and law enforcement agencies take up the majority of the counterterrorism mission, joined, when needed, by special operations forces?

Should we pursue a policy of unconditional surrender in pursuing terrorists and physically destroy them, their redoubts and supporters?

Is our current approach effective?

Lest we forget, on Sept. 11, 2001 some 3,000 people died in the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and on the hijacked planes. For a detailed and authoritative breakdown of US military casualties in the various wars we’ve waged since 2001, see this report by the Congressional Research Service.”

https://breakingdefense.com/2018/09/counterterror-costs-since-911-2-8-trillion-and-climbing/

The Malignant Misuse Of America’s Military

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Stop Military Malignant Misuse

“BREAKING DEFENSE” By Daniel Davis

“Most of these missions have no relation to U.S. national security whatsoever; others have thread-bare associations at best. Congress alone has the power to declare war. Today, Congress has fully ceded its responsibilities to the Executive Branch.

The military [is] on active combat missions of one type or another in NigerSomaliaSyriaIraqAfghanistanYemenPakistanLibyaDjibouti, and Nigeria (there are also scores of classified combat missions for Special Operations Forces about which the public knows nothing).”


The claim that insufficient increases in Pentagon spending threatens American security is flatly wrong. The real and present danger to our national security is the unecessary use of U.S. military power abroad.

There are two key ways the faulty use of combat power abroad continues to deteriorate our security. The first is the purpose for which the military is used. The preamble to the Constitution explains that the military is intended to “provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” Further, it decrees that Congress alone has the power to declare war.

The second and more troubling misuse of the military are the missions they are given to execute. For decades, the armed forces have been routinely employed, not for the “common defense,” but for the benefit of other nations or for purposes with no apparent connection to the security of our country.

The armed forces should only be used to defend American vital national interests—our territorial integrity and prosperity—and only committed when genuine diplomatic efforts have been fully exhausted.

Congress and the American people should debate and decide whether there is a legitimate threat to our vital interests, if the crisis is solvable by military means with clear and attainable objectives, if the resources to succeed are affordable, and if we have a sound strategy to achieve the desired political end state to safely extricate ourselves within a reasonable period of time.

There is little wonder, then, that the use of the military has not enhanced American security or prosperity.

These operations consume tens of billions of dollars each year, cost the lives of U.S. service personnel, and divert resources and manpower away from preparation to defend against potential threats which could pose a legitimate threat to U.S. security.

Moreover, even in operations that were tactically successful, we sometimes have perversely inflicted strategic defeats on U.S. interests. For example, the famed Iraqi surge of 2007 did result in a dramatic decrease in U.S. casualties, but enabled then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to systematically purge his army of rival Sunni officers. That led in 2014 to his army disintegrating in the face of ISIS attacks.

In restoring Iraqi sovereignty over ISIS, Baghdad enlisted the use of U.S. air power, ground controllers, and Iranian-backed militias––including the actual use of Iranian troops in Iraq. Iranian military advisors and troops also helped Baghdad crush recent Kurdish attempts at independence ––after the U.S. military helped the Kurds defeat ISIS in Mosul. Iranian influence over Iraq is today pervasive. None of that would have been possible without U.S. military operations since 2003.

The time has come for a major overhaul of American foreign and defense policies. We must abandon nation-building and meddling in the internal affairs of other countries. Our national security objectives in the Middle East can be more effectively accomplished via active and robust intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts.

American affairs abroad should be redirected away from an obsessive attempt to solve problems using lethal combat power and instead focus on expanding U.S. economic opportunity and beneficial trade policies. Core functions of the U.S. government are to defend our population and facilitate a healthy economy. Misusing the military is counter to both objectives.”

5 Ways to Make Terrorism Worse

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Terrorism Worse

“DEFENSE ONE”

“Terrorists are pleased to confront a United States that demonizes Muslims and seeks only its own advantage.

Donald Trump seems to regard a terrorist attack almost anywhere in the world as an opportunity to take to Twitter to tout his domestic political agenda. Instead of further straining relations with key democratic allies, the president would be better off reconsidering his own policies that are making terrorism worse.

First, Trump has realigned U.S. policy in the Middle East to give uncritical support to authoritarian regimes whose repressive policies fuel grievances that are exploited by violent extremists. Governments like Saudi Arabia also promote extreme, intolerant interpretations of Islam throughout the world on which terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qa’eda base their worldviews. If Trump were serious about reducing the threat from terrorism, he would confront his authoritarian allies about the hateful incitement spread by preachers and religious and educational institutions in their countries, and about the direct support that still flows to violent extremist groups in Syria and elsewhere. He would also urge U.S. allies to govern in a way that provides hope to the millions of young people across the region who are squeezed between repressive, corrupt authoritarian rulers and violent extremists who claim to offer the only alternative. Instead, Trump condones the harmful practices of his authoritarian allies, remaining silent about their violations of human rights while offering lavish praise and arms sales.

Second, the Trump administration has taken sides in the ancient sectarian rift between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims that has helped fuel conflict in Syria and elsewhere and created conditions in which terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qa’eda thrive. Exploitation of sectarian divisions by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and their proxies has been one of the chief drivers of terrorist violence in the Middle East in recent years, such as the bombings in Baghdad last week, which killed dozens. Trump is encouraging U.S. allies to step up sectarian conflict in Bahrain and Yemen while issuing threats against Iran, steps that vindicate and embolden sectarian extremists in Tehran. Terrorist attacks in the Iranian capital, immediately claimed by ISIS, received only perfunctory condemnation from the White House. The White House statement, which seemed to blame the victims for the assault, has received widespread condemnation. This hopelessly one-sided approach to violence against civilians will only fuel resentment and more violence. To reduce the threat of terrorism, the United States must work to ease sectarian conflicts in the region. Trump is making them worse.

Third, Trump continues to push a travel ban against six majority-Muslim countries, even as more and more federal courts declare it unconstitutional. The president’s single-minded pursuit of this discriminatory policy supports the narrative of violent extremists who claim that Muslims are unwelcome in the West. The travel ban abets recruiting efforts in another way as well: by fomenting distrust of law enforcement among American Muslims, thus reducing the chance that violent extremists might be reported to authorities.

Fourth, Trump’s and his administration’s harsh rhetoric against Muslims, enthusiastically backed up by his cheerleaders in the media, gives license to bigots whose actions benefit ISIS and other extremist groups. Hate crimes against Muslims have jumped, perhaps by half, since Trump began his campaign for the presidency, and he has little to say about this alarming trend. The spread of bigoted attitudes towards Muslims fuels divisions that are be exploited by violent extremists.

Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, the Trump administration is not providing leadership on universal human rights and therefore failing to offer any constructive alternative to the hateful, nihilistic ideology of the terrorists. The Trump administration has pledged to put America first and secure American interests in a world “where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.” Terrorists are only too pleased to confront the United States in such an amoral world, one without universal values or common interests and with no sense of global community.

By turning its back on these values, the Trump administration is unilaterally giving up the United States’ greatest strength, and making it easier for terrorists to spread division, fear, and violence.”

http://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2017/06/five-ways-president-trump-making-terrorism-worse/138602/?oref=d-topictop

Military Wants X-Ray Vision and Tunnel Robots

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cttso_combating_terrorism

Image:  Globalbiodefense.com

“DEFENSE ONE”

“So what does the future of counter terror tech look like this year?

The Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office has released their wish list for 2016 and beyond.

This year’s edition of the annual announcement, which outlines the various gadgets and tech that the office is looking to buy or build, reads like a prop list for a Marvel Comics movie

— and yet they’re also technologies that could eventually make their way into wider commercial use.

Broad Agency Announcement

A helmet that gives bomb techs Terminator vision

Don’t you hate when you’re disarming an improvised explosive device and you have to drop what you are doing to make sure your oxygen tank isn’t running low? CTTSO wants a voice-activated “bomb suit helmet heads up display.” Basically, it’s a helmet that displays key pieces of information to the wearer in a way that doesn’t get in the way of the task at hand. Those bits could include details of the explosive device, radiological or chemical alerts, even the bomb tech’s heart and respiration rate, gathered from body sensors.

Similarly, the office wants a hands-free “augmented reality” navigation system for driving. Think Google Glass for driving a getaway car.

FitBit for soldiers under fire

Fast reaction team members, like the contractors that went in to secure U.S. installations in Benghazi in 2012, can’t always get on the radio when they’ve been hit. If they’re under fire or hiding, they may have to maintain radio silence. CTTSO wants “wireless health monitors” that soundlessly broadcast biophysical information about the wearer to a commander for at least six hours. The office also wants wearable chemical and biological sensors as well.

FitBit for cars and trucks

What happens when the courier you just sent out from your base carrying important evidence or something else is captured and you don’t hear about it for months? A bad situation gets worse is what. “Currently the only status communications come directly from the courier, leaving command center personnel unaware if the courier has been captured or injured and/or the controlled materials compromised,” the announcement reads. The office wants an automatic “vehicle intrusion detection system” that can collect and transmit thermal, motion, and other data.

A portable device that can track a gunshot to its source

“If subjected to incoming small arms fire, security forces gain an advantage when provided timely information regarding the firing source (bearing, elevation, range),” the announcement reads. Gunshot tracking systems already exist, but they’re big and generally immobile. CTTOS wants a system that can fit onto vehicles to give tactical teams an immediate sense of who is shooting at them from where.

Batman armor

Today’s body armor is heavy and bulky, which can be a real downer for special operations forces on covert missions. But the thing about those missions is people tend to shoot at you while you are carrying them out. CTTOS wants what they are calling a tactical standalone plate: “a lighter, thinner armor solution would enable greater mobility, lower visible signature, and the opportunity to carry other equipment due to the weight reduction” — but still stop an armor-piercing 7.62 x 51 mm bullet.

Tunnel bots and tunnel threat detection software

Israel is already experimenting with tunneling and snake robots to find and scope out underground passages on the Gaza strip.

A laser vision system that can recognize a person by their chest shape from 200 meters away

If you’ve never heard of “laser doppler vibrometry,” you’re not alone. It bounces harmless laser beams off a target to produce a digital picture of the surface, sort of like a blind person using their fingers to identify a face. CTTOS wants a laser doppler vibrometer sensitive enough to positively identify a person by his or her upper torso “unique cardiological signature” in 60 seconds from more than a football field away.

A search engine that will tell you if a specific person is breaking the law

Before you decide that the country in which you are operating probably won’t bring charges against the insurgent mastermind you’re tracking, you may want to consult the Foreign Criminal Law Analytical Capability. CTTOS envisions this as a database that you search to compare the behavior of a particular person to “relevant foreign criminal statutes/regulations.” You can also look up how willing a given government might be to enforce those regulations.

In addition to the above, CTTOS’s wish list includes more mundane and predictable fare like data analysis and fusing, secure communications, etc. But the most revealing item isn’t technological at all; it’s a request for analysts’ best guess as to how counterterrorism operators will proceed in a future environment where enemies are much more able to use consumer technology against them. The request is for “a descriptive report that defines and describes the … ‘highly contested’ and ‘austere’ information environment envisioned in 2025 to 2035.”

http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2016/01/military-wants-x-ray-vision-and-tunnel-robots-fight-terrorists/124973/?oref=d_brief_nl

Technology giveth and technology taketh away.

Terrorist Strategy – Paranoia & Western Economic Degradation on Intelligence Gathering

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terror-cartoon“DEFENSE ONE”

“Every American suspected of traveling abroad to join ISIS is the subject of an active FBI investigation, according to Michael Steinbach, assistant director of counterterrorism for the FBI. Steinbach called on Congress to stop companies like Google and Apple from offering data encryption solutions to their customers, arguing that encryption makes it impossible for law enforcement to monitor terrorist or extremist talk.

Security experts and even some Navy SEALs argue that encryption keeps the nation safer from cyber attacks by keeping user information more secure.

Compared to the summer of 2013, U.S. intelligence professionals have seen a “pendulum swing” in the willingness of European law enforcement to share information with the United States on European citizens, said Nicholas J. Rasmussen, director
 of the National Counterterrorism Center, or NCTC, on Wednesday.

Things have turned around since summer 2013, when NSA contractor Edward Snowden first disclosed some of the nation’s most closely kept secrets on surveillance capabilities. Rasmussen said that “the politics are difficult for some of our European partners” but tracking Islamic State fighters, or ISIS, has become a priority.

Rasmussen, before the House Committee on Homeland Security, said that European partners continue to differ form U.S. counterparts on the issue of bulk metadata collection. But European reservations about data sharing in more targeted investigations had “seen a dramatic improvement,” particularly in populating the NCTC’s database, called the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE. It is one of the key person-of-interest watch lists that the U.S. and other countries use to track potential or suspected terrorists.

Thanks in part to better collaboration, he said, the Turkish “banned from entry list” now includes 10,000 individuals who are primarily European citizens. Turkey is seen as the most direct route that foreign fighters in Europe use to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Some of that intelligence sharing comes from tracking people in transit through new, expanded DHS powers to screen people seeking entry into the U.S., particularly those hailing from one of the 38 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program. People attempting to enter the country without a visa have to submit information to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, a computer system that can automatically grant visa waivers and entry.

Apple in September announced changes to their newest operating system to better encrypt user data, as previously reported by Defense One. “On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode … Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data … So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants,” they say in a statement on their Website.

Google similarly announced that it would begin to encrypt data by default on future versions of the Android phone.

Steinbach said that the ability to track communications on devices was essential to current investigations of individuals related to ISIS, especially in the United States. “Without that lawful tool, we risk an attack,” he said.

He further offered that several subjects the FBI was targeting have begun to use encryption to avoid detection and thwart investigation, but would not reveal in the open hearing the number of subjects that had “gone dark.”

It is “frankly irresponsible,” he said, for companies to offer software updates that allow no lawful means for law enforcement to intercept data.”

http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2015/02/dramatic-improvement-us-and-european-intel-sharing-because-isis/105120/?oref=defenseone_today_nl