Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

U.S. Government Wants to Wiretap the Internet

In Post-9/11 Domestic Anti-Terrorism Efforts on September 27, 2010 at 7:43 am

From the NYTimes:

Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.

The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.

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Al-Awlaki Wants to Sue Government to Stop Assassination Policy: U.S. Court Refuses to Hear Case

In Drones and Assassination, Yemen on September 25, 2010 at 3:19 pm

In the midst of the U.S. government grooming al-Awlaki as the next bin Laden, and preparing to assassinate him, al-Awlaki tries a pre-emptive court case to state that assassination of U.S. citizens is illegal.  U.S. court throws out the case, citing “state secrets” would be exposed:

The Obama administration on Saturday invoked the state secrets privilege which would kill a lawsuit on behalf of U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an alleged terrorist said to be targeted for death or capture under a U.S. government program.Believed to be hiding in Yemen, al-Awlaki has become the most notorious English-speaking advocate of terrorism directed at the United States.

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Iranian Leader: 9/11 Was an Inside Job

In Conspiracy Theory on September 24, 2010 at 8:08 am

At the U.N. General Assembly, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran said that  “that some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy and its grips on the Middle East in order also to save the Zionist regime… The majority of the American people as well as other nations and politicians agree with this view.”   After these comments, 33 delegations walked out, including the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, all 27 members of the European Union and the union’s representative.

The United States Mission to the United Nations swiftly issued a terse response. “Rather than representing the aspirations and goodwill of the Iranian people, Mr. Ahmadinejad has yet again chosen to spout vile conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs that are as abhorrent and delusional as they are predictable,” it said in a statement.

It was not the first time Mr. Ahmadinejad espoused the theory, but never before so publicly. Read the rest of this entry »

al Qaeda Focusing on “Small Scale” Attacks

In al Qaeda on September 23, 2010 at 8:08 am

Accordng to Obama administration officials, al Qaeda is focusing on “small-scale” attacks:

Al-Qaeda and its allies are likely to attempt small-scale, less sophisticated terrorist attacks in the United States, senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday, noting that it’s extremely difficult to detect such threats in advance.

“Unlike large-scale, coordinated, catastrophic attacks, executing smaller-scale attacks requires less planning and fewer pre-operational steps,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “Accordingly, there are fewer opportunities to detect such an attack before it occurs.”

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FBI, DHS, NCC: “our nation has dealt with the most significant developments in the terrorist threat to the Homeland since 9/11”

In Post-9/11 Domestic Anti-Terrorism Efforts on September 23, 2010 at 8:05 am

Strong words by the U.S.’s leading intelligence and security agencies (CIA and DoD noticeably absent) in front of a Congressional panel:

Significant Developments in Terror Threats Since 9/11, Officials Say
Napolitano, Mueller, Leiter Discuss Increased Tempo of Attacks Against U.S.
Sept. 22, 2010

The nation’s top counterterrorism officials were blunt. The threat from within—of Americans willing to commit terrorist acts— is growing. FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told a congressional hearing today that a spike in recent terrorism cases is direct evidence of the evolving threat.

“Groups affiliated with al Qaeda are now actively targeting the United States and looking to use Americans or Westerners who are able to remain undetected by heightened security measures,” Mueller said. “It appears domestic extremism and radicalization appears to have become more pronounced based on the number of disruptions and incidents.”

Mueller appeared before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee along with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and National Counterterrorism Chief Michael Leiter.

“Homegrown terrorists represent a new and changing facet of the terrorist threat.” Napolitano said, “To be clear, by homegrown, I mean terrorist operatives who are U.S. persons, and who were radicalized in the United States.”  The officials all pointed to a series of recent incidents that show that al Qaeda, its affiliates and associates were more active than ever.

“During the past year our nation has dealt with the most significant developments in the terrorist threat to the Homeland since 9/11,” Leiter told the committee. “The attack threats are now more complex, and the diverse array of threats tests our ability to respond, and makes it difficult to predict where the next attack may come.

The attacks cited included:

The disruption of a plot to bomb the New York City subway by Najibullah Zazi, a naturalized U.S. citizen, last September.

The attack at Ft Hood Texas by gunman Army Maj. Nidal Hassan which resulted in 13 people killed and over 30 wounded.

The attempted Christmas Day bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253 by alleged al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operative Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

The averted May 1 bombing in Times Square by Faisal Shahzad.

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FBI Used 9/11 to Spy on Leftist Groups in America

In Post-9/11 Domestic Anti-Terrorism Efforts on September 21, 2010 at 9:03 am

According to a report by the U.S. Dept. of Justice Inspector General, the FBI used 9/11 as a cover to improperly pursue leftist groups in America:

The FBI improperly investigated some left-leaning U.S. advocacy groups after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Justice Department said Monday, citing cases in which agents put activists on terrorist watch lists even though they were planning nonviolent civil disobedience.

A report by Inspector General Glenn A. Fine absolved the FBI of the most serious allegation: that domestic groups were targeted purely for their activism against the Iraq war and other political activity, which would have violated their First Amendment rights. Civil liberties groups and congressional Democrats had accused the FBI of employing such tactics during George W. Bush’s administration.

But the report cited what it called “troubling” FBI practices in the Bush administration’s monitoring of domestic groups between 2001 and 2006. In one instance, the report said, FBI officials falsely said an agent photographed antiwar demonstrators as part of a terrorism investigation, which led FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III to unintentionally give incorrect information about the incident to Congress.

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NYPD “Antiterror Unit”: Civilian Analysts of Middle Eastern Culture for Dectectives

In Post-9/11 Domestic Anti-Terrorism Efforts on September 19, 2010 at 12:26 pm

The “Terror Translators” of the NYPD:

The Terror Translators

INSPIRE magazine, an English-language journal published by Al Qaeda, included in its summer edition what amounted to a “Friends and Foes” list. There, on Page 4, following the letter from the editor (“We survive through jihad and perish without it”), were pictures of, and quotations from, kindred spirits like Faisal Shahzad, who pleaded guilty in a plot to detonate a car bomb in Times Square, and, perhaps surprisingly, David Letterman, who was praised for recent criticism of former President George W. Bush.

Among the magazine’s “foes” were Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates; Nicolas Sarkozy, the president of France; and King Abdullah II of Jordan. Then there was Mitchell D. Silber, a studious and mild-mannered former financier who grew up in Atlantic Beach, N.Y.

Mr. Silber (“I guess I was flattered in a strange way”) may seem an unlikely choice to occupy that space with a terrorist, a television star, a cabinet secretary, a European head of state and an Arab potentate. He is not, after all, a boldface name. Rather, he is a 40-year-old father with a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University who says his main hobby is reading deeply on the Middle East.

What landed Mr. Silber on that list was his leadership of a little-known counterterrorism team deep within the crime-fighting structure of the New York Police Department.

Formally known as the Analytic Unit of the department’s Intelligence Division, the team was created in 2002 as part of the city’s response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. It stands as a unique experiment in breaking traditional law-enforcement boundaries, comprising two dozen civilian experts — lawyers, academics, corporate consultants, investment bankers, alumni of the World Bank and the Council on Foreign Relations and even a former employee of the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan.

The team serves as the Police Department’s terrorism reference arm: available on demand to explain Islamic law or Pakistani politics to detectives in the field.

“We have found that conducting terrorism investigations is more art than science and requires a breadth of complementary skill sets,” Mr. Silber said during one of several interviews this summer. “Our detectives tend to have a very narrow focus. But the analysts have 360-degree visibility. They focus on the bigger picture, and they sometimes see things detectives don’t see.”

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Lawrence Wright: My Trip to al Qaeda

In al Qaeda, Post-9/11 Domestic Anti-Terrorism Efforts on September 19, 2010 at 7:37 am

Here the NPR interview with Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower.

In 2007, Lawrence Wright won a Pulitzer Prize for The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, his nonfiction account of the formation of al-Qaida. The book, based on more than 600 interviews, examines the circumstances that led to the formation of al-Qaida — and the creation of Wright’s one-man off-Broadway show, My Trip to Al-Qaeda. The one-man play focused on the insights Wright gained and the moral dilemmas he faced as he tried to remain objective while researching and writing his book.

A new documentary based on his play premieres Sept. 7 on HBO at 9 p.m. EDT. The film combines footage from Wright’s interviews with his sources, many of whom have ties to al-Qaida, with scenes from his play — and raises several questions about the U.S. role in the “war on terror.”

See the trailer for the HBO documentary here.

Flashback: The Daily Show, September 20, 2001

In Official History on September 16, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Like most television hosts, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show cries after September 11, 2001.

1.2 Billion USD to Yemen

In al Qaeda, Yemen on September 16, 2010 at 7:19 am

From the NYTimes:

Aid to Counter Al Qaeda in Yemen Divides U.S. Officials


WASHINGTON — Senior State Department and American military officials are deeply divided over the pace and scale of military aid to Yemen, which is emerging as a crucial testing ground for the Obama administration’s approach to countering the threat from Al Qaeda.

As the terrorism network’s Yemen branch threatens new attacks on the United States, the United States Central Command has proposed supplying Yemen with $1.2 billion in military equipment and training over the next six years, a significant escalation on a front in the campaign against terrorism, which has largely been hidden from public view.

The aid would include automatic weapons, coastal patrol boats, transport planes and helicopters, as well as tools and spare parts. Training could expand to allow American logistical advisers to accompany Yemeni troops in some noncombat roles.

Opponents, though, fear American weapons could be used against political enemies of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and provoke a backlash that could further destabilize the volatile, impoverished country.

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