Investigative & Security Professionals for Legislative Action

Security Related Topics

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   Next >  Last >> 
  • 24 Feb 2010 2:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Widespread Data Breaches Uncovered by FTC Probe

    FTC Warns of Improper Release of Sensitive Consumer Data on P2P File-Sharing Networks

    Feb. 23, 2010 – The Washington Post reports security experts say the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation is the broadest of its kind by the agency and comes amid recent outrage over missteps by Google on how it handled users' data in its recent launch of a new social-networking application, Buzz. Facebook faced similar criticism in December when changes to its privacy policy caused confusion among users and left some of their information more widely available to the public.

    Concerns about Internet privacy also have intensified as broadband and other technologies become more widespread. Consumer advocates, for example, are leery of advertisers using global-positioning satellite technology to track cell phone users. Law enforcement officials routinely ask companies with cloud computing applications, such as Microsoft and Yahoo, for information about users, yet there are no clear rules dictating how federal regulators should address those and other issues.

    "Everything is coming to a head here and the FTC is acting effectively and prudently in trying to grapple with this very fast moving marketplace," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy.

    The FTC has notified almost 100 organizations (some with only 8 employees) that personal information, including sensitive data about customers and/or employees, has been shared from the organizations’ computer networks and is available on peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing networks to any users of those networks, who could use it to commit identity theft or fraud. The agency also has opened non-public investigations of other companies whose customer or employee information has been exposed on P2P networks. To help businesses manage the security risks presented by file-sharing software, the FTC is releasing new education materials that present the risks and recommend ways to manage them.

    Peer-to-peer technology can be used in many ways, such as to play games, make online telephone calls, and, through P2P file-sharing software, share music, video, and documents. But when P2P file-sharing software is not configured properly, files not intended for sharing may be accessible to anyone on the P2P network.

    “Unfortunately, companies and institutions of all sizes are vulnerable to serious P2P-related breaches, placing consumers’ sensitive information at risk. For example, we found health-related information, financial records, and drivers’ license and social security numbers--the kind of information that could lead to identity theft,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “Companies should take a hard look at their systems to ensure that there are no unauthorized P2P file-sharing programs and that authorized programs are properly configured and secure. Just as important, companies that distribute P2P programs, for their part, should ensure that their software design does not contribute to inadvertent file sharing.”

    As the nation’s consumer protection agency, the FTC enforces laws that require companies in various industries to take reasonable and appropriate security measures to protect sensitive personal information, including the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and Section 5 of the FTC Act. Failure to prevent such information from being shared to a P2P network may violate such laws. Information about the FTC’s privacy and data security enforcement actions can be found at promises_enf.html.

    The notices went to both private and public entities, including schools and local governments, and the entities contacted ranged in size from businesses with as few as eight employees to publicly held corporations employing tens of thousands. In the notification letters, the FTC urged the entities to review their security practices and, if appropriate, the practices of contractors and vendors, to ensure that they are reasonable, appropriate, and in compliance with the law. The letters state, “It is your responsibility to protect such information from unauthorized access, including taking steps to control the use of P2P software on your own networks and those of your service providers.”

    The FTC also recommended that the entities identify affected customers and employees and consider whether to notify them that their information is available on P2P networks. Many states and federal regulatory agencies have laws or guidelines about businesses’ notification responsibilities in these circumstances.

    Samples of the notification letters can be found at:,,

    The fact that a company received a letter does not mean that the company necessarily violated any law enforced by the Commission. Letters went to companies under FTC jurisdiction, as well as entities such as banks and public agencies over which the agency does not have jurisdiction.

    Assisting the FTC were the Department of Health and Human Services, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Office of Comptroller of the Currency.

    The new business education brochure – titled Peer-to-Peer File Sharing: A Guide for Business – is designed to assist businesses and others as they consider whether to allow file-sharing technologies on their networks, and explain how to safeguard sensitive information on their systems, and other security recommendations. This information is available at Tips for consumers about computer security and P2P can be found at

    ISPLA has been closely following a number of security breach bills in the House and Senate, along with monitoring the activities of the FTC.
  • 15 Feb 2010 8:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Anti-Money Laundering: Senate Investigations Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Keeping Foreign Corruption Out of the United States: Four Case Histories

    ISPLA, as part of its mission to keep our profession informed, is providing the information below for your evaluation and review.

    Corrupt foreign officials and their relatives have used gaps in U.S. law and the assistance of U.S. professionals to funnel millions of dollars in illicit money into the United States, an investigation by the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found.

    “For the United States, which has so much riding on global stability, corruption is a direct threat to our national interest,” said Sen. Carl Levin, [D-MI] subcommittee chairman.  “That’s why the United States is engaged in a relentless, worldwide battle to stop the flow of illegal money into and within places like Iraq and Afghanistan.  Laundered money is used to train and provide support for terrorists and terrorism.  If we want to credibly lead efforts to stop illegal money abroad, we’ve got to stop it here at home as well.”

    A 330-page bipartisan report released by Levin and subcommittee ranking member Sen. Tom Coburn, [R-OK], for the hearing shows that politically powerful foreign officials, and those close to them, have found ways to use the U.S. financial system to protect and enhance their ill-gotten gains.  The report exposes how those powerful individuals – known internationally as “politically exposed persons” or PEPs – have used the services of U.S. lawyers, lobbyists, real estate and escrow agents, and other professionals who currently have no obligation under U.S. regulations to establish anti-money laundering (“AML”) programs, know their customers, or evaluate the source of funds transferred into the United States.  Banks, in contrast, are subject to AML obligations and for the most part have honored them.  But glaring gaps have undermined the overall effectiveness of U.S. AML laws.

    Four Case Histories.  The report presents four case histories, each with multiple stories exposing the tactics being used by PEPs to use our financial system to protect and enhance their illicit funds.  They include the following:

    ·       $110 Million.  Teodoro Obiang, the 40-year old son of the President of Equatorial Guinea, is currently under investigation by the Justice Department for corruption and other misconduct.  Between 2004 and 2008, Mr. Obiang used U.S. lawyers, bankers, and real estate and escrow agents to move more than $110 million in suspect funds through U.S. bank accounts, including $30 million to purchase a residence in Malibu and $38.5 million to purchase an aircraft.   

    ·       Third Party Accounts.  Mr. Obiang used shell company, attorney-client, and law office accounts controlled by his attorneys to bring suspect funds into the United States and conduct transactions through U.S. banks without their knowing of his activity, including at banks that had made it clear they did not want his business.

    ·       Lost Escrow Business.  An escrow agent who refused to complete the purchase of a $38.5 million Gulfstream jet without information on the source of the funds being supplied by Mr. Obiang, lost out to a competitor willing to complete the transaction with no questions asked.

    ·       $18 Million Through Lobbyist Account.  Omar Bongo, President of Gabon for 41 years until his death last year, and his eldest son, Ali Bongo, Minister of Defense until he took his father’s place as President of the country, amassed substantial wealth while in office, amid the extreme poverty of its citizens.  In 2006, $18 million in funds from Gabon were wired to the U.S. corporate bank accounts of a U.S. lobbyist who then distributed the funds within the United States and across the globe as directed by President Bongo in connection with two projects to support his regime, buying U.S.-made armored cars and C-130 military cargo planes.  Among the funds the lobbyist distributed was $9.2 million which he wire transferred to an account for President Omar Bongo – not in Gabon – but in the country of Malta.

    ·       $1 Million Shrink Wrapped.  In 2007, President Omar Bongo brought $1 million in shrink-wrapped $100 bills into the United States under cover of diplomatic immunity without declaring the cash to U.S. authorities as required by law.  His daughter, who told her bank that she was an unemployed student, deposited the cash in a U.S. safe deposit box and later into her bank account.

    ·       U.S. Trust Accounts.  President Ali Bongo’s wife formed a U.S. trust under her maiden name, and used the trust to open U.S. bank and securities accounts in California.

    ·       Offshore Wire Transfers.  Jennifer Douglas, a U.S. citizen and the fourth wife of Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President and former presidential candidate in Nigeria, helped her husband bring more than $40 million in suspect funds into the United States from 2000 to 2008, through wire transfers from offshore corporations.  The Securities and Exchange Commission has alleged in a 2008 civil complaint that Ms. Douglas received $2.8 million in bribe payments from a German conglomerate, Siemens AG, which has acknowledged making the payments.

    ·       Arms Dealer.  Pierre Falcone, a notorious Angolan arms dealer with a history of run-ins with the law and who is currently serving a 6-year prison sentence, had open access to more than 30 U.S. bank accounts in Arizona for 18 years.

    ·       Central Banker.  Aguinaldo Jaime, former head of the Central Bank of Angola, tried twice to transfer $50 million in Angolan government funds to a private account in the United States, only to have the transfers reversed by U.S. financial institutions who became suspicious.  The corruption concerns raised by his actions caused Citibank to close all accounts for Angolan government agencies and to close down its office in Angola.

    ·       Private Angolan Bank.  Banco Africano Investimentos (“BAI”), a $7 billion private Angolan bank which caters to PEPs, gained access to the U.S. financial system through HSBC in New York, despite troubling information about its ownership and failure to provide a copy of its anti-money laundering policies and procedures.

    Recommendations.  To combat the abuses, the report makes several recommendations, including:

    • World Bank PEP Controls.  Implementing stronger controls on PEP accounts as laid out in a recent World Bank report, including by requiring banks to use reliable databases to screen clients for PEPs, requiring beneficial ownership forms for bank accounts so hidden PEPs are exposed, and conducting annual reviews of PEP accounts to detect suspicious activity.
    • Beneficial Owners.  Requiring U.S. corporations to identify their beneficial owners, in order to thwart the use of shell companies with hidden PEP owners.
    • Ending Exemptions.  Ending the exemptions Treasury granted in 2002 to the Patriot Act’s anti-money laundering requirements, so that real estate and escrow agents will have to know their customers, evaluate the source of their funds, and turn away suspect clients.  Also requiring Treasury to instruct banks to subject attorney-client and law office accounts to greater oversight and stop their use to shield PEPs from scrutiny.
    • Immigration and Visa Criteria.  Toughening immigration and visa rules to make foreign corruption a legal basis for barring entry into the United States and for removing PEPs already here.  Increasing law enforcement support for Presidential Proclamation 7750 to identify corrupt foreign officials who should be barred from the United States.
    • Stronger FATF Recommendations.  Encouraging U.S. professional organizations to issue anti-money laundering and anti-corruption guidance to their members.

    “Stopping the flow of illegal money is critical, because foreign corruption damages civil society, undermines the rule of law, and threatens our security,” said Levin. 

    ISPLA is continually reviewing proposed legislation, government reports, media releases, and hearing testimony in its ongoing government affairs program on behalf of investigative and security professionals.

    Bruce Hulme, ISPLA Director of Government Affairs

    - Providing Timely Important Information to Investigative and Security Professionals -

  • 11 Jan 2010 11:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)


    Seminar on Human Rights and Terrorism co-sponsored by the Council of Europe, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Club of Madrid, and the Valsaín Foundation - Malaga, Spain, October 8, 2009

    Richard Horowitz is an attorney concentrating in corporate, international, and security matters.  He served in the Israeli Defenses Forces for six years and holds a private investigator’s license.  His website is

    Let me begin by saying that we all want the same thing, which is to save lives without departing from our values in the process.  As the opening speaker of the second session though I paid close attention to the deliberations of the first session and recognized that no one mentioned terrorism.

    The topic of our seminar is not human rights; it is human rights and terrorism, and since no one spoke about the terrorism this morning I’ll compensate for that.  After all, the name of this session isCurrent Counter-Terrorist Framework at the National and International Level.”  How can we discuss a counter-terrorist framework if we do not talk about the terrorist threat we face?

    As such, I wish to make the following points.

    First, I disagree with the name of this morning’s session: “Human Rights at the Core of Counter-Terrorism.”  It is not.  At the core of counter-terrorism is keeping people alive and safe; human rights is one of numerous considerations in carrying out this policy but it is not its core.

    An American court, in my opinion, displayed a similarly mistaken view in 1997: 

    The PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine] is an international organization with ties to Palestine, and which the district court concluded is engaged in a wide range of lawful activities, including the provision of "education, day care, health care, and social security, as well as cultural activities, publications, and political organizing." The government avers that the PFLP is an international terrorist and communist organization, but does not dispute the district court's finding that the organization conducts lawful activities.

    Is the PFLP a social welfare organization with a military wing or a terrorist organization that takes care of the social welfare of its people?  This sort of question is not new - its nature can be traced backed to Plato and Aristotle - essence versus characteristics.  Is terrorism the essence of the PFLP or one of its characteristics?  Many people will disagree along political and ideological lines in analyzing a specific group but I think on reflection one should agree that saving lives that is at the core of counterterrorism.

    Second, the main threat we face, that of Islamic terrorism, is also not new.  Extreme statements made by Islamic terrorists last month are no different than statements made by their ideological predecessors last millennium.  The world did not change on 9/11 as is often said; rather, people unaccustomed to thinking about this threat were now confronted with an aspect of the world they heretofore neglected. You all have the article I published in 1999 entitled The International Problem of Islamic Terrorism.  It was simply a compilation of news items from the world press from January to June, 1999.  I was not the only one who recognized this problem before 9/11.

    This is the name hearing before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East: Islamic Fundamentalism and Islamic Radicalism.  When – July 1985.

    An important news item from the BBC

    The 16-hour siege on a Pan Am jet in Pakistan has come to a bloody end, with at least 17 people dead.

    Four gunmen, who boarded the Bombay to New York flight at Karachi Airport disguised as security guards, opened fire on the 390 hostages at 2130 local time.

    Some passengers were able to escape the carnage down one of the plane's emergency chutes, but it is thought to have been at least 10 minutes before Pakistani commandos reached the jet.

    Businessman Mohammed Amin said he heard one hijacker tell another: "The moment of the Last Jihad has arrived. If we are all killed we will all be martyrs."

    This BBC report is dated September 5, 1986.

    Third, to understand the threat we have to recognize that Islamic and Arab terrorism are the only real forms of international terrorism.  Other situations commonly referred to as international terrorism are in reality domestic terrorism occurring in a foreign country.  The Shining Path in Peru, the IRA in North Ireland, the ETA in Spain, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the FARC in Colombia, Baader-Meinhof in Germany, and so on – do not plan or execute attacks in foreign countries, unrelated to the conflict, or in the international arena.  Examples otherwise are the exception that proves the rule.

    It can be argued that international terrorism began with Arab hijacking of international flights in the 1960s.  And, the U.S. State Department’s Office of the Historian published a history of its Office for Combattng Terrorism, dated March 1984, explaining that the “historical antecedent” to this office was that “on September 25, 1972, 20 days after the terrorist attack on Olympic athletes at Munich, President Nixon established the Cabinet Committee to Combat Terrorism.” 

    Moreover, U.S. law for example defines international terrorism as follows: “The term ‘international terrorism’ means terrorism involving citizens or the territory of more than one country,”[1] the definition used by the State Department in its well-known Country Reports and Patterns of Global Terrorism.  This definition can hardly distinguish between true international terrorism and a domestic attack in a foreign country where citizens of another country happened to be killed.

    International hijackings, the Munich Olympics attack, and the attacks in recent years by Islamic terrorists in, for example, New York, London, Madrid, Mumbai, Delhi, Bali, Mombasa, Algiers, Djerba, Kenya and Tanzania, Riyadh, Jakarta, Casablanca, Istanbul, Glasgow, and Amman, the murder of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam and the fatwa calling for the death of Salman Rushdie; foiled attacks, for example, in Paris, Toronto, Rome, Manila, Germany; the NATO base plot, the Shoe Bomber, the Millennium Bomber, Australia’s Operation Pendennis, Operation Bojinka in 1995 and the Trans-Atlantic plot in 2006, clearly indicate a different objective, strategy, and mind-set than the aforementioned terrorist groups from various countries. 

    Fourth, concern and hesitancy about using the phrase “Islamic terrorism” hampers an understanding of the threat.  No one hesitates using the world mujahidin, yet this word which is the plural of the word mujahid, contains the letters “j,” “h,” and “d.”  It and the word jihad have the same root.  The letter “m” as a prefix indicates “he who does” – a mujahid is he who does jihad, or a Jihadi in English.  Similarly, a mufti is he who makes a fatwa. The world islam has the same root, “s,” “l,” and “m” as the word silm which means submission.  A muslim is he who submits (to the will of Allah).

    We refer to Hamas, Hezballah, and al-Qaeda because those are the names in Arabic that these groups call themselves.  We call the group the Islamic Jihad because it is the translation of what they call themselves – al-Jihad al-Islami. 

    Is there a Western prejudice against Muslims, a conviction that Muslim morality is so feeble that using the wrong language may push them towards radicalism, which would then be our fault?  If radical Muslims use the words Jihad and Islam to describe themselves, why the concern that our doing so will radicalize mainstream Muslims?

    Fifth, to a great extent it is the West’s conviction to liberal, democratic values that fuels Islamic terrorists, who are on  a mission to insure that the world runs according to Allah’s will.  Islamic terrorists cannot and do not reconcile Allah’s will with Western liberty and freedom.

    In his 2003 State of the Union speech President Bush said “Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation.  The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity.”  From the President Bush’s 2006 State of the Union speech: “Liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East, because liberty is the right and hope of all humanity.”

    A Western leader invoking God to support liberty in the Middle East, claiming it to be “God’s gift to humanity”? 

    President Bush is not alone.  From John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in 1961:

    [The] same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globeundefinedthe belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God . . . Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

    And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for youundefinedask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

    Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you . . .. let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own.

    A conservative republican and a liberal democratic president, 40 years apart, publicly proclaim that the United States is on a mission from God to spread liberty and freedom – a direct challenge to whether the liberal West or radical Islam will rule the world. 

    Even without these statements from Western leaders, it is the West’s practice itself of liberty and democratic values that Islamic terrorists want to eradicate. There is no paucity of statements attesting to this from these extremists themselves.

    Sixth, human rights, the protection of which is the Council of Europe’s mission, is not a universally agreed-upon concept.  Read Sayyid Qutb’s Social Justice in Islam for example, first published in Arabic in 1949, for an understanding of human rights and social justice different than our Western understanding.

    Excerpts from the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam:

    Wishing to contribute to the efforts of mankind to assert human rights, to protect man from exploitation and persecution, and to affirm his freedom and right to a dignified life in accordance with the Islamic Shari’ah;

    Article 2
    (a) Life is a God-given gift and the right to life is guaranteed to every human being.  It is the duty of individuals, societies and states to protect this right from any violation, and it is prohibited to take away life except for a Shari’ah-prescribed reason.

    (d) Safety from bodily harm is a guaranteed right.  It is the duty of the state to safeguard it, and it is prohibited to breach it without a Shari’ah-prescribed reason.

    Article 7

    (b) Parents and those in such like capacity have the right to choose the type of education they desire for their children, provided they take into consideration the interest and future of the children in accordance with ethical values and the principles of the Shari’ah.

    Article 16
    Everyone shall have the right to enjoy the fruits of his scientific, literary, artistic or technical production and the right to protect the moral and material interests stemming therefrom, provided that such production is not contrary to the principles of Shari’ah.

    Article 19

    (d) There shall be no crime or punishment except as provided for in the Shari’ah.

    Article 22
    (a) Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah.

    Article 24
    All the rights and freedoms stipulated in this Declaration are subject to the Islamic Shari'ah.

    Article 25
    The Islamic Shari'ah is the only source of reference for the explanation or clarification to any of the articles of this Declaration.

    When comparing the 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights and the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, it is not difficult to see that the Cairo Declaration’s provisions that are subject to Sharia parallel the European Conventions’ provisions that are “subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law” or similar language. 

    I do not know what the drafters of the Cairo Declaration had in mind when they referred to Sharia but I do know what today’s Islamic terrorists consider a Sharia dominated world to be, and there is no need to emphasize the difference between their world view and that of the West.

    An April 19, 2009 New York Times article entitled “Secure Enough to Sin, Baghdad Returns to Its Old Ways” begins with the sentence “Vice is making a comeback in this city once famous for 1,001 varieties of it.”  Since the fall of the Taliban, men in Kabul can shave their beards, girls have gone back to school, and people can buy music and DVDs, all prohibited under Taliban rule.

    And so we see that Bin Laden and the Taliban are correct; the spread of Western liberal culture and values are a threat to their interpretation and application of Islam, and they believe they are on a mission from Allah to fight to the death to stop it. 

    This is the terrorist threat we face; one that affects international security with transnational consequences.  It certainly deserves appropriate analysis and discussion, particularly in the context of human rights.

    [1] 22 USC § 2656f(d)

  • 06 Jan 2010 6:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Jihadism in 2010: The Threat Continues

    Stratfor Global Intelligence Report – January 6, 2010 - By Scott Stewart

    For the past several years, STRATFOR has published an annual forecast on al Qaeda and the jihadist movement. Since our first jihadist forecast in January 2006, we have focused heavily on the devolution of jihadism from a phenomenon primarily involving the core al Qaeda group to one based mainly on the wider jihadist movement and the devolving, decentralized threat it poses.

    The central theme of last year’s forecast was that al Qaeda was an important force on the ideological battlefield, but that the efforts of the United States and its allies had marginalized the group on the physical battlefield and kept it bottled up in a limited geographic area. Because of this, we forecast that the most significant threat in terms of physical attacks stemmed from regional jihadist franchises and grassroots operatives and not the al Qaeda core. We also wrote that we believed the threat posed by such attacks would remain tactical and not rise to the level of a strategic threat. To reflect this reality, we even dropped al Qaeda from the title of our annual forecast and simply named it Jihadism in 2009: The Trends Continue.

    The past year proved to be very busy in terms of attacks and thwarted plots emanating from jihadist actors. But, as forecast, the primary militants involved in carrying out these terrorist plots were almost exclusively from regional jihadist groups and grassroots operatives, and not militants dispatched by the al Qaeda core. We anticipate that this dynamic will continue, and if anything, the trend will be for some regional franchise groups to become even more involved in transnational attacks, thus further usurping the position of al Qaeda prime at the vanguard of jihadism on the physical battlefield.

    A Note on ‘Al Qaeda’

    As a quick reminder, STRATFOR views what most people refer to as “al Qaeda” as a global jihadist network rather than a monolithic entity. This network consists of three distinct entities. The first is a core vanguard organization, which we frequently refer to as al Qaeda prime or the al Qaeda core. The al Qaeda core is comprised of Osama bin Laden and his small circle of close, trusted associates, such as Ayman al-Zawahiri. Due to intense pressure by the U.S. government and its allies, this core group has been reduced in size since 9/11 and remains relatively small because of operational security concerns. This insular group is laying low in Pakistan near the Afghan border and comprises only a small portion of the larger jihadist universe.

    The second layer of the network is composed of local or regional terrorist or insurgent groups that have adopted jihadist ideology. Some of these groups have publicly claimed allegiance to bin Laden and the al Qaeda core and become what we refer to as franchise groups, like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) or al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Other groups may adopt some or all of al Qaeda’s jihadist ideology and cooperate with the core group, but they will maintain their independence for a variety of reasons. Such groups include the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami (HUJI). Indeed, in the case of some larger organizations such as LeT, some of the group’s factions may actually oppose close cooperation with al Qaeda.

    The third and broadest layer of the network is the grassroots jihadist movement, that is, people inspired by the al Qaeda core and the franchise groups but who may have little or no actual connection to these groups.

    As we move down this hierarchy, we also move down in operational capability and expertise in what we call terrorist tradecraft undefined the set of skills required to conduct a terrorist attack. The operatives belonging to the al Qaeda core are generally better trained than their regional counterparts, and both of these layers tend to be far better trained than the grassroots operatives. Indeed, many grassroots operatives travel to places like Pakistan and Yemen in order to seek training from these other groups.

    The Internet has long proved to be an important tool for these groups to reach out to potential grassroots operatives. Jihadist chat rooms and Web sites provide indoctrination in jihadist ideology and also serve as a means for aspiring jihadists to make contact with like-minded individuals and even the jihadist groups themselves.

    2009 Forecast Review

    Overall, our 2009 forecast was fairly accurate. As noted above, we wrote that the United States would continue its operations to decapitate the al Qaeda core and that this would cause the group to be marginalized from the physical jihad, and that has happened.

    While we missed forecasting the resurgence of jihadist militant groups in Yemen and Somalia in 2008, in our 2009 forecast we covered these two countries carefully. We wrote that the al Qaeda franchises in Yemen had taken a hit in 2008 but that they could recover in 2009 given the opportunity. Indeed, the groups received a significant boost when they merged into a single group that also incorporated the remnants of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia, which had been forced by Saudi security to flee the country. We closely followed this new group, which named itself al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and STRATFOR was the first organization we know of to discuss the threat AQAP posed to civil aviation when we raised this subject on Sept. 2 and elaborated on it Sept. 16, in an analysis titled Convergence: The Challenge of Aviation Security. That threat manifested itself in the attempt to destroy an airliner traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 undefined an operation that very nearly succeeded.

    Regarding Somalia, we have also been closely following al Shabaab and the other jihadist groups there, such as Hizbul Islam. Al Shabaab publicly pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden in September 2009 and therefore has formally joined the ranks of al Qaeda’s regional franchise groups. However, as we forecast last January, while the instability present in Somalia provides al Shabaab the opportunity to flourish, the factionalization of the country (including the jihadist groups operating there) has also served to keep al Shabaab from dominating the other actors and assuming control of the country.

    We also forecast that, while Iraq had been relatively quiet in 2008, the level of violence there could surge in 2009 due to the Awakening Councils being taken off the U.S. payroll and having their control transferred to the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government, which might not pay them and integrate them into the armed forces. Indeed, since August, we have seen three waves of major coordinated attacks against Iraqi ministry buildings in Baghdad linked to the al Qaeda affiliate in Iraq, the Islamic State of Iraq. Since this violence is tied to the political situation in Iraq, and there is a clear correlation between the funds being cut to the Awakening Councils and these attacks, we anticipate that this violence will continue through the parliamentary elections in March. The attacks could even continue after that, if the Sunni powers in Iraq deem that their interests are not being addressed appropriately.

    As in 2008, we paid close attention in 2009 to the situation in Pakistan. This not only was because Pakistan is the home of the al Qaeda core’s leadership but also because of the threat that the TTP and the other jihadist groups in the country posed to the stability of the nuclear-armed state. As we watched Pakistan for signs that it was becoming a failed state, we noted that the government was actually making considerable headway in its fight against its jihadist insurgency. Indeed, by late in the year, the Pakistanis had launched not only a successful offensive in Swat and the adjacent districts but also an offensive into South Waziristan, the heart of the TTP’s territory.

    We also forecast that the bulk of the attacks worldwide in 2009 would be conducted by regional jihadist franchise groups and, to a lesser extent, grassroots jihadists, rather than the al Qaeda core, which was correct.

    In relation to attacks against the United States, we wrote that we did not see a strategic threat to the United States from the jihadists, but that the threat of simple attacks against soft targets remained in 2009. We said we had been surprised that there were no such attacks in 2008 but that, given the vulnerabilities that existed and the ease with which such attacks could be conducted, we believed they were certainly possible. During 2009, we did see simple attacks by grassroots operatives in Little Rock, Arkansas, and at Fort Hood, Texas, along with several other grassroots plots thwarted by authorities.

    Forecast for 2010

    In the coming year we believe that, globally, we will see many of the trends continue from last year. We believe that the al Qaeda core will continue to be marginalized on the physical battlefield and struggle to remain relevant on the ideological battlefield. The regional jihadist franchise groups will continue to be at the vanguard of the physical battle, and the grassroots operatives will remain a persistent, though lower-level, threat.

    One thing we noticed in recent months was that the regional groups were becoming more transnational in their attacks, with AQAP involved in the attack on Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in Saudi Arabia as well as the trans-Atlantic airliner bombing plot on Christmas Day. Additionally, we saw HUJI planning an attack against the Jyllands-Posten newspaper and cartoonist Kurt Westergaard in Denmark, and on Jan. 1, 2010, a Somali man reportedly associated with al Shabaab broke into Westergaard’s home armed with an axe and knife and allegedly tried to kill him. We believe that in 2010 we will see more examples of regional groups like al Shabaab and AQAP reaching out to become more transnational, perhaps even conducting attacks in the United States and Europe.

    We also believe that, due to the open nature of the U.S. and European societies and the ease of conducting attacks against them, we will see more grassroots plots, if not successful attacks, in the United States and Europe in the coming year. The concept behind AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahayshi’s article calling for jihadists to conduct simple attacks against a variety of targets may be gaining popularity among grassroots jihadists. Certainly, the above-mentioned attack in Denmark involving an axe and knife was simple in nature. It could also have been deadly had the cartoonist not had a panic room within his residence. We will be watching for more simple attacks.

    As far as targets, we believe that they will remain largely the same for 2010. Soft targets such as hotels will continue to be popular, since most jihadists lack the ability to attack hard targets outside of conflict zones. However, jihadists have demonstrated a continuing fixation on attacking commercial aviation targets, and we can anticipate additional plots and attacks focusing on aircraft.

    Regionally, we will be watching for the following:

    • Pakistan: Can the United States find and kill the al Qaeda core’s leadership? A Pakistani official told the Chinese Xinhua news agency on Jan. 4 that terrorism will come to an end in Pakistan in 2010, but we are not nearly so optimistic. Even though the military has made good progress in its South Waziristan offensive, most of the militants moved to other areas of Pakistan rather than engage in frontal combat with Pakistan’s army. The area along the border with Pakistan is rugged and has proved hard to pacify for hundreds of years. We don’t think the Pakistanis will be able to bring the area under control in only one year. Clearly, the Pakistanis have made progress, but they are not out of the woods. The TTP has launched a number of attacks in the Punjabi core of Pakistan (including Karachi) and we see no end to this violence in 2010.
    • Afghanistan: We will continue to closely monitor jihadist actors in this war-torn country. Our forecast for this conflict is included in our Annual Forecast 2010, published on Jan. 4.
    • Yemen: We will be watching closely to see if AQAP will follow the normal jihadist group lifespan of making a big splash, coming to the notice of the world and then being hit heavily by the host government with U.S. support. This pattern was exhibited a few years back by AQAP’s Saudi al Qaeda brethren, and judging by the operations in Yemen over the past month, it looks like 2010 might be a tough year for the group. It is important to note that the strikes against the group on Dec. 17 and Dec. 24 predated the Christmas bombing attempt, and the pressure on them will undoubtedly be ratcheted up considerably in the wake of that attack. Even as the memory of the Christmas Day attack begins to fade in the media and political circles, the focus on Yemen will continue in the counterterrorism community.
    • Indonesia: Can Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad find an effective leader to guide it back from the edge of destruction after the death of Noordin Mohammad Top and the deaths or captures of several of his top lieutenants? Or will the Indonesians be able to enjoy further success against the group’s surviving members?
    • North Africa: Will AQIM continue to shy away from the al Qaeda core’s targeting philosophy and essentially function as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat with a different name in Algeria? Or will AQIM shift back toward al Qaeda’s philosophy of attacking the far enemy and using suicide bombers and large vehicle bombs? In Mauritania, Niger and Mali, will the AQIM-affiliated cells there be able to progress beyond amateurish attacks and petty banditry to become a credible militant organization?
    • Somalia: We believe the factionalism in Somalia and within the jihadist community there will continue to hamper al Shabaab. The questions we will be looking to answer are: Will al Shabaab be able to gain significant control of areas of the country that can be used to harbor and train foreign militants? And, will the group decide to use its contacts within the Somali diaspora to conduct attacks in East Africa, South Africa, Australia, Europe and the United States? We believe that al Shabaab is on its way to becoming a transnational player and that 2010 may well be the year that it breaks out and then draws international attention like AQAP has done in recent months.
    • India: We anticipate that Kashmiri jihadist groups will continue to plan attacks against India in an effort to stir-up communal violence in that country and stoke tensions between India and Pakistan undefined and provide a breather to the jihadist groups being pressured by the government of Pakistan.

    As long as the ideology of jihadism survives, the jihadists will be able to recruit new militants and their war against the world will continue. The battle will oscillate between periods of high and low intensity as regional groups rise in power and are taken down. We don’t believe jihadists pose a strategic geopolitical threat on a global, or even regional, scale, but they will certainly continue to launch attacks and kill people in 2010.

    Note - ISPLA appreciates the excellent work of Stratfor Global Intelligence.  This report is republished with the permission of Stratfor:

  • 04 Jan 2010 5:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Christmas Day Airliner Attack and the Intelligence Process

    By George Friedman-Stratfor Global Intelligence – January 4, 2010

    As is well known, a Nigerian national named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to destroy a passenger aircraft traveling from Amsterdam to Detroit on Dec. 25, 2009. Metal detectors cannot pinpoint the chemical in the device he sought to detonate, PETN. The PETN was strapped to his groin. Since a detonator could have been detected, the attacker chose undefined or had chosen for him undefined a syringe filled with acid for use as an improvised alternative means to initiate the detonation. In the event, the device failed to detonate, but it did cause a fire in a highly sensitive area of the attacker’s body. An alert passenger put out the fire. The plane landed safely. It later emerged that the attacker’s father, a prominent banker in Nigeria, had gone to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria to warn embassy officials of his concerns that his son might be involved with jihadists.

    The incident drove home a number of points. First, while al Qaeda prime undefined the organization that had planned and executed 9/11 undefined might be in shambles, other groups in other countries using the al Qaeda brand name and following al Qaeda prime’s ideology remain operational and capable of mounting attacks. Second, like other recent attacks, this attack was relatively feeble: It involved a single aircraft, and the explosive device was not well-conceived. Third, it remained and still remains possible for a terrorist to bring explosives on board an aircraft. Fourth, intelligence available in Nigeria, London and elsewhere had not moved through the system with sufficient speed to block the terrorist from boarding the flight.

    An Enduring Threat

    From this three things emerge. First, although the capabilities of jihadist terrorists have declined, their organizations remain functional, and there is no guarantee that these organizations won’t increase in sophistication and effectiveness. Second, the militants remain focused on the global air transport system. Third, the defensive mechanisms devised since 2001 remain ineffective to some degree.

    The purpose of terrorism in its purest form is to create a sense of insecurity among a public. It succeeds when fear moves a system to the point where it can no longer function. This magnifies the strength of the terrorist by causing the public to see the failure of the system as the result of the power of the terrorist. Terror networks are necessarily sparse. The greater the number of persons involved, the more likely a security breach becomes. Thus, there are necessarily few people in a terror network. An ideal terror network is global, able to strike anywhere and in multiple places at once. The extent of the terror network is unknown, partly because of its security systems and partly because it is so sparse that finding a terrorist is like finding a needle in a haystack. It is the fact that the size and intentions of the terror network are unknown that generates the sense of terror and empowers the terrorist.

    The global aspect is also important. That attacks can originate in many places and that attackers can belong to many ethnic groups increases the desired sense of insecurity. All Muslims are not members of al Qaeda, but all members of al Qaeda are Muslims, and any Muslim might be a member of al Qaeda. This logic is beneficial to radical Islamists, who want to increase the sense of confrontation between Islam and the rest of the world. This not only increases the sense of insecurity and vulnerability in the rest of the world, it also increases hostility toward Muslims, strengthening al Qaeda’s argument to Muslims that they are in an unavoidable state of war with the rest of the world. Equally important is the transmission of the idea that if al Qaeda is destroyed in one place, it will spring up elsewhere.

    This terror attack made another point, intended or not. U.S. President Barack Obama recently decided to increase forces in Afghanistan. A large part of his reasoning was that Afghanistan was the origin of 9/11, and the Taliban hosted al Qaeda. Therefore, he reasoned the United States should focus its military operations in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, since that was the origin of al Qaeda. But the Christmas Day terror attempt originated in Yemen, a place where the United States has been fighting a covert war with limited military resources. It therefore raises the question of why Obama is focusing on Afghanistan when the threat from al Qaeda spinoffs can originate anywhere.

    From the terrorist perspective, the Yemen attack was a low-cost, low-risk operation. If it succeeded in bringing down a U.S. airliner over Detroit, the psychological impact would be massive. If it failed to do so, it would certainly increase a sense of anxiety, cause the U.S. and other governments to institute new and expensive security measures, and potentially force the United States into expensive deployments of forces insufficient to dominate a given country but sufficient to generate an insurgency. If just some of these things happened, the attack would have been well worth the effort.

    The Strategic Challenge

    The West’s problem can be identified this way: There is no strategic solution to low-level terrorism, i.e., terrorism carried out by a sparse, global network at unpredictable times and places. Strategy involves identifying and destroying the center of gravity of an enemy force. By nature, jihadist terrorism fails to present a single center of gravity, or a strong point or enabler that if destroyed would destroy the organization. There is no organization properly understood, and the destruction of one organization does not preclude the generation of another organization.

    There are two possible solutions. The first is to accept that Islamist terrorism cannot be defeated permanently but can be kept below a certain threshold. As it operates now, it can inflict occasional painful blows on the United States and other countries undefined including Muslim countries undefined but it cannot threaten the survival of the nation (though it might force regime change in some Muslim countries).

    In this strategy, there are two goals. The first is preventing the creation of a jihadist regime in any part of the Muslim world. As we saw when the Taliban provided al Qaeda with sanctuary, access to a state apparatus increases the level of threat to the United States and other countries; displacing the Taliban government reduced the level of threat. The second goal is preventing terrorists from accessing weapons of mass destruction that, while they might not threaten the survival of a country, would certainly raise the pain level to an unacceptable point. In other words, the United States and other countries should focus on reducing the level of terrorist capabilities, not on trying to eliminate the terrorist threat as a whole.

    To a great extent, this is the American strategy. The United States has created a system for screening airline passengers. No one expects it to block a serious attempt to commit terrorism on an airliner, nor does this effort have any effect on other forms of terrorism. Instead, it is there to reassure the public that something is being done, to catch some careless attackers and to deter others. But in general, it is a system whose inconvenience is meant to reassure.

    The Challenge of Identifying Potential Terrorists

    To the extent to which there is a center of gravity to the problem, it is in identifying potential terrorists. In both the Fort Hood attack and the Detroit incident, information was in the system that could have allowed authorities to identify and stop the attackers, but in both cases, this information didn’t flow to the places where action could have been taken. There is thus a chasm between the acquisition of information and the person who has the authority to do something about it. The system “knew” about both attackers, but systems don’t actually think or know anything. The person with authority to stop a Nigerian from boarding the plane or who could relieve the Fort Hood killer from duty lacked one or more of the following: intelligence, real authority and motivation.

    The information gathered in Nigeria had to be widely distributed to be useful. It was unknown where Abdulmutallab was going to go or what he was going to do. The number of people who needed to know about him was enormous, from British security to Amsterdam ticket agents checking passports. Without distributing the intelligence widely, it became useless. A net can’t have holes that are too big, and the failure to distribute intelligence to all points creates holes.

    Of course, the number of pieces of intelligence that come into U.S. intelligence collection is enormous. How does the person interviewing the father know whether the father has other reasons to put his son on a list? Novels have been written about father-son relations. The collector must decide whether the report is both reliable and significant, and the vast majority of information coming into the system is neither. The intelligence community has been searching for a deus ex machina in the form of computers able not only to distribute intelligence to the necessary places but also to distinguish reliable from unreliable, significant from insignificant.

    Forgetting the interagency rivalries and the tendency to give contracts to corporate behemoths with last-generation technology, no matter how widely and efficiently intelligence is distributed, at each step in the process someone must be given real authority to make decisions. When Janet Napolitano or George Tenet say that the system worked after an incident, they mean not that the outcome was satisfactory, but that the process operated as the process was intended to operate. Of course, being faithful to a process is not the same as being successful, but the U.S. intelligence community’s obsession with process frequently elevates process above success. Certainly, process is needed to operate a vast system, but process also is being used to deny people authority to do what is necessary outside the process, or, just as bad, it allows people to evade responsibility by adhering to the process.

    Not only does the process relieve individuals in the system from real authority; it also strips them of motivation. In a system driven by process, the individual motivated to abort the process and improvise is weeded out early. There is no room for “cowboys,” the intelligence community term for people who hope to be successful at the mission rather than faithful to the process. Obviously, we are overstating matters somewhat, but not by as much as one might think. Within the U.S. intelligence and security process, one daily sees good people struggling to do their jobs in the face of processes that can’t possibly anticipate all circumstances.

    The distribution of intelligence to the people who need to see it is, of course, indispensable, along with whatever other decision supports can be contrived. But, in the end, unless individuals are expected and motivated to make good decisions, the process is merely the preface to failure. No system can operate without process. At the same time, no process can replace authority, motivation and, ultimately, common sense.

    The fear of violating procedures cripples Western efforts to shut down low-level terrorism. But the procedures are themselves flawed. A process that says that in a war against radical Islamists, an elderly visitor from Iceland is as big of a potential threat as a twentysomething from Yemen might satisfy some ideological imperative, but it violates the principle of common sense and blocks the authority and the motivation to act decisively.

    It is significant that this is one of the things the Obama administration has changed in response to the attempted bombing.

    The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced Jan. 4 that anyone traveling from or through nations regarded as state sponsors of terrorism as well as “other countries of interest” will be required to go through enhanced screening. The TSA said those techniques would include full-body pat downs, carry-on luggage searches, full-body scanning and explosive detection technology. The U.S. State Department lists Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria as state sponsors of terrorism. The other countries whose passengers will face enhanced screening include Afghanistan, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen. A rational system of profiling thus appears to be developing.

    In all likelihood, no system can eliminate events such as what happened on Christmas, and in all likelihood, the republic would survive an intermittent pattern of such events undefined even successful ones. Focusing on the strategic level makes sense. But given the level of effort and cost involved in terrorist protection throughout the world, successful systems for distributing intelligence and helping identify potentially significant threats are long overdue. The U.S. government has been tackling this since 2001, and it still isn’t working.

    But, in the end, creating a process that precludes initiative by penalizing those who do not follow procedures under all circumstances and intimidating those responsible for making quick decisions from risking a mistake is bound to fail.

    This report is republished with permission of Stratfor

  • 04 Sep 2009 2:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    U.S. Circuit Court Ruling on Computer Searches

    In a ruling with broad implications for computer privacy, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that federal investigators went too far when they seized the digital records of a drug testing company and kept the results of confidential drug tests performed on all Major League baseball players during the 2002 season.

    According to published reports, 104 players tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. The names of four of them undefined Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, and (now retired) Sammy Sosa undefined were leaked to the press by an anonymous source or sources.    
    The court upheld a ruling by Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the Central District Court of California that required the government to yield records taken in the investigation. The judges ruled that law-enforcement agents went far beyond the scope of the warrant authorizing a search of the records of 10 ballplayers for whom the government had established probable cause. Government officials said they are considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
    The court's 9-2 ruling could have a significant impact on future database searches. It sets forth a five-part standard for warrants, reminiscent of the "Miranda warning" established by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1966 ruling requiring that criminal suspects be fully notified of their rights when placed under arrest. In computer searches, the circuit court ruled, warrants should not be issued unless the government waives reliance upon the plain view exception to the exclusionary rule, which bars evidence seized without authority of a warrant. Under the long-established plain view exception, evidence that is in plain sight during an authorized search may be taken and used in court even when the object or objects seized are not among the things described in the warrant. Officers with a warrant to search a home for stolen merchandise, for example, may also recognize and seize as evidence marijuana in a transparent bag, left in plain sight on a coffee table.

    The Ninth Circuit ruling is the latest in a long and winding trail of litigation stemming from a federal investigation of the Bay Area Laboratories Company (BALCO), suspected of providing steroids to professional baseball players. Prosecutors obtained a subpoena from a grand jury in the Northern District Court of California, calling on Comprehensive Drug Testing Inc. of Santa Ana to turn over
    all drug testing records and specimens of all the players who had participated in the 2002 testing. The tests were conducted on all Major League players at the time, with the guarantee that the results would be confidential and there would be no penalties for testing positive. The purpose was to determine if five percent or more of the players would test positive, the threshold agreed to by
    the Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association as grounds for future testing.

    The players association and the testing company appealed the subpoena and succeeded in having it quashed. But the government also obtained a warrant from the Central District Court of California to seize and search the records of the 10 players for whom it had probable cause. Both the district and circuit courts ruled, however, that officials exceeded the terms of the warrant they executed against Comprehensive Drug Testing. The warrant instructed the investigators to determine how much of the information about the ten players could be segregated on-site from the rest of the company's records. It also required procedures for segregating the data in any investigation of the files and records that might be conducted in a law-enforcement laboratory.

    "Brushing aside an offer by on-site by CDT personnel to provide all information pertaining to the ten identified baseball players," wrote Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, "the government copied from CDT's computer what the parties have called the 'Tracey Directory,' which contained, in Judge Cooper's words 'information and test results involving hundreds of other baseball players and athletes engaged in other professional sports.'"    

    Kozinksi dismissed as "too clever by half" the contention that once the agents opened the directory, the disputed records were in plain view. Under that line of reasoning, the judge argued, everything the government wishes to seize would come under the plain view exception.

    "Why stop at the list of all baseball players when you can seize the entire Tracey Directory?" Kozinski wrote. "Why just that directory and not the entire hard drive? Why just this computer and not the one in the next room and the next room after that?"
    The court noted the difficulties inherent in computer searches, since records can be quickly and easily be destroyed, mislabeled or even "booby trapped" to thwart an investigation. Nonetheless it set forth the following rules for judges to follow in issuing warrants:

    1. Magistrates should insist that the government waive reliance on the plain view doctrine in digital evidence cases.
    2. Segregation and redaction must be either done by specialized personnel or an independent third party. If the segregation is to be done by government computer personnel, it must agree in the warrant application that the computer personnel will not disclose to the investigators any information other than that which is the target of the warrant.
    3. Warrants and subpoenas must disclose the actual risks of destruction of information as well as prior efforts to seize that information in other judicial fora.
    4. The government's search protocol must be designed to uncover only the information for which it has probable cause, and only that information may be examined by the case agents.
    5. The government must destroy or, if the recipient may lawfully possess it, return non-responsive data, keeping the issuing magistrate informed about when it has done so and what ithas kept.

    The court's majority opinion acknowledged the difficulty of limiting searches to prescribed bounds when dealing with computer data:

    We accept the reality that such over-seizing is an inherent part of the electronic search process and proceed on the assumption that, when it comes to the seizure of electronic records, this will be far more common than in the days of paper records. This calls for greater vigilance on the part of judicial officers in striking the right balance between the government's interest in law enforcement and the right of individuals to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

    The two dissenting judges argued that it was the court's majority that was overreaching in this case and ignoring it's own precedent, established in a ruling in which the court had denied an appeal to suppress evidence of child pornography found during a computer search for false identity cards. "There is no rule," wrote Judges Consuelo Callahan and Sandra Ikuta, "that evidence turned up while officers are rightfully searching a location under properly issued warrant must be excluded simply because the evidence may support charges for a related crime."

  • 02 Sep 2009 7:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On the evening of Aug. 28, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Saudi Deputy Interior Minister, and the man in charge of the kingdom’s counterterrorism efforts, was receiving members of the public in connection with the celebration of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. As part of the Ramadan celebration, it is customary for members of the Saudi royal family to hold public gatherings where citizens can seek to settle disputes or offer Ramadan greetings.

    One of the highlights of the Friday gathering was supposed to be the prince’s meeting with Abdullah Hassan Taleh al-Asiri, a Saudi man who was a wanted militant from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Al-Asiri had allegedly renounced terrorism and had requested to meet the prince in order to repent and then be accepted into the kingdom’s amnesty program. Such surrenders are not unprecedented, and they serve as great press events for the kingdom’s ideological battle against jihadists. Prince Mohammed, who is responsible for the Saudi rehabilitation program for militants, is a key figure in that ideological battle.

    In February, a man who appeared with al-Asiri on Saudi Arabia’s list of most-wanted militants, former Guantanamo Bay inmate Mohammed al-Awfi , surrendered in Yemen and was transported to Saudi Arabia where he renounced terrorism and entered into the kingdom’s amnesty program. Al-Awfi, who had appeared in a January 2009 video issued by the newly created AQAP after the merger of the Saudi and Yemeni nodes of the global jihadist network, was a senior AQAP leader, and his renouncement was a major blow against AQAP.

    But the al-Asiri case ended very differently from the al-Awfi case. Unlike al-Awfi, al-Asiri was not a genuine repentant, he was a human Trojan horse. After al-Asiri entered a small room to speak with Prince Mohammed, he activated a small improvised explosive device (IED) he had been carrying inside his anal cavity. The resulting explosion ripped al-Asiri to shreds but only lightly injured the shocked prince, the target of al-Asiri’s unsuccessful assassination attempt.

    While the assassination proved unsuccessful, AQAP had been able to shift the operational paradigm in a manner that allowed them to achieve tactical surprise. The surprise was complete and the Saudis did not see the attack coming, the operation could have succeeded had it been better executed.

    The kind of paradigm shift evident in this attack has far-reaching implications from a protective-intelligence standpoint, and security services will have to adapt in order to counter the new tactics employed. The attack also allows some important conclusions to be drawn about AQAP’s ability to operate inside Saudi Arabia.

    Paradigm Shifts

    Militants conducting terrorist attacks and the security services attempting to guard against such attacks have long engaged in a tactical game of cat and mouse. As militants adopt new tactics, security measures are then implemented to counter those tactics. The security changes then cause the militants to change in response and the cycle begins again. These changes can include using different weapons, employing weapons in a new way or changing the type of targets selected.

    Sometimes, militants will implement a new tactic or series of tactics that is so revolutionary that it completely changes the framework of assumptions undefined or the paradigm, under which the security forces operate. Historically, al Qaeda and its jihadist progeny have proved to be very good at understanding the security paradigm and then developing tactics intended to exploit vulnerabilities in that paradigm in order to launch surprise attacks. For example:

    •·         Prior to the 9/11 attacks, it was inconceivable that a large passenger aircraft would be used as a manually operated cruise missile. Hence, security screeners allowed box cutters to be carried onto aircraft, which were then used by the hijackers to take over the planes.

    •·         The use of faux journalists to assassinate Ahmed Shah Masood with suicide IEDs hidden in their camera gear was also quite inventive.

    •·         Had Richard Reid been able to light the fuse on his shoe bomb, we might still be wondering what happened to American Airlines Flight 63.

    •·         The boat bomb employed against the USS Cole in October 2000 was another example of a paradigm shift that resulted in tactical surprise.

    Once the element of tactical surprise is lost, however, the new tactics can be countered.

    •·         When the crew and passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 learned what had happened to the other flights hijacked and flown to New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, they stormed the cockpit and stopped the hijackers from using their aircraft in an attack. Aircraft cockpit doors have also been hardened and other procedural measures have been put in place to make 9/11-style suicide hijackings harder to pull off.

    •·         Following the Masood assassination, journalists have been given very close scrutiny before being allowed into the proximity of a VIP.

    •·         The traveling public has felt the impact of the Reid shoe-bombing attempt by being forced to remove their shoes every time they pass through airport security. And the thwarted 2006 Heathrow plot has resulted in limits on the size of liquid containers travelers can take aboard aircraft.

    •·         The U.S. Navy is now very careful to guard against small craft pulling up alongside its warships.

    Let’s now take a look at the paradigm shift marked by the Prince Mohammed assassination attempt.

    AQAP’s Tactical Innovations

    First, using a repentant militant was a brilliant move, especially when combined with the timing of Ramadan. For Muslims, Ramadan is a time for introspection, sacrifice, reconciliation and repentance, it is a time to exercise self-restraint and practice good deeds. Additionally, as previously mentioned, Ramadan is a time when the Saudi royal family customarily makes itself more accessible to the people than at other times of the year. By using a repentant militant who appears on Saudi Arabia’s list of most-wanted militants, AQAP was playing to the ego of the Saudis, who very much want to crush AQAP, and who also want to use AQAP members who have renounced terrorism and the group as part of their ideological campaign against jihadists. The surrender of an AQAP member offered the Saudi government a prize and a useful tool, it was an attractive offer and, as anticipated, Prince Mohammed took the bait. (Another side benefit of this tactic from the perspective of AQAP is that it will make the Saudis far more careful when they are dealing with surrendered militants in the future.)

    The second tactical innovation in this case was the direct targeting of a senior member of the Saudi royal family and the member of the family specifically charged with leading the campaign against AQAP. In the past, jihadist militants in Saudi Arabia have targeted foreign interests and energy infrastructure in the kingdom. While jihadists have long derided and threatened the Saudi royal family in public statements, including AQAP statements released this year, they had not, prior to the Prince Mohammed assassination attempt, ever tried to follow through on any of their threats. Nor has the group staged any successful attack inside the kingdom since the February 2007 attack that killed four French citizens, and it has not attempted a major attack in Saudi Arabia since the failed February 2006 attack against a major oil-processing facility in the city of Abqaiq. Certainly the group had never before attempted a specifically targeted assassination against any member of the very large Saudi royal family, much less a senior member. Therefore the attack against Prince Mohammed came as a complete surprise. There are many less senior members of the royal family who would have been far more vulnerable to attack, but they would not have carried the rank or symbolism that Mohammed does.

    But aside from his rank, Mohammed was the logical target to select for this operation because of his office and how he conducts his duties. Mohammed has long served as the primary contact between jihadists and the Saudi government, and he is the person Saudi militants go to in order to surrender. He has literally met with hundreds of repentant jihadists in person and had experienced no known security issues prior to the Aug. 28 incident. This explains why Mohammed personally spoke on the phone with al-Asiri prior to the surrender and why he did not express much concern over meeting with someone who appeared on his government’s list of most-wanted militants. He met with such men regularly.

    Since it is well known that Mohammed has made it his personal mission to handle surrendering militants, AQAP didn’t have to do much intelligence work to realize that Mohammed was vulnerable to an attack or to arrange for a booby-trapped al-Asiri to meet with Mohammed. They merely had to adapt their tactics in order to exploit vulnerabilities in the security paradigm.

    The third tactical shift is perhaps the most interesting, and that is the use of an IED hidden in the anal cavity of the bomber. Suicide bombers have long been creative when it comes to hiding their devices. In addition to the above-mentioned IED in the camera gear used in the Masood assassination, female suicide bombers with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have hidden IEDs inside brassieres, and female suicide bombers with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party have worn IEDs designed to make them look pregnant. However, this is the first instance we are aware of where a suicide bomber has hidden an IED inside a body cavity.

    It is fairly common practice around the world for people to smuggle contraband such as drugs inside their body cavities. This is done not only to get items across international borders but also to get contraband into prisons. It is not unusual for people to smuggle narcotics and even cell phones into prisons inside their body cavities (the prison slang for this practice is “keistering”). It is also not at all uncommon for inmates to keister weapons such as knives or improvised stabbing devices known as “shanks.” Such keistered items can be very difficult to detect using standard search methods, especially if they do not contain much metal.

    In the case of al-Asiri, he turned himself in to authorities on the afternoon of Aug. 27 and did not meet with Mohammed until the evening of Aug. 28. By the time al-Asiri detonated his explosive device, he had been in custody for some 30 hours and had been subjected to several security searches, though it is unlikely that any of them included a body cavity search. While it is possible that there was some type of internal collusion, it is more likely that the device had been hidden inside of al-Asiri the entire time.

    AQAP’s claim of responsibility for the attack included the following statement:
    “…Abdullah Hassan Taleh al-Asiri, who was on the list of 85 wanted persons, was able, with the help of God, to enter Nayef’s palace as he was among his guards and detonate an explosive device. No one will be able to know the type of this device or the way it was detonated. Al-Asiri managed to pass all the security checkpoints in Najran and Jeddah airports and was transported on board Mohammed bin Nayef’s private plane.”

    AQAP also threatened additional surprise attacks in the “near future,” but now that the type of device al-Asiri used is known, security measures can, and almost certainly will, be implemented to prevent similar attacks in the future.

    While keistering an IED is a novel tactic, it does present operational planners with some limitations. For one thing, the amount of explosive material that can be hidden inside a person is far less than the amount that can be placed inside a backpack or is typically used in a suicide belt or vest. For another, the body of the bomber will tend to absorb much of the blast wave and most of any fragmentation from the device. This means that the bomber would have to get in very close proximity to an intended target in order to kill him or her. Such a device would not be very useful for a mass-casualty attack like the July 17 Jakarta hotel bombings and instead would be more useful in assassination attempts against targeted individuals.

    We have not been able to determine exactly how the device was triggered, but it likely employed a command-detonated remote device of some kind. Having wires protruding from the bomber’s body would be a sure giveaway. The use of a wireless remote means that the device would be susceptible to radio frequency countermeasures.

    One other concern about such a device is that it would likely have a catastrophic result if employed on an aircraft, especially if it were removed from the bomber’s body and placed in a strategic location on board the aircraft. Richard Reid’s shoe IED only contained about four ounces of explosives, an amount that could conceivably be smuggled inside a human.

    What the Attack Says About AQAP

    While the Aug. 28 attack highlighted AQAP’s operational creativity, it also demonstrated that the group failed to effectively execute the attack after gaining the element of surprise. Quite simply, the bomber detonated his device too far away from the intended target. It is quite likely that the group failed to do adequate testing with the device and did not know what its effective kill radius was. AQAP will almost certainly attempt to remedy that error before it tries to employ such a device again.

    In the larger picture, this attempt shows that AQAP does not have the resources inside the kingdom to plan and execute an attack on a figure like Prince Mohammed. That it would try a nuanced and highly targeted strike against Mohammed rather than a more brazen armed assault or vehicle-borne IED attack demonstrates that the group is very weak inside Saudi Arabia. It even needed to rely on operatives and planners who were in Yemen to execute the attack.

    When the formation of AQAP was announced in January, STRATFOR noted that it would be important to watch for indications of whether the merger of the Saudi and Yemeni groups was a sign of desperation by a declining group or an indication that it had new blood and was on the rise. AQAP’s assassination attempt on Prince Mohammed has clearly demonstrated that the group is weak and in decline.

    AQAP has not given up the struggle, but the group will be hard-pressed to weather the storm that is about to befall it as the Saudis retaliate for the plot. It will be very surprising if it is able to carry through with its threat to attack other members of the Saudi royal family in the near future. Indeed, the very fact that AQAP has threatened more attacks on the royal family likely indicates that the threats are empty; if the group truly did have other plots in the works, it would not want to risk jeopardizing those plots by prompting the Saudis to increase security in response to a threat.

    Lacking the strength to conduct large, aggressive attacks, the weakened AQAP will need to continue innovating in order to pose a threat to the Saudi monarchy. But, as seen in the Aug. 28 case, tactical innovation requires more than just a novel idea, militants must also carefully develop and test new concepts before they can use them to effectively conduct a terrorist attack.

  • 27 Aug 2009 4:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Investigation of Airline Terrorism

    On Aug. 24, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill addressed a special session of the Scottish Parliament. The session was called so that MacAskill could explain why he had decided to release Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of terrorism charges in connection with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, and who had been expected to spend the rest of his life in prison. MacAskill said he granted al-Megrahi a compassionate release because al-Megrahi suffers from terminal prostate cancer and is expected to live only a few months.

    The Aug. 20 release of al-Megrahi ignited a firestorm of outrage in both the United Kingdom and the United States. FBI Director Robert Mueller released to the press contents of an uncharacteristically blunt and critical letter he had written to MacAskill in which Mueller characterized al-Megrahi’s release as inexplicable and “detrimental to the cause of justice.” Mueller told MacAskill in the letter that the release “makes a mockery of the rule of law.”

    The flames of outrage over the release of al-Megrahi were further fanned when al-Megrahi received a hero’s welcome upon his arrival in Tripoli -- video of him being welcomed and embraced by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was broadcast all over the world.

    For his part, Gadhafi has long lobbied for al-Megrahi’s release, even while taking steps to end Libya’s status as an international pariah. Gadhafi first renounced terrorism and his nuclear ambitions in 2003, shortly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In October 2008 he completed the compensation agreement with the families of the U.S. victims of the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 and of an April 1986 Libyan attack against the La Belle disco in Berlin.

    Yet despite the conviction of al-Megrahi, the 2003 official admission of Libyan responsibility for the Pan Am bombing in a letter to the United Nations, and the agreement to pay compensation to the families of the Pan Am victims, Gadhafi has always maintained in public statements that al-Megrahi and Libya were not responsible for the bombing. The official admission of responsibility for the Pan Am bombing, coupled with the public denials, has resulted in a great deal of ambiguity and confusion over the authorship of the attack -- which, in all likelihood, is precisely what the denials were intended to do.

    The Pan Am 103 Investigation

    At 7:03 p.m. on Dec. 21, 1988, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in one of Pan Am Flight 103’s cargo containers, causing the plane to break apart and fall from the sky. The 259 passengers and crew members aboard the flight died, as did 11 residents of Lockerbie, Scotland, the town where the remnants of the jumbo jet fell.

    Immediately following the bombing, there was suspicion that the Iranians or Syrians had commissioned the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) to conduct the bombing. This belief was based on the fact that German authorities had taken down a large PFLP-GC cell in Frankfurt in October 1988 and that one member of the cell had in his possession an IED concealed inside a Toshiba radio. Frankfurt is the city where Pan Am 103 departed before stopping in London. Indeed, even today, there are still some people who believe that the PFLP-GC was commissioned by either the Iranian or the Syrian government to conduct the Pan Am bombing.

    The PFLP-GC theory might eventually have become the officially accepted theory had the bomb on Pan Am 103 detonated (as planned) while the aircraft was over the North Atlantic Ocean. However, a delay in the plane’s departure from London resulted in the timed device detonating while the aircraft was still over land, and this allowed authorities to collect a great deal of evidence that had been scattered across a wide swath of the Scottish countryside. The search effort was one of the most complex crime-scene investigations ever conducted.

    Through months of painstakingly detailed effort, investigators were able to determine that the aircraft was brought down by an IED containing a main charge of Semtex, that the IED had been placed inside a Toshiba radio cassette player (in a macabre coincidence, that particular model of Toshiba, the RT-SF 16, is called the “BomBeat radio cassette player”), and that the radio had been located inside a brown Samsonite hard-side suitcase located inside the cargo container.

    Investigators were also able to trace the clothing inside the suitcase containing the IED to a specific shop, Mary’s House, in Sliema, Malta. While examining one of the pieces of Maltese clothing in May 1989, investigators found a fragment of a circuit board that did not match anything found in the Toshiba radio. It is important to remember that in a bombing, the pieces of the IED do not entirely disappear. They may be shattered and scattered, but they are not usually completely vaporized. Although some pieces may be damaged beyond recognition, others are not, and this often allows investigators to reconstruct the device

    In mid-1990, after an exhaustive effort to identify the circuit-board fragment, the FBI laboratory in Washington was able to determine that the circuit board was very similar to one that came from a timer that a special agent with the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service had recovered from an arms cache while investigating a Libyan-sponsored coup attempt in Lome, Togo, in 1986. Further investigation determined that the company that produced the timers, the Swiss company MEBO, had sold as many as 20 of the devices to the Libyan government, and that the Libyan government was the company’s primary customer. Interestingly, in 1988, MEBO rented one of its offices in Zurich to a firm called ABH, which was run by two Libyan intelligence officers: Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Badri Hassan.

    The MEBO timer, model MST-13, is very different from the ice-cube timer in the PFLP-GC device found in Frankfurt in October 1988. Additionally, the ice-cube timer in the PFLP-GC device was used in conjunction with a barometric pressure switch, and the IED used a different main charge, TNT, instead of the Semtex used in the Pan Am 103 device.

    Perhaps the fact that does the most damage to the PFLP-GC conspiracy theory is that the principal bombmaker for the PFLP-GC Frankfurt cell (and the man who made the PFLP-GC Toshiba device), Marwan Khreesat, was actually an infiltrator sent into the organization by the Jordanian intelligence service. Kreesat not only assisted in providing the information that allowed the Germans to take down the cell, but he was under strict orders by his Jordanian handlers to ensure that every IED he constructed was not capable of detonating. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that one of the IEDs he created was used to destroy Pan Am 103.

    One of the Libyans connected to MEBO, al-Megrahi, is an interesting figure. Not only was he an officer with Libyan intelligence, the External Security Organization, or ESO, but he also served as the chief of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA) and had visited Malta many times. The owner of the Mary’s House clothing shop in Sliema identified al-Megrahi as the man who purchased the clothing found in the suitcase, and Maltese immigration records indicated that al-Megrahi was in Malta on Dec. 7, 1988, the time that the clothing was purchased. Al-Megrahi left Malta on Dec. 9, 1988, but returned to the country using a false identity on Dec. 20, using a passport issued by the ESO in the name of Ahmed Khalifa Abdusamad. Al-Megrahi left Malta using the Abdusamad passport on Dec. 21, 1988, the day the suitcase was apparently sent from Malta aboard Air Malta Flight KM180 to Frankfurt and then transferred to Pan Am 103.

    On Nov. 13, 1991, the British government charged al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, the LAA station manager at Luqa Airport in Malta, with the bombing. One day later, a federal grand jury in the United States returned an indictment against the same two men for the crime. In March 1995, the FBI added the two men to its most wanted list and the Diplomatic Security Service’s Rewards for Justice Program offered a $4 million reward for their capture. Al-Megrahi and Fhimah were placed under house arrest in Libya -- a comfortable existence that, more than actually confining them, served to protect them from being kidnapped and spirited out of Libya to face trial.

    After many years of boycotts, embargos, U.N. resolutions and diplomatic wrangling -- including extensive efforts by South African President Nelson Mandela and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan -- a compromise was reached and all parties agreed to a trial in a neutral country -- the Netherlands -- conducted under Scottish law. On April 5, 1999, al-Megrahi and Fhimah were transferred to Camp Zeist in the Netherlands to stand trial before a special panel of Scottish judges.

    On Jan. 31, 2001, after a very long trial that involved an incredible amount of technical and detailed testimony, the judges reached their decision. The Scottish judges acquitted Fhimah, finding that there was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he was involved in the plot (the British government had charged that he had been the person who stole the luggage tags and placed the suitcase on the Air Malta flight), but they did find al-Megrahi guilty of 270 counts of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum sentence of 27 years.

    Although the case against al-Megrahi was entirely circumstantial -- there was no direct evidence he or Fhimah had placed the device aboard the aircraft -- the Scottish judges wrote in their decision that they believed the preponderance of the evidence, including al-Megrahi’s knowledge of airline security measures and procedures, his connection to MEBO, his purchase of the clothing in the suitcase that had contained the IED and his clandestine travel to Malta on Dec. 20 to 21, 1988, convinced them beyond a reasonable doubt that al-Megrahi was guilty as charged.

    In a December 2003 letter to the United Nations, Libya accepted responsibility for the Pan Am 103 bombing. (In the same letter, Libya also took responsibility for the September 1989 bombing of UTA Flight 772, a French airliner destroyed by an IED after leaving Brazzaville, Congo, and making a stop in N’Djamena, Chad. All 170 people aboard the aircraft died when it broke up over the Sahara in Niger.) Nevertheless, the Libyan government continued to maintain al-Megrahi’s innocence in the Pan Am bombing, just as al-Megrahi had done throughout the trial, insisting that he had not been involved in the bombing.

    Al-Megrahi’s reluctance to admit responsibility for the bombing or to show any contrition for the attack is one of the factors singled out by those who opposed his release from prison. It is also one of the hallmarks of a professional intelligence officer. In many ways, al-Megrahi’s public stance regarding the bombing can be summed up by the unofficial motto of the CIA’s Office of Technical Services -- “Admit nothing, deny everything, make counter-accusations.”


    In the shadow world of covert action it is not uncommon for the governments behind such actions to deny (or at least not claim) responsibility for them. These governments also often attempt to plan such attacks in a way that will lead to a certain level of ambiguity -- and thereby provide plausible deniability. This was a characteristic seen in many Libyan attacks against U.S. interests, such as the 1986 La Belle Disco bombing in Berlin. It was only an intercept of Libyan communications that provided proof of Libyan responsibility for that attack.

    Many attacks that the Libyans sponsored or subcontracted out, such as the string of attacks carried out against U.S. interests by members of the Japanese Red Army and claimed in the name of the Anti-Imperialist International Brigade, were likewise meant to provide Libya with plausible deniability. Gadhafi did not relish the possibility of another American airstrike on his home in Tripoli, like the one that occurred after the La Belle attack in April 1986. (A number of Libyan military targets also were hit in the broader U.S. military action, known as Operation El Dorado Canyon.) Pan Am 103 is considered by many to be Gadhafi’s retribution for those American airstrikes, one of which killed his adopted baby daughter. Gadhafi, who had reportedly been warned of the strike by the Italian government, was not injured in the attack.

    During the 1980s, the Libyan government was locked in a heated tit-for-tat battle with the United States. One source of this friction were U.S. claims that the Libyan government supported terrorist groups such as the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO), which conducted several brutal, high-profile attacks in the 1980s, including the December 1985 Rome and Vienna airport assaults. There was also military tension between the two countries as Libya declared a “line of death” across the mouth of the Gulf of Sidra. The U.S. Navy shot down several Libyan fighter aircraft that had attempted to enforce the edict. But these two threads of tension were closely intertwined; the U.S. Navy purposefully challenged the line of death in the spring of 1986 in response to the Rome and Vienna attacks, and it is believed that the La Belle attack was retribution for the U.S. military action in the Gulf of Sidra. The Libyan ESO was also directly implicated in attacks against U.S. diplomats in Sanaa, Yemen, and Khartoum, Sudan, in 1986.

    Because of the need for plausible deniability, covert operatives are instructed to stick to their cover story and maintain their innocence if they are caught. Al-Megrahi’s consistent denials and his many appeals, which often cite the PFLP-GC case in Frankfurt, have done a great deal to sow doubt and provide Libya with some deniability.

    Like Osama bin Laden’s initial denial of responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, al-Megrahi’s claims of innocence have served as ready fuel for conspiracy theorists, who claim he was framed by the U.S. and British governments. However, any conspiracy to frame al-Megrahi and his Libyan masters would have to be very wide ranging and, by necessity, reach much further than just London and Washington. For example, anyone considering such a conspiracy must also account for the fact that in 1999 a French court convicted six Libyans in absentia for the 1989 bombing of UTA Flight 772. The six included Abdullah al-Sanussi, Gadhafi’s brother-in-law and head of the ESO.

    Getting two or more governments to cooperate on some sort of grand conspiracy to frame the Libyans and exonerate the Iranians and Syrians is hard to fathom. Such cooperation would have to involve enough people that, sooner or later, someone would spill the beans -- especially considering that the Pan Am 103 saga played out over multiple U.S. administrations. As seen by the current stir over CIA interrogation programs, administrations love to make political hay by revealing the cover-ups of previous administrations. Surely, if there had been a secret ploy by the Reagan or Bush administrations to frame the Libyans, the Clinton or Obama administration would have outed it. The same principle applies to the United Kingdom, where Margaret Thatcher’s government oversaw the beginning of the Pan Am 103 investigation and Labour governments after 1997 would have had the incentive to reveal information to the contrary.

    While the U.S. and British governments work closely together on a number of intelligence projects, they are frequently at odds on counterterrorism policy and

    foreign relations. From our personal experience, we believe that it would be very difficult to get multiple U.S. and British administrations from different political parties to work in perfect harmony to further this sort of conspiracy. Due to the UTA investigation and trial, the conspiracy would have to somehow involve the French government. While the Americans working with the British is one thing, the very idea of the Americans, British and French working in perfect harmony on any sort of project -- much less a grand secret conspiracy to frame the Libyans -- is simply unimaginable. It is much easier to believe that the Libyans were guilty, especially in light of the litany of other terror attacks they committed or sponsored during that era.

    Had the IED in the cargo hold of Pan Am 103 exploded over the open ocean, it is very unlikely that the clothing from Malta and the fragment of the MEBO timer would have ever been recovered -- think of the difficulty the French have had in locating the black box from Air France 447 in June of this year. In such a scenario, the evidence linking al-Megrahi and the Libyan government to the Pan Am bombing might never have been discovered and plausible deniability could have been maintained indefinitely.

    The evidence recovered in Scotland and al-Megrahi’s eventual conviction put a dent in that deniability, but the true authors of the attack -- al-Megrahi’s superiors -- were never formally charged. Without al-Megrahi’s cooperation, there was no evidence to prove who ordered him to undertake the attack, though it is logical to conclude that the ESO would never undertake such a significant attack without Gadhafi’s approval. Now that al-Magrahi has returned to Libya and is Lybian safekeeping, there is no chance that any death-bed confession will ever be make it to the West. His denials will be his final words and the ambiguity and doubt those denials cast will be his legacy. In the shadowy world of clandestine operations, this is the ideal behavior for someone caught committing an operational act. He has shielded his superiors and his government to the end. From the perspective of the ESO, and Moammar Gadhafi, al-Megrahi is indeed a hero.


  • 14 Aug 2009 6:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Hotels as Targets

    By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton

    On the morning of July 17, a guest at the JW Marriott hotel in Jakarta came down to the lobby and began walking toward the lounge with his roll-aboard suitcase in tow and a backpack slung across his chest. Sensing something odd about the fellow, alert security officers approached him and asked him if he required assistance. The guest responded that he needed to deliver the backpack to his boss and proceeded to the lounge, accompanied by one of the security guards. Shortly after entering the lounge, the guest activated the improvised explosive device (IED) contained in the backpack, killing himself and five others. Minutes later, an accomplice detonated a second IED in a restaurant at the adjacent Ritz-Carlton hotel, killing himself and two other victims, bringing the death toll from the operation to nine undefined including six foreigners.

    The twin bombings in Jakarta underscore two tactical trends that STRATFOR has been following for several years now, namely, the targeting of hotels in terrorist attacks and the use of smaller suicide devices to circumvent physical security measures. The Jakarta attacks also highlight the challenges associated with protecting soft targets such as hotels against such attacks.

    Hotels as Targets

    During the 1970s the iconic terrorist target became the international airliner. But as airline security increased in response to terrorist incidents, it became more difficult to hijack or bomb aircraft, and this difficulty resulted in a shift in targeting. By the mid-1980s, while there were still some incidents involving aircraft, the iconic terrorist target had become the embassy. But attacks against embassies have also provoked a security response, resulting in embassy security programs that have produced things like the American “Inman buildings”, which some have labeled “fortress America” buildings due to their foreboding presence and their robust construction designed to withstand rocket and large IED attacks. Due to these changes, it became far more difficult to attack embassies, many of which have become, for the most part in our post-9/11 world, hard targets. (This is certainly not universal, and there are still vulnerable embassies in many places. In fact, some countries locate their embassies inside commercial office buildings or hotels.)

    Overall, however, this trend of making embassies hard targets has caused yet another shift in the terrorist paradigm. As STRATFOR has noted since 2004, hotels have become the iconic terrorist target of the post-9/11 era. Indeed, by striking an international hotel in a capital city, militants can make the same type of statement against Western imperialism and decadence that they can make by striking an embassy. Hotels are often full of Western businessmen, diplomats and intelligence officers, providing militants with a target-rich environment where they can kill Westerners and gain international media attention without having to penetrate the extreme security of a modern embassy.

    Our 2004 observation about the trend toward attacking hotels has been borne out since that time by attacks against hotels in several parts of the world, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, India and Egypt. In addition to attacks against single hotels, in the attacks in Mumbai, Amman , Sharm el-Sheikh undefined and now Jakarta undefined militants staged coordinated attacks in which they hit more than one hotel.

    Hotels have taken measures to improve security, and hotel security overall is better today than it was in 2004. In fact, security measures in place at several hotels, such as the Marriott in Islamabad , have saved lives on more than one occasion. However, due to the very nature of hotels, they remain vulnerable to attacks.

    Unlike an embassy, a hotel is a commercial venture and is intended to make money. In order to make money, the hotel needs to maintain a steady flow of customers who stay in its rooms; visitors who eat at its restaurants, drink at its bars and rent its banquet and conference facilities; and merchants who rent out its shop space. On any given day a large five-star hotel can have hundreds of guests staying there, hundreds of other visitors attending conferences or dinner events and scores of other people eating in the restaurants, using the health club or shopping at the luxury stores commonly found inside such hotels. Such amenities are often difficult to find outside of such hotels in cities like Peshawar or Kabul , and therefore these hotels also become gathering places for foreign businessmen, diplomats and journalists residing in the city, as well as for wealthy natives. It is fairly easy for a militant operative to conduct surveillance of the inside of a hotel by posing as a restaurant patron or by shopping in its stores.

    Of course, the staff required to run such a huge facility can also number in the hundreds, with clerks, cooks, housekeepers, waiters, bellboys, busboys, valets, florists, gardeners, maintenance men, security personnel, etc. These hotels are like little cities with activities that run 24 hours a day, with people, luggage, food and goods coming and going at all hours. There are emerging reports that one of the suicide bombers in the Jakarta attack was a florist at one of the hotels and it is possible that he used his position to smuggle IED components into the facility among floral supplies. If true, the long-term placement of militant operatives within the hotel staff will pose daunting challenges to corporate security directors. Such an inside placement could also explain how the cell responsible for the attack was able to conduct the detailed surveillance required for the operation without being detected.

    Quite simply, it is extremely expensive to provide a hotel with the same level of physical security afforded to an embassy. Land to provide standoff distance is very expensive in many capital cities and heavy reinforced-concrete construction to withstand attacks is far more expensive than regular commercial construction. Such costs must be weighed against the corporate bottom line.

    Moreover, security procedures at an embassy such as screening 100 percent of the visitors and their belongings are deemed far too intrusive by many hotel managers, and there is a constant tension between hotel security managers and hotel guest-relations managers over how much security is required in a particular hotel in a specific city. In fact, this debate over security is very similar to the tension that exists between diplomats and security personnel at the U.S. Department of State. And the longer the period between successful attacks (there had not been a successful terrorist attack in Jakarta since September 2004 and in Indonesia since October 2005), the harder it is to justify the added expense undefined and inconvenience undefined of security measures at hotels. (Of course, in very dangerous places such as Baghdad , Islamabad and Kabul heavy security is far easier to justify, and some hotels in such locations have been heavily fortified following attacks on other hotels in those cities.)

    In many places, hotel guests are subjected to less security scrutiny than visitors to the hotel, as the hotel staff seeks to make them feel welcomed, and it is not surprising that militants in places like Mumbai (and perhaps Jakarta ) have been able to smuggle weapons and IED components into a hotel concealed inside their luggage. We have received a report from a credible source indicating that one of the Jakarta attackers had indeed been checked into the JW Marriott hotel. The source says the attacker, posing as a guest, was an Indonesian but was likely from a remote area because he did not appear to be familiar with how to use modern conveniences such as the room’s Western-style toilet. That the attackers were Indonesians supports the theory the attack was conducted by the Southeast Asian group Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) or a JI splinter group. JI has conducted (or is a suspect in) every high-profile terror attack in Indonesia in recent years.

    Sources advise that significant similarities exist between the unexploded device discovered in the attacker’s hotel room in the JW Marriott and known JI explosive devices used in past attacks and recovered in police raids. This is another strong indication JI was involved.

    One other important lesson that travelers should take from this string of hotel attacks is that, while they should pay attention to the level of security provided at hotels, and stay at hotels with better security, they should not rely exclusively on hotel security to keep them safe. There are some simple personal security measures that should also be taken to help mitigate the risk of staying at a hotel.

    Size is Not Everything

    As STRATFOR has noted since 2005, the counterterrorism tactic of erecting barricades around particularly vulnerable targets undefined including government buildings such as embassies and softer targets such as hotels undefined has forced militants to rethink their attack strategies and adapt. Instead of building bigger and bigger bombs that could possibly penetrate more secure areas, operational planners are instead thinking small undefined and mobile. In fact it was the October 2005 triple-bomb attacks against restaurants in Bali , Indonesia , by JI and the November 2005 triple suicide-bombing attacks against three Western hotels in Amman , Jordan , that really focused our attention on this trend.

    Like the July 7, 2005, London bombings, these two attacks in Jakarta and Amman used smaller-scale explosive devices to bypass security and target areas where people congregate. Such attacks demonstrated an evolution in militant tactics away from large and bulky explosives and toward smaller, more portable devices that can be used in a wider variety of situations. Flexibility provides many options, and in the case of the operative who attacked the JW Marriott on July 17, it appears that he was able to approach a meeting of foreign businessmen being held in the lobby lounge and attack them as a target of opportunity. A vehicle-borne IED (VBIED) detonated in front of the hotel would not likely have been able to target such a group so selectively on the fly.

    Of course, this trend does not mean that large VBIEDs will never again be employed any more than the trend to attack hotels means aircraft and embassies will never be attacked. Rather, the intent here is to point out that as security has been increased around targets, militants have adapted to security measures designed to stop them and they have changed their tactics.

    At first glance, it would seem logical that the shift from large VBIEDs would cause casualty counts to drop, but in the case of JI attacks in Indonesia , the shift to smaller devices has, in fact, caused higher casualty counts. The August 2003 attack against the JW Marriott in Jakarta used a VBIED and left 12 people dead. Likewise, the September 2004 attack against the Australian embassy in Jakarta used a VBIED and killed 10 people. The use of three smaller IEDs in the 2005 Bali attacks killed 23, more than JI’s 2003 and 2004 VBIED attacks combined. Additionally, the 2005 attacks killed five foreigners as opposed to only one in the 2003 attack and none in the 2004 attacks. The operatives behind the July 17 attacks surpassed the 2005 Bali attacks by managing to kill six foreigners.

    The reason that smaller is proving to be more effective at killing foreigners is that the rule for explosives is much like real estate undefined the three most important factors are location, location and location. Though a larger quantity of explosives will create a larger explosion, the impact of an explosion is determined solely by placement. If a bomber can carry a smaller explosive into the center of a heavily packed crowd undefined such as a wedding reception or hotel lobby undefined it will cause more damage than a larger device detonated farther away from its intended target. These smaller devices can also be used to target a specific person, as seen in the December 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto .

    A person carrying explosives in a bag or concealed under clothing is much more fluid and can thus maneuver into the best possible position before detonating. In essence, a suicide bomber is a very sophisticated form of “smart” munition that can work its way through gaps in security and successfully seek its target. This type of guidance appears to have worked very effectively in the July 17 Jakarta attacks. As noted above, of the seven victims in this attack (the nine total deaths included the bombers), six were foreigners. JI has received criticism from the Islamist community in Indonesia for killing innocent bystanders (and Muslims) and such targeted attacks will help mute such criticism.

    In addition to being more efficient, smaller IEDs also are cheaper to make. In an environment where explosive material is difficult to obtain, it is far easier to assemble the material for two or three small devices than the hundreds of pounds required for a large VBIED. An attack like the July 17 Jakarta attack could have been conducted at a very low cost, probably not more than a few thousand dollars. The three devices employed in that attack (as noted above, there was a third device left in the hotel room that did not explode) likely did not require much more than 60 pounds of explosive material.

    This economical approach to terrorism is a distinct advantage for a militant group like Noordin Mohammad Top’s faction of JI, Tanzim Qaedat al-Jihad. Due to the Indonesian government’s crackdown on JI and its factions, the Indonesian militants simply do not have the external funding and freedom of action they enjoyed prior to the October 2002 Bali attack. This means that, at the present time, it would be very difficult for JI to purchase or otherwise procure the hundreds of pounds of explosive material required for a large VBIED undefined coming up with 60 pounds is far easier.

    Even though JI is fragmented and its abilities have been degraded since the 2002 Bali attack, a cell like the one headed by Top certainly maintains the ability and the expertise to conduct low-cost, carefully targeted attacks like the July 17 Jakarta bombings. Such attacks are easily sustainable, and the only real limiter on the group’s ability to conduct similar attacks in the future is finding attackers willing to kill themselves in the process. Perhaps a more significant limiter on their operational tempo will be the law enforcement response to the attack, which could force the cell to go underground until the heat is off. It might also be difficult to move operatives and IEDs from safe houses to targets when there is more scrutiny of potential JI militants.

    Increased security at potential targets could also cause the cell to wait until complacency sets in before attacking a less wary undefined and softer undefined target. Of course, the group’s operational ability will also be affected should the Indonesian government capture or kill key operatives like Top and his lieutenants.

    From the standpoint of security, the challenges of balancing security with guest comfort and customer service at large hotels will continue to be a vexing problem, though certainly it would not be surprising to see an increase in the use of magnetometers and X-ray machines to screen guests and visitors at vulnerable facilities. This may also include such measures as random bomb-dog searches and sweeps in areas where dogs are not a cultural taboo. Additionally, in light of the threat of suicide bombers using smaller devices or posing as guests, or even placing operatives on the hotel staff, much more effort will be made to implement proactive security measures such as protective intelligence and counter surveillance, which focus more on identifying potential attackers than on his or her weapons.

    Hotel staff members also need to be taught that security is not just the role of the designated security department. Security officers are not omnipresent; they require other people on the hotel staff who have interactions with the guests and visitors to be their eyes and ears and to alert them to individuals who have made it through security and into the hotel and appear to be potential threats. Of course, the traveling public also has a responsibility not only to look out for their own personal security but to maintain a heightened state of situational awareness and notify hotel security of any unusual activity

    Above report prepared by Stratfor Global Intelligence.

  • 14 Aug 2009 6:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Security at Places of Worship: More Than a Matter of Faith

    June 17, 2009 | 1706 GMT - By Scott Stewart and Fred Burton of Stratfor Global Intelligence

    In recent months, several high-profile incidents have raised awareness of the threat posed by individuals and small groups operating under the principles of leaderless resistance. These incidents have included lone wolf attacks against a doctor who performed abortions in Kansas, an armed forces recruitment center in Arkansas and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. Additionally, a grassroots jihadist cell was arrested for attempting to bomb Jewish targets in the Bronx and planning to shoot down a military aircraft at an Air National Guard base in Newburgh, N.Y.

    In addition to pointing out the threat posed by grassroots cells and lone wolf operatives, another common factor in all of these incidents is the threat of violence to houses of worship. The cell arrested in New York left what they thought to be active improvised explosive devices outside the Riverdale Temple and the Riverdale Jewish Community Center. Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed in the lobby of the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita. Although Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad conducted his attack against a Little Rock recruiting center, he had conducted preoperational surveillance and research on targets that included Jewish organizations and a Baptist church in places as far away as Atlanta and Philadelphia. And while James von Brunn attacked the Holocaust Museum, he had a list of other potential targets in his vehicle that included the National Cathedral.

    In light of this common thread, it might be instructive to take a more detailed look at the issue of providing security for places of worship.

    Awareness: The First Step

    Until there is awareness of the threat, little can be done to counter it. In many parts of the world, such as Iraq, India and Pakistan, attacks against places of worship occur fairly frequently. It is not difficult for religious leaders and members of their congregations in such places to be acutely aware of the dangers facing them and to have measures already in place to deal with those perils. This is not always the case in the United States, however, where many people tend to have an “it can’t happen here” mindset, believing that violence in or directed against places of worship is something that happens only to other people elsewhere.

    This mindset is particularly pervasive among predominantly white American Protestant and Roman Catholic congregations. Jews, Mormons, Muslims and black Christians, and others who have been targeted by violence in the past, tend to be far more aware of the threat and are far more likely to have security plans and measures in place to counter it. The Jewish community has very well-developed and professional organizations such as the Secure Community Network (SCN) and the Anti-Defamation League that are dedicated to monitoring threats and providing education about the threats and advice regarding security. The Council on American-Islamic Relations has taken on a similar role for the Muslim community and has produced a “Muslim community safety kit” for local mosques. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) also has a very organized and well-connected security department that provides information and security advice and assistance to LDS congregations worldwide.

    There are no functional equivalents to the SCN or the LDS security department in the larger Catholic, evangelical Protestant and mainline Protestant communities, though there are some organizations such as the recently established Christian Security Network that have been attempting to fill the void.

    Following an incident, awareness of the threat seems to rise for a time, and some houses of worship will put some security measures in place, but for the most part such incidents are seen as events that take place elsewhere, and the security measures are abandoned after a short time.

    Permanent security measures are usually not put in place until there has been an incident of some sort at a specific house of worship, and while the triggering incident is sometimes something that merely provides a good scare, other times it is a violent action that results in tragedy. Even when no one is hurt in the incident, the emotional damage caused to a community by an act of vandalism or arson at a house of worship can be devastating.

    It is important to note here that not all threats to places of worship will emanate from external actors. In the midst of any given religious congregation, there are, by percentages, people suffering from serious mental illnesses, people engaged in bitter child-custody disputes, domestic violence situations and messy divorces. Internal disputes in the congregation can also lead to feuds and violence. Any of these situations can (and have) led to acts of violence inside houses of worship.

    Security Means More than Alarms and Locks

    An effective security program is more than just having physical security measures in place. Like any man-made constructs, physical security measures undefined closed-circuit television (CCTV), alarms, cipher locks and so forth undefined have finite utility. They serve a valuable purpose in institutional security programs, but an effective security program cannot be limited to these things. Devices cannot think or evaluate. They are static and can be observed, learned and even fooled. Also, because some systems frequently produce false alarms, warnings in real danger situations may be brushed aside. Given these shortcomings, it is quite possible for anyone planning an act of violence to map out, quantify and then defeat or bypass physical security devices. However, elaborate planning is not always necessary. Consider the common scenario of a heavy metal door with very good locks that is propped open with a trashcan or a door wedge. In such a scenario, an otherwise “secure” door is defeated by an internal security lapse.

    However, even in situations where there is a high degree of threat awareness, there is a tendency to place too much trust in physical security measures, which can become a kind of crutch undefined and, ironically, an obstacle to effective security.

    In fact, to be effective, physical security devices always require human interaction. An alarm is useless if no one responds to it, or if it is not turned on; a lock is ineffective if it is not engaged. CCTV cameras are used extensively in corporate office buildings and some houses of worship, but any competent security manager will tell you that, in reality, they are far more useful in terms of investigating a theft or act of violence after the fact than in preventing one (although physical security devices can sometimes cause an attacker to divert to an easier target).

    No matter what kinds of physical security measures may be in place at a facility, they are far less likely to be effective if a potential assailant feels free to conduct preoperational surveillance, and is free to observe and map those physical security measures. The more at ease someone feels as they set about identifying and quantifying the physical security systems and procedures in place, the higher the odds they will find ways to beat the system.

    A truly “hard” target is one that couples physical security measures with an aggressive, alert attitude and sense of awareness. An effective security program is proactive undefined looking outward to where most real threats are lurking undefined rather than inward, where the only choice is to react once an attack has begun to unfold. We refer to this process of proactively looking for threats as protective intelligence.

    The human interaction required to make physical security measures effective, and to transform a security program into a proactive protective intelligence program, can come in the form of designated security personnel. In fact, many large houses of worship do utilize off-duty police officers, private security guards, volunteer security guards or even a dedicated security staff to provide this coverage. In smaller congregations, security personnel can be members of the congregation who have been provided some level of training.

    However, even in cases where there are specially designated security personnel, such officers have only so many eyes and can only be in a limited number of places at any one time. Thus, proactive security programs should also work to foster a broad sense of security awareness among the members of the congregation and community, and use them as additional resources.

    Unfortunately, in many cases, there is often a sense in the religious community that security is bad for the image of a particular institution, or that it will somehow scare people away from houses of worship. Because of this, security measures, if employed, are often hidden or concealed from the congregation. In such cases, security managers are deprived of many sets of eyes and ears. Certainly, there may be certain facets of a security plan that not everyone in the congregation needs to know about, but in general, an educated and aware congregation and community can be a very valuable security asset.


    In order for a congregation to maintain a sense of heightened awareness it must learn how to effectively do that. This training should not leave people scared or paranoid undefined just more observant. People need to be trained to look for individuals who are out of place, which can be somewhat counterintuitive. By nature, houses of worship are open to outsiders and seek to welcome strangers. They frequently have a steady turnover of new faces. This causes many to believe that, in houses of worship, there is a natural antagonism between security and openness, but this does not have to be the case. A house of worship can have both a steady stream of visitors and good security, especially if that security is based upon situational awareness.

    At its heart, situational awareness is about studying people, and such scrutiny will allow an observer to pick up on demeanor mistakes that might indicate someone is conducting surveillance. Practicing awareness and paying attention to the people approaching or inside a house of worship can also open up a whole new world of ministry opportunities, as people “tune in” to others and begin to perceive things they would otherwise miss if they were self-absorbed or simply not paying attention. In other words, practicing situational awareness provides an excellent opportunity for the members of a congregation to focus on the needs and burdens of other people.

    It is important to remember that every attack cycle follows the same general steps. All criminals undefined whether they are stalkers, thieves, lone wolves or terrorist groups undefined engage in preoperational surveillance (sometimes called “casing,” in the criminal lexicon). Perhaps the most crucial point to be made about preoperational surveillance is that it is the phase when someone with hostile intentions is most apt to be detected undefined and the point in the attack cycle when potential violence can be most easily disrupted or prevented.

    The second most critical point to emphasize about surveillance is that most criminals are not that good at it. They often have terrible surveillance tradecraft and are frequently very obvious. Most often, the only reason they succeed in conducting surveillance without being detected is because nobody is looking for them. Because of this, even ordinary people, if properly instructed, can note surveillance activity.

    It is also critically important to teach people undefined including security personnel and members of the congregation undefined what to do if they see something suspicious and whom to call to report it. Unfortunately, a lot of critical intelligence is missed because it is not reported in a timely manner undefined or not reported at all undefined mainly because untrained people have a habit of not trusting their judgment and dismissing unusual activity. People need to be encouraged to report what they see.

    Additionally, people who have been threatened, are undergoing nasty child-custody disputes or have active restraining orders protecting them against potentially violent people need to be encouraged to report unusual activity to their appropriate points of contact.

    As a part of their security training, houses of worship should also instruct their staff and congregation members on procedures to follow if a shooter enters the building and creates what is called an active-shooter situation. These “shooter” drills should be practiced regularly undefined just like fire, tornado or earthquake drills. The teachers of children’s classes and nursery workers must also be trained in how to react.


    One of the things the SCN and ADL do very well is foster security liaison among Jewish congregations within a community and between those congregations and local, state and federal law enforcement organizations. This is something that houses of worship from other faiths should attempt to duplicate as part of their security plans.

    While having a local cop in a congregation is a benefit, contacting the local police department should be the first step. It is very important to establish this contact before there is a crisis in order to help expedite any law enforcement response. Some police departments even have dedicated community liaison officers, who are good points of initial contact. There are other specific points of contact that should also be cultivated within the local department, such as the SWAT team and the bomb squad.

    Local SWAT teams often appreciate the chance to do a walk-through of a house of worship so that they can learn the layout of the building in case they are ever called to respond to an emergency there. They also like the opportunity to use different and challenging buildings for training exercises (something that can be conducted discreetly after hours). Congregations with gyms and weight rooms will often open them up for local police officers to exercise in, and some congregations will also offer police officers a cup of coffee and a desk where they can sit and type their reports during evening hours.

    But the local police department is not the only agency with which liaison should be established. Depending on the location of the house of worship, the state police, state intelligence fusion center or local joint terrorism task force should also be contacted. By working through state and federal channels, houses of worship in specific locations may even be eligible for grants to help underwrite security through programs such as the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative Nonprofit Security Grant Program.

    The world is a dangerous place and attacks against houses of worship will continue to occur. But there are proactive security measures that can be taken to identify attackers before they strike and help prevent attacks from happening or mitigate their effects when they do.

    This report may be forwarded or republished on your website with attribution to

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   Next >  Last >> 


Powered by Wild Apricot. Try our all-in-one platform for easy membership management