Saturday, November 28, 2015

Post Paris Attacks: Countering Terrorism from the Intelligence Production Side

(A Dynazoom, circa 1960s-1970s.  Used by the CIA intelligence analysts for viewing of satellite and aircraft films. Wikimedia Commons.)

            On July 10, 2001, FBI Special Agent Kenneth Williams of Arizona Field Office wrote a five-page memorandum about a possible attack on the United States by Middle Eastern students enrolled in flight schools in the country.  (Van Natta Jr. and Johnston 2002). 
            Williams reportedly came up to this conclusion after interviewing some Arab students who had expressed great animosity towards the United States. 
            Senator Richard J. Durbin (D),  after the closed-door congressional hearing where Williams testified before the Judiciary Committee,  was surprised when he learned that the memo did not go up to the Bureau's chain of command and  was “never treated seriously, never circulated, never analyzed, nor referred to the CIA.”  (Van Natta Jr. and Johnston 2002).
            The reason why the Phoenix Memo did not get its proper attention was due to the weak analytical capability of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to process raw intelligence report that time.  Director Mueller admitted this handicap when he said, “What did not happen with the memo from Phoenix points squarely at our analytical capacity.  Our analytical capability is not where it should be…” (Mueller 2002).  Unlike the Central Intelligence Agency, the FBI on pre-9/11 era was a reactive agency being a law enforcement unit and not a proactive on its terrorism coverage like the CIA. 
            The FBI, by not having competent intelligence analysts devoted to counter-terrorism matters, had failed to thwart the terrorists’ attacks on the homeland.  This fiasco had triggered a major overhaul of the US Intelligence Community apparatus and most of the upgrade had been directed to the hiring and training of new pools of intelligence analysts. The necessity to train new recruits and develop others to become adept in their field are crucial to the success in the war on terror.  Since then, each USIC member had elevated its fight against terrorism to the next level by improving the capability of its personnel to produce critical analysis and provide timely intelligence to the end-users in the federal government. 
            Why are the intelligence analysts important in counter-terrorism operations?  The intelligence analysts—whether in the military units or civilian agencies—create a clear and big picture of the terrorist groups' intents and plans by piecing together the little information collected via overt sources and covert methods.  The analysts “sift through the giant haystack of information . . . to find the little needles that are really important.”  (Hess 2001). 
             Moreover, the intelligence analysts perform link analysis and timeline analysis to monitor the trends of terrorists activities/operations at home and overseas.  The similarities of data obtained from open source intelligence (e.g., newspapers, think-tank reports, speeches, the internet) and from covert sources (e.g., action agents, wiretaps, surveillance) would show patterns and trends, which could become a baseline in predicting future attacks.  The threat analysis helps the decision makers in the government, especially the President of the United States and the National Security Council, prepare a proactive national strategy and anti-terrorism policy to address the threats of radical Islamists here and abroad. Similarly, the threat analysis gives the top brass in the military and the heads of federal law enforcement units the opportunity to prepare tactical counter-measures to preempt the destabilization plans of the enemies.  
             What had happened in Paris on November 13th was the best example of a government who had failed to act on the available intelligence. It was reported that the Iraqi government warned France of imminent attacks from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  Could we say that the info from the Iraqis was “never treated seriously, never circulated, never analyzed” just like the Phoenix Memo?
            The intelligence analysts should be aware of the local, national, and global threats vis-à-vis requirements of the policymakers to produce timely and actionable intelligence. To accomplish their tasks, the analysts must lay down the hypotheses that need to be confirmed and disproved—including the plausible hypothesis and deception hypothesis. Some hypotheses lack immediate support (i.e., intelligence gap), and this vacuum needs to be filled-in to get the full picture of a threat.  (Heuer 1999) 
             To predict future events, the intelligence analysts explore and evaluate the collected information through the process of assumptions and interpretations using their hypotheses as guides. And the hypothesis that has the highest probability or possibility of occurring is passed on to the decision makers for appropriate action. The analysts continue to monitor the hypothesis they chose even as new information comes in daily from the field. The fresh information collected from covert and overt sources may open new possibilities or probabilities.  As such, the analysts may change or modify their initial predictions or may suggest an acceleration of occurrence of such events to the end-users.  
            The capability of the intelligence analysts to draw hypotheses from raw information and come up with a critical interpretation that could predict possible or probable terrorists’ action is vital to the homeland security. With the recent threats from multi-national terrorists such as ISIS and al-Qaeda, the work of the intelligence analysts has never been so critical in the protection of the United States government interests and installations, personnel, and American citizens overseas.   sDg.



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Then and Now: The Goals and Objectives of Terrorism

(US Embassy building in Dar Es Salaam after the 1998 bombing. Courtesy of  WikimediaCommons.)

          After the Friday the 13th massacre in Paris, people wonder why certain extreme religious groups (or political groups) resort to violent acts and destroy properties in the pursuit of their goals and objectives. Only a handful of terrorists carried the attacks, but the carnage had resulted in the death of 130 innocent people. To understand why those committed individuals would carry such terroristic acts, the reader must understand what terrorism is all about. 
          Terrorism is a relative term as some people would say.  We heard so much about the truism “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.”  People in the United States branded Usama bin-Laden as a terrorist, but those in the Muslim world regarded him as a hero ala Che Guevarra. (Regan 2005).
          There is no precise meaning of terrorism and political scientists define it in many forms, depending on what side of the political spectrum they belong. 
        However, terrorism—even if defined with a political slant or with a positive overture---has always resulted in the deaths of innocent people and the destruction of public and private properties.    
          Dr. James M. Smith, former Director of the United States Air Force Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), once said, “Terrorism is a physical attack intended to produce a psychological effect.”  (Smith 2003).  On the other hand, Gorski said, “Terrorism intends to cause a chronic state of psychological vulnerability and instability in the targeted population.  Death and destruction are merely a mean to achieve these ends.”  (Gorski 2002).
          By and large, terrorism is a form of psychological warfare that intends to diminish the will of the people and influence their collective frame of mind against the established government.
          Given the preceding, the terrorists seek to cause "political, social and economic disruption, and for this purpose frequently engage in planned or indiscriminate murder.”  (Lacquer 1977).
          A terrorist leader once said, "A terrorist is like a bee and the government is like a man;  when the bee keeps stinging his target on the various parts of his body, the man will attempt to slap the bee from every direction until he loses control of himself. "             
       In their fight, the terrorists want the democratic government to act recklessly to their bloody handiwork.  The goal is to pressure the government to impose draconian measures that would lead to the curtailment of civil liberties and constitutional rights of the people.  For example, in response to the 9/11 attacks, the United States government had enforced stringent controls in the airport and harbors in an attempt to ferret out suspected terrorists and to stop them from inflicting further damages to the homeland.  But then again, the 19 al-Qaeda members had different objective on their minds, which was to “use violence to further what they see as divinely commanded purpose.” (Wikepedia 2005).
            The imposition of rigid security measures and the limitation of movements in public places had received unfavorable response and condemnation from progressive groups.  For instance, the American Civil Liberties Union decried the post 9/11 security controls as “blatant discrimination and state-sanctioned bigotry to outright physical brutality,” which allegedly targeted the people of Arab-descent living in the United States.  (Porter 2002).  The terrorists' goal is to portray the United States government as helpless and incapable of protecting the security and well-being of its citizens. And by sowing terror and creating destruction, the terrorists hope to stir up the government to use unpopular extra-legal measures (e.g., martial law) and anticipate the citizenry to rise up.
          Augusto Angcanan Jr., a retired Filipino police general, suggests a positive way to deal with terrorism, and he shares his opinion in the following statement.  Angcanan said, “Terrorism is the means to an end, not an end in itself.  Let alone, terrorism can accomplish nothing in terms of political goals; it can only aim at obtaining a response that will achieve those goals for it.  Said another way, terrorist violence is aimed not so much on the target upon which the initial act is committed but to much wider audience who will view and interpret the act.  The success of terrorism is due in large part to the miscomprehension of the strategy by its opponents, which is a failure to focus on the critical issue of how to respond properly to provocations and threats.  Brutality and repression are induced responses that will alienate the government from the masses, thus set the stage for revolution.  In dealing with the problem of terrorism, paramount is the rule of law and our respect for human rights.”  (Angcanan 2005).                
         Terrorists do not place a demarcation line between themselves and their targets because they consider everyone and anything as front-line targets.  There are no women, children, and old folks in their psychotic eyes.  Buildings and structures--whether private or public-- are not exempt for destruction if it would advance their struggle.  In this regard, they would kill and destroy in an indiscriminate fashion and in vicious disregard of human lives and properties.  Terrorists sow terror acts in the hearts and minds of the people as means to advance their ultimate cause whether for political, religious, or economic reasons.  
          From the 1960s up to the 1980s, the struggle for worldwide revolution and transformation of social order were the dominant themes of the decades.  The battle was between Capitalism and Communism. It was the United States of America versus the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic.  The fight was against two competing political ideologies.  It was also a war of attrition between the State of Israel and Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Liberation Organization.
          For three decades, some communist-leaning groups and PLO factions came into existence, and the rest was history.  Each group had its own objectives yet had similarity in its protracted war against the United States and the free world—the use of terrorism as a form of weapon to fight its target-government enemies. Groups like the Black September, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Baader-Meinhoff, and Brigada Rossi made their political statements through assassinations, bombings, hijackings, and kidnappings.  Their ilks come and go, but history shows these terror groups hardly ever grab hold of power and always fail to accomplish their ultimate aspiration.  (Lacquer 1977).   
          After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the battle had shifted from political to religious issues with the creation of transnational religious terror groups like al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah, Boko Haram, and the recent Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  It appears the definitions above of terrorism no longer apply to these current crops of terrorist groups. Or are they still?  
          The communist leaning groups fought for political and societal causes and not for a religious war like what the world is facing right now.  The old-era terrorists killed their targets, not themselves. Now, the modern terrorists not only kill innocent people but also themselves. Strapping their bodies with bombs and blowing up themselves in public are now common occurrence whether in the urban areas like Paris or in the rural spots like Kabul.
          The terrorists of the past always bargained with the Western governments to achieve their goals and to raise global awareness to their cause (e.g., PFLP clamoring for a Palestinian state).  This isn’t true with the  current terror groups nowadays. ISIS didn't bargain with the United States when it beheaded the American journalist Steven Sotloff, and neither talked with the United Kingdom when it killed British aid worker David Haines.  Boko Haram members kidnapped hundreds of girls and they too didn’t negotiate with the Nigerian government. Instead, the group killed their victims unmercifully.  The Taliban didn't seek a trade with the Pakistani government when it killed 132 people in Peshawar.
          The genocides of Christians in Iraq and Syria by ISIS are testaments that the goals and objectives of terrorism have clearly changed.  Today, all the Islamist-terrorists wanted is to kill infidels and demolish all landmarks that symbolize Christianity and Western civilization. And asking the American government and the European Union for concessions or telling the free world to capitulate to their demands is not their game anymore.
          To know the current crop of Islamist-terrorists better is to understand the pronouncement of Hussein Massawi, a former Hezbollah Leader, when he said: “We are not fighting so the enemy will offer us something.  We are fighting to wipe out the enemy."  sDg.


An Ode to a Ghost Warrior

(Sniper, courtesy of Wikemedia Commons)
"Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
- Matthew 11:28
Can’t loosen the cast
That binds my warrior’s past.
Thoughts of memory lane
Keeps coming back again,
In pain.
With deeply sighs
I closed my sniper eyes.
My tears flow down the drain,
Vain thoughts I can’t contain;
Oh, pain.
Sadness that’s unseen,
Yet deeply hurts within.
Sorrow my heart does fill.
Oh, distraught mind that kills;
Be still.
Tried hard to forego,
But couldn’t let go.
Nay, wounds that never heal
And pains I can’t conceal
Stay still.  sDg.