It seems like not a week goes by without yet another report on the NSA’s digital intelligence gathering activities. Understanding what the NSA is up to deserves a robust and nuanced public discussion. The agency’s activities raise challenging questions about just how much privacy Americans are willing to sacrifice in the name of security and counterterrorism.
As I kid, I loved Superman. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Hiding his identity like a spy. But who was he? “It’s a bird? It’s a plane? No, it’s Superman.” The reason I bring up this dusty piece of nostalgia is my mind drifts toward it every time I hear someone [...]
As the United States and other world powers weigh the risks and rewards of a strike against Syria, there are rising concerns that destabilizing the Assad regime could give extremists – particularly al Qaeda – an opening to gain strength and weapons. The embassy closures earlier this month threw a spotlight on al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), with some suggesting the terrorists in Yemen are more powerful than ever. So are they?
As the United States enters another chapter in the ongoing effort to protect U.S. citizens and assets, the phenomenon of homegrown terrorism is likely to take center stage, requiring a new approach and perspective toward homeland security. This is the subject of Homegrown Violent Extremism, a new book from counterterrorism expert and fellow Security Debrief contributor Erroll Southers.
As editor of Security Debrief, I get a lot of interesting e-mails. Yet, a lot of what hits my inbox is just noise. Yesterday, however, I received an e-mail that was unlike any other. The first line of the e-mail read: “I have information which can help to prevent a terrorist attack from happening.”
The civil war in Syria may have begun in March 2011 with peaceful protests against regime policies, but it is now unquestionably a brutal sectarian conflict characterized by massacres and ethnic cleansing. It is now clear that the Syrian humpty dumpty, with its mix of Sunnis, Alawis, Christians, Druze, Kurds, Ismailis, and other communities, cannot be put back together again. One action that could potentially bring stability and advancement to Syria is partition.
We now have information on 800,000 people in our terrorist databases. We have “big data,” as the people would say who pretend to know something about it. Big Data, they often claim, will solve the problem. To my mind, we have a big search, analysis and distribution problem, and despite “big data” claims of prowess, connecting the dots before a terrorist strikes is never going to be an easy thing.
As the investigation of the Boston Marathon bombings continues, one of the more clouded aspects is the tale of “Misha,” a mysterious US-based Islamist who has been accused by members of the Tsarnaev family of radicalizing Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder of the two alleged bombers. Today I was able to meet “Misha,” whose real name is Mikhail Allakhverdov.
For all the calls to consider ramping up rail security after police foiled what’s being called the first al-Qaeda directed plot in the country, experts suggest investing in counter-terrorism intelligence remains the best way to keep the public safe.
You have heard the saying, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it must be a duck. News sources and government officials tell us we live in a world of constant cyber attack, so we must be at war, right? In cyber world, this kind of talk is harmful and obscures the new world in which we really exist. We are not at war – we are in conflict, and some of the tools we are using cross interesting and controversial 20th-century political lines.