Posts tagged with ‘terrorism’

How to spot the difference between a terrorist and a journalist →

A note to governments from Index on Censorship:

Index on Censorship here. We’ve noticed some you have had trouble telling the difference between terrorists and journalist lately (yes, you too Barack: put the BlackBerry down). So we thought as people with some experience of the journalism thing, we could offer you a few handy tips to refer to the next time you find yourself asking: journalist or terrorist?

Have a look at your suspect. Is he carrying a) a notebook with weird squiggly lines on it, or b) an RPG-7. If the latter, odds on he’s a terrorist. The former? Most likely a journalist. Those squiggly lines are called “shorthand” – it’s what reporters do when they’re writing things down for, er, reporting. It might look a bit like Arabic, but it’s not, and even if it was, that wouldn’t be a good enough reason to lock the guy up.

Still not clear? Let’s move on to the questioning part.

Background: In Egypt, Al Jazeera journalists are on trial for having links to a “terrorist organization”; in England, a court ruled that the detention of Glenn Greenwald’s partner at Heathrow Airport was legal because carrying the Edward Snowden NSA documents is, um, terroristy; in Morocco, a journalist was charged last fall with “inciting terrorism” because he linked to an Al Qaeda video; and in the United States the government admits that journalists could be targeted with counter-terrorism laws as they do their jobs (see here, here, and here for all things depressing). 

We could go on.

(via thesmithian)

The authors, Arthur Beifuss (a journalist and former UN counter-terrorism analyst) and Francesco Trivini Bellini, a creative director with a portfolio of big accounts including Gucci and Prada) certainly have the credentials to pose a little-asked question: how great a part does graphic image-making play in the effectiveness of the most active international terrorist groups? More.

Related: A slideshow of global terror groups and their logos (via the Huffington Post).

(via thesmithian)

The authors, Arthur Beifuss (a journalist and former UN counter-terrorism analyst) and Francesco Trivini Bellini, a creative director with a portfolio of big accounts including Gucci and Prada) certainly have the credentials to pose a little-asked question: how great a part does graphic image-making play in the effectiveness of the most active international terrorist groups? More.

Related: A slideshow of global terror groups and their logos (via the Huffington Post).

Wait, Tolerate or Terminate?
The Atlantic with an important explainer to kick off the new year:


Over the past two years, the Obama administration has begun to formalize a so-called “disposition matrix” for suspected terrorists abroad: a continuously evolving database that spells out the intelligence on targets and various strategies, including contingencies, for handling them. Although the government has not spelled out the steps involved in deciding how to treat various terrorists, a look at U.S. actions in the past makes evident a rough decision tree.
Understanding these procedures is particularly important for one of the most vexing, and potentially most dangerous, categories of terrorists: U.S. citizens. Over the years, U.S. authorities have responded with astonishing variety to American nationals suspected of terrorism, from ignoring their activities to conducting lethal drone strikes. All U.S. terrorists are not created equal. And the U.S. response depends heavily on the role of allies, the degree of threat the suspect poses, and the imminence of that threat — along with other factors.
What follows is a flow chart… that takes us through the criteria and decision points that can lead to a suspect terrorist’s being ignored as a minor nuisance, being prosecuted in federal court, being held in a Pakistani prison, or being met with the business end of a Hellfire missile.


Image: Screenshot, How Obama Decides Your Fate If He Thinks You’re a Terrorist via The Atlantic. Select to embiggen… But visit to explore.

Wait, Tolerate or Terminate?

The Atlantic with an important explainer to kick off the new year:

Over the past two years, the Obama administration has begun to formalize a so-called “disposition matrix” for suspected terrorists abroad: a continuously evolving database that spells out the intelligence on targets and various strategies, including contingencies, for handling them. Although the government has not spelled out the steps involved in deciding how to treat various terrorists, a look at U.S. actions in the past makes evident a rough decision tree.

Understanding these procedures is particularly important for one of the most vexing, and potentially most dangerous, categories of terrorists: U.S. citizens. Over the years, U.S. authorities have responded with astonishing variety to American nationals suspected of terrorism, from ignoring their activities to conducting lethal drone strikes. All U.S. terrorists are not created equal. And the U.S. response depends heavily on the role of allies, the degree of threat the suspect poses, and the imminence of that threat — along with other factors.

What follows is a flow chart… that takes us through the criteria and decision points that can lead to a suspect terrorist’s being ignored as a minor nuisance, being prosecuted in federal court, being held in a Pakistani prison, or being met with the business end of a Hellfire missile.

Image: Screenshot, How Obama Decides Your Fate If He Thinks You’re a Terrorist via The Atlantic. Select to embiggen… But visit to explore.

US Expands Citizen Data Surveillance to Predict Future Crimes →

The Wall Street Journal reports that a little known government agency now has the authority to hold and monitor data on US citizens for up to five years, even if the individual has never committed a crime.

The goal, it appears, is to use the data to predict future — or potential — criminal activity.

Via the Wall Street Journal*:

[New] rules now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation.

Now, NCTC can copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited…

The changes also allow databases of U.S. civilian information to be given to foreign governments for analysis of their own. In effect, U.S. and foreign governments would be using the information to look for clues that people might commit future crimes.

Under the new rules, the NCTC can request access to any governmental database that it “reasonably believes” contains “terrorism information.”

Considering the National Security Agency is currently building a massive information center in Utah to monitor almost “all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails,” the NCTC wont be want for information.

BONUS: Looking for more about government surveillance? Check the FJP Surveillance Tag.

Wall Street Journal, U.S. Terrorism Agency to Tap a Vast Database of Citizens.

* This WSJ article is paywalled if you go directly to the site. If you want to read it, copy the title, paste it in Google and follow the search result back to the WSJ.

Trolling Al Qaeda →

The United States appears to have a new counterterrorism strategy built especially for the online age: troll extremist sites and forums.

Via Wired:

The program, called Viral Peace, seeks to occupy the virtual space that extremists fill, one thread or Twitter exchange at a time. Shahed Amanullah, a senior technology adviser to the State Department and Viral Peace’s creator, tells Danger Room he wants to use “logic, humor, satire, [and] religious arguments, not just to confront [extremists], but to undermine and demoralize them.” Think of it as strategic trolling, in pursuit of geopolitical pwnage…

…In an interview at a Washington coffee shop near his State Department office, Amanullah explains that online extremists have “an energy, they’ve got a vitality that frankly attracts some of these at-risk people,” Amanullah says. “It appeals to macho, it appeals to people’s rebellious nature, it appeals to people who feel downtrodden.” Creating a comparable passion on the other side is difficult. But it’s easier if the average online would-be jihadi has his mystique challenged through the trial by fire that is online ridicule…

…But all that is several steps ahead of Viral Peace at the moment. Viral Peace doesn’t have a strategy yet. And to hear Amanullah and his colleagues tell it, the State Department won’t be the ones who come up with one. It’s better, they argue, to let Muslims in various foreign countries figure out which message boards to troll and how to properly troll them. Americans won’t know, say, the Tagalog-language Internet better than Filipinos; and as outsiders, they won’t have the credibility necessary to actually make an impact. The best the State Department can do is train good trolls — which Amanullah began to do this spring.

Wired, News US Counterterrorism Strategy: Trolling.

Do Not Kill Registry
Gallows humor:

In response to the establishment of a national ‘kill list’ and the expansion of the United States’ predator drone program, the National Agency for Ethical Drone-Human Interactions has launched the Do Not Kill Registry. Adding your name to the registry will assist us in avoiding accidental casualties in our mission to make the world a safe place for Democracy and Free Enterprise. 

That said, don’t forget the disclaimer: 

Adding your name to the ‘Do Not Kill’ Registry does not guarantee that you will not be the target of a drone strike but only that an additional review process will be undertaken before you are labeled an enemy militant and added to the national kill list. 

Do Not Kill Registry

Gallows humor:

In response to the establishment of a national ‘kill list’ and the expansion of the United States’ predator drone program, the National Agency for Ethical Drone-Human Interactions has launched the Do Not Kill Registry. Adding your name to the registry will assist us in avoiding accidental casualties in our mission to make the world a safe place for Democracy and Free Enterprise. 

That said, don’t forget the disclaimer

Adding your name to the ‘Do Not Kill’ Registry does not guarantee that you will not be the target of a drone strike but only that an additional review process will be undertaken before you are labeled an enemy militant and added to the national kill list. 

Dark Webs Are Scary
Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald recently published an article about the Internet’s underbelly. This is where creepy people creep and the article explores how law enforcement officials and politicians are trying to figure out how to make sure they have complete access to this anonymous, online world.
The article’s lede would make for a great opening to a summertime blockbuster so let’s cue the spooky music and jump right in:

It’s called the Dark Web and once you are in you can buy people, drugs, guns and even have someone killed. The problem is: what can law enforcers do about it?
Deep in cyberspace is a web of private networks hosting sites that Google will never find and videos that YouTube will never play. Within this web, drugs and guns are bought and sold, hitmen advertise their services, hackers can be hired to attack an enemy’s computer and pornographic images to satisfy the most depraved tastes can be downloaded.
It is a place where freedom of speech is absolute and unconstrained. It is the Dark Web, the parallel internet that can be found only through encrypted private networks, unknown by many and accessed by few.

With an opening like this the article quickly moves to Australian efforts to pass laws that “could lead to the web history of any device connected to the internet being logged and retained for up to two years for law enforcement purposes.”
Not that that would really help since the whole point of these anonymizing networks is that those accessing them don’t leave a trace.
But efforts are made, and will continue to be made, in Australia and elsewhere, to ensure that government and authority can always stay “one step ahead of terrorists and organised criminals who threaten our national security.” Politically, that’s always the thing to say. Either right before or right after, we’re doing it for the children.
In the United States we have the same thing happening with an acronym stew of CISPA and SOPA and PIPA all proposed to fight the terrorists and pirates by monitoring the actions of anyone and everyone under very vague (and very few) conditions.
Add to that the recently proposed Lieberman-Collins Cybersecurity Act and we’re looking at a future where government tracks and stores the whole of our electronic communications, from phone calls to emails to credit card purchases.
The infrastructure to do so is expanding. A March cover story in Wired reports on a new data center being built in Utah. Its purpose is to suck down the world’s communication flow which, the article notes, the US can now do to the tune of 20 terabytes of information per second.

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration — an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

And all this isn’t even considering truly authoritarian states that will, no doubt, be downstream beneficiaries of both the “moral cover” of Western laws and the monitoring technologies being developed. After all, it’s no secret that Western surveillance companies already sell their wares to repressive regimes.
Inflammatory media coverage about online bogeymen aside, how surveillance, privacy and anonymity issues play out over the next few years will shape how our societies operate.
As former NSA code breaker, and current NSA whistleblower William Binney says with his thumb and forefinger drawn together about the expanding surveillance state in the Wired article noted above, “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”
Journalists have a crucial role to play in how all this plays out.
First is basic education on how digital communications actually work. Second is understanding how legislation like we’ve seen over the past year affects privacy and civil liberties. Third is listening with great skepticism to claims that either a) law abiding citizens have nothing to worry about, b) there will be protections in place and c) we’re only fighting the bad guys; surveillance always expands and our networks and digital communications provide the greatest target any government could ever want or has ever had. And fourth, journalists need to understand the value, rationale and importance that privacy and anonymity have in a functioning democratic society.
The Dark Web is certainly a scary place. But proposed government laws to monitor it — and the rest of us while doing so — are even scarier. — Michael
Image: Scared Kitteh. Original source unknown. Edited by the FJP.

Dark Webs Are Scary

Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald recently published an article about the Internet’s underbelly. This is where creepy people creep and the article explores how law enforcement officials and politicians are trying to figure out how to make sure they have complete access to this anonymous, online world.

The article’s lede would make for a great opening to a summertime blockbuster so let’s cue the spooky music and jump right in:

It’s called the Dark Web and once you are in you can buy people, drugs, guns and even have someone killed. The problem is: what can law enforcers do about it?

Deep in cyberspace is a web of private networks hosting sites that Google will never find and videos that YouTube will never play. Within this web, drugs and guns are bought and sold, hitmen advertise their services, hackers can be hired to attack an enemy’s computer and pornographic images to satisfy the most depraved tastes can be downloaded.

It is a place where freedom of speech is absolute and unconstrained. It is the Dark Web, the parallel internet that can be found only through encrypted private networks, unknown by many and accessed by few.

With an opening like this the article quickly moves to Australian efforts to pass laws that “could lead to the web history of any device connected to the internet being logged and retained for up to two years for law enforcement purposes.”

Not that that would really help since the whole point of these anonymizing networks is that those accessing them don’t leave a trace.

But efforts are made, and will continue to be made, in Australia and elsewhere, to ensure that government and authority can always stay “one step ahead of terrorists and organised criminals who threaten our national security.” Politically, that’s always the thing to say. Either right before or right after, we’re doing it for the children.

In the United States we have the same thing happening with an acronym stew of CISPA and SOPA and PIPA all proposed to fight the terrorists and pirates by monitoring the actions of anyone and everyone under very vague (and very few) conditions.

Add to that the recently proposed Lieberman-Collins Cybersecurity Act and we’re looking at a future where government tracks and stores the whole of our electronic communications, from phone calls to emails to credit card purchases.

The infrastructure to do so is expanding. A March cover story in Wired reports on a new data center being built in Utah. Its purpose is to suck down the world’s communication flow which, the article notes, the US can now do to the tune of 20 terabytes of information per second.

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze, and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign, and domestic networks. The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration — an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

And all this isn’t even considering truly authoritarian states that will, no doubt, be downstream beneficiaries of both the “moral cover” of Western laws and the monitoring technologies being developed. After all, it’s no secret that Western surveillance companies already sell their wares to repressive regimes.

Inflammatory media coverage about online bogeymen aside, how surveillance, privacy and anonymity issues play out over the next few years will shape how our societies operate.

As former NSA code breaker, and current NSA whistleblower William Binney says with his thumb and forefinger drawn together about the expanding surveillance state in the Wired article noted above, “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state.”

Journalists have a crucial role to play in how all this plays out.

First is basic education on how digital communications actually work. Second is understanding how legislation like we’ve seen over the past year affects privacy and civil liberties. Third is listening with great skepticism to claims that either a) law abiding citizens have nothing to worry about, b) there will be protections in place and c) we’re only fighting the bad guys; surveillance always expands and our networks and digital communications provide the greatest target any government could ever want or has ever had. And fourth, journalists need to understand the value, rationale and importance that privacy and anonymity have in a functioning democratic society.

The Dark Web is certainly a scary place. But proposed government laws to monitor it — and the rest of us while doing so — are even scarier. — Michael

Image: Scared Kitteh. Original source unknown. Edited by the FJP.

From now on, any person who habitually consults Web sites that advocate terrorism or that call for hatred and violence will be criminally punished.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy at a campaign rally in Eastern France proposes criminal penalties for citizens who visit Web sites that advocate hate or violence. He spoke in the aftermath of the murders of seven people by an Al Qaeda inspired gunman.

Electronic Frontier Foundation, French President Sarkozy Sees Opportunity for Censorship, Seizes It.

As the EFF notes, there are serious issues the proposal, among them: who defines hate speech; it hasn’t been shown that “criminalizing access to hate speech or terrorist content will end the very real problems of hate crime and terrorism”; and once a criminalization regime takes place it’s a very small step to censorship and “overblocking”.

Very important internationally:

When a democratic country such as France decides to censor or criminalize speech, it is not just the French that suffer, but the world, as authoritarian regimes are given easy justification for their own censorship. We [the EFF] urge French authorities to judge crime on action, not expression.

Speaking to the Associated Press, Lucie Morillon of Reporters Without Borders wonders whether Sarkozy proposes a full-fledged Internet surveillance system in France.

On Language: What is a Terrorist Anyway?
Via Glenn Greenwald:

In other words, now that we know the alleged perpetrator is not Muslim, we know — by definition — that Terrorists are not responsible; conversely, when we thought Muslims were responsible, that meant — also by definition — that it was an act of Terrorism…
What [this means] is what we’ve seen repeatedly: that Terrorism has no objective meaning and, at least in American political discourse, has come functionally to mean: violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes, no matter the cause or the target.  Indeed, in many (though not all) media circles, discussion of the Oslo attack quickly morphed from this is Terrorism (when it was believed Muslims did it) to no, this isn’t Terrorism, just extremism (once it became likely that Muslims didn’t).
That Terrorism means nothing more than violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes has been proven repeatedly.  When an airplane was flown into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, it was immediately proclaimed to be Terrorism, until it was revealed that the attacker was a white, non-Muslim, American anti-tax advocate with a series of domestic political grievances… That is why, as NYU’s Remi Brulin has extensively documented, Terrorism is the most meaningless, and therefore the most manipulated, word in the English language.  Yesterday provided yet another sterling example.

Twitter post: @MazMHussain

On Language: What is a Terrorist Anyway?

Via Glenn Greenwald:

In other words, now that we know the alleged perpetrator is not Muslim, we know — by definition — that Terrorists are not responsible; conversely, when we thought Muslims were responsible, that meant — also by definition — that it was an act of Terrorism…

What [this means] is what we’ve seen repeatedly: that Terrorism has no objective meaning and, at least in American political discourse, has come functionally to mean: violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes, no matter the cause or the target. Indeed, in many (though not all) media circles, discussion of the Oslo attack quickly morphed from this is Terrorism (when it was believed Muslims did it) to no, this isn’t Terrorism, just extremism (once it became likely that Muslims didn’t).

That Terrorism means nothing more than violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes has been proven repeatedly. When an airplane was flown into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, it was immediately proclaimed to be Terrorism, until it was revealed that the attacker was a white, non-Muslim, American anti-tax advocate with a series of domestic political grievances… That is why, as NYU’s Remi Brulin has extensively documented, Terrorism is the most meaningless, and therefore the most manipulated, word in the English language. Yesterday provided yet another sterling example.

Twitter post: @MazMHussain

The translated writings of Anders Breivik from Document.no, a Norwegian Web site he frequently posted comments to.

Breivik is accused of yesterday’s mass killings in Norway.

He writes:

The problem is that Europe lost the Cold War already in 1950, the moment they allowed Marxists / anti-nationalists to ravage freely, without restrictions for the positions they could have and the power positions they had the opportunity to obtain the (teacher / professor positions in particular).

The result, in particular Norway and Sweden is the extreme Marxist attitudes have become acceptable / everyday while the old-established truths of patriotism and cultural conservatism today is branded as extremism.

The Internet works fast.

View biggie size.

Via Doug Saunders.

Paramilitary police in Shanghai rappel down a building during antiterrorism drill.
New York Times: Pictures of the Day.

Paramilitary police in Shanghai rappel down a building during antiterrorism drill.

New York Times: Pictures of the Day.
Front pages of today’s newspapers. 
Evidently there’s a popular file photo.

Front pages of today’s newspapers. 

Evidently there’s a popular file photo.