Category Archives: National Security

Assange unweaves a world wide web

Al Capone didn’t pay taxes, and Julian Assange – apparently – didn’t wear a condom. Both were public enemies and perhaps controversial heroes to a few. They may share the fate of avoiding the wrap they deserved, but earning another in the end. The contrast of the two characters is a good illustration of how the times have changed.

Capone ran an underground empire of liquor, gambling, prostitution and other rackets and was targeted by city cops and the feds. Assange operates on the net to throw geopolitics into tumult, and is now held by one country, openly wanted by another and perhaps not so openly by others.

Assange shows that one rogue on the net can damage our diplomatic efforts and potentially disrupt worldwide political security. The web may the most important and vulnerable shared societal space in the world. Its freedom and safety promise continued dynamism and interconnectivity.

Its ever-increasing vitality to our economic and political infrastructure means that its influence and its openness are not without the risks that we take for granted in the real – as opposed to virtual – worlds. In fifty years, we may look back and see this as one of the first major incidences which brought that reality into view.

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Filed under Crime, National Security

TSA strip searches little boy

I’m not traveling by plane this week, but if I was, I would consider taking part in Wednesday’s nation-wide resistance to the new, intrusive airport security measures now in place. The plan is to “opt-out” of the full body scans and clog the system by requiring screeners to perform the more time-consuming “enhanced pat-down.” Such plans have the flavor of civil disobedience.

Here’s video of the TSA performing at least a partial strip-search on a little boy, a scene that would surely upset many reasonable citizen bystanders. One man heard on camera observes that what is happening is “ridiculous” and “unbelievable.” While the video clip does not make clear the full set of circumstances surrounding the event, it is certainly disconcerting at first glance.

And in case you haven’t seen it already, here’s the famous footage of one John Tyner who warned a TSA agent not to “touch my junk.” Charles Krauthammer celebrates Junk Man in his latest column for the Washington Post. Happy Thanksgiving.

P.S. Food for thought: what do you think the reaction – in the media and from partisans on either side of the aisle – would be if the previous presidential administration had instituted these new security measures?

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Filed under Civil Liberties, General & Miscellaneous, National Security

Calling evil by its name (and our enemies, too).

We all need to read Krauthammer, all the time. From his latest column:

“There’s a final reason the administration’s cowardice about identifying those trying to kill us cannot be allowed to pass. It is demoralizing. It trivializes the war between jihadi barbarism and Western decency, and diminishes the memory of those (including thousands of brave Muslims — Iraqi, Pakistani, Afghan and Western) who have died fighting it.”

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Filed under Diversity, Islam, National Security

Obama’s “war on terror”

The term “war on terror” was absurd in its ambiguity – terror is a strategy or tactic, but certainly not an identifiable enemy – but Obama has jettisoned even that phrase to define his administration’s weak response to the threat posed by those who would murder us in the name of their religion.

“Islamists,” meaning those who embrace radical Islam and its political objectives, would have been a better word than “terrorists.” Not all Muslims are terrorists, and not all terrorists are Muslim, but it is the threat of radical Islam that is the principal terrorist threat to the United States of America and our interests. Now, the current administration can hardly acknowledge the existence of a terrorist threat, let alone its nature or origin.

I say this by way of preface to Charles Krauthammer‘s latest piece, Hollow Words on Terrorism. A few excerpts:

Napolitano renames terrorism “man-caused disasters.” Obama goes abroad and pledges to cleanse America of its post-9/11 counterterrorist sins. Hence, Guantanamo will close, CIA interrogators will face a special prosecutor, and Khalid Sheik Mohammed will bask in a civilian trial in New York — a trifecta of political correctness and image management.” ….

“If we find Abdulmutallab in an al-Qaeda training camp in Yemen, where he is merely preparing for a terror attack, we snuff him out with a Predator — no judge, no jury, no qualms. But if we catch him in the United States in the very act of mass murder, he instantly acquires protection not just from execution by drone but even from interrogation.” ….

“Any government can through laxity let someone slip through the cracks. But a government that refuses to admit that we are at war, indeed, refuses even to name the enemy — jihadist is a word banished from the Obama lexicon — turns laxity into a governing philosophy.”

Why does President Obama refuse to see the threat for what it is?

UPDATE: 01/01/10, 11:51 a.m. CST: Politico: Ben Smith, Carol Lee:  Democrats’ worse nightmare: Terrorism on their watch

National Review Online, Mark Steyn: The Joke’s On Us

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Filed under General & Miscellaneous, Islam, National Security, Terrorism

Schizophrenia at CNN.com

Check out these two stories at CNN. Here are the headlines:

“U.S. scraps missile defense shield plans”

This was published a little before 9:00 a.m. CST. We’ll see if the link remains active. The entire thrust of the article, captured in the lead sentence, is that “the Obama administration will scrap the controversial missile defense shield program in Eastern Europe.” Vice President Biden was reported as explaining that Iran did not pose a threat to the United States, which was part of the logic of shelving the “Bush-era plan.” Officials in Poland and the Czech Republic confirmed that they had been told that missile defense plans were being dropped. “This is catastrophic for Poland,” the country said through a spokeswoman.

“Obama scraps Bush-era missile defense for new plan”

This was published closer to 10:30 a.m. CST, about an hour and a half after the original article appeared. Link here. This time around, the article changes directions entirely and says that “the United States is dropping plans for a controversial missile defense shield and replacing it with a ‘new missile defense architecture in Europe’.” It repeatedly emphasizes that a new plan is in the works, although few details on the plan are offered.

Now, it could be that CNN simply got it wrong the first time and wanted to correct the record. That would represent a minor lapse on their part, but an understandable one given the rapid pace of online news reporting. Updating the story would have been the natural thing to do.

It seems more likely, however, that the network simply let one slip by its internal filters. More likely that they momentarily forgot their role as a public relations arm for the president, lapsing into an actual news organization. That “Obama ditches stalwart Eastern European allies to please menacing authoritarian leaders in Russia and Iran” isn’t exactly the type of storyline they were supposed to be churning out to ensure the public that the president is wise and strong on national security matters.

So, very soon after, they made sure to let everyone know that Obama was actually just replacing (hey, no big deal, we’re just swapping it out!) a controversial (read: CNN didn’t like it) old Bush-era plan (era? as if it was sooooo long ago) with a shiny new, more “cost effective” and “efficient” (cheaper? less potent?) plan approved by O-BAM-A! Yeah!

Anyway. You get the point. That just really caught my eye this morning. Am I onto anything here, or completely off base?

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Filed under Barack Obama, Media, Media Bias, National Security

“Just Words” From Dear Leader…

Our Dear Leader, that is. The other Dear Leader had more than words. I’m talking about Kim Jong il, communist dictator of the police state known as North Korea: He had a long-range, multi-stage rocket to launch through the airspace of American friend and ally, the free and democratic nation of Japan.

But don’t worry, Barack Obama is delivering soaring speeches to adoring throngs in Europe. The President spoke in the Czech Republic capitol of Prague yesterday, outlining nuclear non-proliferation goals and his hopes for full scale global disarmament.

After the speech I was doing a little research, and my mood is now piqued after spending some time on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea website. It would be funny if real human beings were not living under the oppressive control of this despotic regime. The site is a series of sycophantic odes to a psycho; an amateurish attempt at appearing credible to the outside world.

(Among the most pitiful pages were PDF documents boasting black and white photos of scooters supposedly manufactured in the DPRK; another page offered patriotic songs for download, complete with fawning children’s choruses, presumably singing the Leader’s praises).

So it is upsetting to hear Barack Obama fail to take a tailor-made opportunity to call out Kim Jong il for what he was, and denounce in the harshest possible terms not only his rocket test but the brutality of his regime generally. With the eyes of the world upon him as he spoke in an historic outdoor square behind the Iron Curtain, he could have told the large crowd of supportive Europeans how he felt about conditions in the DPRK.

Instead, he devoted less than 5% of his speech to the provocation, and said nothing about the government’s treatment of its people. He did say a “strong international response” was merited, but did not get into the substance of what that might mean.

(Although, to infer from this line, with emphasis added: “…and North Korea must know that the path to security and respect will never come through threats and illegal weapons,” perhaps he is intentionally signaling that use-of-force options are still on the table).

Ultimately, the rocket test served to remind us how idealistic – and unrealistic – total disarmament is in a world where rogue regimes and bad actors exist. These guys are always going to seek bigger and better weapons, and we’re always going to need something to defend and deter.

See:

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Filed under National Security, Obama

The case for profiling

—Updated Friday, April 7, 2010—

New York Times Square bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad, in a picture widely circulated since his arrest.Once again this post on profiling is getting new attention, in the wake of this weekend’s bombing attempt of Times Square. I don’t know that there is a profiling angle to this incident, per se (that is, the suspect didn’t board an airplane to carry out the action, which might have precipitated a conversation about airline profiling, for example), but obviously Faisal Shahzad fits the Islamic terrorist profile (young, male, hailing from a country known to contain radical elements). My position remains that our government ought to rationally and responsibly engage in threat profiling (which may include consideration of ethnicity or religion when it is sensible to do so, among the larger set of potentially relevant characteristics and behaviors) as part of national security efforts.

—Updated Wednesday, January 6, 2010—

I want to reiterate what I wrote in this post when it was first published. Taking into account certain factual characteristics of airline travelers in assessing and guarding against threat possibilities is both logical and appropriate. This topic, and this post, have received renewed attention since the Christmas Day attack.

On that day a young, male foreign national with Middle East connections attempted to destroy a commercial airliner above the skies of Detroit. How many more attacks – planned and carried out by individuals sharing certain common personal characteristics –  will it take before policymakers reject  specious arguments against any sort of “profiling” whatsoever?

Observing background characteristics of the individual passenger – including age, gender and ethnicity or country of origin – is a single yet important part of air security. Other personal factors, and especially behavior patterns, are of critical consideration. Intelligence collection and connection remains foundational. Physical security measures at the airport and aboard the aircraft are vital.

Comprehensive anti-terrorism efforts for air-travel security include all logical and appropriate measures at a government’s disposal, with intelligent threat-profiling being one such measure. American leaders, bureaucrats and security officials should act accordingly.

—- Published February, 2009—-

Threat profiling is a logical and necessary tool in the war against militants Islamists (aka “The War on Terror,” at least during Bush’s days). News today suggests we should still be using it.

Reuters reported today that “a group of British Islamists plotted to cause deaths on an ‘almost unprecedented scale’ by blowing up transatlantic airliners using liquid explosives hidden in soft drink bottles, a London court heard Tuesday.”

The suspects:

British Islamists who allegedly plotted to blow up seven transatlantic jetliners

British Islamists who allegedly plotted to blow up seven transatlantic jetliners

And now a review of the vile creatures who perpetrated the terrorist acts of 9/11:

September 11th, 2001 Hijackers

Notice any similarities between these sets of photos?

(hint: it’s not a trick question!)

A quick illustration of threat profiling:

An elderly woman and I both board the same plane. I’m male, and 27. She’s female, and 92. Threat profiling identifies me as a greater security risk because these two characteristics convey certain information about the likelihood and probability that I pose a threat (terrorists tend to be young and male).

In another instance,  I board a plane, along with another 27 year old male – this time an Arab, who has purchased a one way ticket, in cash. In this case, the characteristics and behavior of this other passenger indicate that he presents a greater threat than I do.

Obviously, we can’t just look at race, ethnicity, country of origin, etc., but these are important factors that should not be ignored when it comes to security operations against terrorist threats.

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Filed under Militant Islam, National Security