Archive for the ‘terrorism’ Category

US: Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion

July 24, 2014 Comments off

US: Terrorism Prosecutions Often An Illusion
Source: Human Rights Watch

The US Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have targeted American Muslims in abusive counterterrorism “sting operations” based on religious and ethnic identity, Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute said in a report released today. Many of the more than 500 terrorism-related cases prosecuted in US federal courts since September 11, 2001, have alienated the very communities that can help prevent terrorist crimes.

The 214-page report, “Illusion of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” examines 27 federal terrorism cases from initiation of the investigations to sentencing and post-conviction conditions of confinement. It documents the significant human cost of certain counterterrorism practices, such as overly aggressive sting operations and unnecessarily restrictive conditions of confinement.

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Today’s Rising Terrorist Threat and the Danger to the United States: Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of The 9/11 Commission Report

July 22, 2014 Comments off

Today’s Rising Terrorist Threat and the Danger to the United States: Reflections on the Tenth Anniversary of The 9/11 Commission Report
Source: Bipartisan Policy Center

Ten years ago today, we issued The 9/11 Commission Report, the official report of the devastating attacks of September 11, 2001. As we wrote in that report, we were acutely mindful of the responsibility we bore to the American people—and the families of the victims—to provide the most complete account possible of the events leading up to that terrible day. We used what we learned from that awful history to make recommendations as to how to make America safer. Most of those recommendations have been enacted into law or adopted as policy.

A decade later, we are struck by how dramatically the world has changed. In the United States, federal, state, and local authorities have implemented major security reforms to protect the country. Overseas, the United States and allies went on the offensive against al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Ten years ago, many feared that al Qaeda would launch more catastrophic attacks on the United States. That has not happened. While homegrown terrorists struck Fort Hood and the Boston Marathon, with tragic results, and while major attempted attacks on aviation have been disrupted, no attack on a scale approaching that of 9/11 has taken place.

CRS — Domestic Federal Law Enforcement Coordination: Through the Lens of the Southwest Border

July 8, 2014 Comments off

Domestic Federal Law Enforcement Coordination: Through the Lens of the Southwest Border (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. State Department Foreign Press Center)

Federally led law enforcement task forces and intelligence information sharing centers are ubiquitous in domestic policing. They are launched at the local, state, and national levels and respond to a variety of challenges such as violent crime, criminal gangs, terrorism, white-collar crime, public corruption, even intelligence sharing. This report focuses on those task forces and information sharing efforts that respond to federal counterdrug and counterterrorism priorities in the Southwest border region. More generally, the report also offers context for examining law enforcement coordination. It delineates how this coordination is vital to 21st century federal policing and traces some of the roots of recent cooperative police endeavors.

How Do We Know What Information Sharing Is Really Worth? Exploring Methodologies to Measure the Value of Information Sharing and Fusion Efforts

June 27, 2014 Comments off

How Do We Know What Information Sharing Is Really Worth? Exploring Methodologies to Measure the Value of Information Sharing and Fusion Efforts
Source: RAND Corporation

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the sharing of intelligence and law enforcement information has been a central part of U.S. domestic security efforts. Though much of the public debate about such sharing focuses on addressing the threat of terrorism, organizations at all levels of government routinely share varied types of information through multiagency information systems, collaborative groups, and other links. Given resource constraints, there are concerns about the effectiveness of information-sharing and fusion activities and, therefore, their value relative to the public funds invested in them. Solid methods for evaluating these efforts are lacking, however, limiting the ability to make informed policy decisions. Drawing on a substantial literature review and synthesis, this report lays out the challenges of evaluating information-sharing efforts that frequently seek to achieve multiple goals simultaneously; reviews past evaluations of information-sharing programs; and lays out a path to improving the evaluation of such efforts going forward.

New From the GAO

June 24, 2014 Comments off

New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office


1. Maritime Security: Ongoing U.S. Counterpiracy Efforts Would Benefit From Agency Assessments. GAO-14-422, June 19.
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2. Combating Terrorism: U.S. Efforts in Northwest Africa Would Be Strengthened by Enhanced Program Management. GAO-14-518, June 24.
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3. Private Health Insurance: The Range of Average Annual Premiums in the Small Group Market by State in Early 2013. GAO-14-524R, May 28.

4. Public Transportation: Federal Role Key to Rural and Tribal Transit. GAO-14-589, June 24.
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5. Prepositioned Stocks: DOD’s Strategic Policy and Implementation Plan. GAO-14-659R, June 24.

6. Transportation Security Information Sharing: Stakeholder Satisfaction Varies; TSA Could Take Additional Actions to Strengthen Efforts. GAO-14-506, June 24.
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Transportation Security Information Sharing: Results of GAO’s Survey of Stakeholder Satisfaction with TSA Products and Mechanisms (GAO-14-488SP, June 2014), an E-supplement to GAO-14-506. GAO-14-488SP, June 24.


1. Explosives Detection Canines: TSA Has Taken Steps to Analyze Canine Team Data and Assess the Effectiveness of Passenger Screening Canines, by Jennifer Grover, acting director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittee on Transportation Security, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-14-659T, June 24.
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New From the GAO

June 17, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office

1. Combating Terrorism: State Department Can Improve Management of East Africa Program. GAO-14-502, June 17.
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2. Recovery Act: USDA Should Include Broadband Program’s Impact in Annual Performance Reports. GAO-14-511, June 17.
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3. Sequestration: Comprehensive and Updated Cost Savings Would Better Inform DOD Decision Makers If Future Civilian Furloughs Occur. GAO-14-529, June 17.
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Backgrounder — Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria

June 13, 2014 Comments off

Backgrounder — Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), a predominantly Sunni jihadist group, seeks to sow civil unrest in Iraq and the Levant with the aim of establishing a caliphate—a single, transnational Islamic state based on sharia. The group emerged in the ashes of the U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and the insurgency that followed provided it with fertile ground to wage a guerrilla war against coalition forces and their domestic allies.

After a U.S. counterterrorism campaign and Sunni efforts to maintain local security in what was known as the Tribal Awakening, AQI violence diminished from its peak in 2006–2007. But since the withdrawal of U.S. forces in late 2011, the group has increased attacks on mainly Shiite targets in what is seen as an attempt to reignite conflict between Iraq’s Sunni minority and the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Burgeoning violence in 2013 left nearly eight thousand civilians dead, making it Iraq’s bloodiest year since 2008, according to the United Nations. Meanwhile, in 2012 the group adopted its new moniker, ISIS (sometimes translated as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL) as an expression of its broadened ambitions as its fighters have crossed into neighboring Syria to challenge both the Assad regime and secular and Islamist opposition groups there. By June 2014, the group’s fighters had routed the Iraqi military in the major cities of Fallujah and Mosul and established territorial control and administrative structures on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border.

New From the GAO

June 11, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office


1. Nuclear Weapons: Ten-Year Budget Estimates for Modernization Omit Key Efforts, and Assumptions and Limitations Are Not Fully Transparent. GAO-14-373, June 10.
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2. Health Care Access: Improved Oversight, Accountability, and Prioritization Can Improve Access for Native American Veterans. GAO-14-489, June 10.
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3. Managing for Results: OMB Should Strengthen Reviews of Cross-Agency Goals. GAO-14-526, June 10.
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1. Biosurveillance: Observations on the Cancellation of BioWatch Gen-3 and Future Considerations for the Program, by Chris Currie, acting director, homeland security and justice, before the Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Response, and Communications, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-14-267T, June 10.
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2. Afghanistan: Oversight and Accountability of U.S. Assistance, by Charles Michael Johnson, Jr., director, international affairs and trade, before the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa, House Committee on Foreign Affairs. GAO-14-680T, June 10.
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3. Information Technology: Reform Initiatives Can Help Improve Efficiency and Effectiveness, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittee on Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs and the Federal Workforce, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. GAO-14-671T, June 10.
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4. VA Health Care: Ongoing and Past Work Identified Access, Oversight, and Data Problems That Hinder Veterans’ Ability to Obtain Timely Outpatient Medical Care, by Debra A. Draper, director, health care, before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-14-679T, June 9.
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Foreign Fighters in Syria

June 9, 2014 Comments off

Foreign Fighters in Syria
Source: The Soufan Group

Over 12,000 fighters from at least 81 countries have joined the civil war in Syria, and the numbers continue to grow. Around 2,500 are from Western countries, including most members of the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. There are also several hundred from Russia. But the great majority are from the Arab World. Most are fighting with rebel groups, and increasingly with the most extreme among them; but many are also fighting with the Government, or with ethnic or faith communities that are trying to protect themselves from both sides. A lot are young, often teenagers, and a fair percentage of those arriving from non-Muslim majority countries are converts to Islam. These and others who share their faith commonly express their motivation as a religious obligation to protect fellow Muslims from attack. This sense of duty is captured by their loose use of the word ‘jihad’.

There is considerable international concern at what these young men – and some women – will do once they leave Syria, and although almost all appear (from interviews and the evidence of social media) to go without a thought of what next, the experience of being in a war zone and exposed to the radicalizing influences of sectarianism and other forms of extremism are bound to have an impact on their ability and willingness to resume their former lives.

The policy response so far has often focused more on prevention and punishment than on dissuasion or reintegration, but as the number of returnees increases, and the resources required to monitor their activities are stretched to breaking point, it will be important to examine more closely why an individual went, what happened to him while there, and why he came back. This paper attempts to provide some general context for answering those questions, and offers suggestions for policy development.

CRS — Federal Building and Facility Security: Frequently Asked Questions

June 5, 2014 Comments off

Federal Building and Facility Security: Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The security of federal government buildings and facilities affects not only the daily operations of the federal government but also the health, well-being, and safety of federal employees and the public. Federal building and facility security is decentralized and disparate in approach, as numerous federal entities are involved and some buildings or facilities are occupied by multiple federal agencies. The federal government is tasked with securing over 446,000 buildings or facilities daily.

The September 2001 terrorist attacks, the September 2013 Washington Navy Yard shootings, and the April 2014 Fort Hood shootings have refocused the federal government’s attention on building security activities. There has been an increase in the security operations at federal facilities and more intense scrutiny of how the federal government secures and protects federal facilities, employees, and the visiting public.

This renewed attention has generated a number of frequently asked questions. This report answers several common questions regarding federal building and facility security, including
• What is federal facility security?
• Who is responsible for federal facility security?
• Is there a national standard for federal facility security?
• What are the types of threats to federal facilities, employees, and the visiting public?
• How is threat information communicated among federal facility security stakeholders?
• What are the potential congressional issues associated with federal facility security?

Amnesty International — USA: Another Year, Same Missing Ingredient

May 26, 2014 Comments off

USA: Another Year, Same Missing Ingredient
Source: Amnesty International

For a speech seen as signalling a turning point, the direction travelled since it was delivered has been frustratingly familiar.

It is now one year since President Barack Obama revisited his administration’s framework for the USA’s counter-terrorism strategy, four years after a similar address he had given early in his first term. “From our use of drones to detention of terrorism suspects”, President Obama proclaimed on 23 May 2013, “the decisions that we are making now will define the type of nation – and world – that we leave to our children”.

At the time, Amnesty International expressed some cautious optimism at signs of a possible change for the better heralded by the speech, while noting that international human rights law was the ingredient still missing from the framework. The organization noted:

“Words are one thing, actions another. Despite their positive aspects, President Obama’s words leave a lot to be desired, and it remains to be seen how much will change, and how quickly, after this latest national security speech.”

One year on, little has changed. Why? Because the USA, a country not averse to promoting itself as a, or even the global human rights champion, continues in its singular failure to put respect for human rights at the centre of its counter-terrorism policies, despite a stated commitment to do so by successive administrations.

CRS — Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy

May 23, 2014 Comments off

Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Libya’s post-conflict transition has been disrupted by armed non-state groups and threatened by the indecision and infighting of interim leaders. To date, the elected General National Congress (GNC) and the interim executive authorities that it has endorsed have failed to address pressing security issues, reshape the country’s public finances, or create a viable framework for postconflict justice and reconciliation. The insecurity that was prevalent in Libya in the wake of the 2011 conflict has deepened, and armed militia groups and locally organized political leaders remain the most powerful arbiters of public affairs.

At present, potentially divisive political, economic, and social issues are being debated by rival groups in the absence of credible state security guarantees. These issues include the proposed decentralization of some national administrative authority, competing fiscal priorities, the provision of local and national security, the proper role for Islam in political and social life, and concerns about the ongoing exploitation of Libyan territory by terrorists, arms traffickers, and criminal networks. The U.S. State Department now describes Libya as a “terrorist safe haven,” and U.S. military and intelligence officials have warned about threats to U.S. interests emanating from Libya in recent statements and congressional testimony.

CRS — The Lord’s Resistance Army: The U.S. Response

May 23, 2014 Comments off

The Lord’s Resistance Army: The U.S. Response (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, is a small, dispersed armed group active in remote areas of Central Africa. The LRA’s infliction of widespread human suffering and its potential threat to regional stability have drawn significant attention in recent years, including in Congress. Campaigns by U.S.-based advocacy groups have contributed to policy makers’ interest.

or kill LRA commanders, which since 2012 have been integrated into an African Union (AU) “Regional Task Force” against the LRA. The Obama Administration expanded U.S. support for these operations in 2011 by deploying U.S. military advisors to the field. In March 2014, the Administration notified Congress of the deployment of U.S. military aircraft and more personnel to provide episodic “enhanced air mobility support” to African forces. The United States has also provided humanitarian aid, pursued regional diplomacy, helped to fund “early-warning” systems, and supported multilateral programs to demobilize and reintegrate ex-LRA combatants. The Administration has referred to these efforts as part of its broader commitment to preventing and mitigating mass atrocities. Growing U.S. involvement may also be viewed in the context of Uganda’s role as a key U.S. security partner in East and Central Africa. U.S. security assistance to Uganda, including for counter-LRA efforts, has continued despite policy makers’ criticism of the Ugandan government’s decision in early 2014 to enact a law criminalizing homosexuality.

CRS — Nigeria’s Boko Haram: Frequently Asked Questions

May 22, 2014 Comments off

Nigeria’s Boko Haram: Frequently Asked Questions (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Boko Haram, a violent Nigerian Islamist movement, has grown increasingly active and deadly in its attacks against state and civilian targets in recent years, drawing on a narrative of resentment and vengeance for state abuses to elicit recruits and sympathizers. The group’s April 2014 abduction of almost 300 schoolgirls has drawn international attention, including from the Obama Administration and Members of Congress. Periodic attacks against foreign targets in the region and growing evidence of ties to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a regional terrorist network affiliated with Al Qaeda, have also raised the concern of U.S. policymakers. The State Department named several individuals linked to Boko Haram, including its leader, Abubakar Shekau, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists in 2012, and Boko Haram was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) by the U.S. State Department in November 2013. The Obama Administration does not currently consider Boko Haram to be an affiliate of Al Qaeda.

Counterterrorism, Ethics, and Global Health

May 21, 2014 Comments off

Counterterrorism, Ethics, and Global Health
Source: The Hastings Center

The intersection of national security, foreign policy, and health has been explored in a number of arenas, but little attention has been devoted to the ethical issues surrounding the global health impact of current counterterrorism policy and practice. In this essay, we’ll review a range of harms to population health traceable to counterterrorism operations, identify concerns involving moral agency and responsibility—specifically of humanitarian health workers, military medical personnel, and national security officials and operatives—and highlight two interrelated policy issues: the need for a conception of national security that incorporates a cosmopolitan concern for health, and the need for shared health governance, including governance of activities affecting health.

Brothers Killing Brothers: The Current Infighting Will Test al Qaeda’s Brand

May 16, 2014 Comments off

Brothers Killing Brothers: The Current Infighting Will Test al Qaeda’s Brand
Source: RAND Corporation

Terrorists often resolve internal disputes the old-fashioned way: They kill each other. Battles between rival rebel groups and within terrorist organizations are not uncommon. Internal feuds have characterized terrorist movements throughout modern history, from the Russian Revolution to the Palestinian civil war.

In February 2014, members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) are believed to have carried out the suicide attack that killed Abu Khaled al-Suri, the leader of a rival coalition of Islamist rebel groups in Syria. In response, Ayman al-Zawahiri took the unprecedented step of publicly expelling ISIL from al Qaeda. An open break like this creates real risks for both ISIL’s and al Qaeda’s leadership, setting up a showdown that could turn an internal dispute into a schism that cleaves across the jihadist universe.

In addition, it could create new intelligence and propaganda opportunities for the United States. If ISIL turns out to be the stronger movement, al Qaeda’s command over the global movement would be seriously weakened. The biggest opportunities for exploiting al Qaeda’s internal disputes may lie in countering al Qaeda’s future recruitment. The prospect of killing or being killed by fellow jihadists ought to be a less-attractive proposition than defending Islam against perceived infidel aggression. However, exploiting the favorable circumstances created by the current divisions requires detailed local knowledge and political-warfare know-how. Pursuing this unprecedented opportunity will require the creation of a dedicated task force to act as a focal point for analysis and action.

New From the GAO

May 15, 2014 Comments off

New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office


1. Export Controls: NASA Management Action and Improved Oversight Needed to Reduce the Risk of Unauthorized Access to Its Technologies. GAO-14-315, April 15.
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2. F-22 Modernization: Cost and Schedule Transparency Is Improved, Further Visibility into Reliability Efforts Is Needed. GAO-14-425, May 15.
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3. National Nuclear Security Administration: Agency Report to Congress on Potential Efficiencies Does Not Include Key Information. GAO-14-434, May 15.
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4. Biological Defense: DOD Has Strengthened Coordination on Medical Countermeasures but Can Improve Its Process for Threat Prioritization. GAO-14-442, May 15.
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5. International Labor Grants: Labor Should Improve Management of Key Award Documentation. GAO-14-493, May 15.
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6. Financial Audit: Congressional Award Foundation’s Fiscal Years 2013 and 2012 Financial Statements. GAO-14-540, May 15.


1. VA Health Care: VA Lacks Accurate Information about Outpatient Medical Appointment Wait Times, Including Specialty Care Consults, by Debra A. Draper, director, health care, before the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. GAO-14-620T, May 15.
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CRS — The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Terrorism Investigations (updated)

May 12, 2014 Comments off

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Terrorism Investigations (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via University of North Texas Digital Library)

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI, the Bureau) is the lead federal law enforcement agency charged with counterterrorism investigations. Since the September 11, 2001 (9/11) attacks, the FBI has implemented a series of reforms intended to transform itself from a largely reactive law enforcement agency focused on investigations of criminal activity into a more proactive, agile, flexible, and intelligence-driven agency that can prevent acts of terrorism.

This report provides background information on key elements of the FBI terrorism investigative process based on publicly available information.

Backgrounder: Boko Haram

May 9, 2014 Comments off

Backgrounder: Boko Haram
Source: Council on Foreign Relations

Boko Haram, a diffuse Islamist sect, has attacked Nigeria’s police, military, rival clerics, politicians, schools, religious buildings, public institutions, and civilians with increasing regularity since 2009. Some experts view the group as an armed revolt against government corruption, abusive security forces, and widening regional economic disparity in an already impoverished country. They argue that Abuja should do more to address the strife between the disaffected Muslim north and the Christian south.

The U.S. Department of State designated Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization in 2013. Boko Haram’s brutal campaign included a suicide attack on a UN building in Abuja in 2011, repeated attacks that have killed dozens of students, burning of villages, ties to regional terror groups, and the abduction of more than two hundred girls in 2014. The Nigerian government hasn’t been able to quell the insurgency.

State Department — Country Reports on Terrorism 2013

April 30, 2014 Comments off

Country Reports on Terrorism 2013
Source: U.S. Department of State

On April 30, 2014, the State Department submitted Country Reports on Terrorism 2013 to the U.S. Congress as required by law. This report, available on, provides the Department of State’s annual assessment of trends and events in international terrorism that occurred from January 1 to December 31, 2013. It includes a strategic assessment, country-by-country breakdowns of counterterrorism efforts, and sections on state sponsors of terrorism, terrorist safe havens, and foreign terrorist organizations.


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