Saturday, January 28, 2006

HAMAS Says No Change

As the U.S. Department of State begins to reevaluate its financing for Palestinian territories (for USAID operations in the West Bank see here), HAMAS leaders have resoundingly announced today that they will neither recognize Israel’s right to exist nor disarm. According to the NY Times (see story here), HAMAS leader, Khaled Meshal, has declared that “resistance is a legitimate right that we will practice and protect.” Interestingly too, there has also been talk by HAMAS members to create a Palestinian Army of some kind. Some speculate that with time HAMAS will (as did the Fatah party and the IRA) eventually splinter, causing HAMAS to go mainstream and militants to formulate a secondary arm. Others, like International Counterterrorism (ICT) Center expert Asaf Maliach (find article titled: “Hamas and the Two Level Strategy” here) argue that integration of the organization into the political realm is not indicative of a movement away from its hard-lined position. Only time will tell no doubt, but it seems relatively clear that as terrorist sponsored organizations like HAMAS, Hizbullah, and the Muslim Brotherhood integrate into the democratic process, the once coveted theory of democratic peace (democracies don’t go to war) is rapidly proving specious.

State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration – James Risen

I was shocked. For all of the debate, for the public stirring, for the skillful penetration of heavily classified National Security Agency (NSA) circles and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) programs, one would expect a monumental work of Woodward proportions, objectively dissecting the corpus of policy determinations providing a holistic view identifiably saying: this is it. That is not what one gets here. Instead, in a breezy book casually disclosing for the first time otherwise exceedingly classified operations (e.g. NSA interception of telecommunications in/out of the United States,[1] fumbled CIA communications with operatives in Iran causing them to be “rolled up” and not to be heard from again, Operation Merlin whereby CIA apparently provided false nuclear weapons designs to Iran, etc.), one is left with a sense that the book was written more as a screed than a report. Risen goes out of his way to characterize Condi Rice as impotent, George Tenet as sycophantic, and Donald Rumsfeld as myopic. Whether such attributes can be fairly attributed or not, in my view, is immaterial. I want substance, not private pontification from an outsider.

If you’re like me, you were inclined rush out and read the book as soon as possible, after all it could prove to be the cornerstone for debates within the security field for months to come. But now it’s out, and everyone is talking about it. My advice: just read the news reports.

[1] For more on my thoughts regarding the NSA surveillance program see here and here.

Colombian Passport Ring Disrupted

According to news reports, the Colombian government successfully disrupted a rather large passport falsification ring, which allegedly has some ties with al-Qa’eda and HAMAS. Links to these organizations however are not yet entirely clear, American investigators apparently provided material assistance to the Colombian forces under the operating assumption that it dealt principally with FARC. Ten of those captured have been indicted out of the U.S. for attempting to smuggle FARC members into the country, as of yet there appears to be little evidence that they tied to other terrorist groups. Extradition from Colombia has become something of an interesting practice these days, it’s incredibly easy. Any offense which meets the standard of dual criminality (a crime in both the U.S. and Colombia) is extradictable, and this happens on a rather frequent basis in the drug area. Further investigation and time will illustrate whether al-Qa’eda operations in Latin America will be hindered by the passport bust, in addition to perhaps revealing more on the possible nexus of Latin American human smuggling rings and jihadist organizations. With grossly negligent border procedures for non-Mexicans (known in the border security parlance as: Other Than Mexicans -OTMs), there is a rising fear that these smuggling rings will eventually provide a critical conduit for terrorists into the United States.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Moussaoui Wins A Small Victory In Court

Zacarias Moussaoui's motion seeking to obtain critical discovery under CIPA has been granted in part. This means he’ll have access to classified threat assessments on al-Qa’eda written up to one year prior to 11 September 2001. Additionally, according to the order, he is to be granted all materials in the government’s possession related not only to himself, but 9/11 terrorists Nawaf al-Hamzi and Khalid al-Midhar. Jury selection is slated to begin next week. Oral arguments begin in on the 6th of March. For access to his docket sheet, see here.

Terrorism Focus- New Edition Out

The Jamestown Foundation has a new edition of Terrorism Focus out. It's a free publication with particularly good insight from well-respected experts in the field (e.g. Michael Scheurer, Stephen Ulph, etc.). Jamestown Foundation also has free publications on Chechnya, China, and another on terrorism called Terrorism Monitor.

For more on the Jamestown Foundation see their site here.

For the latest Terrorism Focus see here.

SATSA Launches Blog

Student Association for Terrorism and Security Analysis (SATSA) launches its new blog. For more information about the organization see the link above.