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April 21, 2014 / 21 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘U.S. policy’

Why Expanded Government Spying Doesn’t Mean Better Security

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Originally published at Rubin Reports.

What is most important to understand about the revelations of massive message interception by the U.S. government is this:

In counterterrorist terms, it is a farce.

There is a fallacy behind the current intelligence strategy of the United States, the collection of massive amounts of phone calls, emails, and even credit card expenditures, up to 3 billion phone calls a day alone, not to mention the government spying on the mass media. It is this:

The more quantity of intelligence, the better it is for preventing terrorism.

In the real, practical world this is—though it might seem counterintuitive—untrue. You don’t need–to put it in an exaggerated way–an atomic bomb against a flea. And isn’t it absurd that the United States can’t finish a simple border fence to keep out potential terrorists, can’t stop a would-be terrorist in the U.S. army who gives a power point presentation on why he is about to shoot people (Major Nadal Hassan), can’t follow up on Russian intelligence warnings about Chechen terrorist contacts (the Boston bombing), or a dozen similar incidents must now collect every telephone call in the country? A system in which a photo shop clerk has to stop an attack on Fort Dix by overcoming his fear of appearing “racist” to report a cell of terrorists or brave passengers must jump a would-be “underpants bomber” from Nigeria because his own father’s warning that he was a terrorist was insufficient?

And how about a country where terrorists and terrorist supporters visit the White House, hang out with the FBI, advise the U.S. government on counter-terrorist policy (even while, like CAIR) advising Muslims not to cooperate with law enforcement, and are admiringly quoted in the media yet a documented, detailed  revelation of this behavior in MERIA Journal by Patrick Poole, which should bring down the government, “Blind to Terror: The U.S. Government’s Disastrous Muslim Outreach Efforts and the Impact on U.S. Middle East Policy.” does not get covered by a single mass media outlet?
Imagine this scene:
 
“Sir, we have a telephone call about a potential terrorist attack!”
 
“Not now, Smithers, I’m giving a tour of our facility to some supporters of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.” 

Or how about the time when the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem had a (previously jailed) Hamas agent working in their motor pool with direct access to the vehicles and itineraries of all visiting US dignitaries and senior officials.
 
Instead of this kind of thing the two key tasks of counterterrorism are as follows:

First, it is not the quantity of material that counts but the need to locate and correctly understand the most vital material. This requires your security forces to understand the ideological, psychological, and organizational nature of the threat.

Second, it is necessary to be ready to act on this information not only in strategic but in political terms.

For example, suppose the U.S. ambassador to Libya warns that the American compound there may be attacked. No response. Then he tells the deputy chief of mission that he is under attack. No response. Then the U.S. military is not allowed to respond. Then the president goes to sleep without making a decision about doing anything because communications break down between the secretaries of defense and state and the president, who goes to sleep because he has a very important fund-raiser the next day. But don’t worry because three billion telephone calls by Americans are daily being intercepted and supposedly analyzed.

In other words, you have a massive counterterrorist project costing $1 trillion but when it comes down to it the thing repeatedly fails. In that case, to quote the former secretary of state, “”What difference does it  make?”

If one looks at the great intelligence failures of the past, these two points quickly become obvious. Take for example the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. U.S. naval intelligence had broken Japanese codes. They had the information needed to conclude the attack would take place. Yet a focus on the key to the problem was not achieved. The important messages were not read and interpreted; the strategic mindset of the leadership was not in place.

Or, in another situation, the plan of Nazi Germany to invade   the USSR in 1941 or of the time and place of the Allied invasion of Normandy beach in 1944 was not assessed properly, with devastating results. Of course, the techniques were more primitive then, but so were the means of concealment.

For instance, the Czech intelligence services, using railroad workers as informants, knew about a big build-up for a German offensive against the USSR. Soviet leader Joseph Stalin overrode the warnings. Soviet analysts predicting a Nazi invasion were punished. Nothing would have changed if more material was collected.

So what needs to be in place, again, is to focus on the highest priority material, to analyze correctly what is available, to have leaders accept it, and to act. If the U.S. government can’t even figure out what the Muslim Brotherhood is like or the dangers of supporting Islamists to take over Syria, or the fact that the Turkish regime is an American enemy, or can’t even teach military officers who the enemy is, what’s it going to do with scores of billions of telephone call traffic to overcome terrorism? It isn’t even using the intelligence material is already has!

If, however, the material is almost limitless, that actually weakens a focus on the most needed intelligence regarding the most likely terrorist threats. Imagine, for example, going through billions of telephone calls even with high-speed computers rather than, say, following up a tip from Russian intelligence on a young Chechen man in Boston who is in contact with terrorists or, for instance, the communications between a Yemeni al-Qaida leader and a U.S. army major who is assigned as a psychiatrist to Fort Hood.

That is why the old system of getting warrants, focusing on individual email addresses, or sites, or telephones makes sense, at least if it is only used properly. Then those people who are communicating with known terrorists can be traced further. There are no technological magic spells. If analysts are incompetent, blocked from understanding the relationship between Islam and terrorism, bound up by Political Correctness and fear of career costs, and leaders unwilling to take proper action, who cares how much data was collected?

At a time when American leaders and the social atmosphere are discouraging citizens from reporting potential terrorism (the photo store clerk; the flight school instructor back before September 11, the brave passengers who jumped a hijacker and then had to worry about lawsuits because they violated someone’s civil rights, the attempts to take away guns that wouldn’t stop terrorists), why is a giant facility in Utah going to do a better job?

Decision-makers and intelligence analysts only have so many hours in the day. There can only be so many meetings; only so many priorities. And the policymaking pyramid narrows rapidly toward the top. There is a point of diminishing returns for the size of an intelligence bureaucracy. Lower-priority tasks proliferate; too much paper is generated and meetings are held; the system clogs when it has too much data.

Note the parallelism between this broader terrorism policy and the current philosophy of airport security. In both cases, everyone is considered equally suspect. Profiling is minimized. Instead of focusing on the, let’s say one hundred of those who might be of special interest, a great deal of time, attention, and resources has been spent on ten million others. This has got to reduce effectiveness.

The increased costs of security, Obama has told us, amounts to a cost of $1 trillion. Of course, people would say that such money was well spent. Yet in security as in every other aspect of government, money can be spent well or badly, even counterproductively.

Al-Qaida is even saying openly that it is switching to a strategy of encouraging isolated attacks. Within 24 hours a British soldier is murdered on a street in London after he seeks and fails to obtain terrorist training in Somalia, and a French soldier is attacked. In Toulouse, France, a terrorist kills or cripples soldiers and Jewish schoolchildren. There are dozens of examples.

Vast amounts of money and resources, though, are being spent in preparing for an exact reply of September 11.
And remember that the number of terrorists caught by the TSA hovers around the zero level. The shoe, underpants, and Times Square bombers weren’t even caught by security at all and many other such cases can be listed. In addition to this, the U.S.-Mexico border is practically open.

The ultimate problem is that the number of terrorists is very low and the fact is that for anyone who isn’t insane their characteristics are pretty clear, that is they are about 99 percent revolutionary and violent Islamists.
Obama has now admitted three very important things.

First, the war on terrorism has not been won.

Second, the war on al-Qaida has not really been won, since its continued campaigning is undeniable and it has even grown in Syria, partly thanks to U.S. policy.

Third, the biggest threat on the American homeland is autonomous terrorists who have been inspired by al-Qaida but are not technically part of the nomination. (That allows Obama to claim to be winning the war on al-Qaida).
What he has not yet admitted is that the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist groups or sponsors are controlling Egypt, Tunisia, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Turkey, Sudan, Syria, and Iran, while terrorists run free in the Palestinian Authority, Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, is not conducive to the protection of America against terrorism. The fact that his policy promotes some of these problems makes things even worse.

Yet the new, expensive, expansive, and time-consuming technological methods are relatively ineffective against the current priorities of anti-American terrorist groups.

Incidentally, Obama policy has been disastrous against a four factor, radical Islamists—though not al-Qaida taking over places. Compared to the time Obama came to office, the Islamists who support violence against America now rule Egypt, Tunisia, the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, and perhaps soon Syria. Offenses have been stepped up in Somalia, Yemen; are being maintained in Iraq; and of course still rule over Syria and Iran. In Turkey, an Islamist terror-supporting regime has been embraced by Obama.

This represents a massive retreat even if it is a largely unnoticed one.

So the problem of growing government spying is three-fold.

–First, it is against the American system and reduces liberty.

–Second, it is a misapplication of resources, in other words money is being spent and liberty sacrificed for no real gain.

–Third, since government decisionmaking and policy about international terrorism is very bad the threat is increasing.

If you don’t get value for money or enhanced security while freedom is being reduced and the enemy is getting stronger it certainly isn’t a bargain.

Refusing to Be Terrorized

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Two out of three governments agree that dealing with terrorism is all about having the right attitude. That, “Yes, we’ve been bombed, but we’re ready to pick ourselves up and get on with our lives without drawing any conclusions from what happened,” attitude that politicians patriotically advocate as soon as the carnage is over.

“Americans refuse to be terrorized. Ultimately, that’s what we’ll remember from this week,” Obama said in his radio address.

But of course Americans were terrorized. Obama’s message is that in response to the terrorism, Bostonians won’t spend the rest of their lives locked in their homes, at least not until the next time there’s a terrorist on the loose. But then again neither are Rwandans or Sudanese. This isn’t so much an inspirational message as a pat on the back from a government that once again failed in its duty to keep Americans from being terrorized.

If America had refused to be terrorized, the Tsarnaevs would not have been admitted to this country or would have been shown the door once they started adding terrorist videos to their playlist. Instead Tamerlan Tsarnaev was free to slap around his girlfriend while his brother Dzhokhar was adding classic hits to his YouTube playlist like “We Will Dedicate Our Lives to the Jihad.”

That ditty, from the hit-master behind “Hey, Shahid,” “The Holy Jihad (Rise Muslim)” and “Insallah, We are Waiting for Paradise” contains lyrics like “Paradise’s rivers softly chime/The 72 virgins lovingly whisper” and “Infidels rule the earth/for the faithful life is torture.”

But while infidels might still rule the United States, though there are serious questions to be raised about who is ruling Michigan or New Jersey, life was hardly torture for the Tsarnaevs who drove luxury cars, attended good schools and got good media coverage. The good media coverage continued even after their bout of mass murder as the New York Times feature story on them was headlined, “Far From War-Torn Homeland, Trying to Fit In.” And who can blame them for trying to fit in by practicing some of their native customs of mass murder.

At some point refusing to be terrorized looks a lot like refusing to pay attention to what terrorism is. After September 11 the government encouraged everyone to get back out there and shop. The message now is take in an interfaith service and then visit your local mosque for a sanitized tour that explains how peaceful Islam really is. There’s a lot of talk about finishing the marathon and MoveOn.orging on our way past the unpleasantness.

But there are two standards on being terrorized: When a mentally ill man shoots up a school, then everyone is obligated to be terrorized all the time. Children can be seized for chewing a pop tart the wrong way and the leading leaders tow around selected parents of victims to demand that the pesky Bill of Rights take a back seat to a special moral superiority vote from a former Democratic member of congress whose great achievement in life was getting shot in the head by another mental patient.

The next Adam Lanza is just around the corner. But the next Tamerlan Tsarnaev isn’t worth bothering with. Gun control is an urgent issue, but mass immigration from terrorist countries isn’t.

Talk of refusing to be terrorized smacks of governments handing out coping mechanisms for preventable acts of terror. And once we start going down that road, it’s worth remembering that the timeless coping mechanism for that sort of thing is Stockholm Syndrome. Indeed the old Stockholm cure is popular in the media which is already beginning to disgorge explanations of alienation that will show that Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev didn’t kill on their own, we made them killers by not showing them enough love.

It’s not the role of governments to tell people how to get over a terrorist attack. Nor is it the role of government to violate the Bill of Rights using the act of a lone madman as a pretext. But it is the role of government to stop an international campaign of terror by a fanatical ideology from reaching these shores using the blunt tool of immigration.

Refusing to be terrorized is as simple as refusing to accept more immigrants from Muslim countries. It’s not the least repressive measure ever, but it beats interfering with the civil rights of hundreds of millions of Americans who are not members of terrorist groups.

Al Jazeera: US ‘Increasingly Irrelevant’ to the Arabs

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

“U.S. policy in the Arab world has long been widely unpopular, to put it mildly,” on Sunday Sarah Mousa wrote in Al Jazeera. Although President Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo were met with great enthusiasm, she continues, “the Arab uprisings transformed many peoples’ views on the role played by the US in their region. While Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did offer verbal support to most of the protest movements, hypocritical selective support, initial American hesitation in backing the uprisings and past policies bolstering dictatorships were not forgotten.”

Mousa, a graduate from Princeton University and a 2010-2011 Fulbright Scholar in Egypt, states: “More crucially, it became clear to many that the outcome of the uprisings was up to them, and not to U.S. policymakers. In the case of Egypt, U.S. statements only called for Hosni Mubarak to step down when it became entirely clear that it was inevitable. While the gesture may have been appreciated by parts of the Egyptian opposition, it was not viewed as a significant turning point.”

Obama’s visit to Israel and the PA were received coolly by Palestinians, writes Mousa. “Young activists referred to the speeches as ‘insipid’ and ‘sycophant.’ The part of Obama’s Jerusalem speech that many Palestinians paid most attention to was an interruption by Palestinian audience member Rabeea Eid: ‘Did you really come here for peace or to give Israel more weapons to kill and destroy the Palestinian people? Did you happen to see the apartheid wall on your way here? There are Palestinians sitting in this hall. This state should be for all of its citizens, not a Jewish state only.’”

We’ve all seen the clip where, as the noisy Eid was being dragged out of the hall, Obama referred to the interruption as a good display of “lively debate.”

Recordings of the incident quickly spread throughout the Palestinian Internet. Obama’s failure to effectively address Palestinian rage on the student’s points, just as Eid was being dragged away and handcuffed, made him a mockery in Palestinian eyes, argues Mousa.

“The U.S. is increasingly irrelevant to movements throughout the region,” she concludes. “In his March visit to Cairo, Secretary of State John Kerry extended invitations to meet with members of opposition parties. Many turned him down. Distour party member Gamila Ismail explained her rejection of the invitation in a scathing letter to Kerry, in which she criticized self-interested U.S. policy that has supported repressive regimes in Egypt for decades.”

Ismail also wrote Kerry: “This is a revolution that will teach the world, as Obama, your president, has said. And we want to teach the world and be a model for it. And we will become different than what you see. Your embassy reports see that we do not deserve anything except this [limited] amount of democracy. And that this [limited] amount is ‘enough’.”

Interestingly, as America is achieving a steady decline in reliance on Middle Eastern oil, American foreign policy no longer views the region with the urgency it did only a decade ago – and the Arab intelligence gets it.

How I wish Benjamin Netanyahu would get it, too.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/al-jazeera-us-increasingly-irrelevant-to-the-arabs/2013/03/24/

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