Wednesday, January 30, 2013

HOT: Real-time US Drone Strikes in Pakistan (You Should Bookmark This)

Real-Time U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan

I found this "gem" on a site called which hosts a variety of infographics. The data was compiled fromdata from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism which "provides a live-updated database of U.S. covert drone strikes in Pakistan. There are other sources for this information, including New America Foundation and The Long War Journal, each of which has its own advantages and disadvantages." This has been the best resource thus far in terms of keeping track of drone strikes in Pakistan.

Why should any security professional be concerned with these strikes? These strikes are often done to eliminate "high value targets" (HVTs). It would be prudent for a security professional to understand when and where a strike has occurred in order to prepare for reprisal attacks on any resources deemed important to the United States government. This could also provide needed intelligence on a subject of interests in an environment where you do constant threat intelligence and analysis. It does a great job as well of illustrating the continued and progressive use of "unmanned aerial vehicles" (UAVs). Becoming aware of the technology and its real-world deployments and challenges, could aid a security professional in determining their applicability to their threat landscape. I HIGHLY recommend bookmarking this page for future reference, as the data will change day-by-day.

Top 12 Awesome Way To Beef Up Your Home Security

As a continuation of my home security article previously, I decided to publish a list of tips to upgrade your home security. Have a look and let me know what you think.

Here are my suggestions for beefing up your home security:

1. Get to know your neighbors. Seriously. I know they're annoying and their kids tear up your yard. But they're "natural observers". They'll take greater interests in you and who is at your home. They may also alert you to suspicious activity and call the authorities. There also great for mail pickups when you're not at home.

You laugh but your nosy neighbors could be the best security system you have.

2. Be seen throughout your neighborhood. A person who is active and occasionally walks outside is unpredictable. When terrorists were planning to hit military bases, they chose Ft Dix in New Jersey over Dover Air Force Base. Why? Because Air Force cops don't follow a patrol "pattern". They were literally seen everywhere.

3. If you get a home security system, understand what it's there for. It sounds an alarm and calls the police. The burglar is still inside and may have already planned on that contingency. Does that mean don't get one? No. Get one. Just understand it may not stop a burglar from hitting your home. When you shop for one, understand the technology behind it and understand false alarms do happen and your locality may penalize you for them.

4. Buy a new lock on any newly constructed home. Don't install the lock yourself. Call a reputable locksmith. Next ensure you have a good door. What does that mean? The door should solid if wood and metal if not. There should very little spacing between the lock, the door, and the wall. Ensure you put a good lock on a good door.

5. Don't buy dummy cameras. They're useless and most pros will recognize it as such. Buy a real camera instead if you want one.

Either buy a camera system that works and one you monitor daily or don't get one at all.

6. Fences are bad and good. They can be a useful barrier if they are locked and not easily scaled. That being said, they can prevent natural observers from doing what they do best - observing and being a visual deterrent.

Getting a fence that is too high can be just as bad 
if not worse as getting a fence that is too short.
7. Don't advertise that you have a gun. What that says to a burglar is "I'll wait until I know you're gone and look for your guns to steal". Remember resale is $200.

Signs like this DO NOT keep bad guys away. 

8. Don't buy "no trespassing signs". They never stop a burglar. Ever.

9. If you have a sliding door, get it replaced by actual swinging doors or get a very sturdy lock for them. Ensure the slide is properly mounted to the floor.

This is a VERY sturdy deadbolt lock.

10. Check your windows. How long has your lock been there? Is it crusted over by paint? Is it rusted? Is it flimsy or accessible easily from the outside? If so, it's time for a new lock and a new window.

This lock is keeping NO ONE away. Consider getting a new window if needed.

11. Take expensive product boxes to a recycling center. No ifs and or buts.

Look. Someone got something really nice recently.

12. Don't advertise you're going out of town except to those who NEED to know. By need I mean, it is critical to sustaining your livelihood (they need to pick up mail, approve vacation time for your job, babysit your kid, etc.). The post office can collect your mail if needed. Here's a link -

Six Ways Burglars Get Away With Your Stuff

Recently, I was asked to compile a list of way burglars break into homes. The idea behind this list is twofold:
  • Demonstrate common burglar/intruder methodology 
  • Show the futility in modern home security risk analysis 

Here's what I wrote:

Burglars act as most attackers do. What does that mean? They approach your home the same way any operational threat (bad guy) would whether they are hackers or home invaders. The first thing they do is reconnaissance. This could be as simple as a drive-by or a pretext to get inside of the residence. Some burglars use social media to get an idea as to when you'll be away and/or get an idea as to what kind of loot you have. Not all do. Most common thieves attack venues they know are not secure. Many times it's an inside job (disgruntled employees, relatives, friends of the family, etc.).

This man robbed an East Village Apartment he had been showing
for a real estate company he  was working  for at the time
What are they looking for? It depends on their expertise. Most amateurs will stay away from places with an alarm system, if they don't know the code. Professionals are savvy enough to either bypass the alarm or know the code. Stickers and signs can be counter-productive. They advertise to a bad guy you have something worth protecting. They also look for natural observers (nosy neighbors, kids playing at all hours, your activity, your interaction with your neighbors, mailmen, police who regularly patrol the area, and street traffic). They look for flimsy window locks and screen doors. They look for what's accessible from their point of entry. They look for cameras (sometimes - depends on expertise). They look for mail delivery. They also look for large product boxes. These advertise "we just bought a lot of expensive stuff" to prospective thieves. They look for moving boxes. This signals you just moved in and probably won't have an alarm set just yet. They look for proximity to neighbors and relative noise.

They won't all approach your home like this guy.....

Once they have all their particulars in order, they prepare a kit. Some guys already have one for every job. It'll consist of a crowbar or other heavy wedge. They'll have screwdrivers and hammers. They may have lockpicks. They'll have large bags and will likely use a van or other large vehicle. A pro may use a minivan. No one ever suspects a minivan.  

Burglary tools found on an alleged burglar.
You'll notice there are several lockpicks and door wedges.

After they have their kit and transportation, they may decide on a crew. Some guys have one and some don't. They also fit the profile.

Next begins the approach. They'll check doors and see if the door is loose. If there is sufficient spacing, the door has movement. What does that mean? Remember that crowbar? Some guys will also have a master key. When homes are often constructed, the construction company buys standard locks for every house they build in a development. Many times those homes have a key or specialize tool they use to set the lock. This key/tool is like a master key and can open most locks in that development. It's the reason many lock companies have steered away from this. Homeowners should immediately change the locks in any new development. They may also kick the door in. If they do this, the job is really rushed and time is of the essence more so than if they go in quietly. They may look for windows if the doors are not able to be breached. They stick to first floors. Second floor windows can be tricky. You don't have the benefit of leverage and your visibility to those natural observers is greater. If the windows fail, they go for sliding doors. In places like Florida, this is easy. Most people don't engage the slide lock and rely on a bar to keep the door from being pried. If they have time, they can try to wedge the door off the slides. There's also breaking the glass. That's why they look for items that within reach if that becomes an issue.

Sliding doors are a popular point of entry for most burglars
Once inside, the job is easy. They go for ANYTHING. Inside jobs always hit the things you hide or are personal to you. Though nothing is safe. If its in a safe, great. However, if the safe can be easily picked up, they'll just take the safe. They'll look for guns. Guns are an easy $200 in a gun buyback program. They'll also grab the usual stuff - TV's, games, jewelry, etc. Any identity stuff is also HUGE. They'll move this stuff into the vehicle. From there, they'll depart the scene and try to sell your goods.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

What Exactly Constitutes an Assault Weapon? by Bloomberg

Jan. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Senate and House Democrats will hold a news conference with law enforcement and gun safety groups to promote the introduction of assault-weapon-ban legislation by California Senator Dianne Feinstein and New York Representative Carolyn McCarthy. Megan Hughes reports on the gun control debate on Bloomberg Television's "In The Loop." (Source: Bloomberg)

Friday, January 25, 2013

INTERVIEW: The Coolest Mass Spectrometer At the Airport You Know Nothing About - The Griffin 824

Griffin 824 in operation (Photo FLIR)
Last week, I had the privilege and esteemed honor to interview Garth Patterson from FLIR about a product I’m dying to tell you about – the Griffin 824.  Before I begin, I’d like to remind you I was in military law enforcement/security for 10 years.  However, my knowledge of the science behind the Griffin 824 is cursory at best.  So, I called every person I knew who understood mass spectrometry to give me a brief tutorial.  As you can tell, Garth explained things perfectly.

Garth, can you tell me about your background and the product?  Let’s begin with you and then what it actually does?
Well, I’m the program manager for the Griffin 824.  I previously worked for Griffin before it became a part of FLIR.  The device is a mass spectrometry device which analyzes chemical compounds at the molecular level.  It is used in a variety of field applications ranging from corrections, law enforcement, border crossings, airports, etc. It looks for explosives and narcotic traces from a user-gathered sample.
Wow, that sounds pretty interesting.  How exactly does it do that? *At this point, I’m hoping Garth doesn’t go over my head.*
What happens is the user swipes a surface with a 1-inch paper-like sheet.  The sheet contains a surface area that picks up trace elements from the surface to be examined.  The user then inputs the sample in the Griffin 824 which then inserts the sheet between two stainless steel plates.  The plates are heated to vaporize the sheet and the elements.  The ions are then manipulated using electromagnetic fields and an analysis is conducted using software in the Griffin 824.  The device can differentiate between “junk” and actual compounds.  Something ion scanners previously weren’t so good with. 
How does a user know they have a “hit”?
The machine will display a green light at the initial startup and will then go to yellow when analyzing.  After the analysis is complete, the light will either go green again to signal a negative result or go red to annunciate a positive result.
How long does it take to start up the 824?
It takes approximately 20 minutes. Though, analysis takes about 10 seconds.
Why mass spectrometry?
It’s the standard for quality lab analysis for chemical compounds.  It’s also court-friendly.
So what separates this from the lab?
It can be taken into the field.  Mass spectrometry uses a lot of big expensive equipment in a lab, as is the case with Gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.  Because it’s transportable as a single unit and has many field user-friendly applications, it’s a natural fit for field analysis.
Going over some of the literature, it claims the 824 is equipped for both audio and visual alert cues. 
Yes.  We felt there was a need for operators not to have a loud, audible cue annunciate in front of a subject.
Are there any other applications that set the Griffin 824 apart from other technology?
It’s network addressable.  This means you can presumably plug the 824 into a network and have results shared over a network to a command and control center.  The 824 also has administrative and user profiles for individual operators in addition to a USB report for flash drives.  The screen is also a touch screen.  There is also no carrier gases needed which means no big helium tanks.  The unit is self-contained.  Given its ease of use, it takes a little under a day to train personnel on how to use the 824.
Garth, to say I’m impressed is an understatement.  How long from inception to production?
About 4 years.  We have another mass spectrometer, the Griffin 460 where we received feedback from operators wanting something for field use for narcotics and explosive detection analysis.  We saw the biggest need initially in airports for trace detection.
Garth, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me.  It was truly an honor.  

For more on the Griffin 824, please click on the links below.

FLIR Griffin 824 web page

FLIR Griffin 824 Datasheet 
To see the Griffin 824 in action check out the video below (no audio)

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Video: Choose Your Own Crime Stats

Folks, this will be my last post on gun control for a bit (I hope).  I found this video to be a great illustration of what's wrong with our current debate on gun control legislation.  Often, we allow Internet memes and populist angst to be our compass on things we want our government to legislate on.  We often do this without the scantest hint of sound research.  Our sources are biased and manipulate data for their own agenda.  I encourage you to do your own research and look for sources that are reliable and have a solid reputation for being unbiased.  Don't allow your ignorance on an issue to misguide you to a decision based on faulty logic and data exploitation.  When in doubt, remember Stalin relied on his own analysis of intelligence gleaned from the KGB to determine who was killed or imprisoned as an enemy of the state.  25 MILLION lives later we realized the folly in this logic (sort of).  Then Iraq happened and again, we trusted alleged manipulated data to make presumably very flawed decisions.  In a time of increased divisiveness and out of control vitriol-filled rhetoric, too much is at stake to get it wrong this time.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Facts On The President's Gun Violence Executive Actions

We all knew this day would come. We've known the Vice President and his commission were working on recommendations to stymie the kind of acts of violence we've seen in places like Newtown, CT. There has been an enormous amount of rumor and hyperbole surrounding the commission's recommendations. Add in various conspiracy theories and cries for revolution and uprising and you have what I call a "perfect storm of biased and subjective opinions disguised as facts". Like the NOAA, we should name this storm - Logic Storm "Lunacy".

First, let's start with the 23 executive actions the President can take. You should know the President, while he cannot pass laws, he can write instructions for his executive agencies on how they can enforce existing laws. Contrary to what you read on social media or partisan-loyal sites, the President is NOT taking away guns. What he plans on doing is ASKING Congress to renew the assault weapons ban. We'll cover that at a later when we have his bill in front of us. You should know this bill has the same chances of survival in the House of Representatives as ice in a microwave.

Here are the actions the President will order (click here for a link to the pdf):
  1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
  3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
  4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
  5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
  6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
  7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
  8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
  9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
  10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
  11. Nominate an ATF director.
  12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
  13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
  14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
  15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies
  16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
  17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
  18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
  19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
  20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
  21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
  22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
  23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

There you have it.  There is no existing measure TODAY to take away your guns. The most prominent piece of these executive actions is mental health. Most of of the actions are meant to supplement existing law enforcement and mental health initiatives BOTH sides claim are needed. There is nothing overly invasive for private citizens in THESE actions. No black-booted thug army created. No UN-mandated confiscation plan. That is not to say the assault weapons ban won't be.

The Violence Policy Center, an anti-assault weapons non-profit think tank said in 2004:

Soon after its passage in 1994, the gun industry made a mockery of the federal assault weapons ban, manufacturing "post-ban" assault weapons with only slight, cosmetic differences from their banned counterparts. The VPC estimates that more than one million assault weapons have been manufactured since the ban's passage in 1994. The sad truth is that mere renewal would have done little to stop this flood of assault weapons. reminded us today the likelihood of such a bill passing through the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.  Though the article is harsh on the GOP one cannot ignore with a 33 vote deficit and a GOP House swollen with partisans, there is very little hope of a ban occurring during this term.

There is some language in the executive actions that will ruffle some folks' feathers such as proposing gun shows no longer be exempt from background checks.  This closes a significant loophole in existing federal law regarding background checks. There's also very broad language thus far as to providing mental health treatment to Medicare recipients. It's a nice tie-in for folks who presumably the President wants to buy-in to "Obamacare". Ironically, most active shooters have come from upper to middle class homes and weren't on any acknowledged public assistance.

Are there things in the President's current plans that I don't like?  

Do I think this will stymie the tide of most gun violence?  

Is that because I think this covers crimes like Newtown and not crimes that occur on streets in cities like Chicago where the weapons are already on the street and purchased through various straw purchases?  

Are there things I like?  
Are they pertaining to mental health and putting additional resources in the hands of those who have to respond and mitigate these issues? 

Do I think an assault weapons ban is feasible or worth pursuing?  
Not really. The bad guys already have these guns and tougher sentences do little in preventing these heinous acts.  

Are these actions a good start? 
Possibly. We'll have to wait and see, unfortunately. C'est l'vie.

Friday, January 11, 2013

OPINION: Why Everyone Has All The Wrong Ideas on School Violence

I have been asked by several people when I was going to write an article on school shooting in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy.  My reply was always the same - I won't comment or pontificate on it until all the children are buried.  I have decided now is the right time for several reason.  The biggest reason - I'm sick of hearing everyone prattle on about solutions I feel either won't work and/or are solely based on partisan politics.

Let's get to the heart of the matter.  This is NOT about gun control.  Sandy Hook has nothing to do with gun control.  I see you over there having a fit.  I know the "talking heads" on cable news says it is.  However, it's not.  Here's what we know. Adam Lanza was a law-abiding citizen until the moment he entered a school.  In other words, he and his mother did everything you're supposed to do as an armed citizen.  They went to the range, cleaned their guns, locked them up, got licenses, etc.  None of our existing laws or agencies could have stopped Adam Lanza.  Adam Lanza was, in my layman's assessment, insane.  No one can doubt that.  That's where lots of active shooters stray away from the rest of us - they're nuts (it's an academic term) and we're not.  In my opinion that places many of us to include our politicians in an un-winnable position.  You see, we mistakenly believe people like Adam Lanza will adhere to our cultural norms and values particularly those related to the preservation of human life.  Here's what we know about Adam Lanza- he immersed himself into a video game world where life is ended with no consequence at the push of a button.  Over time, I believe Adam Lanza came to believe life was meaningless and easily sacrificed for any reason the life-taker chose.  In his online world, it is speculated Adam Lanza wanted nothing to do with his human counterparts except to "kill" them virtually.  There is a profound disconnect with the rest of humanity there.  So what am I driving at.  We can't expect people who operate in one world (they function) yet live in another to adhere to the norms and values of this world.  Creating additional laws and other measures we think are deterrents will fail us.

Most troubling is the rhetoric in Washington, D.C.. Before I go there, let me assure you I love the Second Amendment and guns.  I am a proud gun owner and I believe you should have the right to defend yourself and loved ones when a credible threat is present.  You will get no arguments from me there.  That being said, there have been a number of laws and proposals presented by various partisans about how to do that.  I firmly believe many if not all will fail.  Here's why:

  1. Arming teachers and having armed guards in schools is bad policy.  There's a belief that had one teacher been armed they could have stopped a mentally ill teenager armed with an AR-15 and wearing body armor.  That's a very dangerous and problematic conclusion to reach. Crazy people count on law enforcement and people with guns to confront them. They rehearse their response to this as much as they do the act themselves.  Announcing to the world, we have armed gym teachers will only increase the likelihood they'll show up wanting a fight.  Remember James Holmes both wore body armor as did the Columbine shooters.  Additionally, as long as you have open spaces to play and mass gathering locations (bus stops) publicly accessible, you will never be able to adequately protect our children.  What happens when students are away from the interior of the premises?  It is also prudent to note we're dealing with people who have INTIMATE knowledge of their target and the locations they are at.  They may also know your contingency plans.  Many will be students or former students possibly teachers or parents.  What happens when an armed teacher "snaps"?  Don't think its possible?  Teachers are under tremendous stress and are vulnerable to some of the same issues most active shooters face.  No is immune from crazy.  In small communities, they may know who the armed teachers and officials are and neutralize them first.

    There's the additional concern with what happens when a teacher practices poor weapons discipline and does something stupid like lose a gun, places it in a lockbox and leaves the key at home or forgets the combination, has a negligent discharge, or doesn't wear a retention holster.  I know what you're saying "highly trained shooters" don't make those kind of mistakes.  Tell that to military firearms instructors.  How do you admonish teachers who can't shoot that well?  Remember who we're talking about.  These are teachers - not soldiers or cops.  Will you make using a firearm a prerequisite for new teacher hires?  What would be an adequate curriculum?  How often should they practice?  How often will the state mandate they practice?  How many will you arm?  Will you teach them to clear rooms?  Will they lean to "shoot, move, and communicate"?  Will they be adequately prepared for more than one shooter?  What about other places where children congregate?  Do we arm museums, playgrounds, aquariums, malls, etc.?  Who will pay the $18 billion that proposal will take to be effective nationally?  
  2. Taking guns away is equally as bad and even more problematic.  Before you post some statistic on gun deaths in this country vs that country, do me a favor and chill out.  Here's a lesson on gun laws, gun culture, and gun deaths: Gun laws keep good sane people honest.  That's it.  Trust me.  Bad guys, like crazy people, don't live in our world.  They may operate in it but they do not follow our norms or values let alone our laws.  Why do you think we have a problem with recidivism? We punish people using a system that will work on people like us.  Stick me in a cell for a day and I'm rehabilitated.  In places like the U.K., yes they don't have near as many gun deaths as us.  Hooray.  However, ask any British citizen what crime permeates their media and they will reply "knife crimes".  That's right.  The bad guys didn't stop committing violent crimes to include murder because the gun went away.  Nope they chose another weapons platform.

    A war on gun crime will be much like our war on drugs.  We can't win it unless we accept we have to kill our appetite for all violence to rid ourselves of this for good. I even heard some people claim only the government should have guns like the AR-15.  People claim having the capability to kill is the problem.  Let me set the record straight.  I, with a bolt action rifle, could have made Sandy Hook as big a tragedy as Adam Lanza with his AR-15.  I see you rolling your eyes in doubt.  I could have and I'll tell you why.  We can't accept to lose one child let alone 20+.  I could have killed 5 and would make headline news.  Ammunition capacity and expenditure shouldn't make a tragedy less or more of a tragedy in any mass shooting incident.  It's prudent to remember this same mentality created the TSA and look where that has gotten us.  We're safe but if you bring a water bottle aboard a plane, hello cavity search.....
  3. The hysteria has to stop.  I am so sick of hearing about liberals who want to take away guns and enslave white people and crazy gun owners who want to start the new American Revolution.  I think it's high time we all chill out.  Seriously.  Stop listening or reading your favorite "news" source and remind yourself crazy rhetoric won't save our children from the Adam Lanza's of the world.  We're a nation of neighbors.  Act like it.  Voice your frustration with our government.  Start a grassroots movement to increase awareness on your side of the issue.  Think of your own solutions.  Start a blog.  Just do something constructive.  Calling each other names and spewing vitriol doesn't save our children. 
Hear are my proposed solutions:
  1. Recognize we have a mental health crisis in this country.  Don't believe me?  Ask a cop about his latest "emotionally disturbed persons" call.  It is by no coincidence when we closed mental health facilities in this country we saw a spike in violent crime per capita.  Talk with your elected officials about what they propose to mitigate this crisis.
  2. Become knowledgeable about some of the pre-attack indicators active shooters exhibit.
  3. Report any and all potentially mentally ill AND dangerous persons to the proper authorities.
  4. Demand your school be proactive on this.  Ask if they have drills and what their procedures with local law enforcement will be for these scenarios.  Ask if they've been in contact with law enforcement to work out a plan.  Ask about existing protective and detection methods.  Do they need upgrading?  When was the last upgrade?  Have they talked to a consultant?
  5. Rehearse with your child their actions.  Do it until it becomes rote memory.  Whatever you practice ensure they recognize they don't have to be a hero to survive and to do EXACTLY what the police tell them to do.
  6. Become active with your child's school life.  Ask about bullying and if the school is doing anything to curb it whether it be your kid or others.  If it's not, ensure that the school is.  Encourage your child to get to know outsiders early on.  Remember most active shooters began retreating into their own world long before they became violent.
  7. If your child has mental health issues, recognize it, get it treated ASAP, and encourage engagement and not retreat.  
  8. If we can't "bring God back into the schools" as some propose, then let's bring good parenting back.  Become active in the school and encourage other parents to as well.  Reach out to your neighbors and other parents at the school.  Remember we're a nation of neighbors.
  9. We have to address our appetite for violence.  Don't get me wrong.  I recognize there is a time when you have to act in self-defense and may have to kill someone.  I get and support that.  I also recognize there is a profound difference between that and murder.  We have to find a way to starve our desire to kill without necessity.  Until we can find a way to do this, then we nor our children will ever be safe.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Have You Seen Former FBI Agent Robert Levinson?

Former Special Agent Robert Levinson missing since March 2007
Robert Levinson is a former FBI agent who has gone missing since March 2007 in Iran. He was acting as a private investigator looking into cigarette-smuggling. There has been contact with the hostage-takers and Robert Levinson's family. There are some experts who have noted the sophisticated tradecraft involved in the transmission of these messages from the hostage-takers. They conclude this points to Iran clearly. The Iranian government contends they had nothing to do with this. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadnejad has stated, "Our security officials and agents have expressed their willingness to assist the FBI, if the FBI has any information about his travels around the world." It's curious he would make such a statement. What would his "travels around the world" illuminate for the Iranians? Ahmenijad has a history of playing coy whenever the Iranians have ever been directly linked with any nefarious activities. It's like asking your child to tell you who broke lock on a drawer you were keeping his Christmas presents and they reply "I would be happy to help you find the lock if you would tell me what the lock was protecting."

Here's an example of the messaging sent to Levinson's family.

Levinson supposedly met with Dawud Salahuddin, an American fugitive who converted to Islam and later assasinated an Iranian diplomat in the US. Salahuddin describes himself as a close friend with whom he "shared hotel room on Kish on March 8. Iranian officials in plain clothes came to the room and detained and questioned Salahuddin about his Iranian passport, Salahuddin said. On his release a day later, Levinson had disappeared, and the Iranian officials told Salahuddin he had left Iran." Salahuddin then says something that caught my eye - "I don't think he is missing, but don't want to point my finger at anyone. Some people know exactly where he is," Salahuddin told the newspaper (Financial Times). "He came only to see me." Salahuddin is in a very tricky spot. Levinson was meeting him to network with Iranian officials who might provide leads for a cigarette company that retained Levinson's services. Salahuddin can't go into further details because of his delicate situation there - he's political in Iran and has supported reformers who oppose the current regime. If the Iranians did take Levinson and Salahuddin knows something, I would suspect he's not going to say much for fear of endangering his safe-haven. 

Fred Burton, the VP for Intelligence at Stratfor, has put out a video talking about hypothetical investigative techniques US authorities have engaged in since they received the messages from the hostage-takers. It is interesting to note the correlation between the imagery analysis to find terrorist groups via their messaging and the analysis that goes into locating a hostage like Levinson with similar messaging. His video is below.

I have several readers in Iran.  So I'm going to post Levinson's picture and biographical data as well as a link to his family's blog.

Kish Island, Iran
March 9, 2007 


levinson_r3.jpglevinson_r1.jpgMIST photo.jpg
Date of Birth:March 10, 1948Hair:Gray
Place of Birth:Flushing, New York              Eyes:Blue
Height:188 cm (74 inches) - at the
time of his disappearance
Weight:104 kg (230 pounds) - at the
time of his disappearance
Remarks:                Levinson wears eyeglasses. He is believed to have lost a significant amount of  weight, possibly 50-60 pounds.


Information is being sought regarding United States citizen Robert A. Levinson, a retired FBI Special Agent, who went missing during a business trip to Kish Island, Iran, on March 9, 2007. Levinson retired from the FBI in 1998 and worked as a private investigator following his retirement. Levinson traveled to Kish Island, Iran, on March 8, 2007, working on behalf of several large corporations, and his whereabouts, well-being and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance have been unknown since that time. 


The United States Government is offering a reward of up to $1,000,000 for information leading directly to the safe location, recovery and return of Robert A. Levinson 


If you have any information concerning Robert Levinson, please contact the FBI Tip Line at You can also contact your nearest American Embassy or U.S. Consulate

Field Office: Washington Field Office

Friday, January 4, 2013

How we wage war: Petraeus' counterinsurgency legacy and the future of drone warfare by Current

"Viewpoint" host Eliot Spitzer and Fred Kaplan, author of "The Insurgents: David Petraeus and the Plot to Change the American Way of War," discuss the impact of former CIA Director David Petraeus' security strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan and how drone warfare can actually increase the presence of insurgents. Monday - Friday 8e/5p

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