Showing posts with label Counterterrorism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Counterterrorism. Show all posts

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Somehow I Don't Think That Drone Has Been Registered With The FAA - ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Why Murder-By-Semi-Truck Could Be A Thing You Need To Mitigate

I'm not an alarmist. Or at least, I try not to be. Personally, I prefer a rather "Vulcan" approach to many things in security. As the youngsters say, "Logic rules everything around me." Actually, that may not be the "exact" wording but you get the drift. That said, I do have a fair amount of "Holy sh*t!" moments. While reading Rumiyah #3 (An English-language e-magazine for ISIL) and coming up on their murder-by-semi-truck tutorial, I tried to suppress having such a moment. I succeeded, mostly because I realize the tutorial was somewhat incomplete from a tactical perspective. That's not to say the message isn't effective or wouldn't possibly motivate ISIL members to strike. I see its inclusion as both for propaganda and potential triggering for an upcoming attack.

Oh, you read that whole "murder-by-semi-truck" bit correctly. Here's what they actually said - "Though being an essential part of modern life, very few actually comprehend the deadly and destructive capability of the motor vehicle and its capacity of reaping large numbers of casualties if used in a premeditated manner. This was superbly demonstrated in the attack launched by the brother Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel who, while traveling at the speed of approximately 90 kilometers per hour, plowed his 19-ton load-bearing truck into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France, harvesting through his attack the slaughter of 86 Crusader citizens and injuring 434 more."

There's a lot we, as security professionals, can glean from this. Have no worries, I won't be divulging "state secrets" or imparting tactical clues. There are merely my observations. Take them for what they're worth, as your mileage could very well vary.
  1. Large vehicles are vogue for jihadis still. In fact, one of the key criteria they attribute for an "ideal vehicle is a "load-bearing truck". Even though, speed and "controllability" are also highly desirable, they suggest operators steer clear of SUV's and small cars. Obviously, they're looking for something that can handle a lot of weight.
  2. The Nice attack is seen as successful. Notice the vehicle should have "double-wheels" because it gives "victims less of a chance to escape being crushed by the vehicle's tires". Also, I noticed the inclusion of having a secondary weapon as a means of ensuring additional casualties and "increasing terror". Pretty telling.
  3. Crowd mitigation is really freaking important, stupid. Look, folks. I know I harp on this a lot. I get it. I do. But they pretty much say it - "In general, one should consider any outdoor attraction that draws large crowds." Notice the bit about crowds.
    Image include in Rumiyah #3. Notice the large crowd. Just saying.
  4. Attribution is really freaking important, stupid. The last few ISIL-related attacks (either by the group or attributed by them) have included language using the phrase "soldier of the Islamic State". Almost every attack committed by a Western-based attacker who hasn't gone to Syria, ISIL has claimed responsibility using this phrase. So no surprise here when you see it in Rumiyah #3 - "I am a soldier of the Islamic Sate!" Why do they do this? To sum it up - they're a holy anointed apocalyptic cult whose proximity to Allah can only determined by their ability to seemingly kill at will. If that's not clear enough, they do it for street cred. You gotta have bodies to make it in the terror game, folks.
  5. Large crowd size does not always equate to certain specific targets. Located in the fine print was this gem - "All so-called “civilian” (and low-security) parades and gatherings are fair game and more devastating to Crusader nations." If you're a security professional who has to mitigate threats to a parade route but you're not in New York, you may assume you're in the clear. Yeah, you're dead wrong about that. It's about the casualty count. If your parade route could have a large number of people along it with limited egress points and insecure access control to the street, you could be in the same boat, if not worse than New York. As I always say - it's not a matter of IF but WHEN. Mark my words. Be vigilant.
  6. It's not just about parades, stupid. What other "targets" are they looking at? Glad you asked. ISIL says "Outdoor markets, festivals, parades, political rallies (We got any of these coming up soon? Asking for a friend.), large outdoor conventions and celebrations (Got any tree-lighting ceremonies?), and pedestrian-congested streets (High/Main streets)" are all legit targets. Yep. Here comes your "Oh sh*t" moment. Stop it. Relax. Now, go mitigate.
  7. Fail to take this kind of attack seriously, at your peril. Let me put it bluntly. Nope, let me just leave what they said here - "The method of such an attack is that a vehicle is plunged at a high speed into a large congregation of kuffar, smashing their bodies with the vehicle’s strong outer frame, while advancing forward – crushing their heads, torsos, and limbs under the vehicle’s wheels and chassis – and leaving behind a trail of carnage."

Saturday, July 18, 2015

OPINION: Panic is the New Normal, America

The last few weeks have been an interesting time in the world of security. We've seen the death of nine innocent lives at the hand of Dylann Roof, seen the panic derived from the unfounded speculation at events like the Navy Yard active shooter scare, and most recently, our nation has suffered an unimaginable blow at the hands of a young man who killed four Marines. In all of this, our discourse with one another has gotten more combative and often, bordering on nonsensical. People are allowing mass hysteria to justify an enormous amount of gross speculation and outright lies and misconceptions about security and mitigation to infiltrate our discussions about the things which provide protection. At times, I have found myself engaged in some of these discussions to only find myself more frustrated and wary from addressing the problems of allowing this mass hysteria to grow at the rate it has. In fact, here, I'd like to address what are the problems and what are some possible solutions.

Lately, it seems like I constantly rehash my favorite topic - the semantics of security. If you're not familiar, I'll digress and explain briefly. I look at security as a mental construct we use to nullify our fears long enough to meet certain life-sustainment activities. In other words, security is nothing more than the things we do to "feel" safe. When we practice "security", we're addressing what we think the adversary will do. Ironically, we do this often without ever seeing the bad actors in action. That's right. We lock doors and windows, primarily, because we believe bad guys will be turned away from locked doors. Time and time, we do this under the assumption bad guys don't pick us to steal from because the doors are locked. What this never accounts for is the determined adversary. Who is this? Someone who gives not a single iota about that locked door, only that it may delay him from gaining entry. What protects us from the bad guy is really something called mitigation.

Basically, mitigation is about dampening the effects of an attack. It recognizes the threat is real and will come eventually. It looks at the complete threat profile and determines its capabilities, opportunities, and motivations. By doing so, we can implement a comprehensive mitigation strategy that not only detects the adversary but possibly, deter, delay, and destroys him. Earlier, I mentioned locked doors. They aren't bad. In fact, those "secure" entry-points are a part of mitigation because they aid in detection, deterrence, and delaying further infiltration. Most novice security practitioners are unaware locks and doors are rated based on their ability to delay penetration. So what does this have to do with our current discussions on security?

Most of your average citizens promote ideas about security based on things they think will work. As someone who has done this kind of work, how many people have you encountered that don't do it but swear they get security? How many of their ideas are lofty, unrealistic, unfeasible, unsustainable, and just pure wrong? Whenever I talked with people about securing the homes, a common statement was "I already have security - it's called a *insert dog breed, gun caliber, or pretend-military/MMA status*". These folks assumed whatever that one thing they had would be adequate to address one kind of threat using one or two vectors. Some would argue one or two of those things will cover most threats to them. That may be true but it neglects other viable threats which may possess other capabilities that aren't countered.

The fix, in part, lies in how we think of the threat. Take the military recruitment center shootings. Loads of people have been saying for the last 48 hours, we should send military police to secure these facilities. They claim these guards would possess the skills and equipment needed to neutralize the threat. What's strange is that most of these people are only considering one type of threat before we even have a confirmed motive from the FBI.

Most believe banks with guards don't get robbed because the posted guard at the bank has a gun. A secret among many bankrobbers is most aren't armed. Bank policy, as is widely known, is to give up whatever money is designated by the bank for robberies to the robber. The bad guys know this and many don't want to jeopardize more time in prison by getting caught with a gun AND the cash. So they opt for the note. The reason they don't hit banks with guards is because the guard has a gun AND radio. A saying I was always fond of when I did security as a civilian was "You may outrun me but you'll never run faster than my radio". What most miss in the discussions about MPs at recruitment centers is that most profiled jihadi active shooters FULLY expect the police and do so expecting to be shot. Remember this - the Dalton gang and others robbed a many of banks and trains that had armed guards. All in all, armed guards only turn away less determined adversaries.

This work, called risk management, requires us to analyze the threat for what is, what it can do, the damage a successful attack can cause, and our mitigation. In the current FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) environment we're in, there's a tendency to deify the adversary to a point where they are seemingly omnipotent and omnipresent. One successful attack and we're suddenly unsafe and at danger of losing everything. What's crazy is that it never acknowledges the connection between the mental construct of "security" vs protection. Is it no wonder, then that after one successful attack, we assume the sky is falling? It's as if the sanctity of safety we constructed our actions has blinded us to what is real and imagined in security. Naturally, we assume we need to do more to "feel" safe rather than fix, eliminate, or upgrade our existing mitigation. Additionally, the loss of human life is unacceptable for any security setting. Having his enemy lose one life, regardless if the shooter lives or dies, is considered a victory for some shooters. Given our intolerance to having personnel killed, this is not wholly untrue.

There are a number of solutions to our current security crisis. Some are good. Some are very good. Some are faulty. Some are flat-out dangerous and wrong. These attacks will only increase, as will the speculation about future attacks, hoaxes, and troubling events. Even more certain is we have to continue having the difficult discussions we're having. Nothing gets solved by having discourse with people who always agree. Ultimately, the solutions don't rest with the victors of our collective shouting matches. They lie in how we understand the threat, the risk they pose, our mitigation, and how we define "safe".

Thursday, March 19, 2015

OPINION: How The Shooting In Sweden Teaches Us Trust Is A Must In Security

Last night, there was a shooting which occurred in one of Sweden's suburbs involving AK-47s and innocent people being shot with two or more being brutally murdered. Within the initial moments of the rest of the Western world being notified of this tragedy, a great many of people on social media immediately began to elaborate if this was the work of Islamist terrorists, despite the police saying otherwise. The police spokesman, Ulla Brehm is quoted as saying, "The shooting happened in an area of the city with a history of gang-related violence." The media has also attributed the spokesman as saying it was "too early to speculate on the motive but said there were indications that the shooting was gang-related....There is absolutely nothing that indicates terrorism.”

As many of you know, I have experience in criminal investigations. While I won't touch on how I'd investigate this, what I would like to do is share some insight into these preliminary and often-wrong "guesstimates" and how they damage our credibility as security professionals.
  1. These "guesstimates are usually wrong. VERY wrong and miss a lot of key facts in the weird calculus that creates them. A few people I spoke with, last night, said the attacks were the work of Islamist terrorists. What's strange about that is the police NEVER EVER provided the public with ANY suspect descriptions and NO known terrorist group nor the "operators" claimed ANY responsibility, yet many people seem to be very certain this is the work of jihadists. I surmise this is the result of a spate of terrorist attacks involving guns in Western countries and our natural inclination to see correlation and make connections that may not be there.

    Another key fact missing is the lack of burning vehicles described in independent or eyewitness accounts, despite several on social media claiming this was the case. Many even used this mythology to explain their hypothesis that this was the work of Islamists. Perhaps, you missed that; so I'll repeat it: THERE WAS NEVER A SINGLE CORROBORATED ACCOUNT OF BURNING VEHICLES BUT MANY AMERICANS REPORTED THERE WERE AND THIS POINTED TO ISLAMISTS. In fact, those burning cars happened weeks ago. I know that sounds like terrible analytical practice, at worse. That's because it is, at best.
  2. Contrary to what many believe, there's always more than meets the eye. I'm a serious fan of Transformers. If you didn't get the reference, there's not much I can do for you. Just kidding. No. Seriously, nothing. I digress.

    Many on social media either simply ignored potentially exculpatory evidence or were so eager for this to be the work of terrorists they missed a key component: growing and escalating gang violence in Sweden and throughout Western Europe. That's right, folks. Sweden has gangs and many are armed to the teeth. In fact, not too long ago, Swedish media reported a gang fired "machine guns" at a police station. There's a fallacy that "gun crime" akin to what we see in America only happens in America and that only certain "guns" are the weapons of known terrorist or guerrilla groups. However; a cursory examination of Swedish media shows the AK-47 is VERY prevalent in certain violent crimes.

    The British newspaper, The Guardian reported, "There have been dozens of shootings involving criminal gangs in Gothenburg, many of them in the Biskopsgaarden area - a housing estate with a large immigrant population and high unemployment - in recent years, however fatalities are relatively rare.

    A man was shot dead in an apartment in the area in May last year and two others died in suspected gang-related shootings in late 2013.

    In January a man was shot in the leg close to the scene of Wednesday’s shooting."

    The video below shows such a "typical" crime with an AK-47 occurring in Sweden.

    There are some who will point out that many of these gangs are "Muslim youth gangs". What's striking is this ignores the existence of any corroborative and objective evidence which makes the case these gangs are "Islamic". Many are comprised of members who are young immigrants from predominately Muslim countries. However; until one of these gangs expresses some sort of jihadist ideology, they're just criminal gangs. Sweden's has a burgeoning and rapidly expanding organized crime network not always on the radar of its Western neighbors. Many of these non-Muslim gangs have had quite a history of death and mayhem in their wake. Check out what the Hells Angels have been up to there:

    Here's a list of other gangs:
    1. Albanian mafia
    2. Bandidos Motorcycle Club
    3. Black Cobra (gang)
    4. Brödraskapet
    5. Fucked For Life
    6. Hammerskins
    7. Hells Angels
    8. Naserligan
    9. Original Gangsters (gang)
    10. Outlaws Motorcycle Club
    11. Sala gang
    12. Serb mafia in Scandinavia
  3. Bad theories based on bad or missing facts diminish our credibility and the public's trust in our field. Many Americans don't "get" security and they rely on a variety of "trusted" sources to assist them in making decisions regarding security. Some of these sources are objective and reliable. Many are not. Social media is wrought with both kinds. Unfortunately, many, as we've discussed before, are biased and too eager to share faulty theories. How many times can we afford to make predictions and analysis that is blatantly wrong or follows bad analytical practices before our entire industry is treated in the same dangerous fashion as TV meteorologists who give dire storm warnings but are ignored. Like every storm, I find more and more people making security-related decisions based on the idea that anyone can "do" security. 
I expressed no theories here regarding potential motives or suspects because I don't have all of the facts. This could be the work of Islamist terrorists. Sweden has had two terrorist plots foiled recently. Sweden is also currently at odds with Saudi Arabia and the UAE. They've also "outed" a number of Russian spies and have seen an increase in Russian "aggression" and posturing. That being said, at the end of the day, this was a murder that took place at 4 o'clock in the morning in Sweden. The cops have the advantage of having a look at evidence long before the public does. Perhaps, as academics and practitioners, we should keep our hypotheses regarding motive and suspects to ourselves, until we learn more. In an era of rapid-fire tweeting and hashtag punditry rife with inaccuracies, our industry and the public could use our silence and restraint at times likes these.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The State of Aviation Security

I have often said our biggest vulnerabilities can be found in places where people congregate. Human targets are often selected by bad guys simply because they are part of a crowd. This goes against our natural instinct to believe bad actors won't pursue us in a crowd and will wait until we're alone. This is true for some attackers. However, terrorists and active shooters pick crowds because our intolerance towards suffering any casualties makes a target-rich environment like a mall an almost irresistible target. The meme above personifies how often we protect against the last known vulnerability and losing sight of the vulnerabilities we create or ignore.

Here's the scene of a major airport's TSA screening area. Notice the crowd aka potential targets.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Why Attacking The Grid Became Hip & What We Can Do About it

In April 2013, a group of armed men attacked 17 Bay-area power substations in an effort to presumably disrupt power to neighboring business. The attack was carried out using 7.62 rounds which are commonly used in AK-47s (and its variants) as well as numerous other rifles namely certain sniper rifles such as the M-24 depicted below. The attacks were said to be carried out with military precision as the attackers both shot at the transformers and breached the underground area where various power cables were located.

I've also attached the surveillance video of these attacks so you can get an idea of how they occurred.

Much has been pontificated on exactly who could have carried out such an attack. Former Federal Regulatory Commission Chairman John Wellinghoff stated he believed the attacks were a "terrorist act" even though the FBI has said to various media outlets they don't see any evidence of that now. As an investigator and a former military police officer, I can tell you when law enforcement says they "don't see any evidence supporting that", that does exclude any suspicions they might have. My preliminary guesstimate is the FBI has some idea as to who the perpetrators are especially given the investigation is several months old and we're approaching a year since the attacks occurred.

I have heard from various sources this was the work of animal rights groups or environmentalist, given the target selection and court convictions of members of those groups in attacks against similar targets despite the methodology being completely different from the Bay-area attacks. For the record, I completely disagree with this supposition, as it eliminates several other groups who are just as capable and have just as much stake in pulling off this kind of attack. As a matter of fact, I find it odd those who suspect environmentalist/animal rights connections would ignore the attackers would choose a methodology using firearms which goes against one of the strongest weapons going for them - the lack of human casualties and kinetic attacks which harm human beings. Think about what I'm saying here for a second. Why would you bring a gun to an op where you could be discovered by law enforcement if the weapon isn't going to be useful as a defensive weapon against them? Also, any of these groups would have to account for the damage done to their public image if discovered with sniper rifles. It certainly makes it easy for their opponents to call them "enemies of the state".

What I surmise, rather amateurishly, is the perpetrators brought guns to do the damage and possibly, engage responding law enforcement. Thankfully, the latter never occurred I suspect because the suspects believed they had done enough damage. I am also of the opinion this was a dress rehearsal for a larger scale attack. Many groups do a dry-run before a major attack to test how the target and responders react. We see this all the time with bomb threats called in weeks before an attack. No suspicious device is found at first as the subjects observe reactions. They then rework the plan and decide whether to order another test. I know this because this is how I was taught to plan operations in the military and I suspect whoever is behind these attacks was taught the same lessons.

So why the power plants and why sniper attacks? Quite simply, because the security industry and our government partners have been discussing this since 2002. We've consistently asked that critical infrastructure beef up its security. Additionally, a report was done by the National Academy of Science describing the probability for success of a sniper attack against transformers. One could use the CARVER matrix to determine this is perhaps the more likely of any probable attack against critical infrastructure nodes. This is partially because of the ease of access to the target, lack of security at the target, its criticality (it is vital to the target's mission), and its recoverability.

My summation is the attackers didn't have much experience as a group with kinetic attacks and may have used this attack as a means to demonstrate some proof of concept. Whether there will be more attacks is still unknown. Given the hype surrounding this one, they may try again.

Here's what I propose power companies can do to protect their substations:
  • Add 10 foot fencing around the perimeter of substations, ensure fence is encased in concrete at the bottom to prevent digging under the fence, and configure the barbed wire in a Y configuration.
  • Have a roving armed security unit patrol actively in the area of transformers and substations conducting periodic but random security checks of the area. Have a randomizer pick the days and times of these attacks on a daily basis. Never keep the same schedule.
  • Consider feeding the substation's closed circuit television feed into your state's emergency management agency or fusion cell incident management consoles.
  • Emplace barriers throughout the avenues of approach to disrupt potential vehicle traffic to the substation. 
  • Consider placing armoured steel on the transformers and other critical areas.
  • Consider using seismographic security sensors and magnetic sensors along various vantage points.
  • Conduct a foot patrol in the area as a part of your random checks I mentioned earlier. 
  • Conduct a red team exercise yearly on your facilities to ensure personnel and security operators understand and implement sound practices to secure your assets in an attack.
As a caveat to the recommendation above, I fully realize this is not a fully comprehensive plan. The idea is to demonstrate how the power companies can implement various measures which are relatively less-complicated than might be assumed. If you have other recommendations, please post them below. I'd like to hear from folks from all over the industry.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kenya Mall Shooting - Why It Went All Wrong & What We Can Do To Be Better

Yesterday, the New York City Police Department released a report from its SHIELD initiative about the Kenya mall shooting/terrorist attack. It was a pretty damning report to say the least. Before we talk about the report, let's talk about SHIELD is and why that's important to understand in the context of this report. SHIELD is the NYPD's homegrown information-sharing component with private sector security. It provides analysis on current and future threats. I've previously read some of SHIELD's reports. Some were good and some were typical of fusion center reports - some meat and some potatoes but not a full meal. This report was driven, in part, to go over what NYPD and private security could learn about what happened in Nairobi. There was plenty.

There were some startling revelations:
  1. Kenyan police were VASTLY outgunned. The report states, "The typical Uniformed Kenyan Police Officer is not as well equipped as their western counterparts, typically only carrying a long gun, most commonly an AK-47 style rifle with a folding stock, loaded with a single 30 round magazine. They do not carry handguns, wear body armor, gun belts or have portable radios to communicate." Each of the terrorist were carrying 250 rounds of 7.62 mm ammunition. Lack of body armor and radios to communicate resulted in fratricide. More on that later.
  2. Responding plainclothes officers were also outgunned and had no visible identification. Remember what I said about fratricide? From the report: "Very few of any of the plainclothes law enforcement first responders displayed any visible law enforcement identification such as a badge, arm band, ID card or  a raid jacket, making identification as “friend or foe” extremely difficult for other armed first responders."
  3. Realizing the police were outgunned, Kenya made the incident response a military matter. That's as bad as it sounds. The report says, "Kenyan government officials decide to transfer the handling of this incident from the police to the military. A squad of Kenya Defense Forces KDF soldiers enters the mall and shortly afterwards, in a case of mistaken identity, the troops fired on the GSU-RC Tactical Team.They kill one police officer and wounding the tactical team commander. In the ensuing confusion both the police and military personnel pull out of the mall to tend to the casualties and re-group."
  4. Responding military forces used an RPG-7 as a room clearing tool. I kid you not. And the destruction was insane. "It is reported that at some point during the day the Kenya Defense Forces decided to fire a high explosive anti-tank rocket (possibly a RPG-7 or an 84mm Recoilless Rifle) as part of their operation to neutralize the terrorists in the Nakumatt Super Market.The end result of this operation was a large fire and the partial collapse of the rear rooftop parking lot and two floors within the Nakumatt Super Market into the basement parking."
  5. It is possible the terrorists escaped in part because the Kenyan security forces failed to secure a perimeter. It is rather elementary for the very first thing Western police do in these scenarios is to lock down the perimeter. No one comes in or out unless they can be positively identified as a "friendly". This credentialing occurs by checking IDs and only first admitting law enforcement and first responders to exit upon verification.
  6. The mall employed unarmed officers who performed unsatisfactory "wand searches". This is irritating to say the least. Why? Unarmed officers are appropriate for certain environments and are the way to go in most environments. However, in high value targets, such as mass gathering locations in places like Kenya, I would have used an armed component. Armed officers are not only armed but can be equipped with radios and are usually uniformed. This makes identifying them for law enforcement somewhat easier. Also, armed officers can do things unarmed officers can't due to safety concerns such as locking down perimeters and evacuating victims.
  7. Wand searches are weak. I dislike them with a passion. Why? Officers get tricked into believing a search was "good" because the wand didn't annunciate. This is all kinds of bad. A search should be thorough in high value targets. If you're going to employ officers and have them search, have them be thorough and do it without a wand. I would use the wand only in environments where I had other search mitigators in place such as backscatters or X-ray search devices.

So what does this attack teach us in the West?
  1. The desire of terrorist groups to attack mass gathering locations is still very alive.
  2. Places like malls should consider Kenya to be a warning. If you're in mall security, I highly suggest going over your active shooter plan and rehearsing it on a fairly regular basis with local police departments and simulated shooters. In these exercise, test not just your ability to minimize casualties but to also test your security apparatus under stress. This is best accomplished by "killing" responders, taking hostages, attempting escape, and causing confusion among responders. Get your people used to chaos in these scenarios.
  3. Never do wand searches at high value targets and test your people regularly. I've gone over why I think wand searches are bad. So let's examine why you should test and train your searchers regularly. Searching is one of the most important yet often neglected security components. We usually pick rookies and the "lowest common denominator" to do this function because it's "easy". Doing good and thorough searches that you can go to sleep easy with at night are not easy. Searchers should be trained on subject "tells", physical characteristics of forbidden items by touch, sound, smell, and sight, the tools they can use to do searches better, etc. They should also be regularly "red-teamed" which is to say you should have a non-attributable person walk through security and see what they can get through. When they're done, they should report to management their findings.

    Here's a video I did on how I would search bags:

  4. CCTV and analytics are EXTREMELY important to an active shooter scenario. There are several takeaways from what we learned about CCTV and the lack of analytics in Nairobi. First, CCTV coverage was spotty in some areas. Also, the CCTV coverage was easily identified and avoided by the terrorists. We also know while they had remote viewing capability, it was five miles away and more than likely not cross-fed into the police. While a CCTV monitor can't identify every threat, video analytics can alert them to suspicious activity. At the very least, consider it an option.
  5. Garages and parking lots should be regularly patrolled. While there was a guard posted at the entrance of the garage, had a response element been closer by, they could have locked the exterior doors to the mall.
  6. Train your employees on how to sound the alarm and IMMEDIATELY lock down their storefronts and secure customers. I would consider including them as a part of your active shooter training as well. Make that mandatory training for all storefront management and their trusted employees. I would include it in a leasing agreement if I had to.
  7. Have a HIGHLY accessible public address system to sound the alarm.
  8. Train local non-law enforcement responders on the need to "shoot, move, and communicate". Seriously, I can't stress this enough. There is a huge debate in the US surrounding concealed carry permit holders as responders. I'm okay with them responding, though I prefer they receive some training on  the need to identify themselves to law enforcement prior to responding via a phone call if time and circumstance permit.
  9. Equip every security person and law enforcement officer with a radio.  If you want to avoid wasting your time clearing rooms that have already been cleared or fratricide, then you HAVE TO equip your responders with radios and share your frequencies with them.
  10. Train your personnel on reporting formats like SALUTE. We've covered this before so I won't bore you with the details.
  11. Train your security management personnel on casualty collection points, IED mitigation, cordons, perimeter searches, and periodic vulnerability assessments. These things can't be overstated in training. Trust me. You'll thank me for this later.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Terrorism and Intelligence Legislation You Should Know About But Don't

Now that this NSA story has spawned the insane amount of nonsensical and baseless conjecture on my Twitter feed, I thought I'd take a moment and educate everyone on intelligence and terrorism legislation they should already know about but don't for various reasons.

  • Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989
  • Executive Order 12947 signed by President Bill Clinton Jan. 23, 1995, Prohibiting Transactions With Terrorists Who Threaten To Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process, and later expanded to include freezing the assets of Osama bin Laden and others.
  • Omnibus Counterterrorism Act of 1995
  • US Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (see also the LaGrand case which opposed in 1999-2001 Germany to the US in the International Court of Justice concerning a German citizen convicted of armed robbery and murder, and sentenced to death)
  • Executive Order 13224, signed by President George W. Bush Sept. 23, 2001, among other things, authorizes the seizure of assets of organizations or individuals designated by the Secretary of the Treasury to assist, sponsor, or provide material or financial support or who are otherwise associated with terrorists. 66 Fed. Reg. 49,079 (Sept. 23, 2001).
  • 2001 Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools for Intercepting and Obstructing Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT Act)(amended March 2006) (the Financial Anti-Terrorism Act was integrated to it) - I don't have enough energy to discuss the Patriot Act. All you need to know is that it gives the US government very broad powers in order to combat terrorism.
  • Homeland Security Act of 2002, Pub. L. 107-296.
  • Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act (SAFETY Act) of 2002
  • REAL ID Act of 2005 - Perhaps one of the most controversial pieces of legislation from the Bush era, it set forth certain requirements for state driver's licenses and ID cards to be accepted by the federal government for "official purposes", as defined by the Secretary of Homeland Security. It also outlines the following: 
    • Title II of the act establishes new federal standards for state-issued driver licenses and non-driver identification cards.
    • Changing visa limits for temporary workers, nurses, and Australian citizens.
    • Funding some reports and pilot projects related to border security.
    • Introducing rules covering "delivery bonds" (similar to bail bonds but for aliens who have been released pending hearings).
    • Updating and tightening the laws on application for asylum and deportation of aliens for terrorist activity.
    • Waiving laws that interfere with construction of physical barriers at the borders
  • Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act of 2006 - The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) prohibits any person from engaging in certain conduct "for the purpose of damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise." and extends to any act that either "damages or causes the loss of any real or personal property" or "places a person in reasonable fear" of injury. 
  • Military Commissions Act of 2006 - The United States Military Commissions Act of 2006, also known as HR-6166, was an Act of Congress signed by President George W. Bush on October 17, 2006. The Act's stated purpose was "To authorize trial by military commission for violations of the law of war, and for other purposes." It was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2008 but parts remain in order to use commissions to prosecute war crimes.
  • National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 - The second most controversial piece of legislation from the War on Terror authorizes "the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.
    (b) Covered Persons- A covered person under this section is any person as follows:
    (1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks.
    (2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.
    (c) Disposition Under Law of War- The disposition of a person under the law of war as described in subsection (a) may include the following:
    (1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
    (2) Trial under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code (as amended by the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (title XVIII of Public Law 111-84)).
    (3) Transfer for trial by an alternative court or competent tribunal having lawful jurisdiction.
    (4) Transfer to the custody or control of the person’s country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity.
    (d) Construction- Nothing in this section is intended to limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.
    (e) Authorities- Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.
    (f) Requirement for Briefings of Congress- The Secretary of Defense shall regularly brief Congress regarding the application of the authority described in this section, including the organizations, entities, and individuals considered to be ‘covered persons’ for purposes of subsection (b)(2).
  • Homeland Security Presidential Directive/HSPD-5 requires all federal and state agencies establish response protocols for critical domestic incidents in line with the National Incident Management System.


Monday, June 3, 2013


I often dish out a lot of criticism towards he Department of Homeland Security. However, it is not without understanding the sheer vastness of what their work undertakes. I often peruse their site (and so should you) to gain insight into what they face. This site has always been a great information source and has been very responsive towards citizen queries. Though, I'm sure some would disagree. After you take a look, I highly recommend giving their site a look.

Department of Homeland Security Site:

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Loose Lips Just Don't Sink Ships - How Leaks Compromise More Than Just Secrets

This is how the Taliban handles spies.

I'll preface this piece by saying for the record "I am NOT a spy nor have I EVER been a spy. I have NEVER worked inside the intelligence community. What you read here is my opinion backed up by historically factual information." Whew! Now that I've gotten that out of the way, we can discuss a topic I've been meaning to cover - why unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information should remain illegal without legal protections for anyone.

Most people have no clue how the United States and other countries obtain their human intelligence. They assume we send American spies into foreign lands who sneak around embassies and high-end hotels and casinos battling terrorists and criminal kingpins. Most students of modern US intelligence will tell you that is NOT the case. In fact, how we get that intelligence is by sending American intelligence officers who are trained to be clandestine but who do not steal information themselves. That's right. Most human intelligence officers are highly-trained salesmen and recruiters who work diligently to get citizens from target countries to spy on their respective countries. In other words, our HUMINT officers convince other people to betray target states and organizations. We can also get that information by using third-party human intelligence from another country who may be more ethnically credible to penetrate certain denied areas. We'll touch on that later.

This week you have no doubt heard about the Associated Press debacle with the Department of Justice. What you may not be aware of is the "leak" in question is about the alleged penetration of our government  and the Saudi government into the terrorist organization al Qaeda of the Arab Peninsula (AQAP). This was a highly classified operation which I can only assume involved undercover assets who were willing to betray this very dangerous organization. Someone in the Obama administration took it upon themselves to reveal this operation to the Associated Press. This, of course, is VERY illegal and for good reason. Remember those undercover assets I mentioned previously? What do you think would happen to those assets who were operating without the expectation their involvement would be made public to the largest news source in the world? Take a wild guess.

Do you remember Aldrich Ames? He's the guy who betrayed his country and sold secrets to the USSR. What you may not know is that through his leak, he inadvertently killed 10 Russian citizens who fed the Central Intelligence Agency information. How about Valerie Plame? She's another asset who was "burned" (her covert identity revealed publicly) for very political reasons allegedly. I can assure the target country she worked in, Iraq, deployed several counterintelligence agents to contacts she  had in that country. Once an operation has been "burned", all of the assets involved are compromised and can no longer conduct their missions.

Given what you watched above, take a few things into consideration:

  • The very real danger they pose throughout the region they operate in. 
  • How recluse and difficult such organizations can be and the difficulty to get someone to betray this organization. 
  • The operations we were able to stop because of this operation. One of which was the latest plane plot by AQAP. 
  • The potential for further penetration and more insightful intelligence disappearing because a bureaucrat in D.C. took it upon themselves to deliver to the Associated Press information about the success of this ongoing operation. 
  • The likelihood the assets were compromised and the likelihood of their survival and those with whom they had contact.

So you can imagine my surprise to learn of the AP's outrage that the DoJ was investigating their contacts with various people who had knowledge of this operation. You've heard, no doubt, the DoJ subpoenaed the AP's call records for over two months and then those of reporters who may have been the source's contact. I have 11 years of criminal investigations experience and will be the first to attest that this is very customary when you're looking to connect people from one area to another. Whether or not, the DoJ should have subpoenaed the AP's phone company is a different story and "way above my pay grade".

As you can guess, unauthorized disclosure of classified information is a crime. It's actually a very serious crime. Don't believe me. Here's the statute. You'll do good to note there is zero accommodation or exemption for releases to the press.

(a) Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates, furnishes, transmits, or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes, or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States any classified information—(1) concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or
(2) concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States or any foreign government for cryptographic or communication intelligence purposes; or
(3) concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or
(4) obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government, knowing the same to have been obtained by such processes—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
(b) As used in subsection (a) of this section—
The term “classified information” means information which, at the time of a violation of this section, is, for reasons of national security, specifically designated by a United States Government Agency for limited or restricted dissemination or distribution;
The terms “code,” “cipher,” and “cryptographic system” include in their meanings, in addition to their usual meanings, any method of secret writing and any mechanical or electrical device or method used for the purpose of disguising or concealing the contents, significance, or meanings of communications;
The term “foreign government” includes in its meaning any person or persons acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of any faction, party, department, agency, bureau, or military force of or within a foreign country, or for or on behalf of any government or any person or persons purporting to act as a government within a foreign country, whether or not such government is recognized by the United States;
The term “communication intelligence” means all procedures and methods used in the interception of communications and the obtaining of information from such communications by other than the intended recipients;
The term “unauthorized person” means any person who, or agency which, is not authorized to receive information of the categories set forth in subsection (a) of this section, by the President, or by the head of a department or agency of the United States Government which is expressly designated by the President to engage in communication intelligence activities for the United States.
(c) Nothing in this section shall prohibit the furnishing, upon lawful demand, of information to any regularly constituted committee of the Senate or House of Representatives of the United States of America, or joint committee thereof.
(1) Any person convicted of a violation of this section shall forfeit to the United States irrespective of any provision of State law—
(A) any property constituting, or derived from, any proceeds the person obtained, directly or indirectly, as the result of such violation; and
(B) any of the person’s property used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission of, such violation.
(2) The court, in imposing sentence on a defendant for a conviction of a violation of this section, shall order that the defendant forfeit to the United States all property described in paragraph (1).
(3) Except as provided in paragraph (4), the provisions of subsections (b), (c), and (e) through (p) ofsection 413 of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (21 U.S.C. 853 (b), (c), and (e)–(p)), shall apply to—
(A) property subject to forfeiture under this subsection;
(B) any seizure or disposition of such property; and
(C) any administrative or judicial proceeding in relation to such property,
if not inconsistent with this subsection.
(4) Notwithstanding section 524 (c) of title 28, there shall be deposited in the Crime Victims Fund established under section 1402 of the Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (42U.S.C. 10601) all amounts from the forfeiture of property under this subsection remaining after the payment of expenses for forfeiture and sale authorized by law.(5)As used in this subsection, the term “State” means any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and any territory or possession of the United States.
As you can tell, the law is very specific and for good reason, as I outlined before. The business of deriving the intelligence we need from terrorist organization and rogue states requires secrecy. The best way I can describe the importance of keeping clandestine operations secret is to have you watch my child and I play "hide-and-go seek". Children love to tell you where they're going to hide because it makes it easier for you to catch them. Imagine if your child was very clever and never told you where they were hiding. Better yet, what if you never knew they were playing the game. Then, imagine if the stakes were higher - much higher than preempting a really good game. The same could be said of the modern spy game were exponentially more lives are at risk.

Monday, May 13, 2013

VIDEO: IED Mitigation Cartoon From World War 2

One of the most entertaining and unusual pieces of improvised explosive device  mitigation pieces I've ever watched. It hails from World War II. Warning: This video is from an era when political correctness was not a part of modern society.

From the site where I found this gem of American military history:
Private Snafu learns about the hazards of enemy booby traps the hard way.

This is one of 26 Private SNAFU ('Situation Normal, All Fouled Up) cartoons made by the US Army Signal Corps to educate and boost the morale the troops. Originally created by Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) and Phil Eastman, most of the cartoons were produced by Warner Brothers Animation Studios - employing their animators, voice actors (primarily Mel Blanc) and Carl Stalling's music.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

INTERVIEW: Geoff Howe of Howe and Howe Technologies Who Made The SWAT-BOT

I really like being a blogger. I get to explore all of my favorite topics and I get to be very passionate about security. That being said, it is a joy to find people who share my passion and make it evident in their work. The folks at Howe and Howe Technologies have found themselves in that very elite group. For the unfamiliar, I recently did an article about a remote piloted robot developed by the company. The other day, I decided to contact the Maine-based company for an interview to get some additional information. I knew right away upon speaking to Geoff Howe I'd called the right place.

Me: Can you tell me how the SWAT-Bot was developed?
Geoff: Two and a half years ago we started. Before that, in 2006, we were already developing unmanned ground vehicles for the US military. It was during the Fukishima reactor incident that we noticed something very troubling and quite frankly - frustrating. You see we had already developed a firefighting robot called Thermite. There was this incident and we had the technology in our facility to help. However, the infrastructure was not in place at the time. Shortly after that, we had a Department of Homeland Security Testing and Evaluation demonstration for FEMA at the Massachusetts Fire Academy.  The Massachusetts State Police STOP team was there and observed the Thermite and approached us about doing something for SWAT. We immediately began the dialogue and got great feedback from them. By 2012, we had a prototype developed. What was really frustrating was watching the West, Texas fire that killed all of those firemen and knowing we had technology here that could have taken them out of harms way.

Me: What are some of the robot's capabilities?
Geoff:  Well, it weighs 2300 lbs and can be transported in the bed of a pickup truck. Within 3 seconds, it can be operational. Within 15 seconds, the robot is ready to go with the ballistic shield mounted. It has several tools to include the DragonTail which shoots a projectile at a vehicle with a grappling hook and can drag cars. It also has a door breacher that can act as ram also, a tire deflator which was developed out of a request by Southern Maine Special Reaction Team, a negotiating basket, and HD video transmission. The HD video is done 1080p and is real-time. It was developed from technology used in sportscasting. There's also a light that has 16000 lumens.

Me: I'm really impressed by how cool the tech is behind this. Where does the person who pilots this operate from?
Geoff: The cool thing is he can be anywhere in the SWAT formation known as the stack. The best part is it can controlled by tether from a command vehicle with 300 foot tether.

Me: How long does it take to train operators? Maintenance?
Geoff: Maybe an hour. It's very easy to learn how to pilot. Maintenance can be done by the end-user and is very minor or we can send one of our field service reps out on an as needed basis.

Me: Geoff, this sounds like an amazing robot. I hope I make it to Maine to test this out. Any parting words?
Geoff: Thanks. We just want the product to be in the hands of people who need it the most. After Boston and all these other shootings, we can't help but see the demand and need for this. We're an R&D company so making things like this is what we do. I don't want to see another tragedy where we have the technology in our facility and not in the hands of first responders.

For more information:

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

VIDEO: SWAT-BOT: This Robot DESTROYS Barricades

I try not to get all mushy-gushy about law enforcement technology videos. Let's be honest - a great many are better known for their hype than their product delivery. Well I'm very encouraged by the SWAT-BOT. Howe and Howe Technologies created the product in coordination with the Massachusetts State Police and comes equipped with a collapsible ballistic shield, and a hardened AR400 steel nose shield to protect those in the line of fire. According to their site, "It serves as a robotic ballistic shield, door breacher and vehicle/debris remover when the environment is deemed unsafe." It has seen action in a variety of high profile SWAT deployments with MSP such as the Boston Marathon manhunt.

  • Collapsible for easy transport
  • Remote controlled platform
  • Integrated 5000lb winch
  • Integrated Class III receiver
  • Integrated ballistic vision blocks
  • Additional Options Available:
  • Integrated storage cage
  • Door entry ram
  • HD Video Optics
  • Designed to traverse the most rugged of terrain
  • Durability to withstand challenges other robots this size would not be able to endure
  • Constructed of A440f steel, aircraft grade aluminum , and high quality components
  • Start up of full robotic functions in 5 seconds, significantly lowering response times
  • 100% handcrafted in the USA and draws upon years of robotic research
  • Dimensions Stowed: 72” L x 41” W x 47” H
  • Dimensions Expanded: 72” L x 97” W x 80” H
  • Weight: 2290 lbs
  • Draw bar pull: 1270lbs on asphalt, 1040lbs on concrete
  • 25hp Diesel Engine
For more information:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

VIDEO: Kenyan Presidential Security

While reviewing the latest YouTube videos on security, I came across the video above. If you're not aware, Kenya recently held its presidential elections where Uhuru Kenyatta was named its fourth president-elect. As is the case in the United States, Kenya's head of state has a protection detail.

Here's what I gleaned from the video:
  1. Kenyans have a different protection mentality than most Westerners which may actually be good. The news anchors were briefly explaining what happens once the election has been certified, when she said "he'll become the 'property of the state'". Additionally, the detail and not the principle control his/her security.
  2. While awaiting the election to not be challenged, Uhuru will have a temporary detail and a code name assigned to him much like in the States where the president-elect receives his/her detail as soon he receives his party's nomination.
  3. There details seem to be structured somewhat similarly as Western nations. There is an exterior perimeter surrounding the vehicle and an interior as well. The exterior appears to be doing some outward surveillance while the inner perimeter concentrates on the road ahead. They also seem to have control over the reception line as well.
While researching this story, I came across another video which was a bit more telling.

From this video, we can see a few similarities and some differences.
  1. Changing radio call signs. No secrets here. Great tactic that is used all over the world.
  2. Route clearance. Another great move. Though, I am curious why took this road. Many details would have avoided it for its obvious issues.
  3. Open air vehicles should ALWAYS be a no-no.
  4. Giving the principle the threat information briefing every night is good. Though, I think this should be something he gets along with his intelligence report first thing in the morning.
The Kenyans are moving in the right direction towards VIP security. There were lots of things I like from a protection specialist perspective. And there were things I did not like. Most of the things I did not like are lessons best learned through countless drills and exercises to hone in how vulnerable your principle is. In light of al Shabab's threats and terrorist activities against the Kenyans, it's safe to assume they are working out some of the kinks.

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.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

OPINION: Why Benghazi Keeps Me Up At Night

I got to thinking again about Benghazi.  Actually, that damn city has been on my mind for months.  I digress.  I kept thinking tonight about why the intelligence community (IC) would redact its knowledge of the attackers being terrorists.  It's a common question among many "Benghazi-gate" - as I like to call them - "DIY investigators".

Here's my take:
  • The IC allegedly received an intelligence report via email that Ansar al-Sharia had claimed responsibility via Facebook.  We now know that post was either removed, never existed, or was posted by someone only familiar with the group, according to various "senior Administration sources" used by the media.  Why post something and then remove it?  Logic would dictate if you were bad enough to do the deed and then brag about it, why take it down.
  • If in fact the Facebook post were from the group, it's quite simple why they would remove it.  Terrorists aren't all that dumb and are certainly tech savvy enough to understand how IP addresses work.  If true, it is my supposition they realized that within minutes the IC would be running traces on the IP associated with that post and would be ramming a Hellfire missile down the author's throat not too soon afterwards.
  • I know what you're thinking - But that doesn't explain why the Director of National Intelligence would remove it from Ambassador Rice's statement.  Au contraire!  It does.  My guess is the IC was close to running that trace but hadn't acted on it for various reasons - one of which I'll explain in a bit.  In these types of dynamic situations, it can be difficult to ascertain fact from fiction.  When coordinating retribution attacks, you need to be accurate.  Supposing the Facebook post did exist, the IC presumably asked that Ambassador Rice not blow their cover by disclosing in fact that they knew who the bad guys were.  I see you over there making that face.  
  • Before this alleged posting by Ansar al-Sharia, we had no concrete evidence they were the culprit.  Had Ambassador Rice said this was terrorism too prematurely, we may have lost the tactical advantage of surprise and could have made things extremely problematic for our Libyan allies and our special operations units who undoubtedly would have/could have/should have been tasked with hunting down the culprits.  To give the situation some additional much-need perspective, it would do us all well to remember there wasn't a single capture from this attack.  With the absence of a significant amount of actionable chatter, the US government would have been flying blindly with a reprisal attack.
  • Oh. Did I forget to mention how unreliable the source that email cited was?  Yeah. About that.  CNN contacted a guy, Aaron Azelin who monitors jihadist sites for a living.  You'll love what he said.
"However, an examination of the known Facebook and Twitter accounts of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi reveals no such claim of responsibility. Aaron Zelin, a research fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, tracks dozens of jihadist websites and archives much of what they say. He told CNN he was unaware of any such claim having been posted on the official Facebook page or Twitter feed of Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi.
Zelin, who said his RSS feed sends him any new statement from the group, provided CNN with a copy of that feed. It shows no Facebook update between September 8 and September 12, when a posting late that afternoon first referenced the attack. Zelin notes that the posting referred to a news conference the group had held earlier that day in Benghazi in which it denied any role in the assault on the consulate, while sympathizing with the attackers.
Accompanying a posting of the news conference on YouTube, a commentary says that the attack on the consulate was "a wave of rage for Allah and his Prophet, it came from the Muslim youths."
The posting continues: "Ansar al-Sharia brigade did not officially participate as a military body, nor received any orders directed from the brigade."
The group's Twitter feed tells the same story. The account, @anssarelshariea, bears the group's logo and a tweet on September 8 - and then nothing until four days later. And at no point is there a claim of involvement in or responsibility for the attack on the U.S. Consulate compound."
All of this makes me wonder, "How is that we had a CIA station in Benghazi but the only intelligence we had to verify this group was responsible came from a single Facebook post?"  I know getting a hold of sources during a crisis can be difficult and the intel may not be very credible but I can't help but wonder why we haven't heard more about the human intelligence that should have been available.  You would naturally assume the CIA would have been working its assets into this group and would have had some indication this was coming.  Maybe it did but that hasn't come out of any of the testimony, as far as I know.  Instead of asking this and other questions relating to what happened on the ground, we've been stuck with an oversight committee more obsessed with talking points and adulterous 4-star generals.  I firmly believe in order to properly secure any resource in a hostile environment, you have to be procuring actionable intelligence.  This did not happen in Benghazi.  Until we address this shortcoming, it may continue to happen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Could Israel's "Iron Dome" Make the Case for a Missile Defense Shield?

The last few days have been extraordinary in the Middle East to say the least.  Israel was attacked by a barrage of missiles fired from Gaza.  However, nearly all of those missiles were defeated by Israel's missile defense shield known as "Iron Dome".  Missile defense systems are nothing new and we've seen them work in a variety of theaters of operation.  Most recently, they were highly effective during the United States' invasion of Iraq where Patriot missile batteries went toe-to-toe with Scud missile launchers.

A recent article from explains the breadth of that success:
Israeli officials are claiming that the shield is destroying 90 percent of missiles and rockets it aims at that have been fired into southern Israel by Hamas. This level of success is unprecedented compared with older missile defense systems such as the American-made Patriot model used during the 1991 Gulf War. Israelis have almost always suffered far fewer casualties than Palestinians have, but Iron Dome has made that disparity even larger. As of Monday, Israel has reported three casualties, all of which occurred during a temporary malfunction in the missile-defense system.
Credit: Voice of America;

To say the least, this is a huge boom for future missile defense deployments. Hamas has launched 1,147 rockets at Israel between 14 November 2012 and 20 November 2012. Israel has claimed to have shot down 90 percent of those missiles. Did I forget what makes this system so unique? With the exception of a minor glitch that occurred at the beginning of the hostilities, Iron Dome is reported to have been 90 percent accurate with 400 kills in its first few days of days of operation.

A typical battery includes a radar and three launchers, each holding 20 Tamir interceptors. It reportedly had a 100% success rate in tests prior to deployment.


This graph provides an idea as to the area Iron Dome has to cover and what it is supposed to counter.

Many argue this missile defense shield is a "game changer". There is a lot to say that it has. Hamas and Hezebollah have used these attacks in the past as leverage and to demonstrate their resolve to see the conflicts to the end. By "taking the wind out of their sails", Israel has certainly taken much of the "punch" out of Hamas' most potent psychological weapons.

Most telling is the language and support coming from the United States before the November attacks.  The U.S. House of Representatives stated in its FY-2013 Defense Authorization Act  which not only supported Iron Dome with a $680 million investment.  It went a step further by directing the Director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, Lt. Gen. Patrick O'Reilly, to "explore any opportunity to enter into co-production of the Iron Dome system with Israel, in light of the significant U.S. investment in this system." You don't have to be an expert in missile defense technology to know why the US considers this an "investment". We want to develop our own to deploy in the States. Stop rolling your eyes. Given the cost and logistics of coordinating prevention, mitigation, and response to surface-to-air missile threats in the U.S., this has the potential for a lot of "traction" in certain circles.

Will this put an end to rocket attacks? Probably not. I say this because the technology behind these rockets is constantly evolving. Unless Israel can shore up the transportation/smuggling routes arms dealers use, then there will never be an end to such attacks. However, as Israel has convincingly demonstrated, their relative lethality can be greatly reduced by missile defense shields such as Iron Dome.

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