American Elephants


Searching Your Facebook and Twitter Accounts For Signs of Terrorist Activity by The Elephant's Child

1849720506_694ed23d32The totalitarians are after your social media use. If the federal authorities have their way, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites will be forced to report users’ activities under a new provision of the 2016 Intelligence Authorization Act.

This is a tricky business. ISIS is clearly using social media as a recruiting tool, and quite successfully, though if you want to see a useless search, ask Google about ISIS recruit numbers. It is clear that many young Muslims are being radicalized through social media. The glamor of going to the Middle East to chop off heads or shoot people for entertainment escapes me, but it is a real problem.

According to the legislation sent to the Senate floor, any online service provider that “obtains actual knowledge of any terrorist activity…shall provide to the appropriate authorities the facts or circumstances of the alleged terrorist activity.” The companies would have to report tweets, videos, posts or other content exchanged online by users.

If you read the ordinary comments on online posts, the language is increasingly crude, comments often designed more to insult than provide intelligent discussion. Everybody’s angry. However, people who are anxious about privacy aren’t going to go for this. But the problem is real, and the dangers real. Someone will have to decide whether a communication is wholly protected political speech, only commentary on current events or — something that should be reported to the government.

Unfortunately, the government’s constant drive for more control and more regulations on the one hand, and more secrecy and lies on the other — means a significant loss of confidence on the part of the public. You won’t find totalitarian governments that are beloved by their people. It ‘s a conundrum. There are still people out there who think Edward Snowden is some kind of hero.



The Boston Manhunt is Over. by The Elephant's Child

A natural characteristic of human nature is plain old curiosity. Whenever there is something unusual going on, people want to see. Looky-loos they call them. This has been the case in Boston, and it takes a real scare to get people back into their homes with the doors locked. Yet the rest of the country has been attached to radio and Twitter to follow the dramatic search.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been captured. His older brother, 26-year-old Tammerlan Tsarnaev is dead. Dzhokhar, pronounced Jho-har, 19-years-old, had been hiding in a boat in the backyard of a home in Watertown, just outside the city. Police approached him cautiously, worried that he might be wearing a suicide bomb vest. Three other people have been taken into custody, nothing known about who they are or why they are in custody.

Lots of information and pictures at the boston.com website, which has had very full coverage. The older brother had apparently become radicalized several years ago and a relative had warned the younger brother repeatedly about the bad influence of his older brother. Photos at the website include one of police massing in armor around a couple of MRAP vehicles ready to do a house-to-house search that is pretty scary. You can hardly imagine being a young man on the run with that show of force after you.  Sounds like the police performed spectacularly and did a remarkable job of keeping the public safe.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in a hospital in serious condition. These two young men seemed to have everything going for them. The older one was hoping to compete in the Olympics in boxing. Good students, getting good educations. The younger brother was an outstanding wrestler.



Political Correctness Gone Rogue by The Elephant's Child

Three years after a man with ties to Islamic radical groups killed twelve people while screaming “Allahu Akbar” over and over at the Fort Hood Army Base, the incident is classified as “workplace violence.” You might classify this one as a cover-up as well; it is at the very least, political correctness gone amok.

Major Nidal Hassan was a U.S. Army psychiatrist scheduled to be deployed. He was a loner, and increasingly under the influence of al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki. His superiors were increasingly aware of his odd behavior and Muslim radicalism. But no one did anything about it. The Obama administration has been reluctant to call any incident “terrorism.” Homeland Security has played around with other designations — “violent extremist” seems to be the most popular at the moment. That is a term they are still using for events at Benghazi.

The failure to recognize Islamic terrorism is rooted in a desire to avoid saying anything that would alienate Moslems. Islam, everyone keeps repeating, is a religion of peace. But there are Islamic terrorists and they do have an agenda. Refusing to call it by its correct name is simply a failure to recognize the agenda of those “violent extremists.”

The inaccurate designation of the incident as “workplace violence” is meant to suggest that it is just an ordinary “going postal” situation that could happen anywhere, and don’t even think of blaming Hassan’s superiors for not noticing that he was a danger to everyone around him.

The “workplace violence” designation also deprives Staff Sergeant Shawn Manning, who was shot six times during the attack, of the disability compensation that other wounded service members receive, and eligibility for Purple Hearts or medals for valor. And the twelve dead soldiers are deprived of the recognition they deserve.

Some members of Congress are fighting the classification, but it has not yet been enough. The constant avoidance of not just the designation, but the reality of terrorism, is just wrong and distorts Americans’ understanding of their own nation’s foreign policy.

Heritage’s James Carafano wrote earlier this month:

Clearly, acknowledging that terrorism is alive and well looks bad for the Obama Administration’s rhetoric, which has portrayed Obama as having vanquished Osama bin Laden and thus ending the “war on terrorism.

Playing politics with terrorist incidents and indulging in cover-ups to prevent public knowledge is more than unbecoming, it is dishonest, and unworthy of the office.



Fox News’ Authoritative Timeline of Events in Benghazi by The Elephant's Child

Politics, statecraft, avoidance, security, cover-ups, falsehoods and the word that must never be uttered — terrorism. The raid that killed bin Laden was to be the great accomplishment of Obama’s first term. With bin Laden’s death and the president’s “kill list” for drone strikes, the administration has assumed that al Qaeda was greatly diminished and no longer a major concern.

But that isn’t true. The widely heralded “Arab Spring” was not a matter of the Arab states of North Africa suddenly deciding that they wanted to be peaceful democracies. That delusion has done incalculable damage. Governments make mistakes, misread events, and fail to understand movements, History bears witness to error.

But real lives are at stake, international  perceptions of weakness or strength. Hauling the maker of the video that nobody watched in on a “parole violation,” and sticking him in solitary confinement where he remains a month and a half later, is not just a” coincidence.” Somebody managed to get a drone over Benghazi quickly enough to monitor at least part of the attack.This was not a “bump in the road” nor can the death of an American ambassador in thirty years, his aide and two former SEALS be described callously as “not optimum.”

I rely a lot on the DiploMad 2.0 whom I have been following since the Indonesian earthquake and tsunami on the day after Christmas in 2004.  He reported from Banda Aceh as the rescue efforts began, with a clear voice that we didn’t get from the media. He is since retired, but writes about these things from long experience in some of the world’s tougher spots —”hard countries,” he calls them. His comments are an important addition to the video.

Fox News has consistently and accurately covered this scandal.



A Happy Little Terrorism Story: by The Elephant's Child
June 4, 2011, 5:27 pm
Filed under: Islam, Middle East, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

At National Review Online, Daniel Foster notes that British Intelligence still has a sense of humor:

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s spy agencies have a new message for terrorists: make cupcakes, not war.

Intelligence agents managed to hack into the extremist Inspire magazine, replacing its bombmaking instructions with a recipe for cupcakes.

It’s the first time the agents sabotaged the English-language magazine linked to U.S.-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an extremist accused in several recent terror plots.

The quarterly online magazine, which is sent to websites and email addresses as a pdf file, had offered an original page titled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” in one of its editions last year. The magazine’s pages were corrupted, however, and the instructions replaced with the cupcake recipe.

“We’re increasingly using cybertools as part of our work,” a British government official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters said Friday, confirming that the Inspire magazine had been successfully attacked.

The hackers were reportedly working for Britain’s eavesdropping agency, GCHQ, which has boosted its resources in the past several years.



Visas and Immigration: The Story of Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square Bomber. by The Elephant's Child

Here’s the story of the Times Square Bomber — Faisal Shahzad, and how he became an immigrant to the United States and a naturalized citizen.  It reveals some of the risks inherent in U.S. visa and immigration programs.

It is a familiar pattern of  a terrorist easily taking advantage of weak spots in America’s immigration system.  He was admitted long before 9/11, but the openings that  he exploited are still in place today.

  • June 30, 1979 — born in Pakistan
  • December 22, 1998 — issued student visa in Islamabad. Shahzad failed to demonstrate that he had “sufficient academic preparation to pursue the intended course of study” at the University of Bridgeport.  Applying as a transfer student with a transcript from a correspondence course with Southeastern University (now defunct) with a GPA of 2.78. Visa was a mistake, but visa officer gave him 4 year visa when 2 should have been given.  lightweight background check, no criminal history. (today’s watchlists and databases are more comprehensive).
  • Fall 2000 — Graduates from University of Bridgeport, Conn. Shahzad was flagged by border officials for carrying large sums of cash — reportedly $80,000 — and for repeated visits home to Pakistan.  Was awarded a grant from Bridgeport U. for $6,700 to cover tuition.
  • 2001 — begins working for a temporary staffing agency.  A student visa does not include permission to work.
  • 2002 — Issued H-1B visa.  Sponsored by Elizabeth Arden to work in a low level accounting job.
  • 2004 — Obtains mortgage with Huma Anif Mian (U.S. Citizen and future spouse)
  • 2004 — Comes under scrutiny of Joint Terrorism Task Force. Local, multi-agency units that investigate cases related to national security.
  • February 2005 — Citizen wife files green card petition. Neighbors of Shahzad’s bride have told reporters that he visited her in Colorado just once before she left to marry him.
  • January 2006 —Green card approved. USCIS apparently unconcerned about suddenness of marriage or JTTF investigation. (Basic reality —green card application process rigged in alien’s favor. Few applications are refused or challenged).
  • October 2008 — Applies for citizenship. Shahzad wasted no time. Can apply after 3 years of  marriage to U.S. Citizen, compared with 5 years of residency for other legal immigrants.  Average immigrant waits 6 to 10 years before applying.  His US citizenship makes travel abroad easier since US citizens face less scrutiny, and citizens can stay overseas indefinitely without losing status.  Citizenship did not require Shahzad to give up his Pakistani passport which can be useful in concealing long periods of travel without drawing attention on return.
  • April 17, 2009 — Sworn in as a U.S. citizen.
  • June 2, 2009 — Departs for Pakistan.
  • February 3, 2010 — Returns to United States.
  • May 1, 2010 — Attempts to set off a car bomb in Times Square.

An interesting history, to say the least.  I abbreviated slightly this list from the Center for Immigration Studies.  The complete list is available from the Center,  along with seven policy recommendations to enhance the integrity of the system , make it more difficult for illegitimate visitors to gain access, and limit the risk inherent in every visa or immigration program.

This would reinforce the public diplomacy goals of the student visa program — that foreign students put their U.S. education and positive experience in America to good use back home, and strengthen ties between the two nations.  See also David Horowitz’s experience at University of California at San Diego.



Even if Khamenei Has Beaten the Demonstrators Back, It’s Not Over. by The Elephant's Child

It is baffling to consider President Obama’s vapid reaction to the uprising in Iran.  Even Congress was a embarrassed and pressed him to condemn the Iranian government’s response to the insurgents.  Both houses of Congress voted overwhelmingly to condemn the actions by the Iranian government against demonstrators and moves to shut down the internet and cell phone communications.

The Iranian regime is a nuclear-obsessed tyranny that has threatened regularly to exterminate Israel and  to re-establish a world-wide Caliphate including American soil.  Gosh, if we respond firmly, we might be accused of interfering, or imperialism.  Oh, wait, they already did.  The cry from Iran is always “Death to America.”  If we were firm, who knows what the Iranian government  might say.  And the Europeans and the media, what would they say?  And why would we care?

Why is it necessary after 230 years to remind anyone in our own government that Americans stand for liberty?  We have a principled stand for freedom, democracy, free and fair elections and human rights.  It was true in 1776, when a good many Americans put their lives on the line, and over and over again.  It has been true in many parts of the world: in the Philippines, in France, in Berlin and Poland, in Kosovo and Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.  On Friday, President Obama spoke up to say that the huge demonstrations all over Iran “are not something that has to do with the outside world.” Yes, that’s why so many of the signs that the brave, unarmed protesters carried were in English.

Obama did call, Saturday, on the Iranian government to “stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people.”  He is supposedly trying to preserve the possibility of  negotiating directly with the Iranian government over its nuclear program, its links to terrorism and presumably its interference in Afghanistan and Iraq, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and elsewhere in the Middle East.  The Iranian government has said it has no interest in meeting with President Obama, but hope, as they say, springs eternal.

Victor Davis Hanson has some wise suggestions for Obama, and some possible answers as to why Obama  is avoiding the opportunities for supporting freedom that this rebellion has offered.




Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,309 other followers

%d bloggers like this: