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Ed Webb

Border Patrol, Israel's Elbit Put Reservation Under Surveillance - 0 views

  • The vehicle is parked where U.S. Customs and Border Protection will soon construct a 160-foot surveillance tower capable of continuously monitoring every person and vehicle within a radius of up to 7.5 miles. The tower will be outfitted with high-definition cameras with night vision, thermal sensors, and ground-sweeping radar, all of which will feed real-time data to Border Patrol agents at a central operating station in Ajo, Arizona. The system will store an archive with the ability to rewind and track individuals’ movements across time — an ability known as “wide-area persistent surveillance.” CBP plans 10 of these towers across the Tohono O’odham reservation, which spans an area roughly the size of Connecticut. Two will be located near residential areas, including Rivas’s neighborhood, which is home to about 50 people. To build them, CBP has entered a $26 million contract with the U.S. division of Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest military company.
  • U.S. borderlands have become laboratories for new systems of enforcement and control
  • these same systems often end up targeting other marginalized populations as well as political dissidents
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  • the spread of persistent surveillance technologies is particularly worrisome because they remove any limit on how much information police can gather on a person’s movements. “The border is the natural place for the government to start using them, since there is much more public support to deploy these sorts of intrusive technologies there,”
  • the company’s ultimate goal is to build a “layer” of electronic surveillance equipment across the entire perimeter of the U.S. “Over time, we’ll expand not only to the northern border, but to the ports and harbors across the country,”
  • In addition to fixed and mobile surveillance towers, other technology that CBP has acquired and deployed includes blimps outfitted with high-powered ground and air radar, sensors buried underground, and facial recognition software at ports of entry. CBP’s drone fleet has been described as the largest of any U.S. agency outside the Department of Defense
  • Nellie Jo David, a Tohono O’odham tribal member who is writing her dissertation on border security issues at the University of Arizona, says many younger people who have been forced by economic circumstances to work in nearby cities are returning home less and less, because they want to avoid the constant surveillance and harassment. “It’s especially taken a toll on our younger generations.”
  • Between 2013 and 2016, for example, roughly 40 percent of Border Patrol seizures at immigration enforcement checkpoints involved 1 ounce or less of marijuana confiscated from U.S. citizens.
  • In the U.S., leading companies with border security contracts include long-established contractors such as Lockheed Martin in addition to recent upstarts such as Anduril Industries, founded by tech mogul Palmer Luckey to feed the growing market for artificial intelligence and surveillance sensors — primarily in the borderlands. Elbit Systems has frequently touted a major advantage over these competitors: the fact that its products are “field-proven” on Palestinians
  • Verlon Jose, then-tribal vice chair, said that many nation members calculated that the towers would help dissuade the federal government from building a border wall across their lands. The Tohono O’odham are “only as sovereign as the federal government allows us to be,”
  • Leading Democrats have argued for the development of an ever-more sophisticated border surveillance state as an alternative to Trump’s border wall. “The positive, shall we say, almost technological wall that can be built is what we should be doing,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in January. But for those crossing the border, the development of this surveillance apparatus has already taken a heavy toll. In January, a study published by researchers from the University of Arizona and Earlham College found that border surveillance towers have prompted migrants to cross along more rugged and circuitous pathways, leading to greater numbers of deaths from dehydration, exhaustion, and exposure.
  • “Walls are not only a question of blocking people from moving, but they are also serving as borders or frontiers between where you enter the surveillance state,” she said. “The idea is that at the very moment you step near the border, Elbit will catch you. Something similar happens in Palestine.”
  • CBP is by far the largest law enforcement entity in the U.S., with 61,400 employees and a 2018 budget of $16.3 billion — more than the militaries of Iran, Mexico, Israel, and Pakistan. The Border Patrol has jurisdiction 100 miles inland from U.S. borders, making roughly two-thirds of the U.S. population theoretically subject to its operations, including the entirety of the Tohono O’odham reservation
  • Border militarism has been spreading worldwide owing to neoliberal economic policies, wars, and the onset of the climate crisis, all of which have contributed to the uprooting of increasingly large numbers of people, notes Reece Jones
  • the agency uses its sprawling surveillance apparatus for purposes other than border enforcement
  • documents obtained via public records requests suggest that CBP drone flights included surveillance of Dakota Access pipeline protests
  • CBP’s repurposing of the surveillance tower and drones to surveil dissidents hints at other possible abuses. “It’s a reminder that technologies that are sold for one purpose, such as protecting the border or stopping terrorists — or whatever the original justification may happen to be — so often get repurposed for other reasons, such as targeting protesters.”
  • The impacts of the U.S. border on Tohono O’odham people date to the mid-19th century. The tribal nation’s traditional land extended 175 miles into Mexico before being severed by the 1853 Gadsden Purchase, a U.S. acquisition of land from the Mexican government. As many as 2,500 of the tribe’s more than 30,000 members still live on the Mexican side. Tohono O’odham people used to travel between the United States and Mexico fairly easily on roads without checkpoints to visit family, perform ceremonies, or obtain health care. But that was before the Border Patrol arrived en masse in the mid-2000s, turning the reservation into something akin to a military occupation zone. Residents say agents have administered beatings, used pepper spray, pulled people out of vehicles, shot two Tohono O’odham men under suspicious circumstances, and entered people’s homes without warrants. “It is apartheid here,” Ofelia Rivas says. “We have to carry our papers everywhere. And everyone here has experienced the Border Patrol’s abuse in some way.”
  • Tohono O’odham people have developed common cause with other communities struggling against colonization and border walls. David is among numerous activists from the U.S. and Mexican borderlands who joined a delegation to the West Bank in 2017, convened by Stop the Wall, to build relationships and learn about the impacts of Elbit’s surveillance systems. “I don’t feel safe with them taking over my community, especially if you look at what’s going on in Palestine — they’re bringing the same thing right over here to this land,” she says. “The U.S. government is going to be able to surveil basically anybody on the nation.”
Ed Webb

Exclusive: Ex-NSA cyberspies reveal how they helped hack foes of UAE - 0 views

  • Project Raven, a clandestine team that included more than a dozen former U.S. intelligence operatives recruited to help the United Arab Emirates engage in surveillance of other governments, militants and human rights activists critical of the monarchy.
  • in 2016, the Emiratis moved Project Raven to a UAE cybersecurity firm named DarkMatter. Before long, Stroud and other Americans involved in the effort say they saw the mission cross a red line: targeting fellow Americans for surveillance.
  • former U.S. government hackers have employed state-of-the-art cyber-espionage tools on behalf of a foreign intelligence service that spies on human rights activists, journalists and political rivals
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  • surveillance techniques taught by the NSA were central to the UAE’s efforts to monitor opponents
  • Various reports have highlighted the ongoing cyber arms race in the Middle East, as the Emirates and other nations attempt to sweep up hacking weapons and personnel faster than their rivals. The Reuters investigation is the first to reveal the existence of Project Raven, providing a rare inside account of state hacking operations usually shrouded in secrecy and denials.
  • While this activity raises ethical dilemmas, U.S. national security lawyers say the laws guiding what American intelligence contractors can do abroad are murky. Though it’s illegal to share classified information, there is no specific law that bars contractors from sharing more general spycraft knowhow, such as how to bait a target with a virus-laden email.
  • The hacking of Americans was a tightly held secret even within Raven, with those operations led by Emiratis instead. Stroud’s account of the targeting of Americans was confirmed by four other former operatives and in emails reviewed by Reuters.
  • Mansoor was convicted in a secret trial in 2017 of damaging the country’s unity and sentenced to 10 years in jail. He is now held in solitary confinement, his health declining, a person familiar with the matter said. Mansoor’s wife, Nadia, has lived in social isolation in Abu Dhabi. Neighbors are avoiding her out of fear security forces are watching. They are correct. By June 2017 Raven had tapped into her mobile device and given her the code name Purple Egret, program documents reviewed by Reuters show. To do so, Raven utilized a powerful new hacking tool called Karma, which allowed operatives to break into the iPhones of users around the world.
  • the UAE has been accused of suppressing free speech, detaining dissidents and other abuses by groups such as Human Rights Watch. The UAE says it is working closely with Washington to fight extremism “beyond the battlefield” and is promoting efforts to counter the “root causes” of radical violence. Raven’s targets eventually would include militants in Yemen, foreign adversaries such as Iran, Qatar and Turkey, and individuals who criticized the monarchy, said Stroud and eight other former Raven operatives. Their accounts were confirmed by hundreds of Raven program documents reviewed by Reuters.
  • “Some days it was hard to swallow, like [when you target] a 16-year-old kid on Twitter,” she said. “But it’s an intelligence mission, you are an intelligence operative. I never made it personal.”
  • the program took aim not just at terrorists and foreign government agencies, but also dissidents and human rights activists. The Emiratis categorized them as national security targets
  • Emirati security forces viewed human rights advocates as a major threat to “national stability,”
  • Reached by phone in London, Donaghy, now a graduate student pursuing Arab studies, expressed surprise he was considered a top national security target for five years. Donaghy confirmed he was targeted using the techniques described in the documents. “I’m glad my partner is sitting here as I talk on the phone because she wouldn’t believe it,” he said. Told the hackers were American mercenaries working for the UAE, Donaghy, a British citizen, expressed surprise and disgust. “It feels like a betrayal of the alliance we have,” he said.
  • Stroud had already made the switch from government employee to Booz Allen contractor, essentially performing the same NSA job at higher pay. Taking a job with CyberPoint would fulfill a lifelong dream of deploying to the Middle East and doing so at a lucrative salary. Many analysts, like Stroud, were paid more than $200,000 a year, and some managers received salaries and compensation above $400,000.
  • Karma was particularly potent because it did not require a target to click on any link to download malicious software. The operatives understood the hacking tool to rely on an undisclosed vulnerability in Apple’s iMessage text messaging software. In 2016 and 2017, it would be used against hundreds of targets across the Middle East and Europe, including governments of Qatar, Yemen, Iran and Turkey, documents show. Raven used Karma to hack an iPhone used by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, as well as the phones of close associates and his brother.
  • Providing sensitive defense technologies or services to a foreign government generally requires special licenses from the U.S. State and Commerce Departments. Both agencies declined to comment on whether they issued such licenses to CyberPoint for its operations in the UAE. They added that human rights considerations figure into any such approvals.
  • But a 2014 State Department agreement with CyberPoint showed Washington understood the contractors were helping launch cyber surveillance operations for the UAE. The approval document explains CyberPoint’s contract is to work alongside NESA in the “protection of UAE sovereignty” through “collection of information from communications systems inside and outside the UAE” and “surveillance analysis.”
  • “It was incredible because there weren’t these limitations like there was at the NSA. There wasn’t that bullshit red tape,”
  • Under DarkMatter, Project Raven continued to operate in Abu Dhabi from the Villa, but pressure escalated for the program to become more aggressive. Before long, senior NESA officers were given more control over daily functions, former Raven operatives said, often leaving American managers out of the loop. By mid-2016, the Emirates had begun making an increasing number of sections of Raven hidden from the Americans still managing day-to-day operations. Soon, an “Emirate-eyes only” designation appeared for some hacking targets.
  • Stroud began searching a targeting request list usually limited to Raven’s Emirati staff, which she was still able to access because of her role as lead analyst. She saw that security forces had sought surveillance against two other Americans. When she questioned the apparent targeting of Americans, she received a rebuke from an Emirati colleague for accessing the targeting list, the emails show. The target requests she viewed were to be processed by “certain people. You are not one of them,” the Emirati officer wrote.
  • Days later, Stroud said she came upon three more American names on the hidden targeting queue.
  • occupations were listed: journalist
  • When Stroud kept raising questions, she said, she was put on leave by superiors, her phones and passport were taken, and she was escorted from the building. Stroud said it all happened so quickly she was unable to recall the names of the three U.S. journalists or other Americans she came across in the files. “I felt like one of those national security targets,” she said. “I’m stuck in the country, I’m being surveilled, I can’t leave.” After two months, Stroud was allowed to return to America. Soon after, she fished out the business card of the FBI agents who had confronted her at the airport. “I don’t think Americans should be doing this to other Americans,” she told Reuters. “I’m a spy, I get that. I’m an intelligence officer, but I’m not a bad one.”
Ed Webb

The dwindling promise of popular uprisings in the Middle East - 0 views

  • The scenes emerging from Iran today elicit a mix of reactions across a region still reeling from the dark legacy of the “Arab Spring,” which itself came on the heels of the “Green Movement” protests in the wake of Iran’s 2009 presidential election. Many Arabs cannot help but recall the sense of hope that reverberated from Tunisia to Yemen, only to be shattered by unyielding repression, war, and the resurgence of authoritarianism. Subsequent protest waves, including those that began in 2019 in Lebanon, Iraq, and Sudan, were similarly met with brutality, co-optation, and dissolution.
  • Over a decade on from the Arab uprisings, the path toward democracy and freedom for youth across the Middle East has become more treacherous than ever, as liberation movements find themselves fighting against stronger, smarter, and more entrenched regimes that have adapted to modern challenges to their domination.
  • Technologies that many hoped would help to evade state censorship and facilitate mobilization have been co-opted as repressive surveillance tools.
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  • many of the region’s youth have become immobilized by revolutionary fatigue left by the tragic, violent trauma of the Arab Spring’s aftermath
  • Breakthroughs in surveillance methods are allowing intelligence outfits across the Middle East to infiltrate just about every crevice of civil society, making it almost impossible to communicate or organize without the government’s knowledge. Some of the most sinister of these weapons have been manufactured in Israel, which has emerged as a leading global exporter of surveillance technologies that are now being deployed against oppressed populations worldwide.
  • The prospect of acquiring dystopian surveillance tech like Pegasus has become a driving motive for authoritarian Arab leaders in their rush to normalize relations with Israel, against the will of their people
  • While arming themselves with the latest repressive tools, autocratic regimes across the Middle East continue to be encouraged by their external benefactors to prioritize security and foreign interests at the expense of democracy and human rights at home
  • with the United States declining as a global hegemon, authoritarians are selling their allegiances to the highest bidder, with human rights, democracy, and accountability falling further by the wayside.
  • Since 2011, Russia has doubled down on its support for some of the most brutal regimes in the region.
  • About 60 percent of the region’s population are under 25 years old, and the dire socio-political and economic conditions that much of the Middle East’s youth face have changed little since the thwarted revolutions of 2011. Youth unemployment has, in fact, worsened over the past decade, increasing from 23.8 percent in 2010 to 27.2 percent in 2020. The lack of opportunities continues to fuel brain drains and mass migration across the region.
  • dictators driven by paranoia have continued to hollow out civil society, ensuring that no viable political alternative to their rule exists. Press freedom across the region has declined drastically; Egypt, for example, has become one of the world’s top jailers of journalists since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power in a military coup in 2013. In Tunisia, President Kais Saied has undone many of the country’s democratic advances by dissolving the government and enhancing his powers through a new constitution.
  • This aggressive trend has intensified in Palestine, too. Following the 2021 Unity Intifada, Israeli forces arrested hundreds of political activists and are now stepping up efforts to target civil society and human rights groups that expose Israeli war crimes and rights violations. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has entrenched its role as a subcontractor of the Israeli occupation, stepping up arrests of political activists and resistance fighters alike across the West Bank at Israel’s behest.
  • A recent study by The Guardian and YouGov found that although a majority of respondents in Sudan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, and Egypt do not regret the uprisings, more than half of those polled in Syria, Yemen, and Libya say their lives are now worse
  • By shutting down spaces for Iranians to realize their imagined future, Iran’s leaders have ensured that any substantial transfer of power will be violent
Ed Webb

What It's Like to Live in a Surveillance State - The New York Times - 0 views

  • when it comes to indigenous Uighurs in the vast western region of Xinjiang, the Chinese Communist Party (C.C.P.) has updated its old totalitarian methods with cutting-edge technology
  • The Qing Empire conquered Xinjiang in the 18th century. The territory then slipped from Beijing’s control, until the Communists reoccupied it with Soviet help in 1949. Today, several Central Asian peoples, including Uighurs, Kazakhs and Kyrghyz, make up about half of the region’s population; the remainder are Han and Hui, who arrived from eastern China starting in the mid-20th century
  • the C.C.P. has since subjected the entire Uighur population of some 11 million to arbitrary arrest, draconian surveillance or systemic discrimination. Uighurs are culturally Muslim, and the government often cites the threat of foreign Islamist ideology to justify its security policies
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  • Uighurs’ DNA is collected during state-run medical checkups. Local authorities now install a GPS tracking system in all vehicles. Government spy apps must be loaded on mobile phones. All communication software is banned except WeChat, which grants the police access to users’ calls, texts and other shared content. When Uighurs buy a kitchen knife, their ID data is etched on the blade as a QR code
  • A law now bans face coverings — but also “abnormal” beards. A Uighur village party chief was demoted for not smoking, on grounds that this failing displayed an insufficient “commitment to secularization.” Officials in the city of Kashgar, in southwest Xinjiang, recently jailed several prominent Uighur businessmen for not praying enough at a funeral — a sign of “extremism,” they claimed.
  • The C.C.P., once quite liberal in its approach to diversity, seems to be redefining Chinese identity in the image of the majority Han — its version, perhaps, of the nativism that appears to be sweeping other parts of the world. With ethnic difference itself now defined as a threat to the Chinese state, local leaders like Mr. Chen feel empowered to target Uighurs and their culture wholesale
  • There’s an old Chinese joke about Uighurs being the Silk Road’s consummate entrepreneurs: When the first Chinese astronaut steps off his spaceship onto the moon, he will find a Uighur already there selling lamb kebabs. And so even as Mr. Chen cracks down in Xinjiang, the Chinese government touts the region as the gateway for its much-vaunted “one belt, one road” initiative, Mr. Xi’s signature foreign policy project. The grand idea combines a plan to spend billions of dollars in development loans and transport investment across Eurasia with a strategic bid to establish China’s diplomatic primacy in Asia.
  • How does the party think that directives banning fasting during Ramadan in Xinjiang, requiring Uighur shops to sell alcohol and prohibiting Muslim parents from giving their children Islamic names will go over with governments and peoples from Pakistan to Turkey? The Chinese government may be calculating that money can buy these states’ quiet acceptance. But the thousands of Uighur refugees in Turkey and Syriaalready complicate China’s diplomacy.
Ed Webb

Israel and Jordan agree on Al-Aqsa Mosque surveillance - Al Jazeera English - 1 views

  • The United States says that Israel and Jordan have agreed on steps, including 24-hour video surveillance, to try and help end weeks of violence over a Jerusalem site holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians.
Ed Webb

Homeland Security Is Quietly Tying Antifa to Foreign Powers | The Nation - 0 views

  • intelligence officials are targeting activists it considers “antifa” and attempting to tie them to a foreign power, according to a DHS intelligence report obtained exclusively by The Nation.
  • The intelligence report, titled “The Syrian Conflict and its Nexus to the U.S.-based Antifascist Movement,” mentions several Americans, including a left-wing podcast host who traveled to Syria to fight ISIS. The report includes a readout of these individuals’ personal information, including their social security numbers, home addresses, and social media accounts, much of the data generated by DHS’s Tactical Terrorism Response Teams. As the intelligence report states, “ANTIFA is being analyzed under the 2019 DHS Strategic Framework for Countering Terrorism (CT) and Targeted Violence.”
  • “They targeted Americans like they’re Al-Qaeda” a former senior DHS intelligence officer with knowledge of the operations told The Nation. The officer, who served for years in DHS’s Office of Intelligence & Analysis (I&A), compared the operations to the illegal surveillance of activists during the civil rights era. “They essentially were violating people’s rights like this was the 60’s…the type of shit the Church and Pike committee[s] had to address.”
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  • “Designating someone as foreign-sponsored can make a huge legal and practical difference in the government’s ability to pursue them,” explained Steven Aftergood, who heads the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists
  • Once someone (or some group) is identified as an agent of a foreign power, they are subject to warrantless search and surveillance in a way that would be illegal and unconstitutional for any other US person
  • Last week, DHS reassigned its intelligence chief after The Washington Post revealed that the agency had been compiling intelligence reports on American journalists and activists in Portland.
  • The intelligence report describes over half a dozen people who traveled to Syria in order to fight alongside Kurdish factions—usually the YPG, but also other Kurdish groups like the PKK and the Peshmerga. Some of the individuals described have denied membership in antifa, but variously identified with far-left causes. DHS appears to define antifa broadly, containing within it various left-wing tendencies: “antifa is driven by a mixed range of far-left political ideologies, including anti-capitalism, communism, socialism, and anarchism.”
  • “I am not now nor have I ever been a member of any antifa organization,” he told The Nation. “The US government has been spying on and smearing communists for 100 years but they usually have the decency not to call a Red an anarchist!”
  • “There appears to be a clear connection…between ANTIFA ideology and Kurdish democratic federalism teachings and ideology,” the intelligence report states.
  • On May 31, Trump vowed to designate antifa a “terrorist organization.” While antifa groups have engaged in acts of property destruction, antifa has not been linked to a single murder in the United States, according to data compiled in the past 25 years by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. By contrast, the same data found that far-right extremist groups had killed 329 people.
Ed Webb

World Cup host Qatar used ex-CIA officer to spy on FIFA | AP News - 0 views

  • a trend of former U.S. intelligence officers going to work for foreign governments with questionable human rights records
  • “Pickaxe,” which promised to capture “personal information and biometrics” of migrants working in Qatar. A project called “Falconeye” was described as a plan to use drones to provide surveillance of ports and borders operations, as well as “controlling migrant worker populations centers.”“By implementing background investigations and vetting program, Qatar will maintain dominance of migrant workers,” one GRA document said.
  • The private surveillance business has flourished in the last decade in the Persian Gulf as the region saw the rise of an information war using state-sponsored hacking operations that have coincided with the run-up to the World Cup.
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  • Chalker declined requests for an interview or to answer detailed questions about his work for the Qatari government. Chalker also claimed that some of the documents reviewed by the AP were forgeries.
  • The AP took several steps to verify the documents’ authenticity. That includes confirming details of various documents with different sources, including former Chalker associates and soccer officials; cross-checking contents of documents with contemporaneous news accounts and publicly available business records; and examining electronic documents’ metadata, or digital history, where available, to confirm who made the documents and when. Chalker did not provide to the AP any evidence to support his position that some of the documents in question had been forged.
Ed Webb

Buzan on GWoT 2006 - 1 views

shared by Ed Webb on 15 Nov 16 - No Cached
  • Washington is now embarked on a campaign to persuade itself, the American people and the rest of the world that the ‘global war on terrorism’ (GWoT) will be a ‘long war’. This ‘long war’ is explicitly compared to the Cold War as a similar sort of zero-sum, global-scale, generational struggle against anti-liberal ideolo-gical extremists who want to rule the world.
  • When the Cold War ended, Washington seemed to experience a threat defi cit, and there was a string of attempts to fi nd a replacement for the Soviet Union as the enemy focus for US foreign and military policy: fi rst Japan, then China, ‘clash of civilizations’ and rogue states
  • the GWoT had the feel of a big idea that might provide a long-term cure for Washington’s threat defi ci
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  • the explicit ‘long war’ framing of the GWoT is a securitizing move of potentially great signifi cance. If it succeeds as a widely accepted, world-organizing macro-securitization, it could structure global security for some decades, in the process helping to legitimize US primacy
    • Ed Webb
       
      Securitization is a newer concept in IR, mostly associated with the Copenhagen School, although Buzan is English School. The argument here is that a successful rhetorical or framing move can have systemic effects.
  • This article is about the strength and durability of that belief, and whether as a social fact it can be used to create a new political framing for world politics. In addressing this question I diff erentiate between a traditional materialist analysis of threat (whether something does or does not pose a specifi c sort of threat, and at what level) and a so-called securitizationanalysis (whether something can be successfully constructed as a threat, with this understanding being accepted by a wide and/or specifi cally relevant audience).4These two aspects of threat may run in close parallel, but they can also be quite separate. States, like people, can be paranoid (constructing threats where none exist) or complacent (ignoring actual threats). But since it is the success (or not) of the securitization that determines whether action is taken, that side of threat analysis deserves scrutiny just as close as that given to the material side
    • Ed Webb
       
      Note how this argument applies long-standing IR concepts from several schools of thought: perception and misperception (Jervis); balance of threat (Walt); ideas as frames for world politics/the international system (Wendt).
  • the only thing that changed is the belief that something had changed
    • Ed Webb
       
      There is no consensus on this, but quite a few IR scholars take this view of 9/11
  • reformulate the GWoT
    • Ed Webb
       
      Obama decided to declare it "over" in 2013: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/05/23/obama-global-war-on-terror-is-over But the rhetorical shift has not led to any notable reduction in GWoT-related drone strikes etc.
  • Immediately following 9/11 NATO invoked article 5 for the fi rst time, thereby helping to legitimize the GWoT securitization.
  • In the case of Russia, China, Israel and India, the move has been to link their own local problems with ‘terrorism’ to the wider GWoT framing.
  • tied together several longstanding security concerns arising within the liberal order, most notably crime and the trades in drugs and the technologies for weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Within the frame of the liberal international economic order (LIEO), it is well understood that while opening state borders to fl ows of trade, fi nance, information and (skilled) people is generally to be promoted, such opening also has its dark side in which illiberal actors, mainly criminals and terrorists, can take advantage of liberal openness in pursuit of illiberal ends
    • Ed Webb
       
      This is Naim's "Five Wars of Globalization"
  • There are fi ve obvious types of event that could signifi -cantly reinforce or undermine the GWoT securitization:ü the impact of further terrorist plans and/or attacks (or plans or attacks success-fully attributed to terrorists);ü the commitment of the United States to the GWoT securitization;ü the legitimacy of the United States as a securitization leader within interna-tional society;ü the (un)acceptability and (il)legitimacy of both the GWoT securitization as a whole or of particularist securitizations that get linked to it;ü the potency of securitizations competing with the GWoT
  • The escalation option would strengthen the GWoT securitization, and the reduction option would weaken it. More of the same does not look suffi cient to sustain the costs of a long-term macro-securitization unless the fear of escalation can be maintained at a high level.
  • Americans, like most other citizens of democracies, quite willingly surrender some of their civil liberties in times of war. But it is easy to see the grounds within American society for reactions against the GWoT securitization, especially if its legitimacy becomes contested. One source of such reactions would be civil libertarians and others opposed to the reasser-tion of government powers through a state of permanent fear and emergency. Another would be isolationists and ‘off shore balancers’ who oppose the current levels and logics of US global engagement
  • Grounds for opposition include its costs, in terms of both money and liberty, and the ineff ectiveness of a permanent increase in the state’s surveil-lance over everything from trade and fi nance to individual patterns of travel and consumption
  • US military expenditure remains largely aimed at meeting traditional challenges from other states, with only a small part specifi cally allocated for the GWoT. The signifi cance of the GWoT is much more political. Although a real threat from terrorists does exist, and needs to be met, the main signifi cance of the GWoT is as a political framing that might justify and legitimize US primacy, leadership and unilater-alism, both to Americans and to the rest of the world. This is one of the key diff erences between the GWoT and the Cold War. The Cold War pretty much wasUS grand strategy in a deep sense; the GWoT is not, but, as a brief glance at the USNSS of 2006 will show, is being promoted as if it were
    • Ed Webb
       
      Contrast with the Cold War here is important. Notice the disconnection between political framing and budgetary decisions in GWoT. Why is that?
  • The US successfully generated and led the macro-securitization of the Cold War against communism generally and the military power of the Soviet Union in particular. It was aided in this both by the broad acceptability of its own qualities as a leader in the West, and up to a point even in the Third World, and by the fact that other states, especially west European ones, plus Turkey, Japan and South Korea, shared the fear of communism and Soviet military power
  • A weight of punditry agrees that the Atlantic has got wider, to the point where even the idea that there is a western community is now under serious threat.
    • Ed Webb
       
      That this argument was being advanced halfway through the second GW Bush term, and yet the transatlantic alliance has held firm, should probably give us hope for the relationship surviving the Trump administration.
  • states might support or oppose the GWoT not only on its merits, but also because of how it plays into the global hierarchy of power
  • In terms of the GWoT securitization as a whole, some of the lines of opposition are the same in the rest of the world as they are in US domestic debates, particu-larly over what kinds of emergency action it legitimizes. To the extent that the GWoT becomes associated with actions that seem to contradict the values that the West seeks to represent against the likes of Al-Qaeda, the legitimacy of the securitization is corroded
  • By hardening borders, homeland security measures erode some of the principles of economic liberalism that they are designed to defend; and the same argument could be made about the trade-off between enhanced surveillance under the GWoT and the civil liberties that are part of the core referent object of western civilization
  • Most western leaders (the ever undiplomatic Berlusconi having been a notable excep-tion) have tried hard right from the beginning not to stage the GWoT as a war between the West and Islam. They have trodden the diffi cult line of maintaining that, while most of the terrorists speak in the name of Islam, that does not mean that most adherents of Islam are terrorists or supporters of terrorists. But despite this, the profoundly worrying relinking of religion and politics in the United States, Israel and the Islamic world easily feeds zero-sum confl icts. This linkage could help to embed the securitization of the GWoT, as it seems to have done within the United States and Israel. If religious identities feed the growth of a ‘clash of civilizations’ mentality, as seems to have happened in the episode of the Danish cartoons, this too could reinforce the GWoT securitization. It could, equally, create a reaction against it from those who feel that their particular religion is being mis represented by fundamentalists, and/or from those who object to religious infl uence on politics. The latter is certainly part of what has widened the gap between the US and Europe
  • Al-Qaeda and its like, while clearly posing a threat to the West, do not represent a plausible political alternative to it, Islamist fantasies about a new caliphate notwithstanding. The contrast with the Cold War could not be more striking. Then, the designated opponent and object of securitization was a power that represented what seemed a plausible political alternative: one could easily imagine a communist world. The post-9/11 securitization focused neither on an alternative superpower nor on an alternative ideology, but on the chaos power of embittered and alienated minori-ties, along with a handful of pariah governments, and their ability to exploit the openness, the technology, and in some places the inequality, unfairness and failed states generated by the western system of political economy
  • Iraq. The US and British governments attempted to justify the invasion by linking Saddam Hussein’s regime to both terrorists and WMD. This securitizing move was successful within the United States, but vigorously contested in many other places, resulting in serious and damaging splits in both the EU and NATO. Russia was generally very supportive of the GWoT securitization, seeking to link its own diffi culties in Chechnya to it, but Putin joined Germany and France in strong opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq. The ill-prepared occupation that followed the successful blitzkrieg against Iraq only deepened the splits, with many opponents of the war agreeing with Dana Allin’s assessment that ‘Iraq was probably the war that bin Laden wanted the United States to fi ght’,29and Wilkinson’s that it was ‘a gratuitous propaganda gift to bin Laden’.30 During the 2004 US election, even John Kerry began to argue the point that invasion of Iraq was distracting eff ort away from the GWoT.31 As the political disaster in Iraq continues to unfold, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it was both a tactical and strategic blunder of epic proportions in relation to the problem of global terrorism represented by Al-Qaeda
  • There are quite a variety of possible candidates for competing securitizations. Rising sea levels or approaching asteroids, or the spread of a new killer plague, could easily put planetary environmental concerns at the top of the securitiza-tion agenda. But in conventional mode the most likely threat to the GWoT as dominant macro-securitization comes from the rise of China
  • It was perhaps only the perceived remoteness in time of China achieving superpower status that prevented this securitization from becoming the dominant rhetoric in Washington during the 1990s. As time marches on, the rise of China becomes more real and less hypothetical
  • Given an ongoing disposition within Washington to construct China as a threat, the likely increase in Chinese power, both relative and absolute, and the existence of tensions between the two governments over, inter alia, Taiwan, trade and human rights, it is not diffi cult to imagine circumstances in which concerns about China would become the dominant securitization within the United States
    • Ed Webb
       
      Is this a new "pivot to Asia" we can imagine happening under the Trump administration?
  • o long as China conducts its so-called ‘peaceful rise’ in such a way as not to threaten its neighbours or the general stability of interna-tional society, many outside the United States might actually welcome it. Europe is likely to be indiff erent, and many countries (e.g. Russia, China, India, Iran, France, Malaysia) support a rhetoric of multipolarity as their preferred power structure over the predominance of the United States as sole superpower.
  • Because a world govern-ment is not available, the problem pits international society against global uncivil society
  • Wilkinson, who has solid credentials as a hard foe of the terrorists, echoes a sentiment widely held across the political spectrum when he says that ‘If we undermine or destroy our hard-won liberties and rights in the name of security against terrorism we will give the terrorists a victory they could never win by the bomb and the gun.’28 In this respect it is of more than passing interest that all of the current strategies being used to pursue the GWoT seem actively to damage the liberal values they purport to defend.
  • War is seldom good for liberal values even when fought in defence of them
  • Equalizing starts from the assumption that the root causes of terrorism lie in the inequalities and injustices that are both a legacy of human history and a feature of market economies. The long-term solution to terrorism in this perspective is to drain the waters in which the terrorists swim by redressing the inequalities and injustices that supposedly generate support for them. It is not my concern here to argue whether this contested cause–eff ect hypothesis is correct or not. My point is that if a policy along these lines is pursued, it cannot avoid undermining the foundations of a competitive market economy
  • f inequality is the source of terrorism, neo-liberal economics does not provide a quick enough solution
  • terrorism poses a double threat to liberal democratic societies: open direct assaults of the type that have become all too familiar, and insidious erosion as a consequence of the countermeasures taken
    • Ed Webb
       
      This is an essential point to understand about terrorism, suggesting why groups continue to adopt the tactic and why, sometimes, it can succeed.
  • f it is impossible to elimi-nate terrorists, as is probably the case, then this drive risks the kind of permanent mobilization that inevitably corrodes liberal practices and values
  • If the priority is to preserve liberal values, one is pushed towards the option of learning to live with terrorism as an everyday risk while pursuing counter-measures that stop short of creating a garrison state.
  • The necessary condition for doing so is that state and society raise their toleration for damage as a price they pay for openness and freedom. Kenneth Waltz long ago made the point that ‘if freedom is wanted, insecurity must be accepted’,38 though it has to be said that this part of his analysis has made little impact on US thinking about national security
  • if terrorism is a problem of the long term, as it well might be for advanced industrial societies, it would require a level of democratic sophistication and commitment rather higher than anything yet seen
  • Europe is more resilient and better able to defend its values without resorting to excesses of securitization. By comparison, the United States seems a softer target, too easily pricked into intemperate reactions that in themselves work to under-mine what it claims to stand for
    • Ed Webb
       
      This is broadly, historically true. But note France's ongoing state of emergency since the Paris attacks. The move from resilience toward garrison-state approaches is tempting for any government in times of popular uncertainty and fear.
Ed Webb

Tough Guy Leaking - Salon.com - 0 views

  • The primary fear-mongering agenda item for the National Security and Surveillance State industry is now cyberwarfare
  • as is usually true when it comes to Washington warnings about the evils of Others — this is pure projection
  • Administration defenders will undoubtedly insist that unleashing cyber warfare was all necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and impeding an Israeli attack — even though the U.S. Government acknowledges there is no evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons; Iran has the absolute right to enrich uranium for civilian purposes, and it is far from clear that this virus meaningfully impeded Iran’s nuclear program. But no matter: once a Manichean storyline is implanted (Evil Iran v. Virtuous America), all acts of aggression by the super-hero against the villain are inherently justified.
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  • This morning’s story by Sanger is but the latest in a long line of leaks about classified programs that have two attributes in common: (1) they come from senior Obama administration officials; and (2) they are designed to depict President Obama, in an Election Year, as a super-tough, hands-on, no-nonsense Warrior. Put another way, the administration that is pathologically fixated on secrecy and harshly punishing whistleblowers routinely leaks national security secrets when doing so can politically benefit the President.
  •  Dear Vital Jewish Voters in Crucial Swing States: behold what this great leader did in secret to pummel Iran.
  • consider the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to prosecute former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling under espionage statutes for allegedly telling The New York Times‘ James Risen — almost ten years ago — about dangerous mistakes the CIA made in trying to infiltrate Iran’s nuclear program (mistakes which actually resulted in helping the Iranian program)
  • aside from the tried-and-true strategy of Democratic politicians benefiting politically from provoking criticism from the “Left,” Obama officials (and their apparatchiks) are eager to depict him as a violence-wielding aggressor. As Digby put it this week, “the [Obama] campaign is happy about all this condemnation” aimed at the drone program as it “proves [his] macho bona fides.” Obama officials will undoubtedly be just as pleased with any objections to waging undeclared, unauthorized cyber-warfare on Iran’s perfectly legal nuclear program, thus bringing the world yet another new means of destructive warfare
Ed Webb

Exclusive: UK's secret Mid-East internet surveillance base is revealed in Edward Snowde... - 0 views

  •  
    It seems fairly clear that this article is based on a deliberate leak by UK officials to a) argue that signals intelligence efforts are valuable to national security of UK & US and b) to head off any temptation on the part of Greenwald/Guardian to publish on this element of Snowden's materials.
Ed Webb

Richard W. Parker: Is a Deal with Iran Finally Taking Shape? - 0 views

  • Nationwide surveillance -- under which on-the-ground inspectors would get access to any suspected but undeclared sites--offers by far the best prospect for detecting clandestine facilities. A known and high probability of early detection followed by the credible prospect of a very forceful international response offers the key to effective deterrence. However, most of the measures that make up the national surveillance package are voluntary under international law, and have to be bargained for -- which is why it makes sense for ElBaradei and the West to bargain for them.
  • the "secret deal" that ElBaradei is supposedly trying to work out, provisionally, with Iran is actually the arrangement that is most achievable and will make us most secure. Horrors! Stop him before it's too late!
Ed Webb

Turkey and Russia react with fury to G20 spying revelations | World news | guardian.co.uk - 0 views

    • Ed Webb
       
      Spying on Turkey, a NATO ally, is actually a much bigger deal than spying on Russia. On the other hand, everyone spies on everyone. All this fuss is Casablanca-style "shocked! shocked!"
  • "Russia shouldn't take this [spying] for granted, but shouldn't dramatise the situation either. Intelligence agencies exist to spy not only on private citizens but on top government leaders too."
Ed Webb

Google and Apple Digital Mapping | Data Collection - 0 views

  • There is a sense, in fact, in which mapping is the essence of what Google does. The company likes to talk about services such as Maps and Earth as if they were providing them for fun - a neat, free extra as a reward for using their primary offering, the search box. But a search engine, in some sense, is an attempt to map the world of information - and when you can combine that conceptual world with the geographical one, the commercial opportunities suddenly explode.
  • In a world of GPS-enabled smartphones, you're not just consulting Google's or Apple's data stores when you consult a map: you're adding to them.
  • "The map is mapping us," says Martin Dodge, a senior lecturer in human geography at Manchester University. "I'm not paranoid, but I am quite suspicious and cynical about products that appear to be innocent and neutral, but that are actually vacuuming up all kinds of behavioural and attitudinal data."
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  • There's no technical reason why, perhaps in return for a cheaper phone bill, you mightn't consent to be shown not the quickest route between two points, but the quickest route that passes at least one Starbucks. If you're looking at the world through Google glasses, who determines which aspects of "augmented reality" data you see - and did they pay for the privilege?
  • it's hard to interpret the occasional aerial snapshot of your garden as a big issue when the phone in your pocket is assembling a real-time picture of your movements, preferences and behaviour
  • "There's kind of a fine line that you run," said Ed Parsons, Google's chief geospatial technologist, in a session at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado, "between this being really useful, and it being creepy."
  • "Google and Apple are saying that they want control over people's real and imagined space."
  • It can be easy to assume that maps are objective: that the world is out there, and that a good map is one that represents it accurately. But that's not true. Any square kilometre of the planet can be described in an infinite number of ways: in terms of its natural features, its weather, its socio-economic profile, or what you can buy in the shops there. Traditionally, the interests reflected in maps have been those of states and their armies, because they were the ones who did the map-making, and the primary use of many such maps was military. (If you had the better maps, you stood a good chance of winning the battle. The logo of Britain's Ordnance Survey still includes a visual reference to the 18th-century War Department.) Now, the power is shifting. "Every map," the cartography curator Lucy Fellowes once said, "is someone's way of getting you to look at the world his or her way."
  • The question cartographers are always being asked at cocktail parties, says Heyman, is whether there's really any map-making still left to do: we've mapped the whole planet already, haven't we? The question could hardly be more misconceived. We are just beginning to grasp what it means to live in a world in which maps are everywhere - and in which, by using maps, we are mapped ourselves.
Ed Webb

Israel asks Arab visitors to open emails to search - news.yahoo.com - Readability - 0 views

  • the agents discovered her address while rifling through her personal papers."That's when they turned their (computer) screens around to me and said, 'Log in," she said. When she refused, an interrogator said, "'Well you must be a terrorist. You are hiding something.'"
  • A female interrogator ordered Doughman to open her Gmail account, threatening she would be deported if she didn't."She typed in gmail.com and she turned the keyboard toward me and said, 'Log in. Log in now,'" Doughman recounted. "I asked, 'Is this legal?' She said, 'Log in.'"She said the agent searched for keywords like "West Bank" and "Palestine" and made fun of a chat in which Doughman talked of reading graffiti on Israel's West Bank separation barrier."After she read a bunch of stuff, humiliating and mocking me, I said, 'I think you've read enough,'" Doughman said, adding that agents jotted down names and emails of her friends as they inspected her chat history
  • "The interrogator asked me, 'Do you feel more Arab or more American? ... Surely you must feel more Arab," Doughman said. "I told her I was born in the U.S. and studied there, but she didn't like my answer."After hours of questioning, both women were told they would not be allowed in. They said they were subjected to strip searches, placed in a detention center and sent back to the U.S. the following day. Doughman said they weren't allowed to call the U.S. Embassy.
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  • Emanuel Gross, a law professor at Haifa University, said such a practice would seem to be illegal in Israel."In Israel, you need a search warrant to go into somebody's computer," he said. "I'm skeptical that the security guards asked a judge first for a warrant and I'm skeptical that a judge would give it."
Ed Webb

Iran cutting sensitive nuclear stocks, much work remains: IAEA | Reuters - 0 views

  • Among measures Iran is taking since the interim agreement took effect on January 20 is the dilution of its stock of higher-enriched uranium to a fissile concentration less suitable for any attempt to fuel an atomic bomb.Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), indicated that Iran had made sufficient progress in this regard to receive a scheduled March 1 installment of $450 million out of a total of $4.2 billion in previously blocked overseas funds.
  • Separately, the IAEA is investigating suspicions - largely believed to be based on intelligence provided by Western states and Israel - that Iran has researched how to construct an atomic bomb, a charge Tehran denies. Iran says it is Israel's assumed nuclear arsenal that threatens Middle East peace.
  • Amano said 17 IAEA member states had so far expressed interest in contributing extra-budgetary funds to help finance the IAEA's extra workload in monitoring the implementation of the Geneva agreement in Iran, but that more was needed. "We are still short of some €1.6 million ($2.21 million)," Amano said.The U.N. agency said in January it needed about 5.5 million euros from member states to pay for its increased activities in Iran. This would cover more inspectors sent to Iran and the purchase of specialized surveillance-related equipment.
Ed Webb

Monsters of Our Own Imaginings | Foreign Policy - 1 views

  • Terrorist attacks have occurred in Europe, America, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and many other places, and no level of surveillance, police presence, border controls, drone strikes, targeted killings, or enhanced interrogation is going to prevent every one of them. Even if we could provide absolutely air-tight protection around one type of target, others targets would remain exposed
  • the belief that we could eliminate the danger entirely is no more realistic than thinking better health care will grant you eternal life. For this reason, condemning politicians for failing to prevent every single attack is counterproductive — and possibly dangerous — because it encourages leaders to go overboard in the pursuit of perfect security and to waste time and money that could be better spent on other things. Even worse, the fear of being blamed for “not doing enough” will lead some leaders to take steps that make the problem worse — like bombing distant countries — merely to look and sound tough and resolute.
  • there is no magic key to stopping terrorism because the motivations for it are so varied. Sometimes it stems from anger and opposition to foreign occupation or perceived foreign interference — as with the Tamil Tigers, Irish Republican Army, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, or Hamas. In other cases, it arises from opposition to a corrupt and despised ruling elite. Or it could be both: Osama bin Laden was equally angry at “crusader” nations for interfering in the Muslim world and at the Arab governments he believed were in cahoots with them. In the West, homegrown terrorists such as Anders Breivik or Timothy McVeigh are driven to mass murder by misguided anger at political systems they (falsely) believe are betraying their nation’s core values. Sometimes terrorism arises from perverted religious beliefs; at other times the motivating ideology is wholly secular. Because so many different grievances can lead individuals or groups to employ terrorist methods, there is no single policy response that could make the problem disappear forever.
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  • Compared with other risks to human life and well-being, contemporary international terrorism remains a minor problem
  • The Islamic State wouldn’t have to use terrorism if it were strong enough to advance its cause through normal means or if its message were attractive enough to command the loyalty of more than a miniscule fraction of the world’s population (or the world’s Muslims, for that matter). Because it lacks abundant resources and its message is toxic to most people, the Islamic State has to rely on suicide attacks, beheadings, and violent videos to try to scare us into doing something stupid. The Islamic State cannot conquer Europe and impose its weird version of Islam on the more than 500 million people who live there; the most it can hope for is to get European countries to do self-destructive things to themselves in response. Similarly, neither al Qaeda, the Islamic State, nor other extremists could destroy the U.S. economy, undermine the U.S. military, or weaken American resolve directly; but they did achieve some of their goals when they provoked us into invading Iraq and when they convinced two presidents to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into the bottomless pit in Afghanistan.
  • the same toxic blend of media and politics that brought us Donald Trump’s candidacy makes it nearly impossible to have a rational assessment of terrorism
  • Newspapers, radio, cable news channels, and assorted websites all live for events like this, and they know that hyping the danger will keep people reading, listening, and watching. The Islamic State and its partners really couldn’t ask for a better ally, because overheated media coverage makes weak groups seem more powerful than they really are and helps convince the public they are at greater risk than is in fact the case. As long as media coverage continues to provide the Islamic State et al. with such free and effective publicity, why should these groups ever abandon such tactics?
  • The Islamic State killed 31 people in Brussels on Tuesday, but more than half a billion people in Europe were just fine on that day. So when the British government raised the “threat level” and told its citizens to avoid “all but essential travel” to Belgium following Tuesday’s attacks, it is demonstrating a decidedly non-Churchillian panic. Needless to say, that is precisely what groups like the Islamic State want to provoke.
  • Terrorism is not really the problem; the problem is how we respond to it
  • At the moment, the challenge of contemporary terrorism seems to be bringing out not the best in the West — but the worst. Instead of resolution and grit, we get bluster and hyperbole. Instead of measured threat assessments, patient and careful strategizing, and a realistic sense of what can and cannot be achieved, we get symbolic gestures, the abandonment of our own principles, and political posturing.
  • how would a grown-up like Marshall or Dwight D. Eisenhower respond to this danger? No doubt they’d see it as a serious problem, but anyone who had witnessed the carnage of a world war would not be cowed by intermittent acts of extremist violence, no matter how shocking they are to our sensibilities. They’d use the bully pulpit to shame the fearmongers on Fox and CNN, and they’d never miss an opportunity to remind us that the danger is not, in fact, that great and that we should not, and cannot, live our lives in fear of every shadow and in thrall to monsters of our own imaginings. They would encourage us to live our daily lives as we always have, confident that our societies possess a strength and resilience that will easily outlast the weak and timorous groups that are trying to disrupt us. And then, this summer, they’d take a European vacation.
Ed Webb

A Middle East Monarchy Hired American Ex-Soldiers To Kill Its Political Enemies. This C... - 0 views

  • “There was a targeted assassination program in Yemen,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I was running it. We did it. It was sanctioned by the UAE within the coalition.”
  • The revelations that a Middle East monarchy hired Americans to carry out assassinations comes at a moment when the world is focused on the alleged murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, an autocratic regime that has close ties to both the US and the UAE
  • The UAE, with vast wealth but only about 1 million citizens, relies on migrant workers from all over the world to do everything from cleaning its toilets to teaching its university students. Its military is no different, paying lavish sums to eager US defense companies and former generals. The US Department of Defense has approved at least $27 billion in arms sales and defense services to the UAE since 2009.
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  • Spear Operations Group’s private assassination mission marks the confluence of three developments transforming the way war is conducted worldwide:Modern counterterrorism combat has shifted away from traditional military objectives — such as destroying airfields, gun emplacements, or barracks — to killing specific individuals, largely reshaping war into organized assassinations.War has become increasingly privatized, with many nations outsourcing most military support services to private contractors, leaving frontline combat as virtually the only function that the US and many other militaries have not contracted out to for-profit ventures.The long US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have relied heavily on elite special forces, producing tens of thousands of highly trained American commandos who can demand high private-sector salaries for defense contracting or outright mercenary work.
  • militarized contract killing, carried out by skilled American fighters
  • “There were guys that were basically doing what you said.” He was astonished, he said, by what he learned: “What vetting procedures are there to make sure the guy you just smoked is really a bad guy?” The mercenaries, he said, were “almost like a murder squad.”
  • US law makes it illegal to “conspire to kill, kidnap, maim” someone in another country. Companies that provide military services to foreign nations are supposed to be regulated by the State Department, which says it has never granted any company the authority to supply combat troops or mercenaries to another country
  • with some exceptions, it is perfectly legal to serve in foreign militaries, whether one is motivated by idealism or money. With no legal consequences, Americans have served in the Israel Defense Forces, the French Foreign Legion, and even a militia fighting ISIS in Syria. Spear Operations Group, according to three sources, arranged for the UAE to give military rank to the Americans involved in the mission, which might provide them legal cover.
  • The commandos’ plans went awry, and the intelligence proved flawed. And their strike was far from surgical: The explosive they attached to the door was designed to kill not one person but everyone in the office
  • Private mercenaries operate outside the US military’s chain of command, so if they make mistakes or commit war crimes, there is no clear system for holding them accountable
  • Golan insists that he killed only terrorists identified by the government of the UAE, an ally of the US. But who is a terrorist and who is a politician? What is a new form of warfare and what is just old-fashioned murder for hire? Who has the right to choose who lives and who dies — not only in the wars of a secretive monarchy like the UAE, but also those of a democracy such as the US?
  • Golan said that during his company’s months-long engagement in Yemen, his team was responsible for a number of the war’s high-profile assassinations, though he declined to specify which ones. He argued that the US needs an assassination program similar to the model he deployed. “I just want there to be a debate,” he said. “Maybe I’m a monster. Maybe I should be in jail. Maybe I’m a bad guy. But I’m right.”
  • the country embeds foreigners in its military and gave the rank of major general to an American lieutenant colonel, Stephen Toumajan, placing him in command of a branch of its armed forces.
  • The US draws the line at combat; it does not hire mercenaries to carry out attacks or engage directly in warfare. But that line can get blurry. Private firms provide heavily armed security details to protect diplomats in war zones or intelligence officers in the field. Such contractors can engage in firefights, as they did in Benghazi, Libya, when two contractors died in 2012 defending a CIA post. But, officially, the mission was protection, not warfare
  • The people Spear did target, he and Gilmore said, were legitimate because they were selected by the government of the UAE, an ally of the United States that was engaged in a military action supported by the US. Gilmore said that he and Golan told the UAE they would never act against US interests. And Golan claimed that, based on his military experience, he could tell if a target was a terrorist after just a week or two of surveillance.
  • A little-known consequence of the war on terror, and in particular the 17 combined years of US warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan, is that the number of special operations forces has more than doubled since 9/11, from 33,000 to 70,000. That’s a vast pool of crack soldiers selected, trained, and combat-tested by the most elite units of the US military, such as the Navy SEALs and Army Rangers. Some special operations reservists are known to engage in for-profit soldiering, said a high-level SEAL officer who asked not to be named. “I know a number of them who do this sort of thing,” he said. If the soldiers are not on active duty, he added, they are not obligated to report what they’re doing.
  • Gilmore said some were members of Al-Islah, some were clerics, and some were out-and-out terrorists — but he conceded he couldn’t be sure.BuzzFeed News has obtained one of the target cards. On it is a man’s name, photograph, telephone number, and other information. At the top right is the insignia of the UAE Presidential Guard.
  • During the Cold War, the CIA played a role in plots to assassinate foreign leaders, such as Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic, and Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam. Later in the Vietnam War, the US launched the Phoenix program, in which the CIA often teamed up with US military units to “neutralize” — or, critics say, assassinate — Viet Cong leaders. Even so, targeted killings were not a central pillar of US military strategy in Vietnam. And after Congress exposed CIA activities in the 1970s, the US banned assassinations of foreign leaders.
  • Under President George W. Bush, the CIA and the military used drones to kill terrorists, and the CIA developed covert assassination capabilities. President Barack Obama halted the agency’s secret assassination program but drastically ramped up the use of drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Somalia. Soon the CIA and the military were using the aircraft — piloted remotely using video monitors — to kill people whose names the US didn’t even know, through “signature strikes” based solely on a target’s associations and activities. President Donald Trump has further loosened the rules for drone strikes.
  • Only a uniformed officer can push the button that fires the drone’s missile and kills the target
  • Elisabeth Kendall, an expert on Yemen at the University of Oxford, points out that unlike al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups, which try to seize power through violence, Al-Islah participates in the political process. But, she said, the US rationale for drone strikes has legitimized other countries’ pursuit of their own assassinations: “The whole very watery, vague notion of a war on terror has left the door wide open to any regime saying, ‘This is all a war on terror.’ ”
  • Golan said he models his assassination business on Israel’s targeted killing program, which has been underway since the country was founded, and which, despite some high-profile errors and embarrassments, he claims is done properly. He argues there are some terrorist enemies so dangerous and implacable — and so difficult to arrest — that assassination is the best solution.
  • Golan and Gilmore had another condition: They wanted to be incorporated into the UAE Armed Forces. And they wanted their weapons — and their target list — to come from uniformed military officers. That was “for juridical reasons,” Golan said. “Because if the shit hits the fan,” he explained, the UAE uniform and dog tags would mark “the difference between a mercenary and a military man.”
  • Gilmore acknowledged that some of the targets may have been people who merely fell out of favor with the ruling family. Referring to the country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Gilmore said, “There is the possibility that the target would be someone who MBZ doesn’t like. We’d try to make sure that didn’t happen.”
  • Even though it failed to kill Mayo, the mercenaries’ bomb attack seems to have ushered in a new phase in the UAE’s war against Al-Islah. “It was the exclamation point that set the tone that Al-Islah was now going to be targeted,”
  • As 2016 progressed, those watching the deteriorating situation in Yemen began to notice that members of Al-Islah, and other clerics in Aden, were dropping dead at an alarming pace. “It does appear to be a targeted campaign,” said Gregory Johnsen of the Arabia Foundation, who in 2016 served on a UN panel investigating the Yemen war. “There have been 25 to 30 assassinations,” he said, though a few appear to be the work of ISIS.
  • One new member of the team, hired in early 2016, was the veteran of SEAL Team 6, Daniel Corbett, according to three sources and confirmed by photos. Corbett was a superb soldier, say those who know him, and had served multiple combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. He was still in the reserves, so the US military could deploy him at any moment; he collected a government salary; and he was supposed to report for monthly drills. And yet he was in Yemen on a private contract to work for a foreign military. It is unclear if he himself was involved in missions to assassinate anyone.
  • In a mysterious development, Corbett is currently in jail in Serbia, where he is being investigated for illegal handgun possession. The American veteran has been held there since February 2018.
  • “some variety of the future of warfare.”
Ed Webb

Russia Confirms Its Uran-9 Robot Tank Is On The Ground In Syria - 1 views

  • Russia has been on the forefront of building unmanned ground vehicles and last week the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that their armed drone tank Uran-9 was tested in Syria.
  • While the deployment of the Uran-6, a minesweeping drone, in Syria has been widely reported on, little has been said publicly about the Uran-9, and military observers and analysts have yet to see it in Syria.
  • the resurgent Russian military has battle tested an arsenal of new weapons including the Su-57 stealth fighter jet, the T-90 battle tank, ship-launched cruise missiles and air defense systems
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  • It remains unclear if the Uran-9 saw combat and where in Syria it was deployed, but the area has served as a proving ground for advanced Russian weapons.
  • “As we helped the brotherly Syrian people, we tested over 200 new types of weapons,” said Vladimir Shamanov, the head of Russian parliament’s Defense Committee and a retired military officer.
  • it is unclear how these systems will perform in hotly contested areas with heavy electronic warfare that could jam or hijack a controller’s system. In Syria, reports have emerged that Russian jamming has affected the GPS systems of small U.S. surveillance drones, disrupting their operations
Ed Webb

Picking up the pieces - 0 views

  • Syrians have shown relentless ingenuity in adapting to every stage of a horrendous conflict, salvaging remnants of dignity, solidarity and vitality amid nightmarish circumstances
  • The decimation of Syria’s male population represents, arguably, the most fundamental shift in the country’s social fabric. As a generation of men has been pared down by death, disability, forced displacement and disappearance, those who remain have largely been sucked into a violent and corrupting system centered around armed factions
  • 80 of the village’s men have been killed and 130 wounded—amounting to a third of the male population aged 18-50. The remaining two-thirds have overwhelmingly been absorbed into the army or militias
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  • “If you want to protect yourself and your family, you join a militia,” remarked a middle-aged man in the Jazmati neighborhood. “The area is infested with crime associated with the National Defense militias. Each group has control over a certain quarter, and they sometimes fight each other over the distribution of spoils. Shop owners must pay these militias protection. One owner refused, and they torched his store.”
  • Another resident of the same area explained that he and his family could scrape by thanks to his two sons’ positioning in the Iran-backed Baqir Brigade—which provides not only monthly salaries, but also opportunities to procure household items through looting.
  • Most who can afford to leave the country do so; others benefit from an exemption afforded to university students, while another subset enjoys a reprieve due to their status as the sole male of their generation in their nuclear family. Others may pay exorbitant bribes to skirt the draft, or confine themselves within their homes to avoid being detected—making them invisible both to the army and to broader society. Some endure multiple such ordeals, only to remain in an indefinite state of limbo due to the contingent and precarious nature of these solutions
  • An industrialist in Aleppo put it simply: “I talk with factory owners and they say they want to reopen their factories, but they can’t find male workers. When they do find them, security services or militiamen come and arrest those workers and extort money from the owners for having hired them in the first place.” With no large scale returns on the horizon for local industries, this economic impasse will take years to resolve.
  • Although virtually every problem that sparked Syria’s 2011 uprising has been exacerbated, society has been beaten down to the point of almost ensuring that no broad-based reformist movement will be able to coalesce for a generation to come
  • the unraveling of Syria’s productive economy, and its replacement by an economy of systematic cannibalization in which impoverished segments of Syrian society increasingly survive by preying upon one another
  • a new term—taafeesh—to describe a practice that goes far beyond stealing furniture to include extremes such as stripping houses, streets and factories of plumbing and electrical wiring
  • active surveillance, intimidation and repression are not the only contributors to this leaden atmosphere. A pervasive exhaustion has settled over Syrians ground down and immiserated by war, disillusioned with all those who purport to lead or protect them, and largely reduced to striving for day-to-day subsistence
  • I returned to my apartment just to retrieve official documents and some hidden pieces of gold. I did so, and then destroyed my own furniture and appliances because I don’t want these people making money at my expense. I was ready to burn down my own apartment, but my wife stopped me—she didn’t want me to cause harm to other apartments in the building.
  • micro-economies in their own right—from the recycling of rubble to the proliferation of taafeesh markets, where people buy second-hand goods stolen from fellow Syrians. Many have no choice but to use these markets in order to replace their own stolen belongings
  • Syrians also dip into precious resources to pay officials for information, for instance on disappeared relatives or their own status on Syria’s sprawling lists of “wanted” individuals. For those wishing to confirm that they won’t be detained upon crossing the border to Lebanon, the going rate is about 10 dollars—most often paid to an employee in the Department of Migration and Passports.
  • This cannibalistic economy, which encompasses all those who have come to rely on extortion for their own livelihoods, extends to the cohort of lawyers, security officials and civil servants who have positioned themselves as “brokers” in the market for official documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates
  • Today, even the most senior lawyers in our practice are working as document brokers. A well-connected broker makes 30 to 40,000 pounds [60 to 80 dollars] per day; this roughly equals the monthly salary of a university-educated civil servant. As a result, many government employees resign and work as brokers to make more money.And this truly is a business, not a charity: Every broker takes money, even from his own brothers and sisters. Last week a colleague brought me his brother-in-law. I asked him why he needed me, when he could make all the papers himself. He explained that he can’t take money from his own brother-in-law, but I can do so and then give him half.
  • “I watched uniformed soldiers using a Syrian army tank to rip out electrical cables from six meters underground,” remarked a fighter with a loyalist Palestinian faction, who was scrambling to retrieve belongings from his apartment before it could be pillaged. “I saw soldiers from elite units looting private hospitals and government offices. This isn’t just looting—it’s sabotage of essential infrastructure.”
  • Syria’s predatory wartime economy is slowly but surely turning into a predatory economy of peace
  • As some Syrians put it, Damascus has been particularly effective in reconstructing one thing amidst the immeasurable destruction: the “wall of fear” which characterized the regime before 2011 and which momentarily broke down at the outset of the uprising
  • Multiplying forms of predation have accelerated the outflow of Syria’s financial and human capital, leaving behind a country largely populated by an underclass that can aspire to little more than subsistence
  • At one level, the war has wrenched open social and economic fractures that existed long before the conflict. The city of Homs stands as perhaps the starkest microcosm of this trend. A Sunni majority city with sizable Christian and Alawi minorities, Homs was the first major urban center to rise up and the first to devolve into bitter sectarian bloodletting
  • While vast swathes of Syria’s Sunni population feel silenced and brutalized, Alawi communities often carry their own narrative of victimhood, which blends legitimate grievances with vindictive impulses vis-à-vis Sunnis whom they regard as having betrayed the country
  • crude divisions based on sect or class fail to describe a complex and fluid landscape. Some fault lines are less dramatic, all but imperceptible except to those who experience them first-hand. Neighbors, colleagues, friends and kin may have come down on opposing sides, despite having every social marker in common. Each part of the country has its own web of tragic events to untangle.
  • Many Islamic State fighters swapped clothes and joined the [Kurdish-led] Syrian Democratic Forces to protect themselves and their families. But they haven’t changed; those people are bad, and will always be bad. There will be vengeance. Not now, while everyone is busy putting their lives together. But eventually, everyone who suffered under ISIS, whose brother was killed by ISIS, will take revenge.
  • A native of a Damascus suburb remarked: “Charities typically want to help those who fled from elsewhere. So, when I go to a charity, I say I’m displaced.”
  • The divide between conservative and more secular Sunnis has calcified, manifesting itself even in differential treatment at checkpoints. “I have an easier time driving around because I don’t wear the hijab,” remarked a woman from the Damascus suburbs. “If you veil, security assumes you’re with the opposition.”
  • While dialogue is sorely needed, some Syrians warn against emphasising dialogue for its own sake—even at the cost of burying the most substantive issues at stake. A businessman from Damascus described his own abortive experience with talks proposing to link disparate elements of Syria’s private sector: “There’s this whole industry around ‘mediation,’ including between sides that don’t actually disagree on anything. Meanwhile, all the problems that caused the uprising have gotten worse.”
  • Just as Syrians are forced to be more self-reliant, they have also come to depend evermore on vital social support structures. Indeed, extreme circumstances have created a paradox: Even as society has splintered in countless ways, the scale of deprivation arguably renders Syrians more closely interdependent than ever before.
  • remittances from relatives who live abroad
  • The country’s middle and upper classes have long extended vital forms of solidarity to their needier compatriots, with Syria’s merchant and religious networks playing a leading role. What is unique, today, is the scale of hardship across the country, which is so vast as to have changed the way that Syrians conceptualize the act of receiving charity. A businessman from central Syria noted the extent to which dependency, which once demanded some degree of discretion, has become a straightforward fact of life. “People used to hide it when they were reliant on charity. Not anymore. Today you might hear workers in a factory wondering, ‘Where is the manager?’ And someone will say that he’s out waiting for his food basket. The whole country is living on handouts.”
  • People still do charity the Islamic way, based on the premise that you must assist those closest to you. If there’s someone you should help—say, a neighbor—but you’re unable, then it’s your responsibility to find someone else who can. These circles remain very much intact, and the entire society lives on this. Seven years of war didn’t destroy that aspect of Syrian culture, and that’s something Syrians are proud of.
  • There will be no nationwide recovery, no serious reform, no meaningful reconciliation for the foreseeable future.
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