Thursday, December 31, 2009

It Just Keeps Getting Better

This tidbit at the end of a CNN World report

A U.S. government official said that between August and October, extremists in Yemen were discussing operations and mentioned a person called "the Nigerian." The source said that U.S. intelligence officials also had a partial name for the person: Umar Farouk.

To clarify, here are the pieces that the intel community had, but was unable to put together.

In August and October, extremists in Yemen were discussing operations and mentioned a person called "the Nigerian;
a partial name for the person: Umar Farouk;
November, a Nigerian man reports that his son, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, had "become radicalized," and had gone to Yemen to participate in "some kind of jihad."

It should have been easy.
Yemen shop calls the Nigeria shop and says, "Hey, I keep getting hits on a Nigerian involved in an upcoming op. Partial name is Umar Farouk. Got anything on him?"
Nigeria shop says, "No, but I'll let you know if something comes up."

Apparently that didn't happen. Neither did this:

Nigeria shop calls the Yemen shop and says, "Hey, I've got a tip that a Nigerian named Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab has travelled to Yemen to join the jihad. Got anything on him?"
Yemen shop says, "ZUJ1, let me check."

Someone still inside the community might say that with all the databases, classified wiki pages and so on, that's not the way it we do it anymore. Maybe it should be. The Soviets were no less challenging and we had em.

I would bet that with enough time, the connections might have been made. But that illustrates another problem - there is probably not a high pressure, do it now, urgent, where-the-fuck-is-this-guy-going mentality to the analysis going on. If so, we are not making our own luck. It will run out.

UPDATE: Touche'. I just came across this CBS News report wherein a senior intelligence official commented on "no sense of urgency" within the intelligence community. The article then gets a quote from Joseph Cuellar, a former CIA and military intelligence officer, "You know they had information that an analyst could have quickly put together and said 'something's wrong here' and it didn't get done."
US Trades Terrorists in Hostage Swap

According Long War Journal
Qais Qazali, the leader of the Asaib al Haq or the League of the Righteous, was set free by the US military and transferred to Iraqi custody in exchange for the release of British hostage Peter Moore, US military officers and intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. The US military directly implicated Qais in the kidnapping and murder of five US soldiers in Karbala in January 2007...

The League of the Righteous was directly implicated by General David Petraeus as being behind the January 2007 attack on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala as well as other high-profile terror attacks in Iraq. Five US soldiers were killed during the Karbala attack and subsequent kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.

If this is true, it is disgusting. It is shameful.

I know this administration wants to wash their hands of Iraq. But if this is true, they have washed them in American blood. Throughout our history, we have sought reconciliation after a conflict was over. Last I checked, people were still dying in Iraq. These guys cohorts are doing the killing.

Just like the court martial of the Navy SEALS for allegedly slapping a captured HVT and the perception that terrorists captured in Afghanistan have the rights of a criminal suspect, this another decision that will surely mitigate against live capture. After considering intelligence value and risk to our own forces... will the equation now include "will we want to let him go after a while?"

People will be put in the difficult position of choosing between upholding their honor and duty to uphold the law and upolding their honor and duty to their fallen comrades. This is not a good place to be and will take some serious leadership to get it right. This is a quandary more suited to police work than military operations.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Religion of Peace

I read Ralph Peters opinion piece in the NY Post via Rantburg and Jihad Watch. Mr Peters said,

"We proclaim that the terrorists "don't represent Islam." OK, whom do they represent? The Franciscans? We don't get to decide what's Islam and what isn't. Muslims do. And far too many of them approve of violent jihad.

Cryptlogic Purple Heart Winners

Over at I Like The Cut Of His Jib !!, the Captain has an important post on Cryptologic Technicians who have been awarded the Purple Heart over the last ten years. These men are a part of NAVSECGRU, whoops, Naval Cryptologic history, and their sacrifices must be remembered.

I have several memorial posts on my site. I am touched by how often people visit those posts because they have put someone's name into a search engine. Sometimes the name of someone killed in the Kami Seya fire, on the Liberty, or the WV shootdown.

These men died four decades ago. It is good to know that someone remembers.

Link to I Like The Cut Of His Jib !!: We have a duty to remember their sacrifice - Cryptologic Technicians Earn Purple Hearts#links
Airport Security

Lots has been written in the last few days about tightening airport security, so I figured that I would add my thoughts.

Airport screening serves two goals.

(1) It is the last line of defense. It is meant to detect and prevent terrorists from bringing the tools of their trade onto aircraft.

(2) It is a deterrent. It is meant to make it more complicated or difficult to bring those tools on the aircraft, thereby influencing terrorist to seek softer targets.

Neither of these goals can realistically ever be achieved with 100% effectiveness. (Well, maybe number one if we fly naked after full body scans. Gross, and I'm critical of people who fly in shorts. I don't see how they're good with bare skin where hundreds of people sit each day - in the airports and on the planes. Do you want to sit naked where the last stranger sat naked? I don't. But I digress.)

The perceived effectiveness of goal one directly influences the real effectiveness of goal two. That is, the better they think we are at screening, the higher deterrent value it has.

So how can we increase the percieved effectiveness of the screening? We must be more targeted in our approach. 100% scans are fine where feasible, but let's face it - the most recent terrorists have several things in common: they are young, ages 20-40. They have a history of international travel - often to Yemen or Pakistan. They've also spent time in London. (If they haven't traveled there, they've got contacts.) They come from middle class or even wealthy families. Oh yeah, they're hold the view that Islam is at war with America and they are soldiers in that war.

This works because of how sampling and probability work. Let's say 5000 people a day pass through my checkpoint. I have resources to thoroughly screen 50 passengers a day. If I randomly select those 50 from all 5000, a terrorist has a 1% chance of being selected for follow on screening. He knows that and it looks like that's an acceptable level of detection risk. If I select my 50 from the 100 or so men who match the profile, assuming it remains stable, I've increased my chance of detection to 50%. Is that risk of detection still acceptable? The terrorists will then have to start looking for people who don't fit the profile, women, children, and old men, but that in itself contributes to the deterrent effect, acheiving goal number two. For them to change the profile is harder than for us. Martyrdom doesn't appear to be as attractive to women and old men.

I keep hearing that in running security for El Al, the Israelis don't look for the bomb as much as they look for the terrorist. We should do the same.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Targeting Americans

This part of the story concerns me.

"Awlaki twice made headlines last week. Along with several other al Qaeda operatives, the preacher was the target of a U.S. airstrike in Yemen on Dec. 24."

That Awlaki was there at the meeting that was targeted is one thing. But this report says that he personally was one of the targets. If true, here is another example of the difficulties of this war and this administration's confused approach to it.

Awlaki is an American. Apparently we don't have "enough" on him to issue an arrest warrant - but we have enough to target him for killing.

Frankly, I'm don't know what the answer is... but we should be discussing the question. If an American outside the US is involved with terrorist groups, can you kill him? What if he comes back to the US to continue planning? Can you still kill him or do you have to arrest him? When and how do you make the transition from military target to suspect?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Lost in Translation

I was looking for a transcript of the President's remarks on the terror attacks and the violence in Iran.

Here's what I found

Speeches and Remarks
December 28, 2009

It appears that on Christmas eve the President stopped delivering his remarks in English. Good thing I speak Spanish.

Here's a link to a bigger shot and here's the link to the White House site itself

UPDATE: I found the English remarks... They're on the "Statements and Releases" page. I couldn't find them last night, but I'll give whoever's working Christmas - New Years week the benefit of the doubt, maybe I just missed them. So this isn't a fail... but it is kind of confusing - Why not just a Spanish language page or a link from these to a Spanish text.
Are Terrorist Criminals or Combatants?

Once again we go back to the fundamental question of the government's treatment of terrorism and terrorists. Are they Criminals or Combatants?

To see how this is playing out, we could look at policy statements, but I prefer the approach that I learned in a government class long ago "The policy is what you do."

So what has this administration done?

On one hand, with intelligence about imminent Al-Qaeda attacks on the US from Yemen, the President ordered missile strikes against camps in that country. This is clearly the "terrorist as combatant" approach. A military operation to hit enemy bases. Clear

On the other hand, "On Saturday, a day after the failed attack on Northwest 253, federal prosecutors charged Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, a native of Nigeria, with trying to destroy the airliner with a device containing a high explosive attached to his body."

So what is the policy?

(1) Terrorists planning an attack at an overseas location are military targets. As such, the targets may be engaged and destroyed with US or foreign assets.

(2) Terrorist engaged in attacks inside the United States are criminals. As such, the criminal are afforded the Constitutional protections and privileges as US citizens.

So it would seem that, as Dahlia Lithwick wrote in Slate, "This president likes to have it both ways: tending to treat terror suspects as soldiers or criminals as suits his purposes." Of course she wrote that about President Bush. We know the problems his administration had trying to answer this fundamental question. The answers they came to were condemned politically and rebuffed by the courts. Didn't the Obama administration come to power promising to fix it?

Doesn't look like they've figured it out yet.

UPDATE: Dan Riehl is looking at the same issue

UPDATE II: A US News report on the president's comment on the attempt gives another example of the confused language,

"A full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism," Obama told reporters. He added: "Had the suspect succeeded in bringing down that plane, it could have killed nearly 300 passengers and crew—innocent civilians preparing to celebrate the holidays with their family and friends."

are something you do after a mishap or a crime. Suspects are accused criminals. Both uses are fine in a law enforcement context. But innocent civilians is terminology normally used in a military context; military or civilian as contrasted with law enforcement, criminal or victim.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holy Security Breach Batman!

"On Saturday morning, Mr. Abdulmutallab appeared to be sleeping when a reporter approached his corner room in the burn center at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor."

So the WSJ reporter got close enough to see the Al Qaeda bomber? The reporter got close enough to see the Al Qaeda bomber? The reporter got close enough to see the Al Qaeda bomber!

You've got to be frickin' kidding me. This is wrong on so many levels. What if the "reporter" had been an armed AQ terr or had a bomb strapped to himself? He could have martyred himself, his buddy, and taken out a few law enforcement guys in the process. Don't tell me Ann Arbor doesn't have a few sleeper cells. I'd put money on that bet.

When are we going to take these threats seriously? This is not a crime. It was a terrorist attack. Terrorists are not criminals. They are enemy combatants, militants if you will...soldiers in their eyes. When soldiers go up against law enforcement - who do you want to bet on?

Beg to differ with the Secretary, but the system is not working.

Exit question: Will they ship AbulMutallab to Gitmo?
Cartoon of The Year

Winner is Rick McKee of the Augusta (Georgia) Chronicle, published on August 19, 2009.

This image perfectly captures how "some people" have characterized the popular opposition to the Healthcare bill as well as this administration's profligate spending policies.

For a solid example of that characterization, below is an excerpt from a document reported on in the report on the Kenneth Gladney beating in St. Louis by thugs wearing union (SEIU) t-shirts. The article showed how common folks, in many cases the same common folks who voted for change, were described in Health Care Action Now (HCAN = SEIU) internal documents.
Who are these people?
The people who show up are far right-wing ideologues recruited by paid organizers. Much of this recruitment and organizing is funded by industry lobbyists and public relations firms to engage radical right-wing groups. Many of these groups are motivated by far right ideology in general - not by health care as an issue. They are held together by a common vision of the world that centers on defeating Obama and his agenda. We can expect to see anti-abortion groups, pro-gun groups, insurance company employees (mandated by employers to come out), militia groups, and anti-immigration groups.

Funnier now that we see it was really the Senate looking out for corporate interests.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Year of the Tiger (SSFW)

I just found out that 2010 is the year of the tiger.

Ummm, prolly not so much.

Although this cartoon found on the Russian site Jokesland are certainly appropriate (Link is NSFW)

(It says, my Tiger cub, I'm waiting for you. Your Tigress...(as if that needed translation)


UPDATE: Added NSFW warning to link
European American Heritage Month

The good Phibian Salamander in his weekly Diversity Thursday post points out a poster on the site

For those folks who've said, "When will they have a European History Month?"

Here it is.

European American Heritage Month Poster

I had to comment.

Don't celebrate yet.

I went to the Diversity store to look at the other posters. I clicked through them all.

I found that (except the Greek poster) EVERY other diversity month poster has people on it. On every other one we see men, women, children, the famous, the common. On every one. Europeans are just flags, old places, and some funny (empty) shoes.

Images have meaning - Especially in Diversity Bully world where all is propaganda, all must send a "message". This image purports to celebrate Europeans, but can't depict them as people. It can only show old places, ruins, and outmoded traditions. I'm not too comfortable with that message.

On the other hand. Maybe it's not so sinister. Maybe they just couldn't figure out how to be inclusive with so diverse a group as Europeans. Then became fearful that if they took that thinking too far it would expose the lie of their work. Can't have that now can we?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Here's some Government Health Care Efficiency for Ya

Years of aircraft noise and wearing headsets caught up with my ears some time ago. The hearing loss is not severe, but the tinnitus can be excruciating. It can make it hard to get to sleep and is especially annoying when it wakes you up at night. It's a sound you can't turn off.

One of the treatments is sound-masking, usually with white noise. Luckily for me, the Veterans Administration provided me with a prescription and sent me a special sound generator that provides a choice of masking sounds, from white noise to babbling brooks.

So far so good. Well, almost. The treatment I got from the VA was great, but I noticed a little inefficiency, that if it exemplifies the system, adds up to some of that "waste" that the new government healthcare plan counts on eliminating.

When I got my sound masking device in the mail, I noticed that it was in the manufacturer's shipping box, but the box had been opened. The box was postmarked locally, with the local VA hospital as the return address. This means that the supplier shipped the box to the VA, where someone opened it (maybe to verify the contents?), then taped it closed, and paid to ship it to me.

There are two kinds of waste here, the obvious one of the VA paying twice for shipping, and the other waste of the extra transit time while I was without my treatment. (Maybe the inspection is necessary, but that's only because they haven't put other controls in place. Any six sigma white belt or first year industrial engineer can tell you that inspection is not a value adding step.) A small thing for me, yes, another 6 bucks for shipping and a two weeks extra time waiting for treatment. But it adds up. When all healthcare is run like the VA, it will add up big.

And we'll be paying for it.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Our Angry President

Does it concern anyone else that anger is the only emotion that President Obama has displayed in public over the last month?

Examples here, on Wall Street bonuses ,

here, regarding the leaks during his deliberations over Afghanistan strategy "Obama, speaking to CBS in Beijing, says he's "furious",

regarding the party crashers "The president answered "yes," when asked whether he was "seriously angry"

and lastly, in Copenhagen yesterday "...a visibly angry Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet..."

How does someone so "cool" get angry so often?

Doesn't sound very cool to me. I never before thought of the implications of having an angry President. Not comforting.

UPDATE: Instalanche! Thanks Prof Reynolds! And thanks to all who've commented. Some interesting points there.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Nice of The Government to Be So Generous With Your Property

From a report discussing opposition to proposed Clean Water legislation that would allow the government to restrict what owners can do with real estate that has water on it, Jan Goldman-Carter of the National Wildlife Foundation says "...There are a number of very generous exemptions in there particularly for ranchers and farmers that I know have been worried about the effect of this legislation, but in fact those worries are largely unfounded,"

How nice of her to be so very generous with property owners. Next thing you know, they'll "let me" put a new roof on the house or add a patio. Permits? What? I need to get government permission for that now? Whose property is it anyway?

Welcome to Socialism.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Democratic Party Strategy

The Democratic Party controls the House, the Senate, and the Whitehouse. Congress will most likely pass, and the President will sign, major legislation that will reform the healthcare system of the United States. It will go way beyond fixing the "problems" that exist under the current system. It will change almost a fifth of the nation's economy.

Current polls show that most Americans are opposed to this effort. But it will happen anyway.

So, why would our elected representatives do something that most of the nation opposes? Because they can. Because they think they can get away with it. This is the calculation that they've made.

The success of that calculus depends on opposition being too disorganized, or unfocused to win the next elections. Considering that the Greens would prefer more than what we'll get, the Republican Party is lost, Libertarians are generally unelectable, and the Tea Party is most a local movement, there is merit to that assessment.

But depending on the incompetence of your opponent is a poor strategy. Beware of underestimating your the American people. They might surprise you.

Friday, December 11, 2009

On Search and Seizure

From this article on training Afghan police:

A village elder approached the chief of the new police during a recent patrol to complain that security forces should consult with local leaders before searching people's homes. The incident occurred just after Marines and police entered the compound of a suspected Taliban supporter.

"When you come to search a house, it is insulting because there are women there and it is against our culture and religion," said Fathi Mohammed, a 60-year-old farmer with a long gray beard and black turban.

I would say no, it's insulting because, well, it's your house. We don't do that once you move into... say about the eighteenth century.

Tags: Fourth Amendment

Monday, December 07, 2009

A Day that Will Live in Infamy

We remember the Day and those who fell. Let us not forget the lessons.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

An Amazing Chart

I think this chart is great. The messages that come through loud and clear are that (1) Americans respect the outcome of the November election
(2) gave our President the benefit of the doubt.

Judging from the hostility on both sides of the aisle... I don't think professional politician really understand these things - the deep respect for democracy and acknowledging the win.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Drunk Blogging the President's Speech

Good start about AFG... gets shakey on IQ
"character of men and women in uniform"
Legitimate govt of AFG is corrupt
Taliban increasingly brazen attacks against "Pakistani people"
Bush didn't give reinforcements
killing people is progress
AFG has moved backwards...
//from the 14th century to the 12th//
I owe you a clearly defined mission.
There has never been an option before me that called for deployments before 2010
I ordered a review
I havve determined that it is vital to send 30k more for 18 months to allow for a responsible withdrawal
Senate is polarized. Americans are focused on the economy
I have signed a letter to each and every one of the families of the dead...
//did Bush sign the letters or write them?//
we've captured terrorists here from there.


AFG objectives:
Deny AQ haven
Reverse Talib gain
Strengthen AFG govt

Military objectives - secure key population centers train AFG forces
Allies provided additional troops
Common security of the world is at stake
July 2011 is time to leave
Work to provide a more effective civilian strategy....
combat corruption
agriculture (ADM yay!)
To Afghanis: we want to end war in your country
strengthen those who built
American be your partner, not patron
We are in AFG to prevent cancer from spreading to Pahkistahn
Partnership with Pahkistahn too.
We cannot tolerate a safe haven
We are a strong supporter of Pahkistan
Address the arguments:
Vietnam? Only if you read history falsly.
Stay with troops we already have? That would just be muddling through.
//Pour another drink//
Why the timeline? Denies us urgency. Really no interest
I won't set goals beyond responsibility, means, interests.
/// Hmm, Stimulus? TARP?//
"By the time I took office..." //back to Bush again?//
War has cost us $1 trillion. //about as much as the stimulus//
Tells the military folks it won't be easy
//shows a sleeping or texting cadet//

"true security will come for those who reject (nuclear weapons)"


Promote our values - I will close GITMO,
America will speak out for human rights
//like we did during the Iranian elections?//
Giving a history lesson. We have underwritten global security. //the world is better//
We don't seek domination.
//has he ever talked about America like this?//

We fight for a better future.

Must summon all our might an moral suasion. Our people make us strong....
//good words//
Partisanship has poisoned the national discourse.
United after 911, we can summon that unity again.

Our cause is just, our resolve unwavering.


Grade: A-
Some weak points. but strong finish.