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4 HA: Intelligence/Spycraft Archives

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July 1, 2011

Ending al-Qaeda: The Psyop Approach

By Joe Katzman at 07:29

Interesting bit in The American Interest:

"In a September 2007 video, al-Qaeda's third-highest leader, Sheikh Abu Yahya al-Libi, published a strategy, largely based on al-Qaeda errors in Iraq, showing how the West can fight and win its "war of ideas." Why would he do this? That is unclear. Al-Libi may have believed that the United States lags so far behind the global jihadist movement that al-Qaeda has little to fear.6 In any event, his six-part strategy for the West focuses almost exclusively on countering al-Qaeda's narrative:

  1. Amplify cases of ex-jihadis who have renounced armed action;
  2. Fabricate stories about jihadi mistakes and exaggerate actual mistakes;
  3. Prompt Muslim clerics to issue fatwas that incriminate the jihadi movement;
  4. Support Islamic movements that disavow terrorist violence, particularly those with a democratic approach;
  5. Aggressively neutralize or discredit the jihadi movement's guiding thinkers; and
  6. Spin minor disagreements among jihadi leaders into major doctrinal or methodological disputes.

This actually strikes me as a pretty good list. As to why a jihadist cleric would issue this, it seems pretty simple to me. I've seen more than a few "beware of the following dirty tricks from the other side, so you're prepared" pieces among political partisans. Why not among theocrats, for whom religion is politics and vice-versa?

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  • Marcus Vitruvius: Chris, If there were some way to do all these read more
  • Chris M: Marcus Vitruvius, I'm surprised by your comments. You're quite right, read more
  • Marcus Vitruvius: I agree with JK that this list wasn't exactly put read more

November 18, 2009

Maersk Alabama: Armed the 2nd Time

By Joe Katzman at 23:40

Last time pirates hijacked the Maersk Alabama, it took a biilion-dollar AEGIS destroyer and a SEAL team to resolve the situation.

Well, the American-flagged Maersk Alabama was out sailing again, and attacked by pirates again. This time, the pirates encountered a hired on-board security team that shot back, and decided that this wasn't their leaf of qat. Apparently, that boat of pirates is currently missing.

The rest of the KDAF-33 article is mostly interesting for the whining coming from Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at London's Chatham House think tank...

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read the rest! »

  • Tom Grey - Liberty Dad: The step backwards starts with Pirates, being successful, and states read more
  • phantommut: There are times when taking a step backward is the read more
  • toc3: "Also, there's the idea that it's the responsibility of states read more

September 29, 2009

How to Beat an Insurgency: Sri Lanka's "Rajapaksa Model"

By Joe Katzman at 05:43

The short answer: take everything the Western powers tell you, do the opposite, and ignore them when they complain. From Indian Defence Review:

"Fundamentals of Victory against terror - Sri Lankan Example."

A few thoughts here.

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  • mark buehner: A few thoughts on why this example isn't emulatable for read more
  • David Blue: Yes to everything you said; and a large part of read more

July 10, 2009

MI6, Social Networking and the National Security Sector

By Joe Katzman at 00:25
James never had
this little problem...

In March 2008, DID's "Sharpen Yourself: LinkedIn & Social Networking Sites" discussed both the career benefits and the security risks associated with social networking sites. Sir John Sawers, the prospective head of Britain's MI6 intelligence agency is probably wishing he had read it. His wife recently leaked dangerously specific information about him on Facebook, and created a controversy about his fitness for the job. Sir John now faces a possible parliamentary probe.

Despite these setbacks, social networking is becoming a larger part of the military, and the industry. In July 2009, Lockheed Martin released its internal company social networking application's underlying code as open source software. Social networking efforts are being explicitly built into PR contracts, and it's becoming one of the information shifts that are changing the battlespace. The Pentagon recently launched an official blogging platform at, and US Forces Afghanistan launched a social networking strategy that extends to Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Followed by orders to bases to stop blocking key social networking sites.

These efforts can make a big contribution toward ensuring that the Pentagon is no longer, as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates puts it, "being out-communicated by a guy in a cave." On the other hand, they are not risk-free.

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April 17, 2009

Canadian Nuke Tech Exporter Caught

By Joe Katzman at 18:26

From the Globe and Mail. Res ipsa loquitur:

"Police say a Toronto man is facing charges of illegally trying to export nuclear technology following a joint Canada-U.S. investigation. In a release, the RCMP allege the man tried to procure and export pressure transducers, which are used in the production of enriched uranium. The transducers have a legitimate commercial use, say the RCMP, but can also be used for military purposes. Police allege the man took steps to conceal the identification of the transducers so he could export them without export permits.

Mahmoud Yadegari is in custody awaiting a bail hearing on charges under the Customs Act and Export Import Permits Act, and police say further charges may follow. The charges follow an investigation by the RCMP, customs agents, The Dept. of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security."

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  • mark buehner: Another christian boy gone wrong undoubtedly. Probably a vet, you read more

January 19, 2009

What Sorts of Things Does CIA Tend to "Know"?

By Joe Katzman at 03:38

Congressional Quarterly's Jeff Stein would have had a much stronger article if he hadn;t tried to make an unfavorable comparison between the CIA's approach to collection and analysis, and that of journalists. Truth is, both do a pretty questionable overall job, and it's pretty much for the same reasons. But this bit from "Obama Faces Gaping Holes in U.S. Intelligence" was interesting, and may be eye-opening to some:

bq.. "So," I asked a former intelligence agency head over seafood this week, "if I'm President Obama, and I call Leon Panetta into the Oval office and ask him to tell me how Hamas leaders are holding up under the Israeli assault, will he be able to tell me?"

The former official shook his head, nearly blushing.

No. "That's not the kind of information" they focus on.

"Well, what do they focus on?" I asked."

p. Good question. You'd think that sort of thing might be very relevant. The Israelis, who are coordinating their military activities with Shin Bet (FBI equivalent) and enjoying much better success as a result, certainly do. Improved use of armor also helps, and upgrading their approach to the information war helps even more. Hope people in the USA are learning from both of those intel/information steps forward.

This bit on an attempt to use open source methods and approaches in the CIA was also very interesting:

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  • Howard: [Drive-by, trolling. Deleted. We welcome substantive discourse here. Care to read more
  • Mark Buehner: Not just that, but considering the security implications its not read more
  • Gabriel: Oh and I couldn't help but get a chuckle from read more

December 12, 2008

Closing Guantanamo?

By Joe Katzman at 05:19

Wall Street Journal:

"Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard law professor who served as assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, hopes we might finally be getting a real debate. Though he has criticized some of the legal reasoning behind the Bush administration's terror policies, he says the animus against President Bush has corrupted our public discourse by making the issue the character of the good men and women trying to protect us rather than the enemy they were trying to stop.

Mr. Goldsmith notes that Mr. Obama is in a position to end the acrimony and strike a prudent way forward. "The single best thing about the election of Obama," he says, "may be that we now have a chance to view the terror threat without the distorting lens of Bush hatred."

That statement is a huge indictment of American political discourse, in and of itself. Meanwhile, you could ask "What would the Europeans do?" - but the answer would surprise you, and doesn't make good fodder for the usual EmperorChimpyHitler crowd. Which may be why you hadn't heard about that high profile case here. Illuminating, though.

Boston Review has a trio of articles offering different perspectives and options for the way forward. Taking fewer prisoners would seem to be one logical outcome to expect, but the articles are more concerned with the existing population of jihadi freakazoids - some of which have already been found or killed on other battlefields or terrorist incidents after their release.

A series of OJ-type trial farces, followed by release on American soil, may well wind up giving the left one of those "careful what you wish for" moments. That would, of course, be exactly what many of them do wish for... but it would certainly make a lot of people unhappy outside of true believer circles.

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  • PD Shaw: Perhaps it should be resolved that Obama's election did not read more
  • Nortius Maximus: I'd correct "Its application is universal" to say its application read more
  • robotech master: [NM: You're now permabanned here. If you wish to appeal, read more

December 2, 2008

"A Bad News Guy In A Bad News World"

By Joe Katzman at 05:34

This is how digital Battlespace Magazine characterizes Mike McConnell, America's current Director of National Intelligence. Some of his takes:

  • "...despite recent successes in Iraq, Al Quaida remains the greatest threat to the United States and that the potential for wider conflict over the next 10 to 15 years is going up, not down."
  • Why? Short answer is competition for resources that will involve nations, non-governmental organisations, corporations and terrorist groups.
  • Sadr City in Baghdad, Iraq is cited as an an extremely effective combination of 24/7 surveillance in a limited area, signals intelligence, human intelligence and special operations forces, all working together.
  • Many al-Qaeda representatives in Iraq are headed out and going to North Africa, East Africa and Afghanistan/Pakistan.
  • Largest current worries outside of the spotlight: Yemen, Algeria, Lebanon and Somalia
  • Largest unheralded achievement: Persuading the US intelligence services to cooperate with one another. To some extent.

What he would never say: That the turnaround with Iraqi tribes that had been working with al-Qaeda creates really interesting intelligence opportunities, both via passive collection and via false "refugees". These are worth an awful lot in an intelligence war. It's a tough situation for the enemy. If al-qaeda is terminally suspicious of Iraqis and treats them all badly, they may enhance short term security, but they also create aggrieved members who could become future recruits of various Western and Middle Eastern intelligence agencies.

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  • Nortius Maximus: This thread went off beam in the last line of read more
  • mark: Mark B. I'll start with the last one first. We read more
  • Mark Buehner: "They did. Outside the US, however, the sentiments seemed to read more

September 26, 2007

Estimating prospects for stability in Pakistan

By Nitin Pai at 03:55

Predictions, wags will say, are mostly wrong. Especially when they are about the future.

If that is so, the margin of error in predicting the course of events in Pakistan is near infinite. Predictions, though, have to be made. So here is something, composed in the American intelligence community’s national intelligence estimate (NIE) format. Lazy analysts facing deadlines will find it useful.

Get it from here

(Cross posted from The Acorn)

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  • Mark Pyruz Merat: Have the over-stretched US military invade Pakistan? That's hilarious. Have read more
  • J Thomas: No need to drive to Islamabad for now. The problem read more
  • Mark Buehner: I may be in the minority here, but imo the read more

March 26, 2007

March 2007: Waziristan, Pakistan, and the War

By Joe Katzman at 04:45

Bill Roggio, who has earned deserved respect up to the highest levels of the US military for his coverage of the war from on the scene and from home, writes:

I hope all is well. My apologies in advance for a long email, I believe this is important and requires some explanation.

The media is getting the story of the fighting in Waziristan 100% wrong. The Pakistani government is claiming the fighting is between local tribes and Uzbek al Qaeda. Musharraf has a vested interest in doing so - it wants to promote the Waziristan Accord as a success that can be used elsewhere. The media very rarely looks at what Musharraf says critically.

The real truth is: The fighting began after Uzbeks killed an Arab al Qaeda fighter supported by the Taliban. This is essentially an internal conflict - like a mafia war. Think the Godfather. To settle the conflict, the Taliban sent in senior commanders, including Baitullah Mehsud and Mullah Dadullah Akhund, military leader of the Afghan Taliban, to negotiate a truce between the factions. Digest that for a second, and you'll see who runs the show in Waziristan. And that this so-called 'pro-government tribe' is really just a Taliban group that is angry over the murder of one of their Al Qaeda patrons. I've written on this here.

See also this Roggio article on the larger situation in Pakistan, which is rapidly coming unglued; even guys like Carl Levin are beginning to sound the alarm.

There are significant implications here for NATO's Afghan operation, and indeed for the future course of the global war. Musharraf's phony accord has handed Osama and his Taliban allies a base comparable to pre-2001 Afghanistan. One they've been busy consolidiating; there are reports that America has no human intelligence left in those sanctuaries. Sanctuaries protected by the nuclear weapons Pakistan was unwisely allowed to obtain - and with the potential for future access to those weapons as al Qaeda and the Taliban further consolidate their strength within Pakistan.

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  • Marc: "Just nuke Pakistan" "Our ally India" Wow.....reality check dudes? India read more
  • PD Shaw: Levin also seems to have suggested invading Syria and Iran. read more
  • Jim Rockford: I'd forgotten what ticked me off about Levin. He's convinced read more

March 17, 2007

Joseph Wilson's Dramatic Arc

By Armed Liberal at 21:26

There's a great Joseph Wilson chronology over at the 'Sweetness and Light' blog...definitely worth a read, even if you don't accept his premise (that Wilson himself outed his wife). It does place Wilson's views in an interesting arc, however...

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  • hypocrisyrules: #35 SPQR, I would be happy if that was the read more
  • Rob Lyman: Wei, It's possible. Since no two administrations are identical, it's read more
  • Wei: I think the part you're failing to address, Rob, is read more

March 8, 2007

On the Record with IDF Intelligence

By Michael Totten at 17:58


I spoke recently with an Israeli Defense Forces intelligence officer about last summer's war between Israel and Hezbollah in South Lebanon. He still serves in the IDF and therefore must remain anonymous. I'll call him David, which isn't his name.

David works in a fire control unit stationed in the Northern Command. During the war he managed intelligence pertaining to Hezbollah rocket fire, selected targets for air and artillery strikes, and occasionally assisted in real-time control of fire. He is familiar with some of the high-level decision-making and hints at some of what he knows that is officially classified.

MJT: Let's start with a general question. What, exactly, did Israel accomplish in the summer war with Hezbollah? Are there any tangible lasting benefits?

David: Well, to understand what was accomplished we need to look at the starting point. Virtually all Israelis were very happy the IDF withdrew from Lebanon -- many think it was foolish to have gotten in there in the first place and even those that don't agree we overstayed our welcome, so to speak. Following the pullout Hezbollah established itself very firmly in South Lebanon -- of particular worry to the military was their ground-ground rocket and missile array, ranging in various calibers and ranges. I cannot go into all the intelligence data, but Hezbollah's capability to hit Israeli population centers was well known for quite some time. So this was the primary problem -- only it was never tackled by any Israeli leadership, not that there was much that could have been done. That remains a problem today, though from what I hear they're having a much more difficult time restoring their abilities. I wouldn't call it a success story, though. The problem's still there. Another worry was Hezbollah's attempts at kidnapping Israeli soldiers.

There have been several attempts made, and each one was more calculated and planned than the last. Apart from the famous instances in which IDF soldiers did in fact die or get kidnapped, there was one memorable attempt that was foiled due to good thinking and alertness in the tactical levels. There were also "anti-aircraft" barrages that hit inside Israel, killing one boy in one instance if I recall correctly. Hopefully, the last conflict sent a message that will make these acts less desirable.

There were also general shows of force at the border, usually organized "demonstrations" or throat-cutting gestures at soldiers from armed persons. There's a road that passes a few meters from the border and they made sure to build a position right on top it with Hezbollah flags, just as a gesture. We no longer have Hezbollah right on the border, and that is the most tangible benefit.

read the rest at

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  • Mark Buehner: Hezbollah destroyed 14 tanks. The rest of your post is read more
  • JOHN RYAN: It was a huge victory for Hezbollah. They knocked out read more
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