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Hillary’s EmailGate Goes Nuclear

Does the latest release of Hillary Clinton’s State Department emails include highly classified U.S. intelligence?

Back in October I told you that Hillary Clinton’s email troubles were anything but over, and that the scandal over her misuse of communications while she was Secretary of State was sure to get worse. Sure enough, EmailGate continues to be a thorn in the side of Hillary’s presidential campaign and may have just entered a new, potentially explosive phase with grave ramifications, both political and legal.

The latest court-ordered dump of her email, just placed online by the State Department, brings more troubles for Team Hillary. This release of over 3,000 pages includes 66 “Unclassified” messages that the State Department subsequently determined actually were classified; however, all but one of those 66 were deemed Confidential, the lowest classification level, while one was found to be Secret, bringing the total of Secret messages discovered so far to seven. In all, 1,340 Hillary emails at State have been reassessed as classified.

There are gems here. It’s hard to miss the irony of Hillary expressing surprise about a State Department staffer using personal email for work, which the Secretary of State noted in her own personal email. More consequential was Hillary’s ordering a staffer to send classified talking points for a coming meeting via a non-secure fax machine, stripped of their classification markings. This appears to be a clear violation of Federal law and the sort of thing that is a career-ender, or worse, for normals. The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee termed that July 2011 incident “disturbing,” and so it is to anyone acquainted with U.S. Government laws and regulations regarding the handling of classified material.

Read the rest at the New York Observer

Who Really Bombed LaGuardia?

Last week marked the fortieth anniversary of one of the worst terrorist attacks in American history. The bombing of New York’s LaGuardia Airport on December 29, 1975 killed eleven innocents and maimed 74 more, many of them gravely. Few noticed the anniversary, however, perhaps because this appalling crime has never been solved and it remains a cold case.

The horrifying scene garnered plenty of attention at the time. The bomb, equivalent to 25 sticks of dynamite, was placed in a coin-operated locker in the baggage claim area of the central terminal. When it detonated just after 6:30 pm, the explosion shredded a wall of lockers, creating a wave of shrapnel that scythed down everyone in its path. Bodies were shattered, limbs were severed. TV cameras captured the gruesome scene. Blood, mixed with thousands of gallons of water pumped by firemen, spilled all over the terminal and into the taxi stands outside.

The bodies of the eleven dead were mangled, some unrecognizable, while many of the dozens of injured were close to death. This was the bloodiest terrorist attack in the United States in decades, and New York City would see nothing like it again until 9/11. In truth, LaGuardia got lucky since the TWA baggage area was relatively empty around dinner time. Detonation a few hours earlier, when it was teeming with travelers, would have killed many more.

Read the rest at the New York Observer

The Highs and Lows of U.S. National Security in 2015: A Year-End Review

As we come to the end of the year, it’s time to revisit some of the highlights, as well as some of the lowlights, of our national security in 2015. There have been ups, there have been downs. Make that a lot of downs. As President Barack Obama entered the latter half of his second and final term, he oversaw numerous security challenges, some notably serious, that will be bequeathed to his successor. So let’s take a look back at the year that was…

1. What National Security?

Without any benefit of hindsight, since we’re still (barely) in it, 2015 stands as the year when the bottom fell out of our national security. When everybody in government and business seemed to be getting hacked and nobody quite knew what to do about it. Now, the cancerous trends in Washington, D.C. that birthed this unprecedented fiasco—bureaucratic laziness, incompetent leadership lacking accountability, above all a total neglect of basic counterintelligenceextend back years, even decades, and cannot be blamed on President Obama alone. That said, if you felt the president was slow out of the gate addressing how everybody—the Pentagon, the State Department, even the White House—was getting hacked, well, so did everybody else not on the administration’s payroll. To say nothing of how the Office of Personnel Management gave away the store, the most personal records of more than twenty million government employees, military and civilian, past and present. That said, it’s not fair to call what OPM got hit with “hacking” since it’s what naturally happens when you outsource your IT to Chinese contractors actually sitting in China. Thus did “we suck at everything” become the mantra of national security pros in 2015.

Read the rest over at the New York Observer

Operation CUT: Bosnia versus the Islamic State

Early this morning, more than a hundred Bosnian special police raided thirteen different locations around Sarajevo, the capital, arresting eleven suspects on a raft of terrorism charges. Those taken into custody are considered affiliates of the Islamic State, the notorious ISIS, and are believed to have recruited personnel and raised funds for the terror group.

This Federal Police action, termed Operation REZ (Cut), followed surveillance on fifteen suspected ISIS affiliates, including the eleven arrested today. Police seized ISIS paraphernalia as well as considerable amounts of electronic media for analysis.

Today’s developments are significant for several reasons. In the first place, on a per capita basis Bosnia-Hercegovina has supplied more fighters to ISIS than any other European country. Hundreds of Bosnians, most of them young, have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight under the group’s black banner. This is so out of control that Sarajevo has criminalized going abroad to wage jihad, or recruiting others to do so, and recently convicted four Bosnians on such charges.

Bosnia’s problems with radicalism and terrorism are serious and growing. Back in 2007, when I published a detailed book, based on my personal experience in the Balkan counterterrorism business, exposing the key role of Bosnia in the Global Jihad, it was met with disbelief and even spurious charges of “Islamophobia.” These days, with the threat obvious to all but the willfully blind, my viewpoint has become mainstream, as evidenced by a new FRANCE24 documentary exposing the rising Salafist wave in Bosnia.

On cue, jihad-deniers in Bosnia have denounced today’s raids as “Islamophobia,” while the father of one of the arrested men says this is all a misunderstanding and his son has nothing to do with radicalism, much less terrorism.

Several of the raids were staged around Rajlovac, a Sarajevo suburb where last month a Salafist gunman murdered two off-duty Bosnian soldiers. It is believed that today’s sweep is tied to that incident.

There are rumors that the Federal Police action was aimed at preempting a terrorist attack in Sarajevo — which, if true, is an important, indeed ominous, development. For more than twenty years, jihadists have used Bosnia as a safe area to train, raise funds, and plot terrorism elsewhere. The country, as I recently explained about Canada, is considered something of a “safehouse” for radicals, a permissive environment for their clandestine activities, and terrorism committed there is considered off-message by both ISIS and Al-Qa’ida.

Hence recent incidents of jihadist terrorism in Bosnia — last month’s Rajlovac incident, the murder of a policeman in Zvornik in April, the October 2011 shooting at U.S. Embassy Sarajevo, and the June 2010 fatal bombing of a police station in Bugojno — were committed by “lone wolves,” some of them mentally unstable, without direction from terrorist higher-ups.

Given the enormously fragile condition of Bosnia, which seems stuck in permanent political paralysis, intractable poverty, and interminable interethnic bitterness, it would take very little terrorism there to cause a serious political crisis, so let’s hope jihadists, organized and trained by ISIS, don’t start attacks on Bosnian soil.

UPDATE (22 DEC, 1710 EST): There are more reports based on unnamed security sources that the arrested men were planning a New Year’s terrorist attack in Sarajevo, but no details of that have been confirmed. We can confirm that the arrested men are Elvir Muratović, Kemal Murić, Semir Salković, Bilal Dervišić, Zulfo Alajbegović, Edin Tabaković, Darko Peco, Elvir Mašić, Adis Kešan, Nermin Ćuprija and Admir Ahmetović.

Today, in Belgrade, Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska, Bosnia’s Serbian entity, played up the arrests to highlight the Salafist threat to his country. Dodik asserted that Bosnia has 3,500 people who are ready to carry out terrorist attacks in the country. Since he regularly plays up the jihadist threat for effect, and is close to Vladimir Putin, Dodik’s assertion can be dismissed as serious analysis. That said, even if he is off by ninety percent and Bosnia has “only” 350 terrorism-inclined radicals, given the country has fewer than four million citizens, that’s a shocking number all the same.

UPDATE (25 DEC, 1340 EST): Bosnian prosecutor Dubravko Čapara has confirmed the existence of a terrorist plot to execute a mass-casualty bombing on New Year’s Eve in Sarajevo. The plan intended to kill a hundred or more civilians. Eight of the arrested men were involved in this plot and, since the explosives to be used in the attack have not been located by the police, Čapara has requested a one-month detention period for them so Bosnian authorities may complete their investigation. The men to be held for a month are Muratović, Murić, Salković, Alajbegović, Tabaković, Peco, Mašić, and Kešan.

This is developing story, watch for more. In the meantime, my book remains the go-to work on this subject, and I’ve added a great deal of free content here for those seeking background information on this knotty problem:

Operation BENELUX: More Bosnian Terror on March 13, 2015

Bosnia’s Jihad Comes to America on February 10, 2015

Operation DAMASCUS: The Italian Job on November 15, 2014

Operation DAMASCUS, Part II on November 13, 2014

Iran’s Secret New Balkan Spy-Terror Offensive on October 24, 2014

Operation DAMASCUS on September 10, 2014

Bosnia and the Global Jihad Revisited on August 23, 2014

Vienna Calling: How Austria Became a Hub of Global Jihad on August 22, 2014

Austria and the Bosnian-Syrian Jihad Connection on July 1, 2014

Bosnia tells Iranian spies to leave …. to no avail on May 7, 2013

How Iranian intelligence trained Bosnian terrorists on April 13, 2013

Uncovering Iran’s Espionage-Terror Apparatus in the Balkans on November 4, 2012

 

 

The Truth About SpyWar

Espionage is a constant in human civilization. Spying features prominently in the Old Testament and it’s often called the “second oldest profession” with good reason. The ancient Chinese sage Sun Tzu wrote eloquently about the strategic importance of espionage and counterespionage fully 2,500 years ago. As long as people have lived in anything resembling societies, they have been stealing secrets from each other.

Although America has the world’s best-funded intelligence services, and our behemoth seventeen-agency Intelligence Community is sufficiently vast to please any Beltway bureaucrat, there are persistent calls for our spies to do more. This has become a drumbeat of late, as the Obama White House fumbles aimlessly around the Middle East in its not-quite-a-war against the Islamic State, the notorious ISIS.

Beyond the politicization of our intelligence regarding ISIS, which is known to be a problem, with inaccurate good news being valued over more accurate bad news by certain senior policymakers, many believe that we simply don’t know enough about what the black-clad jihadist madmen in Syria and Iraq are up to.

In particular, we’re hearing increasing cries for more spies on the ground, what professionals term human intelligence or HUMINT. Ritualistic chants for “more HUMINT” occur any time Uncle Sam finds himself in a jam somewhere, and they usually come from people who don’t know much about the spy business. They also find fault with our alleged overreliance on technical espionage, and their particular bugbear is signals intelligence or SIGINT.

Read the rest at the New York Observer

Canada and the Emerging Terror Threat From the North

This week an article in The Daily Beast ruffled feathers by noting that Canada, our placid neighbor to the north, has a large and growing problem with radical Islam. It went so far as to suggest that, despite much Trumpian commotion about a wall facing south, it’s not just the Mexican border that needs watching by American security agencies: the threat from the Great White North may be just as serious.

This claim was met with some skepticism and even derision. Canada? That’s a very nice country that most Americans think kindly of but little about. The notion that Canada—which, frankly, is a tad boring—is the source of any sort of threat to the United States sounds a bit, well, out there to most people.

Except that it happens to be entirely true. If anything, the piece in The Daily Beast, which was light on counterterrorism specifics, low-balled the extent of Islamic radicalism that has taken root in Canada in recent years. Thanks to large-scale immigration, a permissive environment that emphasizes multiculturalism over assimilation, and overwhelmed security agencies, Canada now possesses a domestic radicalism threat that Americans need to be talking about.

Read the rest at the New York Observer

The Intelligence Lessons of San Bernardino

It’s been nearly two weeks since Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple, murdered fourteen innocent people and wounded twenty-two more in their terrorist attack on a mental health facility in San Bernardino, California. Once the initial shock of that terrible event, the worst jihadist terror attack on American soil since 9/11, began to wane, awkward questions have been raised about just how effective our government’s efforts to combat violent extremism inside our country actually are.

Americans were shocked by the San Bernardino crime, and no wonder: Farook, a native-born citizen, coldly gunned down co-workers who were assembled at an office party, with help from his immigrant wife, both of whom had left their six month-old baby at home when they left for their suicide mission. While female participation in jihadist terrorism is nothing new, this was an unusually brazen and horrifying attack, particularly since given the size of their arsenal – with thousands of rounds of ammunition and multiple homemade bombs – Farook and Malik intended to kill many more people than they did.

Making matters worse, most Americans felt reasonably safe from the threat of domestic jihadism in recent years, despite repeated warnings about the rise of the Islamic State and terrible attacks like the recent mass-casualty atrocity in Paris. Although the November 2009 Fort Hood massacre, perpetrated by Army Major Nidal Hasan, killed thirteen, it happened within the confines of a military base and did not involve the general public.

Read the rest at the New York Observer ….

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