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homeland security

A report by Intellect, July 2010

Introduction

Information Superiority (IS) is essential to protecting and defending UK nationals from various threats. Whereas the utility of platform capabilities such as warships, submarines, and military aircrafts provide a very visible role in enhancing the nation's security, IS capabilities, whilst less visible, are the most critical capabilities in achieving the UK's defence and security goals. This paper, written by Intellect, will illustrate how these technologies benefit the UK's defence and security operations. Intellect is the trade association for the UK technology Industry, representing around 800 companies across the information technology, telecommunications, and electronics sectors. Its members include the strategically important companies active in the defence and security markets of interest to the UK.

IS provides the foundation for the UK's intelligence and information capabilities. These capabilities form the eyes, ears, and nervous system to the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) military operations. The UK's success in defending and securing the country from current and future threats depends on the country's ability to understand its adversaries' movements and intentions and the environments that they operate in. Gaining this understanding means that UK Armed Forces must be capable of continuously collecting (sense) critical data, interpreting what this data means by transforming it into useful and usable information or intelligence (understand), communicating this information to those who need it (share), and exploiting this information to make better informed decisions (decide).

Tangible benefits arising from various IS capabilities are evident in the context of the UK's current and likely future operations. For example, when conducting counter-insurgency operations, a strategy employed by UK forces in Afghanistan, information is the key capability for determining success. The UK must understand the operational environment better than the enemy, i.e., achieve information superiority. Industry's IS capabilities also play a critical role in ensuring the security and resilience of the UK, its public and private sector, and its critical national infrastructure. In this capacity, IS is critical in policing and emergency response activities.

By investing in these capabilities, the UK's defence and security operations benefit from increased effectiveness in the precision of action and the ability to conduct joint operations, which often lead to reduced fratricide and improved survivability both of defence and security forces and equipment. Therefore, IS capabilities allow the UK to defend and secure the nation at a smaller cost, both in terms of money and the loss of life.

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Transcript of today's speech by Sir John Sawer - Chief of MI6 - to the Society of Editors, London

The Times published a reader's letter earlier this year. It read: "Sir – is it not bizarre that MI5 and MI6, otherwise known as the secret services, currently stand accused of being – er – secretive?"

I may be biased. But I think that reader was on to something rather important and most government work these days is done by conventional and transparent processes. But not all.

Britain's foreign intelligence effort was first organised in 1909, when the Secret Intelligence Service was formed.

We have just published an official history of our first 40 years. I'm sure you will all have read all 800 pages of it.

The first chief, Mansfield Cumming, used to pay the salaries of SIS officials out of his private income, dispensed in cash from a desk drawer. I'm glad to say that, even after the chancellor's statement last week, I'm not in the same position.

SIS's existence was admitted only in 1994. We British move slowly on such things.

And this, I believe, is the first public speech given by a serving chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service.

"Why now?" might you ask. Well, intelligence features prominently in the National Security Strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review, published last week.

We often appear in the news. Our popular name – MI6 – is an irresistible draw. We have a website, and we've got versions in Arabic and Russian. We recruit our staff openly, with adverts in the national press.

But debate on SIS's role is not well informed, in part because we have been so determined to protect our secrets.

In today's open society, no government institution is given the benefit of the doubt all the time. There are new expectations of public – and legal – accountability that have developed. In short, in 2010 the context for the UK's secret intelligence work is very different from 1994.I am not going to use today to tantalise you with hints of sensitive operations or intelligence successes.

Instead, I want to answer two important questions: what value do we get from a secret overseas intelligence effort in the modern era? How can the public have confidence that work done in secret is lawful, ethical, and in their interests?

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Adam Dempsey, Research Associate UK Defence Forum

In the aftermath of last week's Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) many industry analysts were quick to paint a bleak future for the UK's defence sector. Further job losses are expected as hardware is retired, personnel numbers reduced and service contracts terminated. The global marketplace is unlikely to offer much in the way of respite. The United Kingdom joins France, the United States and others in seeking to offset shrinking domestic markets via exports. A crowded marketplace is further exacerbated by challenges from states with more 'joined-up' defence-industrial bases and emerging market entrants. The £650 million allocated to cyber security by the SDSR may provide new opportunities. Yet the specific nature of the UK's cyber security requirements remains unclear. Indeed, total clarity does not appear to be on the horizon.

What the SDSR makes very clear is that threats to national security emanating from cyber space are likely to increase over the next five to ten years. Whilst cyber attacks from hostile states cannot be ruled out, the actions of cyber terrorists and criminals are perhaps of greater concern. In 2009 alone 51% of all known malicious software threats were identified. The language of the SDSR also suggests that Government departments are not yet capable of fully addressing the threat. As a result, the £650 million allocated will support a National Cyber Security Programme that seeks to transform the Government's response in partnership with the private sector.

Greater clarity may be provided with the publication of the Defence Industrial Green Paper by the end of the year, followed by a White Paper in 2011. In advance of such publications, the increased emphasis upon cyber security has influenced a raft of recent mergers and acquisitions (M & A). During the third quarter of 2010 more than a third of all defence M & A concentrated on cyber security capabilities. The most high-profile acquisition was the EADS subsidiary Cassidian's purchase of the UK's Regency IT Consulting. According to Jane's, the purchase reflects Cassidian's overall cyber security strategy for the UK market. The purchase also suggests that defence companies are positioning themselves to ensure that they will benefit from the clarity that future Government documents may offer.

Cassidian's purchase of Regency IT Consulting also reflects the growing cyber security opportunities emerging throughout the international marketplace. As other markets – and indeed governments – seek to mitigate the threats posed by a cyber attack M & A focussed upon cyber security solutions are likely to increase. A cursory glance of Regency's website may also provide an insight into the public-private cooperation to be forged by the National Cyber Security Programme. Underpinning Regency's services is the practice of managing information-related risks with Information Assurance (IA). From the development of IT infrastructures through to the storage of information, IA seeks to ensure that authorised users only have access to privileged and confidential data.

As is to be expected Regency's website also outlines the type of services it offers. Yet if the U.S. cyber security market is anything to go by certain services offered to the Government may not make company websites. U.S. cyber security programmes have been estimated to be worth $11 billion. As these focus upon the protection of IT infrastructures, hardware and networks they also provide another indicator of possible contents for UK programmes. However estimates that approximately 75% of cyber opportunities are 'black' also suggests that aspects of the Government's programme may remain a largely grey area. Of course, the upcoming Green Paper may make the UK's cyber security strategy more clear. But if the machinery of government decides to replicate its American counterparts future documents may also make bold proclamations whilst keeping exact details to a bare minimum.

Indeed, such high levels of confidentiality make perfect sense when national security is at risk. One only need look at havoc wreaked by the Stuxnet virus on Iran's nuclear facilities at Bushehr or India's main television satellite to appreciate that a cyber attack is often against networks that societies take for granted. Giving challenges to cyber security more information on infrastructures ensures that the perpetrator maintains the upper hand. Accordingly, the specifics of national cyber security strategies – and purchases – may remain a grey area for some time to come.

 

Speech by General Sir David Richards KCB CBE DSO ADC Gen ,Chief of Defence Staff, The Policy Exchange, Monday 22nd November 2010

Over the past month I have been getting to grips with my new appointment as Chief of the Defence Staff. Whilst I do not have time to ponder it too much, I am genuinely still somewhat baffled how I have ended up in this position. The 18 year old boy who joined 29 Commando Regiment to follow his brother would not recognise the rather care-worn man who stands before you – and would have quailed at the thought of high rank dismissing it without doubt as ridiculous anyway.

The job will not be simple, but it will be made easier by the fact that I know I will be supported by some of the most capable, dedicated and selfless soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines that this country has ever produced. And by the civilians in the MOD who have again and again demonstrated their skills and commitment.

I am not going to dwell on people in this talk other than to say that if we fail to attract and retain the very high quality people that historically join the British Armed Forces, our prospects for the future will diminish markedly. They lie at the heart of military capability. I am not certain the consequences of failing in this are always fully appreciated. People tend to focus more on the kit and metal than the people.

Over the next decade we will need every ounce of their dedication because the issues that we, in Defence as a whole, have to address are diverse and challenging. And, as was the case with every one of my predecessors, I recognise that the outcome of our efforts must meet the very real challenges confronting us. It is vital for the future security of our nation.

I speak at a time when all three services are heavily committed to operations. In Afghanistan, off the Horn of Africa, in the Gulf and in the Falkland Islands, to name a few prominent examples, the Navy, Army and Air Force are together ensuring the UK's interests are defended. They and the civilians who work alongside them across the Ministry of Defence, and indeed on operations themselves, have rarely been pushed so hard. Current commitments demand our endurance and test our resolve. But I have no doubt that with the support of the people of this country – support not only for who we are but for what we do – the Armed Forces will meet every challenge thrown at us. I am confident that they will not let you down.

I wanted to talk to you this evening about three things:

First, the National Security Strategy which is the guiding document for our analysis. It set the strategic context for and then shaped the Strategic Defence and Security Review, as it will the follow-on work. It is, in military speak, our Commander's Intent.
Secondly, the Review itself; the options we had, the choices we made and the military judgments that lay behind them. As with any outcome that is properly strategic in its approach, our military judgments are matched to the resource it is deemed the country can afford. This has required the difficult decisions we have taken to be a reasoned balance of acceptable risks.

And third is Afghanistan; the last in this list but the absolute priority of the National Security Council and the Armed Forces. The Defence Secretary reiterated in parliament this month that it is our main effort. And as I have said in the past, our actions in Afghanistan are vital for the short and long term national security of our country. The consequences of the choices made there will reverberate for many years to come, on international security and stability but also on the ability of Britain to exert influence worldwide.

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Legion of the Rearguard: Dissident Irish Republicanism (2010), by Martyn Frampton

Reviewed by Dr Robert Crowcroft, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

As recent events have made clear, the political instability that wracked Northern Ireland throughout the Troubles has not been consigned to history. The development of a seemingly tolerable political settlement in 2007, and exemplified by the Ian Paisley-Martin McGuiness 'double act', has not addressed the essential segregation between the Protestant and Catholic communities. Nor does it mean that there are not people on both sides who still prefer resistance to accommodation.

The most obvious of these factions is the dissident Republican movement. And this movement is the subject of Martyn Frampton's new book. In it, he traces the growth within the Republicans of opposition to the strategy developed by Gerry Adams. Beginning in the 1980s, tensions grew as Adams came to increasingly control Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA (PIRA). Gradually, he set the Provos on a new course. His was a masterclass in political leadership and manoeuvring, but Adams was not without internal enemies.

Eventually, this led to schism and the emergence of new Republican groups outside the PIRA/Sinn Fein, such as Republican Sinn Fein, the Real IRA, and the Continuity IRA. Academic work on these groups and what they are up to is sorely lacking, and Frampton does an admirable job of filling in the blanks. What follows is a well-researched analysis of the groups and their activities. The most striking thing is the fact that boundaries between these groups are highly porous; members of one faction will operate in conjunction with those from others. The whole thing is largely ad hoc. The professed purpose is simply to advertise the fact that Northern Ireland is not a 'normal' state and therefore perpetuate the instability; to this end, there is a willingness to co-operate with virtually anyone who will help.

Frampton's book will quickly become the standard work on the dissidents. Given the lack of research into the subject, assembling the book at all is a considerable achievement. Those readers with backgrounds in research will know just how punishing (and exciting) the work can be if one has to play detective and research a topic where no-one has gone before. Importantly, Frampton had access to numerous key dissidents and interviewed them. Their personal perspectives are cited frequently, bringing the mental universe of dissident Irish Republicanism to life.

But a number of problems emerge. Most are definitely not of the author's own making. The reality is that these dissident Republicans are, in a structural sense, largely irrelevant. Reading this account, I felt like I was reading one of those books on a very minor, peripheral left-wing faction. And the truth is that the dissident Republicans are operating very much in the margins. The current level of violence is perfectly sustainable, and there is no appetite whatsoever for a return to the Troubles. Their base of support is tiny. Of course, one cannot guess what will happen in twenty years time, but it is difficult to believe that any contemporary dissidents have futures worth commenting on.

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Three Islamic extremists - or common criminals as we prefer to call them - have been found guilty of conspiring to kill people in a terrorist bombing campaign. They were members of an al Qaida-inspired terror cell, a jury at Woolwich Crown Court found. Abdulla Ahmad Ali,27, Assad Sarwar 28, and Tanvir Hussain, 27, also admitted plotting a series of small-scale bomb attacks which dominated the news two years ago.

Despite the convictions, counter terrorism officials are said to be dismayed at the outcome where one has escaped all convictions and none have been charged with targeting an aircraft. Prosecutors have till the end of the month to consider a retrial.

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Report finds DC nuke blast wouldn't destroy city by  Associated Press's Alicia A. Caldwell

Hollywood has destroyed Washington - or New York or Los Angeles - lots of times with nuclear bombs detonated by terrorists. It turns out to be harder in real life.

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By Sagar Deva

The role played by transnational crime in sustaining assymetrical conflict and terrorist activity is often hidden through complex networks both the licit and illicit economy, and therefore its prominence as a security threat is often underrated. However, it plays a fundamental role in the propagation of assymetrical conflict and dangerous non-state organisations. Whilst fighting the root causes of rebellion and terrorism might reduce the number of individuals who are tempted to join these violent groups, a focus on transnational crime identifies their operational capacity to perpetrate their attacks upon forces which have superior conventional armaments.

Despite the fact that militants usually possess military capabilities inferior to the nation-states they threaten, their operations can tap into considerable resources, both in terms of finance and weaponry, explosives, and network connections. Such organisations can have membership in the hundreds of thousands. Both the Kurdish Peoples Party (PKK) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have access to money estimated in the billions of dollars. The Tamil Tigers possesed anti-aircraft weaponry, nightvision goggles, and high-optic sniper rifles, weaponry that was more advanced than the Sri Lankan Government.

As very few have their own weapons factory or production facilities, they must acquire their resources from outside sources. It is in this capacity that transnational crime becomes an important component in the security threat they pose.

As insurgent groups and global terrorists necessarily operate outside the structures of both domestic and international law, transnational crime naturally appeals to them as a source of funding. This has been particularly true since the end of the Cold War and the drastic reduction in 'state sponsored terrorism'. Resorting to criminal activity or alliance with international criminals has become more than a profitable sideline for transnational terrorists- it has become a necessity.

Al-Qaeda, which reputedly still mantains $113 million dollars in illicit accounts, is known to finance its operations largely through the use of international credit card fraud and in some instances drug trafficking. The FARC in Colombia fund their insurgency almost entirely from the profits of their narco-trafficking . Almost all major terrorist groups have significant network links to transnational criminal organisations, and many major attacks have been attributed to direct funding from international criminals. For example, the bombings of the Indian Parliament in 1993 were directly linked to the powerful global crime syndicate D-unit and its fugitive boss, Dawood Ibrahim.

Transnational crime plays a critical role in two main ways. Firstly, transnational criminal groups can 'ally' with terrorist groups and insurgent , providing them with vital resources or funds, usually in a mutually beneficial exchange. For example, in return for training in insurgency tactics from prominent members of the Irish Republican Army, FARC provided the IRA with cocaine to fund their activities.

Viktor Bout, known as the 'Merchant of Death', owned a fleet of 60 cargo jets via which he supplied insurgents, rogues, and dictators across the Middle East and Africa. Illegal armament traders have an interest in selling arms to anybody with the money – and perpetuating conflict maintains demand for arms. At the same time, narcotics traffickers have an interest in supplying insurgents and terrorists and weakening the state as this creates a lawless environment in which their operations can thrive.

Secondly, and even more dangerously, terrorist groups and insurgents begin to 'mutate their own structure' and take on the attributes of terrorist groups. In this capacity, violent groups begin to take on criminal assets themselves, moving into the illicit trade in arms or, more often, the illicit trade in drugs.

The pernicious effect can be seen in many regions. The conflict in Afghanistan is dominated by local warlords, Taliban militants, and other groups feuding with each other and with coalition forces. Large swathes of Burma are occupied by the WSA (Wa State Army) who frequently clash with the Burmese government and are reputed to have 20,000 armed militiamen. The FARC militia consistently commit terrorist attacks against the Colombian state and control a third of Colombian territory.

These dangerous militants share one common factor; their activities are almost entirely financed by the whole scale trade in narcotics. The wholesale trade in opium from the 'Golden Crescent' and 'Golden Triangle' respectively fund insurgent activity in Afghanistan and Burma, and FARC wholesales cocaine to the United States. The rise of Peru to the number one spot in the world cocaine supplies must raise fears that the Shining Path could return with bigger resources. Empirical evidence supports the link between transnational crime and regional instability. In the 9 major drug producing countries, only Thailand has not experienced sustained conflict.

Put simply it is likely that without the assistance of criminal profiteering, most major violent groups would not be able to continue their operations on anything like the present scale. The international community must broaden their attempts to address not only the root causes for recruitment but the criminal networks that allow terrorists and insurgents to arm themselves. Ultimately, it will require increased co-operation between international institutions tackling global crime like Interpol and national security forces. It will also require greater recognition from global leaders of the threat to international security posed by transnational criminals. Whilst large, powerful criminal networks still exist, the threat to peace and security will continue and perhaps grow.

 

By Oliver Jones

Much has been made over recent years of the emerging threat of "cyber-attacks" on Western targets. Governments have become increasingly vocal on these threats, publishing a range of materials and proposing a number of policies. In the United States the government has taken steps which include the establishment of the US "Cyber-Command", alongside the US senate debating a so called "kill switch bill", which proposes to grant the president emergency powers over the internet. In the UK the cyber threat is also a growing concern. The recent Strategic Defence and Security Review and the UK National Security Strategy have both identified the sphere of "cyber Security" as a "Tier 1" threat or risk . Outside of government circles the issue is also becoming increasingly debated. Recently the popular periodicals "Foreign Affairs" and "The New Yorker" have both released articles detailing and debating the issue.

What however is the threat from this new "cyber domain", does it represent a new paradigm in warfare? Popular perceptions stemming from fictitious sources, such as the 2007 blockbuster Die Hard 4.0 in which the US comes under assault from "cyber-Terrorists" who target key infrastructure to cause a "fire sale" attack with potentially devastating consequences, suggest that cyber-warfare represents a devastating new strategic weapon capable of the kind of destruction only previously threatened by "WMD's". What's more the threat of cyber-attack is also characterised as being an emerging "asymmetric" threat. This idea of cyber-war is also lent credence from sources such as "Unrestricted Warfare," a proposal for Chinese military strategy, written by two Peoples Liberation Army colonels, whereby China seeks to beat a technologically and military superior opponent through the use of imaginative strategies which utilise measures that avoid direct military confrontation and instead attack their adversary through other avenues. Also adding to this perception of the cyber threat are the events like those in Estonia in 2007, where the Government and other sectors came under sustained denial of service attacks during a diplomatic spat with Russia over the relocation of "the Bronze Soldier of Tallinn". This and similar ideas certainly suggest that cyber-war does represent a threat in this way and this idea has been championed by American authorities on cyber-war. Richard A. Clarke, a former White House official with responsibility for the field, this year published "Cyberwar" a proposal for US strategy which prophesizes a particularly apocalyptic vision of a Chinese cyber-attack with mass casualties.

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By George Friedman

Julian Assange has declared that geopolitics will be separated into pre-"Cablegate" and post-"Cablegate" eras. That was a bold claim. However, given the intense interest that the leaks produced, it is a claim that ought to be carefully considered. Several weeks have passed since the first of the diplomatic cables were released, and it is time now to address the following questions: First, how significant were the leaks? Second, how could they have happened? Third, was their release a crime? Fourth, what were their consequences? Finally, and most important, is the WikiLeaks premise that releasing government secrets is a healthy and appropriate act a tenable position?

Let's begin by recalling that the U.S. State Department documents constituted the third wave of leaks. The first two consisted of battlefield reports from Iraq and Afghanistan. Looking back on those as a benchmark, it is difficult to argue that they revealed information that ran counter to informed opinion. I use the term "informed opinion" deliberately. For someone who was watching Iraq and Afghanistan with some care over the previous years, the leaks might have provided interesting details but they would not have provided any startling distinction between the reality that was known and what was revealed. If, on the other hand, you weren't paying close attention, and WikiLeaks provided your first and only view of the battlefields in any detail, you might have been surprised.

Let's consider the most controversial revelation, one of the tens of thousands of reports released on Iraq and Afghanistan and one in which a video indicated that civilians were deliberately targeted by U.S. troops. The first point, of course, is that the insurgents, in violation of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, did not go into combat wearing armbands or other distinctive clothing to distinguish themselves from non-combatants. The Geneva Conventions have always been adamant on this requirement because they regarded combatants operating under the cover of civilians as being responsible for putting those civilians in harm's way, not the uniformed troops who were forced to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants when the combatants deliberately chose to act in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

It follows from this that such actions against civilians are inevitable in the kind of war Iraqi insurgents chose to wage. Obviously, this particular event has to be carefully analyzed, but in a war in which combatants blend with non-combatants, civilian casualties will occur, and so will criminal actions by uniformed troops. Hundreds of thousands of troops have fought in Iraq, and the idea that criminal acts would be absent is absurd. What is most startling is not the presence of potentially criminal actions but their scarcity. Anyone who has been close to combat or who has read histories of World War II would be struck not by the presence of war crimes but by the fact that in all the WikiLeaks files so few potential cases are found. War is controlled violence, and when controls fail — as they inevitably do — uncontrolled and potentially criminal violence occurs. However, the case cited by WikiLeaks with much fanfare did not clearly show criminal actions on the part of American troops as much as it did the consequences of the insurgents violating the Geneva Conventions.

Only those who were not paying attention to the fact that there was a war going on, or who had no understanding of war, or who wanted to pretend to be shocked for political reasons, missed two crucial points: It was the insurgents who would be held responsible for criminal acts under the Geneva Conventions for posing as non-combatants, and there were extraordinarily few cases of potential war crimes that were contained in the leaks.

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By Scott Stewart

Over the past few weeks, aviation security — specifically, enhanced passenger-screening procedures — has become a big issue in the media. The discussion of the topic has become even more fervent as we enter Thanksgiving weekend, which is historically one of the busiest travel periods of the year. As this discussion has progressed, we have been asked repeatedly by readers and members of the press for our opinion on the matter.

We have answered such requests from readers, and we have done a number of media interviews, but we've resisted writing a fresh analysis on aviation security because, as an organization, our objective is to lead the media rather than follow the media regarding a particular topic. We want our readers to be aware of things before they become pressing public issues, and when it comes to aviation-security threats and the issues involved with passenger screening, we believe we have accomplished this. Many of the things now being discussed in the media are things we've written about for years.

When we were discussing this topic internally and debating whether to write about it, we decided that since we have added so many new readers over the past few years, it might be of interest to our expanding readership to put together an analysis that reviews the material we've published and that helps to place the current discussion into the proper context. We hope our longtime readers will excuse the repetition.

We believe that this review will help establish that there is a legitimate threat to aviation, that there are significant challenges in trying to secure aircraft from every conceivable threat, and that the response of aviation security authorities to threats has often been slow and reactive rather than thoughtful and proactive.

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By Raoul Sherrard

Air travel is the most visual aspect of international terrorism. It is one which we see most often in the media and provides the most tangible evidence for the threats that may face UK citizens as they pass through customs. In comparison to most of the work done by counterterrorism forces it is much easier to look at the success rate of packages making onto planes and the ensuing chaos in the aviation industry. In this respect the Yemeni printer cartridge bomb threats have been reported to show how terrorists have adapted and challenged our increased security by utilising unassuming office parcels.

Thankfully the response was quick enough to defuse the bombs before they exploded, with unofficial reports of 17 minutes left circulating as if from a movie scene. The governments involved in defusing the plot have subsequently banned cartridges over 435g, along with cargo from Yemen and Somalia. Yet this is a surreal reaction when one considers that thousands of tonnes are being transported through numerous circulating routes at this moment in time, often stopping, refuelling, and shifting through several dozen trade routes. Do we expect others attempting to replicate this plot to fail to take into account the new weight restrictions? Or that new extra screening will result in increased vigilance throughout these networks?

In the same circumstances x - ray machines which take full 'naked images' in combination with stricter and more invasive body searches are being routinely used to prevent would be hijackers. The inconvenience of this most vivid and public act of security is tolerated in the knowledge that few of us would travel on planes where no security was in place if given the choice. We would rather feel better with some action being taken, no matter the effectiveness, than none at all. Yet in Israel, the long lines of passengers that these searches cause have provided opportunities for terrorists to detonate explosives.

It is difficult to argue that new technology has made passenger travel objectively safer. What we see is described best by Schneier in Beyond Fear and as a mere 'security theatre'. Airport security is for the most part a play, undertaken more for the benefit of the passengers than the security forces. We are encouraged to be involved to make us and those who are responsible for us feel as if they have taken every possible avenue, trading inconvenience for increased safety.
So what is the answer to this problem if current measures are not enough? How much more time, resources and manpower would be needed to stop terrorists with access to a cargo company and an ink jet cartridge from bringing down an aircraft? The truth is that this is largely impossible to gauge given that every year 80 million tonnes of cargo and 4.8 billion passengers make trips around the world.

Security is subjective in the same way that you cannot ask an insurer to protect you against all acts that could ever happen; neither can you make air travel impregnable against terrorist attacks. Furthermore, security measures are inevitably brought in to question after they fail to do their job effectively. Critics would then probably claim that the expense and inconvenience was utterly wasteful and better spent elsewhere.

We cannot ever truly defend against every terrorist plot to attack civil aviation. Instead we manage the risk of what is one of the safest modes of transport by providing a trade off between allowing air travel to flourish at its current levels with increasingly pervasive security measures. The biggest issue is that this will never be a fine art. It is why we often see the cracks of logic that allow hidden drugs routinely making their way onto planes but visible and declared bottled water being stopped.

Those involved in working for civil liberty and defence should be well gauged in the risks posed by the threat of international terrorism. It is important they do not fall for the trap of overreaction, which can be damaging to successful counterterrorism. If we follow the trends of demonising a wide target, creating fear and overreaction you leverage the actual risk of terrorism becoming more powerful than it is.

The work of those who aim to protect aviation should be considered in contrast to the reaction of trying to provide security with measures that only increase workloads. In this example is it truly the right course of action to expect that bomb squads should check every conceivable package with special attention to ink cartridges, instead of following intelligence and reasoning to high security threats? Or should we look to remain composed and focused on credible ways to stop threats before they even make it to the airport scanner?

 

By Ian Shields, Research Associate, UK Defence Forum

Much is being written at present about defence, about security, about Britain's place in the world, and the extent to which we need (note need rather than do not need) military power. But before we can determine how we are going to undertake defence, and in particular what force structures we need, we should first establish where the threat comes from: that critical link between defence and security. The conventional approach is to look at threats to the country from state and non-state actors, placing everything in the realm of International Relations, within the state-to-state construct. This essay will approach the issue from a more individual level by considering first insecurity, which then allows the focus to be applied to security and hence to those defence apparatus that afford security. It will do so by first exploring why we presently feel insecure, then propose a different approach to achieving security, before exploring some of the practical implications that such an approach would require, and finally summarising.

There appears to be considerable concern both at Governmental level and for the man in the street about the threats the country and its citizens face, leading to a growing feeling of insecurity. Why is this, is it rational, and what actually are the threats? In many ways security is now far harder to define, and to achieve. In the present era of globalisation, we are more interconnected than ever, more interdependent for food, energy and information. Events on the other side of the world can have a far greater impact on both the country and the individual than before: one thinks of the impact of the Volcanic Ash cloud earlier this year and the disruption it caused. Moreover, our borders are, compared with a century ago, far less inviolate: we have little real say over satellites passing over head, the advent of aircraft have brought a new dimension and a new challenge to securing our borders from a determined foe (and this is the 70th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain), while the invention of the nuclear weapon, and inter-continental delivery systems, brought an entirely new paradigm to the threat to security. Moreover, near-instantaneous global communications and the advent of the 24/7 media have not only shrunk the world in a new manner, but by beaming images of violence and disaster around the world direct to citizens' homes, have arguably increased the feelings of insecurity of the citizen.

And yet the world is no more dangerous in terms of natural disasters than it ever has been, the threat of state-on-state attack against the UK is, by historic measure, very low, and the vision of extinction from a massive nuclear exchange faded with the end of the Cold War; compared to most of our history we are in a period of marked peace. And yet we feel less secure, have introduced draconian legislation that limits individual liberties to counter what is, compared with history, a very minor threat; in doing so have further reinforced the feelings of insecurity within the populace. Do terrorists really threaten our vital interests? A little, maybe, but compared with the threats of much of the twentieth century, hardly. The capacity for terrorists to inflict crude but large-scale attacks on Western interests has already been largely curtailed, and they have never had the capacity to undertake complex and more meaningful actions. The gravest threat from terrorism is its ability to provoke unwise over-reactions on our part.

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By Scott Stewart

The Oct. 29 discovery of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) inside two packages shipped from Yemen launched a widespread search for other devices, and more than two dozen suspect packages have been tracked down so far. Some have been trailed in dramatic fashion, as when two U.S. F-15 fighter aircraft escorted an Emirates Air passenger jet Oct. 29 as it approached and landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. To date, however, no other parcels have been found to contain explosive devices.

The two parcels that did contain IEDs were found in East Midlands, England, and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and both appear to have been sent by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda's jihadist franchise in Yemen. As we've long discussed, AQAP has demonstrated a degree of creativity in planning its attacks and an intent to attack the United States. It has also demonstrated the intent to attack aircraft, as evidenced by the failed Christmas Day bombing in 2009 involving Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to detonate an explosive device concealed in his underwear on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

A tactical analysis of the latest attempt suggests that the operation was not quite as creative as past attempts, though it did come very close to achieving its primary objective, which in this case (apparently) was to destroy aircraft. It does not appear that the devices ultimately were intended to be part of an attack against the Jewish institutions in the United States to which the parcels were addressed. Although the operation failed in its primary mission (taking down aircraft) it was successful in its secondary mission, which was to generate worldwide media coverage and sow fear and disruption in the West.

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By Scott Stewart

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 30, an Aeromexico flight from Paris to Mexico City was forced to land in Montreal after authorities discovered that a man who was on the U.S. no-fly list was aboard. The aircraft was denied permission to enter U.S. airspace, and the aircraft was diverted to Trudeau International Airport in Montreal. The man, a Somali named Abdirahman Ali Gaall, was removed from the plane and arrested by Canadian authorities on an outstanding U.S. warrant. After a search of all the remaining passengers and their baggage, the flight was allowed to continue to its original destination.

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By Scott Stewart

Looking at the world from a protective-intelligence perspective, the theme for the past week has not been improvised explosive devices or potential mass-casualty attacks. While there have been suicide bombings in Afghanistan, alleged threats to the World Cup and seemingly endless post-mortem discussions of the failed May 1 Times Square attack, one recurring and under-reported theme in a number of regions around the world has been kidnapping.

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By Scott Stewart

In the wake of the botched May 1 Times Square attack, some observers have begun to characterize Faisal Shahzad and the threat he posed as some sort of new or different approach to terrorism in the United States. Indeed, one media story on Sunday quoted terrorism experts who claimed that recent cases such as those involving Shahzad and Najibullah Zazi indicate that jihadists in the United States are "moving toward the "British model." This model was described in the story as that of a Muslim who immigrates to the United Kingdom for an education, builds a life there and, after being radicalized, travels to a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and then returns to the United Kingdom to launch an attack.

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By Lee Bruce

In the past year the rising tide of violence in Northern Ireland has lead commentators to suggest that the peace process is in terminal danger. Defence analysts question how an entrenched and complicated political puzzle like Northern Ireland can be 'solved' – as if to assume that all conflicts can be ended provided that sage politicians are prepared to engage in rational and constructive debate. Both of these interpretations should be questioned. Firstly, an increase in sporadic acts of sabotage and assassination from dissidents who are marginalised from power (political conflict bloodless or otherwise is all about getting your hands on the levers of power) does not mean that there will be a return to the ferocious insurgency of the 1970s and 1980s. And secondly, there needs to be a clear definition of how victory is to be understood. Resolution in Northern Ireland (or any other counter-insurgency for that matter) is not an end to all violence of any kind as this is impossible in the Hobbesian world – sink estates in England, Wales and Scotland attest to the type of racketeering, drug running and gangsterism that afflicts Belfast, South Armagh and Londonderry. Success should instead be defined as finding 'an acceptable level of violence'. And this has been achieved by British intervention in Ulster.

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By Scott Stewart

On Aug. 23, Rolando Mendoza, a former senior police inspector with the Manila police department, boarded a tourist bus in downtown Manila and took control of the vehicle, holding the 25 occupants (tourists from Hong Kong and their Philippine guides) hostage. Mendoza, who was dressed in his police inspector's uniform, was armed with an M16-type rifle and at least one handgun.

According to the police, Mendoza had been discharged from the department after being charged with extortion. Mendoza claimed the charges were fabricated and had fought a protracted administrative and legal battle in his effort to be reinstated. Apparently, Mendoza's frustration over this process led to his plan to take the hostages. The fact that Mendoza entertained hope of regaining his police job by breaking the law and taking hostages speaks volumes about his mental state at the time of the incident.

After several hours of negotiation failed to convince Mendoza to surrender, communications broke down, Mendoza began to shoot hostages and police launched a clumsy and prolonged tactical operation to storm the bus. The operation lasted for more than an hour and left Mendoza and eight of the tourists dead at the end of a very public and protracted case of violence stemming from a workplace grievance.

Hostage-rescue operations are some of the most difficult and demanding tactical operations for police and military. To be successful, they require a great deal of training and planning and must be carefully executed. Because of this, hostage-rescue teams are among the most elite police and military units in the world. Since these teams are always training and learning, they pay close attention to operations like the one in Manila and study these operations carefully. They seek to adopt and incorporate tactics and techniques that work and learn from any mistakes that were made so they can avoid repeating them. Even in highly successful operations, there are always areas that can be improved upon and lessons that can be learned.

Indeed, in the Manila case, the events that unfolded provided a litany of lessons for hostage-rescue teams. The case will almost certainly be used in law enforcement and military classrooms across the globe for years as a textbook example of what not to do.

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By George Friedman

It has now been nine years since al Qaeda attacked the United States. It has been nine years in which the primary focus of the United States has been on the Islamic world. In addition to a massive investment in homeland security, the United States has engaged in two multi-year, multi-divisional wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, inserted forces in other countries in smaller operations and conducted a global covert campaign against al Qaeda and other radical jihadist groups.

In order to understand the last nine years you must understand the first 24 hours of the war — and recall your own feelings in those 24 hours. First, the attack was a shock, its audaciousness frightening. Second, we did not know what was coming next. The attack had destroyed the right to complacent assumptions. Were there other cells standing by in the United States? Did they have capabilities even more substantial than what they showed on Sept. 11? Could they be detected and stopped? Any American not frightened on Sept. 12 was not in touch with reality. Many who are now claiming that the United States overreacted are forgetting their own sense of panic. We are all calm and collected nine years after.

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