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US political

By George Friedman

President Barack Obama's speech in Oslo marking his receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize was eloquent, as most of his speeches are.

It was also enigmatic both for its justification of war and for his speaking on behalf of the international community while making clear that as commander in chief, his overarching principle is to protect and defend the United States.

In the end, it was difficult to discern precisely what he meant to say. An eloquent and enigmatic speech is not a bad strategy by a president, but it raises this question: At the end of his first year, what precisely is this president's strategy abroad? Ironically, it is useful to consider Obama in the light of the last president who dominated and defined his time: Ronald Reagan, a man as persuasive, polarizing and enigmatic as the current president.

These two men share much, including charisma and a desire to revive American power abroad. But Obama is about to diverge from this parallel. Whereas Reagan chose to reassert American power to bring U.S. allies back into line, Obama seems to be choosing to rejuvenate American alliances to revive national power. And this choice constitutes the largest foreign policy risk to his presidency in the months and years ahead.

A Year of Presidential Dominance

Obama dominated 2009 as no freshman-year president has since Reagan. As with Reagan, the domination came not only from character and charisma but also from deep public disappointment with his predecessor.

Reagan succeeded Jimmy Carter, who was seen as having led the country into the double miasma of a major economic crisis and a global crisis of confidence in the United States. The Iranian hostage crisis of 1979-1981 raised the question of the limits of American power and the extent to which U.S. allies could count on American power. The 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan drove home the diminished state of American power, as the United States seemed incapable of responding.

George W. Bush very much paralleled Jimmy Carter, as different as their respective ideologies seemed. Like Carter, Bush's presidency also culminated in a grave economic crisis, while his foreign policy had created deep distrust worldwide about the limits and effectiveness of U.S. power.

It is ironic in the extreme that both Reagan and Obama ran on platforms emphasizing the need to do something about Afghanistan and castigating the prior president for alleged fecklessness with dealing with it. At some point, someone should write a history of the last American generation and its Afghan obsession. This has become a symbol of our times, and not for obvious reasons.

Reagan vs. Obama

The similarities and profound differences between Reagan and Obama are a good starting place for understanding the last year. Reagan took office in a powerful country that seemed to have lost its confidence, and he saw his mission as restoring both American self-confidence in its global mission and its appetite for pursuing it.

To Reagan, the American-led anti-Soviet alliance was in jeopardy not only because of the Carter presidency but also because of Gerald Ford (whom Reagan had challenged for the nomination in 1976) and ultimately because of Richard Nixon. They saw the United States as a declining power and sought to manage that decline. Reagan intended to preside over the reassertion of U.S. power and global leadership.

The Obama presidency is partially a reaction to Bush's response to 9/11. Obama argued that the war in Iraq was not essential and that it diverted American forces from more important theaters, particularly Afghanistan. Like Reagan, Obama feared the fate of the American alliance system, though for very different reasons.

Whereas Reagan feared that unwarranted American caution was undermining the confidence of the alliance, Obama's view has been that excessive and misplaced American aggressiveness was undermining its alliance, and weakening the war effort as a result.

Both Reagan and Obama set about changing the self-perception of the United States, and with it the perception of the United States in the world. Neither was uncontroversial in doing this. Indeed, critics vilified both for what they did, frequently in extraordinarily vituperative ways.

Surging Then Sagging Popularity

The controversy of each president has been rooted in a shared fact: Neither won the presidency overwhelmingly. Reagan took 50.7 percent of the vote, but Carter lost by a large margin because of third party candidates. Obama won with 52.9 percent. Put another way, 47.1 percent of the public voted against Obama and 49.3 percent voted against Reagan.

Both surged in popularity after the election and both bled off popularity as the rhetoric wore thin, economic problems continued and actions in foreign affairs didn't match promises. Reagan fought a brutal battle for tax cuts to stimulate the economy and was attacked by Democrats for greatly increasing the deficit. Obama fought a brutal battle for more spending and was attacked by the Republicans for greatly increasing the deficit.

As a result, Reagan suffered a sharp setback in the 1982 midterm elections as Republicans lost seats in the House of Representatives. Reality overwhelmed rhetoric, and Reagan's rhetorical skills even began to be used against him. But over time, as the economy recovered, Reagan began to gain ground in foreign policy. There were many failures to be sure, but Reagan succeeded by aligning his policies with geopolitical reality.

The United States was enormously powerful, regardless of psychic wounds and poorly deployed resources. The Soviet Union was much weaker than it appeared to those who feared to challenge it. Reagan did not try to change this reality; instead, he crafted policies that flowed from this reality. For all his mistakes, this made him both a two-term president and one more fondly regarded today than he was in his time.

Repudiation vs. Continuity

This is where the difference between Reagan and Obama begins to emerge, and the two men as historical figures begin to diverge.

Reagan repudiated his predecessor's foreign policy and understood that by flexing American power, the allies would regain confidence and fall back into line. By contrast, Obama has taken a different turn and is traveling a much more difficult road. He has retained a high degree of continuity with his predecessor's policies while seeking to resurrect American power first through popularity in order to get allies to cooperate. This is a complicated proposition at best.

With Iraq, Obama continues the Bush policy of phased withdrawal subject to modification. In Afghanistan, the president has carried out his campaign pledge to increase forces, continuing the war that began in 2001, again with a timetable and again subject to change.

With Iran, Obama continues the Bush policy of using sanctions while not taking any other options, like war, off the table. With Russia, Obama has maintained the position the Bush administration took toward NATO expansion to Ukraine and Georgia, as well as resisting Russian attempts to dominate the former Soviet Union. With China, Obama's position is essentially the Bush position of encouraging closer ties, not emphasizing human rights and focusing on tactical economic issues.

This continuity is combined with a so-far successful attempt to create an altogether different sensibility about the United States overseas. Obama has portrayed the Bush administration as being heedless of international opinion, whereas he intends to align the United States with international opinion. This has resonated substantially overseas, with foreign publics and governments being far more enthusiastic about Obama than they were about Bush.

As a result, the president has been particularly proud of the number of nations that are part of the Afghan war coalition, which he puts at 43. The Iraq war saw only 33 countries send troops, substantially less than Afghanistan but still not indicative of isolation. But in both cases this use of popularity as power is illusory. In many cases the numbers of troops sent are merely token gestures of goodwill.

Nevertheless, there is no question that Obama has managed to generate far more excitement and enthusiasm about his presidency overseas than Bush did. This is the marked achievement so far and it is not a trivial one. His goal is to create an international coalition based less on policy than on a perception of the United States as more embedded in the international community.

The question is: Will this gambit succeed? And if the answer is yes, the next question is: What does he plan to do next? Reagan intended to change the U.S. perception of itself to free him to conduct a more aggressive and risk-taking foreign policy. His view of the world was that the American perception of itself was irrational and limiting and that by lifting the limitations, American power would surge.

Obama's strategy thus far is to change the perception of the United States in foreign countries while at the same time conducting a foreign policy imposed on him by geopolitical reality, much as it imposed itself on Bush. Obama's problem is that the perception he has deliberately generated and the actions that he has taken are at odds. What will the allies offer him, for instance, if he has simply resurrected American popularity but not changed U.S. policy?

Indeed, significant policy changes so far have not succeeded. Openings to Iran and Cuba have not been reciprocated. The opening to the Islamic world has not revolutionized U.S. relations in the region. The Russians are deeply suspicious of Obama, as is Eastern Europe. The Chinese find it hard to see a difference. The major impact has been in Europe, in particular Europe west of Poland. But even here there is a difference between popular enthusiasm and the unease of governments, particularly in Germany.

The Obama Paradox

And so it is in Europe that Obama's strategy will face its defining moment.

In Europe, two goals are at odds. For the Europeans, a definitive, new era is one in which the United States will stop making demands on Europe to support foreign adventures and, ideally, stop engaging in foreign adventures except with European approval.

Obama expects that the Europeans, when approached, will be far more willing to join the United States in foreign adventures because their perception of the United States is more positive.

This is the deep paradox of Obama's foreign policy, which he expressed in Oslo as he accepted the peace prize and went on to make the case for just war and for sanctions against regimes like Iran. In the coming months, three questions will manifest themselves. The first is: Will the Europeans shift from greater control over U.S. actions and less risk to less control and more risk? The second is: What will the president give them in exchange? How much control will pass to them in a consultative foreign policy? The third: How much active support for the Untied States are the Europeans able and willing to bring to bear?

After all, the reality is that the American president who just accepted the Nobel Peace Prize is engaged in multiple wars and a confrontation with Iran. Europe's good wishes have some value, but not the same as material engagement. Indeed, it is not clear why foreign states would embrace Bush's foreign policy conducted by Obama, simply in exchange for consultation. The Europeans will want more.

Aligning Foreign Policy and Geopolitics

Reagan's foreign policy was elegant and aligned with geopolitics. It sought to create a domestic surge in self-confidence in order to support larger defense budgets and a more aggressive policy toward the Soviet Union. Reagan's read of the situation was that the United States was stronger than had been thought and the Soviets were weaker. He had many problems along the way: economic setbacks, scandal, etc., and his popularity shifted. But his thrust was clear.

What is inelegant, though, in Obama's foreign policy is the relation between continuing many of Bush's old policies while improving America's image overseas. Continuity is understandable: Geopolitics deals the cards and the choices are few. The utility of the popularity is important; it can only help. What is unclear as he enters his second year is the relationship between the two.

Most presidents do not fully define their strategy in the first year. But those who do not in the second year tend to run into serious political trouble. Obama has time, but not much. He must show the hand he is playing, or invent one, fast.

(c) Stratfor Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved


My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and co-operation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms.

Read more...  

President Obama has nominated former Mississippi governor Ray Mabus to be secretary of the Navy.

Mabus, 60, campaigned extensively for Obama last year. He had been previously talked about as a candidate for a place in Obama's Cabinet as secretary of education.

A Democrat, Mabus was governor of Mississippi from January 1988 to January 1992 and also served as US ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1994 to 1996 under President Bill Clinton. Mabus served in the Navy from 1970 to 1972 as a surface warfare officer on the Newport, R.I.-based USS Little Rock. Before then, he was in the Naval ROTC while he was an undergraduate student at the University of Mississippi.


By George Friedman

The United States has captured a group of Russian spies and exchanged them for four individuals held by the Russians on espionage charges. The way the media has reported on the issue falls into three groups:

That the Cold War is back, That, given that the Cold War is over, the point of such outmoded intelligence operations is questionable, And that the Russian spy ring was spending its time aimlessly nosing around in think tanks and open meetings in an archaic and incompetent effort.

Read more...  

By Fred Burton and Ben West

The U.S. Department of Justice announced June 28 that an FBI counterintelligence investigation had resulted in the arrest on June 27 of 10 individuals suspected of acting as undeclared agents of a foreign country, in this case, Russia. Eight of the individuals were also accused of money laundering. On June 28, five of the defendants appeared before a federal magistrate in U.S. District Court in Manhattan while three others went before a federal magistrate in Alexandria, Va., and two more went before a U.S. magistrate in Boston. An 11th person named in the criminal complaint was arrested in Cyprus on June 29, posted bail and is currently at large.

Read more...  

By Ariel Cohen, PhD

As President Medvedev of Russia is coming to visit Barack Obama, the Administration's spokesmen are desperately trying to convince us that the "reset" policy with the Russia has paid off. They argue that Russia and the United States have developed a real partnership, as demonstrated by the signature of the New START treaty, Russian support for the U.N.'s sanctions on Iran, and transit agreements to move troops and supplies into Afghanistan through Russian territory and air space.

Senator John Kerry (D-MA), the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, thinks that a new era of U.S.-Russian cooperation has dawned. A closer look at the bilateral relationship, however, reveals that the cost for this cooperation and its often symbolic success has been very high.

Read more...  

By George Friedman

On Sunday, The New York Times and two other newspapers published summaries and excerpts of tens of thousands of documents leaked to a website known as WikiLeaks. The documents comprise a vast array of material concerning the war in Afghanistan. They range from tactical reports from small unit operations to broader strategic analyses of politico-military relations between the United States and Pakistan. It appears to be an extraordinary collection.

Read more...  

By Scott Stewart

Recently Stratfor's Security Weekly discussed how situational awareness is a mindset that can and should be practiced by everyone. We also described the different levels of situational awareness and discussed which level is appropriate for different sorts of situations. And we noted how all criminals and terrorists follow a process when planning their acts and that this process is visible at certain times to people who are watching for such behavior.

When one considers these facts, it inevitably leads to the question: "What in the world am I looking for?" The brief answer is: "warning signs of criminal or terrorist behavior." Since this brief answer is very vague, it becomes necessary to describe the behavior in more detail.

Read more...  

By Guy Birks

The dissolution of the bipolar bloc system that broadly defined and framed the purpose of modern armed forces in the West has been supplanted by a more integrated and interdependent international environment. The purpose of modern armed forces has consequently been altered and adjusted to fit the changing nature of international relations. The principle of sovereignty has shifted from a position of inviolability to one where the international community can become involved in the internal affairs of a state and a region if it is deemed that a state poses a threat to international stability. Intervention in Somalia, Former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan are examples of the proactive, expeditionary defence against instability. The direct defence of the homeland as a strategic premise and priority for Britain and the United States has been replaced by a concern to defend against instability through expeditionary intervention. The focus of defence now resolves around the shift from a conventional all-embrasive threat towards the expeditionary defence against unconventional threats from failing or failed states.   However, the examples of India and China - key geostrategic states with prominent armed forces indicate that defending against instability frequently involves activities which protect and defend the homeland and its immediate locale.

Read more...  

By Scott Stewart

A week after he was arrested in Chicago on Oct. 3, David Coleman Headley was charged in a federal criminal complaint with conspiring to commit terrorist attacks outside the United States and providing material support to terrorist organizations. The charges alleged that Headley was involved in a plot to attack a newspaper in Denmark that had published a collection of cartoons satirizing the Prophet Mohammed in September 2005.

Since Headley's arrest, there have been almost daily disclosures of new information regarding his activities and those of his co-conspirators. These new details have emerged during court proceedings and from leaks by U.S., Indian and Pakistani government officials. On Dec. 7, new federal charges were filed against Headley alleging that he had conducted extensive surveillance against targets in Mumbai that were attacked during the November 2008 armed assault in that city, which resulted in the deaths of some 170 people. Headley reportedly became an informant for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after being arrested and charged with smuggling heroin into the United States from Pakistan in 1997. Following the 9/11 attacks, he allegedly worked for the FBI as a terrorism informant. Now, following his arrest on Oct. 3, he is reportedly again cooperating with the U.S. government.

From the information that has emerged so far, it appears that Headley, who was born Daood Gilani in 1960 in Washington, D.C., to a Pakistani father and American mother, worked as a surveillance operative and operational planner for the Pakistan-based militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami (HUJI). In 2006, Headley legally changed his name from Daood Gilani to David Coleman Headley, anglicizing his first name and taking his mother's maiden surname. He apparently did this to disguise his Pakistani heritage and Muslim faith while traveling to places such as India and Denmark.

Details of this case will continue to emerge as the court proceedings against Headley and his co-conspirators progress, but the information released to date reveals a great deal about Headley and about LeT and HUJI.

What We've Learned About Headley

First, it is evident that Headley was not merely a low-level cannon fodder-type operative. Most of the men who attend jihadist training camps are taught basic infantry and guerrilla-warfare skills such as hand-to-hand combat and how to fire an AK-47 and throw a hand grenade. A handful of the best and brightest of these students are then selected to attend additional training in advanced combat skills that often include terrorist tradecraft, which is the set of skills required to conduct a terrorist attack. Terrorist tradecraft includes things like surveillance, bombmaking and covert communications and is quite distinct from basic infantry skills.

In his Dec. 7 indictment, we learned that Headley reportedly attended LeT training camps in Pakistan in February and August of 2002 and in April, August and December of 2003. This indicates that Headley progressed far beyond basic militant training, and it is likely that he was taught during his later training sessions the tradecraft required to conduct preoperational surveillance for terrorist attacks and to participate in the operational planning for such attacks.

One element of terrorist tradecraft that was evident in the indictment and the Oct. 11 criminal complaint is Headley's careful use of language and of multiple methods of communications, including the use of cell phones and using long-distance calling cards, e-mail communication (using a variety of accounts) and face-to-face briefings. For the most sensitive communications and planning activities, Headley traveled to Pakistan to meet in person with LeT and HUJI leaders, a very secure way to communicate. He also had numerous phone and e-mail conversations in which he discussed the status of his work or planned reconnaissance trips. During such conversations, Headley would use terms to disguise the true objective of his work. For example, when referring to attack plans, Headley and his alleged co-conspirators reportedly called them "investment plans" or "business plans," and when discussing the plot against Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that published the Mohammed cartoons, Headley and his co-conspirators referred to it as the "Mickey Mouse Project," the "MMP" or "the Northern Project."

Headley also used a common militant communication method of creating messages and then saving them in the drafts folder of a Web-mail service rather than sending the message. The person creating such a message can then provide a colleague with the user name and password for the Web-mail account, which enables the second person to log on and read the communication in the draft folder without an e-mail having been sent. This procedure is referred to as an "electronic dead drop."

In addition to facilitating communication, these dead drops can be used to save notes that a terrorist operative does not want to physically carry on his person for fear of being caught with them. In September, we noted that Najibullah Zazi used this method to send his bombmaking notes from a training camp in Pakistan to himself rather than risk physically carrying the notes into the United States, where they could have been found during a search of his belongings.

According to the Oct. 11 criminal complaint, before leaving Pakistan for the United States in December 2008, Headley used this process to save a list of taskings he had received for his surveillance work in Denmark. The list, which was entitled "Mickey Mouse," included the following entries (presented here as contained in the complaint, verbatim and unedited):

* Route Design (train bus air)

* Cross (cover authenticator)

* Trade? Immigration?

* Ad (Lost Luggage) (Business) (Entry)?

* King's Square (French Embassy)


* Car Trip + Train Option (Nufoozur Rehman) (Weekend?)

* Residence for clients

* Complete Area Coverage (P.S. e.t.c.)

* Countersurveillance (magic eye)

* NDC option; Lunch + coffee spots

* Security (armed?)

* Foreman residence

* Zoom; Entry and exit method in the house

* Feasible plan

* On return, procurement of machinery

* Uniform

* Mixed fruit Dish

* Cell phone and camera

* Border Crossing

* City Guide Map

* Alternate Investment

* Got Papers? (Clients)

* Make Visiting Cards

We've included all the items listed in the complaint to demonstrate the depth of the surveillance work he was tasked with by his contacts in Pakistan. These responsibilities included determining the best way to get the attack team ("clients") into the country, finding them a place to stay, procuring weapons ("machinery") and conducting thorough surveillance of the newspaper and its surroundings. This would have included security in the area, countersurveillance activity and closed-circuit television cameras in place. Headley may also have been tasked with locating the residence of the newspaper's editor.

According to the Oct. 11 federal complaint, Headley traveled from Chicago to Copenhagen in January 2009 to conduct surveillance of the Jyllands-Posten offices in Copenhagen and Aarhus, Denmark, and to photograph and videotape the surrounding areas. He then traveled to Pakistan, where he met with his co-conspirators to brief them on his surveillance operations and to construct a plan for the attack. Following his return to Chicago, Headley traveled back to Copenhagen in August 2009 to conduct additional surveillance (presumably to address issues that arose during the operational planning session in Pakistan). During this second trip, Headley made some 13 additional videos and took many photos of the potential targets and the areas around them.

In the Dec. 7 indictment, the U.S. government alleges that in order to conduct surveillance for the Mumbai attacks, Headley made five extended trips to Mumbai: one in September 2006, two in February and September of 2007 and two in April and July of 2008. During each of these trips Headley reportedly took pictures and made videos of various targets, including those attacked in November 2008. He also reportedly traveled to Pakistan after each of these trips to brief his co-conspirators there and to provide them with his maps, sketches, photos and videos. In March 2008, Headley and his co-conspirators reportedly discussed potential landing sites for a team of attackers who would arrive by sea in Mumbai, and he was instructed to take boat trips in and around the Mumbai harbor and make videotapes of the area, which he allegedly did during his visit to India in April 2008.

During much of his surveillance activity, Headley identified himself as an employee of the immigration services company First World, but there is no evidence that Headley ever worked for that company. There is also no information in the documents released so far that would explain how Headley paid for his extensive international travel, much less earned money to cover his day-to-day expenses.

Finally, there is the issue of Headley's alleged work as a DEA and FBI informant (which could help explain at least some of the financial mysteries discussed above). Given the demonstrated and considerable nexus between heroin trafficking and terrorism funding for the jihadist groups operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan, such a crossover of an informant from narcotics to terrorism is no surprise especially following the incredible push by the U.S. government to recruit human intelligence sources with links to the jihadist world following the 9/11 attacks.

If Headley were reporting to the FBI, it could also explain the very specific warnings that the U.S. government gave to the government of India about plans to attack hotels in Mumbai in September 2008. Following the warning, the government of India initially increased security measures at these sites, but the measures were dropped before the attacks were launched in November 2008.

At present, it is very difficult to ascertain if Headley was a double agent who was really reporting to LeT and HUJI the entire time he was ostensibly working for the U.S. government or if he was merely a rogue informant who was playing both ends against the middle for his own personal benefit. Such rogue sources have been seen in jihadist cases before. If Headley was either a double agent or a rogue source, there may be some significant blowback for the U.S. government as further revelations are made about the case.

What We've Learned About LeT and HUJI

First of all, this case demonstrates that LeT and HUJI have each developed a sophisticated central-planning apparatus. This is something they needed to do as they drifted out from under the wings of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, though undoubtedly they learned a lot about planning from their long association with the ISI. Second, the Headley case shows that as of October 2009 (almost a year after the Mumbai attacks), LeT and HUJI still enjoyed a great deal of operational freedom in Pakistan. They were able to travel, raise funds, communicate, train and plan operations with seemingly little interference. This is a stark contrast to al Qaeda, which is hunted, on the run and experiencing a great deal of difficulty moving operatives, communicating, raising funds and conducting operations. The links between Headley and his associates to current and former Pakistani military officers and government officials are likely what is affording LeT and HUJI their operational freedom.

As far as targeting, we have seen LeT and HUJI shift away from strictly Indian targets and toward more of a transnational al Qaeda-like target set. Not only did they attack Western interests and a Jewish target in Mumbai, but they were also planning to conduct an attack against a newspaper in Denmark that had absolutely no relation to the cause of Kashmiri independence from India. That said, despite having a highly trained surveillance operative and operational planner living inside the United States, these groups did not appear to task him to use his terrorist tradecraft to conduct target surveillance or plan and conduct attacks inside the United States.

According to court documents, HUJI leader Ilyas Kashmiri appears to have been the force driving the Denmark attack plans, and Headley seems to have been frustrated when his LeT contacts did not want to proceed with the Denmark attack after Kashmiri was reportedly killed in an American unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) strike in Pakistan. LeT wanted Headley to help them plan another attack in India instead. The report of Kashmiri's death was ultimately proved false, but the UAV attack apparently caused Kashmiri to go to ground and for Headley and his LeT contacts to lose communication with Kashmiri for a period of time. It is known that Kashmiri is closely affiliated with al Qaeda, and the plans for the Denmark attack are an indication that HUJI has become more closely aligned with the transnational jihadist targeting philosophy as a result of Kashmiri's contacts with bin Laden and company. It appears that LeT, on the other hand, has retained more of a focus on India. So, while the two organizations continue to cooperate, they do have some differences in targeting philosophy, and it would seem that HUJI is creeping further into the al Qaeda orbit than LeT.

The information released to date in this case also underscores the importance of interpersonal relationships in the jihadist milieu and how these relationships, which are based on family, friendship and trust, often lead to an overlap in which people interact with different groups, and groups such as LeT and HUJI share resources and work together. The jihadist world can be a very murky place and operatives can work with different "companies," to use Headley's term.

Protective Intelligence Implications

This case also has some significant protective intelligence implications, and it underscores much of what we have been saying about surveillance and countersurveillance for several years now.

While Headley is a U.S. citizen and changed his name in order to camouflage his heritage and religious affiliation, he conducted an inordinate amount of surveillance activity by himself. Conducting a surveillance operation with only one person is among the most difficult and risky activities that any surveillance operative can be tasked to perform. Any time a person conducts surveillance he or she is vulnerable to detection. That vulnerability is mitigated somewhat if the surveillance is conducted by a team of individuals and the team members can take turns exposing themselves to potential countersurveillance. Doing a solo surveillance operation means that the surveillance operative is forced to show his face time and again to anyone watching.

Furthermore, activities such as taking photographs and making video recordings are far riskier than simply observing a target. Having one single surveillance operative visit two offices of the same newspaper and then take dozens of photos and make 13 video recordings of the offices in a one-week span, no less is terrible surveillance tradecraft. Had someone been conducting countersurveillance on one of the targets Headley was studying or, better yet, countersurveillance of more than one of these potential targets the countersurveillance assets almost certainly would have noticed his abnormal behavior. American tourists may frequently take photos and shoot videos while visiting foreign capitals, but they do not take the time to capture extensive still and video images of newspaper offices.

Even people who have conducted thousands upon thousands of hours of surveillance would have a hard time creating cover for action and status that would justify that much surveillance activity especially when the surveillant is a foreigner and working alone. The only rational explanation for why Headley was not noticed while conducting his surveillance is that nobody was looking.

The use of an American citizen to conduct surveillance once again illustrates the importance of focusing on the "how" of terrorist attacks and not just the "who." And when considering the actor, the focus must be placed on his or her behavior, not just nationality or religious creed.

(c) Stratfor Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved


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