Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

Reading about terror in Oslo, and remembering a stroller

I remember seeing many things during the fast-paced day I once spent in Oslo: a 12-centuries-old Viking ship; the freaky sculptures at Vigeland Park; the hall where the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded each year; a can of Coca-Cola priced at the equivalent of $4 at an honest-to-goodness Seven-Eleven.

But the image that keeps returning to my mind today — after hearing that reports that several people were gunned down at an island youth camp, following a bombing near the Norwegian parliament building — is of a stroller.

It was sitting alone outside the entrance to a store in downtown Oslo. And, yes, there was a baby in it. As hard as it is for most Americans to believe, the trust among Norwegians, my wife and I learned, was such that a mother could leave an infant in a stroller outside the store while she shopped.

How shattered that trust must be today.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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Poll Position: What worries you most about cyber attacks?

The biggest news about hacking lately has involved the News of the World tabloid in Britain and, we learned Thursday, an FBI probe of potential hacking in the U.S. by papers owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

But long before those reports, it was shaping up as a banner year for hackers of a different kind.

So far, this year has brought us compromised computers at Lockheed Martin, Citigroup, Google, the U.S. Senate, the International Monetary Fund, Sony, Epsilon Data Management and, maybe most embarrassing, RSA — maker of the SecureID tokens designed to, you know, keep data and systems safe.

Three years ago, U.S. Central Command was successfully attacked by a worm that continues to cause problems. Of course, as Stuxnet proved, Americans aren’t the only ones being so targeted. The Pentagon has decided that cyber attacks by other countries can constitute acts of war that may be deserving of retaliation by conventional military force.

What kind of hacking worries you most?

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Bin Laden’s writings suggest we defeated him a long time ago

There’s some interesting information about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida in an Associated Press story based on writings by bin Laden taken from the compound where Navy SEALs killed the terrorist leader last month. Add it up, and it seems we had marginalized bin Laden and, in his view, won the battle of ideas long before we finally killed him:

As Osama bin Laden watched his terrorist organization get picked apart, he lamented in his final writings that al-Qaida was suffering from a marketing problem. His group was killing too many Muslims and that was bad for business. The West was winning the public relations fight. All his old comrades were dead and he barely knew their replacements.

Faced with these challenges, bin Laden, who hated the United States and decried capitalism, considered a most American of business strategies. Like Blackwater, ValuJet and Philip Morris, perhaps what al-Qaida really needed was a fresh start under a new name.

“Al-Qaida,” in bin Laden’s mind, was …

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Still need a wait-and-see approach to Afghan withdrawals

Tonight, President Obama is expected to announce a reduction of our troops in Afghanistan of 10,000 by the end of this year and 23,000 more by next summer — thereby unwinding the “surge” he announced 18 months ago. The question already being debated: Is this the right time to begin the withdrawal?

Keeping in mind that removing the pre-surge contingent of almost 70,000 troops apparently is not imminent, I decided to look back at Obama’s speech 18 months ago, to cadets at West Point, and see what he said then to justify the surge. Here is the key portion of that speech:

I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda.  It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak.  This is no idle danger; no hypothetical threat.  In the last few months alone, we have apprehended extremists within our …

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NATO’s future: Let Europe bear the cost of defending Europe

For 58 of NATO’s 62 years of existence, the United States has had an ambassador to the military alliance. For many of those years, particularly the most recent ones, our man in Brussels has had a constant, overarching mission: Beg our allies to spend more on their own militaries.

Such was related to me once by one of those ambassadors. So it didn’t surprise me last week when departing Defense Secretary Robert Gates unloaded on those allies that view the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a means of outsourcing their national defense to us.

As Gates warned, that outsourcing won’t hold up forever.

The trans-Atlantic alliance, Gates said, had finally reached the long-feared gap between “those willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who [only] enjoy the benefits of NATO membership.”

Of the 28 NATO members, Gates said, just five spend as much on defense each year — more than 2 percent of gross domestic product — as they agreed. …

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Obama’s back down to his pre-Osama poll numbers

A data point for those who thought President Barack Obama became invincible with the news that Osama bin Laden had been rendered, well, not invincible. From National Journal:

The bump President Obama received after the killing of Osama bin Laden more than two weeks ago in Pakistan has vanished completely, according to the latest Gallup Tracking poll released Monday.

Obama’s approval rating is now at 46 percent, equal to his approval rating in the last tracking poll conducted before Obama addressed Americans late on May 1 and informed them of bin Laden’s death. Forty-four percent of Americans now disapprove of the job Obama is doing as president.

According to the Gallup poll, Obama’s approval rating crested at 52 percent after the bin Laden killing. His disapproval rating never fell lower than 40 percent.

Obama’s bounce is smaller in magnitude and shorter in duration than the bumps enjoyed by other presidents over the past 70 years, according to a study by Republican polling …

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Bin Laden: Now, what about Pakistan?

The question in the headline arose almost as soon as Americans learned our guys found and killed Osama bin Laden. Al-Qaida’s leader was hiding not far from Pakistan’s capital in a town called Abbottabad, where the country’s future military officers go to be trained and its past officers go to retire. There is speculation he may have lived in a large, walled compound there for up to six years.

Pakistan’s leaders, CIA Director Leon Panetta reportedly told congressional leaders this week, were either “involved or incompetent” in allowing bin Laden to live securely right under their noses. The White House didn’t notify Pakistan’s government of the mission beforehand, worried that someone in Islamabad’s hierarchy would warn bin Laden and allow him to escape again.

All this, despite our spending billions on foreign aid for Pakistan. If our foreign aid dollars can’t buy competence or confidence, what are we buying?

Public opinion polls routinely list foreign aid …

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Bin Laden: And now for the politics of it all

The notion that President Barack Obama sealed his re-election next year by nabbing Osama bin Laden is premature and overblown. Too much can and will happen during the next 18 months. And, barring further dramatic events overseas, I still think the economy will be the single biggest factor in the 2012 race.

That said, this episode very clearly strengthens Obama’s political hand, and I disagree with those who say the issue has no staying power. Overseeing the completion of the 13-year manhunt for bin Laden, and doing so by acting with a decisiveness that many commentators on the right said Obama couldn’t muster, burnishes Obama’s antiterror credentials and will raise his stature in a lot of people’s eyes.

Of course, what the president does next will be crucial. Imagine, for instance, if we follow this up by using the intelligence gathered in Abbottabad to kill or capture other al Qaida leaders, including new top dog Ayman al-Zawahiri. On the other hand, it could be that nothing …

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Bin Laden: We slayed the monster, they must slay his ghost

Note: The Tuesday print edition of the AJC will include columns by a number of our writers about the killing of Osama bin Laden (I’ll add more links as they’re posted online). The following is my contribution.

On a visit to Berlin three years ago, my wife and I took a bicycle tour of the German capital’s World War II and Cold War sites. About halfway through the tour, we stopped on a patch of grass and asphalt outside an apartment building. There was nothing to see, the guide explained, but she did want us to know that we were standing above the bunker where Adolf Hitler killed himself. (You might say they paved perdition and put up a parking lot.)

When the news hit the airwaves late Sunday night that Navy SEALs had shot Osama bin Laden dead — 66 years and a day after Hitler’s own death — I felt strangely relieved and heartened. The scene of passersby breaking out into spontaneous, patriotic melody outside the White House marked a moment of clear, unifying victory for a nation …

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More on the killing of bin Laden

Additional thoughts on our assassination of Osama bin Laden (with an additional eighth point at the bottom):

1. From the main Associated Press story:

Three adult males were also killed in the raid, including one of bin Laden’s sons, whom officials did not name. One of bin Laden’s sons, Hamza, is a senior member of al-Qaida. U.S. officials also said one woman was killed when she was used as a shield by a male combatant, and two other women were injured. (emphasis added)

Cowards, to the end.

2. From an AP story on the finer points of the raid itself:

Intelligence officials discovered the compound in August while monitoring an al-Qaida courier. The CIA had been hunting that courier for years, ever since detainees told interrogators that the courier was so trusted by bin Laden that he might very well be living with the al-Qaida leader. (emphasis added)

It will be very interesting to learn the specifics of “detainees told interrogators” and whether this story vindicates the …

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