Tuesday, March 29th, 2016
Images from videos released by the Islamic State – also called ISIS and ISIL – have become instantly recognizable to Americans. Featuring Islamist fighters in black balaclava masks displaying their signature version of the black shahada flag, these videos are commonly discussed by westerners using the terms “recruitment” and “propaganda.” But approaching these productions as recruitment materials or manipulative propaganda overlooks important characteristics of the Islamic State and the real threat posed by their strategic communication.
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016
Today’s tragic events in Belgium once again underscore the complexity of the current terrorist threat. ISIS has built a terrorist infrastructure in Belgium that facilitated these attacks. They were carried out by determined individuals with the requisite skill set, tradecraft, technical knowledge and discipline to execute simultaneous suicide attacks. There is a world of difference between this type of terrorist operation–and the infrastructure that has long been in place to support it–and the more spontaneous, often idiosyncratic violence coming from isolated individuals or lone wolves, such as the husband and wife team responsible for last year’s shootings in San Bernadino. Today, the terrorist threat for law enforcement and intelligence agencies is not an either/or proposition: it is posed by both lone wolves and established terrorist cells within existing organizations. The threat from the established cells has always shown itself to be more lethal and consequential in terms of body count. The challenge is to avoid becoming so consumed and preoccupied with the former so that insufficient attention is paid to and inadequate resources are devoted to that latter. Overwhelming law enforcement and intelligence with isolated, individual threats is an intrinsic part of the strategy of terrorist groups today.
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016
Waking up this morning to yet another terrorist attack, this time in Brussels, the recurring theme of what can be done to stop attacks like this from occurring is again raised. Before completing the first of a handful of live interviews which I have now been asked to do today, I watched the media raise this question to numerous other ‘experts’ with the common response that perimeters around airports must be expanded, that more police are needed, that the sharing of intelligence between intelligence agencies across Europe must be expanded, and that intelligence agencies must increase the sharing of intelligence with their respective police forces. Fifteen years on from 9/11, the resonance of the same recurring themes remains apparently unresolved.
Thursday, March 17th, 2016
By: Todd Bensman
“Despite a genuine recognition of the importance of exercising constant unilateral and multilateral vigilance … corruption, weak government institutions, insufficient interagency cooperation, weak or non-existent legislation, and a lack of resources remained the primary causes for the lack of significant progress on countering terrorism in some countries in the Western Hemisphere.” — 2014 U.S. State Department Country Reports on Terrorism: Western Hemisphere Overview
This document proposes implementation of a strategy whereby U.S. homeland security leaders might effectively target complex human smuggling networks at several identified points of vulnerability, to disrupt and deter high-risk migrants before they reach the U.S. The strategy involves a mixture of robust targeted diplomacy in conjunction with sharp, dedicated increases in certain kinds of foreign security aid and assistance to several countries of Latin America. It incorporates theories tying the strategy to the ubiquitous human will to acquire and preserve political power.
Because of the 9/11 attacks, national legislation required America’s homeland security agencies to dismantle transnational human smuggling organizations capable of transporting terrorist travelers to all U.S. borders. Federal homeland security agencies responded with programs targeting extreme-distance human smuggling networks that transport “Special Interest Aliens (SIAs)” to the country’s land borders. SIAs are regarded as higher-risk immigrants, are labeled as such, and must undergo additional security screening if they are citizens of some 35 “countries of interest” in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia where U.S.-designated terrorist organizations operate.
Wednesday, March 16th, 2016
As the tragic attacks last summer in Charleston, Chattanooga and aborted plots in Boston and other cities demonstrate, the threat of lone wolf terrorism is very real and rising. Yet, the U.S. government is behind the curve in crafting the type of comprehensive and innovative strategy required to counter this threat. Eight years ago the U.S. Congress rejected legislation to study this phenomenon and develop an effective response. This past summer, Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies took on this challenge: and the results and policy recommendations of this task force provide a way ahead for the U.S. to tackle this vexatious—and growing—threat.
The Task Force’s seventeen graduate students and their two instructors identified several salient, troubling trends that surfaced in Chattanooga and recently in Philadelphia. Of immediate importance was the increased targeting of military and law enforcement personnel. In addition, we found the greatly expanded use of social media and the Internet for radicalization, the lone wolf’s preference for firearms because of their ready availability in the U.S., and the declining affinity of lone wolf attackers for established terrorist groups to be alarming. The Task Force further concluded that profiling is not an effective means of detection and that therefore new, novel, alternative approaches are needed.
Caring for the Caretakers; Addressing the Mental Health Issues of First Responders during a Disaster
Sunday, March 13th, 2016
By: Tammy Chamblee & Randy Foster
In the Southern part of the United States, tornadoes and spring go hand in hand. Tornadoes are one of those natural disasters that the people of Mississippi have learned to respect through the years. Despite this, the events of April 28, 2014 presented new challenges for MS as 23 tornadoes tore through the state with a vengeance.
Hurricane Katrina will go down in history as one of the worst disasters to ever occur in the United States. While the state of MS responds to multiple events every year, Hurricane Katrina set the standard for many current day planning and response efforts. The Hurricane Katrina After Action Report (AAR) for Emergency Support Function-8 (ESF-8) noted that first responder mental health needs should be a priority. Since then, many efforts have been made to improve upon this specific issue to include an active working relationship between the MS State Department of Health (MSDH) and the MS Department of Mental Health (MDMH). Other efforts include Disaster First Aid training, First Responder Safety and Health planning, and implementation of Mobile Crisis Units that are utilized during emergency events.
While MS has taken these lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina to heart, the unprecedented tornado disaster of April 2014 showed exactly how vital and currently relevant these historic lessons still are. It also demonstrated areas that require further improvement. MS learned many lessons that will make an impact on healthcare and mental health for healthcare workers and first responders in future responses to disasters. Our hope is that the lessons learned in MS can be useful to other States and emergency response and recovery planners all over the world.
Sunday, March 13th, 2016
By: Catherine Bernstein
Fostering veterans’ social support, a crucial component of resilience, can vitally assist the military’s efforts to mitigate the negative effects of critical stress. Research supports exploring techniques for cultivating teams amongst troops returning from deployment, and dedicating resources to developing a social medium for their continued interaction.
Literature addressing military, responder, and civilian exposure to critical stress universally catalogues the availability of positive social support, for facilitating recovery from trauma. Social connectedness is an essential factor among the models for early critical stress intervention, such as psychological first aid and peer-support, and studies of critical incident stress also link social support with resilience. The enhancement of social support is recognized as a primary factor to promoting resiliency that may serve to protect against or assist the recovery from traumatic events.
Friday, March 11th, 2016
Group Name: Hamas
Principal Ideology: Geopolitical Autonomy
Area of Operation: Gaza Strip
Leadership: Shura Council. Political Bureau-Khaled Meshaal. Military Wing Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades (Independent of political bureau) – Muhammad Deif
Affiliated Groups: Muslim Brotherhood; Iran
Principal Enemy: Israel
Tactics: Terrorist (Indiscriminate rocket attacks; kidnapping; suicide)
In the spring and summer of 2014, Israelis and Palestinians found themselves once again in open conflict, seemingly due to the kidnapping and deaths of three Israeli teenagers. How did the violence really start? On July 10, 2014, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the UN Security Council, “Today, we face the risk of an all-out escalation in Israel and Gaza, with the threat of a ground offensive still palpable — and preventable, only if Hamas stops rocket firing…” As of July 11, 2014, Israel had killed more than 100 Palestinians and wounded several hundred in more than 1,100 air strikes. Yet with Israel poised for a ground invasion of Gaza, Hamas continued to launch rocket attacks without causing a single Israeli fatality. Why do terrorist organizations like Hamas carry on this way? The hair trigger was actually set months prior with the collapse of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, resulting in a new Fatah-Hamas alliance. The tripwire fired when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped on June 12, 2014. Israel responded with sweeps through 1,350 West Bank sites, resulting in 330 arrests (including re-arresting previously released prisoners), two Palestinian deaths, and the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager.
Thursday, March 10th, 2016
Author: Sheri Fink
Publisher: Crown Publishing Group, 2013
Reviewed by: Tammy Chamblee, RN, BSN, MA Homeland Security
Over the period of five days during the Hurricane Katrina disaster, people made choices we might think wouldn’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t be made in twenty-first century, modern America. Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial shows that given the right set of circumstances, the same decisions and consequences could face America again unless we learn necessary lessons and make necessary changes.
Five Day at Memorial details the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 at the Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans. It is an expansion of the Pulitzer Prize-winning article that was written by Fink and published in 2009 in The New York Times Magazine and describes the events that occurred at Memorial Medical Center during the five days after the hurricane as thousands of people found themselves trapped at the hospital without power. The system of triage that was put into effect deprioritized the critically ill patients for evacuation. Ultimately, a number of these patients were later euthanized by the nursing and medical staff. These acts occurred just shortly before the hospital was evacuated on the fifth day of the crisis. Fink examines the political and legal ramifications of the decision to euthanize these patients and then the ethical issues that surrounded health care in disaster scenarios.
The book went on to win three awards, one of which was a National Book Critics Circle Award.
Thursday, March 10th, 2016
Authors: Anders Strindberg and Mats Wärn
Published by: Polity Press, 2011
Reviewed by: Randy Brawley
Seeing Islamism Clearly for the First Time
Reading, Islamism: Religion, Radicalization, and Resistance, reminded me of the first time I was fitted for glasses. I knew I wasn’t seeing clearly, but had no idea just how distorted my view of the world was until the optometrist let me see through the proper lens. Similarly, “Islamism,” provides the reader with a new hermeneutic lens with which to understand Islamism. Specifically, Anders Strindberg and Mats Wärn contrast the work of renowned ‘terrorism experts’ who have only looked at Islamism based on the “Etic (the researcher’s perspective),” rather than the “Emic (the research subject’s perspective) …” I acquired a distorted view of Islam from similar ‘experts’ that spoke at a terrorism conference I hosted at the Pentagon almost a decade ago. At that conference, I “learned of the pathology of Islam that leads Muslims to be more violent and prone to terrorism than peace-loving Christians.” Now, after reading Islamism, I see Islamism for what it is. At its most basic, Islamism is the application of a religion’s morals over the particular local conditions. However, Strindberg and Wärn aptly establish that Islamism is much more. For example, Islamism has been a rallying point for post-colonial subjects as they revolt from the violent and corrupt repression of their colonial masters, who have typically been from Western, ‘Christian’ countries. Islamism, provides insight into what Islamism is, what it isn’t, and what might be real vs. mythical threats.