News you may have missed #836

Investigating the Boston bombingsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►NSA guide explains how to access private info on Google. In 2007, the US National Security Agency produced a book to help its spies uncover intelligence hiding on the World Wide Web. The 643-page tome, called Untangling the Web: A Guide to Internet Research (.pdf), has just been released by the NSA following a FOIA request filed in April by MuckRock, a site that charges fees to process public records for activists and others. Although the author’s name is redacted in the version released by the NSA, Muckrock’s FOIA indicates it was written by Robyn Winder and Charlie Speight.
►►Are the EU’s unofficial spy services growing out of control? Since its founding, the European Union has been building its own spy programs, often triggered by specific needs, in an ad-hoc manner, without strategy and without a coherent concept about their structure, methods, and people. Unofficially, the has been building an intelligence apparatus of six services so far, some of them brand new, populated already by 1,300 specialists. But because they are technically not conducting covert operations, they simply deny being intelligence services.
►►Hearing on Boston bombings exposes intelligence failures. The US House Committee on Homeland Security’s hearing on the Boston Marathon bombings on Thursday amounted to more than the usual political posturing: it exposed clear deficiencies in communications among intelligence- and law-enforcement agencies. whatever the cause of the intelligence breakdown, the failure to share vital information —and the continued finger-pointing between agencies yesterday— shows the need to improve coordination.

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News you may have missed #834

Site of one of the Boston Marathon blastsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Why FBI and CIA didn’t connect the dots on Boston bombers.  The FBI and the CIA are being criticized for not keeping better track of Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the months before the Boston Marathon bombings. How could they have ignored such a dangerous person? How do we reform the intelligence community to ensure this kind of failure doesn’t happen again? Legendary security expert Bruce Schneier says the idea of connecting the dots is a bad metaphor, and focusing on it makes us more likely to implement useless reforms.
►►Korean spy’s deportation reveals web of intrigue. Relations between Australia and South Korea have been strained after the East Asian economic powerhouse was caught soliciting sensitive information from public servants, and the deportation of a South Korean spy for espionage in 2009 was disclosed. New details of South Korean espionage in Australia were revealed in an unfair dismissal case before the Fair Work Commission brought by a former intelligence officer with the Australian Federal Police, Bo-Rim “Bryan” Kim.
►►Secret US court approved all domestic spying requests in 2012. The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (also known as FISA court) quietly rubber-stamped nearly 2,000 government requests to search or electronically monitor people in the United States last year, according to a Justice Department report. The agency, which oversees requests for surveillance warrants against suspected foreign intelligence agents on US soil, released the report to Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), showing that by approving the 1,856 inquiries “for foreign intelligence purposes”, it had granted every single government request in 2012.

News you may have missed #831 (Boston Marathon bombings)

Site of one of the Boston Marathon blastsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russia had warned FBI Tsarnaev had radical links. The Russian FSB intelligence security service shared with the FBI in early 2011 information that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the brothers suspected in the Boston marathon bombings, was a follower of radical Islam. The Russians allegedly told the FBI that Tsarnaev, 26,  had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the US to join unspecified underground groups.
►►FBI interviewed dead Boston bombing suspect years ago. The FBI admitted Friday they interviewed the now-deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years ago but failed to find any incriminating information about him. The FBI probe culminated in a sit-down interview where they probably asked him a lot of questions about his life, his contacts, his surroundings. All of this was then written in a report.
►►Ex-CIA/FBI official says Boston bombings were not terrorism. Counterterrorism expert Philip Mudd, with experience in the CIA and the FBI, told Fox News: “What I fear is that people too quickly categorize this as terrorism. This looks more to me like Columbine than it does like al Qaeda. Two kids who radicalized between themselves in a closed circle and go out and commit murder. I would charge these guys as murderers, not terrorists”.
►►Ex-US Attorney General says Boston bombings were terrorism. Michael Mukasey, Attorney General of the United States from 2007 to 2009, says that the Boston attack “was obviously a suicide operation –not in the direct way of a bomber who kills all his victims and himself at the same time by blowing himself up, but in the way of someone who conducts a spree, holding the stage for as long as possible, before he is cut down in a blaze of what he believes is glory. Here, think Mumbai”.

News you may have missed #830 (Boston bombings analysis)

Site of one of the Boston Marathon blastsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Despite WMD fears, terrorists still focused on conventional attacks. The United States has spent billions of dollars to prevent terrorists from obtaining a weapon of mass destruction even as the bombings in Boston further show that a nuclear weapon or lethal bioagent is not necessary for causing significant harm. However, experts warn that, even though there is a considerably lower probability of a WMD attack versus a conventional strike, the much higher consequences necessitate continued US investment in prevention and preparation.
►►Why isn’t terrorism in the US a whole lot more frequent? While the horrific bombing at the Boston Marathon has brought concerns about terrorism back to the forefront of national attention, it is worth remembering that terrorism inside the United States is exceedingly rare. Over the past 40 years, just over 3 people on average have been killed by acts of terrorism per year (remove 9/11, and the average is 1.4 deaths per year). After 9/11 or an event like the Boston attack, we often think “it would be so easy to [fill in the blank] and cause massive damage.” And it’s true. Then why doesn’t it happen more often?
►►Boston bomb investigators can’t decide: foreign or domestic? Even the most experienced investigators are still trying to decide whether the Boston marathon bombs were carried out at the hands of domestic or foreign attackers. The inability to settle that question is proving frustrating to investigators. Former FBI assistant director Tom Fuentes told CNN: “I’ve run bomb scenes in Iraq and also in the US”, adding that the attack in Boston “has the hallmarks of both domestic and international, and you can see either side of that”.
►►Smoke color is key clue to analyzing Boston Marathon bombs. As a team of investigators led by the FBI begins deciphering the bombs that killed three people and wounded 150 more in Boston this week, a key clue is already in plain sight on countless videos taken during the blasts: the color of the smoke. Analyzing the color of the smoke can provide information about the explosive that powered the bombs, which in turn provides clues about its sophistication —and, possibly, that of the people who made it.

Analysis: Five dangerous myths about the Boston Marathon bombings

Investigating the Boston bombingsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The endless opinion pieces about the Boston bombings that have flooded the media-sphere since Monday have one thing in common: they are highly speculative and, for the most part, unreliable. At this early stage, nobody outside the security or intelligence establishments has any idea about the identity or motives behind the attacks —and if they say they do, they are lying. Even those on the inside routinely refer to the ongoing investigation as one of the most complex in the country’s post-9/11 history. As the probe continues, and the nation deals with the meaning of the Boston bombings, it is critical that some of the dangerously misinformed and premature notions about the attacks are dispelled.

To begin with, the Boston Marathon bombings were not necessarily terrorism. They were clearly calculated and indiscriminate, but in order for them to qualify as terrorism, their planners must have a broad political or ideological objective. Terrorism is a tactic used to further a political goal. There is a reason why we don’t refer to school shootings, such as the one that took place on December 14, 2013, at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, as terrorism. They are calculated and extremely violent, but they do not contain a political motive. Before we can attach a terrorist label to the Boston bombings, we have to uncover the motive of the perpetrator(s). Barring that, the incident must be treated simply as a criminal act. Read more of this post

Technical analysis offers first clues about Boston Marathon bomber(s)

Site of one of the Boston Marathon blastsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Counterterrorism experts probing Monday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon are bound to start searching for the culprits by focusing on the technical specifications of the attacks. According to the Boston Police Department, three people were killed and at least 144 were injured —many of them critically— by the blasts, which rocked downtown Boston at 2:45 p.m. local time. The second explosion was carefully timed to coincide with the initial blast, and occurred just ten seconds later, fewer than 100 yards down the road from the site of the first explosion. At least one report stated that law enforcement teams found and dismantled up to five additional devices at the site, which had failed to detonate. But one police official later denied these reports, saying that “closer examinations led [the police] to doubt that [the devices] were bombs”. If additional devices were indeed present at the site of the blast, it is likely that they failed to detonate due to the collapse of the wireless network in Boston, which was knocked down by a sudden spurt in usage following the initial blasts. If, as it appears, these bombs were types of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and if suicide terrorism was not involved, chances are the devices were remotely triggered using the diodes commonly found inside the speakers of inexpensive cell phones. Depending on the constitution of the bombs themselves, they could contain ball bearings, screws, or other metal fragments stuffed inside a container around some type of explosive. Read more of this post

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