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Technology & Terrorists

Events in our world are turning uglier as time goes on. We, the Western world, face a cancerous growth of extremists and it is one that will grow and continue to spread to open and democratic countries if not checked now. To stop this growth and in attempting to excise it, we need to more reliably use “all” the Cyber and Law Enforcement technological tools at our disposal as well as with all the Intelligence skills, info and tools that we can muster.

NOTE: Do not be disappointed, none of what I write here is classified; many others have talked or written about various parts of this paper in some form or another in public spaces. There are no secret terms included. There are no secret techniques disclosed here, you can see better (maybe improbable) methods in the newest movies today. Thinking like an Intel Analyst or Officer can be done by anyone who is willing to use  their own brain for deep thinking, analyze what is there as well as what is not there and being aware of the blinding filters that so many people use – consciously and sub-consciously (i.e. the many biases – confirmation, anchoring, blind spot, projection, stereotypical and others).

There is a great deal of information that can be gleaned from multiple open source outlets and when all of this is combined, even the average citizen can put it together to make a coherent picture. And any average citizen of any country who does their own thinking and analysis will see this for themselves and will not have been brain fed any filtered and biased content from one news outlet or other source.

Strategy and Tactics

In performing any of this hunting, tracking and targeting, there will have to be humans making strategic and tactical decisions after decently, if not exhausting, analysis on the information relating to any possible extremist / terrorist. And these decisions should not be made by one person in a vacuum, one who believes they know everything – they do not. The decisions have to involve multiple people.

And over all of this decision making, the decisions and analysis must be made using as many sources as possible, not just one or two sources. The sources must be credible and reliable but sometimes, even using slightly less reliable information can lead to more exacting data.

Lastly, the strategy and tactics used must be for the short term as well as for the long term, as far out into the future as is feasible. We do not want to keep coming back to the same expensive global or local problem.

Law Enforcement Info Sharing

For those actively working in LE and organizations such as GCHQ, FBI, State Dept.’s INR, Interpol, CIA, etc., they must not allow any stove piping or the silo effect to occur. There has to be a free flowing movement of necessary and required information from one group to the other in order for there to be successful use of this law enforcement sharing.

Of course, as everyone should be aware, this info will and should be shared with those who have a need to know, not just because they want to know. And when the info is shared, it should not be shared in drips and drabs of law enforcement info because one agency thinks the other agency or group only needs to know small pieces of the pie.

In the cities and communities where there is the potential and actual recruitment of Jihadist wanna-be’s and Islamist extremists, LE needs to have as much information as possible in targeting the right people. On the flip side, the LE in those areas also need to share that info with the rest of the LE groups around the nation or globe to be effective.

Basically, in sharing solid (or nebulous) Intel, do not redact information just because you and your agency feel that the other agencies do not need to know something. This is a fight we are all in to stop extremist groups like the Islamic State (formerly ISIS / ISIL – I’ll be using ISIS throughout) and Boko Haram.

Targeting Terrorists & Terrorism

It appears that we, the U.S., are in for a lonely time, aside from Great Britain in hunting down ISIS/ISIL members and stopping this scourge.

When I say lonely, I mean that we cannot expect any assistance from China because they, at this time, seem immune to any mass rising of Jihadi-bent Islamists in their country. The militaristic and police state of China employing that country’s very strict crackdown on any dissident(s) activity will see to that – at this time.

Russia, they too are not of any use to the Western world in hunting down and stopping this wild weed growth of extremists. While Russia has an apparently large contingent of extremists in their country, they do not seem as helpful in willing to aid the global community in stopping a group like ISIS at the root. Russia seems to have this NIMBY mindset (same as China) that if we do not have an outbreak as is happening in Iraq and Syria, why should we bother helping other countries…? Russia, or more specifically Putin, is focused on forcibly taking land from another foreign country, whether it is for the mineral deposits (coal, gas) in eastern Ukraine, the naval base in Sevastopol (for access to the sea lanes from that region) or just to acquire a larger land footprint as a buffer against the E.U. and NATO.

Do not make the mistake of thinking all Western countries and other mid-Eastern countries are assisting the U.S. and the U.K., they are not. Or at least it is coming across as their not wanting to be publically seen in assisting the fight to stop ISIS. France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia and others do not appear to be looking down the road into the future as to what ‘may’ occur…

We, LE groups (of any country in this fight) must collaborate and target these groups and their activities at the root and most likely locations of hot bed activity.

And note, when we talk about terrorists and that ilk, it is not just extreme Islamists abroad, we are also talking about home grown terrorists, militia groups and the dangerous sovereign citizen groups (in the U.S.). We have to take all these groups into account as we hunt and target them. Any of these groups could, in thinking long term, join forces in some combination of unity for the overthrow of our open society for a more primitive and backwards ideology believing that they have the right vision for the future.

Intelligence Tools

Primarily, making better use of facial recognition infrastructure and software (the best of breed packages) needs to be stepped up. If some airport or local street corner camera is of low quality resolution or cannot effectively ‘see’ at night or dusk, it is a waste. Same with software if it cannot do perform scans and comparisons at blazing speeds with a significantly high accuracy rate.

Yes, this will mean the servers and PCs performing the scanning/comparison algorithms and calculations have to be top-tier and not some bargain basement computing system that was cobbled together to save money at that point in time. Newer, higher performing systems must be obtained in order to complete massive computer tasks now and one or two years down the road.

We cannot rely on older and slower computers and software in this fight in targeting extreme Jihadists.

And as to bomb detection capabilities currently in place, we have to do better as there are multiple newer and faster technologies out there.

And even more important, we, the Western world, must train and test our screeners (airports, shipping ports and border crossings) to be better and more educated in what they are looking for. We cannot afford slackers and disgruntled members allowing testers OR actual terrorists to slip through into the country, here, the U.K., Canada, etc. We must train the screeners better in behavioral recognition of suspicious individuals – and yes, this tool can work when used as part of a screening plan but only on its own by itself.

Databases

Making better use of LE DB systems must be a priority. There are DBs and then there are even better DBs, which compile massive amounts of data (images, text files, addresses, PDFs, documents, phone numbers, etc.). These ‘better’ DBs allow the user to manipulate all this data in creating multiple nimble queries. These queries can allow for much greater associative connections and produce these associations at a faster speed over any human reading and attempting to draw these ties and associations on paper. The DBs have to allow for large or small, disparate or similar data. And just as important, the DBs must be blazingly fast to handle large datasets and in returning results…

There are DBs for phone numbers, which are handy (once lawful permission is gained). Take burner phones for example, if there are a large number of burner phones calling a single phone number that can show up as a viable target for analysis.

Cyber Tools

We, the Western world need to work at creating better and more comprehensive profiles of possible wanna-be Terrorists. We must employ as many tools as possible in creating these cyber mug shots so we are not hunting the wrong people and possibly trampling their rights.

We have to be mindful of who we are targeting because sure as rain, there are going to be people with the same name, even with the same spellings that must be taken into account. These individuals might have similar email addresses as innocent citizens and there is the possibility of someone entering data into these cyber profiles but mistyping or transposing letters, creating a possible nightmare for the wrong person.

The extremist element is becoming smarter and smarter and their use of new tech and no one should make any assumptions that they are all dumb and stupid (just the suicide bombers who believe they will gain riches once they ascend). Al-Awlaki showed us all his masterful use of the Internet and the tech tools at his disposal.

Wireless

Wi-Fi communications is still on an ever growing trajectory and can be used in targeting possible extremist Islamists in any country. Even if extremist element is using encrypted Wi-Fi traffic that is a possible indicator of something going on, i.e. – if there is encrypted traffic in a desert area and there are no friendlies there that alone should warrant a look-see at who it might be.

And think about our LE group folks possibly (legally) tapping into some terrorist, or known associates to terrorists, who ‘might’ be wearing Google Glass or other similar ‘Net enabled device. That could come in handy one day.

Besides, we may get lucky in one or more of these extremists ‘not’ turning off their phone’s GPS locators…

Older Technology

In addition, landline and older cell-phone traffic should not be overlooked either because all that traffic can be useful. Just because we live in a high tech world, it does not mean the targets we hunt will always want to use it.

Then too, the old standby analog pagers of yesterday (yes, they are still in limited use) should not be overlooked as ‘potential’ terrorist’s usage (signals, IEDs, etc.).

Social Media

Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc., etc., etc. These are some of the sites that need to be culled to look for disaffected individuals – male and female, who make statements regarding Jihad and wishes of joining other zealot minded members in the mid-East (or other countries).

We need to look at these individual’s backgrounds, without trampling on anyone’s privacy rights in our zest to track and catch these lost and disgruntled people. When people make use of social media in talking about wanting to get Jihadi training for purposes of hurting others by using bombs or shooting or even becoming a suicide martyr, we need to take that into account.

We need to add cumulative content to the profiles of these individuals such as the following:

  • Disorderly Conduct discharge from the military (though individuals with an Honorable Discharge can change their mindset as well),
  • Encounters with law enforcement in their communities (and possibly in other states/provinces) leading to arrests and/or warnings,
  • Talk in various forums, chat rooms, web gun sites of the individual bragging about the number of weapons accumulated and/or what kind of damage they could do with these weapons,
  • Domestic abuse/altercations against women who refuse to be a religious domestic second class citizen (as one example) or against others (men or women) who may be perceived as Infidels and deserve to die (as per the Jihadist mandates),
  • Postings and statements on Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, Facebook and other radical websites should be scoured and analyzed as to whether the person/people making these statements are just angry citizens or are on an upward slope to becoming radicalized,
  • Continual and ongoing conversations with other known terrorists – not just a one-time conversation, which could have been inadvertently scooped up in an information drag net,
  • Conversations in radical or radicalizing forums and chatrooms,
  • Conversations in social media where it can be seen that someone is attempting to perform social engineering on others in veiled (or unveiled) attempts of recruitment,
  • Pictures from and other paraphernalia for these individuals that were posted should be taken into account as well

Bottom line, there is a plethora of info on an individual that can be gathered today from many, many disparate sites and locations that when combined should paint a picture that is solid enough to allow LE groups to go after someone who has now been identified as a viable person of interest.

Other Cyber Tools

There are many, many more tools at the disposal of LE groups that they can employ in hunting extremists.

Legal

Last but not least, legally, we must absolutely ensure that citizens of whichever country we are hunting terrorists are not subjected to police state tactics or massive invasions of privacy. 

Conclusion

This current ongoing plague of ISIS is a worrisome scenario. I personally do not want to return to the days after 9/11 when everyone was pointing fingers at anyone who was different from them with some LE elements bending the rules in looking for bad guys (and gals).

I do not want to live in a world where we have to continually be on the lookout for terrorists who might want to blow up our power grid, either locally or regionally.

We need to come together as one global community, using all the tools (cyber, LE, national and international rights) we have at hand to stop groups like ISIS or Boko Haram from growing and spreading.

Our future is ahead of us. So, do we want to live in fear – and make no mistake, while this current terrorist activity is happening far away, it could soon be in your back yard…

Or do we want to come together and live in better harmony?

 

Definitions:

Biases:

Anchoring              tendency to rely too heavily, or “anchor,” on one trait or piece of information when making decisions (usually the first piece of information that we acquire on that subject)[

Blind spot              tendency to see oneself as less biased than other people, or to be able to identify more cognitive biases in others than in oneself

Confirmation          tendency to search for, interpret, focus on and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions

Projection              tendency to unconsciously assume that others (or one’s future selves) share one’s current emotional states, thoughts and values

Stereotypical         Memory distorted towards stereotypes (e.g., racial or gender), e.g., “black-sounding” names being misremembered as names of criminals

DB                         Database

LE                          Law Enforcement

NIMBY                    Not In My Back Yard

Sovereign Citizen   A loose network of individuals living in the United States who call themselves “sovereign citizens” and believe that federal, state, and local governments operate illegally. Some of their actions, although quirky, are not crimes. The offenses they do commit seem minor, like creating false license plates, driver’s licenses, and even currency.

However, a closer look at sovereign citizens’ more severe crimes, from financial scams to impersonating or threatening law enforcement officials, gives reason for concern. If someone challenges (e.g., a standard traffic stop for false license plates) their ideology, the behavior of these sovereign-citizen extremists quickly can escalate to violence. Since 2000, lone-offender sovereign-citizen extremists have killed six law enforcement officers. In 2010, two Arkansas police officers stopped sovereign-citizen extremists Jerry Kane and his 16-year-old son Joseph during a routine traffic stop on Interstate 40. Joseph Kane jumped out of the vehicle and opened fire with an AK-47 assault rifle, killing both officers. (http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/september-2011/sovereign-citizens)

 

 

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