Ireland is the Global Per Capita Leader for Radical Islamists

Various aspects of national security in Ireland are handled by several different specialist units within the Gardaí including the Emergency Response Unit, the Drugs & Organised Crime Bureau, the Special Detective Unit, Crime & Security Branch as well as G2 Military Intelligence.

However Ireland’s neutrality means that the country does not have the same military and defence budgets, as a percentage of GDP, made available to develop capabilities compared to most other countries.

Irish Intel’s Non-Existent Proactive Track Record

Dubious and bizarre characters of all kinds keep turning up on Irish shores or are in-country having become naturalised Irish citizens or having successfully acquired residency or asylum in Ireland. All of this while involved in various kinds of international military interventions, terrorist fundraising, extremism or as known proponents of radical ideologies.

It would seem that it all falls well below the radar of those who are allegedly overseeing these matters but who assure the Irish public that everything is under control and that there is very little to be concerned about. For instance, after the Paris attacks, the Irish Justice Minister said that “the latest threat assessment to Ireland does not increase… it is low,” and rejected claims that the country’s 9,500 strong Defence Force was inadequately equipped to deal with the terrorist threat. (RTE, November 18, 2015).

This statement betrays the Irish Intel communities blind-spot with respect to Radical Islamism – namely that efforts, if any, are focussed on looking inwards when Ireland has a disproportionate effect on the external activities of Islamic extremists in comparison to the size of its Muslim population.

How can Ireland’s intelligence agencies convince the international community that they are seriously capable of tackling the “jihadi growth industry” in Ireland when spectacular characters such as – Ali-Charaf Damache – The Black Flag or the ISIS recruiter currently resisting deportation or Mahdi al-Harati and his receipt of several million EURO from one of the US alphabet agencies to sponsor rebels in Libya – go completely unnoticed by them until drawn to their attention by externals?

In relation to the Radical Islamist threat we allege that Irish government policy, inertia and ignorance combined with the support and encouragement of ill informed pressure groups, biased refugee support groups and “one size fits all, up for anything” liberals has allowed Ireland to become the soft underbelly for jihadist movement, organisation and support (in particular propagandist social media accounts) in Europe.

Irish Based ISIS Recruiter Fighting Deportation Order 

Mahdi al-Harati (Centre) Irish-Libyan 
Liwaa al-Umma Founder & Alleged US Alphabet Agency Asset 

Three Serious Emerging National Security Threats 

There are three new distinct threats to the Irish State which the Irish State is inadequately equipped to tackle: Islamic Jihadists, Cyber Threats and Espionage.

Cyber Threats and Espionage because of Ireland’s large R&D sector and the massive foreign direct investment Ireland receives while acting as EMEA and in some cases Global HQ’s for many tech and pharmaceutical giants. The Cyber Warfare and Espionage Threats will be the subject of separate blog posts.

There have been arguments that Ireland needs one agency to deal with these three threats alone.

This contrasts sharply with the rhetoric of the Irish government and the downplaying of the threat posed by these newish phenomena in terms of Ireland’s security landscape.

Myriad Weaknesses in Irish Government Policy

In particular, when it comes to tackling Islamic extremism there are myriad weaknesses in the Irish system and the approaches used have not changed much since The Troubles, despite the modern challenges and vastly different methods being used by jihadists.

The Irish government’s assessment is that the Irish security services, despite their small size, have an extremely competent counter-terrorism wing, honed over decades of tackling Irish republican militancy.

The question, however, is to what extent this expertise can now be repurposed towards dealing with militant Islamism, especially given that the threat is rapidly growing and evolving and is culturally, structurally and ideologically at complete odds with what the alleged past experience of the Irish security services has been – from which officialdom in Ireland draws comfort.

Counter Terrorism International (CTI)

Last year the Garda established the Counter Terrorism International (CTI) unit to target groups supporting extremist operations in other countries. The unit it is said works closely with its counterparts throughout the EU, with the CIA, and the National Security Agency in the United States.

Nóirín O’Sullivan is the current Commissioner of the Garda Síochána

Despite this progress, the Irish security services – even this allegedly specialized Islamist-focused unit – face significant resourcing and expertise shortfalls. Irish media recently reported the Gardai lack key counterterrorism tactics such as knowledge of the Arabic-language skills, a dedicated unit tracking jihadist social media and a de-radicalization strategy to rehabilitate returning foreign fighters (Irish Examiner, November 21, 2015).

A source told the Sunday Independent late in 2015 that: “What you have is small groups of jihadis who cannot travel directly to Turkey, for access to Syria, arriving here, receiving support and money and then transiting through Ireland to the war zones. There is quite an elaborate support network based in Dublin and other major Leinster towns which is attracting the attention of security agencies in the rest of Europe and further afield.”

As the above instances demonstrate, Irish jihadists’ alleged use of the country as a logistical and transport hub where false passports can be procured poses potential risks not only to Ireland but also abroad. Uniquely, Irish citizens do not need passports to travel to the UK, and the country is part of the EU and enjoys easy travel to the US under the latter’s visa waiver system. As a result, Islamist radicalization in Ireland does not just pose a threat within Ireland’s borders, but also to countries further afield, and Ireland has failed utterly in its responsibilities in that regard with its laissez-faire attitude to the problem.

That paper also reported that foreign intelligence agencies believe that extremists have been holding training camps in remote areas of Leinster – a province in the East of Ireland.

A Garda spokesperson recently told The Journal Dot IE, that: “In line with best international practice, we seek to promote engagement with communities to counter the threat of radicalisation and devote appropriate resources to investigate individuals who are assessed to pose a threat. A close working relationship is maintained with police and security partners in the EU and other countries in respect of developing threats and ongoing, international efforts to counter terrorism generally. It would be inappropriate, in view of ongoing operations and enquiries, to comment further on specific strategies or methodologies.”

The Islamic Jihadist Threat in Ireland 

Since 2012, it is claimed by official sources that up to 60 Irish citizens have traveled to Syria to fight for a number of different Sunni rebel groups including ISIS. The government in Ireland insisted as recently as January of 2016 that the figure was between 25 and 30. The government of Ireland often states that three of these war zone tourists have been killed. Yet a cursory trawl of records online shows at least five casualties.

  1. Irish citizen, 22-year old Hudhaifa ElSayed, who was of Egyptian origin but raised in Ireland’s County Louth, was killed with Liwaa al-Umma during a clash with Syrian government forces in Idlib province in northern Syria in December 2012 (The Journal, December 20, 2012).
  2. Another individual, 16-year old Shamseddin Gaidan, a Dublin resident of Libyan origin, was killed in Syria in February 2013 fighting with an unknown rebel group, having crossed into the country from Turkey the previous year (Independent [Ireland], February 23, 2013). 
  3. Hisham Habbash (29), a Libyan-born man who grew up in Ireland was been killed during fighting between rebels and regime forces near the northeastern town of Raqqa. (Irish Times, June 24, 2013).
  4. Jordanian-born Palestinian, 22-year old Alaa Ciymeh, who had been brought up in Ireland before returning to Jordan in 2008. He was killed while fighting for the group in April 2013 (Irish Times, May 3, 2013; Herald [Ireland], June 27, 2014).
  5. Muthenna Abu Taubah, 24, an Irish jihadi who defended the beheading of western hostages by IS blew himself up in a bomb-making factory. He died in an accident along with his best friend in the terror group’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa, Syria. (The Irish Sun, June 25, 2015)

Although details of Irish involvement in more hardline groups such as the Islamic State or al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, Jahbat al-Nusra, are scarce, there is evidence that Irish citizens are active with these groups. In August 2014, Irish media reported that a self-described “Irish-Nigerian” convert to Islam had been trying to recruit individuals to come to Syria via the ask.fm internet forum, an approach used by other Islamic State recruiters (Independent, August 21, 2014). In one exchange, the individual – whose online name was “Muthenna ibn Abu” – defended IS’s beheading of British aid worker, David Haines (Independent, September 14, 2014). His identity and current whereabouts are unknown.

TMGCS Counter Theory on Radical Islam in Ireland

Over the course of the last twenty four months TMGCS carried out research that commenced after the publication of our blog post Precision Guided Message (23rd July 2014). The investigation sought to provide a detailed assessment of the actual jihadi culture in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Various methods were used to collect the information that informed the conclusions drawn below including information from sources who participated in relevant events, participation in and observation of certain relevant groups, information from sources in agencies and organisations external to the Irish State, information from sources from the Middle East region living elsewhere in Europe who have been on the ground in Syria, Libya & Iraq, interviews and discussions with associates of known jihadists, observations at a number of student group gatherings as well as input from a number of other methods and OSINT.

The evidence that Ireland, as well as a key exporter of jihadists, is home to a number of Islamic State supporters who are actively providing financial and other forms of support, using the country not only as a recruiting centre, but as a logistical hub is compelling.

The headline outcome of the process is that TMGCS estimate that the actual figure of travelling Irish jihadists is closer to 125 and that, conservatively, there are 20 plus active ISIS supporters providing logistical assistance to that group from within the Irish State.

In November 2015, independent cyber security analysts used leaked details of Islamic State-supporting Twitter accounts to establish that between 20 and 50, active Islamic State online-based supporters were residing in Ireland (The Journal, November 23).

In another indicator of latent support for the Islamic State in Ireland, Irish Muslims responsible for organizing a ‘Not in Our Name’ protest against the terrorist group in July 2015 claimed that they were assaulted by two self-identified Islamic State supporters in an unnamed mosque in Dublin (Irish Times, July 27).

At present, the Irish government is seeking to deport a 52-year old individual (who cannot be named for legal reasons) to a Middle Eastern country (The Journal, December 29). The government has described him as “the foremost organizer and facilitator of travel by extremists prepared to undertake violent action” on behalf of Islamic State in Ireland, and of having also recruited for jihadist groups in Afghanistan (Ibid).

In a potentially related development, in November 2015, citing a security service source, Irish media reported that “a small number of Irish-based Muslim extremists” with a “central group consisting of around 12 radicals” had been sheltering British and European jihadists, including supplying them with fake passports for travel (Irish Independent, November 1, 2015). The source additionally said that Ireland was being used as a stop-off point for jihadists en route to Turkey, in order to confuse security services watching for jihadists travelling to Turkey directly (Ibid).

Excluded Groups

The research process did not include a review or conclusions drawn from the elements of Irish society who are Muslim converts, are non-Muslim or have no direct links to the Middle East but who nonetheless support certain Radical Islamist ideals and groups.

“Taliban Terry” aka Muslim Convert Khalid Kelly

This section of the jihadist infrastructure in Ireland – North and South – mainly draws support from former members or supporters of certain paramilitary organisations, other extremist groups, certain left wing independent politicians, the usual array of the psychologically challenged and a small number of official as well as un-registered “political” parties.

Derry man Eamon Bradley 
Irish fighter in Syrian civil war after arrest in Northern Ireland
and subsequently charged with terror offences
Eamon Bradley in the Middle East with a number of weapons

The Official vs the Unofficial Extremist Per Capita Statistics

At first glance, it would appear that the official and even the increased TMGCS estimates are insignificant compared to other European countries’ jihadist cultures, in particular France and Germany, and minuscule when compared to say active participants in the Syrian conflict from North African countries such as Tunisia and Morocco.

But that is the danger of stand alone numbers versus the value of statistics and analysis.

Countries with relatively small Muslim populations have sent a disproportionately large numbers of jihadis abroad. Finland and Ireland according to reports have the highest number of foreign fighters per capita – nearly one per 1,400 Muslims living in those countries have gone to Syria.

Britain and France have comparable percentages of local Muslims going to fight in Syria – just over one in 6,000 British Muslims and one in 6,666 French Muslims have gone to Syria, governments say. The figures in the Netherlands are not far off, around one in 7,700. American Muslims are going to Syria at a much lower rate, closer to one in 25,000.

CNN recently conducted a study based on data provided by twenty five national governments, from Pew Research Center and a number of other sources. That study concluded that Ireland had the second highest per capita rate of Muslims going to fight in Syria of the twenty five countries surveyed.

Percentage of Local Muslims Who Have Gone to Fight (CNN Study)

The CNN Study put the figure of Irish Jihadists at 0.07% of the overall number of Muslims in Ireland. Out of a Muslim population of around 43,000 only 25 to 30 individuals have gone to fight in Syria according to the information CNN received from the Irish government. Globally, even these incorrect figures still put Ireland in second place in terms of per capita rate of Muslims going to fight in Syria.

  1. Finland: 0.071% – 42,000 Muslims call Finland home. Roughly 30 of them have left to engage in jihadist battles in Syria;
  2. Ireland: 0.070% – Out of a Muslim population of around 43,000, 25 to 30 individuals have gone to fight in Syria according to official Irish government figures; 
  3. France: 0.0175% – Over 700 Muslims have gone from France to fight in Syria out of a population of over four million;
  4. Tunisia: 0.0319% – Out of a population of over 10 million Muslims, there are around 3,000 jihadis;
  5. Indonesia: 0.000370% – A population of over 200 million, has only seen between 30 and 60 Muslims going to fight in the conflict in Syria; 

Ireland Has An Abnormally High Per Capita Rate of Radical Islamists

Ireland is estimated to have a total Muslim population of between 45,000 and 60,000. For the purposes of developing the TMGCS statistics the median figure of 52,500 was chosen.

The result of the CNN study based on government figures was (as outlined above):

Ireland: 0.070% – Out of a Muslim population of around 43,000, 25 to 30 individuals have gone to fight in Syria according to official Irish government figures. Approximating to roughly one in 1400 Irish Muslims;   

The result of the TMGCS study based on the methods we described above is:
Ireland: 0.2761% – Out of a Muslim population of 52,500 (median value), 125 plus individuals have gone to fight in Syria and the radical Islamist process is directly supported by 20 facilitators in Ireland for a total figure of 145. One in every 362 Irish Muslims;     
If the Muslim population estimate of Ireland of 43,000 is used as per the CNN study then the figures are:
Ireland: 0.3372% – Out of a Muslim population of 43,000 (CNN Study Benchmark Figure), 125 plus individuals have gone to fight in Syria and the radical Islamist process is directly supported by 20 facilitators in Ireland for a total figure of 145. One in 297 Irish Muslims;   
Why So Many Radicalized Irish Resident Muslims?
(Excerpted & Referenced from Articles by The Jamestown Foundation)
One potential causes of Irish Muslim radicalization is the range of Islamist groups from the Arab world with strong ideological commitments to “sharia law” and to creating an “Islamic state” that are strongly entrenched in Irish Muslim communities.

These groups have prepared the ground for recruitment and re-inforced the previously slick ISIS propaganda machine while hampering attempts to combat it. Most notably, the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland (ICCI), based in a mosque in Clonskeagh, Dublin has positioned itself as a representative of all Muslims in Ireland and consequently enjoys privileged access to the Irish government.

This group is closely tied to the hardline European Council for Fatwa and Research, run by Muslim Brotherhood figurehead Yusuf al-Qaradawi, which has sought to promote highly conservative interpretations of Islam to European Muslims.

Even today, ICCI’s website openly offers PDFs of books calling for adulterers to be flogged or stoned to death, thereby directly promoting the same core Islamist ideologies as the Islamic State itself, even while remaining a key partner of the Irish government.

As with other Islamist-influenced organisations in the West, the ICCI has also consistently denied that any radicalization is taking place in Ireland, greatly hampering the attempts to understand domestic radicalization or gain the support of Muslim communities.

For instance, following the November 2015 Paris attacks, the ICCI’s spokesman, Ali Selim, told Irish media that while he condemned the attacks, Irish Muslims “have not been entertaining the ideas [the Islamic State] has been trying to sell them” (RTE, November 14, 2015).

The ICCI has also sought to publicly undermine other Muslim group’s anti-Islamic State protests, for instance, refusing to join an anti-Islamic State march organized by a non-Islamist Sufi Muslim group, further undermining Irish efforts to combat Islamist radicalization (Irish Independent, July 5, 2015).

Irish Government Reaction – Withdrawal of Passports
To counter this issue the most radical action that the Irish government has taken was when it decided last year (2015) that the passports of those involved in illegal jihadi activity in Iraq or Syria would be withdrawn. Pure lip service. 
Additionally, nearly a year earlier when the UK considered introducing similar measures Nick Clegg said it was not obvious how the UK could withdraw passports from British jihadis and remain inside international law. The then deputy prime minister indicated that the idea was unlikely to work, saying that the UK would not do anything illegal. 
The British government had been examining the possibility of withdrawing citizenship from suspected jihadis returning from Iraq and Syria. However, David Cameron acknowledged that there were legal difficulties and omitted it from his package of measures to deal with the problem. 
David Anderson, an independent reviewer of terrorism, said there were significant difficulties with giving police the powers to withdraw passports from UK citizens, in effect leaving them stateless.
In Ireland, we have failed to find any instances of the policy being put into action and the most recent case running through the Irish Courts is ample evidence of the inability of the Irish judiciary to tackle what seems to amount to an open and shut case in terms of an ISIS recruiter operating openly in Dublin, Ireland.  
ISIS Recruiter Fighting Deportation Order 
Before publication we contacted a number of Islamic institutions in Ireland for comment on the findings and assertions in this article and offered them an opportunity to counter our thesis and respond with corrections or suggestions. We received no responses.
References & Sources 

The Jamestown Foundation
James Brandon, Political & Security Risk Analyst
Terrorism Monitor Volume: 14 Issue: 1 January 7, 2016
Global Research & Analysis – EURASIA:Terrorism
Michael Sheils McNamee @michaelonassis michaelsm@thejournal.ie
Michelle Hennessy @michellehtweet michelle@thejournal.ie
The Journal Dot IE
Vocativ
Die Welt
France 24
El Mundo
VICE News
RT.com
The Syrian Human Rights Observatory
The Irish Times
The Foreign Policy Institute
War on the Rocks Blog
The Long War Journal
The Irish Sun
The Independent
The Guardian
The Daily Mail

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Rebuttal to Comment on the LinkedIn Forum: Counter Terrorism & Geopolitical Security

Rebuttal to Comment made by NAME WITHHELD on the Counter Terrorism & Geopolitical Security Forum on LinkedIn regarding TMG Corporate Services’ blog post Schengen: Compromising Europe’s internal security by “democratic consent” Authors: Graham Penrose, Owner, TMG Corporate Services & Mr. Douglas Straun, Senior Risk Analyst & Defence Consultant  
Thank you Sir for your opinion and comments – please allow me to address them in the order in which they are made and to also rebut the conclusion which you have arrived at. 
Before doing so I would like to state that I find your commentary offensive – as it does not attempt to debate the issue but offers sweeping unsubstantiated generalisations, introduces emotion, concludes with an insult and in its entirety calls into question my integrity and that of my team: 
1. Your comment in quotes: “This is really an unqualified opinion based on simple assumptions. The results in my opinion are inaccurate.” 
Our Response: In the first instance this is a blog post and as stated in the body of the post is one of a series of posts to follow – each subsequent post elaborating and extrapolating on the statements made in the current post and offering evidence to prove the veracity of what we have written. It is not nor does it purport to be an academic treatise drawing the premise from introduction through all stages of proof with references ending in a comprehensive set of findings and conclusions – that is because – as we clearly stated within the body of the post (which I am not sure that you actually read in full based on your comments):
How much more destructive, effective and demoralising will these new attacks be when executed by seasoned extremists, tested fighters and ideologues who are natives of the regions in question sent directly from the heart of the conflict in Syria & Iraq, who have likely seen family and friends die during the recent conflicts and who have been tutored personally by the extremist leadership of these organisations? As opposed to first or second generation Western European radical Islamists who learned their trade by distance education, short visits to training camps and likely had no personal tragedies to call upon to escalate and motivate their actions and extremism in the name of Radical Islam. A bold claim – the evidence for which TMG Corporate Services holds and will publish in a series of blog posts over the coming weeks and months including names, locations, former affiliations, current affiliations, current aliases and likely objectives.
2. Your comment in quotes: “Remember any conclusion depends on the validity of the evidence. In this case we are establishing if groups of terrorists are infiltrating into Europe hidden among refugees. The purpose of these terrorists is to establish sleeper networks and prepare for armed attacks. As there is no evidence to support this we have to evaluate if it is possible and as easy as it seems.” 
Our Response: See (1) above and also please be aware that we are not in the business of conducting amateurish analysis and therefore I can assure you that this introductory post is a “scene setter” for the evidence, which we possess, to validate the assertions that we are making. This evidence is not Google search based desk jockey academic theory but field based and first hand experience combined with accounts from eye witnesses and parties to the planning of this process which we discuss in our post.
3. Your comment in quotes: “As there is no factual data we have to judge whether these assumption are reasonable. The first consideration is will the genuine refugees protect the identity of any terrorists or foreign fighter. Remember these refugees are not unknown individuals. They are made up of families and friends from the same region. In most cases all running from ISIS. The majority will be in non-combatant professions or academics. Will they jeopardise there safety for a terrorist?” 
Our Response: We cannot allow you to make the allegations that you have made about our lack of evidence and then not challenge you on this statement especially “The majority will be in non-combatant professions or academics.” On what basis do you come to this conclusion? 
It is our experience that you are incorrect. With respect to the rest of the content of this section of your argument I would offer you the following links relating to a recent high profile incident involving an alleged legitimate “refugee” to refute your belief that those travelling with extremists are all aware of each others previous history and affiliations in-country – please see https://www.rt.com/news/316124-refugee-camerawoman-kicked-militant/ and http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/200921#.VgIGn2Ttmko and http://rudaw.net/english/middleeast/syria/20092015 . 
The assertions that you make in this section of your comment – even in the absence of the example in the links above – would leave even a credulous individual having difficulty accepting that extremists travelling in the company of genuine refugees would be as easily identifiable as you claim. 
It is akin to claiming that a bank clerk from North London would instantly recognise an Islamic extremist from South London while travelling on the same tube in the underground. Really? – you feel that the identity of every radicalised Islamist is known by all and sundry in their company? 
Additionally, a cursory glance at the make up of the refugee groups in Macedonia, Croatia and Hungary – not the images you view on TV which concentrate on women and young children – but the views we have seen on the ground show large groups of unaccompanied men travelling in hoodies and face masks and not family units as you assert. This is in part evidenced in the videos we embedded within our post.  
4. Your comment in quotes: “Next- when refugees enter a country they undergo a structured examination to asses credibility. The primary investigation includes interview’s by academic experts, country ands language analysts, security and religious experts mainly from the claimants country of origin. In effect they undergo a security assessment, which under current policies a person with any discrepancies can be detained indefinitely. If accepted they are effectively on parole with weekly visits and are monitored. So can a foreign fighter claim to be Syrian pass these interviews?” 
Our Response: This Sir is entirely inaccurate – even a novice observer of recent events is aware that the Italians ceased six months ago to register rescued migrants from boating disasters in the Mediterranean and rather – because of a lack of assistance from their EU colleagues – unilaterally decides to allow the rescued migrants to choose their reception country and register at time of entry with the authorities there. 
At least there was a modicum of traceability surrounding that process. However – migrants and refugees are currently passing unregistered and unidentified from Serbia and Croatia in to the EU and onwards. 
Are you seriously suggesting that any sleeper / infiltrator is then going to proceed directly to a registration point and submit themselves to the processes you describe. If they even existed, which they do not in the form you describe, the backlog would mean lengthy delays in processing. 
And are the migrants being held in secure camps on arrival in the EU in the country of their choice – no they are not Sir. Therefore I submit to you that this section of your argument is nonsensical notwithstanding the fact that within the current chaos any sleeper / infiltrator – even the most inexperienced – would have little difficulty avoiding detection and moving through Europe at will and undetected or even identified. 
5. Your comment in quotes: “The next assumption is there is a terrorist reception infrastructure? Also safe houses with secure communications, arms and equipment waiting for these terrorists. ????? The more we drill down we tend to see this article is guesswork resulting in scaremongering.” 
Our Response: Guesswork? – your entire comment is a series of fictional statements. Yes, there is a “terrorist reception infrastructure” to coin your phrase and it does provide accommodation, logistical support, planning capabilities and a supply of weaponry. 
With respect to the secure communications – why don’t you google some of these keywords below and educate yourself regarding how advanced those comms capabilities are and have been for quite some time now and which have evolved significantly – in terms of eavesdropping counter measures and engineered backdoor detection – since the revelations by traitorous Snowden and Assange. Google the following:  
1. Al-Fajr Technical Committee 
2. Al-Fajr Android App For Secure Communication
3. Al-Fajr Announces New Website 
4. Al-Qaeda’s Embrace Of Encryption Technology 
5. The Impact Of Edward Snowden on Terrorist Comms Tech
6. The Cyber & Jihad Lab – Presented by MEMRI
7. Inspire Asrar Instructions
8. How Al-Qaeda Uses Encryption Post-Snowden (Part 1)
9. How Al-Qaeda Uses Encryption Post-Snowden (Part 2)
To conclude – the “scaremongering” that you accuse us of is clearly based on an ill thought out set of assumptions and yours are the words of a naive and inexperienced individual regarding these matters. 
Your veneer thin assessment of our post and your knowledge of current jihadi affairs and strategy is the type of misguided and uninformed mindset that will allow these people to succeed in their objectives if there were not others more qualified than you taking the required actions.  
I will leave you with a quote from Charles Bukowski – “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.” 

Avoiding the Creation of a 21st Century “Stasi” in France

France has powerful intelligence agencies and highly sophisticated capabilities. However, similar to all Western agencies they do not possess the requisite legal powers, manpower or resources to conduct highly intrusive and persistent surveillance of thousands of individuals, many of whom will have never been charged with a crime.
Even if they did, the public attitude to and willingness to support blanket surveillance of large segments of the population, plays to the fears of many who see in that action echoes of George Orwell’s dystopian concept of “thought crime” surveillance.
The challenge is to identify which networks of individuals deserve further attention. In light of recent events, the upswell of public outrage at the Hebdo attacks, the mass migration to Southern Europe of refugees fleeing the conflicts in the Middle East, North Africa and Sub Saharan Africa as well as Eritrea, Somalia and Yemen and a general perception in France that French society is under attack from within, would it be possible to speculate that the French are unwittingly considering the creation of the own Stasi? Albeit in a more benign guise and with best intentions. 


The Ministerium für Staatssicherheit (MfS) or The Ministry for State Security commonly known as the Stasi was the official state security service of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), colloquially known as East Germany. The service was headquartered in East Berlin and has been described as one of the most effective and repressive intelligence and secret police agencies to have ever existed.
One of its main tasks was spying on the population, mainly through a vast network of citizens turned informants, and fighting any opposition by overt and covert measures, including hidden psychological destruction of dissidents. Without the aid of modern technology the Stasi in East Germany ran a network of over 2,000,000 informants and ostensibly had an entire nation under active surveillance and effectively so.
The Buttes-Chaumont Network & the Charlie Hebdo Watershed
The protagonists of the Charlie Hebdo attacks were known not just to the French authorities but to other European authorities and their counterparts in the United States. It is well known and has been widely reported that one had travelled to Yemen over a three-year period and another had been convicted of earlier seeking to travel to Iraq and that they were both associated with long-established European jihadist networks.
Cherif was part of the “Buttes-Chaumont network” that assisted would-be jihadists fight for al-Qaeda in Iraq after the invasion in 2003. He was detained in 2005 just as he was about to board a plane for Syria which at that time was a gateway for jihadists looking to fight US troops in Iraq. The Kouachi brothers had allegedly attended a mosque near Buttes-Chaumont, an area of northern Paris, where they came under the influence of a radical imam called Farid Benyettou.
Following Cherif’s imprisonment between January 2005 and October 2006, he first came into contact with the man who would become his mentor – Djamel Beghal. Beghal was sentenced to 10 years in prison in France in 2001 for his part in a plot to bomb the US embassy in Paris. In 2008, Cherif was again jailed for three years for his role in sending militants to Iraq, 18 months of the sentence was suspended.
AQII Flag

                                        
Another key figure in the Buttes-Chaumont network was Boubaker al-Hakim, a militant linked to al-Qaeda in Iraq. al-Hakim also recruited militants to fight in Falluja, an Iraqi city that became an al-Qaeda stronghold in 2004. 

al-Hakim is also wanted in Tunisia over the murder of two Tunisian left-wing opposition politicians in 2013 – he claimed the murders in the name of the Islamic State militant group. A French court jailed al-Hakim for seven years in 2008.
That action appeared to break up the jihadist network that Beghal, al-Hakim and Cherif Kouachi had created.
In 2010 Cherif Kouachi was named in connection with a plot to assist in the escape of another Islamist, Smain Ait Ali Belkacem, from jail. 

A plot hatched by Beghal, according to French anti-terror police. 

Belkacem used to be in the outlawed Algerian Islamic Armed Group (GIA) and was jailed for life in 2002 for a Paris metro station bombing in 1995 which injured 30 people.
Original GIA Flag

                       

AQAP Flag

The older Kouachi undertook military training in Yemen in 2011, where he met the influential preacher Anwar al-Awlaki. 

Awlaki was a senior figure in al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). 

The branch of al-Qaeda that has proven most effective at placing bombs on Western-bound aircraft, and which claimed responsibility for the Hebdo attacks.
It is important to remember, however, that thousands of people would have been connected to these very same networks, some of which are well over a decade old. On top of this, more than 1,200 French nationals – a large proportion of whom would be previously unknown – have travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight with Islamic State in the last few years. About 350 have returned according to unofficial figures.


The “Five Eyes”
The French authorities and their foreign counterparts, especially those in Yemen and the US, shared intelligence that might, taken together, have thrown up insight that the individual portions could not. One report suggests that France de-prioritized the Kouachi brothers because Yemen was a US priority, whereas American officials left it to the French.
France is not a member of the US-led Five Eyes intelligence alliance – a fact which may have contributed to the threat detection failure that led to the recent attacks.
The “Five Eyes”, often abbreviated as “FVEY”, refer to an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These countries are bound by the multilateral UKUSA Agreement, a treaty for joint cooperation in signals intelligence.

Click image to enlarge

The origins of the FVEY can be traced back to World War II, when the Atlantic Charter was issued by the Allies to lay out their goals for a post-war world. During the course of the Cold War, the ECHELON surveillance system was initially developed by the FVEY to monitor the communications of the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, although it allegedly was later used to monitor billions of private communications worldwide.
In the late 1990s, the existence of ECHELON was disclosed to the public, triggering a major debate in the European Parliament and, to a lesser extent, the United States Congress. As part of efforts in the ongoing War on Terror since 2001, the FVEY further expanded their surveillance capabilities, with much emphasis placed on monitoring the World Wide Web.
The former NSA contractor Edward Snowden described the Five Eyes as a “supra-national intelligence organisation that doesn’t answer to the known laws of its own countries”. Documents leaked by Snowden in 2013 revealed that the FVEY have been spying on one another’s citizens and sharing the collected information with each other in order to circumvent restrictive domestic regulations on surveillance of citizens.
In 2013, documents leaked by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed the existence of numerous surveillance programs jointly operated by the Five Eyes. The following list includes several notable examples reported in the media:


  • PRISM – Operated by the NSA together with the GCHQ and the ASD
  • XKeyscore – Operated by the NSA with contributions from the ASD and the GCSB
  • Tempora – Operated by the GCHQ with contributions from the NSA
  • MUSCULAR – Operated by the GCHQ and the NSA
  • STATEROOM – Operated by the ASD, CIA, CSEC, GCHQ, and NSA
Despite the impact of Snowden’s disclosures, some experts in the intelligence community believe that no amount of global concern or outrage will affect the Five Eyes relationship, which to this day remains the most extensive known espionage alliance in history.
The Emergence of “Boutique” Terrorism
Recently extremists groups based in conflict hotspots have called on sympathisers in Western countries to take the initiative and plan and execute terrorist actions locally with little or no external assistance.
Simplistically many people tend to seek to place terrorist attacks into one of two categories: low-tech, independent operations by individuals (“lone wolf”) or small groups (“wolf packs”), or complex and large scale operations resourced and commanded by organizations.
The last six months has seen a profusion of low-level attacks across Europe and North America, giving the impression that even slightly larger attacks – involving higher-calibre weaponry or better preparation – must represent formal plots by established terrorist groups.
In the Hebdo case, the attackers themselves claimed to have been sent by AQAP, which itself claimed to have “directed” the plot. But we should treat this claim sceptically. As the Australian counterterrorism analyst Leah Farrall reminds us, the al-Qaeda operatives who attacked US embassies in 1998 were given only general instructions to strike Americans.
Al-Qaeda’s leadership learned of the targets while the attack was under way. This is closer to inspiration or encouragement than direction or command. This was the model in the Paris attacks, particularly as AQAP’s past plots have been built around advanced bombs rather than the use of gunmen. Amidst the rise of IS, al-Qaeda – and especially its Yemeni branch – remains a potent threat for this type of action.


However, the Paris attacks are not a new kind of terrorism. The use of gunmen, the seizure of hostages, the focus on screen-time rather than death toll, and the role played by complex networks of individuals cutting across different countries and groups have been features of attacks over the past 50 years. The new challenge isn’t the prioritisation of threats, but the growing mismatch between the number of potential threats and limited resources.
Cell” Structures & Suicidal Tendencies
Many of the recent plots appear to have been developed without foreign direction which minimises the possibility of eavesdropping. The concept of the “terrorist cell” developed in the 1970s to counter the prevailing intelligence gathering techniques at that time were difficult, if not bordering on the impossible, to detect.
For example in the 1970’s the IRA overhauled its internal structures, greatly reducing the numbers of volunteers who engaged in attacks and organising them into closed cells, or “active service units”, so that the information any one IRA man would have about the organisation would be limited to five or six people.
This process reduced the numbers of active IRA personnel greatly. At its peak in the early 1970s, the Belfast Brigade had had up to 1,500 members. By the early 1980s, this had been reduced to about 100 men in active service units and another 200-300 in supporting roles.
The cell structure also increased the control of the Brigade’s leadership over its volunteers, since all weapons were held by one “quartermaster” attached to each unit and could only be used for operations authorised by the Brigade leadership.
The objective was to preserve high value operatives and their skills for continued and ongoing use against their targets.
With the emergence of the extremist jihadi threat in Europe in recent years and the seemingly vast pool of resources from which these groups can draw from – the “cell” structure is used to avoid detection pre-event but not so much concerned with the preservation of the “cell”, “lone wolf” or “wolf packs” post event. 

Manpower has ceased to be an issue.
Where plots use more easily available resources, such as firearms rather than sophisticated explosives, then the challenges faced in implementing a robust prevention strategy are exponentially greater.
The reasons for the decision by the French intelligence services to lift their surveillance of Said Kouachi after his return from Yemen is not clearly known. Likely it was based on balancing the perceived threat from Kouachi versus other competing threats and was also informed by what initial surveillance of him had yielded post his return to France.
It is a matter of the size of the competing needles in a very large haystack rather than an example of an intelligence failure or a systemic problem with the tactics being employed by the French authorities.
Information Myopia
Intelligence agencies globally suffer from a modern problem best defined as “information myopia”*. There is simply too much data available from too many sources much of which is of questionable value but all of which ends up in the same “cube” available for analysis. Extending the remit and sources that are under the surveillance lens will only exacerbate this problem and will not necessarily lead to improved security outcomes.
If the “cube” of data to be analysed is vast then the sieving process that is employed is the key to the success of the analysis. This sieving process though is currently largely based on keywords or watchwords and prone to error. Unless a would be attacked is incredibly naïve then most of this processes effectiveness is rendered useless.
Pattern analysis too has its pitfalls – simply because someone is a frequent visitor to sites that would seem to indicate extremism does not make them an extremist. What about researchers, journalists, the genuinely curious?
There is reason to think that the French failed to get some information they ought to have had. The Kouachi brothers had succeeded in building up a cache of arms in their apartment. Neighbours discovered that cache, but they were then intimidated into silence.
This, however, might represent more a failure of local policing – and poor relations between the local Muslim community and the authorities – than national intelligence. Nevertheless, assault rifles and rocket launchers are not easily available in Western Europe, and the French authorities could reasonably be expected to have had a tighter grip on the supply networks.

* The terms “myopia” and “myopic” (or the common terms “short-sightedness” or “short-sighted”, respectively) have been used metaphorically to refer to cognitive thinking and decision making that is narrow in scope or lacking in foresight or in concern for wider interests or for longer-term consequences. It is often used to describe a decision that may be beneficial in the present, but detrimental in the future, or a viewpoint that fails to consider anything outside a very narrow and limited range. Hyperopia, the biological opposite of myopia, may also be used metaphorically for a value system or motivation that exhibits “farsighted” or possibly visionary thinking and behavior; that is, emphasizing long-term interests at the apparent expense of near-term benefit.

What is the French word for PRISM?

Last December (2014) the French government published a decree enacting an internet surveillance law that was passed a year before. The measure allowed authorities ‘administrative access to connection data,’ and came into force on the 1st January 2015. The decree, providing French officials with access to data from a wide range of telecom services in the country – including phone calls, text messages and internet access by both private users and operators – was published over the Christmas holidays, France’s Le Point reported. 
The legislation was passed in December last year, and was a surprise to many as less than two months before it was approved, the country’s president François Hollande – during a phone conversation with Barack Obama – expressed his “deep disapproval” at revelations that the NSA had been intercepting millions of phone calls in France, having described it as an “unacceptable practice.” 
Notwithstanding that comment from 1st January 2015, the French government itself is in control of its residents’ connection data, with an “interdepartmental group” being in charge of security interceptions and administrative access, gathering requests for certain data and obtaining it from operators. Departments, authorized to issue data requests, include several branches within the Interior Ministry, the Ministry of Defense and a directorate at the Ministry of Finance. 
Laws, empowering state officials to monitor the population by means of communication and information access, have been passed under the flag of protection from the terrorist threat. Powers, granted to the government by the new surveillance law, have been met with protests in France. Before it was eventually enacted, authorities set up an oversight body – National Control Commission for Security Interceptions (CNCIS), which will supervise governmental data control powers. Although it is allowed to oversee documents and information asked to be disclosed to the authorities, it has no power to sanction anyone, or alert any third party of an alleged abuse.
“THIS IS NOT A FRENCH PATRIOT ACT” – Prime Minister Manuel Valls
From the 13th April 2015 French lawmakers spent four days debating a controversial anti-terrorism bill that, if passed, would dramatically expand the government’s surveillance powers. 


The law’s backers describe it as a necessary measure to thwart terrorist attacks, and it has strong support on both sides of the aisle. But the bill has drawn sharp criticism from French internet companies over fears that it could harm business, and from privacy advocates who say it would severely curtail civil liberties. 

The proposed law would allow the government to monitor emails and phone calls of suspected terrorists and their contacts, without seeking authorization from a judge. Telecommunications and internet companies would be forced to automatically filter vast amounts of metadata to flag suspicious patterns, and would have to make that data freely available to intelligence services. Agents would also be able to plant cameras and bugs in the homes of suspected terrorists, as well as key-loggers to track their online behavior.

Privacy International, Amnesty International, and other human rights organizations expressed alarm over the bill when it was announced last month, urging Parliament to give it careful scrutiny. It’s also been criticized by the National Digital Council, which advises France’s government on technological issues, and by several French web hosting companies, which say the threat of constant government intrusion would undermine their business. 

Of particular concern is the provision requiring telecoms to automatically filter internet traffic. Under the law, internet service providers would have to install monitoring mechanisms — referred to by the French media as “black boxes” — that would use algorithms to detect, in real time, suspicious behaviors in internet metadata. 

The bill’s supporters stress that this metadata would remain anonymous and that content of communications would not be automatically swept up, but the behaviors that would constitute a “terrorist-like” pattern are still unclear. Critics say the measure effectively amounts to mass surveillance of web traffic on a disproportionately large scale. 

Under the bill, recordings could be stored for up to one month, and metadata for up to five years. France’s current data protection laws date back to 1978, and are among the strongest in Europe. “It’s a comprehensive data protection framework that applies to both the public sector and all industries,” Fabrice Naftalski, a data privacy attorney and partner at the legal firm EY in Paris, says of current French law. “Protection of personal data is a fundamental right.” 

But the country’s counter-terrorism laws haven’t been revised since 1991, which was the original impetus behind drafting this bill last summer. The legislation took on a new sense of urgency following January’s attacks, when Valls moved to fast-track it for passage by this summer. (A vote is expected early next month.)

It seems 2,000,000 East German HUMINT Stasi assets have been supplanted by 66,000,000 French SIGINT black boxes. Thats progress – at least technologically.  

References & Acknowledgements
  1. Perspectives on Terrorism The Modus Operandi of Jihadi Terrorists in Europe by Petter Nesser and Anne Stenersen terrorismanalysts.com/pt/index.php/pot/article/view/388/html
  2. The XX Committee: Intelligence, Strategy, and Security in a Dangerous World – www.20committee.com
  3. Darktrace – www.darktrace.com
  4. al-Araby al-Jadeed – http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english
  5. The Verge – www.theverge.com
  6. Russia Today – www.RT.com
  7. Science X Network – www.phys.org
  8. The Long War Journal – www.longwarjournal.org
  9. Academia – www.academia.com
  10. TMG Corporate Services – www.tmgcorporateservices.com
  11. Al Jazeera – www.aljazeera.com
  12. Al Monitor – www.al-monitor.com
  13. Le Monde 
  14. Le Figaro 
  15. Le Point
  16. Die Welt 
  17. CNN 
  18. Fox News 
  19. TIME Magazine –
  20. The New York Times 
  21. The Washington Post
  22. The Times 
  23. The Mail on Sunday 
  24. The Telegraph 
  25. Wikipedia

19th Century Hausa & Fulani Jihadi’s inspire Boko Haram

Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, a Muslim cleric and Wahhabi theologian who created a school promoting radical Islamic principles (United States Institute of Peace, 2012). The derivation of Boko Haram translated means “Western education is a sin” (Owolade, 2014). 

Under Yusuf’s leadership, Boko Haram furthered its radical agenda with a bloody campaign of violence against rural communities. (Ndege & Essa, 2013). After Yusuf died in police custody in 2009, Abubakar Shekau rose to power and continued to spread the sect’s extremist philosophies. (Dorrell, 2014).


Violence increased after the 2010 election of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Southern Christian (Owolade, 2014). The Boko Haram sect waged war against the presiding political leadership and sought to create a “pure Islamic state ruled by strict shari’a law” (United States Institute of Peace, 2012).

Pre-colonial Nigeria

In the early 1800s, a jihad, demanding Islamic principles and opposing political oppression by Hausa rulers, was joined by both Hausa Muslims and Fulani soldiers. Following the success of the jihad, the Fulani and Hausa replaced the ruling dynasty and the “emirate system” was created. The assimilation of culture and tradition proved to be influential in shaping the Islamic identity of Hausaland during the colonial period and continuing to present day in Northern Nigeria (Turaki, 1993).

Colonial Nigeria

During the late 19th century, both the British and the French sought to extend their empires to Hausaland. By the early 20th century, the British controlled Nigeria and divided the state into northern and southern Nigeria; a short while later, both protectorates were combined to form the Protectorate of Nigeria (Bah, 2005). The southern region was eventually occupied by Christian missionaries at the behest of the British and remains predominately Christian today (Chidi, 2003).

Post-Independence Nigeria

Since Nigerian independence in 1960, clashes between the northerners and southerners have persisted. The ongoing tension between the predominately Muslim North and the predominately Christian South has fostered a growth in extremist sects like Boko Haram that have adopted radical ideologies rejecting Western culture and education. Boko Haram’s attacks against Christian institutions and local Nigerian authorities has garnered international attention and the sect is acknowledged to be an international terrorist threat (BBC News, 2014) with alleged if tenuous links to IS.

Dismantling BH is an International Imperative

In the wake of the recent large scale kidnappings, the Nigerian government has been forced to take action against Boko Haram. It is unclear as to the progress, if any, the security forces have made in apprehending members of Boko Haram. Most independent communication sources have been disconnected but authorities report that they are succeeding in their fight against the extremist sect (Ndege & Essa, 2013).

Presently, securing the release or achieving the rescue of large numbers of innocent kidnapped children and reducing future extremist violence lies solely within the current Nigerian government’s remit as they have resisted external offers of help, save for sending (allegedly) 1500 military personnel abroad for counter-insurgency and anti-terrorist training. The need to dismantle Boko Haram and impose severe opposition to their terrorist agenda is an international imperative which is currently not being facilitated by the Nigerian incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.

References

Bah, A. (2005) Breakdown and Reconstitution, Democracy, the Nation-State, and Ethnicity in Nigeria. Lanham: Lexington Books.

BBC News. (2014) Nigeria: Boko Haram now major threat says Wole Soyinka. [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27264748 [Accessed 27 June 2014].

BBC News (2014) More Nigerian girls abducted by suspected militants. [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27289924 [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Chidi, I. (2003) Nigeria’s Religious and Cultural Conflict. [Online] Available from: http://web.stanford.edu/class/e297a/Nigeria’s%20Religious%20and%20Cultural%20Conflict.doc [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Ndege, Y. and Essa, A. (2013) The rise of Nigeria’s Boko Haram: An in-depth look at the shadowy group as violence continues to wrack the West African country’s northeast. [Online] Available from: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/09/201397155225146644.html [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Dorrell, O. (2014) Boko Haram: Facts, History, Leaders, And Origins Of The Terrorist Group. [Online] Available from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/09/boko-haram-facts-history_n_5295563.html [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Ochonu, M. (2008) Colonialism within Colonialism: The Hausa-Caliphate Imaginary and the British Colonial Administration of the Nigerian Middle Belt. [Online] Available from: http://asq.africa.ufl.edu/ochonu_fall08/ [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Owolade, F. (2014) Boko Haram: How a Militant Islamist Group Emerged in Nigeria. [Online] Available from: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4232/boko-haram-nigeria#_ftn14 [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Tertsakian, C. (2004) Political Shari’a? Human Rights Watch 16(9A), 9.

Turaki, Y. (1993) The British Colonial Legacy in Northern Nigeria: A Social Ethical Analysis of the Colonial and Post-Colonial Society and Politics in Nigeria. Nigeria: Challenge Press.

United States Institute of Peace (2012) “Special Report: What is Boko Haram?” United States Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available from http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR308.pdf [Accessed 27 June 2014].

Thailand’s coup – a serious threat to stability in Myanmar and Cambodia

In late May 2014 the Thai military seized power in a widely anticipated coup by the hawks who have been hinting at same for some time now. This is the twelfth coup in Thailand since the end of the absolute monarchy in 1932 (BBC, 2014) and the army justified their intervention on this occasion for the need to stabilize the volatile political situation.

Thailand has been in turmoil during recent years and the already tense situation – where two sides kept rallying against or for the government – began to escalate in November 2013 when MPs approved a controversial bill which would help former Prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra avoid prison on corruption charges. The situation worsened in May 2014 when the Constitutional Court removed PM Yingluck Shinawatra from power. (BBC, 2014)

Thaksin Shinawatra & Yingluck Shinawatra
Shortly afterwards, the army stepped in and started clamping down on intellectuals and opposition, limited the freedom of speech and imposed a curfew. Western leaders criticized the coup and are closely watching what impact the situation will have on the South-East Asian region. Of particular interest is the impact on the Kingdom of Cambodia which is struggling with an influx of its citizens from Thailand, and on Myanmar, itself a former military regime. Can these emerging democracies and key players in the “sphere of influence” stand-off between China and the USA in the region, withstand the Thai crisis?

Struggling Thailand

Leader of the Thai coup, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, announced in late June that Thailand will not have free elections until October 2015. The reason why was given as “We want to see an election that will take place under the new constitution… Today, if we go ahead and hold a general election, it will lead to a situation that will return to the old cycle of conflict, violence, corruption by influential groups in politics, terrorism and the use of war weapons.” (BBC, 2014)


General Prayuth Chan-ocha

Thailand is divided internally and its economy has been struggling with slowing growth and outflows of capital (The Irrawaddy, 2014). Prior to the current political unrest, there was a need for Thailand to take action to stay competitive in the Asian market, given the emergence of other countries such as Myanmar, Indonesia and the Philippines as attractive alternative places to invest. The country, once a symbol of democracy and prosperity in the region, is now in turmoil, its intellectual elite and media live in fear and the political upheavals are impacting Thailand´s neighbors.

Exodus to Cambodia

Cambodia was hit by a huge wave of returnees. Almost 200,000 Cambodian workers in Thailand started moving eastwards once the rumor spread that the Thai junta would clamp down on illegal migrants. This led to a row between the two countries as thousands of desperate Cambodians headed for the border.

Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng blamed the Thai army for the exodus and said it “must be held responsible”. (BBC, 2014) The generals defended themselves and issued a statement saying that only illegals would be targeted. The issue is not helping the already tense relations, given the legacy border issues over the area around the Preah Vihear temple in the Dangrek Mountains which led to riots and armed conflict in 2003.


Cambodian Interior Minister Sar Kheng

The fragile Cambodian democracy and the country’s economic potential are at stake. The return of ex-pat Cambodians may harm the local economy and affect border security in the disputed region.

In addition, Thai intellectuals seeking exile in Cambodia – something unimaginable a few decades ago – and who may plan to organize resistance from there against the junta places Phnom Penh in an “awkward position” (New York Times, 2014).

Economic Windfall for Myanmar

In Myanmar the government is struggling to come to terms with events in Bangkok. Myanmar which only a few years ago was home to a ruthless regime is a delicate balance of democratic aspirations assisted by foreign direct investment by China and the USA in particular in an attempt to nurture and preserve the new political climate. Events in Thailand are familiar to the Burmese in particular dictat’s curtailing the freedom of speech and the regular announcements of names of detained citizens on Thai TV.

And there are fears in Myanmar that the Thai coup will threaten their emerging freedom and destabilize the region. These fears come, interalia, from the National League for Democracy (NLD) opposition party. “I am sad to learn about the coup, it could give the government an idea,” Win Htein, a MP for NLD said (Bangkok Post, 2014). “The lessons in all this for Myanmar are plain to see. … And for whatever reason, we must not let our guards down,“ Burmese Professor Aung Naing Oo teaching in Thailand warned (ibid).


Professor Aung Naing Oo

But others are not that fearful, government MPs are generally condemning the coup saying that Myanmar – as current ASEAN chairman – will “respond soon” and “see how soon the power goes back to people”. Historically, coups in Thailand and Myanmar / Burma are different, in Thailand the army always gave back the power, while in Burma the coup of 1962 meant decades of tyranny.

Win Htein (right)

The Thai coup is likely to lead to Myanmar competing for foreign direct investments previously ear marked for Thailand before the uncertainty. Myanmar has potential in gas and oil development and investors will prefer projects there if Thailand remains unstable – the additional capital investment in addressing the infrastructural challenges in Myanmar may seem more palatable than an all or nothing bet on Thailand not descending into serious civil unrest.

International Response

Criticism of the coup by Western governments and Australia is not helping Bangkok. (The Irrawaddy, 2014). Elsewhere the response has been muted and benign, most Western governments are focused on events in the Middle East and Eastern Europe.  

In Myanmar politicians are not worried about regional instability. “I am more worried about people sabotaging the peace process (between the government and ethnic groups),” Burmese MP Ye Myint told Bangkok Post. (Bangkok Post, 2014)

In Cambodia, the government is taking as diplomatic a stance as it can, without seeming weak, and hoping that the more sinister predictions regarding the Thai military and their designs on the disputed border regions, are avoided

Sentiment in Thailand is mixed but most is negative “I think there will be problems in this country for a generation or two,” a business owner in Bangkok was quoted as saying “I would like to get out of the country safely,“ he added. (New York Times, 2014)

Is this the end game for Thai democracy, a potential spark to ignite a wider Thai / Cambodian conflict to allow the Thai military divert attention from internal issues or a motivator for similar minds in Myanmar to return that nation to a military administration? Or is it just another intermezzo in the decades of peculiar Thai democracy and South East Asian politics in general.
Sources

BBC NEWS. (2014) Thai army promises elections in October 2015. [Online] Available from:
[Accessed: 29th September 2014].

BBC NEWS. (2014) Cambodia ramps up criticism of Thailand´s junta. [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-27898652
[Accessed: 29th September 2014].

BBC NEWS. (2014) Why is Thailand under military rule? [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-25149484
[Accessed: 29th September 2014].

BOOT, W. (2014) Thailand´s Coup May Affect Burma´s Oil and Gas Sector. The Irrawaddy [Online] 6th June. Available from: http://www.irrawaddy.org/business/thailands-coup-may-affect-burmas-oil-gas-sector.html [Accessed: 29th September 2014].

CNN (2014) Cambodian migrant workers flee Thailand [Online] Available from: http://edition.cnn.com/2014/06/18/world/cambodia-thailand-migrants-border/index.html
[Accessed: 29th September 2014].

FULLER, T. (2014) In Thailand, growing intolerance for dissent drives many to more authoritarian nations. New York Times. [Online] 6th June. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/07/world/asia/in-thailand-a-growing-intolerance-for-dissent.html?_r=0 [Accessed: 29th September 2014].

VERBROGGEN, Y (2014) Myanmar stunned by coup, and they should know. Bangkok Post. [Online] 1st June. Available from: http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/investigation/412921/myanmar-stunned-by-coup-and-they-should-know [Accessed: 29th September 2014].

Libya unchecked – haven & base for extremists to poison the region

In February 2011, English photographer Charlie Waite had just finished a month long assignment across Libya capturing some of the country’s most iconic sites in a peaceful tranquil atmosphere. Less than two days after his departure, civil war had erupted (Kingsley, 2014). Libya has been in a state of violent flux since then, long-term leader Muammar Gaddafi in power since 1969 was killed in October 2011, the National Transitional Council promptly declared Libya to be officially ‘’liberated’’ and on the road to ‘’democracy’’ (BBC, 2014).


June 25th 2014, marked a crucial date in determining the future of the “new” Libya with elections held across the nation. After the historic elections of 2012, which saw over 62% of registered voters electing a secular alliance, Libya has struggled to build upon that excitement and hope, particularly with instability and violence emanating throughout the region (Manfreda, 2012). The country has stagnated over the intervening years, with political uncertainty and rebel violence dominating the agenda.

The Specter of Al-Qaeda & IS

The divide between extreme Islamists and ordinary Libyans has steadily increased inline with the upheaval across the country. Violent clashes are a daily occurrence (Zirulnick, 2014). The situation is by no-means a simple struggle between shades of radical Islam. The specter of Al-Qaeda and IS hovers over the region with growing support for their extremist messages among the disaffected Islamists and others who feel they have been omitted from the ruling process since the fall of Gaddafi (Abiew, 2013).

The appetite for political change in Libya which was empowering in 2012 has failed completely as the 2014 electoral turnout indicated (Fetouri, 2014). In spite of the rhetoric of foreign politicians, chief among those President Obama who described the elections as a ‘’milestone’’, the situation within Libya is far from optimistic (Washington Post, 2014).

A Shift from Democratic Tendencies

The situation in present day Libya is complex on a number of different levels, the facts would appear to indicate a strong shift away from democratic tendencies, yet the reality is something different altogether. Disenchantment and regret at the current situation within Libya is shared by the majority of a population who anticipated an altogether different Libya in 2011. 

Gone is the hope that encapsulated the Arab Spring and in its stead is a sense of betrayal and confusion over the dismal performance of those in power since 2012 (Stephen, 2014). To further outline the depth of disillusionment held by ordinary Libyans, Mustafa Fetouri contends that ‘’The unmistakable reality now is that the world helped us create the mess we live in, but it has long since turned its back on us and gotten busy with other crises elsewhere. In our hour of need, we find no friends to help us heal our country’’ (Fetouri, 2014).


The impact Libya’s allies have had on the situation within the country is one which divides opinion. Interestingly the removal of Gaddafi and the involvement of NATO in his ousting were universally welcomed, but crucially the failure of NATO to provide any lasting legacy or plan in their wake has altered the mind-set of ordinary Libyans. 

Apportioning The Blame

To apportion the blame of the current malaise within the country to outside factors is in itself short-sighted as the major issues within Libya today are dominated by internal factors (Pack, 2013). Analyzing and identifying the problem is just the start of the process, for Libya to emerge into a fully functional democratic nation its leadership must govern in a manner that integrates all sectors of a deeply divided society.

Clashes in Benghazi have dominated the country since 2012, with thousands killed and numerous groups fighting in the name of Libya (Morajea, 2014). The threat of bankruptcy looms increasingly likely as the clashes over oil continue to halt any previous progress made within the economy (Al Jazeera, 2014). 

Essentially Libya is in the midst of a fundamental struggle with its identity. The present situation cannot continue along its current trajectory without a complete failure of the Libyan state according to Mansour O El-Kikhia who opines that urgent action is required to establish a well-functioning government and a country that is both safe and secure (El-Kikhia, 2014).

In-Fighting & International Ambivalence

The future for Libya is deeply uncertain given the present climate that exists. The general public have grown increasingly disenchanted at the turbulence and chaos that has permeated across the nation since 2011. The primary issue that needs to be addressed is re-establishing law and order across the region and unifying the Libyan population behind a well-structured democratic process. 

In the midst of these enormous challenges is the backdrop of internal fighting, budgetary concerns and a lack of assistance from outside partners who promised much but delivered little after the fall of the previous regime. Hope still exists for Libya, but if the situation isn’t acted upon as a matter of urgency, we will soon be referring to Libya as a failed state and a haven for radical Islamists from where to poison the region.

Bibliography

Abiew, N. G.-O. &. F., 2013. Libya, Intervention, and Responsibility: The Dawn of a New Era?. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Al Jazeera, 2014. Al Jazeera. [Online]
Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/countingthecost/2014/03/libya-heading-towards-bankruptcy-2014313173334276217.html


BBC, 2014. Libya profile. [Online]
Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13754897


El-Kikhia, M. O., 2014. Al Jazeera. [Online]
Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/03/libya-tale-two-regions-ship-201431651453444440.html


Fetouri, M., 2014. Almonitor. [Online]
Available at: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2014/06/libya-militia-chaos-friends-tripoli-business-state.html#


Fetouri, M., 2014. AlMonitor. [Online]
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Lacking the hard edge – academics alone will always fail in asset recovery efforts

Using academics to locate missing or looted monies from current or post conflict zones makes sense – for part of the problem – namely forensic accounting, unravelling complex financial structures and corporate cloaking mechanisms like trusts and offshore havens. However giving the same academics the responsibility for actioning the recovery strategy informed by this analysis is flawed. They do not possess the dealmaking, “street smarts”, mediation, negotiation, fixer, logistical, operational or in-country savvy to succeed on the ground.

Abdalla Kablan is a case in point. He was chosen to head Libya’s billion-dollar hunt for sovereign wealth hidden around the world by Gaddafi. Kablan is a 30 year old computational finance expert with a PhD degree in Computational Finance from University of Essex, an MSc in Financial Engineering and Knowledge Management from the University of Bradford, UK, and a BSc in Computer Systems Engineering from the University of Malta, based in Malta. He was asked by Ali Zeidan (Libyan PM 2012-2014) to lead an official, government campaign to track down and recover billions in cash stashed away through vehicles like the Libyan Investment Authority.


He decided that a central, government-mandated authority had to deal with government authorities and financial institutions. Kablan gave a presentation of how a central authority could employ computer science and quantitative mathematics to track down financial investments and the life cycle of capital. In Kablan, the Libyans had a desk based expert who could handle the computational forensics, data mining, and asset identification. 

He became part of the newly formed Tracing & Asset-Recovery Support Bureau (TARSB). His plan was to establish links with international organisations, Interpol, and the UN-World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR). StAR’s most important role is fostering ties between countries seeking looted money and those sitting on it. There were similar models that could be examined, Great Britain had formed task forces to work with Egypt and the United States’ Department of Justice had the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section already provided legal and policy assistance to foreign governments. 

Kablan also proposed to link up with Libya’s own institutions, Private Banks, the Central Bank, and the Libyan investment entities, to be able to check data, transfers and investments. TARSB started data mining online resources, using artificial intelligence and heuristics to profile unstructured data for clues.


Progress was glacial. Kablan says he was frustrated by the inability to actually turn the TARSB into a central authority. Malta was ready to transfer €100 million in Libyan funds but they had concerns about the source of the request to re-patriate the monies. According to Kablan, Malta was keeping the Libyan people’s interests at heart by not just “dishing it out to anyone.” Bloomberg then alleged that Malta was being reticent in giving the money back in an “exposé” on Libya’s asset recovery efforts that made serious allegations about Kablan and Malta.

In ‘How Libya Blew Billions and Its Best Chance at Democracy’, Bloomberg claimed Gaddafi’s son Mutassim had €100 million in Maltese accounts, and suggested that the country was being difficult in letting the cash go. It then alleged that Kablan was only picked by Zeidan for being the son-in-law of foreign minister Mohammed Abdelaziz – but Kablan is not even married, nor is he dating Abdelaziz’s daughter. The article also alleged that he had worked for Exante, a finance firm in Malta that also acts as a broker for Bitcoin, “the virtual currency favored by drug dealers and money launderers.” 


Zeidan wanted to appoint an independent person of integrity with proven technical competence to help Libya recover its money. When Zeidan set up the TARSB in August 2013 to hunt down the assets held by Libya’s sovereign funds, such as the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and LAFICO, cooperation was already underway with Interpol, the World Bank, France and Britain, and the United States’ attorney general. Eventually the TARSB was besieged by internal politics: the LIA was intent on recovering the hidden assets itself, while another unit called the Asset Recovery Committee (ARC) appointed by former prime minister Abdul Rahim Al Keeb, sought the sole mandate to recover assets.


Eventually, Kablan was the victim of an abduction attempt in Tripoli. He received threats, was unable to move freely, was poorly equipped to deal with the hostile realities of the “street” as he took the desk based research out into the world to initiate the recovery plan informed by the academic research. He resigned his post, left Libya and will not return. 


Kablan was unable to take the academic theory and put it into practice. He and his team lacked the core skills to action their plan and manage personal and organizational risk while doing so. He was a soft target and those that did not want his work to continue did not need to exert much pressure, relatively speaking, to prompt him to abandon his mission. 

In Kablan and the TARSB, Libya possessed one part of a two part solution – the toothless part. Firms like TMG Corporate Services who can probe the clues and implement the strategy developed by academics like Kablan and his team are the hard edge that Libya did not possess in this spectacularly unsuccessful effort to identify and repatriate stolen assets.