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Responding to "Al-Qaeda's Revival"

• "Intelligence agencies see worrying signs of al-Qaeda's revival," writes The Economist:
In his annual threat assessment on January 11th, John Negroponte, America's outgoing intelligence chief, changed his tone. Al-Qaeda's core leadership was "resilient". Its hiding places in Pakistan were "secure" and it was "cultivating stronger operational connections and relationships" with affiliated groups across the Middle East, north Africa and Europe.
That sombre view matches the alarm of British intelligence chiefs in recent months. In November, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of the security agency, MI5, said her overstretched spooks were contending with some 200 terrorist networks involving about 1,600 suspects, and investigating up to 30 high-priority plots. Home-grown radicals were "foot-soldiers" trained and guided by al-Qaeda on an "extensive and growing scale".(...)
The same Western officials also worry about what they call "blowback" from Iraq: instead of sucking in would-be suicide bombers on one-way tickets, it could pump out battle-hardened fighters to wage violent campaigns elsewhere in the world. Mr Negroponte said an American pull-out would allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as an al-Qaeda sanctuary.
Germany's domestic intelligence unit (Verfassungsschutz) is searching for home-grown terrorists. Of course, they do. That's part of their job, but it contradicts the frequent claim that Europe is spineless and in denial about terrorism. Heinz Fromm, the head of the agency, defended the use of information that may have been obtained under torture, wrote DW World in December:
"All information we receive on threats will be looked into," he had told German tabloid Bild am Sonntag a day earlier, adding that there was still "considerable" risk of a terror attack in Germany. "The possibility that it may not have been obtained in accordance with our principles on the rule of law may not allow us to ignore it," he said, adding that he was only talking about using the material for intelligence purposes and not legal prosecution.
Germany Info reports briefly that Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff and Interior Minister Schaeuble met in Berlin on January 26, 2007.

DW World writes about a new German program for civil security research:
Germany plans to earmark 123 million euros ($160 million) in the next four years for training and research in civil security. Currently, Germany is one of the most secure countries in the world, Research Minister Annette Schavan noted. Further development of security technology aims to help it stay that way.
I wonder what indicators Minister Schavan uses to claim that Germany is "one of the most secure countries." How can anybody know which countries are the most secure?  The Third Risk Report by the Advisory Board for Civil Protection ("Dritter Gefahrenbericht der Schutzkommission") presented to the German Interior Minister on 26 March 2006 outlined many shortcomings: Summary in English. Zusammenfassung auf Deutsch.

While Al Qaeda seems to be on the march rather than on the run, as the Economist points out, the US might not have enough resources to deal with it, worries Senator Rockefeller according to the Washington Post:
The new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said he fears the government will not have enough money for homeland security and other domestic priorities because of President Bush's "Iraq adventure." In an interview on Monday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., criticized almost every major facet of the Bush administration's national security course since Sept. 11, 2001. "The president has in a sense walked away from the war on terror," Rockefeller said. Because of what he termed a misplaced fascination with Iraq based on faulty intelligence, Rockefeller said al-Qaida and Afghanistan have been neglected. He said he worries that U.S. intelligence on Iran is lacking, and what the nation knows about North Korea is even worse.
While Senator Rockefeller just started calling the Iraq war an "adventure," Chancellor Schroeder used this term already in 2002, when he was heavily criticized for being Anti-American and not taking the threat of WMD seriously.
USA Erklaert pointed to this article and the often underestimated influence of the intelligence committee chairman.

Coming Anarchy writes about trouble in the former USSR: "Sausage trader caught with weapons grade uranium."

David A. Bell, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University,  asks in the Los Angeles Times: "Was 9/11 really that bad?" His answer: "The attacks were a horrible act of mass murder, but history says we're overreacting:"
Imagine that on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism. It also raises several questions. Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction?
Related posts in the Atlantic Review: Terrorism News from Germany and Iraq War Made the Global Terror Problem Worse. Also check out the transatlantic survey for European and American perceptions of the threat of terrorism.


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VinceTN on :

Bell is a typical American "journalist" of the new century. He backs up my previous claim that there is nothing a Euro or even an Arab can say about America that is nearly as hateful or spiteful as a typical leftist American citizen. Many of us were well aware that our enemies would get more vicious and violent. The change is that its no longer thier time table. Terrorists now must make more desperate decisions on what to do and when. A solid front against their evil would do much to remove this threat but I'm rather certain that America will continue to have to figure this all out by itself. Germans want more respect for what they accomplish in the anti terror front. So do Americans. Imagine a world without Greens, Communists and Progressives screwing up all debates. Where do we stand against terror?

David on :

"Imagine a world without Greens, Communists and Progressives screwing up all debates." Brave New World, Vince - a world without the Constitution, free press,democracy. At least you are honest with your authoritarian vision.

VinceTN on :

I'm sure you throw the authoritarian claim against most anyone you disagree with. Victim envy much?

David on :

No, just against those that show complete contempt for democratic principles.

Don S on :

Vince, Bell is an academic not a 'journalist'. Acsdemics can be even more poisonous than 'journalists' can, but that editorial wasn't a particularly noxious brew as such things go. He even has a good argument, though he doesn;t go so far as apply it consistently to both sides of the terrorist conflict. The point that the 'war on terrorism' isn't the end of the world - not an existential threat to our society is a decent one. It's perfectly valid. Even if the absolute worst thing happened - if Kim Il Jung sold an a-bomb to some Saudi financiers and Al Quaeda smuggled it into New York harbor and set it off - it would be a huge blow but not an existential threat. Where the Bell essay fails it to apply the same standard to the other side of the argument. That is the War in Iraq is also not that big a deal on the scale of these things. Not that huge a bloodletting. It can't be compared with Vietnam much less either of the world wars or the Napoleanic Wars. In fact it cannot even be compared with the Iran-Iraq war. The US is not pursuing it ruthlessly (which may be part of our problem). War opponents are not at all molified by the fact that the US is being restrained rather than over the top. To the contrary - the rhetoric trotted out against this war far outweighs that which was expended for genuinely genocidal wars like Iran-Iraq and Rwanda.

VinceTN on :

The poison is the lie that we have nothing to worry about since the terrorists can't invade and conquer America militarily. That has never been my concern. Its the "soft power" options of lawsuites and the willing obedience of Leftists in the west to bow down to their bullying through political correctness. I should think that if a Southern Baptist/Catholic can be derided in news, politics, movies and song then a terrorist can as well.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

@ Don [i]Even if the absolute worst thing happened - if Kim Il Jung sold an a-bomb to some Saudi financiers and Al Quaeda smuggled it into New York harbor and set it off -[/i] It is a plausible scenario. That's why ballistic missile defense makes little sense. It's expensive and a distraction from the real dangers. First I had thought the North Korean bomb is more likely to be set off at the West coast rather than the East coast, but then I remember that Jack Bauer is in Los Angeles and Kim Jong-Il is a big fan of Hollywood...

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Just stumbled up on the [url=]NYT Times[/url]: "Starting this spring, the Bush administration will assess new detection machines at a Staten Island port terminal that are designed to screen cargo and automatically distinguish between naturally occurring radiation and critical bomb-building ingredients. And later this year, the federal government plans to begin setting up an elaborate network of radiation alarms at some bridges, tunnels, roadways and waterways into New York, creating a 50-mile circle around the city."

Don S on :

Joerg, "That's why ballistic missile defense makes little sense. It's expensive and a distraction from the real dangers." One plausible scenario does not preclude another existing. A ballistic missle defense could help in the situation where North Korea tosses a missle at the US - or where someone makes a mistake. It probably doesn't help much against a full-scale attack from (say) Russia or China of course. In what way is it a distraction, by the way? I constantly hear this refrain from lefties in the US and many in the EU but it makes little sense. The engineers working on missle defense are hardly going to be guarding the harbors, are they? I suppose they could in theory woking on sensors and advanced 'sniffing' programs except that missle engineers and imaging and control engineers working on ballistic missle defense are unlikely to be working upon border defense and detection. They are simply not the same kind of problem. The fact that it's an article of faith among many leftists that missle defense somehow detracts from homeland defense merely exposes how little many of them understand about engineering.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

"In what way is it a distraction, by the way?" Primarily money. Do you know how much money is spend on woking on sensors and advanced 'sniffing' programs etc compared to missile defense? Not a rhetorical question. I am interested in a comparison. I just read that there were many complains of lack of harbor security and lack of investments there. Also: see Senator Rockefellers comments quoted in this post.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Of course, the EU is not doing any better. At least this civil defense program mentioned in the post is a small start.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

Question for everyone: We all know that the Al Qaeda movement is global. It's not centrally organized by one guy in Afghanistan anymore. Like in the early 90s. Thus, [b]how important is NATO's mission in Afghanistan in "war on terrorism"?[/b] If NATO would pull out, the Taliban might win the civil war and rule again, but Bin Laden does not need the Taliban in power. Al Qaeda and its loose and often self-proclaimed "affiliates" do not need Afghanistan as "a safe haven" and a some training ground to practice shooting and bomb manufacture. Terrorists groups can get train and exercise around the world. We lose focus on terrorism by devoting crucial resources to Afghanistan, like intelligence, military, manpower, strategic planning, money, etc. Many Germans believe that the war in Southern Afghanistan is not winable. The Brits lost some 100 years ago. The Russians lost more recently. Several NATO countries have fought there for some five years without much of a lasting success so far. In [url=]another comment, I have asked "Why should Germany send combat troops to southern Afghanistan?"[/url] Please click on the link, if you know of any other reason in addition to the reason "solidarity with NATO allies." Now, let me ask you what should be done in the war on terrorism? Or if you don't like that term: What should be done to increase our security from terrorism? What are the US and Europe's main shortcomings? What should and can realistically be done, but is not done yet? I am concerned that all this debate about Iraq and Afghanistan and the "evil liberals" and "evil conservatives" distracts us from discussing the threats from international terrorism and our best policies against it. The links in this post provide some input, but I am sure you have many ideas already.

Jean on :

JW, Good questions all, and I'm going to respond (hopefully coherently) in a little while. Unfortunately, the debate over 'evil liberals' vs. 'evil conservatives' is at the heart of the debate - conservatives want to confront terrorists, liberals want to understand terrorists' motivations. The 'truth' is that both approaches are needed; alas, until we find a crystal ball that allows us to see into the future, informing us in each and every case what the appropriate response is, we are left ad-libbing.

alan on :

Al Qaeda’s Battle Plan 2007 and beyond.

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