Friday, July 22, 2005

A second round in London yesterday

Once again there has been another theatrical presentation to frighten the west - and the UK in particular. Although this time there appears to have been some competency problems with the actors. These terrorists were apparently unable to successfully detonate their explosives. Lucky break, possibly, for everyone.

The biggest break from this may be the intelligence that can be gathered if the actors can be captured or arrested. However, there may also be very little intelligence to be gained as well. How these cells operate is not so secret any more - which is what has been leading to the pre-emptive dismantling of other plots - and hopefully some future plots. We will have to wait and see what intel comes from this.

It was reported that the police in London had responded to over 250 suspicious packages in the two weeks after the first attack. Remember, of course, that it is not how many packages are dealt with, but how many of the right packages are dealt with.

Once again - our best defense against terrorism is to recognize their goal and thwart that. Continue about your daily activities and be aware of your environment.]

Monday, July 11, 2005

Terrorism and criticism of intelligence

Before starting this blog I put a couple of posts concerning the recent events in London.

But it's stil in the news and will be for some time. The story changes in the news periodically. First the devices were detonated at varing times and now the devices on the trains all are believed to have gone off at the same time.... This is an excellent illustration of the problems with intelligence operations. Here we have events that occured in an environment that is public and it still took nearly an entire day to refine the collected data into accurate information... Although this example is actually more of discussion on the exercises of historians it does illustrate a point.

Imagine trying to determine events that will occur in the future with such inaccurate, intentionally misleading, and incomplete data. This is world of intelligence operations. It is the process of trying describe the image presented in a puzzle as far before it is completed as possible. Doesn't sound too hard does it. Now make it more interesting and will the puzzle is being put together start pouring in pieces to other puzzles, mix them up, and now you have an inkling of the difficulties. How many pictures must be assembled? What if some pieces fit into multiple puzzles - how would you know.

My experiences with intelligence dealt with the Eco/Animal Rights movement with decidedly different consequences for failure but just as difficult. We criticize those analysts that were unable to read the signs, predict the future, and know the adversary's intention like God himself (or insert the appropriate term here for your beliefs).

I must say that I honestly hate very few things, but I absolutely hate quoting television and movies. It just seems a little less worthy than quoting some great written work. This, of course, is just a personal prejudice and I digress only because I must now quote a television show - and a Brit one at that.

There is a show in the UK called Spooks ( but here in the U.S. it is called MI-5). For those unaware, MI-5 is a U.K. intelligence agency with some similarities to the FBI - but not don't try to draw a clean connection. The U.K. is a different country with different rights and governmental structure. Anyway my point is that there is a line in an episode whena police officer is killed as a result of an MI-5 operation when the widow (and there's always a grieving widow on TV) challenges the patriotism of an MI-5 operative. And so a section leader made a statement to this effect, "You may question our methods, we certainly do it constantly, but never question our motive."

With that said let's just keep one thought in mind when we hear (or engage in) criticism of our intelligence efforts. No one, least of all those charged with identifying it ahead of time, likes to lose or look foolish. Nearly everyone gets a bloody nose from a sucker punch at least once in their life so in answer to some of the comments belittling the intel community I leave this posting. We can all "do our part" in the war on terror and still keep getting bloody noses because it's hard to figure out who in the crowd is going to punch next.

Damn this got long real quick. Sorry about that. If you persevered this far I offer one book that has some interesting reading on the topic - Cracking a Terror Network - is written as fictional account with a CD with supplemental information. If you curious what sorts of Eco inspired threats we have check out these: Terrorist or Freedom Fighters and The Logic of Political Violence.

Enough said. I'll try and keep them shorter in the future.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Starting now..

Since starting the the House of Worship security blog it dawned on me that it might be better to also put together a blog on general security issues. Then the attack in London yesterday made the point a little more clear.

Here we will look at more general security concerns - businesses, schools, transportation, secure storage, networks, and so on... Not the same old technical rehash that hits ever other site, but instead a steady effort of addresses the concepts, foundations and thought-process to make the technical stuff work.

Yes, there is theory behind security. Not many realize it but it's there. Blame it on an industry that grew up under strange circumstances, with lots of different (and often competing) egos, and little thought to ethical goals or metaphysical concern.

So here goes... The foundation for today's organizational security efforts are grounded in the ancient concept of 'self-defense.' This can be traced back to the concept of 'self-preservation' however self-preservation may be used as a justification for aggressive violence which is not the point here - or within a society governed by the rule of law. Self-defense implies that another entity is the aggressor and the 'self' is taking action to thwart that aggression. So an individual is permitted to take action in self-defense. Since organizations within our society are granted many of the rights and obligations of an individual then they two are permitted to use this doctrine of self-defense. There we now have a foundation for our security efforts.

Why is this important you ask? Well, over time we will see some security activities and ideas that are pretty murky in terms of their 'rightness' and having some sort of a foundation provides the ruler to measure it.

But more importantly... It's the foundation for the effort and so a good place to start this blog.