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All articles with the "Terrorism" tag.

Published: Fri, 26 May 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Fri, 26 May 2017 22:58:37 -0400


DHS Chief Sows More Terrorism Fears to Kick Off Your Holiday Weekend

Fri, 26 May 2017 17:40:00 -0400

As you're gassing up for your Memorial Day weekend trip, Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly wants to remind you that the world is trying to kill you.

It's all part of his apparent plan to try to get Americans to support the men and women of the DHS (and the domestic security apparatus) by trying to convince us that we would all be dead without them. Kelly appeared on Fox & Friends this morning to tell us all that it's possible we would "never leave the house in the morning" if we knew what he knew about terrorism.

Fox posted a brief clip on Twitter:

Yes, if you listened carefully, you'll have heard Kelly say "It can happen, almost here, at any time." This has been Kelly's shtick after taking over leadership of the DHS. I took note of it back in April in a speech he gave that was deliberately structured to make Americans feel as though our country was under siege in order to justify unthinking compliance with anything DHS demands of us.

Speaking of those DHS demands, note that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is cranking up airport searches yet again. This time, allegedly because everybody tries to cram everything into their carry-on bags, security teams at several airports are ordering passengers to take more out of their bags than just their laptops—other electronics, books, and other clutter—so they can allegedly scan more effectively. So prepare for that if you're flying anywhere for the weekend.

Perhaps Kelly could tell us what he knows about terrorism and we could decide for ourselves whether to be scared. But given that Americans actually are not at significant risk of being killed by terrorists, and given the fact that many homegrown terror plots that the FBI disrupts are actually helped along by the FBI itself, he might not like the fact that we might not be spending the three-day weekend under our beds hoping the DHS will keep us safe.

The Fifth Column Branches Out to Sirius XM POTUS!

Fri, 26 May 2017 11:05:00 -0400

(image) Some news: The Fifth Column, the 13-month-old, occasionally bleary-eyed politics/media/bad-accents podcast co-hosted by Kmele Foster, Michael C. Moynihan and myself, is expanding to Sirius XM's POTUS (stands for "Politics of the United States") channel, beginning this weekend. You can find POTUS, which bills itself as "Non-Partisan Political Talk," at number 124 on your channel-thingie. The hour-long broadcasts will sometimes be edited versions of the longer podcasts, bonus interview sessions, or live call-in shows. Here's how we're described on the site:

From their enclave in midtown Manhattan, hosts Michael Moynihan, Matt Welch, and Kmele Foster dissect the news, interrogate guests, and question just about everything. The topics are broad, the insights are deep, and the jokes are off color.

Tune in Saturday, May 27, at 11 a.m. ET; and Sunday, May 28, at 1 a.m. ET & again at 3 p.m.

You can listen to an expanded version of what you'll hear there right the hell here. Recorded on Wednesday morning, this show is perhaps blissfully free of all things Bodyslamgate, and instead focuses on the Manchester terrorist attack, debates over "root causes," President Donald Trump's Mideast swing, commemorative drug paraphernalia, #MAGA-hashtag Twitter feeds, the mesmerizing lure of Jewish holidays, and the even more tempting prospects of shotgunning Negro Modelos in the morning. It's all here:

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In addition to LISTENING TO US ON SIRIUS XM POTUS CHANNEL 124, you can fulfill your bonus Fifth Column needs at iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play,, @wethefifth, and Facebook.

Don't Be Terrorized: U.K. Edition

Tue, 23 May 2017 18:30:00 -0400

(image) First, condolences to those who lost friends and family last night as a result of the terrorist bombing in Manchester, U.K. According to the latest reports, at least 22 people are dead and 59 were injured in attack. The brutal thugs who run ISIS are claiming credit for the murders.

The British government defines terrorism as "the use of violence for political ends," including "any use of violence for the purpose of putting the public, or any section of the public, in fear." While it's hard not to be fearful in the aftermath of an attack, especially in our era of wall-to-wall media coverage, knowing just how severe a threat terrorism poses to people's safety might help keep that fear at bay.

According to The Telegraph's comprehensive analysis, 90 people died in Britain between 2000 and 2015 as a result of terrorism. The Telegraph notes that more than 1,000 people were killed by terrorists in the U.K. during the prior 15-year period—basically a reduction of 90 percent. That decline can be attributed to the abatement of IRA terrorism after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 and the inclusion of 271 deaths from the Libyan bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988.

Given that the U.K.'s population is 65 million, that means that the chance of being killed by a terrorist between 2000 and 2015 was less than 1 in 700,000. For perspective, in those same 15 years 42,000 Britons died in automobile accidents. Indeed, more Britons die annually from drowning in their bathtubs. Even if ISIS' current campaign marks a riskier period for Britain, it will have a long way to go before terror deaths exceed the rates experienced by the U.K. during the last 30 years of the 20th century.

Of course, most of us do not fear car crashes and bathtub drownings as such; they are everyday background risks that barely register in the media. The malevolent intentions that motivate murders, and especially those caused by terrorist bombings and vehicle rampages, heighten our sense of vulnerability even if a risk is objectively small.

But with risks this low, those of us who live in western democracies should continue to forthrightly live our lives as though terrorism doesn't exist. We ultimately vanquish terrorism when we refuse to be terrorized.

Again, condolences for the lost lives and best wishes for the speedy convalesence of those injured by the attack in Manchester.

Bonus link: "September 11: Remembering the Lives and Liberties Lost 15 Years Ago."

Explosion at Manchester Arena After Ariana Grande Concert Kills at Least 22

Mon, 22 May 2017 20:17:00 -0400

An explosion or possibly explosions tore through the foyer of the Manchester Arena as an Ariana Grande concert was ending tonight in England. [UPDATE: The Guardian is now reporting that the Arena insists the explosion happened "outside the venue in a public space."]


BBC and The Guardian are both featuring constantly updated feeds with latest news from the scene, including harrowing eyewitness reports. The current number of confirmed dead is 19, with around 50 others injured, according to the Greater Manchester Police.

There is no hard confirmation of cause or responsibility for the explosion at time of posting, though the BBC reports that "North West Counter Terrorism Unit is treating the incident in Manchester as a possible terrorist incident."

UPDATE: Police have reported a controlled demolition of a nearby suspect device in Cathedral Gardens. Said suspect device now reported as abandoned clothing by Manchester police.

UPDATE at 10:05 p.m. Eastern Time: At a brief press conference, a representative from Manchester's police confirmed much of what has been reported. The explosion occurred at the end of the concert. The toll stands at 19 dead and 50 injured. They are considering the explosion to be a terrorist attack for now.

UPDATE at 12:05 p.m. eastern, May 23: The explosion (which may have involved a "nail bomb" that spread metal shrapnel) was caused by what is now thought to have been a lone suicide bomber, and ISIS is claiming responsibility, including a threat that "what comes next will be more severe." The Washington Post is reporting via unnamed U.S. officials that the killer was named Salman Abedi. The headline has also been amended to reflect new developments.

Trump To Muslim World: Peace Only Possible "if your Nations Drive Out the Terrorists and Extremists"

Sun, 21 May 2017 15:50:00 -0400

President Donald Trump's speech in Saudi Arabia was in many ways window-dressing to a new, $110-billion arms deal with one of the most repressive regimes on the planet. But his 30-minute talk, televised widely through the Arab and Muslim worlds, is an interesting statement that's worth spending serious time with. If Candidate Trump was openly scornful of Islam, often denouncing it as an inherently violent religion, he's singing a different tune now, saying he's not interested in how countries conduct their internal affairs as long as they don't export terrorists. America is a sovereign nation and our first priority is always the safety and security of our citizens. We are not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership—based on shared interests and values—to pursue a better future for us all. Beyond in the rejection of what he would call a globalist worldview, Trump seems to be signaling a return to a non-humanitarian dimension to U.S. foreign policy. The problem is that he specifically justified his ineffective bombing of a Syrian airstrip on humanitarian grounds (that the Assad government had used prohibited chemical weapons on innocent civilians). More important, while he sounded somewhat non-interventionist as a candidate at times, he also pledged to "bomb the shit" out of Muslim terrorists in the Middle East and Afghanistan, a promise he has shown signs of keeping, even beyond Syria. It's worth pointing out, too, that even when the U.S. government has embraced or eschewed humanitarian motivations for foreign policy, it has never been constrained by such declarations. To pretend, for instance, that Bill Clinton's various interventions and actions were motivated by humanitarian concerns rather than vulgar domestic politics requires a suspension of disbelief beyond that of the most-devoted fan of Starlight Express or Cop Rock. Yet from a libertarian perspective at least, it's good to hear a president rhetorically lay out a foreign policy that is basically limited to defending American interests rather than saving the world (how many countries and innocent people must die to prove America is virtuous?). Same, too, with getting overly involved with the internal workings of foreign countries. America should always be a place of refuge for people fleeing tyranny and oppression, and our government can and should exert influence to liberalize and open-up repressive hellholes. But the past 15 years of U.S. interventions (and if we're being honest, most of our overseas adventuring before that) have clearly failed. Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson's campaign may have floundered due to some misstatements about the Syrian civil war, but he was right in saying the United States should use trade, cultural exchange, and diplomacy to affect other countries. We simply don't have the knowledge or resources to bully or beat the world into our shape. Military intervention, regime change, and all the rest should be last resorts and exceptionally rare. The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. The nations of the Middle East will have to decide what kind of future they want for themselves, for their countries, and for their children. It is a choice between two futures—and it is a choice America CANNOT make for you. A better future is only possible if your nations drive out the terrorists and extremists. Drive. Them. Out. DRIVE THEM OUT of your places of worship. DRIVE THEM OUT of your communities. DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land, and DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH. For our part, America is committed to adjusting our strategies to meet evolving threats and new facts. We will discard those strategies that have not worked—and will apply new approaches informed by experience and judgment. We are adopting a Principled Realism, rooted in common values and[...]

FBI's James Comey Calls Wikileaks "Intelligence Porn," Dares To Define Journalism

Wed, 03 May 2017 13:25:00 -0400

(image) FBI Director James Comey is talking with the Senate Judiciary Committee about his bureau's investigation of ties between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Among the highlights? Comey's indignant attacks on Edward Snowden and Wikileaks:

Comey differentiated between WikiLeaks, an "important focus" of investigations, and legitimate news sources.

"It crosses a line when it moves from being about educating a public intelligence porn, just pushing out information…just to damage the United States," later adding, "There's nothing that even smells journalist about some of this content."

Comey said the focus of investigations would almost always fall on leakers during legitimate investigations.

Comey's comments on Wikileaks call to mind CIA head Mike Pompeo's attacks on the organization just a couple of weeks ago. "We can no longer allow [Julian] Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us," Pompeo declared in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now."

Let's be clear: No official should be in the business of defining journalism (and thus implicitly sanctioning government action against whistleblowers and other leakers). But it's especially hilarious when the head of the FBI, an agency that has a long history of patently illegal and typically ineffective subterfuge, gets on his high horse about what's legit media and what's not. In a four-year stretch, for instance, the FBI authorized criminal activity by confidential informants over 22,000 times. It's especially dark, too, when the FBI director is serving a president who has gone above and beyond in singling out specific individuals (such as Amazon's Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post), calling for the "loosening" of libel laws regarding public figures and elected officials, and generally declaring war on the press. That Donald Trump is publicly at odds with Comey over the latter's refusal to recommend charges against Hillary Clinton only makes the spectacle even more bizarre.

Obviously, it's too much to ask U.S. officials to embrace Wikileaks and other sources that reveal the inner workings of the government, but there's no question that Wikileaks has forced transparency in ways that have greatly benefited the public.

Here's the livestream of the Senate's questioning of Comey:

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Paranoid Campaign Ad of the Week

Wed, 03 May 2017 12:30:00 -0400

Meet Bryce Reeves. He's a former narcotics cop. He's a Virginia state senator. He's running for lieutenant governor. And he wants you to know he's aghast at "the America Obama left behind," where masked terrorists run unchecked on our suburban streets, scaring moms into dropping their groceries:

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Reeves manages to drag sanctuary cities into his pitch too. Naturally, the mini-movie peaks with the terrorist briefly making eye contact with the mom.

This stiff shot of paranoia isn't one of those deliberately loopy ads that candidates drop onto YouTube hoping it'll go viral and get them a little free media; the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that it's a bona-fide TV commercial. It's titled Safety, because of course it is.

Guerrilla Lobs Bombs at Romanticized History of ‘70s Violence

Fri, 07 Apr 2017 15:30:00 -0400

Guerrilla. Showtime. Sunday, April 16, 9 p.m. Before we get to everything else about Showtime's Guerrilla—how it's intelligent, insightful, resonant, well-acted and all that—let's deal with the mysterious question of why a show about an underground black-nationalist terrorist group of the 1970s, written and produced by Americans, would be set in Great Britain. To be sure, London had its share (actually, much more than its share) of political terrorism in the 1970s. But nearly all of it was connected to the issue of Northern Ireland. Neither the British black-power movement nor the government response to it ever reached the extreme levels of violence that wracked their counterparts in the United States; there was no Mayfair chapter of the Black Panthers. The 1970s underground group that most closely resembles the one portrayed in Guerrilla was the Black Liberation Army, the Panther offshoot for which JoAnne Chesimard, a.k.a. Assata Shakur, robbed banks and shot it out with cops, but it was a purely American affair. The most obvious answer for the show's peculiar venue is that it's a co-production with Great Britain's Sky TV, which seemed to suggest that Guerrilla's creator-writer-director John Ridley, who won a screenwriting Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, couldn't round up enough funding within the United States. Why that should be is just one of those Hollywood imponderables. Guerrilla is a thoughtful and undidactic look at a time when the left went from nutty to nihilistic. In one 18-month stretch of 1971-72, the FBI recorded more than 2,500 bombings in the United States, more than five a day. And much of the revolutionary violence was directed not at the war in Vietnam, where American involvement was in steep decline, but at racial iniquities. Underground American groups like the Weathermen and the Symbionese Liberation Army explicitly declared that their violence was committed to combat black oppression, even if the fingers that were pulling the triggers or lighting the fuses were, in many cases, white. The Black Lives Matter movement is different in many, many ways, but the echoes are there nonetheless. Frieda Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) and Babou Ceesay ('71) play the politically engaged young lovers Jas and Marcus. Marcus is a black teacher whose revolutionary impulses are strictly cerebral; trying to blaze the way for the fulfillment of Ho Chi Minh's dictum that "when the prison gates are opened, the real dragon will fly out," he spends his spare time teaching classes at a London jail, educating future cadres. Jas, a nurse and a red diaper baby with daddy issues (her father is in jail in India for killing soldiers), is less patient. "I have to be with someone who wants to do things," she warns Marcus. They're both jolted to action when a black friend is beaten to death by cops at a protest rally. But they immediately learn how easily violence can spiral out of control, when, breaking a Marxist street criminal named Dhari (Nathaniel Martello-White, Red Tails) out of jail in hopes that he can provide their movement with more muscular leadership, they accidentally kill a guard. Marcus is stricken by the blood on his hands, even when the hard-boiled Dhari scoffs, "No use talking you didn't do this, you didn't do that—you're in it." Jas, on the other hand, is enchanted to hear news reports speculate that their little group must be veteran revolutionaries, perhaps even an offshoot of the Panthers. "We're so fucking cool," she exclaims to Marcus, even as her newfound notoriety spurs her into new fits of rage. Ridley's keenly observant script clearly draws on the multiplying accounts of life underground by 1970s survivors who've come in from the cold, not only for details of the grungy day-to-day existence (Jas and Marcus at one point are reduced to grabbing scraps of food off un-bussed trays of dirty restaurant dishes) but the la[...]

That Time an Undercover FBI Agent Told One of the 'Draw Mohammed' Shooters to 'Tear Up Texas'

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 15:06:00 -0400

One of the FBI's favorite tools for nabbing would-be terrorists is a sting: The bureau finds a mark, stokes his interest in carrying out some sort of attack, draws him into a plot, and then arrests him. Every time one of these busts hits the press, I wonder how long it will be before we learn about a perp who takes the FBI's encouragement to heart but decides to launch or join a separate plot that the government doesn't control. I had that on my mind as I read 60 Minutes' report on the Garland, Texas, attack of May 2015. In that incident, two men tried to shoot up a draw-Mohammed contest; fortunately, local police prevented them from killing anyone. "Not only had the FBI been monitoring [one of the gunmen] for years," 60 Minutes recounts, but "there was an undercover agent right behind him when the first shots were fired." The shooter in question, Elton Ibrahim Simpson, had been the target of a previous FBI operation, in which an informant recorded him talking about wanting to fight overseas for Islam. That wasn't enough to send Simpson to jail—he got three years' probation instead—but the discovery that his mosque had spies in it did drive him away from the temple. The alienated Simpson and his roommate then reached out to ISIS about carrying out some sort of attack at home. But ISIS wasn't the only organization that Simpson was in touch with. "After the trial," his attorney told 60 Minutes, "we found out that they had had an undercover agent who had been texting with Simpson, less than three weeks before the attack, to him 'Tear up Texas.'" The report continues: The man he's talking about was a special agent of the FBI, working undercover posing as an Islamic radical. The government sent attorney Dan Maynard 60 pages of declassified encrypted messages between the agent and Elton Simpson—and argued "Tear up Texas" was not an incitement. But Simpson's response was incriminating, referring to the attack against cartoonists at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo: "bro, you don't have to say that..." He wrote "you know what happened in Paris... so that goes without saying. No need to be direct." But it turns out the undercover agent did more than just communicate online with Elton Simpson. In an affidavit filed in another case the government disclosed that the FBI undercover agent had actually "traveled to Garland, Texas, and was the event."...And this past November, Maynard was given another batch of documents by the government, revealing the biggest surprise of all. The undercover FBI agent was in a car directly behind Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi when they started shooting. Was it incitement? Judge for yourself. From the affidavit: The FBI wouldn't speak with 60 Minutes, aside from an emailed statement denying that its agents had advance knowledge of the Garland plot. So we don't know their answers to the questions the show says it would have liked to have asked: "Did you have more communications with Simpson? How is it that you ended up coming to Garland, Texas? Why are you even there?" That isn't the first time the FBI has declined to talk about the topic. The bureau refused to answer some questions on the subject from the Associated Press earlier this year—and when a Daily Beast reporter inquired about the "Tear up Texas" text last August, an FBI spokeswoman just hung up the phone. In the best-case scenario, the text was just one irresponsible but ultimately uninfluential remark to a man who was already ready to shoot people. But that would still raise the question of just why exactly anyone thinks this sort of encouragement should be a part of any police investigation. In the meantime, it wasn't an undercover G-man who stopped the plot; it was the local cops in Garland, who were there because they realized that this was the sort of event someone might try to attack.[...]

TSA Punishes Boy Who Left a Laptop in His Backpack With a Prolonged Pat-Down

Wed, 29 Mar 2017 11:16:00 -0400

(image) Suppose you forget to remove your laptop from your carry-on bag while passing through security at a U.S. airport. How should the TSA "resolve" that issue?

You might think the resolution would involve sending the laptop through the scanner again, this time in its very own bin. It might also include swabbing the laptop to see if it tests positive for explosive residue, based on the dubious supposition that a terrorist with a bomb in his laptop would invite such scrutiny by flouting the well-known rule regarding portable computers. But even that extra measure seems downright sensible compared to what a TSA agent at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport did on Sunday after a 13-year-old boy mistakenly left his laptop in his backback: He repeatedly patted the boy down, paying extra attention to his thighs, buttocks, and waistband, even though the kid had passed through the body scanner without setting off any alarms.

In a Facebook post that has elicited considerable outrage, the boy's mother, Jennifer Williamson of Grapevine, Texas, says he has a sensory processing disorder that makes him especially sensitive to being touched. She therefore asked if he could be screened in some other way, which of course was simply not possible. Williamson's video of the pat-down suggests the boy reacted with more equanimity than his mother, who described the experience as "horrifying." It is especially puzzling that the agent seems to have completed the pat-down a couple of times, only to feel the same areas again. The TSA says the examination, which took about two minutes, was witnessed by two police officers "to mitigate the concerns of the mother."

Williamson evidently did not find the cops' presence reassuring. "We had two DFW police officers that were called and flanking him on each side," she says. "Somehow these power tripping TSA agents who are traumatizing children and doing whatever they feel like without any cause need to be reined in." Several hours later, she says, her son was still saying, "I don't know what I did. What did I do?"

In addition to the pat-down, the TSA screened "three carry-on items that required further inspection." Williamson says she and her son missed their flight because all the extra attention delayed them for about an hour. The TSA says it was more like 35 minutes. Or maybe 45. According to CBS News, "The TSA said the procedures performed by the officer in the video met new pat-down standards that went into effect earlier this month." The TSA told CNET "all approved procedures were followed to resolve an alarm of the passenger's laptop."

The problem, in other words, is not "power tripping TSA agents" who get their jollies by feeling up boys. The problem is the protocol, which makes no sense and, judging from most of the comments in response to Williamson's post, is not even effective as security theater.

Another Terror Attack Leads to Yet Another Government Assault on Your Right to Tech Privacy

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 13:05:00 -0400

After Khalid Farood launched a terrorist attack in Westminster, England, last week, killing four before getting killed himself, officials made it clear that Farood was not on the government's radar as a potential threat. While the details of the case are still under investigation, the theory at the moment coming out of Scotland Yard and investigators was that he was a lone attacker that self-radicalized. Farood did have a previous criminal record, but he was not seen as a terrorist threat, and it's not even clear yet whether he should have been. In response to the attack, Prime Minister Theresa May gave a short speech talking about how the United Kingdom's commitment to Democracy, freedom, human rights, and rule of law made them targets, but "Any attempt to defeat those values through violence and terror is doomed to failure." Then, over the weekend, her own administration took to the media to demand that citizens abandon those freedoms and human rights to serve the government's interests. Specifically, Amber Rudd, home secretary (the leader of the U.K.'s various national security and policing agencies) went to the press to complain about encryption as a threat to national security, though there's absolutely no evidence that encryption played any role in the failure to predict or prevent this attack. The targets here are communication tools like WhatsApp, which has end-to-end encryption that has the potential to thwart investigators. Authorities are trying to determine whether Farood communicated with anybody through encrypted messaging, but this is after-the-fact research. Whether or not authorities could have penetrated Farood's encryption wouldn't have prevented the attack because, again, he wasn't considered a terror threat. Nevertheless, the fact that Farood might have had a way to communicate without the government being able to access it is again bringing up the decades-long fight by officials to try to prevent citizens from communicating secretly. Rudd is insisting that she wants these communication apps to assist the government in bypassing encryption on demand in order to assist government investigations. We've seen these arguments a lot, both out of the United Kingdom and in the United States. The leaders of both, May and President Donald Trump, are open supporters of mass surveillance and have shown very little respect for citizen privacy. Rudd, like many of these anti-encryption officials, insist that they don't want to totally destroy our tech privacy but simply demand that tech companies assist government to gain access to targeted people's communications when they have proper warrants. The problem remains—and Rudd, like other government officials, refuses to acknowledge or engage with it—that there's no such thing as an encryption back door or bypass that can only be used by the "proper" authorities. Any bypass can be cracked by hackers, be they criminals or foreign government officials who don't have the United Kingdom's commitment to "human rights." Fortunately, Rudd is getting pushback from privacy activists (and even other officials) in England. From The Guardian: Brian Paddick, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman and a former deputy assistant commissioner in the Metropolitan police, said that giving the security services access to encrypted messages would be "neither a proportionate nor an effective response" to the Westminster attack. "These terrorists want to destroy our freedoms and undermine our democratic society," he said. "By implementing draconian laws that limit our civil liberties, we would be playing into their hands. The United Kingdom has, unfortunately, already recently implemented draconian surveillance laws in the Investigatory Powers Act, which does have the potential to allow the government to try to[...]

Do Muslims Commit Most U.S. Terrorist Attacks?

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 13:30:00 -0400

"It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported. In many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it," asserted President Donald Trump a month ago. He was referring to a purported media reticence to report on terror attacks in Europe. "They have their reasons, and you understand that," he added. The implication, I think, is that the politically correct press is concealing terrorists' backgrounds. To bolster the president's claims, the White House then released a list of 78 terror attacks from around the globe that Trump's minions think were underreported. All of the attackers on the list were Muslim—and all of the attacks had been reported by multiple news outlets. Some researchers at Georgia State University have an alternate idea: Perhaps the media are overreporting some of the attacks. Political scientist Erin Kearns and her colleagues raise that possibility in a preliminary working paper called "Why Do Some Terrorist Attacks Receive More Media Attention Than Others?" First they ask how many terror attacks have taken place between 2011 and 2015. (The 2016 data will become available later this summer.) The Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland, which catalogs information on over 150,000 incidents since 1970, defines terrorism as an "intentional act of violence or threat of violence by a non-state actor" that meets at least two of three criteria. First, that it be "aimed at attaining a political, economic, religious, or social goal." Second, that there is "evidence of an intention to coerce, intimidate, or convey some other message to a larger audience (or audiences) other than the immediate victims." And finally, that it be "outside the precepts of International Humanitarian Law." The Georgia State researchers report that the database catalogs 110 terrorist attacks in the U.S. over the most recent five-year span period in the database. (Globally, there were more than 57,000 terrorist attacks during that period.) In some cases, the media tended to report several attacks perpetrated by the same people as a single combined story; following their lead, the researchers reduce the number to 89 attacks. They then set out to answer four different questions: Would an attack receive more coverage if the perpetrators were Muslim, if they were arrested, if they aimed at government employees or facilities, or if it resulted in a high number of deaths? From a series of searches at LexisNexis and, Kearns and her colleagues gathered a dataset of 2,413 relevant news articles. If each attack had received equal media attention, they would have garnered an average of 27 news articles apiece. Interestingly, 24 of the attacks listed in the GTD did not receive any reports in the news sources they probed. For example, a cursory Nexis search failed to turn up any news stories about a 2011 arson attack on townhouses under construction in Grand Rapids, Michigan. An internet search by me did find several local news reports that cited a threatening letter warning residents to leave the neighborhood: "This attack was not isolated, nor will it be the last. We are not peaceful. We are not willing to negotiate." The GTD reports so far that no one has been apprehended for the attack. For those five years, the researchers found, Muslims carried out only 11 out of the 89 attacks, yet those attacks received 44 percent of the media coverage. (Meanwhile, 18 attacks actually targeted Muslims in America. The Boston marathon bombing generated 474 news reports, amounting to 20 percent of the media terrorism coverage during the period analyzed. Overall, the authors report, "The average attack with a Muslim perpetrator is covered in 90.8 articles. Attacks with a Muslim, foreign-born perpetrator are covered in [...]

Are the 'Dishonest' Media Really Under-Reporting Terrorist Attacks? New at Reason

Fri, 24 Mar 2017 13:30:00 -0400

(image) "It's gotten to a point where it's not even being reported. In many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn't want to report it," asserted President Donald Trump a month ago. He was referring to a purported media reticence to report on terror attacks in Europe. "They have their reasons, and you understand that," he added. The implication, I think, is that the politically correct press is concealing terrorists' backgrounds.

To bolster the president's claims, the White House then released a list of 78 terror attacks from around the globe that Trump's minions think were underreported. All of the attackers on the list were Muslim—and all of the attacks had been reported by multiple news outlets.

Some researchers at Georgia State University have an alternate idea: Perhaps the media are overreporting some of the attacks.

Border Guards Now Snatching and Searching 5,000 Cellphones a Month

Tue, 14 Mar 2017 14:39:00 -0400

(image) As Scott Shackford laid out in detail last month, there is a renewed journalistic interest during the Trump presidency in documenting aggressive Customs and Border Protection searches that long pre-date Donald Trump's election. This is particularly true of practices that—like many crackdowns on illegal immigrants and/or terrorists—restrict the freedom and arguably infringe on the rights of perfectly law-abiding U.S. citizens.

NBC News has a thorough report out on a tactic that hits close to home: CBP agents snatching Americans' cell phones at the border, demanding passwords, swiping information, and sharing copiously with other federal law enforcement agencies. Here's the nut:

Data provided by the Department of Homeland Security shows that searches of cellphones by border agents has exploded, growing fivefold in just one year, from fewer than 5,000 in 2015 to nearly 25,000 in 2016.

According to DHS officials, 2017 will be a blockbuster year. Five-thousand devices were searched in February alone, more than in all of 2015. […]

DHS has published more than two dozen reports detailing its extensive technological capability to forensically extract data from mobile devices, regardless of password protection on most Apple and Android phones. The reports document its proven ability to access deleted call logs, videos, photos, and emails to name a few, in addition to the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram apps.

Some Americans are also getting their cell phones swiped while leaving the country, with a CBP spokesperson telling NBC that agents may be acting on concerns over industrial policy, whatever the hell that means. "CBP has adapted and adjusted to align with current threat information, which is based on intelligence," is how the spokesperson explained the sharp increase.

The NBC News piece has other tales of individual outrage, including quotes from those detained and searched, plus legal analysis that mostly amounts to: We're screwed. Scott Shackford's post contains plenty of other information, including about counter legislation being introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon). This New York Times how-to suggests we get in the habit of buying travel burner phones. This keeps up and even technologically incompetent Americans (coughs) will deploy the evasion techniques of master criminals.

Below, enjoy some fiction, from Reason TV:

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Europeans Reconsidering Visa-Free Travel for Americans

Thu, 09 Mar 2017 12:32:00 -0500

First the bad news for those Americans who enjoy traveling to Europe without having to first apply for a visa: The European Parliament voted one week ago to discontinue visa-free travel for U.S. passport-holders unless Washington extends the Visa Waiver Program (which allows for reciprocal 90-day visa-free travel arrangements between America and 38 nations) to the five countries in the European Union who are still on the outside looking in: Poland, Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, and Cyprus. The good news: The European Parliament is a largely ceremonial body, stuffed with clowns, who have zero say in the matter. But deepening political distrust on both sides of the Atlantic is chipping away at a system under which each year around 22 million foreigners enter the U.S. and an estimated 12 million Americans visit Europe. With overwhelming bipartisan approval at the end of 2015, the Obama administration removed from the VWP dual nationals from, and people who had traveled since March 2011 to, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria. Those who have also traveled in that time period to Somalia, Libya and Yemen are similarly exempt from the exemption. If those seven countries look familiar, they were the ones targeted in the Trump administration's first executive-order travel ban, and all but Iraq remain in the pared-back follow-up. The new travel ban has the potential to put much bigger dents into Visa Waiver. Why? Because it instructs "the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence" to conduct a thorough review on each country's level of information-sharing when it comes to their nationals setting foot on U.S. soil. A preliminary report on the new specs is due within 20 days of the E.O. going into effect, then: the Secretary of State shall request that all foreign governments that do not supply such information regarding their nationals begin providing it within 50 days of notification. […] [Then,] the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, shall submit to the President a list of countries recommended for inclusion in a Presidential proclamation that would prohibit the entry of appropriate categories of foreign nationals of countries that have not provided the information requested until they do so or until the Secretary of Homeland Security certifies that the country has an adequate plan to do so, or has adequately shared information through other means. Basically, the whole shebang of visa-screening is under review, and all European countries are on notice that they better adapt very quickly to the new vetting regime. Given that Donald Trump campaigned and won in part on this issue, that he slams Europe's refugee policies and Islamic terrorism policies at every opportunity, and that even libertarian-leaning politicians will happily hack off whole limbs of Visa Waiver in moments of crisis, there is almost nothing to suggest any political impediment to tightening those particular screws. As Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said in the wake of the San Bernardino attacks, "of all the things to worry about, [admitting refugees] is down the list quite a bit. Visa waivers are quite closer to the top." The typical Islamic terrorist in Europe nowadays is a second-generation immigrant, often holding just the one passport from a VWP country. Those people, unless covered by the exceptions listed above, can enter the United States for 90 days without a visa. That seems extremely unlikely to remain the case throughout the Trump presidency, even given the many alterations the program has seen since 9/11. So is your planned vacation this summer t[...]