Category Archives: Homeland Security

July 9th Meeting Announcement

The National Security Forum presents

  

Nerve Center of The White House:

A Pictorial History of the

National Security Council

 with

Dr. Tyrus W. Cobb

Former Special Assistant to President Reagan

For National Security Affairs

The Ramada, Tuesday July 9th at 9 AM

 

The National Security Council has served as the nerve-center for directing American foreign, economic, and defense policy since its inception in 1947. The power of the NSC has ebbed and flowed over time depending on how the President chose to use it and often by the force of the individual serving as the National Security Advisor (NSA).  Ty will take us down Memory Lane as we look at photos of the NSC over time. He will talk about the influence of powerful advisors such as Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski and the often contentious rivalries between the NSA and the Secretaries of State and Defense.

Join us for a retrospective look back at Truman and Atcheson; Ike and Dulles; JFK and Mac Bundy; LBJ and Rostow; Nixon and Henry; Jimmy and Zbig; Reagan, George, Cap, Haig and Bud, Colin and the Admiral; Bush 41 and Brent, Baker and Cheney; Bubba and the guys; Bush 43 with Rummy, Cheney II, and Condi; and the Obama I and II teams. Ty will also look at the key players in the emerging Obama NSC and the potential impact Susan Rice will have as she assumes the post of National Security Advisor.

 

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 for Members, $25  for non-members; $5 for students with ID; free for WWII veterans), so recommend you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some coffee and conversation.

Note that the new breakfast rates ($15 for members, $25 for non-members) will go into effect beginning with this session on July 9th. Membership forms will be available at the door.

Please RSVP on our website by (clicking hereor you may RSVP by phone (775) 746-3222 or email twcobb@aol.com. We are also now accepting credit cards at the door for your convenience.

 

Two Worrisome Scenarios on the Boston Bombers

TWO WORRISOME SCENARIOS

ON THE BOSTON BOMBERS

 

By Tyrus W. Cobb

There are two divergent portraits of the Tsarnaev brothers that have emerged in the wake of the horrific Boston Marathon bombings the two perpetrated. Both worry me—a lot.

The first depiction described the brothers as extremely disgruntled young men who had deep ties to their ethnic birthplace and religion, the Muslim areas of the former Soviet Union and to the Islamic faith. We initially assumed that the young men had come under the sway of radical teachings at the Mosques in either their native Chechnya or nearby Dagestan. Having conducted such a sophisticated operation it appeared initially that the two likely had extensive preparation at a terrorist training camp in the Caucuses Mountains.

That scenario was worrisome. However, it does not seem to accurately describe the evolution they went through, especially the elder brother. The two had essentially grown up in America, participated in sports, gone to college, had many friends, and loved to party—and smoke marijuana. They had spent little time in Chechnya or Dagestan and do not appear to have had weapons training. While they had darker moments, none of their friends saw them as significantly different–their mood swings seemed typical of youth that age.

In the last year the older brother Tamerlane had become increasingly disaffected with life in America. Their mother and he also had some “religious epiphany”, and were immersing themselves more in prayer and reading the Koran. Younger brother Dzhokhar’s interest and performance in school waned and he drifted more into his brother’s increasingly dark world.

Dropping out, dropping acid, and dropping school are typical of many youth, as is a tendency to find new and deeper meaning in life. Youth will often find solace in various religious streams, as many “Dharma Bums” did with Buddhism in the 1950’s. By and large it was a harmless diversion and most eventually reentered the mainstream of society.

What is different here are two things: First, the attraction of the apocalyptic and uncompromising aspects of Islam and, two, the surprisingly easy access to terror methodology they obtained through the Internet. The Brothers Tsarnaev spent little time hearing the preaching of radical Imams in the Mosques, but even their minor contacts with Islamic fundamentalism seems to have led them, especially Tamerlane, to be swept under the influence of the Jihadist compulsion to violent solutions.

When they searched for ways to conduct their terrorist acts, it was easy to find instructions for bomb-making devices and tactics on the Internet. The brothers apparently read the Islamic internet journal, “Inspire”, regularly, where their new devotion to the global Jihad found expression and encouragement. Further, through Inspire and other sources, they were able, with surprising ease, to create effective weapons of mass destruction.

This is the new world we live in, where disgruntled youth find comfort not in meditation or prayer, but in a Jihad against Western civilization. And with relative ease, they can obtain through open sources on the Internet the knowledge and skills needed to conduct terrorist operations.

We should be worried. Very worried!

  • Tyrus W. Cobb

Three additional viewpoints worth perusing on this topic:

First, this excerpt from a May 5 New York Times article (you can link to the NYT to get the whole piece):

 

May 5, 2013

A Homemade Style of Terror: Jihadists Push New Tactics

By SCOTT SHANE

WASHINGTON — Aware that intensified American counterterrorism efforts have made an ambitious Sept. 11-style plot a long shot, Al Qaeda propagandists for several years have called on their devotees in the United States to carry out smaller-scale solo attacks and provided the online education to teach them how.

The Boston Marathon bombing — which the authorities believe was carried out according to instructions that were posted online — offers an unsettling example of just how devastating such an attack can be, even when the death toll is low. It shows how plotters can construct powerful bombs without attracting official attention. It offers a case study in the complex mix of personality and ideology at work in extremist violence. And it raises a pressing question: Is there any way to detect such plotters before they can act?

So far, the Tsarnaev brothers appear to have been radicalized and instructed in explosives not at a training camp but at home on the Internet. Their bombs were concocted from inexpensive everyday items whose purchase set off no alarms: pressure cookers, nails and ball bearings, gunpowder from fireworks and remote controls for toys. Their choice of an open-air event meant no gate, metal detector or security inspection to pass through with their bombs.

In other words, as Dzhokhar told investigators, they followed the script from Inspire magazine

“The pressurized cooker should be placed in crowded areas and left to blow up,” the manual says. “More than one of these could be planted to explode at the same time.”

One American expert said the brothers might have as much in common with self-radicalized terrorists of completely different ideologies — say, white supremacism or antigovernment extremism — as with the committed Qaeda operatives who organized the Sept. 11 attacks. In the reports on Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Dr. Ronald Schouten, a Harvard psychiatrist who studies terrorism, sees what might be a classic portrait of a man vulnerable to extremist recruitment. He had failed at his dream of becoming an Olympic boxer and dropped out of college, disappointing his family and himself.

In recent years, Qaeda propagandists have “made a particular effort to recruit lonely people who are looking for a cause,” said Jerrold Post, a former C.I.A. psychiatrist now at George Washington University and the author of “The Mind of the Terrorist.”

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And this observation from Robert Reilly, one of America’s top experts on Islam:

Ty,

My only comment is that people need meaning in their lives — at the theological level, at the level of God.

The mantra of freedom untethered to any higher purpose translates as a form of materialism to most Muslims—and to many others as well. Therefore, Tamerlane, when he could no longer bear the meaninglessness of his life, decided upon submission to a higher purpose as it was an offer to him from the Islamists. Were there any competing offers at this level? Apparently not.

While there are some people, like Solzhenitsyn or Aung San Suu Kyi, who can survive without freedom because they have meaning in their lives, others cannot survive freedom because they have no meaning in their lives. Tamarlane had freedom in the U.S. but no meaning, so he chose meaning over freedom. His story had been replicated many times by Muslims in Europe and elsewhere.

I know you don’t discount this side of it.

Best,

Bob

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Finally, you may want to click on to this link to a New York Post piece by Ralph Peters, the retired Colonel noted for his very strong opinions. I disagree with Peters as often as I agree with him, but he is a skilled writer whose views are worth considering.

Click here: Lessons of Boston – NYPOST.com

Lessons of Boston

By RALPH PETERS  Posted: 10:37 PM, April 22, 2013

The superb work of our law-enforcement officials in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing ignited a blaze of self-congratulation that obscured the event’s implications.

Yeah, we killed one fanatic and nabbed the other. But our dysfunctional system couldn’t prevent this latest Boston Massacre.

That carnage was a dirt-cheap terrorist triumph. Fanatics will take its lessons to their shriveled jihadi hearts:

Lesson No. 1: Two amateur terrorists can paralyze a major American city for days. The Tsarnaev punks generated global headlines, ran up millions in government expenses, punished a major metro-area economy and disrupted society. And now we’ve got a costly civilian trial to come for the surviving brother — with more headlines to inspire copycats.

We’re relieved that the two young terrorists were “brought to justice” and delude ourselves that we “won.” Uh-uh. At the cost of two expendable young thugs, a few guns and a couple of homemade bombs, radical Islam generated a bloodbath that created genuine terror on our soil.

Al Qaeda and its ilk have long used suicide bombers and doomed assassins to rupture societies in the Middle East, killing tens of thousands of Muslims (a fact we fail to exploit in our lame “information campaigns”). Now the Islamists are in the export business. Expect more of these low-cost, high-return missions within our borders.

Lesson No. 2: The best weapons against targets in the US are disaffected legal immigrants or radicalized native-born converts to jihad. Political correctness — a pathetic fanaticism of our own — and legal paralysis make it virtually impossible to stop legal residents such as the Tsarnaev brothers before they commit a crime.

Lesson No. 3: Our immigration system is one of terrorism’s best allies. Related to the last point, this is a case of just how idiotic a politically correct bureaucracy can be. The father of the Tsarnaev punks only had to declare himself an asylum-seeker afraid for his life in the Russian Federation and our consular officials fell all over themselves to get him to America.

If you’re a highly educated, ambitious West European who wants to become an American, your chances are near zero. If you’re a radical America-hater from a hostile region, all you have to do is shout that you’re a political refugee and we’ll give you residency and benefits.

There’s no reason that anyone from Chechnya should be granted a US visa. It’s a gangster mini-state (within the Russian Federation) at war with home-grown Islamists.

Lesson No. 4: The more open a society, the more targets it presents. We all failed to see the obvious. We’ve done a good job of protecting hard targets, from stadiums to government offices. But that only deflected the fanatics toward softer targets whose very randomness creates authentic terror. And don’t underestimate the appeal of butchering female athletes, who are almost as terrifying to Islamists as girls in bikinis.

Last month, Islamist fanaticism scored a resounding victory on the cheap. The effectiveness of our manhunt didn’t change that.

Ralph Peters is the author of the forthcoming Civil-War novel “Hell or Richmond.

August 24th Meeting Reminder

Since we expect a full house for this event, please do RSVP if you plan to attend.

The National Security Forum presents a special session on

“CYBERWAR

From Blitzkrieg to Bitskrieg” 

With Dr. John Arquilla

 Friday, August 24, 9 am, the Ramada

Relentless assaults on America’s computer networks by China and other foreign governments, hackers and criminals have created awareness of America’s vulnerability to Cyber Warfare. Gen. Keith Alexander, the chief of the United States Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency, said intrusions against computers that run essential infrastructure increased 17-fold from 2009-11 and that it’s only a matter of time before an attack causes extensive damage. He has also called the loss of industrial information and intellectual property through cyberespionage “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.”

Attacks on power plants, electric grids, refineries, transportation networks and water treatment systems present an even greater threat. Last year, there were at least 200 attempted or successful cyberattacks on those facilities. Yet defenses are dangerously thin and America is extremely vulnerable to cyber attacks against our critical infrastructure and against our military forces in time of conflict. The fear is that a competent adversary could mount a crippling attack on our military without having to actually engage our land, sea, or air forces. And this “mass disruption” could occur without any loss of life and permit much smaller forces to paralyze their enemies on the battleground of the future.

Dr. Arquilla is a professor and chair in the Department of Defense Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. He has written numerous books on cyber war, has consulted with the White House and Pentagon on these issues, and his expertise is sought by civilian as well as military leaders.

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($20 at the door (for this event only); $10 for students), so recommend you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some coffee and conversation.

Please RSVP by clicking here or you may RSVP by phone (775) 746-3222 or email twcobb@aol.com.

 

 

Competing Op-Eds: Immigration

LET’S HAVE REAL IMMIGRATION REFORM

Tyrus W. Cobb

An RGJ op-ed (June 23) argued that President Obama’s immigration order providing 800,000 children who are here illegally a path to quasi-legal status was a “great first step”, but lamented that comprehensive immigration reform had not been proposed. However, the op-ed does not tell us what such a reform package would look like, so let me suggest one.

I agree that we need to dramatically change the way in which we  permit immigrants to come into this country and, eventually, become citizens. The problem is that the term “immigration reform” has been co-opted by those who demand amnesty for the 12 million who are now in this country illegally, rather than revising the system to attract the best and brightest. We need to radically overhaul the current system, one that is racist, exclusionary, and fails to provide diversity in our immigrant population.

This is a country built on immigration and we need to encourage the influx of highly talented and skilled foreign born who can enrich our social fabric and stimulate our economic infrastructure. The current system does just the opposite, as it leans heavily in favor of giving priority to low-income and unskilled laborers, primarily from Central America. As a result, more than 75% of the illegal population in the U.S. are low-educated, poor transplants from that region.

This is because of our permissive attitude toward illegal immigration. Our borders are not secure and are easily penetrated. Further, we award citizenship to any person born in the U.S., even if the mother slipped across the frontier only days before. These “anchor babies” and families can then move their relatives up on the waiting list to get in, since the system favors kinship (“family preference”) over talent, skills and education.

Meanwhile, highly skilled doctors, nurses, high-tech workers, and those fluent in English often wait years for permission to come to America as they follow legal guidelines. Silly them. Worse, our system discriminates against them, since the visa program many would enter under (H-1B) allows so few to receive approval that the annual allotment for these visas is used up in only 7 hours! Bill Gates and other high-tech executives have railed against this onerous restriction, without success.

We’re shooting ourselves in the foot. High-skilled immigrants, particularly those in the sciences and tech areas, are very innovative and entrepreneurial. As an analysis by Peter Schuck and John Tyler in the WSJ (May 13, 2011) noted, they receive 20% more patents than their American counterparts, they start and grow more firms (such as Google), and they create great jobs, especially in the high-paying engineering and science areas. High skilled immigrants are notably on the cutting edge in areas vital to maintaining our competitive advantage. Yet many are so discouraged by our lack of interest that they simply emigrate to more welcoming countries, like Canada.

Our current system discourages these talented immigrants. Of the more than one million permanent admissions to the U.S. in 2010, fewer than 15% were admitted for their skills. The vast majority went to relatives of the less skilled and educated.

So what would real immigration reform look like? Here are the keys that I believe should provide the framework for devising a new immigration system.

  • First, our borders should be secure (as much to deter Al-Qaeda terrorists as illegals since they are infiltrating by piggybacking on these routes.)
  • Second, the system should end the policy of family preference in favor of those with demonstrated skills, entrepreneurial talents, and English language capabilities needed to revitalize our sagging economic infrastructure. The H1-B visa program must be liberalized.
  • Third, we do need temporary workers, but the number of these “guest workers” should be restricted, they must enter through established procedures, and their visas must only be temporary.
  • Finally, children of non-citizens should not be granted citizenship, regardless of whether or not they were born here.

Immigration reform should not mean devising ways for those here illegally to gain citizenship. Rather, the process should be revamped to enable those our economy and society badly need to enter this country.

I agree that immigration reform is a top priority. Let’s just make sure it accomplishes what the country really needs.

 

Tyrus W. Cobb served as Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan for National Security Affairs.

(A version of this article appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal on Sunday, July 8, 2012, alongside the following opinion piece)

 

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 PASS THE DREAM ACT

It’s time to restore all our American dreams

Astrid Silva

President Obama’s decision regarding young undocumented immigrants is grounded in an old idea supported by both members of both parties.

Like so many good ideas that fall prey to political posturing, the DREAM Act at one time enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Initially co-sponsored by Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the intent was to bring relief to students who were brought to this country as children and remain here without documentation, often learning of their status during typical teenage rites of passage such as getting their driver learning permit.

The DREAM Act would have allowed those students the opportunity to continue their studies, and lives, in the country they loved and the only home they had ever known. It was also in the bipartisan spirit of cooperation for the common good that consensus was reached on affording the same considerations to our young people who served in the military.

Unfortunately, these young people were to fall prey to political posturing. The political winds shifted, and immigrants were no longer seen as those in pursuit of the American Dream, strengthening our great nation through diversity, but rather as a threat to national security and competitors for limited jobs and resources. The DREAM Act, once heralded by so many Republicans and Democrats alike as a common-sense solution, became polarized, and the children it was designed to help were depicted as criminals in the land they called home.

How do I know this? I am one of those kids. I have lived in Nevada since I was 5 years old and know of no other home. I pledged allegiance to our flag every day at school, celebrated our independence every Fourth of July, and know every *NSYNC lyric in existence. But because my parents wanted a more secure future for me, because they left a country where women are limited in life and face potential violence, I am now treated as a criminal.

President Obama’s “rule change” isn’t what most conservative anti-immigrant groups will have you fear it is. It’s not amnesty. It’s not unconstitutional. It is simply a change to the Department of Homeland Security’s enforcement policy. President Obama proclaimed that I am not a priority for deportation.

Our country has evolved and moved forward, yet our immigration system remains devoid of progress. If we truly want a “more perfect union,” we must come together, stop forming a patchwork of ineffective and inhumane immigration laws and get our Congress to move forward with bills like the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform, bills that not only benefit our nation, but also used to make sense to liberals and conservatives alike. In a land built by immigrants, it’s time to restore our American dreams.

Astrid Silva lives in Southern Nevada.

 

Cyber Warfare

Cyber Warfare:

Where the 21st Century

Conflicts Will be Fought

Attacks on critical installations by computer implanted viruses and codes are multiplying, both in volume and in terms of effectiveness. The attacks have been initiated by nation states, but also by increasingly sophisticated, politically-motivated groups in industrialized countries.

The most recent attack launched by a presumed nation-state was the Stuxnet virus, designed to cripple the Iranian nuclear program. Suspicion as to the source falls, of course, on Israel, with suggestions of U.S. involvement as well. CBS’s “60 Minutes” had an excellent analysis of the Stuxnet program and its impact on Iran recently. The segment also made it clear that such expertise is now not only a capability that a county like Israel could devise, but one that many adversarial nations can most likely develop fairly soon (if they haven’t already).

In the past few years we have witnessed a number of very effective cyber attacks. In 2004 U.S. Homeland Security experts discovered an ongoing series of attacks on Defense, State, Energy and DHS sites as well as defense contractors. The cyber spy ring was traced to computers in Guangdong, China, with the belief that the PRC military was the instigator (China has denied it).

Russia launched crippling attacks on Estonia in 2007 and Georgia in 2008—in the latter more than 2,000 Georgian government computers were taken down and the Foreign Ministry’s own website was hacked and modified with anti-Tbilisi messages!

While countries like China and Russia are believed to have been behind many attacks, increasingly the culprits are non-governmental entities, like “Anonymous”, which is a loose coalition of “activists”. While best known for attacks on FOX News host Bill O’Reilly and the Scientology Church, more recently Anonymous targeted Egyptian government websites during the Arab Spring, and crippled Cairo’s government operations by sending offices thousands of faxes. They also have taken credit for shutting down the websites of the US Department of Justice, and yes, the CIA, and virtually bringing down STRATFOR. A similar group, “Lulzsec”, hacked into numerous government websites seemingly randomly, since it has no known political motivations, and also crippled Sony’s PlayStation.

Do look at the Stuxnet program at the link below. More importantly, remember that while we have little sympathy for Tehran having its nuclear program stymied, don’t think that similar capabilities are not available—and probably in place—to attack and cripple our vulnerable systems that depend on computer operations.

Experts believe that the Chinese have the capability to do great damage to our economic system when they choose. The small probes we see almost every day are characteristic of a well managed effort to test and expand the state of art and find additional weaknesses. Some have speculated that China already has developed (and maybe surreptitiously deployed) the capability to destroy, cripple or immobilize vital American systems dependent on computer operations, from our electrical transmission grids to our power systems (including large dams), air traffic control operations, and most likely, any military application.

That’s the next war, folks, and it could be over in a matter of seconds, with no blood spilled or troops even mobilized. Beijing knows that—do we?

Tyrus W. Cobb

Former Special Assistant to President Reagan

     For National Security Affairs

March 5, 2012