Sunday, October 12, 2014

Wherefore By Their Fruits, Part 1

It was not my intention to write about this, but military operations have begun, this will end neither well nor soon, and this ties in to other series I am writing, so here begins another series. :)

As you of course know, after high-profile beheadings of Western journalists, multinational operations have begun against the self-proclaimed Islamic State or IS, known among Western governments as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant or ISIL, and known among Western media as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS.

There has been much debate over which name to use. The term Islamic State is not commonly used in the West, which leaves the debate between ISIS and ISIL. For a variety of reasons, the media has settled on ISIS, and that will be the term I will use in this series.

Some of the discussion over which name to use is significant, however. By calling itself simply "the Islamic State", the group has doubled-down on its establishment of a caliphate, basically making a unilateral claim to lead the world's Islamic terrorist movement in battle against all infidels. While many other terrorist groups around the world have expressed support, including Boko Haram of Nigerian fame and Abu Sayyaf of the Philippines, ultimately, if all these guys get their way and start collectively defeating world infidel forces (to include all the apostate Muslim forces from countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia), there will have to be a decision as to who will really lead the jihadists. It is obvious to me that, amid many uses of the word "takfir" (apostate), such a decision would be arrived at violently.


Basically, Al Qaeda had two horses in the Syrian civil war race: the Al Nusrah Front, and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). However, ISIS left the Al Qaeda fold to go it alone. From The Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq by Azeem Ibrahim at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, May 2014, page 16 (28 of 81 in the pdf; numbers in superscript refer to notes - in cases where I have not reproduced them, see the original):

While ISIS and the Al Nusrah Front attract media attention because of their al-Qaeda affiliation, past or still existing, the other fighting factions in Syria deserve attention regarding their ideology and makeup as "moderate" forces, possible counterweights to al-Qaeda. The Syrian Islamic Front is the biggest alliance of salafi-jihadis, and, while many would like to see them as "moderate," they are committed first to defeating Assad's troops and then to creating an Islamic state, as opposed to al-Qaeda which is committed first and foremost to global jihad.

So in other words, the differences among the factions boil down to this: 1) Al Qaeda wants to go on a global jihad; 2) ISIS has by its name "The Islamic State" declared itself a caliphate, and now wants to go on a global jihad; 3) the "moderates" want to depose the current Syrian government of Assad, then declare an Islamic State, then expand their jihad on to other targets.

The very next paragraph explains how this Islamic state would work. Continuing with The Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq by Azeem Ibrahim at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, May 2014, page 16 (28 of 81 in the pdf):

Aron Lund's recent comprehensive reporting for Syria in Crisis32 notes that the Islamic Front wants "to establish an independent state where God's merciful law is sovereign and where the individuals of this state enjoy justice and a dignified life." It spurns the term "civil state" (dawla madaniya) as misleading and rejects democracy and parliamentary rule. They appear to be envisioning "a republican theocracy supervised by religious scholars where there is some degree of political competition within sharia-compliant but otherwise modern institutions and where the role of politicians is to administer a strict application of sharia rather than to make laws of their own."

In other words, there will be dictatorship by a small group of individuals who will decide what is Islamic and what is not, and membership in the group can be expected to change, and the group itself may be replaced with other groups.

It is not difficult to imagine that this will happen not democratically, since democratic processes are generally spurned, but rather by the will of Allah, which will naturally manifest itself in a violent manner as internal politics becomes a matter of convincing a strong enough faction to make takfir (apostate) out of the targeted faction.

However, this process of extremists declaring each other takfir has resulted not only in a great deal of violence within and among extremist groups; it has also alienated many Muslims. Skipping back in The Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq by Azeem Ibrahim at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, May 2014, to page 13 (25 of 81 in the pdf):

Al-Zawahiri, from his refuge in Pakistan, has belatedly realized that the militants' increasing ferocity and widespread practice of takfir (declaring other Muslims infidels) is not winning over the Muslim world.23

To understand better the relationship between ISIS and Al Qaeda's Al Nusrah Front, as well as the relationship between these two and other Sunni militant groups in Syria, we skip ahead in The Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq by Azeem Ibrahim at the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, May 2014, to page 18 (30 of 81 in the pdf):

The Al Nusrah Front (Jahbat al-Nusrah) is directly subordinate to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The rival ISIS, led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, despite its resurgence in Iraq, is being run as a renegade operation since al-Baghdadi defied al-Zawahiri's leadership. These two al-Qaeda branches have an estimated 6,000-7,000 operatives,36 and new recruits are continuing to arrive in large numbers. The other salafist rebel groups in Syria total about 100,000;37 thus the proportion of fighters with formal al-Qaeda loyalty is comparatively small. There are many groups who are on record as disavowing al-Qaeda, but that adhere to the salafi-jihadi objectives, adding to the complexity of predicting the strength of al-Qaeda as a distinct ideology, network, and organization.

This would support the view that al-Qaeda is divided effectively from other jihadist groups in Syria. Thus, not only is it at war with the regime and those who follow the Shia traditions, but is also at variance to other radical Sunni groups. In addition, even those who directly share its ideology are split into two factions. This may indicate that there are limits to its ability to influence events. However, in combination with its resurgence in Iraq, it is clear that al-Qaeda is again a major force.

The analysis of that paper had its focus on Al Qaeda. However, since then, ISIS has come to the forefront.

What distinguishes ISIS from the other groups, then, is this: 1) unlike the other Sunni groups, the so-called "moderate" forces, ISIS feels it is ready to take on the entire world, both infidels and takfir alike, beginning right now; 2) unlike Al Qaeda, ISIS has gone ahead and declared itself a caliphate, seizing and claiming territory as a base for the jihad against the rest of the world; and, 3) unlike Al Qaeda, which is trying to profit from lessons about how past atrocious behavior alienated potential supporters, ISIS seems bent on behaving as atrociously as Allah wills.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Commanders of the Faithful, Part 3

In Part 1 we began looking at how mosques are actually considered, by leaders in the Muslim world, not just as places of worship, but as centers of political and even military activity. In Part 2 we looked at money, and considered how it snakes its way in to the campaign coffers of political leaders, seeing in particular how Barack Obama and George W. Bush had both received financial support from the Middle East. Towards the end of the post, I wrote:

Once these guys start laundering money to a campaign, there are all kinds of ways to do it. Some foreign billionaire sends a few million to some associates in the US. That money goes to US citizens. Those citizens then have a list of campaigns, PACs and other entities to donate to; these PACs and entities know who they have to pass the money on to, or how it has to get spent. Sometimes, these middlemen keep a small cut for channeling the money.

A little farther on, near the end, we finished with one quote and added a little analysis:

After years of practice, and using methods pioneered by Islamic terrorist groups, they are very, very good at making money vanish.

Notice the last author's comments, about how the left uses the same methods to finance elections that Islamic terrorist groups use to finance holy terror.

We now begin to consider foreign influence coming from another direction, and moving to another destination. Specifically, we look at how foreign powers which, though our allies, have connections that are questionable (to say the least), and how they generate support in Washington.


You may recall the unrest in Egypt in recent years. As part of the "Arab Spring", long-time ruler of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, resigned, and during elections supervised by the military, Mohamed Morsi was elected to replace him in June, 2012. By November, Morsi, who had been a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood until his resignation from that organization upon assuming the presidency, established himself as essentially a dictator, granting himself unlimited powers to protect Egypt.

By June 30, 2013, the first anniversary of Morsi's election, Morsi was quite unpopular, and protests erupted demanding his resignation. The military intervened on behalf of the protesters, and in early July Morsi was forced out.

So, for about one year, from the end of June, 2012, until the beginning of July, 2013, Morsi was president of Egypt, and for much of that time ruled basically as a dictator.

It was during this time that an important vote came up in the Senate regarding a legislative amendment that would stop the sale of F-16 fighter aircraft and M1 tanks to Egypt. The amendment was defeated, meaning the sale and delivery could go forward.

In January, 2013, with Morsi - who had been a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood until he resigned to become president of Egypt - still firmly ruling Egypt with near-dictatorial powers, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was speaking in the Senate in favor of the amendment that he had introduced to stop the arms transfer. From US Senate Shoots Down Bid to Halt Sales of F-16s, Tanks to Egypt, January 31, 2013:

( – The U.S. Senate Thursday defeated an amendment that aimed to prevent the Obama administration from transferring F-16 fighter aircraft and Abrams tanks to an Egypt in disarray.

A vote to block the measure proposed by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) – an amendment to the debt limit bill – passed by a 79–19 vote.

In a strongly worded floor statement, Paul questioned the wisdom of providing the sophisticated weaponry at a time when "many see Egypt descending into chaos."

He based his argument on the Egyptian government's conduct, President Mohammed Morsi's expressed radical views, and the possibility that the weapons could be used in a future conflict against Israel.

Every Democrat in the Senate voted in favor of proceeding with the sale.

On the surface, the logic behind allowing the sale to proceed seemed to make some sense. Skipping down in US Senate Shoots Down Bid to Halt Sales of F-16s, Tanks to Egypt:

Rejecting Paul's amendment, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) characterized it as simplistic, short-sighted and potentially harmful to U.S. interests.

"Would that this amendment was as simple as the junior senator from Kentucky described it," he told senators after Paul had spoken. "His amendment would hinder our military assistance program, licenses for commercial sales of all major military equipment, including aircraft, ships, tanks, armor, parts and so on.

"It would mean a loss of thousands of American jobs. We'd incur more than two billion dollars in contract-termination penalties for U.S. taxpayers," Leahy said.

"But we'd also put at risk our access to the Suez Canal, the over flight by the U.S. Air Force over Egyptian territory, cooperation in the Sinai, Gaza, Syria, our emphasis and our ability to keep the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement going.

"Do I have problems with the way the Morsi government is going? Certainly," he said. "But removing our ability to be involved, with keeping that peace agreement and our ability to influence those – this is not the way to do it."

But, we were still looking at arming the military of a nation that borders Israel, one which the Muslim Brotherhood had just taken over, and one where a new Islamist constitution had just been passed in a referendum.

To be sure, in reviewing reports from that time frame, it is my distinct impression that the Egyptian military was actually a fairly strong ally of the United States. Ultimately, it was the Egyptian military the ousted Morsi, and replaced him with a leader that was far more... I hate to use the term "moderate", but he is a guy who does not support the Muslim Brotherhood.

Presumably, Senators had access to material, both classified offical information, and unclassified information, including that available to the general public, which would allow their staffers to consider this; presumably, Senators looked not just at Morsi, but at the Egyptian military, its leaning, and its ability to influence internal Egyptian politics, before signing off on the sale.

However, I still have concerns about the Democrats in the Senate voting to ship sophisticated arms to the military of a nation that was at the time dictatorially ruled by a de facto leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

How does a Senator really get influenced to go forward with such an arms sale? Obviously, there are many factors, but not the least of these is money from the country receiving the sophisticated arms.


The Glover Park Group is a registered foreign agent of the Government of Egypt.

Their job includes supporting Egyptian government communications with the US government, the business community, non-governmental audiences and the media.

The Glover Park Group has an affiliated political action committee.

This political action committee gave $1500 to Senator Mark Udall (D - Colorado) in June, 2012, shortly after Morsi came to power in Egypt.

This same PAC also gave another $1000 to Senator Udall in March, 2013, after Udall had supported the sale of these high-tech weapons to Egypt.

Senator Mark Udall raises big money. Over half of his money is itemized individual contributions, but when one factors in smaller individual contributions, which do not have to be itemized, you realize nearly three-quarters of his money comes not from PACs, but from individuals.

However, in this cycle alone, he has raised over $2 million from PACs. It's not surprising he is listed in a July, 2013, article as among the top ten recipients of lobbyists' money.

Speaking of lobbyist money in Mark Udall's campaign coffers, Senator Udall has also received $2000 from JSTREETPAC, a PAC associated with J Street, an organization which supports dialogue over confrontation and diplomatic solutions over military solutions, especially in regards to Israel and the Middle East.

While I personally agree that diplomacy and dialogue are favorable to war, it is my opinion that if Israel were to unilaterally commit exclusively to diplomacy and dialogue, the Islamic Arab states that surround Israel would overrun and destroy that nation quite quickly, as they have so often tried to do in the past.

I find it interesting that JSTREETPAC, which supports dialogue and diplomacy, gave money to a Senator who voted to send sophisticated weapons to Egypt when Egypt was controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, and when the Muslim Brotherhood was pushing through a draft of an Islamist constitution.

By order of the Prophet (peace be upon him), stay tuned for more!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Trivia, Part 3

In Part 1 we began by reviewing old news about how Rupert Murdoch's media empire used intrusive and illegal means to spy on celebrities in the United Kingdom. We then fast-forwarded to the then-breaking scandal whereby Hollywood celebrities were finding very personal photos appearing in public. We next began reviewing how cell phones work, with an eye towards establishing that basically any use of a cell phone can compromise personal material and information. We saw how cell phone towers can be disguised, and we looked at transportable cell towers, which are used to temporarily restore coverage when towers are out. Finally, we looked at reports about devices called "interceptors" and how they are used to spoof cell phones and access information they should not be able to access.

In Part 2 we looked more in-depth at the definitions of 3G and 4G cell phone technology, and saw just how portable legitimate cell phone "towers" can be - they can fit in the palm of your hand. Then, we looked at portable devices that could be used to spoof cell phones, and saw one that wears kind of like a bullet-proof vest under an overcoat. We finished by seeing that, with these concealable interceptors, it was possible to identify a cell phone belonging to a certain person, locate it, and then jam it or intercept the signals for the purposes of surveillance or spoofing, all without the cell phone operator even knowing.

The security breaches used by means of introduction in Part 1 centered on Apple products. It may therefore be worthwhile to review some relatively recent news about technology that specifically spies on Apple equipment.

At the end of last year, the German news magazine Der Spiegel ran an article entitled Shopping for Spy Gear: Catalog Advertises NSA Toolbox (December 29, 2013), in which the magazine called attention to particulars concerning the United States' National Security Agency spy technology. This was when news of the NSA ANT catalog broke to the general public.

It should be noted that this topic is of particular importance in Germany, especially since the story broke that the United States intelligence community collects intelligence on our ally Germany. Particularly noteworthy in the the scandal is the fact that the United States was caught spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel herself.

According to the highly-classified catalog mentioned above, as of six years ago today the NSA had in development something called DROPOUTJEEP, which was described as (I have included explanatory notes and links in [brackets]):

a software implant for the Apple iPhone that utilizes modular mission applications to provide specific SIGINT [Signals Intelligence] functionality. This functionality includes the ability to remotely push/pull files from the device. SMS retrieval, contact list retrieval, voicemail, geolocation, hot mic. camera capture, cell tower location, etc. Command, control, and data exfiltration can occur over SMS [short message service] messaging or a GPRS [general packet radio service] data connection. All communications with the implant will be covert and encrypted.

The catalog explains that the implant had to be installed via "close access methods", but that a "remote installation capability" would be pursued.

In my opinion, it is a safe bet that this been fielded, including with the "remote installation capability", in the intervening six years.

Another software implant that was underdevelopment six years ago, and is likely fielded and improved today, is the GOPHERSET, which pulls information from the target's SIM (subscriber identity module) card, and texts it out to the person who is doing the spying.

In fact, the Interactive Graphic: The NSA's Spy Catalog gives a nice overview of the NSA-advertised capabilities as of the time the catalog was created:

Cell Phone Networks

When it comes to monitoring and tracking mobile phones, the NSA's ANT division has an entire range of products on offer. These include everything from specially equipped mobile phone models that make it possible to physically track another mobile phone, to fully equipped GSM base stations capable of masquerading as a network operator's official mobile phone antennas, and thus monitor and record conversations or text messages from mobile phones within their range. One only has to think of the alleged tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone for examples of their potential uses. Several of these specialized mobile phone base stations also have the capability to determine the exact location of any mobile phone user within their range. Then there is a device called "CANDYGRAM" -- referred to by the ANT technicians as a "telephone tripwire" -- which sends a text message to a command center as soon as certain mobile phone users enter its range.

There is also CROSSBEAM, which records voice data and sends it to the guy doing the spying - a wiretap for the on-the-go cell phone generation:

The extensive capabilities that the NSA has fuel the ongoing scandal in Germany, where government officials and ordinary citizens are outraged that the NSA targets Germany with them. An excerpt from NSA, GCHQ have secret access to German telecom networks – report provides background on these capabilities:

US and UK intelligence services have secret access points for German telecom companies' internal networks, Der Spiegel reports, citing slides created in the NSA's 'Treasure Map' program used to get near-real-time visualization of the global internet.

The latest scandal continues to evolve around the US' NSA and the British GCHQ, both of which appear to be able to eavesdrop on German giants such as Deutsche Telekom, Netcologne, Stellar, Cetel and IABG network operators, according to Der Spiegel's report based on material disclosed by Edward Snowden.

The Treasure Map program, dubbed "the Google Earth of the Internet," allows the agencies to expose the data about the network structure and map individual routers as well as subscribers' computers, smartphones and tablets. The German telecoms had "access points" for technical supervision inside their networks, marked as red dots on such a map, shown on one of the leaked undated slides, Spiegel reports, warning it could be used for planning sophisticated cyber-attacks.

Notice that both the US and the UK are involved, with the UK's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) mentioned.

Five powerful countries of the English-speaking industrialized world routinely share signals intelligence data - including communications intelligence - via the Five Eyes program, described in some circles as "the most powerful espionage alliance in world history."

It is worth recalling that we established in Part 1 that Rupert Murdoch's media empire had been intruding into the lives of celebrities in the United Kingdom using a variety of means, including by bribing law enforcement officers in order to gain access to restricted cell phone tracking information.

With that in mind, it is interesting to consider all the capabilities the NSA was advertising it had in its 48-page catalog as of several years ago, when the catalog was leaked. These capabilities are presumably now in the hands of law enforcement throughout the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada - the Five Eyes program's member countries - and one can similarly assume that the intelligence agenies of the United States at least, if not of other Five Eyes countries as well, have by now even more advanced capabilities.

With all this capability in the hands of all these people - who can be bribed or coerced, and who make mistakes - is there any real expectation of security and privacy as one uses one's cell phone to text a message or take a picture?

More to follow...