Police Work, Politics and World Affairs, Football and the ongoing search for great Scotch Whiskey!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mr Justice Thomas at Twenty

From the latest National Review, a look back at the exceptional career (so far...he's not even 70 yet you leftist hacks) of Justice Clarence Thomas. If you haven't done do, read My Grandfather's Son, about being raised dirt poor in the segregated South of the 50s and 60s.

Thomas at Twenty: Celebrating a remarkable Supreme Court tenure


‘I was put on the Court to interpret the Constitution, not to make stuff up.” If you can imagine those words filling the room with a deep baritone and coming from a man who is both confident in his thoughts and comfortable in his own skin, then you will have an accurate portrait of Justice Clarence Thomas...

...Along with Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas has been an intellectual leader on the Court in advancing the jurisprudence of “originalism.” Thomas staked out his principles early in his career and often alone. Originalism entails a consistent fidelity to the text of the Constitution as the founders intended it to be read, and as it was understood in public discourse at the time it was adopted or amended. This commonsense approach was anything but common in academic circles when Justice Thomas came to the Supreme Court. But in the ultimate sign of vindication, it is the Supreme Court that has been moving in his direction and not vice versa...

Gee, saying the Constitution says what it means and means what it says. What a concept.
...Justice Thomas balances his respect for the institution of the Court with a humble view of his role on it. Some justices walk down the halls like VIPs, with security personnel clearing staff out of their way. Justice Thomas befriends everyone he interacts with — from the marshals and the administrative staff to the janitors and the elevator operators. He asks them how their parents are doing, remembers how their favorite teams fared in the playoffs, and jokes with them, laughing his trademark belly laugh. His approachability and gregariousness have made him not only a favorite among staff but a coveted speaker at law schools and conferences across the country. Unique among the justices, Thomas both visits a wide range of non–Ivy League law schools and hires clerks from them. Unlike the first lady, who “sneaks” into Target for photo-ops, Justice Thomas actually spends nights in Walmart parking lots as he drives cross-country in his RV to see “real America” on his summer vacations.

The early knock on Justice Thomas was that he would be a clone of Antonin Scalia, or that he would be a conservative legislator in black robes, but his insistence on principle has confounded those assumptions. The idea that he merely follows Scalia was put to rest the minute Justice Harry Blackmun’s papers were made public after his death; they showed just how often Scalia would switch his vote to follow Thomas’s lead, right from the beginning of Thomas’s tenure on the Court. Scholarly articles examining Thomas’s record often claim to shatter the “myths” about Thomas by showing how his decision-making has been coherent and principled, as opposed to blindly partisan, in case after case.

For example, Justice Thomas is perhaps the strongest proponent of free speech on the Court. This fact is particularly impressive considering that one of his colleagues, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, once served as general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union. He doesn’t protect speech only when it is convenient, or helpful, or even only when it is no more than minimally harmful. Convinced that the framers of the Constitution meant what they said, he consistently accords speech the strongest constitutional protection available — the protection reserved for fundamental rights.

The only apparent exception is speech by or to minors, which he is convinced was not a part of the framers’ understanding of free speech. Hence his dissent in a case last term, in which he would have allowed California to regulate sales of violent video games to minors, and his concurrence in Morse v. Frederick, in which he argued that schools might ban their students from holding up signs that arguably promoted drug use, including the plaintiff’s “BONG HiTS 4 JESUS” sign. In both cases, Thomas wrote separately to explain the historic importance of parents’ right to direct the upbringing of their children, effectively setting minors outside the original protections of the First Amendment. On this point he stands in agreement with Justice Hugo Black, an FDR appointee also known for being a free-speech absolutist.

An early concurrence by Thomas illustrates his uncompromising approach to the free speech of adults. An Ohio woman had been fined for violating a state ban on anonymous leafleting. Seven members of the Court agreed that the fine violated her right to free speech, and the majority opinion authored by Justice John Paul Stevens cited important unsigned works of literature through the centuries to underscore the value of anonymous speech. Stevens found that the prohibition of anonymous speech was not narrowly tailored to further any serious government interest, and therefore violated the First Amendment.

Justice Thomas agreed with Justice Stevens that the speech was protected, but wrote a concurrence addressing what he felt was the central issue: “whether the Framers in 1791 believed anonymous speech sufficiently valuable to deserve the protection of the Bill of Rights.” Having concluded that they did, Thomas determined that no further legal analysis was necessary to balance the value of speech against the government’s interests. The framers of the Constitution had already balanced those interests and had come down in favor of speech. So, regardless of how narrowly tailored the law, or how compelling the government interest, such regulations were in violation of the First Amendment.

This preference for clear, easily applicable rules over the multifactor balancing tests that populate the world of constitutional law is evident throughout Justice Thomas’s jurisprudence. Multifactor tests may appear precise and rigorous in their seemingly algebraic application. But in practice they often resemble a Potemkin village: Under the surface, there isn’t anything of substance. They are notoriously difficult to apply consistently, and they often become little more than a mechanism for structuring arbitrariness.

Take another example in the free-speech context: the four-factor test for determining when advertisements — “commercial speech” — are covered by the First Amendment. It balances the government interest in regulation against the value of the speech that is being restricted, and also factors in the question of whether the regulation is restricting more speech than necessary.

Justice Thomas took this test to task in his concurring opinion in a case about bans on the advertising of alcohol prices. He noted how inconsistent the Supreme Court’s own application of the test had been, not to mention its application by other courts across the country. Indeed, the test gives a court ample legal cover for either upholding or overturning nearly any speech restriction, depending on the value the court places on each of the interests at stake.

Thomas’s concurrence instead went back to the fundamental question: Is commercial speech protected under the First Amendment as it was originally understood? Noting historical support for the idea that commercial speech was viewed no differently from non-commercial speech, Justice Thomas concluded that commercial speech should be entitled to the same First Amendment protections that other kinds of speech are.

The same straightforward approach has led Justice Thomas to the forefront of protecting political speech. After a 1976 opinion, political speech had occupied a curious limbo in which political expenditures by candidates constituted protected speech under the First Amendment, but contributions by citizens did not. When Justice Thomas joined the Court, he started a campaign to replace that uneasy compromise with a more consistent protection of political expression that the Court had agreed “occupies the core of the protection afforded by the First Amendment...”

Gee, saying political speech was what the Constitution was written to protect. What a radical thought!

Thomas has shown his fidelity to the Freedom of Speech (or expression in particular) with his decent in todays case on the Utah's State Troopers.

JUSTICE THOMAS, dissenting from the denial of certiorari.

Today the Court rejects an opportunity to provide clarity to an Establishment Clause jurisprudence in shambles. A sharply divided Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has declared unconstitutional a private association’s efforts to memorialize slain police officers with white roadside crosses, holding that the crosses convey to a reasonable observer that the State of Utah is endorsing Christianity. The Tenth Circuit’s opinion is one of the latest in a long line of “‘religious display’” decisions that, because of this Court’s nebulous Establishment Clause analyses, turn on little more than “judicial predilections.” See Van Orden v. Perry, 545 U. S. 677, 696, 697 (2005) (THOMAS, J., concur­ ring). Because our jurisprudence has confounded the lower courts and rendered the constitutionality of displays of religious imagery on government property anyone’s guess, I would grant certiorari....
And the recent events concerning Herman Cain recall then Judge General Thomas' words,
... This is a circus. It's a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree...

Mr Thomas, congrats on this milestone and here is to another 20. God bless and keep. You are making the country, and your Grandfather especially, proud.

Officer Down

Police Officer Brad Jones
Glendale Arizona Police Department
End of Watch: Saturday, October 29, 2011
Age: 27
Tour of Duty: 4 years

Police Officer Brad Jones was shot and killed while assisting a probation officer during a meeting with a parolee at an apartment complex near the intersection of North 75th Avenue and West Glendale Avenue.

When Officer Jones arrived he made contact with the subject in the parking lot. The man suddenly produced a handgun and opened fire, wounding Officer Jones. He then stole Officer Jones' patrol car and fled the scene.

Despite his wounds, Officer Jones was able to radio for assistance and alert other officers to the shooting. Responding officers pursued the suspect until he crashed on West Glendale Avenue. The man attempted to flee, but exchanged gunfire with the officers and was critically wounded.

Officer Jones was transported to St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix where he died from his injuries at approximately 1:00 am.

Officer Jones had served with the Glendale Police Department for four years. He is survived by his wife and two young children.
Rest in Peace Bro…We’ll Continue The Watch

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

Good look at the life of Ozzie and Harriet

In debates over tax policy and the economy many a liberal would note the prosperity of the 50s where we had 90% tax rates and union membership had peaked in 45 at 36% and pretty much stayed that way until the it started to decline in the 70s and 80s. The liberals seems to conveniently forget no one paid taxes at a 90% rate because of a massive number of deductions and federal outlays were nothing compared to today.

Here is a good summary from a Weekly Standard article:
...Even if you grant the premise that government should redistribute wealth to equalize incomes, the 1950s are odd years for the left to champion. “Social injustice remained pervasive,” (former Enron advisor and NY Times propagandist Paul)Krugman cautions. Um, yeah. That’s the point: There is more to equality than pay schedules and tax rates. There is, for example, the composition of the workforce. Harriet did not take a second mortgage to finance her craft moisturizer boutique while Ozzie went to his UAW office. Harriet stayed at home. So did millions of women in the 1950s, thereby restricting the supply of labor and raising Ozzie’s wages.

You cannot have the economy of the 1950s without the society of the 1950s. Ozzie and Harriet were married. They could pool resources in ways today’s single parents and twentysomethings cannot. They did not have to worry about an influx of day laborers from Latin America or a flood of cheap goods from China. They lived in a society a portion of which systematically oppressed a minority race. Their government focused almost the sum total of its resources on defense and Social Security. There was no Medicare or Medicaid or war on poverty. It was the age of the “organization man,” the “lonely crowd,” of alienation and monopoly and “conformity.” All of these factors​—​not just high levels of unionization and a punishing top marginal tax rate​—​went into making 1950s America a “middle-class society.” Is this a tradeoff Americans would be willing to make?

The wistful left reaches back farther when it mimics the class politics of the 1930s. The “99 percent” versus the “1 percent,” Warren Buffett’s secretary versus Warren Buffett, Obama’s attacks on nameless “millionaires and billionaires” are echoes of the rhetoric of Huey Long, Father Coughlin, and Franklin Roosevelt. What is puzzling is that the strategy of division and resentment has not had a good track record. To be sure, it worked for FDR. But Roosevelt had 25 percent unemployment, a minuscule federal government, and a sunny disposition. Since LBJ, the spokesmen for American liberalism have been dour and passive and condescending. Their populism has lacked bite because it is a pose. The public has seen through their attempt to rehash the old formula for what it is: “the shield and slogan of the cunning who will rule in the name of equality,” as Martin Diamond once put it.

The longing for the culture of the ’60s, the economy of the ’50s, and the politics of the ’30s is evidence of the left’s failure. No longer able to inspire with a utopian vision of the future, the left has been forced to return to its past. The left’s failure, then, is the right’s victory, because a return to the past is what we’ve been calling for all along...

Unionization and high taxes leading to prosperity. Sounds like the left's version of moonlight and magnolias. Then again we listen to the economic illiterate B Hussein Obama wanting to set economic policy by directing what American manufacturing produces and sells. The question of if there is a market (see alternative energy and Solyndra) never comes into mind.

Could be better news from Michigan

But at least this POS should not be out of prison for the rest of his life.
Habitual Criminal Gets 100 Years for Mich. Police Murder October 27, 2011

A judge has handed a Detroit man a sentence of 100-150 years for fatally shooting a cop during a home-invasion sting in January.

Terry Bowling, a habitual criminal, showed no reaction as Oakland County Circuit Judge Michael Warren sentenced him on Wednesday, saying Bowling was a drug addict who had "utter disregard for the law, a selfish man unwilling or unable to live in a civilized world," reports the Detroit Free Press.

Livonia (Mich.) Police Officer Larry Nehasil died during a shootout Jan. 17. Bowling and his brother, David, were committing a string of home invasions in January and were under surveillance by Livonia police when they broke into a home. Nehasil and David Bowling died in a shootout in the backyard.
RIP Officer Nehasil and God be with your family during this trying time. Hopefully Bowling serves his entire life.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

All in all a long ass week...and a bad end of the weekend...

Been off the net for a bit.  Worked close to doubles from Tuesday on, overtime on Monday and spent most of my day off (Saturday) speaking to three technicians in India on a computer problem.  TeamViewer is so cool..  It allows the geek to see my computer on his screen and contol it.  I cannot conceive of going though all the problems with my system with the tech telling me and him dealing with a dumb ass like me “where’s the any key?”.  I looked at Beth, covered the phone and told her "Sulu has the con." She laughed her ass off. And the techs were very patient and good.  

Been trying to catch up on my “What’s going on in the world today” updates but again this week has been crazy.

Did see the good, the bad and the ugly a few days ago.

The street gang member who fatally shot a San Antonio Police sergeant and his wife after he "just went crazy" was executed tonight in Texas.

Frank Garcia, 39, was given a lethal injection and pronounced dead at 7:02 p.m. Central time, reports the Houston Chronicle. Before expiring, he yelled "Hallelujah" and shouted, "Thank you for this miracle you are performing in my life. My God is holy, holy, holy. Hallelujah!"

Garcia was sentenced to death for the March 29, 2001 murders. Garcia shot Sgt. Hector Garza, 48, in the head, he later told investigators, because he knew the officer would be wearing a ballistic vest.

Garcia had earlier killed his wife, Jessica, who had planned to leave him. He shot his wife three times in the head. Garcia, a member of the Angels of Sin gang, used a machine pistol in the attacks, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Rest in piss you waste. I hope God has mercy on your soul, I really do. Just know you cannot fool Him.

Minn. Cop Killer Granted Parole October 27, 2011

The Minnesota Department of Corrections has approved parole for a prisoner convicted of murdering a police officer.

Timothy Eling, 63, was notified this week that his life sentence for the 1982 killing of Oakdale police officer Richard Walton has ended after 29 years, reports The Star-Tribune.

Eling killed Walton during a gun battle inside the pharmacy in St. Paul. Walton, a father of five children, was off duty and moonlighting as a security guard when, responding to a burglary call, he stepped out from an elevator and was shot in the head.

"As you've repeatedly stated, you realized many years ago the devastating impact your crime has had on your victim, [his] family, friends, the law enforcement community and your own family,'' Corrections Commissioner Tom Roy wrote in a letter notifying Eling of his decision. "Your rejection of criminality and pursuit of positive activities ... has been your testament to your victims.''
Here is the officer he murdered and the details of the incident. RIP Bro...at least he won’t be joining you after his last judgement. I think he gets a worse place.


Video: Drunk Woman Arrested In G-string After 128-mph Chase October 27, 2011

A northern Ohio woman who led Bainbridge Township police on a high-speed chase that reached 128 mph was eventually arrested wearing only a G-string, fishnet tube top and tennis shoes.

At 3:54 a.m. on Oct. 11, 28-year-old Erin Holdsworth was clocked at 110 mph heading east on Route 422, reports The News-Herald.

A Geauga County Sheriff's deputy was able to successfully deploy stop sticks to deflate Holdsworth's tires and end the pursuit. After she was placed in the rear of a Bainbridge cruiser, Holdsworth yelled at officers and kicked the partition.

Sunday was finished up with a miserable Saints game and a neighbor’s house getting broken into. At least a good whiskey and cigar made it bearable.

Hope you had a better week and weekend than I did. Here is to a great week ahead.

The Girl Scouts are not really acting normal here.

I have a lot of serious issues with this. With the kid, with the council, but most of all with the mother. Excuse me woman, he's a boy. You are going to really screw up this kid as he gets older.

Girl Scouts Allow 7-Year-Old Boy to Join Because He is ‘Living Life as a Girl’ | CNSnews.com

“We make the distinction that if a child is living life as a girl and the family brings the child to us and says my daughter wants to be a Girl Scout, we welcome her,” Rachelle Trujillo, vice president of communications with Girl Scouts of Colorado told CNSNews.com.

On Tuesday, 9news.com, a Denver-based television station, initially reported the story of the 7-year-old boy, Bobby Montoya. His mother, Felisha Archuleta, said a local troop leader told her Bobby could not join the troop because he was a boy.

But the statewide organization responded to inquiries from 9news.com by saying that Girls Scouts is “an inclusive organization” and that Bobby would be allowed to join.

“We have privacy rights that we are very respectful of with families,” Trujillo told CNSNews.com. “We do not require proof of gender when a family wants their daughter to be a member of Girl Scouts.”

Trujillo said boys who are living like boys will not be admitted.

“The child must be living life as a girl,” Trujillo said.

In a statement the Girl Scouts of Colorado gave to 9news.com, the organization said:

"Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members. If a child identifies as a girl and the child's family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout. Our requests for support of transgender kids have grown, and Girl Scouts of Colorado is working to best support these children, their families and the volunteers who serve them. In this case, an associate delivering our program was not aware of our approach. She contacted her supervisor, who immediately began working with the family to get the child involved and supported in Girl Scouts. We are accelerating our support systems and training so that we're better able to serve all girls, families and volunteers."

So sexual orientation is a choice now. I've heard for years that sexual orientation is something you are born with (something I believe). This kid needs help and Colorado CPS needs to get involved. This is a sign of a parent who really is destroying her son's life.

And the GSA are no helping. Are they going to let the boy sleep with a group girls in a tent? Bathroom facilities, etc. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

This is global cooling, err global warming, err climate change


From the Northeastern US.
New York gets more than inch of snowfall before Halloween for the first time EVER as early snow storm cuts power to tens of thousands on East Coast
Earliest New York City one-inch snowfall since records began

More than 250,000 customers lost power in Pennsylvania and Maryland

More than 1,000 flights in or out of America cancelled

Experts predict up to 10 inches of snow to fall across North East

Only fourth time since Civil War that snow has fallen in NYC in October

Snowstorms already hitting Massachusetts and New England

Parts of Connecticut could get a foot of snow this weekend

New York has today been hit by more than one inch of snowfall before Halloween for the first time ever - with experts predicting much more on the way.

A classic nor'easter is chugging up the East Coast at an unusually early period and expected to dump up to 10 inches throughout the region.

Some places in mid-Atlantic states saw more than half a foot of snow and approximately 250,000 customers lost power in Pennsylvania and Maryland, requiring utility crews from Ohio and Kentucky to fix it.

More than 1,000 flights into or out of the United States were cancelled today, with New York particularly affected. JFK airport had around 230 called off by 5pm local time.

Around 60 million people will experience the rare October snowstorm, which should unleash heavy, wet snow and wind, causing fallen tree branches and potential travel chaos.

This weekend looks set to see huge amounts of sleet and snow covering the North East, invariably causing power outages and travel chaos. Some areas bracing for up to a foot of snow.
By 2pm, 1.3 inches of snow had fallen in Central Park; never before in October has an inch of snow fallen on a given day in New York City, AccuWeather reported.

The website reported that 10 inches in Ogletown, Pennsylvania, 9.5 inches in Frostburg, Maryland, and 8.5 inches in Lost River, West Virginia.

New York has received measurable snow before Halloween only three times since 1869 - and never more than one inch, as happened today.

The heaviest snow, though, is forecast for later in the day on Sunday in the Massachusetts Berkshires, the Litchfield Hills in northwestern Connecticut, southwestern New Hampshire and the southern Green Mountains.

'It's going to be wet, sticky and gloppy,' said NWS spokesman Chris Vaccaro. 'It's not going to be a dry, fluffy snow.'

The storm comes on a busy weekend for many along the Eastern Seaboard, with trick-or-treaters going door-to-door in search of Halloween booty, hunting season opening in some states and a full slate of college and pro football scheduled.

Fans in State College were making the most of what school officials said was the first measurable snowfall for any October home game since records began being kept in 1896...

officer Down

Police Officer Terry Lewis-Fleming
Albany Georgia Police Department
End of Watch: Friday, October 28, 2011
Age: 36
Tour of Duty: 5 years
Date of Incident: October 28, 2011

Police Officer Terry Lewis-Fleming was killed when her patrol car collided with another patrol car during a high speed pursuit.

Officers were pursuing a truck occupied by two men who had just committed an armed robbery, when Officer Lewis-Fleming's patrol car collided with the other patrol car at the intersection of East Residence Avenue and Blaylock Avenue. Officer Lewis-Fleming's car then careened into a tree and burst into flames.

The suspects continued to flee until their truck overturned a short distance away. Both men were arrested and charged with felony murder as a result of Officer Lewis-Fleming's death. They were also charged with multiple felony counts in connection with the armed robbery.

Officer Lewis-Fleming had served with the Albany Police Department for five years. She is survived by her husband and three children.

Rest in Peace Sis….We’ll Continue The Watch

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

Friday, October 28, 2011

No bias in this report.....

It is no surprise that a Canadian media outlet would have an editorial opinion against capital punishment. But is it to much to ask to keep your opinions to the editorial page.
Texas to execute man convicted of killing wife - World - Canoe.caBy JIM FORSYTH, Reuters

SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS., - Texas is scheduled to execute by lethal injection on Thursday a man who shot dead his wife on the day she tried to leave him, and killed a policeman who came to the home to check out a domestic disturbance call.

Texas officials said Frank Garcia, 39, gunned down Jessica Garcia in 2001 after she tried to leave her abusive husband. He killed police officer Hector Garza, 49, when he arrived at the home to check out a disturbance...

No Mr Forsyth he is not being executed because of the belief of Texas officials. He was tried and convicted by a jury and sentenced to death because he not only committed murder, but capital murder. He killed a police officer and a second person, his wife.

You may not like the fact Texas executes murderes. It may disturb you but please don't imply we put a man to death because of the belief of a few. He was proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Now he can pay for his crime.

Security Weekly: Dissecting a Mexican Cartel Bombing in Monterrey October 27, 2011

Early Oct. 20, a small sedan apparently filled with cartel gunmen rapidly pulled in front of a military vehicle, drawing the military patrol into a car chase in downtown Monterrey, Mexico. After a brief pursuit, the vehicle carrying the cartel gunmen turned at an intersection. As the military vehicle slowed to negotiate the turn, an improvised explosive device (IED) concealed in a parked car at the intersection detonated. The incident appears to have been intended to lure the military patrol into a designated attack zone. While the ambush did not kill any soldiers, it did cause them to break off their chase.

Though this IED ambush is interesting in itself for a number of reasons, we would like to use it as a lens to explore a deeper topic, namely, how STRATFOR analyzes a tactical incident like this.

Why We Look at an Incident

Hundreds of violent incidents take place every day worldwide, from fuel depot explosions in Sirte, Libya, to shootings in southern Thailand to grenade attacks in Nairobi, Kenya — just a few of the things that happened on a single day this week. Indeed, a typical day sees dozens of incidents in Mexico alone, from shootings and beheadings to kidnappings and cargo theft. Unless one has a method to triage such incidents, they quickly can overwhelm an analyst, dragging him or her down into the weeds struggling to understand the tactical details of every one. This can result in information overload. The details of so many incidents simply overwhelm the analyst’s ability to understand them and place them in a context that allows them to be compared to, and perhaps linked with, other incidents.

STRATFOR’s methodology for placing items in context begins with our interrelated array of net assessments and forecasts. Net assessments are high-level overviews of the significant issues driving the current behavior of nations, regions and other significant international actors. Forecasts can be drawn from these baseline assessments to predict how these actors will behave, and how that behavior will impact regional dynamics. In this way, net assessments and forecasts provide a strategic framework of understanding that can be used to help create assessments and forecasts for tactical-level items.

In the case of Mexico, we have long considered the country’s criminal cartels significant tactical-level actors, and we have established an analytical framework for understanding them. We publish this framework in the form of our annual cartel report. The higher-level framework generally shapes such tactical-level analyses, but at times the analyses can also contradict and challenge the higher-level assessments. We also maintain a regular flow of tactical analyses such as the weekly Mexico Security Memo, which serves to explain how events in Mexico fit into our analytical framework. The items we select as bullets for the second section of the Mexico Security Memo are significant and further the analytical narrative of what is happening in Mexico but do not require deeper analysis. This helps our readers cut through the clutter of the reporting from Mexico by focusing on what we find important. We also strive to eliminate the bias so prevalent in today’s media landscape. Our readers frequently tell us they find this analytical winnowing process quite valuable.

Based upon this tactical framework, we then establish intelligence guidance. This lays out tripwire events that our analysts, regional open-source monitoring team and even our on-the-ground sources are to watch for that either support or refute our forecast. (In STRATFOR’s corporate culture, challenging an assessment or forecast is one of the most important things an employee can do. This ensures we stay intellectually honest and on target. There is nothing more analytically damaging than an analyst who falls in love with his own assessment, or a team of analysts who buy into groupthink.)

When an event, or a combination of events, occurs that does not fit the analytical framework, the framework must undergo a rigorous review to ensure it remains valid. If the framework is found to be flawed, we determine if it needs to be adjusted or scrapped. Due to the rapid shifts we have seen on the ground in Mexico in the past two years in terms of arrests and deaths of major cartel leaders and the emergence of factional infighting and even new cartel groups, we have found it necessary to adjust our framework cartel report more than just annually. In 2011, for example, we have felt compelled to update the framework quarterly.

And this brings us back to our IED attack in Monterrey. When we learn of such an event, we immediately apply our analytical framework to it in an effort to determine if and how it fits. In this case, we have certainly seen previous IED attacks in Mexico and even grenade attacks in Monterrey, but not an IED attack in Monterrey, so this is clearly a geographic anomaly. While we don’t really have a new capability, or a new actor — Los Zetas were implicated in a command-detonated IED attack in January in Tula, Hidalgo state — we do have a new location in Monterrey. We also have a new tactic in using a vehicle chase to lure a military vehicle into an IED ambush. Past IED ambushes in Juarez and Tula have involved leaving a cadaver in a vehicle and reporting it to the authorities.

Some early reports of the Monterrey incident also indicated that the attack involved a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). If true, this would contradict our assessment that the Mexican cartels have refrained from employing large IEDs in their attacks.

Also, according to our analytical framework and the intelligence guidance we have established, Monterrey is a critical Zeta stronghold. We already have asked our tactical analysts to keep a close eye on activity there and the patterns and trends represented by that activity for indications that Los Zetas might be losing control of the city or that other cartels are establishing control there.

Because of all these factors, the Monterrey attack clearly demanded close examination.

How We Look at an Incident

Once we decide to dig into an incident and rip it apart analytically, we task our analysts and regional open-source monitors to find everything they can about the incident. At the same time, we reach out to our network of contacts to see what they can tell us. If we have employees in the city or region we will rely heavily on them, but when we do not, we contact all the relevant sources we have in an area. Depending on the location, we will also talk to our contacts in relevant foreign governments with an interest in the incident. Of course, like open-source reports, information we receive from contacts must be carefully vetted for bias and factual accuracy.

As information begins to flow in following an incident, there are almost always conflicting reports that must be reconciled. In the Monterrey case, we had reports from sources such as the Mexican newspaper El Universal saying the IED had been hidden in a vehicle parked beside the road, while The Associated Press ran a story noting that the car being pursued exploded. In some cases, news stories can even seemingly contradict themselves. In the above-mentioned AP story, the author noted that the vehicle containing the IED almost completely disintegrated, but then added that the bombing caused no other damage. It is rare that an IED large enough to disintegrate a car would cause no other damage. We have found that most journalists do not have much experience dealing with explosives or IEDs, as their reporting often reflects.

Photo courtesy of El Universal

Scene of the Oct. 20 improvised explosive device ambush in Monterrey
Such conflicting accounts highlight the importance of photographs and video when analyzing an attack. Photos and videos are no substitute for investigating the scene firsthand, but traveling to a crime scene takes time and money. Moreover, gaining the kind of crime scene access STRATFOR employees enjoyed when they worked for a government is tough. That said, an incredible amount of information can be gleaned from some decent photos and videos of a crime scene.

In the Monterrey attack, the first thing the photos and video showed us is that the vehicle containing the explosive device had not completely disintegrated. In fact, the chassis of the vehicle was mostly intact. It also appeared that the fire that followed the explosion rather than the explosion itself caused much of the damage to the vehicle. The explosive damage done to the vehicle indicated that the main charge of the IED was relatively small, most likely less than 5 pounds of military-grade high explosive. Some media reports said a fragmentation grenade thrown from the vehicle being pursued caused the explosion, but the damage to the car appeared quite a bit greater than would be expected from a hand grenade. Also, no apparent fragmentation pattern consistent with what a grenade would cause was visible in the metal of the car or on the smooth, painted walls of the auto repair shop the car had been parked near.

The lack of fragmentation damage also made it apparent that the bombmaker had not added shrapnel such as ball bearings, nails or nuts and bolts to enhance the device’s destructiveness. Also, while the repair shop’s garage door did have a hole punched through it, the hole appears to have resulted from part of the car having been propelled through it. The door does not display any significant damage or disfiguration from the blast effect. The painted walls do not either, though they do show some signs from the high heat of the explosion and resulting vehicle fire. This is another indication that the blast was fairly small. Finally, that the bulk of the significant damage to the car is in the rear end of the vehicle makes it appear that the small IED had been placed either in the vehicle’s trunk or perhaps on the vehicle’s backseat.

After analyzing such photos and video, our tactical analysts contact other experienced blast investigators and bomb technicians to get their impressions and ensure that their analysis is not off track. Like doctors, investigators frequently chat with other knowledgeable investigators to confirm their diagnoses.

Of course, the process described above is how things happen in an ideal situation. Frequently, reality intrudes on the ideal and the process can get quite messy— especially in the middle of a large ongoing situation like the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Taming the chaos that tends to reign during such a situation is difficult, and we sometimes have to skip or repeat steps of the process depending on the circumstances. We run a postmortem critique after each of these crisis events to determine what we did well and what we need to do better as we strive for excellence.

Piecing It All Together

When we looked at all the pieces of the Monterrey incident, we were able to determine that due to the location and execution of the incident, Los Zetas most likely were behind the attack. It was also clear that the device was a well-constructed, command-detonated IED and that the Mexican troops were drawn into a carefully executed ambush. From the size and construction of the device, however, it would appear the operational planner of the ambush did not intend to kill the soldiers. Had that been the objective, more explosives would have been used in the IED. (Commercial explosives are cheap and plentiful in Mexico.) Alternatively, the same smaller quantity of explosives could have been fashioned into an improvised claymore mine-type device intended to hurl shrapnel at the military patrol — something likely well within the skill set of a bombmaker capable of building and employing an effective command-detonated IED.

The small explosive charge and lack of fragmentation, then, indicates the ambush was intended more to send a message than to cause a massacre. The Mexican cartels have a history of kidnapping, torturing, and murdering Mexican military personnel, so they normally are not squeamish about killing them. This brings us back to our analysis regarding the cartels’ use of IEDs, and our conclusion that the Mexican cartels have intentionally chosen to limit the size of explosive devices they employ in Mexico.

This incident may also be consistent with our analysis that Los Zetas are feeling pressured by the increased military presence in Mexico’s northeast. The message this incident may have been intended to convey is that the military needs to back off. At the very least, at the very lowest tactical level, it will certainly give the Mexican military second thoughts the next time they consider pursuing apparent cartel vehicles in Zeta territory.
Dissecting a Mexican Cartel Bombing in Monterrey is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Libya and Iraq: The Price of Success October 25, 2011

I generally don't comment on these articles but I will on this. It is an excellent summary of the challenges we have now in Libya and Iraq. The problem is the questions should have been asked and answered before we started bombing Libya. In all too typical a fashion this administration has taken a challenge and made it worse
By George Friedman

In a week when the European crisis continued building, the White House chose publicly to focus on announcements about the end of wars. The death of Moammar Gadhafi was said to mark the end of the war in Libya, and excitement about a new democratic Libya abounded. Regarding Iraq, the White House transformed the refusal of the Iraqi government to permit U.S. troops to remain into a decision by Washington instead of an Iraqi rebuff.

Though in both cases there was an identical sense of “mission accomplished,” the matter was not nearly as clear-cut. The withdrawal from Iraq creates enormous strategic complexities rather than closure. While the complexities in Libya are real but hardly strategic, the two events share certain characteristics and are instructive.

Libya After Gadhafi

Let us begin with the lesser event, Gadhafi’s death. After seven months of NATO intervention, Gadhafi was killed. That it took so long for this to happen stands out, given that the intervention involved far more than airstrikes, including special operations forces on the ground targeting for airstrikes, training Libyan troops, managing logistics, overseeing communications and both planning and at times organizing and leading the Libyan insurgents in battle.

Perhaps this length of time resulted from a strategy designed to minimize casualties at the cost of prolonging the war. Alternatively, that it took seven months to achieve this goal might reflect the extent of the insurgents’ division, poor training and incompetence. Whatever the reason, the more important question is what NATO thinks it has accomplished with Gadhafi’s death, as satisfying as that death might be.

The National Transitional Council (NTC), the umbrella organization crafted to contain the insurgents, is in no position to govern Libya by any ideology, let alone through constitutional democracy. Gadhafi and his supporters ruled Libya for 42 years; the only people in the NTC with any experience with government gained that experience as ministers or lesser officials in Gadhafi’s government. Some may have switched sides out of principle, but I suspect that most defected to save themselves. While the media has portrayed many of these ex-ministers as opponents of Gadhafi, anyone who served him was complicit in his crimes.

These individuals are the least likely to bring reform to Libya and the most likely to constitute the core of a new state, as they are the only Libyans who know what it means to govern. Around them is an array of tribes living in varying degrees of tension and hostility with each other and radical Islamists whose number and capabilities are unknown, but whose access to weapons can be assumed. It also is safe to assume that many of those weapons, of various types of lethality, will be on the black market in the region in short order, as they may already be.

Gadhafi did not rule for 42 years without substantial support, as the tenacity of those who fought on his behalf suggests. (The defense of Sirte could well be described as fanatical.) Gadhafi is dead, but not all of his supporters are. And there are other elements within the country who may not be Gadhafi supporters but are no less interested in resisting those who are now trying to take charge — and resisting anyone perceived to be backed by Western powers. As with the conquest of Baghdad in 2003, what was unanticipated — but should not have been — was that a variety of groups would resist the new leaders and wage guerrilla war.

Baghdad taught that overwhelming force must be brought to bear in any invasion such that all opposition is eliminated. Otherwise, opponents of foreign occupation — along with native elements with a grudge against other natives — are quite capable of creating chaos. When we look at the list of NTC members and try to imagine them cooperating with each other and when we consider the number of Gadhafi supporters who are now desperadoes with little to lose, the path to stable constitutional democracy runs either through NATO occupation (unofficial, of course) or through a period of intense chaos. The most likely course ahead is a NATO presence sufficient to enrage the Libyan people but insufficient to intimidate them.

And Libya is not a strategic country. It is neither large in population nor geographically pivotal. It does have oil, as everyone likes to point out, and that makes it appealing. But it is not clear that the presence of oil increases the tendency toward stability. When we look back on Iraq, an oil-rich country, oil simply became another contentious issue in a galaxy of contentious issues.

The Lesson of Baghdad

Regarding Libya, I have a sense of Baghdad in April 2003. U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement of a complete U.S. withdrawal from Iraq gives us a sense of what lies at the end of the tunnel of the counterinsurgency. It must be understood that Obama did not want a total withdrawal. Until just a few weeks before the announcement, he was looking for ways to keep some troops in Iraq’s Kurdish region. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta went to Iraq wanting an agreement providing for a substantial number of U.S. troops in Iraq past the Dec. 31 deadline for withdrawal.

While the idea did appeal to some in Iraq, it ultimately failed. This is because the decision-making structure of the Iraqi government that emerged from U.S. occupation and the war is so fragmented it has failed even to craft a law on hydrocarbons, something critical to the future of Iraq. It was therefore in no position to reach consensus, or even a simple majority, over the question of a continued presence of foreign troops. Many Iraqis did want a U.S. presence, particularly those concerned about their fate once the United States leaves, such as the Kurds and Sunnis. The most important point is not that the Iraqis decided they did not want troops; it is that the Iraqi government was in the end too incoherent to reach any decision.

The strategic dimension to this is enormous. The Iranians have been developing their influence in Iraq since before 2003. They have not developed enough power to control Iraq outright. There are too many in Iraq, even among the Shia, who distrust Iranian power. Nevertheless, the Iranians have substantial influence — not enough to impose policies but enough to block any they strongly object to. The Iranians have a fundamental national security interest in a weak Iraq and in the withdrawal of American forces, and they had sufficient influence in Baghdad to ensure American requests to stay were turned down.

Measuring Iranian influence in Iraq is not easy to do. Much of it consists of influence and relationships that are not visible or are not used except in urgent matters. The United States, too, has developed a network of relationships in Iraq, as have the Saudis. But the United States is not particularly good at developing reliable grassroots supporters. The Iranians have done better because they are more familiar with the terrain and because the price for double-crossing the Iranians is much higher than that imposed by the United States. This gives the Iranians a more stable platform from which to operate. While the Saudis have tried to have it both ways by seeking to maintain influence without generating anti-Saudi feeling, the Iranian position has been more straightforward, albeit in a complex and devious way.

Let us consider what is at stake here: Iran has enough influence to shape some Iraqi policies. With the U.S. withdrawal, U.S. allies will have to accommodate themselves both to Iran and Iran’s supporters in the government because there is little other choice. The withdrawal thus does not create a stable balance of power; it creates a dynamic in which Iranian influence increases if the Iranians want it to — and they certainly want it to. Over time, the likelihood of Iraq needing to accommodate Iranian strategic interests is most likely. The possibility of Iraq becoming a puppet of Iran cannot be ruled out. And this has especially wide regional consequences given Syria.

The Role of Syria

Consider the Libyan contrast with Syria. Over the past months, the Syrian opposition has completely failed in bringing down the regime of Presiden Bashar al Assad. Many of the reports received about Syria originate from anti-Assad elements outside of Syria who draw a picture of the impending collapse of the regime. This simply hasn’t happened, in large part because al Assad’s military is loyal and well organized and the opposition is poorly organized and weak. The opposition might have widespread support, but sentiment does not defeat tanks. Just as Gadhafi was on the verge of victory when NATO intervened, the Syrian regime does not appear close to collapse. It is hard to imagine NATO intervening in a country bordering Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Lebanon given the substantial risk of creating regional chaos. In contrast, Gadhafi was isolated politically and geographically.

Syria was close to Iran before the uprising. Iran has been the most supportive of the Syrian regime. If al Assad survives this crisis, his willingness to collaborate with Iran will only intensify. In Lebanon, Hezbollah — a group the Iranians have supported for decades — is a major force. Therefore, if the U.S. withdrawal in Iraq results in substantial Iranian influence in Iraq, and al Assad doesn’t fall, then the balance of power in the region completely shifts.

This will give rise to a contiguous arc of Iranian influence stretching from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea running along Saudi Arabia’s northern border and along the length of Turkey’s southern border. Iranian influence also will impact Israel’s northern border directly for the first time. What the Saudis, Turks and Israelis will do about this is unclear. How the Iranians would exploit their position is equally unclear. Contrary to their reputation, they are very cautious in their overt operations, even if they take risks in their covert operations. Full military deployment through this region is unlikely for logistical reasons if nothing else. Still, the potential for such a deployment, and the reality of increasingly effective political influence regardless of military movement, is strategically significant. The fall of al Assad would create a firebreak for Iranian influence, though it could give rise to a Sunni Islamist regime.

The point here, of course, is that the decision to withdraw from Iraq and the inability to persuade the Iraqi government to let U.S. forces remain has the potential to change the balance of power in the region. Rather than closing the book on Iraq, it simply opens a new chapter in what was always the subtext of Iraq, namely Iranian power. The civil war in Iraq that followed the fall of Saddam Hussein had many dimensions, but its most strategically important one was the duel between the United States and Iran. The Obama administration hopes it can maintain U.S. influence in Iraq without the presence of U.S. troops. Given that U.S. influence with the presence of troops was always constrained, this is a comforting, though doubtful, theory for Washington to consume.

The Libyan crisis is not in such a high-stakes region, but the lesson of Iraq is useful. The NATO intervention has set the stage for a battle among groups that are not easily reconciled and who were held together by hostility to Gadhafi and then by NATO resources. If NATO simply leaves, chaos will ensue. If NATO gives aid, someone will have to protect the aid workers. If NATO sends troops, someone will attack them, and when they defend themselves, they will kill innocents. This is the nature of war. The idea of an immaculate war is fantasy. It is not that war is not at times necessary, but a war that is delusional is always harmful. The war in Iraq was delusional in many ways, and perhaps nowhere more than in the manner in which the United States left. That is being repeated in Libya, although with smaller stakes.

In the meantime, the influence of Iran will grow in Iraq, and now the question is Syria. Another NATO war in Syria is unlikely and would have unpredictable consequences. The survival of al Assad would create an unprecedented Iranian sphere of influence, while the fall of al Assad would open the door to regimes that could trigger an Israeli intervention.

World War II was nice in that it offered a clean end — unless, of course, you consider that the Cold War and the fear of impending nuclear war immediately succeeded it. Wars rarely end cleanly, but rather fester or set the stage for the next war. We can see that clearly in Iraq. The universal congratulations on the death of Moammar Gadhafi are as ominous as all victory celebrations are, because they ignore the critical question: Now what?

Libya and Iraq: The Price of Success is republished with permission of STRATFOR.
Questions that should have been asked by many people in the White House, Foggy Bottoms, DofD, NATO etc. They made the mess and they now own it. Gadhafi was a ruthless son of a bitch but he kept order. And that is what me need in that area of the world.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Officer Down

Deputy Sheriff James D. Paugh
Richmond County Georgia Sheriff's Office
End of Watch: Sunday, October 23, 2011
Deputy James Paugh was shot and killed after stopping to investigate a domestic disturbance on the side of I-520 at approximately 1:20 am.

As Deputy Paugh stopped his department motorcycle the suspect opened fire on him with an M4 rifle. Despite being mortally wounded, Deputy Paugh was able to return fire. The suspect was found dead of gunshot wounds at the scene.
Rest in Peace Bro…We’ll Continue The Watch

Day is done, Gone the sun, From the lake, From the hills, From the sky. All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh.

Liberals in London....at it again

Last month I posted on how in London because of (among other things) local zoning ordinances people have to go underground to expand their houses. Not to be outdone, the socialists in Britain want even more. They wanna kick Grandma out!

From Right, Wing-Nut!: British Now Looking To "Redistribute" Grandma's House
...The report, Hoarding of Housing, says: ‘While younger families are increasingly being squeezed into small flats and under-sized houses, older people are often rattling around in big houses with many bedrooms standing empty, often for years.’

Report co-author Matthew Griffiths said: ‘It is perfectly understandable that retired people cling to their home long after it has outlived its usefulness as a place to bring a family up in.

‘But there are profound social consequences of their actions which are now causing real problems in a country where new house building is almost non-existent.’...
Yo Moron, err Matt, maybe you should ask why new house building is non-existent. Could it be that restrictions on building, rent control, etc make construction a dying industry in England? You can find similar issues in cities like New York and Seattle. Suffice to say if you deliberately make housing and construction a business where you can't make a profit, there will be less of it. If the mental midgets in Parliament would read some basic books on supply and demand they might have a clue. Then loan the books to the current US President and Treasury Secretary.

Hopeless in Houston

I’ve commented before (here and there) on how I am amazed on how clueless I find younger people these days. But those were 20 somethings. Now I have a 30 something who needs reality therapy.

I get a call about a complainant following a vehicle that struck their car. Coming up TX 288. Well I look at the call and none of the exits are off TX 288. I ask the dispatch to call the driver back and get better locations. Well the driver was on US 59, another highway near by.

After the hit and run vehicle is lost, the driver asks for an officer to at a fast food parking lot. Upon arrival I look around and no one is flagging me down (let’s be honest, a cop’s marked vehicle is kinda hard to miss). After almost ten minutes I have dispatch call back again and the driver is saying “I’m still waiting on the officer...” I drive around again and the driver finally gets out of the car I had passed no less than twice.

The interview goes well except for one minor detail. “Where did the accident occur?”.

The driver answered “Off of 59 and I think Westheimer...look I just follow the GPS to tell me where to go....”

I made no comment but I was wondering how clueless are you? I can understand not knowing the exact location (e.g. 4000 S US 59 SB) you’re at when the accident occurred, but is being aware of what highway you were on for almost 10 miles too much to expect? Are people so oblivious to their surroundings and it’s conditions or hazards (see the comments above about the idiots around armed cops) that I wonder if they can actually drive a mile without a Garmin.

This driver was a nurse...I hope they know their job better than they know their surroundings.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Report from the front lines

Captain’s Log, Stardate 65261.8

While on routine radar interception patrol, encountered for the second time the fantasy vehicle known as the Chevrolet Volt. To our amazement it achieved speeds of 42 miles per hour, but use of so much electricity must limit observation as it missed the sign that said School Zone, Speed Limit 20.

Although the intelligence of the operators of this vehicle is apparently limited, in the interest of general curiosity I had the chief of engineering analyze the vehicle as a possible children’s car. After spending five minutes in the engine compartment, he went to his office, pulled out a bottle of 20 year old single malt and downed half of it in a single gulp.
“What morons designed this piece of crap!. A reserve motor as your primary source of movement, limited ability to accelerate, few fueling stations, taking hours to refuel instead of minutes and paying twice as much as a normal transporter. This is beyond a bad joke. I would swear a group of lawyers were on this thing’s plan....just pass me the bottle, I wanna purge this from my mind!”
We release it as the inbred stupidity might be contagious and my ship’s physician said he has his limits. We let it go on it’s merry way to explore stupid college parking lots, to seek out more 220 plugs and federal bail outs, to meekly go where no real car wants to go!”

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Seattle PD handling a suspect

Look at this and tell me what you think. A little backgound. The suspect, John Kita, was arrested for fighting with a woman under I-5 in Seattle.

I don't question the officer was more than justified in putting hands on the suspect. As Kita was walking up he put a hand in a pocket, a big no no as he may have a weapon. He had already not responded to verbal commands twice with "give me your hands" and kept his hand front. Now I will say it was borderline with pushing the head into the vehicle but the suspect was non-compliant. And he was taken into custody.

The officer was exonerated and the lawsuit is headed to the 9th Circus Court of Appeal (I know it's Circuit but this court is nuts). We'll see how it works out.

Security Weekly: Reflections on the Iranian Assassination Plot Created Oct 20 2011

By Scott Stewart

On Oct. 11, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that two men had been charged in New York with taking part in a plot directed by the Iranian Quds Force to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir, on U.S. soil.

Manssor Arbabsiar and Gholam Shakuri face numerous charges, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives), conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism transcending national borders and conspiracy to murder a foreign official. Arbabsiar, who was arrested Sept. 29 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, is a U.S. citizen with both Iranian and U.S. passports. Shakuri, who remains at large, allegedly is a senior officer in Iran’s Quds Force, a special unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) believed to promote military and terrorist activities abroad.

Between May and July, Arbabsiar, who lives in the United States, allegedly traveled several times to Mexico, where he met with a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) confidential informant who was posing as an associate of the Mexican Los Zetas cartel. The criminal complaint charges that Arbabsiar attempted to hire the DEA source and his purported accomplices to kill the ambassador. Arbabsiar’s Iranian contacts allegedly wired two separate payments totaling $100,000 in August into an FBI-controlled bank account in the United States, with Shakuri’s approval, as a down payment to the DEA source for the killing (the agreed-upon total price was $1.5 million).

Much has been written about the Arbabsiar case, both by those who believe the U.S. government’s case is valid and by those who doubt the facts laid out in the criminal complaint. However, as we have watched this case unfold, along with the media coverage surrounding it, it has occurred to us that there are two aspects of the case that we think merit more discussion. The first is that, as history has shown, it is not unusual for Iran to employ unconventional assassins in plots inside the United States. Second, while the DEA informant was reportedly posing as a member of Los Zetas, we do not believe the case proves any sort of increase in the terrorist threat emanating from the United States’ southern border.

Unconventional Assassins

One argument that has appeared in media coverage and has cast doubt on the validity of the U.S. government’s case is the alleged use by the Quds Force of Arbabsiar, an unemployed used car salesman, as its interlocutor. The criminal complaint states that Arbabsiar was recruited by his cousin, Abdul Reza Shahlai, a senior Quds Force commander, in spring 2011 and then handled by Shakuri, who is Shahlai’s deputy. The complaint also alleges that, initially, Arbabsiar was tasked with finding someone to kidnap al-Jubeir, but at some unspecified point the objective of the plot turned from kidnapping to murder. After his arrest, Arbabsiar told the agents who interviewed him that he was chosen for the mission because of his business interests and contacts in the United States and Mexico and that he told his cousin that he knew individuals involved in the narcotics trade. Shahlai then allegedly tasked Arbabsiar to attempt to hire some of his narco contacts for the kidnapping mission since Shahlai believed that people involved in the narcotics trade would be willing to undertake illegal activities, such as kidnapping, for money.

It is important to recognize that Arbabsiar was not just a random used car salesman selected for this mission. He is purportedly the cousin of a senior Quds Force officer and was in Iran talking to his cousin when he was recruited. According to some interviews appearing in the media, Arbabsiar had decided to leave the United States and return permanently to Iran, but, as a naturalized U.S. citizen, he could have been seen as useful by the Quds Force for his ability to freely travel to the United States. Arbabsiar also was likely enticed by the money he could make working for the Quds Force — money that could have been useful in helping him re-establish himself in Iran. If he was motivated by money rather than ideology, it could explain why he flipped so easily after being arrested by U.S. authorities.

Now, while the Iranian government has shown the ability to conduct sophisticated operations in countries within its sphere of influence, such as Lebanon and Iraq, the use of suboptimal agents to orchestrate an assassination plot in the United States is not entirely without precedent.

For example, there appear to be some very interesting parallels between the Arbabsiar case and two other alleged Iranian plots to assassinate dissidents in Los Angeles and London. The details of these cases were exposed in the prosecution and conviction of Mohammad Reza Sadeghnia in California and in U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks pertaining to the Sadeghnia case.

Sadeghnia, who was arrested in Los Angeles in July 2009, is a naturalized U.S. citizen of Iranian descent who at one point ran a painting business in Michigan. Sadeghnia was apparently recruited by the Iranian government and allegedly carried out preoperational surveillance on Jamshid Sharmahd, who made radio broadcasts for the Iranian opposition group Tondar from his residence in Glendora, Calif., and Ali Reza Nourizadeh, who worked for Voice of America in London.

Sadeghnia’s clumsy surveillance activities were a testament to his lack of tradecraft and were noticed by his targets. But even though he was fairly inept, a number of other factors seem to support claims that he was working as an agent for the Iranian government. These include his guilty plea, his international travel, and the facts that he conducted surveillance on two high-profile Iranian dissidents on two continents, was convicted of soliciting someone to murder one of them and then returned to Tehran while on supervised release.

Sadeghnia’s profile as an unemployed housepainter from Iran who lived in the United States for many years is similar to that of Arbabsiar, a failed used car salesman. Sadeghnia pleaded guilty of planning to use a third man (also an Iranian-American) to run over and murder Sharmahd with a used van Sadeghnia had purchased. Like the alleged Arbabsiar plot, the Sadeghnia case displayed a lack of sophisticated assassination methodology in an Iranian-linked plot inside the United States.

This does raise the question of why Iran chose to use another unsophisticated assassination operation after the Sadeghnia failure. On the other hand, the Iranians experienced no meaningful repercussions from that plot or much negative press.

For Iranian operatives to be so obvious while operating inside the United States is not a new thing, as illustrated by the case of David Belfield, also known as Dawud Salahuddin, who was hired by the Iranian government to assassinate high-profile Iranian dissident Ali Akbar Tabatabaei in July 1980. Salahuddin is an African-American convert to Islam who worked as a security guard at an Iranian diplomatic office in Washington. He was paid $5,000 to shoot Tabatabaei and then fled the United States for Iran, where he still resides. In a plot reminiscent of the movie Three Days of the Condor, Salahuddin, who had stolen a U.S. Postal Service jeep, walked up to Tabatabaei’s front door dressed in a mail carrier’s uniform and shot the Iranian diplomat as he answered the door. It was a simple plot in which the Iranian hand was readily visible.

There also have been numerous assassinations and failed assassination attempts directed against Iranian dissidents in Europe and elsewhere that were conducted in a rudimentary fashion by operatives easily linked to Iran. Such cases include the 1991 assassination of Shapour Bakhtiar in Paris, the 1989 murder of Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou in Vienna and the 1992 killing of three Iranian-Kurdish opposition leaders at the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin.

All that said, there was a lengthy break between the Iranian assassinations in the West in the 1980s and 1990s and the Sadeghnia and Arbabsiar cases. We do not know for certain what could have motivated Iran to resume such operations, but the Iranians have been locked in a sustained covert intelligence war with the United States and its allies for several years now. It is possible these attacks are seen as an Iranian escalation in that war, or as retaliation for the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists in Iran, which the Iranians claim were conducted by the United States and Israel.

South of the Border

One other result of the Arbabsiar case is that it has re-energized the long-held U.S. fears of foreign entities using the porous U.S.-Mexico border to conduct terrorist attacks inside the United States and of Mexican cartels partnering with foreign entities to carry out such attacks.

But there are reasons this case does not substantiate such fears. First, it is important to remember that the purported Iranian operative in this case who traveled to the United States, Arbabsiar, is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He is not an Iranian who illegally crossed the border from Mexico. Arbabsiar used his U.S. passport to travel between the United States and Mexico.

Second, while Arbabsiar, and purportedly Shahlai, believed that the Los Zetas cartel would undertake kidnapping or assassination in the United States in exchange for money, that assumption may be flawed. Certainly, while Mexican cartels do indeed kidnap and murder people inside the United States (often for financial gain), they also have a long history of being very careful about the types of operations they conduct inside the United States. This is because the cartels do not want to incur the full wrath of the U.S. government. Shooting a drug dealer in Laredo who loses a load of dope is one thing; going after the Saudi ambassador in Washington is quite another. While the payoff for this operation seems substantial ($1.5 million), there is no way that a Mexican cartel would jeopardize its billion-dollar enterprise for such a small one-time payment and for an act that offered no other apparent business benefit to the cartel. While Mexican cartels can be quite violent, their violence is calculated for the most part, and they tend to refrain from activities that could jeopardize their long-term business plans.

One potential danger in terms of U.S. mainland security is that the Arbabsiar case might focus too much additional attention on the U.S.-Mexico border and that this attention could cause resources to be diverted from the northern border and other points of entry, such as airports and seaports. While it is relatively easy to illegally enter the United States over the southern border, and the United States has no idea who many of the illegal immigrants really are, that does not mean that resources should be taken from elsewhere.

As STRATFOR has noted before, many terrorist plots have originated in Canada — far more than have had any sort of nexus to Mexico. These include plots involving Ghazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, a Palestinian who was convicted of planning a suicide bombing of the New York subway system in 1997; Ahmed Ressam, who was arrested when he tried to enter the United States with explosives in 1999; and the so-called Toronto 18 cell, which was arrested in 2006 and later convicted of planning a string of attacks in Canada and the United States.

Moreover, most terrorist operatives who have traveled to the United States intending to participate in terrorist attacks have flown directly into the country from overseas. Such operatives include the 19 men involved in the 9/11 attacks, the foreigners involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the follow-on New York landmarks bomb plot, as well as failed New York subway bomber Najibulah Zazi and would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. Even failed shoe bomber Richard Reid and would-be underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to fly directly into the United States.

While there is concern over security on the southern U.S. border, past plots involving foreign terrorist operatives traveling to the United States have either involved direct travel to the United States or travel from Canada. There is simply no empirical evidence to support the idea that the Mexican border is more likely to be used by terrorist operatives than other points of entry.

Reflections on the Iranian Assassination Plot is republished with permission of STRATFOR.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Is the Animal Liberation Front a terrorist organization

Yes, IMHO. So is Earth First!. If you put a spike into trees to damage saws and if that injuries the logger in the process, that is terrorism.

Some intelligence from the north.

A sign hung by Greenpeace activists from the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa in 2009

OTTAWA — A government agency responsible for tracking financial transactions to ensure they aren’t used for illicit purposes has identified animal rights activists and “environmental extremists” as terrorist groups on a website rife with references to al-Qaida.

The page is part of an online terrorism-financing tutorial hosted by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre.

The government established FINTRAC in 2000 to detect and prevent money laundering and other illegal financial transactions by terrorists and organized crime groups.

Following a number of workshops, those taking the learning program are presented with a multiple-choice test with 13 questions. Questions include how terrorist financing differs from money laundering, and what constitutes a suspicious transaction.

Three of the questions specifically reference al-Qaida, while one reads: “Under which terrorist group do animal rights activists and environmental extremists fall?” The correct answer is single-issue terrorists, the website says....

...When asked why animal rights advocates and environment extremists were identified as terrorist groups, he said they were “given as examples (of organizations) who may be single-issue terrorists by virtue of choosing to use violence and criminal activities.”

He said the question was drawn from a Canadian Security Intelligence Service report from winter 1998 in which a CSIS counter-terrorism specialist discussed extremist militancy associated with animal rights, environmentalism and abortion in North America and the U.K.

Some environmental and animal rights groups have been known to adopt violent and illegal tactics. The Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front, for example, have taken credit for destroying businesses.

Yes, Earth Liberation Front is very extreme. Good work Canada...man we know we wouldn't get some intelligence from the American government.

“But the idea of a blanket statement about people who advocate for animals and who advocate for the protection of Planet Earth being terrorists is obviously absurd,” said Michelle Cliffe, a spokeswoman at the International Federation of Animal Welfare.

Mike Hudema, a spokesman for Greenpeace Canada, noted Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver used the term “extremists” to describe more than 100 protesters from First Nations communities, social justice groups and environmental organizations crossed a police line and peacefully allowed themselves to be arrested on Parliament Hill last month.

“And if we take the minister’s definition of what ‘extremist’ is when we’re tracking these financial transactions, then that’s a broad section of Canadian society,” Hudema said.

“The more we use the term ‘extremists,’ the more we use the term ‘terrorist,’ then we start to water down these terms and there is the threat of erosion of our civil liberties.”somebody who does just that.”
Concerned about blanket statements? Like gun owners all drive around with a shotgun in their trucks, etc. That if you allow people to carry concealed will led to massacres. You worried about generalities like that.

They took the teleprompter, the whole …

Way to funny not to pass on!


From our good friends at LegalInsurrection

Geopolitical Weekly: From the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush: Rethinking the Region, October 17, 2011

By George Friedman

The territory between the Mediterranean and the Hindu Kush has been the main arena for the U.S. intervention that followed the 9/11 attacks. Obviously, the United States had been engaged in this area in previous years, but 9/11 redefined it as the prime region in which it confronted jihadists. That struggle has had many phases, and it appears to have entered a new one over the past few weeks.

Some parts of this shift were expected. STRATFOR had anticipated tensions between Iran and its neighboring countries to rise as the U.S. withdrew from Iraq and Iran became more assertive. And we expected U.S.-Pakistani relations to reach a crisis before viable negotiations with the Afghan Taliban were made possible.

(Click here to enlarge image)

However, other events frankly surprised us. We had expected Hamas to respond to events in Egypt and to the Palestine National Authority’s search for legitimacy through pursuit of U.N. recognition by trying to create a massive crisis with Israel, reasoning that the creation of such a    crisis would strengthen anti-government forces in Egypt, increasing the chances for creating a new regime that would end the blockade of Gaza and suspend the peace treaty with Israel. We also thought that intense rocket fire into Israel would force Fatah to support an intifada or be marginalized by Hamas. Here we were clearly wrong; Hamas moved instead to reach a deal for the exchange of captive Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit, which has reduced Israeli-Hamas tensions.

Our error was rooted in our failure to understand how the increased Iranian-Arab tensions would limit Hamas’ room to maneuver. We also missed the fact that given the weakness of the opposition forces in Egypt — something we had written about extensively — Hamas would not see an opportunity to reshape Egyptian policies. The main forces in the region, particularly the failure of the Arab Spring in Egypt and the intensification of Iran’s rise, obviated our logic on Hamas. Shalit’s release, in exchange for more than 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, marks a new stage in Israeli-Hamas relations. Let’s consider how this is related to Iran and Pakistan.

The Iranian Game
The Iranians tested their strength in Bahrain, where Shiites rose up against their Sunni rulers with at least some degree of Iranian support. Saudi Arabia, linked by a causeway to Bahrain, perceived this as a test of its resolve, intervening with military force to suppress the demonstrators and block the Iranians. To Iran, Bahrain was simply a probe; the Saudi response did not represent a major reversal in Iranian fortunes.

The main game for Iran is in Iraq, where the U.S. withdrawal is reaching its final phase. Some troops may be left in Iraqi Kurdistan, but they will not be sufficient to shape events in Iraq. The Iranians will not be in control of Iraq, but they have sufficient allies, both in the government and in outside groups, that they will be able to block policies they oppose, either through the Iraqi political system or through disruption. They will not govern, but no one will be able to govern in direct opposition to them.

In Iraq, Iran sees an opportunity to extend its influence westward. Syria is allied with Iran, and it in turn jointly supports Hezbollah in Lebanon. The prospect of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq opened the door to a sphere of Iranian influence running along the southern Turkish border and along the northern border of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi View
The origins of the uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad are murky. It emerged during the general instability of the Arab Spring, but it took a different course. The al Assad regime did not collapse, al Assad was not replaced with another supporter of the regime, as happened in Egypt, and the opposition failed to simply disintegrate. In our view the opposition was never as powerful as the Western media portrayed it, nor was the al Assad regime as weak. It has held on far longer than others expected and shows no inclination of capitulating. For one thing, the existence of bodies such as The International Criminal Court leave al Assad nowhere to go if he stepped down, making a negotiated exit difficult. For another, al Assad does not see himself as needing to step down.

Two governments have emerged as particularly hostile to al Assad: the Saudi government and the Turkish government. The Turks attempted to negotiate a solution in Syria and were rebuffed by Assad. It is not clear the extent to which these governments see Syria simply as an isolated problem along their border or as part of a generalized Iranian threat. But it is clear that the Saudis are extremely sensitive to the Iranian threat and see the fall of the al Assad regime as essential for limiting the Iranians.

In this context, the last thing that the Saudis want to see is conflict with Israel. A war in Gaza would have given the al Assad regime an opportunity to engage with Israel, at least through Hezbollah, and portray opponents to the regime as undermining the struggle against the Israelis. This would have allowed al Assad to solicit Iranian help against Israel and, not incidentally, to help sustain his regime.

It was not clear that Saudi support for Syrian Sunnis would be enough to force the al Assad regime to collapse, but it is clear that a war with Israel would have made it much more difficult to bring it down. Whether Hamas was inclined toward another round of fighting with Israel is unclear. What is clear is that the Saudis, seeing themselves as caught in a struggle with Iran, were not going to hand the Iranians an excuse to get more involved than they were. They reined in any appetite Hamas may have had for war.

Hamas and Egypt
Hamas also saw its hopes in Egypt dissolving. From its point of view, instability in Egypt opened the door for regime change. For an extended period of time, it seemed possible that the first phase of unrest would be followed either by elections that Islamists might win or another wave of unrest that would actually topple the regime. It became clear months ago that the opposition to the Egyptian regime was too divided to replace it. But it was last week that the power of the regime became manifest.

The Oct. 9 Coptic demonstration that turned violent and resulted in sectarian clashes with Muslims gave the government the opportunity to demonstrate its resolve and capabilities without directly engaging Islamist groups. The regime acted brutally and efficiently to crush the demonstrations and, just as important, did so with some Islamist elements that took to the streets beating Copts. The streets belonged to the military and to the Islamist mobs, fighting on the same side.

One of the things Hamas had to swallow was the fact that it was the Egyptian government that was instrumental in negotiating the prisoner exchange. Normally, Islamists would have opposed even the process of negotiation, let alone its success. But given what had happened a week before, the Islamists were content not to make an issue of the Egyptian government’s deal-making. Nor would the Saudis underwrite Egyptian unrest as they would Syrian unrest. Egypt, the largest Arab country and one that has never been on good terms with Iran, was one place where the Saudis did not want to see chaos, especially with an increasingly powerful Iran and unrest in Syria stalled.

Washington Sides with Riyadh
In the midst of all this, the United States announced the arrest of a man who allegedly was attempting, on behalf of Iran, to hire a Mexican to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States. There was serious discussion of the significance of this alleged plot, and based on the evidence released, it was not particularly impressive.

Nevertheless — and this is the important part — the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama decided that this was an intolerable event that required more aggressive measures against Iran. The Saudis have been asking the United States for some public action against Iran both to relieve the pressure on Riyadh and to make it clear that the United States was committed to confronting Iran alongside the Saudis. There may well be more evidence in the alleged assassination plot that makes it more serious than it appeared, but what is clear is that the United States intended to use the plot to increase pressure on Iran — psychologically at least — beyond the fairly desultory approach it had been taking. The administration even threw the nuclear question back on the table, a subject on which everyone had been lackadaisical for a while.

The Saudi nightmare has been that the United States would choose to reach an understanding with Iran as a way to create a stable order in the region and guarantee the flow of oil. We have discussed this possibility in the past, pointing out that the American interest in protecting Saudi Arabia is not absolute and that the United States might choose to deal with the Iranians, neither regime being particularly attractive to the United States and history never being a guide to what Washington might do next.

The Saudis were obviously delighted with the U.S. rhetorical response to the alleged assassination plot. It not only assuaged the Saudis’ feeling of isolation but also seemed to close the door on side deals. At the same time, the United States likely was concerned with the possibility of Saudi Arabia trying to arrange its own deal with Iran before Washington made a move. With this action, the United States joined itself at the hip with the Saudis in an anti-Iranian coalition.

The Israelis had nothing to complain about either. They do not want the Syrian regime to fall, preferring the al Assad regime they know to an unknown Sunni — and potentially Islamist — regime. Saudi support for the Syrian opposition bothers the Israelis, but it’s unlikely to work. A Turkish military intervention bothers them more. But, in the end, Iran is what worries them the most, and any sign that the Obama administration is reacting negatively to the Iranians, whatever the motives (and even if there is no clear motive), makes them happy. They want a deal on Shalit, but even if the price was high, this was not the time to get the United States focused on them rather than the Iranians. The Israelis might be prepared to go further in negotiations with Hamas if the United States focuses on Iran. And Hamas will go further with Israel if the Saudis tell them to, which is a price they will happily pay for a focus on Iran.

The U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan
For the United States, there is another dimension to the Iran focus: Pakistan. The Pakistani view of the United States, as expressed by many prominent Pakistanis, is that the United States has lost the war against the Afghan Taliban. That means that any negotiations that take place will simply be about how the United States, in their words, will “retreat,” rather than about Pakistani guarantees for support against jihadists coupled with a U.S. withdrawal process. If the Pakistanis are right, and the United States has been defeated, then obviously, their negotiating position is correct.

For there to be any progress in talks with the Taliban and Pakistan, the United States must demonstrate that it has not been defeated. To be more precise, it must demonstrate that while it might not satisfy its conditions for victory (defined as the creation of a democratic Afghanistan), the United States is prepared to indefinitely conduct operations against jihadists, including unmanned aerial vehicle and special operations strikes in Pakistan, and that it might move into an even closer relationship with India if Pakistan resists. There can be no withdrawal unless the Pakistanis understand that there has been no overwhelming domestic political pressure on the U.S. government to withdraw. The paradox here is critical: So long as Pakistan believes the United States must withdraw, it will not provide the support needed to allow it to withdraw. In addition, withdrawal does not mean operations against jihadists nor strategic realignment with India. The United States needs to demonstrate just what risks Pakistan faces when it assumes that the U.S. failure to achieve all its goals means it has been defeated.

The Obama administration’s reaction to the alleged Iranian assassination plot is therefore a vital psychological move against Pakistan. The Pakistani narrative is that the United States is simply incapable of asserting its power in the region. The U.S. answer is that it is not only capable of asserting substantial power in Afghanistan and Pakistan but also that it is not averse to confronting Iran over an attempted assassination in the United States. How serious the plot was, who authorized it in Iran, and so on is not important. If Obama has overreacted it is an overreaction that will cause talk in Islamabad. Obviously this will have to go beyond symbolic gestures but if it does, it changes the dynamic in the region, albeit at the risk of an entanglement with Iran.

Re-evaluating the Region
There are many moving parts. We do not know exactly how far the Obama administration is prepared to take the Iran issue or whether it will evaporate. We do not know if the Assad regime will survive or what Turkey and Saudi Arabia will do about it. We do not know whether, in the end, the Egyptian regime will survive. We do not know whether the Pakistanis will understand the message being sent them.

What we do know is this: The crisis over Iran that we expected by the end of the year is here. It affects calculations from Cairo to Islamabad. It changes other equations, including the Hamas-Israeli dynamic. It is a crisis everyone expected but no one quite knows how to play. The United States does not have a roadmap, and neither do the Iranians. But this is a historic opportunity for Iran and a fundamental challenge to the Saudis. The United States has put some chips on the table, but not any big ones. But the fact that Obama did use rhetoric more intense than he usually does is significant in itself.

All of this does not give us a final answer on the dynamics of the region and their interconnections, but it does give us a platform to begin re-evaluating the regional process.
From the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush: Rethinking the Region is republished with permission of STRATFOR.