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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Security Weekly: Jihadism in 2014: Defining the Movement, December 25, 2014

By Scott Stewart

Editor's Note: The following is the first installment of a series examining how the global jihadist movement evolved in 2014.

Last November and December I wrote a series of analyses entitled “Gauging the Jihadist Movement” in which I detailed the global jihadist movement for Stratfor readers. I assessed where that movement stood, both in relation to its goals and by measuring its progress in terms of terrorist and insurgent theory. But much has changed over the past year, so an update on the movement is needed.

The basic framework I established last year to measure the movement has not changed. Indeed, recent developments, including the declaration of a global caliphate by the Islamic State, support the first part of the series, which outlined the goals of the global jihadist movement. Furthermore, developments on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria demonstrate the need to consider the movement in relation to insurgent theory, not just terrorist theory. These topics covered in the first two parts of last year's series are worth reviewing for a better understanding of this year's developments.

The structure of the jihadist movement has significantly changed over the past year, so we will have to focus on these changes before we delve into an examination of the various components that compose the movement. Therefore, this week I will discuss the changes in the structure of the jihadist movement before assessing the status of the movement in subsequent parts of the series.

A Key Division

As we noted last year, the jihadist movement is not monolithic: It is composed of several different actors and groups, some of which abide by different religious doctrines and operational tenets. Those differences were prominently displayed in February by the formal split between the Islamic State and al Qaeda. The growing tension between al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant — which subsequently became the Islamic State — was in fact something we highlighted last year to show the diversity within the jihadist movement.

But the split is much more than a mere ideological dispute. It is a worldly struggle for power and wealth, and in many parts of Syria it has erupted into open warfare between al Qaeda franchise group Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State. Members of the two groups have assassinated, captured and executed members of the opposing group as they fight against the Syrian army and other Syrian rebel groups. However, there does seem to be some regional variation in the way the two groups interact depending on their local leaders and the degree of direct competition over resources in a particular area. For example, in Qalamoun, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State sometimes worked together against common enemies, but earlier this year the Islamic State pushed al-Nusra out of the region altogether during a bloody battle for control of the lucrative energy fields in Deir el-Zour.

The split between al Qaeda and the Islamic State has created a second pole in the jihadist movement. The first pole is al Qaeda and the franchise groups and grassroots jihadists associated with it, and the second pole is the Islamic State and the regional groups and grassroots jihadists that have pledged allegiance to it. This split, however, has not really expanded the jihadist movement but has only divided the existing movement.

The Islamic State Is Not A Game Changer

Though there are a limited number of groups that have declared allegiance to the Islamic State, these groups tend to be splinters off existing jihadist groups rather than new entities. For example, Jund al-Khilifah in Algeria is a group that split away from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. There has been some re-branding of existing jihadists but not a lot of actual external growth. This dynamic is not new, and in the past, existing jihadist groups took on the al Qaeda brand name. For example, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat assumed the name al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in September 2006.

The Islamic State has certainly grown on the ground in Iraq and Syria, both by absorbing other groups and by recruiting new local and foreign fighters. However, we have not seen the group expand beyond its core areas of operation in a meaningful way. The organization's growth outside its core area can be attributed solely to the rebranding of existing jihadist groups and to the splintering of existing groups. New Islamic State groups have not emerged.

In addition to Jund al-Khilafah in Algeria, a faction of the former Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia has declared loyalty to the Islamic State, as have a faction of the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines, the Dagestani faction of the Caucasus Emirates, some of the Libyan jihadists in the Derna area, some elements of the Pakistani Taliban and the Sinai faction of Ansar Beit al-Maqdis in Egypt. There are also some indications that Boko Haram is modeling its methods in northeastern Nigeria after the Islamic State's method of operation, but we have yet to see Boko Haram formally declare its allegiance to the Islamic State.

Also, while there has been a recent uptick in attacks by grassroots jihadists associating themselves with the Islamic State, the number and severity of those attacks have been rather modest. There is little evidence to indicate that the pool of grassroots jihadists is appreciably larger than it was before the Islamic State split away from the al Qaeda orbit.

Also, it is important to recognize that grassroots jihadists are often lone radicals who may have less loyalty to particular groups. Though groups such as al Qaeda and the Islamic State generate propaganda that help radicalize grassroots jihadists, these operatives usually don't receive the same type of ideological indoctrination as those who attend physical terrorist training camps. Consequently, grassroots operatives could have less preference between al Qaeda and the Islamic State and could conceivably be influenced to take action by both. For example, it would not be surprising for a person taking action in the name of the Islamic State to use bomb-making instructions from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's Inspire Magazine.

Many observers expected the Islamic State to supplant al Qaeda as the leader of the global jihadist movement because of mass defections following Islamic State's battlefield success, but this simply has not happened. Indeed jihadist ideologues such as Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, as well as influential jihadist leaders such as Nasir al-Wahayshi, the leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, have been highly critical of the Islamic State's declaration of a caliphate, and al Qaeda franchise groups have not defected en masse to the Islamic State.

Additionally, the Islamic State's penchant for publishing videos on the Internet documenting the execution of its foreign hostages and prisoners of war — most of whom are Muslims — has raised a great deal of criticism. Indeed, some al Qaeda franchise groups have strongly criticized such displays of wanton violence, and in comparison, al Qaeda has come to seem more moderate. As far back as 2005, al Qaeda leaders criticized Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of the group that became the Islamic State, for being too sectarian and exceedingly brutal.

Jabhat al-Nusra has executed prisoners and people accused of spying, but it has largely used bullets rather than beheadings. The group has also refrained from posting its executions to the Internet as the Islamic State has done to gruesome effect. Jabhat al-Nusra also released American journalist Theo Padnos in August, as the Islamic State was in the midst of a campaign to behead Western hostages. The release was intentionally meant to highlight the differences between the two groups.

The split between al Qaeda and the Islamic State has divided and weakened the jihadist movement globally. This competition is not only harmful to jihadist groups because of social media arguments or physical battles in places such as Syria. It is also something that can and will be taken advantage of by those seeking to undermine the movement.

Jihadism in 2014: Defining the Movement Copyright STRATFOR.COM

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Officer Down

Bridge and Tunnel Officer Thomas Choi
Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Police, New York
End of Watch: Monday, December 29, 2014
Age: 62
Tour: 11 years
Badge # 2372
Incident Date: 10/20/2013

Bridge and Tunnel Officer Thomas Choi succumbed to injuries sustained on October 20th, 2013, when he was struck by a vehicle on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

Officer Choi was reopening the lower level of the bridge at approximately 7:45 am when he was struck by a vehicle. He was transported to a local hospital where he slipped into a coma due to severe head injuries. Officer Choi remained in a coma until succumbing to his injuries one year later.

Officer Choi had served with the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority Police for 11 years. He is survived by his wife, three children, mother, and four siblings.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

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

Geopolitical Weekly: The Geopolitics of U.S.-Cuba Relations, December 23, 2014

By George Friedman

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro agreed to an exchange of prisoners being held on espionage charges. In addition, Washington and Havana agreed to hold discussions with the goal of establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries. No agreement was reached on ending the U.S. embargo on Cuba, a step that requires congressional approval.

It was a modest agreement, striking only because there was any agreement at all. U.S.-Cuba relations had been frozen for decades, with neither side prepared to make significant concessions or even first moves. The cause was partly the domestic politics of each country that made it easier to leave the relationship frozen. On the American side, a coalition of Cuban-Americans, conservatives and human rights advocates decrying Cuba's record of human rights violations blocked the effort. On the Cuban side, enmity with the United States plays a pivotal role in legitimizing the communist regime. Not only was the government born out of opposition to American imperialism, but Havana also uses the ongoing U.S. embargo to explain Cuban economic failures. There was no external pressure compelling either side to accommodate the other, and there were substantial internal reasons to let the situation stay as it is.

The Cubans are now under some pressure to shift their policies. They have managed to survive the fall of the Soviet Union with some difficulty. They now face a more immediate problem: uncertainty in Venezuela. Caracas supplies oil to Cuba at deeply discounted prices. It is hard to tell just how close Cuba's economy is to the edge, but there is no question that Venezuelan oil makes a significant difference. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government is facing mounting unrest over economic failures. If the Venezuelan government falls, Cuba would lose one of its structural supports. Venezuela's fate is far from certain, but Cuba must face the possibility of a worst-case scenario and shape openings. Opening to the United States makes sense in terms of regime preservation.

The U.S. reason for the shift is less clear. It makes political sense from Obama's standpoint. First, ideologically, ending the embargo appeals to him. Second, he has few foreign policy successes to his credit. Normalizing relations with Cuba is something he might be able to achieve, since groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce favor normalization and will provide political cover in the Republican Party. But finally, and perhaps most important, the geopolitical foundations behind the American obsession with Cuba have for the most part evaporated, if not permanently than at least for the foreseeable future. Normalization of relations with Cuba no longer poses a strategic threat. To understand the U.S. response to Cuba in the past half century, understanding Cuba's geopolitical challenge to the United States is important.

Cuba's Strategic Value

The challenge dates back to the completion of the Louisiana Purchase by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803. The Territory of Louisiana had been owned by Spain for most of its history until it was ceded to France a few years before Napoleon sold it to the United States to help fund his war with the British. Jefferson saw Louisiana as essential to American national security in two ways: First, the U.S. population at the time was located primarily east of the Appalachians in a long strip running from New England to the Georgia-Florida border. It was extremely vulnerable to invasion with little room to retreat, as became evident in the War of 1812. Second, Jefferson had a vision of American prosperity built around farmers owning their own land, living as entrepreneurs rather than as serfs. Louisiana's rich land, in the hands of immigrants to the United States, would generate the wealth that would build the country and provide the strategic depth to secure it.

What made Louisiana valuable was its river structure that would allow Midwestern farmers to ship their produce in barges to the Mississippi River and onward down to New Orleans. There the grain would be transferred to oceangoing vessels and shipped to Europe. This grain would make the Industrial Revolution possible in Britain, because the imports of mass quantities of food freed British farmers to work in urban industries.

In order for this to work, the United States needed to control the Ohio-Missouri-Mississippi river complex (including numerous other rivers), the mouth of the Mississippi, the Gulf of Mexico, and the exits into the Atlantic that ran between Cuba and Florida and between Cuba and Mexico. If this supply chain were broken at any point, the global consequences — and particularly the consequences for the United States — would be substantial. New Orleans remains the largest port for bulk shipments in the United States, still shipping grain to Europe and importing steel for American production.

For the Spaniards, the Louisiana Territory was a shield against U.S. incursions into Mexico and its rich silver mines, which provided a substantial portion of Spanish wealth. With Louisiana in American hands, these critical holdings were threatened. From the American point of view, Spain's concern raised the possibility of Spanish interference with American trade. With Florida, Cuba and the Yucatan in Spanish hands, the Spaniards had the potential to interdict the flow of produce down the Mississippi.

Former President Andrew Jackson played the key role in Jeffersonian strategy. As a general, he waged the wars against the Seminole Indians in Florida and seized the territory from Spanish rule — and from the Seminoles. He defended New Orleans from British attack in 1814. When he became president, he saw that Mexico, now independent from Spain, represented the primary threat to the entire enterprise of mid-America. The border of Mexican Texas was on the Sabine River, only 193 kilometers (120 miles) from the Mississippi. Jackson, through his agent Sam Houston, encouraged a rising in Texas against the Mexicans that set the stage for annexation.

But Spanish Cuba remained the thorn in the side of the United States. The Florida and Yucatan straits were narrow. Although the Spaniards, even in their weakened state, might have been able to block U.S. trade routes, it was the British who worried the Americans most. Based in the Bahamas, near Cuba, the British, of many conflicting minds on the United States, could seize Cuba and impose an almost impregnable blockade, crippling the U.S. economy. The British depended on American grain, and it couldn't be ruled out that they would seek to gain control over exports from the Midwest in order to guarantee their own economic security. The fear of British power helped define the Civil War and the decades afterward.

Cuba was the key. In the hands of a hostile foreign power, it was as effective a plug to the Mississippi as taking New Orleans. The weakness of the Spaniards frightened the Americans. Any powerful European power — the British or, after 1871, the Germans — could easily knock the Spaniards out of Cuba. And the United States, lacking a powerful navy, would not be able to cope. Seizing Cuba became an imperative of U.S. strategy. Theodore Roosevelt, who as president would oversee America's emergence as a major naval power — and who helped ensure the construction of the Panama Canal, which was critical to a two-ocean navy — became the symbol of the U.S. seizure of Cuba in the Spanish-American War of 1898-1900.

With that seizure, New Orleans-Atlantic transit was secured. The United States maintained effective control over Cuba until the rise of Fidel Castro. But the United States remained anxious about Cuba's security. By itself, the island could not threaten the supply lines. In the hands of a significant hostile power, however, Cuba could become a base for strangling the United States. Before World War II, when there were some rumblings of German influence in Cuba, the United States did what it could to assure the rise of former Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista, considered an American ally or puppet, depending on how you looked at it. But this is the key: Whenever a major foreign power showed interest in Cuba, the United States had to react, which it did effectively until Castro seized power in 1959.

The Soviet Influence

If the Soviets were looking for a single point from which they could threaten American interests, they would find no place more attractive than Cuba. Therefore, whether Fidel Castro was a communist prior to seizing power, it would seem that he would wind up a communist ally of the Soviets in the end. I suspect he had become a communist years before he took power but wisely hid this, knowing that an openly communist ruler in Cuba would revive America's old fears. Alternatively, he might not have been a communist but turned to the Soviets out of fear of U.S. intervention. The United States, unable to read the revolution, automatically moved toward increasing its control. Castro, as a communist or agrarian reformer or whatever he was, needed an ally against U.S. involvement. Whether the arrangement was planned for years, as I suspect, or in a sudden rush, the Soviets saw it as a marriage made in heaven.

Had the Soviets never placed nuclear weapons in Cuba, the United States still would have opposed a Soviet ally in control of Cuba during the Cold War. This was hardwired into American geopolitics. But the Soviets did place missiles there, which is a story that must be touched on as well.

The Soviet air force lacked long-range strategic bombardment aircraft. In World War II, they had focused on shorter range, close air support aircraft to assist ground operations. The United States, engaging both Germany and Japan from the air at long range, had extensive experience with long-range bombing. Therefore, during the 1950s, the United States based aircraft in Europe, and then, with the B-52 in the continental United States, was able to attack the Soviet Union with nuclear weapons. The Soviets, lacking a long-range bomber fleet, could not retaliate against the United States. The balance of power completely favored the United States.

The Soviets planned to leapfrog the difficult construction of a manned bomber fleet by moving to intercontinental ballistic missiles. By the early 1960s, the design of these missiles had advanced, but their deployment had not. The Soviets had no effective deterrent against a U.S. nuclear attack except for their still-underdeveloped submarine fleet. The atmosphere between the United States and the Soviet Union was venomous, and Moscow could not assume that Washington would not use its dwindling window of opportunity to strike safely against the Soviets.

The Soviets did have effective intermediate range ballistic missiles. Though they could not reach the United States from the Soviet Union, they could cover almost all of the United States from Cuba. The Russians needed to buy just a little time to deploy a massive intercontinental ballistic missile and submarine force. Cuba was the perfect spot from which to deploy it. Had they succeeded, the Soviets would have closed the U.S. window of opportunity by placing a deterrent force in Cuba. They were caught before they were ready. The United States threatened invasion, and the Soviets had to assume that the Americans also were threatening an overwhelming nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. They had to back down. As it happened, the United States intended no such attack, but the Soviets could not know that.

Cuba was seared into the U.S. strategic mentality in two layers. It was never a threat by itself. Under the control of a foreign naval power, it could strangle the United States. After the Soviet Union tried to deploy intermediate range ballistic missiles there, a new layer was created in which Cuba was a potential threat to the American mainland, as well as to trade routes. The agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union included American guarantees not to invade Cuba and Soviet guarantees not to base nuclear weapons there. But Cuba remained a problem for the United States. If there were a war in Europe, Cuba would be a base from which to threaten American control of the Caribbean, and with it, the ability to transit ships from the U.S. Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic. The United States never relieved pressure on Cuba, the Soviets used it as a base for many things aside from nuclear weapons (we assume), and the Castro regime clung to the Soviets for security while supporting wars of national liberation, as they were called, in Latin America and Africa that served Soviet strategic interests.

Post-Soviet Cuba

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro lost his patron and strategic guarantor. On the other hand, Cuba no longer threatened the United States. There was an implicit compromise. Since Cuba was no longer a threat to the United States but could still theoretically become one, Washington would not end its hostility toward Havana but would not actively try to overthrow it. The Cuban government, for its part, promised not to do what it could not truly do anyway: become a strategic threat to the United States. Cuba remained a nuisance in places like Venezuela, but a nuisance is not a strategic threat. Thus, the relationship remained frozen.

Since the Louisiana Purchase, Cuba has been a potential threat to the United States when held by or aligned with a major European power. The United States therefore constantly tried to shape Cuba's policies, and therefore, its internal politics. Fidel Castro's goal was to end American influence, but he could only achieve that by aligning with a major power: the Soviets. Cuban independence from the United States required a dependence on the Soviets. And that, like all relationships, carried a price.

The exchange of prisoners is interesting. The opening of embassies is important. But the major question remains unanswered. For the moment, there are no major powers able to exploit Cuba's geographical location (including China, for now). There are, therefore, no critical issues. But no one knows the future. Cuba wants to preserve its government and is seeking a release of pressure from the United States. At the moment, Cuba really does not matter. But moments pass, and no one can guarantee that it will not become important again. Therefore, the U.S. policy has been to insist on regime change before releasing pressure. With Cuba set on regime survival, what do the Cubans have to offer? They can promise permanent neutrality, but such pledges are of limited value.

Cuba needs better relations with the United States, particularly if the Venezuelan government falls. Venezuela's poor economy could, theoretically, force regime change in Cuba from internal pressure. Moreover, Raul Castro is old and Fidel Castro is very old. If the Cuban government is to be preserved, it must be secured now, because it is not clear what will succeed the Castros. But the United States has time, and its concern about Cuba is part of its DNA. Having no interest now, maintaining pressure makes no sense. But neither is there an urgency for Washington to let up on Havana. Obama may want a legacy, but the logic of the situation is that the Cubans need this more than the Americans, and the American price for normalization will be higher than it appears at this moment, whether set by Obama or his successor.

We are far from settling a strategic dispute rooted in Cuba's location and the fact that its location could threaten U.S. interests. Therefore, opening moves are opening moves. There is a long way to go on this issue.

The Geopolitics of U.S.-Cuba Relations is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Officer Down

Special Police Officer Stephen Petruzzello
Cliffside New Jersey Park Police Department
End of Watch: Monday, December 29, 2014
Age: 22
Tour: 1 month
Badge # 451
Incident Date: 12/27/2014

Special Police Officer Stephen Petruzzello succumbed to injuries sustained two days earlier when he was struck by a car on Walker Street, near First Street.

He and another officer were crossing the street at approximately 6:30 pm when they were both struck by an SUV. Both officers were transported to a local hospital where Officer Petruzzello remained until succumbing to severe head injuries. The other officer suffered non-life threatening injuries.

The driver of the vehicle was issued several traffic citations in connection with the incident.

Officer Petruzzello had served with the Cliffside Park Police Department for only one month after graduating from the police academy.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

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

The old sheepdog, craftier wolves and changing sheep.

Many people know of the sheepdog analogy of police with criminals and the public. Got this from another blog that puts a modern spin on it.
A Modern Sheepdog Fable

As the sheepdog heads out to the flock one morning, he was surprised to see the shepherd escort a few wolves in the gate to join the flock of sheep. Naturally the sheepdog runs over to the wolves and begins to growl and bite at them. The shepherd scolds the sheepdog, “That’s enough! These wolves just haven’t had a fair chance in life. Look at them, they’re just hungry. Why should we be the only ones to eat? All animals are equal. I want you to keep an eye on these wolves and protect the sheep, but be fair to the wolves. Be fair or else!”

The confused sheepdog can’t rest. He runs nonstop after the wolves who nip and bite at the sheep. One day, one of the wolves bit the sheepdog and the sheepdog bit back, but harder. The wolf yelped in pain and staggered back, whining and whimpering, making a scene. The other wolves growled and snapped at the sheepdog and howled from the pen and into the forest for the other wolves to respond.

A few sheep gathered around the scene to soak it all in. “Maybe the shepherd was right,” they thought. “For a wolf, he sure does seem quite scared and helpless. And the angry ones are terrifying, they frighten me. Did he really need to hurt the wolf so badly? Sheepdog won’t stand a chance against the whole pack. Maybe we should take their side. Maybe they will have mercy on us if we help them. They just haven’t had a fair chance in life like the shepherd said. We trust that the shepherd would never put us in danger. Sheepdog’s days are over – and good riddance, always telling us what to do. Who needs him anyway?”

The other sheep say nothing and don’t want to get involved. They just drop their heads down and eat some grass as the responding howls from within the forest grow closer and closer.

Today, look at our "leaders" who excuse sloth, gluttony, wrath, envy, naked aggression against others as long as the wolves bring in the votes.

And while there were dozens of witnesses to the "murder" of Michael Brown, in cites across the country people are murdered in broad daylight, in front of countess people and "nobody saw nothing" because they don't want to get involved, or they don't like cops.

Another part of the Bible comes to mind with this revised sheepdog story. Galatians 6:7-9 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap. You destroy what is needed to handle these animals (and yes, that is what they are, spend a year working in jail and tell me what you think) and you will destroy your society, security and life.

Happy New Year.

Officer Down

Police Officer Tyler Jacob Stewart
Flagstaff Arizona Police Department
End of Watch: Saturday, December 27, 2014
Age: 24
Tour: 1 year

Police Officer Tyler Stewart was shot and killed while investigating a domestic violence incident at an apartment complex in the 800 block of West Clay Avenue at approximately 1:30 pm.

He had made contact with the subject and met him at an apartment where he had been staying. During the conversation Officer Stewart asked the man if he could pat him down for weapons. The subject suddenly pulled out a handgun from his pocket and immediately opened fire, striking Officer Stewart. He then continued to fire after Officer Stewart fell to the ground.

Despite being wounded, Officer Stewart was able to activate an emergency alert button, but did not answer radio calls. Responding officers discovered him suffering from the gunshot wound and he was transported to a local hospital where he later died.

The subject who shot Officer Stewart committed suicide nearby after walking from the scene.

Officer Stewart had served with the Flagstaff Police Department for less than one year.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

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

Sunday, December 28, 2014

He is saying "Come on, please run!"

Football ends....

Not the way I wanted my season to end, but the New Orleans Saints at least finished with a win.

Almost the new year, with a new assignment coming up quick. I have worked with some good people in the jail, but time has come to go on.

So I finish this Sunday with a great Romeo y Julieta, some excellent scotch, a Guinness and I'm feeling no pain. Damned I don't want to go into work tonight.

Here's to a great 2015!

Officer Down

Patrolman First Class Jamel Clagett
Charles County Maryland Sheriff's Office
End of Watch: Sunday, December 21, 2014
Age: 30
Tour: 10 years
Badge # 447

Private First Class Jamel Clagett was killed in a single vehicle crash when his patrol car left the roadway and struck a tree on Route 218, near Fairview Beach, Virginia, shortly before 9:00 am.

PFC Clagett had served with the Charles County Sheriff's Office for 10 years and was assigned to District IV. He is survived by his mother, sister, and two brothers.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

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

Karma can be a beautiful thing...,,

In the last few years there's been one group or another that think they are immune from law, such as the Sovereign Citizen's movement or Black Panthers. And we have CopWatch.org or this new group, CopBlock.org, that only want to "police the police", if you will..

Now there is a question of the propriety of using checkpoints. Personally, if it's on the public streets and done in a random manner (e.g. every fifth driver or all drivers) I see no issue with Constitutionality. Apparently Mr. Watkins believes he should warn people of this. Fair enough, he has a right to protest. But Karma is a bitch!
“Cop Blocker” Kory Watkins Hit by Drunk Driver After Protesting Police Safety Checkpoint

ARLINGTON, TEXAS-On his way home from protesting an Arlington Police Department traffic safety checkpoint, self-proclaimed “Cop Watcher” Kory Watkins was rear-ended by a drunk driver. Watkins’ car was hit by a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed while driving home from the checkpoint protest on Interstate 287.
“So last night on my way home from cop watching a drunk driver was going around 100 mph and smashed into the back of me,” Watkins said. “I could not control the car , I went sideways, then flipped 3 times, hit a cement piller to stop my roll and put me in a ditch on The side of 287. I was 2 miles always from being home. I am incredible lucky to be breathing. I can’t tell you how lucky I am to be alive.”...
Damned, sucks to be you pal. Forgive me if I don't have much sympathy. We get to deal with these morons every night and see, we even deal with jerks who don't like us. Seems like Mr. Watkins don't like people making fun of him.
“I see a few sick I individuals taken time to think this is a joke or it’s funny that the cops helped me,” he said. “Let me say this. I am happy the police showed up to catch him but I’m trying to figure out where they helped me any….. Was it the part where they showed up 15 minutes after the crime or was it when they wrote me a 300$ ticket after my car was totaled? Any sick f— that thinks this is the time to crack irony jokes can go the he’ll away. I’m lucky to be alive. There are some sick people that try to take a situation and spin it to fit their beliefs when they don’t know crap. Some sick people …. Mother F—-r almost dies and people are joking about it. Disgusting.”

Mr. Watkins, you kiss your mom with that mouth? No, it's not disgusting, it's just laughing at someone who takes themselves far too serious. Waaaaaa!
Watkins was issued a summons for driving without a license. ” I don’t ask for permission to drive a car I paid for on a road I paid for,” he said.

Watkins was protesting a police department checkpoint by alerting drivers of its presence prior to the checkpoint. Watkins stood next to the police vehicles yelling, “You criminals!” at the police officers.

Mr. Watkins, actually you do. Driving is a privilege, not a right. So if you want to drive on the public street you need to be licensed, as well as have your vehicle insured, registered, and inspected. Don't like that, take the bus. Sounds more like you are the criminal to me.
“Cop Blockers” are people who are overly critical of the state of policing in the United States and seek to promote and publicize acts by police officers, often sensationalized, to portray police departments as over aggressive para-military forces. In this incident Watkins said his goal was to expose the checkpoint as nothing more than a revenue generating operation for the department.

No, we just protect and serve. The last officer my agency lost was from a drunk driver so it's not a "revenue generating operation for the department". Hope you enjoy your time at court as I know the officers will enjoy their overtime. With an attitude like yours I know they will show up. And please, don't hire a lawyer, hate to see you put out the money like that! ;<)

Monday, December 22, 2014

RIP Joe Cocker

From a classic of Saturday Night Live, Joe Cocker with John Belushi playing Cocker:

Security Weekly: December 18, 2014

By Scott Stewart

Some media outlets are reporting that the Sydney hostage situation was the work of a lone madman rather than an act of terrorism, but an examination of the perpetrator's motives reveals that the case exhibits many of the elements associated with grassroots terrorism.

Shortly before 10 a.m. on Dec. 15, a lone gunman, later identified as Man Haron Monis, took 17 people hostage at the Lindt Chocolat Cafe in Sydney's central business district. As the ordeal dragged on, Monis reportedly told some of those in the cafe that they were going to die at dawn unless his demands were met. At approximately 2 a.m. on Dec. 16, one of the hostages attempted to take the shotgun away from a drowsy Monis, prompting some of the other hostages to flee as Monis opened fire. Hearing shots, the police entered the cafe and killed Monis, but two hostages were also killed in the exchange, including the man who attempted to take the gun. Several others, including a police officer, were wounded.

Monis — a self-ascribed cleric who called himself Sheikh Haron on his website, Twitter, Facebook and on other social media outlets — was born in Iran and had sought and received asylum in Australia. Subsequently, he garnered a fairly extensive criminal history, which included charges of accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and multiple charges of sexual assault. At the time of the hostage incident, Monis was out on bail and facing trial on these charges. He also had a previous conviction for sending insulting messages to the families of Australian soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan and had carried out a number of high-profile protests. In one instance, Monis chained himself to a Sydney courthouse after being convicted in the letters case. He also claimed to have been tortured while in jail.

Though Monis was born in Iran and was originally a devotee of Shiite Islam, according to his website, he had converted to Sunni Islam and had recently become a follower of the Islamic State. Because of his criminal history, heavy social media activity and the protests he conducted, Monis was well known to police in New South Wales, to the Australian Federal Police and to the Australian Security Intelligence Organization.

Lone Nut?

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott told reporters at a Dec. 6 press conference it was obvious Monis "was a deeply disturbed individual." Similarly, members of the Muslim community and even Monis' own lawyer described him as mentally unstable. Some have interpreted this to mean that the attack was the work of a mentally disturbed individual and not an act of terrorism, but as seen in past cases, these classifications are not mutually exclusive. There are plenty of past cases of terrorism in which the perpetrator has been delusional or otherwise mentally unbalanced, something a brief perusal of Anders Behring Breivik's compendium or Ted Kaczynski's manifesto makes clear.

Intent is what separates cases of terrorism from the acts of other violent madmen. Terrorism is violence perpetrated for political purposes, and despite any personal, legal or mental problems Monis might have faced, he clearly intended this incident to be an act of terrorist theater.

Monis' political motives were clearly expressed by the headband he wore which read, "We are your soldiers oh Muhammad," and by the black flag bearing the Shahada that he forced one of the hostages to hold against the cafe window. Though the Shahada is used on a number of Muslim flags, including the national flag of Saudi Arabia, the black banner has come to represent the flag of war, and a number of jihadist groups have adopted various versions of it, including al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Monis also forced some of the hostages to stand in front of the flag to record messages he posted to YouTube, similar to the highly publicized videos the Islamic State has released featuring hostages in Syria. In these messages Monis reportedly demanded to speak with Prime Minister Abbott over live broadcast, he insisted that the media announce that the hostage scenario was an attack by the Islamic State, and he requested what he called an Islamic State flag, which presumably is the black banner used widely by the Islamic State that contains the Shahada plus a circle that is purported to represent the seal of the Prophet Mohammed.

Despite Monis' reported mental instability, the sequence of events in this incident clearly demonstrate that he was acting in a planned, logical manner designed to accomplish his goals — however delusional those goals may have been.

Intent Is Key, Not Ability

Some argue that because Monis was amateurish, acted alone and had no connections to terrorists outside of Australia, his acts were not acts of terrorism. But just because Monis was more of a bumbling Kramer than a deadly Carlos the Jackal does not mean he was not a grassroots terrorist operative. Indeed, as we've previously discussed, most grassroots operatives tend to be more like stray mutts than lone wolves.

In this case, a jihadist convert, who was very active on social media, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and stated that he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State. He also conducted an attack against an extremely soft target, using a very simple attack with an easily acquired weapon. Firearms are fairly difficult to acquire in Australia, but it is far easier to obtain a shotgun than a fully automatic assault rifle or a large truck bomb. The Australian Federal Police will certainly trace Monis' shotgun to determine its origins. Most likely it was stolen or bought on the black market.

Finally, by choosing to take hostages rather than enter the cafe shooting, Monis was able to prolong the incident rather than be taken out quickly by police. As we've previously discussed, active shooter protocols were designed as a response to school shootings and other mass shooting incidents, but they also help police agencies mitigate terrorist incidents and keep them from becoming prolonged sieges, as was the 2009 Mumbai attack.

Some have suggested that Monis' modus operandi signified he was unwilling to die in the operation, but his choice of tactics may also have been an acknowledgement of active shooter protocols and an attempt to avoid them. By prolonging the event into an extended act of terrorist theater, he captured the world's attention for over 16 hours, reaching millions of vicarious victims through his antics. That Monis reportedly threatened to begin shooting his hostages at dawn and then went down shooting at police rather than surrendering supports the idea that he was intentionally exploiting police protocol.

Can't Track Them All

Finally, there are many who will criticize the Australian government for releasing Monis on bail awaiting trial and for not putting him on a terrorist watch list. However, such criticism illustrates one of the largest challenges that the leaderless resistance model of operations poses for law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Because there was no known contact between Monis and terrorist actors overseas, there was no intelligence to indicate he might be planning an attack in Australia.

As a lone actor, Monis did not have to coordinate his attack with other plotters. There was no conspiracy for Australian law enforcement to penetrate, and unless Monis did something to draw attention during the attack planning process, he was unlikely to be detected. There were points during the attack cycle when Monis was vulnerable to detection, such as when he conducted preoperational surveillance or when he obtained his shotgun. But he was not detected and was able to launch his attack.

Though Monis expressed his support for the Islamic State on social media, that is not illegal in Australia, and he was only one of many do so. Until he broke the law or made contact with known terrorist entities, the Australian authorities were not likely to focus specifically on him. Indeed, because he was well known to police and had conducted a number of non-violent publicity stunts, he may have been perceived as less of a threat. In his protests after the letters case, for example, he publicly stated that his pen was his gun and his words were his bullets.

As in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and elsewhere, there are simply too many jihadist cheerleaders in Australia — and government resources are too limited — to monitor the activities of each of them. Therefore, grassroots operatives will continue to pose a challenge, albeit a limited one, to countries in the West.

The Sydney Hostage Incident Was a Classic Case of Grassroots Terrorism is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Officer Down

Police Officer Charles Kondek
Tarpon Springs Florida Police Department
End of Watch: Sunday, December 21, 2014
Age: 45
Tour: 22 years

Police Officer Charlie Kondek was shot and killed while responding to a noise complaint call at 199 Grand Boulevard.

Residents of an apartment complex had called police because a man who had been knocking on apartment doors at approximately 2:00 am. When Officer Kondek arrived at the scene he was shot by the subject.

The man then fled in a vehicle but was apprehended a short distance away after crashing into a utility pole and parked car.

Officer Kondek had served with the Tarpon Springs Police Department for 17 years and had previously served with the New York City Police Department for five years. He is survived by his wife and five children.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

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

Geopolitical Weekly: Viewing Russia From the Inside, December 16, 2014

By George Friedman

Last week I flew into Moscow, arriving at 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 8. It gets dark in Moscow around that time, and the sun doesn't rise until about 10 a.m. at this time of the year — the so-called Black Days versus White Nights. For anyone used to life closer to the equator, this is unsettling. It is the first sign that you are not only in a foreign country, which I am used to, but also in a foreign environment. Yet as we drove toward downtown Moscow, well over an hour away, the traffic, the road work, were all commonplace. Moscow has three airports, and we flew into the farthest one from downtown, Domodedovo — the primary international airport. There is endless renovation going on in Moscow, and while it holds up traffic, it indicates that prosperity continues, at least in the capital.

Our host met us and we quickly went to work getting a sense of each other and talking about the events of the day. He had spent a great deal of time in the United States and was far more familiar with the nuances of American life than I was with Russian. In that he was the perfect host, translating his country to me, always with the spin of a Russian patriot, which he surely was. We talked as we drove into Moscow, managing to dive deep into the subject.

From him, and from conversations with Russian experts on most of the regions of the world — students at the Institute of International Relations — and with a handful of what I took to be ordinary citizens (not employed by government agencies engaged in managing Russia's foreign and economic affairs), I gained a sense of Russia's concerns. The concerns are what you might expect. The emphasis and order of those concerns were not.

Russians' Economic Expectations

I thought the economic problems of Russia would be foremost on people's minds. The plunge of the ruble, the decline in oil prices, a general slowdown in the economy and the effect of Western sanctions all appear in the West to be hammering the Russian economy. Yet this was not the conversation I was having. The decline in the ruble has affected foreign travel plans, but the public has only recently begun feeling the real impact of these factors, particularly through inflation.

But there was another reason given for the relative calm over the financial situation, and it came not only from government officials but also from private individuals and should be considered very seriously. The Russians pointed out that economic shambles was the norm for Russia, and prosperity the exception. There is always the expectation that prosperity will end and the normal constrictions of Russian poverty return.

The Russians suffered terribly during the 1990s under Boris Yeltsin but also under previous governments stretching back to the czars. In spite of this, several pointed out, they had won the wars they needed to win and had managed to live lives worth living. The golden age of the previous 10 years was coming to an end. That was to be expected, and it would be endured. The government officials meant this as a warning, and I do not think it was a bluff. The pivot of the conversation was about sanctions, and the intent was to show that they would not cause Russia to change its policy toward Ukraine.

Russians' strength is that they can endure things that would break other nations. It was also pointed out that they tend to support the government regardless of competence when Russia feels threatened. Therefore, the Russians argued, no one should expect that sanctions, no matter how harsh, would cause Moscow to capitulate. Instead the Russians would respond with their own sanctions, which were not specified but which I assume would mean seizing the assets of Western companies in Russia and curtailing agricultural imports from Europe. There was no talk of cutting off natural gas supplies to Europe.

If this is so, then the Americans and Europeans are deluding themselves on the effects of sanctions. In general, I personally have little confidence in the use of sanctions. That being said, the Russians gave me another prism to look through. Sanctions reflect European and American thresholds of pain. They are designed to cause pain that the West could not withstand. Applied to others, the effects may vary.

My sense is that the Russians were serious. It would explain why the increased sanctions, plus oil price drops, economic downturns and the rest simply have not caused the erosion of confidence that would be expected. Reliable polling numbers show that President Vladimir Putin is still enormously popular. Whether he remains popular as the decline sets in, and whether the elite being hurt financially are equally sanguine, is another matter. But for me the most important lesson I might have learned in Russia — "might" being the operative term — is that Russians don't respond to economic pressure as Westerners do, and that the idea made famous in a presidential campaign slogan, "It's the economy, stupid," may not apply the same way in Russia.

The Ukrainian Issue

There was much more toughness on Ukraine. There is acceptance that events in Ukraine were a reversal for Russia and resentment that the Obama administration mounted what Russians regard as a propaganda campaign to try to make it appear that Russia was the aggressor. Two points were regularly made. The first was that Crimea was historically part of Russia and that it was already dominated by the Russian military under treaty. There was no invasion but merely the assertion of reality. Second, there was heated insistence that eastern Ukraine is populated by Russians and that as in other countries, those Russians must be given a high degree of autonomy. One scholar pointed to the Canadian model and Quebec to show that the West normally has no problem with regional autonomy for ethnically different regions but is shocked that the Russians might want to practice a form of regionalism commonplace in the West.

The case of Kosovo is extremely important to the Russians both because they feel that their wishes were disregarded there and because it set a precedent. Years after the fall of the Serbian government that had threatened the Albanians in Kosovo, the West granted Kosovo independence. The Russians argued that the borders were redrawn although no danger to Kosovo existed. Russia didn't want it to happen, but the West did it because it could. In the Russian view, having redrawn the map of Serbia, the West has no right to object to redrawing the map of Ukraine.

I try not to be drawn into matters of right and wrong, not because I don't believe there is a difference but because history is rarely decided by moral principles. I have understood the Russians' view of Ukraine as a necessary strategic buffer and the idea that without it they would face a significant threat, if not now, then someday. They point to Napoleon and Hitler as examples of enemies defeated by depth.

I tried to provide a strategic American perspective. The United States has spent the past century pursuing a single objective: avoiding the rise of any single hegemon that might be able to exploit Western European technology and capital and Russian resources and manpower. The United States intervened in World War I in 1917 to block German hegemony, and again in World War II. In the Cold War the goal was to prevent Russian hegemony. U.S. strategic policy has been consistent for a century.

The United States has been conditioned to be cautious of any rising hegemon. In this case the fear of a resurgent Russia is a recollection of the Cold War, but not an unreasonable one. As some pointed out to me, economic weakness has rarely meant military weakness or political disunity. I agreed with them on this and pointed out that this is precisely why the United States has a legitimate fear of Russia in Ukraine. If Russia manages to reassert its power in Ukraine, then what will come next? Russia has military and political power that could begin to impinge on Europe. Therefore, it is not irrational for the United States, and at least some European countries, to want to assert their power in Ukraine.

When I laid out this argument to a very senior official from the Russian Foreign Ministry, he basically said he had no idea what I was trying to say. While I think he fully understood the geopolitical imperatives guiding Russia in Ukraine, to him the centurylong imperatives guiding the United States are far too vast to apply to the Ukrainian issue. It is not a question of him only seeing his side of the issue. Rather, it is that for Russia, Ukraine is an immediate issue, and the picture I draw of American strategy is so abstract that it doesn't seem to connect with the immediate reality. There is an automatic American response to what it sees as Russian assertiveness; however, the Russians feel they have been far from offensive and have been on the defense. For the official, American fears of Russian hegemony were simply too far-fetched to contemplate.

In other gatherings, with the senior staff of the Institute of International Relations, I tried a different tack, trying to explain that the Russians had embarrassed U.S. President Barack Obama in Syria. Obama had not wanted to attack when poison gas was used in Syria because it was militarily difficult and because if he toppled Syrian President Bashar al Assad, it would leave Sunni jihadists in charge of the country. The United States and Russia had identical interests, I asserted, and the Russian attempt to embarrass the president by making it appear that Putin had forced him to back down triggered the U.S. response in Ukraine. Frankly, I thought my geopolitical explanation was a lot more coherent than this argument, but I tried it out. The discussion was over lunch, but my time was spent explaining and arguing, not eating. I found that I could hold my own geopolitically but that they had mastered the intricacies of the Obama administration in ways I never will.

The Future for Russia and the West

The more important question was what will come next. The obvious question is whether the Ukrainian crisis will spread to the Baltics, Moldova or the Caucasus. I raised this with the Foreign Ministry official. He was emphatic, making the point several times that this crisis would not spread. I took that to mean that there would be no Russian riots in the Baltics, no unrest in Moldova and no military action in the Caucasus. I think he was sincere. The Russians are stretched as it is. They must deal with Ukraine, and they must cope with the existing sanctions, however much they can endure economic problems. The West has the resources to deal with multiple crises. Russia needs to contain this crisis in Ukraine.

The Russians will settle for a degree of autonomy for Russians within parts of eastern Ukraine. How much autonomy, I do not know. They need a significant gesture to protect their interests and to affirm their significance. Their point that regional autonomy exists in many countries is persuasive. But history is about power, and the West is using its power to press Russia hard. But obviously, nothing is more dangerous than wounding a bear. Killing him is better, but killing Russia has not proved easy.

I came away with two senses. One was that Putin was more secure than I thought. In the scheme of things, that does not mean much. Presidents come and go. But it is a reminder that things that would bring down a Western leader may leave a Russian leader untouched. Second, the Russians do not plan a campaign of aggression. Here I am more troubled — not because they want to invade anyone, but because nations frequently are not aware of what is about to happen, and they might react in ways that will surprise them. That is the most dangerous thing about the situation. It is not what is intended, which seems genuinely benign. What is dangerous is the action that is unanticipated, both by others and by Russia.

At the same time, my general analysis remains intact. Whatever Russia might do elsewhere, Ukraine is of fundamental strategic importance to Russia. Even if the east received a degree of autonomy, Russia would remain deeply concerned about the relationship of the rest of Ukraine to the West. As difficult as this is for Westerners to fathom, Russian history is a tale of buffers. Buffer states save Russia from Western invaders. Russia wants an arrangement that leaves Ukraine at least neutral.

For the United States, any rising power in Eurasia triggers an automatic response born of a century of history. As difficult as it is for Russians to understand, nearly half a century of a Cold War left the United States hypersensitive to the possible re-emergence of Russia. The United States spent the past century blocking the unification of Europe under a single, hostile power. What Russia intends and what America fears are very different things.

The United States and Europe have trouble understanding Russia's fears. Russia has trouble understanding particularly American fears. The fears of both are real and legitimate. This is not a matter of misunderstanding between countries but of incompatible imperatives. All of the good will in the world — and there is precious little of that — cannot solve the problem of two major countries that are compelled to protect their interests and in doing so must make the other feel threatened. I learned much in my visit. I did not learn how to solve this problem, save that at the very least each must understand the fears of the other, even if they can't calm them.

Viewing Russia From the Inside is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Officer Down

Police Officer Wenjian Liu
New York City Police Department
End of Watch: Saturday, December 20, 2014
Age: 32
Tour: 7 years, 6 months

Police Officer Rafael Ramos
New York City Police Department
End of Watch: Saturday, December 20, 2014
Age: 40
Tour: 2 years
Incident Date: 12/20/2014

Officer Wenjian Liu and Police Officer Rafael Ramos were shot and killed from ambush while sitting in their patrol car at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Thompkins Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Both officers were participating in an anti-terrorism drill when a subject walked up to their patrol car and opened fire with a handgun, striking them both in the head and upper body multiple times. Other officers immediately pursued the the subject into a nearby subway station where the man committed suicide.

The subject was a gang member from Baltimore, Maryland, who had traveled to New York City specifically to ambush police officers. The man had published his intentions on social media prior to the shooting.

Officer Liu had served with the New York City Police Department for 7-1/2 years and was assigned to the 84th Precinct. He is survived by his wife of two months.

Officer Ramos had served with the New York City Police Department for two years and was assigned to the 84th Precinct. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
Rest in Peace Gentlemen…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

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

Another example of things so stupid they can only be federally funded.

A few weeks ago my friend Darren at Right on the Left Coast published the results of a US Department of Agriculture investigation on "Why Americans Eat Fast Food". Wait for it, because it's food we can eat quickly. Who would have thunk it? My comment was "Some things are so f!@#ing stupid they can only be federally funded.

Well here is another classic example of government waste, err critical government operations.

$466,642 Federal Study: Why Do Fat Girls Date Less and Risk More?

(CNSNews.com) – The National Institutes of Health has awarded $466,642 in taxpayer dollars to Magee-Women’s Research Institute and Foundation in Pittsburgh, Pa., to study and compare the intimate relationships of obese and non-obese girls.

“Mounting evidence demonstrates that weight influences intimate (i.e., dating and sexual) relationship formation and sexual negotiations among adolescent girls. Obese girls consistently report having fewer dating and sexual experiences, but more sexual risk behaviors (i.e., condom nonuse) once they are sexually active,” the grant abstract said.

“No studies have actually examined whether the interpersonal skills and intimate relationships of obese and non-obese girls differ,” it said.

The project will use information from the National Longitudinal Survey of Adolescent Health, conducted between 1994 and 2008, and the Pittsburgh Girls Study, an ongoing study which began in 2000.

The goals of the project are “to (1) determine whether obese adolescent girls experience a delay in the development of peer and intimate relationship skills compared to non-obese adolescent girls; (2) compare the characteristics of intimate relationships among obese and non-obese adolescent girls; (3) use longitudinal growth curve modeling to determine whether trajectories of romantic and sexual relationship characteristics differ between obese and non-obese adolescent girls over time; (4) determine how peer and intimate relationship skills affect trajectories of intimate relationships among obese and non-obese adolescent girls over time; and (5) compare the development of interpersonal skills and intimate relationship characteristics between obese and non-obese African American and White adolescent girls.”

The overarching goal of the research is “to expand the conceptual framework linking weight to adolescent sexual risk-taking thereby providing critical information useful for tailoring adolescent sexual risk-reduction interventions and sexual negotiation skills building programs.”

CNSNews.com attempted to contact Aletha Akers, project leader for the grant, by email for comment, but no comment was provided before publication.

CBS News, if your name was associated with such stupidity would you want it publicly attached to it? What a waste of money.

Officer Down

Deputy Sheriff John Robert Street
George County Mississippi Sheriff's Office
End of Watch: Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Age: 24
Tour: 4 years

Deputy Sheriff John Street was killed in a single vehicle crash on Highway 57 while responding to an accident at approximately 2:00 am.

His patrol car left the roadway and struck a tree during his response. Other deputies were dispatched to locate him after he failed to respond to radio traffic.

Deputy Street had served as a part-time deputy with the George County Sheriff's Office for four years and also served as a full time police officer with the Lucedale Police Department. He is survived by his wife and two young children.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

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

Security Weekly: The Islamic State Admits a Weakness, December 11, 2014

By Scott Stewart

On Dec. 7, the Islamic State released a video in which John Maguire, a Canadian citizen who uses the nom de guerre Abu Anwar al-Canadi, threatened more terrorist attacks in Canada in response to the Canadian government's continuing participation in the international coalition conducting airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In the video, al-Canadi urged Canadian Muslims to either migrate to the Islamic State or conduct terrorist attacks in Canada, following the examples of Martin Rouleau, who ran over and killed a Canadian soldier with his vehicle on Oct. 20, and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, who shot and killed a soldier at the Canadian National War Memorial before being shot and killed himself by the authorities inside the Canadian Parliament building on Oct. 22. In the video, al-Canadi said, "You either pack your bags, or you prepare your explosive devices. You either purchase your airline ticket, or you sharpen your knife." While the al-Canadi video is certain to create a stir in Canada, where people and authorities are still on edge following the two grassroots jihadist attacks in October, the fact that the Islamic State released such a video is actually more of an admission of weakness than a sign of strength.

Those Who Can, Do

The fact that al-Canadi asked Canadian Muslims to conduct additional attacks is an admission that the group does not have the ability to conduct such attacks itself. Now, some may argue that as the self-proclaimed leader of Muslims worldwide, Islamic State leader Caliph Ibrahim is within his rights to order Muslims living in the West to conduct attacks, but that is a cop-out. Groups that can conduct attacks do not ask outsiders for help — they just attack. When a group asks outsiders to attack on its behalf, it is a clear admission that it does not possess that capability on its own and is therefore a sign of weakness.

As we have previously noted, the Islamic State and its predecessor organizations have never conducted terrorist attacks outside of their region of operations, and even their efforts to launch attacks in neighboring Jordan have not been successful compared to their terrorist operations in Iraq and Syria. This lack of success stems from operating remotely in hostile territory, a far more difficult task than operating locally and using internal communication lines. Projection of terrorist capabilities at the transnational level requires different elements of terrorist tradecraft than attacking locally, and the Islamic State has not yet exhibited the capabilities required to do so.

If the Islamic State were working to develop the tradecraft capabilities required for transnational terrorist operations, we would expect to first see them display a greater ability to project force within their region before we would see them attempt to project force half a world away. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula exhibited such a progression in capabilities in 2009 when it attempted to assassinate Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in Saudi Arabia and then attempted to bomb a trans-Atlantic aircraft over Detroit.

Furthermore, if the group were actually in the process of planning and executing an attack on Canadian soil, it would be foolish to raise alert levels. There are few terrorist organizations that possess the skill and moxie required to attack during times of heightened alert. Most terrorist operatives prefer to have both strategic and tactical surprise on their side while executing the terrorist attack cycle. Groups already have a hard enough time carrying out attacks without increasing scrutiny on their operations.

This difficulty does not just go for operations conducted by the organization itself. If Islamic State leaders knew of pending plots inside Canada by grassroots jihadists, they would have held onto the message rather than release it. Therefore, this video is an indicator that the Islamic State not only lacks the capability to conduct attacks in Canada, but that it also does not know of any planned attacks.

In the past we have seen cases like that of Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan, where the lone wolf was in contact with a jihadist group — in his case, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula — and they knew he was planning an attack. Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda core also reportedly squelched a terrorist attack in Asia in 2001 prior to the 9/11 attacks because they did not want to raise alert levels and jeopardize their operation, which was already underway inside the United States at that time.

Fizzled Out

The video was more than just an admission that the Islamic State does not have the capability to conduct attacks in Canada or the West. It is also an acknowledgement that the group's previous calls for grassroots jihadists to rise up have fallen flat after an initial burst of activity. After the two attacks in Canada and a hatchet attack against New York police officers — all which occurred within three days in October — we were forced to wonder whether the unprecedented rash of Islamic State-inspired grassroots attacks was a new trend or a temporary anomaly. After several weeks of silence, we can now see that the burst of attacks was anomalous and was not the beginning of a sustained period of high tempo grassroots attacks in the West.

Certainly, the danger of attacks by grassroots jihadists remains, and there is a higher probability of such an attack in the West than of an attack by the al Qaeda core or the Islamic State. Simple grassroots attacks are quite easy to conduct, especially if the assailant uses readily available weapons like in the October attacks rather than attempting more aspirational operations involving weapons beyond the attacker's immediate grasp. Such ambitious assaults have led to the arrests of a number of would-be grassroots attackers in sting operations. However, while simple attacks are quite easy to conduct, they tend to be far less deadly than those conducted by more sophisticated terrorist groups. Moreover, we have not seen a sustained wave of such attacks, despite their simplicity.

The Islamic State also noticed that the spark it attempted to light had not become a conflagration and that it needed to make another effort to start one with al-Canadi's videos. However, it continues to be clear that while the grassroots threat is a chronic problem, it is not an existential threat to the United States or the West.

The Islamic State Admits a Weakness is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Officer Down

Police Officer Richard Anthony Champion
Perryopolis Borough Pennsylvania Police Department
End of Watch: Sunday, December 14, 2014
Age: 36
Tour: 8 months

Police Officer Richard Champion was killed in a vehicle crash while pursing a vehicle on Pittsburgh Road, in Perry Township, at approximately 1:00 pm.

During the pursuit another vehicle turned in front of Officer Champion's patrol car, causing a collision. Officer Champion became trapped in the patrol car while it caught fire. Several citizens attempted to break the windows but were unable to free him from the wreckage. The driver of the other vehicle in the crash was transported to a hospital in critical condition.

The vehicle he was pursuing continued to flee the and the driver remains at large.

Officer Champion was a military veteran. He had served with the Perryopolis Borough Police Department for eight months and also worked part-time with the Derry Borough Police Department. He is survived by his wife and 16-month-old child.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

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

Geopolitical Weekly: Seeking the Future of Europe in the Ancient Hanseatic League, December 9, 2014

By Mark Fleming-Williams

A bargain, forged in the fires of 2012's economic emergency, has defined the European Union for the past two years. It was an agreement made between two sides that can be defined in several terms — the center and the periphery, the north and the south, the producers and the consumers — but essentially one side, led by Germany, provided finance, while the other, fronted by Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece, promised change. In order to gauge this arrangement's chances of ultimately succeeding, it is important to understand what Germany was hoping to achieve with its conditional financing. The answer to that question lies in Germany's own history.

Last week, the Governing Council of the European Central Bank's monthly meeting left financial markets feeling frustrated. Instead of announcing the beginning of a highly anticipated bond-buying program known as quantitative easing, the European Central Bank, or ECB, only slightly changed the vocabulary it used to describe its plans: "We expect" became "we intend." Pulses did not race with excitement.

In fact, the most interesting news of the day was that seven of the 22 members of the council apparently voted against the change in vocabulary. Those opposed included four governors of national central banks and three of the EU executive board's six members, who, in theory, are responsible for shaping ECB policy. This ongoing debate over finances is deeply important to Europe's future because it touches on a key question at the heart of the European project: Is Germany willing to underwrite the whole venture? Germany gave a partial answer to this question in 2012 when it financed the EU rescues of several member states, but the conditions it attached have since created more problems.

The trouble began with 2008's economic crash and peaked four years later with a sovereign bond crisis. Germany reacted by creating various mechanisms and funds to bail out stricken countries, including Outright Monetary Transactions to safeguard sovereign bond prices. In return, the bailed-out nations had to enact painful changes to increase their competitiveness — at a lifestyle cost to their citizens. The rest of the union had to commit to financial reform by signing the European Fiscal Compact. With these conditions, Berlin hoped to bring the rest of Europe through a process Germany had already undergone.

The Makings of an Economic Miracle

After the Second World War, Germany found itself occupied and split in two. It was positioned in the middle of a continent that feared it, and its economy had been wrecked by 30 years of war and turmoil. Militarism had failed repeatedly and spectacularly. Germany needed a new ethos, so it returned to its roots.

Before the German unification of 1871 set the new nation on a course to its own demise, the great behemoth known as the Holy Roman Empire had stretched across Central Europe for over a thousand years, from 800 to 1806. It was a patchwork of states varying in size. Some were ruled by princes while some were independent cities, but all owed ultimate allegiance to the Holy Roman Emperor, whose real power over his vassals was paltry in comparison to that of the French kings or Russian tsars at his flanks. The Holy Roman Empire was a network of Germanic peoples, where no unit was powerful enough to militarily dominate its neighbors or to truly unify the region into a single state. The result was a competitive market where each princedom, duchy and city's survival was largely based on its own efficiency and resources, along with those of any peers with which alliances were formed. Local resources were leveraged, and skilled craftspeople trained through lengthy apprenticeships, forming guilds that created products recognized for their excellence across the Continent.

In the 13th century, a group of these states came together to create a trading federation centered on the northern cities of Lubeck and Hamburg. This federation, which originated in modern Germany and expanded to cities on the coasts of what is today Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Sweden and the Netherlands, came to be known as the Hanseatic League. The league dominated the North and Baltic seas in a manner reminiscent of the Romans in the Mediterranean a millennium before, but Hanseatic power was very much based on trade rather than force. The league's gigantic ships brought raw materials, including timber and grain, from its eastern members to ports in England and carried shipments of cloth and manufactured wool to Novgorod, Russia, on return voyages.

Meanwhile, German industry grew in the center of the web. Family connections and close relationships were used to create a reliable and efficient network that lowered transaction costs to great effect. "Made in Germany" became a trademark that carried great weight in 16th-century London. But ultimately, the discovery of the New World proved to be the Hanseatic League's death knell because the resulting shift in trade routes made having an Atlantic coast a requirement for success. The final meeting of the league took place in 1669.

Prussia rose in prominence during the industrialization period that followed the end of the Holy Roman Empire. The strong Prussian bureaucracy and its military power combined with the diplomatic genius of Otto von Bismarck to finally bring about a unified German state. But the economic strength of the new country and its precarious position on the North European Plain made war inevitable. The next 70 years saw this play out with great destruction.

When West Germany turned to competitiveness, trade and exports as the solutions to its woes in 1948, it was returning to ancient strengths. That year, future German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard led the drive to introduce a new currency because he felt there were far too many reichsmarks in the system and that this was harming the economy. He proposed the deutsche mark, a new currency that ultimately reduced the money supply by 93 percent. The deutsche mark propelled the economy forward and provided an early boost to exports, but the switch also caused a substantial reduction in the net wealth of many people.

The next thing Germany needed was a stable market, and in 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community — the European Union's predecessor — was formed. For France, Germany's primary partner in this venture, the attraction was obvious. By joining the European project, France, which had been invaded by Germany three times in 70 years, could shield itself from German attacks and position itself to take a leading role in Europe's development. Germany, meanwhile, obtained a tariff-free market for its products, and the close alliance with France allowed it an influential, yet less menacing voice. The new arrangement had immediate results. German exports as a percentage of output rose from 8.5 percent in 1950 to 14.6 percent in 1960 and even higher to 27.6 percent in 1985. If services are taken into account, exports today make up 50 percent of Germany's gross domestic product, one of the highest such percentages in the world. Moreover, German excellence in mechanical, electrical and chemical engineering, in addition to a strong automotive sector, turned the country into a trade juggernaut. Just as the Hanseatic League did, Germany found a target market in the rest of Europe and proceeded to outcompete it, becoming even more powerful after reunification in 1990.

The Euro Shakes Things Up

For a long time, Germany functioned well in its role, but trouble emerged with the creation of the euro in 2000. A common currency removed the only real defense the other European countries had against the German trade machine: the ability to devalue. Plus, the euro was cheaper than the deutsche mark had been, making German exports even more competitive on the global stage and contributing to further efficiency gains. The extent to which Germany outcompeted its neighbors in this period is reflected by current account balances — by 2008, Germany had a surplus of 5.8 percent of GDP while Ireland, Portugal and Spain had deficits of 9.4 percent, 12.1 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively. When periphery countries were forced to reconcile these current account deficits with the post-2008 economic realities, it led to debt explosions that contributed to the 2012 euro crisis.

Germany found itself in danger of being pulled under by its own market. Its response was simple and predictable: It would put its peers through the same process it had undergone. All of Europe would be reformed and brought into a modern day Hanseatic League, ready to export their products competitively, just as Germany did. It is no coincidence that around this time, talks began on a new trade agreement with the United States known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. A larger league would need a substantial external market with which to trade.

But the power that allowed Germany to impose these reforms was fleeting. Only the countries that had asked for bailout money — Portugal, Spain, Ireland and Greece — could be forced to take the medicine. France and Italy faced less pressure to reform because they had avoided bailouts, and they were harder to bully because of their relative size and importance.

Now, two years after the crisis, the divergent results are beginning to show. The bailout countries have suffered greatly from the austerity measures, but there are signs that wage decreases and spending cuts are increasing their competitiveness and beginning to turn them around. Spain celebrated a record month for employment gains in November (though with unemployment at 24 percent, there is clearly still a long way to go), and Ireland is forecast to grow by 3.6 percent next year, making it the fastest-growing country in Europe. France and Italy, by contrast, have not reformed, and their economies have stagnated as a result. Furthermore, the European Commission's failed attempts to enforce the Fiscal Compact and change French and Italian behavior have exposed the weaknesses in Europe's institutions.

Germany Cannot Do it Alone

In particular, France's shift from central power to problem case presents a huge issue for Europe. In a continent with a long history of central powers attempting total domination, there is a deep mistrust of allowing a single player too much control over the rest. The Franco-German alliance mitigated this danger, allowing their joint pronouncements to represent the voice of Europe in a non-threatening way. But now that France is diverting from the German course, Berlin finds itself having to make difficult decisions alone. The latent fear across the Continent, however, constrains Germany's ability to enforce its decisions.

France's shift away from Germany is particularly problematic going into 2015, when elections in Spain and possibly in Greece could empower Podemos and Syriza, two political parties with a close relationship that oppose German austerity policies. In Germany, the postwar shift toward competitive trade tapped into a residual cultural history, but neither Spain nor Greece has a history of supporting itself through exports. Spain's historical wealth was achieved not through competitiveness but by conquest and plunder of the New World. Throughout its history, Greece has invariably been subsidized by a larger patron. In addition, the Germany of 1948 had just lost a war, so its people met the hardship of rebirth with pragmatism. In Spain and Greece, by contrast, it is less clear who is to blame for their plight, so the hardship feels more like an injustice. This feeling has led to the rise of the populist parties. Managing the leaders of two anti-EU nations would be difficult if France and Germany were united, but for a Germany going it alone and acutely aware of its own international image, the task will surely be impossible.

The majority vote on Dec. 4 by the ECB was its latest rebellion against Germany's attempts to shape the Continent. It represents a push by the periphery side of the 2012 bargain: Quantitative easing would involve more spending from the European center without any additional structural reforms to increase competitiveness in the periphery. With this in mind, it is interesting to note which three central bankers chose to vote with Germany against the proposed change. The representatives who felt that Germany's position was worth upholding were from Estonia, Latvia and the Netherlands — the only other three members of the old Hanseatic League currently in the eurozone. It seems the league has lasted longer than anyone realized.

If it could be achieved, there are signs that Germany's dream just might work. Positive economic signals in the bailout countries suggest the reforms might be effective. In the United States, record job creation figures released Dec. 5 suggest the target market might be ready to begin receiving European exports. All the necessary pieces are clicking into place, but the dream is still doomed. The intransigence of France and Italy and the rising backlashes in the bailout countries betray the underlying truth. Germany is battling millennia of cultural history, and it does not have the power to change Europe on its own.

As a grouping of independent states rather than a nation, the Hanseatic League also found it difficult to make proactive decisions. When the king of Denmark threatened Visby, a strategic island for the league's trade network, 70 Hanseatic cities responded to the emergency by sending ships and men. The powerful force rampaged through Denmark, sacking Copenhagen and Helsingborg, which was then part of the Danish kingdom. In some ways, modern Europe functions in a similar manner. In a time of crisis, the states are able to gather together and combat the danger effectively, but the network is ill-equipped to cope with a slow decline. No single player has been able to galvanize its peers into action in the absence of a clear danger. Looking forward, Germany's ability to manage its peers is as constrained as Lubeck's was in the Hanseatic League. The force that must be gathered is no longer ships and men, but the underlying commitment and money needed is just as fleeting today.

Editor's Note: Writing in George Friedman's stead this week is Economy Analyst Mark Fleming-Williams.
Seeking the Future of Europe in the Ancient Hanseatic League is republished with permission of Stratfor.

Officer Down

Deputy Sheriff Grant William Whitaker
Ingham County Michigan Sheriff's Office
End of Watch: Sunday, December 7, 2014
Age: 25
Tour: 1 year, 6 months
Badge # 5497

Deputy Sheriff Grant Whitaker was killed in a vehicle crash during a pursuit on Dexter Trail, one mile east of Route 52, at approximately 2:00 am.

Deputy Whitaker's patrol car left the roadway and struck a tree during the pursuit, causing him to suffer fatal injuries. The vehicle he was pursuing continued to flee.

The driver of the vehicle was arrested several days later and charged with fleeing to elude causing death and operating a vehicle on a suspended license causing death.

Deputy Whitaker had served with the Ingham County Sheriff's Office for 1-1/2 years. He had previously served with the Stockbridge Police Department and Waterloo Township Police Department.
Rest in Peace Bro…We Got The Watch

Nemo me impune lacessit

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