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The “dirty bomb” issue and the jihadist strategy in Europe

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On November 30, 2015 the Belgian police discovered a film regarding the movements of a Belgian nuclear researcher and his family who operated in Dohel-1, one of the seven nuclear production sites in that country, four in the Dohel region and three in the Tihange region.

The long film of all the nuclear expert’s movements was found in the Auvelais house of a man linked to the network of Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate. The jihadists were interested not so much in the nuclear plant as such, but in the possibility of using radioisotopes, namely products capable of causing poisonings, diseases, various temporary or permanent disorders in those who come into contact with them for a certain period of time.Radioisotopes, also known as radionuclides, are unstable nuclei which radioactively decay, resulting in the emission of nuclear radiations. As already said, the effects may be scarcely or highly significant, depending on the dose of radiations received and/or the type of emissions absorbed.

The α radiations carry two positive charges and can be stopped by a thin aluminium foil. They strongly ionize gases (hence air) but, if produced by a source inside the human body (water, contaminated food), they can cause very severe damage.The β radiations have a negative charge only and are more penetrating than the α ones, but they ionize gases to a lesser extent.They have a greater power to penetrate the human body than α radiations, but these emissions, too, can become dangerous when given off by a source inside the human body.On the contrary the γ radiations have no electric charge but have an undulatory nature, such as electric waves.

The latter have a very high power of penetrating the human body and can cross relevant thick layers of lead and other metals.They are a hundred times more penetrating than the β radiations and are, in effect, electromagnetic wave emissions.All radioisotopes are widely used in medicine, biology, pharmacology (the “radiopharmaceuticals”), archaeology and paleontology.Not to mention industrial applications: the lasers which use the radioisotope emissions are now fundamental in telecommunications, through the “fibre optics” technology.Even the common CD players use these lasers, which are also used for cutting some metal sheets in the manufacturing industry.In all likelihood, the jihadists stationed in Belgium wanted to kidnap that nuclear expert or a member of his family so as to force him to make one or more “dirty bombs”.Here the technological issue turns into a strategic and political issue.

A team of experts is needed to make a dirty bomb, but we cannot rule out that a single “lone wolf” may be able to make it alone, with few recycled materials and using the usual homemade explosives which now characterize most of the blasts occurred so far in Europe due to the sword jihad.You only need saltpetre, sugar or normal gunpowder, which can be easily made at home.It is worth clarifying that the jihad does not want to conquer our territory, but it wants to fully subjugate it, particularly at political and cultural levels.For the jihadists, a “dirty” bomb” has the same value as a cyber attack or a demonstration against miniskirts or halal food in public schools.The important factor is intimidation, leading to hegemony and finally to dominance.This means that, at geopolitical, economic, cultural and demographic levels, the jihadist militants want to make their fight fully functional to the primary interests of the umma, namely the Islamic global community.

The strategic goal is the cultural and economic submission and subjugation of our territories to Islam, possibly with some mass conversion.

The fear, terror and social dissociation caused by the terrorist actions carried out by the men (and women) of Daesh/Isis are aimed at weakening the reactions of the “infidel”.The attacks also serve to increase the costs of our defence, up to making them economically unsustainable and finally blocking the European society so as to freeze it until the final “submission”, just to borrow the title of a smart and successful book by Michel Houellebecq.Therefore it is a long-term warfare, with strong elements of traditional war combined with a real psywar, “psychological warfare.”These actions relate to the management of the good side, the good cop, of integration up to beyond the limits allowed by our social system – which implies cultural and mental-mythical submission and subjugation – and the harsh side, the bad cop, the brutal violence of the recent massacres in Paris and Brussels.Hence a mechanism “if …. then” sets in into the victims’ minds, namely us, whereby we start to think that if we are good and keep quiet and we adapt without saying a word they will not do us harm any more.

This is not true: if we are good and keep quiet, we will be subjugated even more cruelly.Needless to explain this to current politicians in Italy and Europe; they are just canvassers and salesmen in search for foreign capital, possibly from the countries which have always funded the jihad.There are also important socio-economic factors in this psywar using all the elements of our non-orthodox warfare techniques.Again needless to explain these techniques to the above stated canvassers and salesmen who, unfortunately, have also “polluted” the intelligence services.

Firstly, there is the plan already made explicit by Osama Bin Laden to hit the West – the inevitable advocate, for economic and energy reasons, of the “apostate” regimes of Islam and the Jewish State – with a war which is very cheap for the jihad that wages it, but costs a lot, even too much, to those who must defend themselves from it.Compared to the relatively scarce funds needed for the attacks of September 9, 2001, Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda cost over three billion dollars in fifteen years, including the costs of wars, new security and safety standards and part of the covert operations necessary for finding and killing him.Not to mention the still high costs for supporting about 150,000 military staff and one quarter more of the normal US military budget.The jihad started by Bin Laden – a wealthy “daddy’s boy” who became radicalized at the university in Saudi Arabia, as a result of his contacts with a professor linked to the Muslim Brotherhood – is an asymmetrical war of the poor against us, the would-be “rich”.

Hence the jihadists are used as proxy warriors by the rich Muslim countries to progressively impoverish the West, make it suitable for diversified and profitable investment by the OPEC Sunni area and finally create not only an economic, but also a political dependence on the Middle East oil and gas.The terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, not to mention the now sadly neglected affair of mass rapes in Cologne, are the beginning of a new phase of this non-orthodox Islam war in Europe and other continents.Before Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate – which has created the territorial entity needed to the global jihad, for political mythology and as a military base – Mohammed Badie, the former Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and later leader of the Ikhwan International, had explicitly stated: “There is no need for the sword jihad in Europe, we will conquer it only with our growing population”.

The transition from the old to the new jihad, which came to maturity with the establishment of the Daesh-Isis Caliphate, has already changed this Islamist strategic project on Europe.This is exactly the reason why we must be very careful with nuclear “dirty bombs” that will certainly reach their political goal (which is what matters), regardless of their actual potential for nucleotide radiation.Fear is a mechanism which now increases also with small doses of violence.It is hard to estimate how many sites exist today in the world where radionuclides are produced and stored, but the best statistics now available point to over 70,000 storage systems placed in at least 13,000 facilities.The brutality of the attacks and the size of the widespread jihadist network discovered so far in Belgium may be explained by the fact that this country is one of the major world producers of radionuclides and there is at least one researcher of Islamic origin and faith who works in this facility, as we will see shortly.It is the nuclear complex called SK-CEN, a nuclear research centre located near the Bocholt-Herentals Canal, 53 miles away from Brussels.It no longer receives the periodical shipments of radioactive material from the United States, which in 2004 had reported the poor defence structures of the Belgian system in view of a possible attack by Al Qaeda.

Not to mention the fact that the two fake journalists who killed the anti-Taliban Afghan leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, two days before the September 11 attack came from Molenbeek, the neighbourhood which hosted and still partially hosts the Caliphate’s jihadists who carried out the massacres in Paris and Brussels.In 2003 there had been reports of an attempt by one of the Belgian soccer star, Nizar Trabelsi, to put a bomb in the military area of Kleine Brogel, 18 miles away from the aforementioned nuclear research centre, a base hosting twenty US tactical nuclear weapons related to a F-16 squadron.

The base safety and security structures were later deactivated in 2010, even by a group of peace activists, who run about the military structure undisturbed for over two hours.Only in 2014, and after the renovations made by the Belgian government upon US request, did IAEA confirm that the safety and security net in SK-CEN and the nearby military base were effective and robust.It is worth noting that the Belgian nuclear plants supply over 50% of electricity in that country. Is this series of   terrorist actions possibly designed to force Belgium to supply itself only with the Middle East oil and gas?In Italy, the disastrous decision to relinquish civilian nuclear energy was taken with a richly-funded referendum in June 2011, after the equally richly-funded one in 1987, cunningly held shortly after the disaster occurred at the Chernobyl power plant.No one better than the peoples who are not strategically Clausewitzian knows how to better use “psychological warfare” than Muslims.They do not believe that the war obeys strict, Kantian rules, but they think that the war confrontation is always the essence of politics, not its “polarization of extremes”.Hence there will probably be no need for terrorist actions in Italy: in this sector we have already simulated and achieved the effects of a jihad attack on our own.

Furthermore, the Belgian power plants have recently been the target of a series of accidents which have endangered the city of Antwerp, geographically close to the SK-CEN centre, and Germany has repeatedly called into question the technical and strategic safety and security nets of the Belgian nuclear system.

It is worth noting that Ilyass Boughalab, a Moroccan expert linked to the old information network, though still operational but today silent, known as Sharia4Belgium, works in Dohel-1.Today, globally, the components (and not the finished products of the radioisotopes, about which we have already spoken) are found in approximately 3,500 sites located in 110 countries.

In Iraq, Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate has already reached the nuclear sites of the former regime of Saddam Hussein and is supposed to already have such a quantity of radioactive material as to build a “dirty” bomb which could “infect” a small city, thus making it uninhabitable (and this is the tactical goal pursued).Moreover, the IAEA countries adhering to the international safety and security net for the storage and use of radioactive materials are only 23, accounting for 14% of the total 168 IAEA members.

Statistically, in 2013 and 2014, at least 325 nuclear accidents were reported officially in the IAEA databases, with heavy losses of radioactive materials.85% of those accidents regarded non-nuclear radioactive material – hence nucleotides.According to the most reliable estimates, the non-reported accidents are supposed to be over 753 in the two-year period under consideration, already used as statistical basis.Conversely, highly enriched uranium (HEU) is stored in sites located in 25 countries while, as already seen, the radioactive substances are much more widespread.Moreover, “dirty bombs” certainly cause less damage than nuclear ones, but they can cost a huge amount of money for “cleaning up” the area, as well as for displacing and protecting the population.According to the rule of asymmetric economic war started by Bin Laden and today continued by Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate, this is exactly what is needed.

“Dirty bombs” have been called weapons of mass disruption and not weapons of mass destruction.

This is the reason why they are suited to reach two goals at the same time: the psycho-political crushing of the enemy, namely us, as well as the increase in costs for defending ourselves from the jihad – costs which could force some European governments (the aforementioned canvassers and salesmen) into a strategic or anyway political surrender.Not to mention the area interdiction which could be generated by a radiological dispersal device (RDD) so as to later act undisturbed, with traditional terrorism, in areas close to those hit by the dirty bomb.Technically, the most easily available and used radionuclides among the 16 theoretically available include Cobalt-60, with a half-life of 5.3 years, which appears as a hard metal. It is used for anti-cancer therapies.They also include Cesium-137, with a half-life of 30.1 years, which appears as powder salt and is used for blood transfusions in specific therapies.The same holds true for Iridium-192, which appears as a metal and is still used for X-rays.

Finally they include Americium-124 and Beryllium, with a half-life of 432.2 years, showing the consistence of a metal oxide and mainly used for stratigraphic analysis in geology and archaeology.

Out of the total number of nations adhering to the IAEA rules for radionuclides, only 19 have a specific strategy to monitor or recover the illegally extorted material; 8 of them are developing a procedure for notifying neighbouring countries of any illegal release or transfer of radioactive material, while the others are studying new safer storage and monitoring systems.The Code of Conduct currently in force for all the countries adhering to the special IAEA system for radionuclides is inevitably vague and full of “shortcomings” at procedural and penalty levels.Moreover only 130 IAEA countries have accepted the Code of Conduct.So far many thefts of radioactive material have occurred, apart from those carried out by the so-called Syrian-Iraqi Caliphate (two, as far as we know).In 1993, the Russian mafia placed small pieces of radioactive material in the office of a Russian businessman, causing him to die in a few minutes.In 1995, the jihadist Chechen rebels buried a container full of Cesium-137 in Moscow’s Ismailovsky Park.

The terrorists let the police know where it was before it could cause too much damage.In 1998, 19 tubes containing Cesium-137 were stolen from a hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina.Again in 1998, the secret services of the pro-Russian Chechen government discovered a container hidden under a railroad, already connected to an explosive ignition device.Others thefts were recorded, often not even reported by “open sources”.Hence, on the basis of logical inferences, how many Chechens are hosted as foreign fighters by Daesh/Isis? A number ranging between 200 and 700 – an amount exceeded only by militants from Afghanistan, Bosnia and Somalia.Just to make an example of costs and damage which may be caused, a dirty bomb charged with an average quantity of Cesium-137 could “pollute” and contaminate 250 square meters at a certain minimum cost of decontamination/ repopulation equal to over 81 billion euro, obviously depending on the infrastructure existing in the RDD detonation area.

Hence what must be done to prevent “dirty bomb” attacks?

Meanwhile, many specific sensors can be placed and monitored often and very carefully in “sensitive” facilities and densely populated areas.As already happened in the United States, a government committee should select a number of critical points for RDD attacks and then proceed to the ongoing computerized monitoring of the most important sites which may be targeted by a jihad attack.This holds true also for parks, cities’ central areas, schools and universities, but this shall be decided by the relevant committee, when it is established.Furthermore we shall also significantly improve the storage and destruction, after use, of such materials, coming from hospitals, research centres or other structures – a practice to be certified and be entrusted to the police, not to garbage collectors.How many sites of radionuclide production or storage are there in Italy?A huge amount: suffice to list – and it would be virtually impossible – all the hospitals, private radiology medical centres, as well as biological, archaeological, physical, chemical and paleontological research centres.Radioactive waste and, in any case, the waste coming directly from nuclear power plants, have the size of 30,000 square metres, for a quantity of waste produced over 30 years.Less than a quarter of France and less than a sixth of Germany.

In Italy approximately 140,000 tons of special waste, including radionuclides, are produced every year, while hazardous waste (including some specific radionuclides) has a size of 9 tons/year.In Italy the management of such radioactive waste, mainly coming from hospitals, is currently regulated by Article 4 of Legislative Decree No. 230/95.The legislation governs the management of such waste, but mainly defines stringent criteria for notifications, requirements and regulations, also in the event of a transfer of such waste abroad.Even with the very dangerous rule of tacit consent.Hence is the registration of radionuclide transport companies with the Ministry sufficient?We do not think so, particularly because said waste thefts occur precisely during transfers and by staff who may not be registered with the relevant Authority.

Article 17 of EU Directive 2006/EURATOM, transposed in Italy in 2007, envisages specific criminal offences for those who abandon or carry out illicit trafficking of radioactive materials in addition to mandatory confiscation of the material seized – where possible.Better, but not enough, because there are no indications, apart from criminal penalties, specifically protecting from an RDD, of which we will never know the origin of the radionuclide used in the blast.Once again, little can be done, except for quick management and processing of information in the EU area and careful intelligence prevention on the radicalization of Islamic subjects from communities near the radionuclide production or storage sites.

The likelihood of an RDD explosion is statistically not measurable.

Nevertheless, it will be good to think about it in time.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr. Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs “International World Group”, he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: “A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title “Honorable” of the Académie des Sciences de l’Institut de France. “

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An Underdeveloped Discipline: Open-Source Intelligence and How It Can Better Assist the U.S. Intelligence Community

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Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) is defined by noted intelligence specialists Mark Lowenthal and Robert M. Clark as being, “information that is publicly available to anyone through legal means, including request, observation, or purchase, that is subsequently acquired, vetted, and analyzed in order to fulfill an intelligence requirement”. The U.S. Naval War College further defines OSINT as coming from, “print or electronic form including radio, television, newspapers, journals, the internet, and videos, graphics, and drawings”. Basically, OSINT is the collection of information from a variety of public sources, including social media profiles and accounts, television broadcasts, and internet searches.

Historically, OSINT has been utilized by the U.S. since the 1940s, when the United States created the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) which had the sole goal (until the 1990s) of, “primarily monitoring and translating foreign-press sources,” and contributing significantly during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. It was also during this time that the FBIS transformed itself from a purely interpretation agency into one that could adequately utilize the advances made by, “personal computing, large-capacity digital storage, capable search engines, and broadband communication networks”. In 2005, the FBIS was placed under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and renamed the Open Source Center, with control being given to the CIA.

OSINT compliments the other intelligence disciplines very well. Due to OSINT’s ability to be more in touch with public data (as opposed to information that is more gleaned from interrogations, interviews with defectors or captured enemies or from clandestine wiretaps and electronic intrusions), it allows policymakers and intelligence analysts the ability to see the wider picture of the information gleaned. In Lowenthal’s own book, he mentions how policymakers (including the Assistant Secretary of Defense and one of the former Directors of National Intelligence (DNI)) enjoyed looking at OSINT first and using it as a “starting point… [to fill] the outer edges of the jigsaw puzzle”.

Given the 21stcentury and the public’s increased reliance upon technology, there are also times when information can only be gleaned from open source intelligence methods. Because “Terrorist movements rely essentially on the use of open sources… to recruit and provide virtual training and conduct their operations using encryption techniques… OSINT can be valuable [in] providing fast coordination among officials at all levels without clearances”. Intelligence agencies could be able to outright avoid or, at a minimum, be able to prepare a defense or place forces and units on high alert for an imminent attack.

In a King’s College-London research paper discussing OSINT’s potential for the 21stcentury, the author notes, “OSINT sharing among intelligence services, non-government organizations and international organizations could shape timely and comprehensive responses [to international crises or regime changes in rogue states like Darfur or Burma],” as well as providing further information on a country’s new government or personnel in power. This has been exemplified best during the rise of Kim Jong-Un in North Korea and during the 2011 Arab Spring and 2010 earthquake that rocked Haiti. However, this does not mean that OSINT is a superior discipline than other forms such as SIGINT and HUMINT, as they are subject to limitations as well. According to the Federation of American Scientists, “Open source intelligence does have limitations. Often articles in military or scientific journals represent a theoretical or desired capability rather than an actual capability. Censorship may also limit the publication of key data needed to arrive at a full understanding of an adversary’s actions, or the press may be used as part of a conscious deception effort”.

There is also a limit to the effectiveness of OSINT within the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), not because it is technically limited, but limited by the desire of the IC to see OSINT as a full-fledged discipline. Robert Ashley and Neil Wiley, the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and a former Principal Executive within the ODNI respectively, covered this in a July article for DefenseOne, stating “…the production of OSINT is not regarded as a unique intelligence discipline but as research incident to all-source analysis or as a media production service… OSINT, on the other hand, remains a distributed activity that functions more like a collection of cottage industries. While OSINT has pockets of excellence, intelligence community OSINT production is largely initiative based, minimally integrated, and has little in the way of common guidance, standards, and tradecraft… The intelligence community must make OSINT a true intelligence discipline on par with the traditional functional disciplines, replete with leadership and authority that enables the OSINT enterprise to govern itself and establish a brand that instills faith and trust in open source information”. This apprehensiveness by the IC to OSINT capabilities has been well documented by other journalists.

Some contributors, including one writing for The Hill, has commented that “the use of artificial intelligence and rapid data analytics can mitigate these risks by tipping expert analysts on changes in key information, enabling the rapid identification of apparent “outliers” and pattern anomalies. Such human-machine teaming exploits the strengths of both and offers a path to understanding and even protocols for how trusted open-source intelligence can be created by employing traditional tradecraft of verifying and validating sourcing prior to making the intelligence insights available for broad consumption”. Many knowledgeable and experienced persons within the Intelligence Community, either coming from the uniformed intelligence services or civilian foreign intelligence agencies, recognize the need for better OSINT capabilities as a whole and have also suggested ways in which potential security risks or flaws can be avoided in making this discipline an even more effective piece of the intelligence gathering framework.

OSINT is incredibly beneficial for gathering information that cannot always be gathered through more commonly thought of espionage methods (e.g., HUMINT, SIGINT). The discipline allows for information on previously unknown players or new and developing events to become known and allows policymakers to be briefed more competently on a topic as well as providing analysts and operators a preliminary understanding of the region, the culture, the politics, and current nature of a developing or changing state. However, the greatest hurdle in making use of OSINT is in changing the culture and the way in which the discipline is currently seen by the U.S. Intelligence Community. This remains the biggest struggle in effectively coordinating and utilizing the intelligence discipline within various national security organizations.

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Online Radicalization in India

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Radicalization, is a gradual process of developing extremist beliefs, emotions, and behaviours at individual, group or mass public levels. Besides varied groups, it enjoys patronization, covertly and even overtly from some states. To elicit change in behavior, beliefs, ideology, and willingness, from the target-group, even employment of violent means is justified. Despite recording a declination in terror casualties, the 2019 edition of the Global Terrorism Index claims an increase in the number of terrorism-affected countries. With internet assuming a pivotal role in simplifying and revolutionizing the communication network and process, the change in peoples’ lives is evident. Notably, out of EU’s 84 %, daily internet using population, 81%, access it from home (Eurostat, 2012, RAND Paper pg xi). It signifies important changes in society and extremists elements, being its integral part, internet’ role, as a tool of radicalization, cannot be gainsaid. Following disruption of physical and geographical barriers, the radicalized groups are using the advancement in digital technology:  to propagate their ideologies; solicit funding; collecting informations; planning/coordinating terror attacks; establishing inter/intra-group communication-networks; recruitment, training and media propaganda to attain global attention.  

               Indian Context

In recent times, India has witnessed an exponential growth in radicalization-linked Incidents, which apparently belies the official figures of approximate 80-100 cases. The radicalization threat to India is not only from homegrown groups but from cross-border groups of Pakistan and Afghanistan as well as global groups like IS. Significantly, Indian radicalized groups are exploiting domestic grievances and their success to an extent, can mainly be attributed to support from Pakistani state, Jihadist groups from Pakistan and Bangladesh. The Gulf-employment boom for Indian Muslims has also facilitated radicalization, including online, of Indian Muslims. A close look at the modus operandi of these attacks reveals the involvement of local or ‘homegrown’ terrorists. AQIS formed (2016) ‘Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind’ in Kashmir with a media wing ‘al-Hurr’.

IS announced its foray into Kashmir in 2016 as part of its Khorasan branch. In December 2017 IS in its Telegram channel used hashtag ‘Wilayat Kashmir’ wherein Kashmiri militants stated their allegiance with IS. IS’ online English Magazine ‘Dabiq’ (Jan. 2016) claimed training of fighters in Bangladesh and Pakistan for attacks from western and Eastern borders into India.Though there are isolated cases of ISIS influence in India, the trend is on the rise. Presently, ISIS and its offshoots through online process are engaged in spreading bases in 12 Indian states. Apart from southern states like Telangana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu — where the Iran and Syria-based terrorist outfit penetrated years ago — investigating agencies have found their links in states like Maharashtra, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jammu and Kashmir as well. The Sunni jihadists’ group is now “most active” in these states across the country.

               Undermining Indian Threat

Significantly, undermining the radicalization issue, a section of intelligentsia citing lesser number of Indian Muslims joining al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, Syria and Middle East, argue that Indian Muslim community does not support radicalism-linked violence unlike regional/Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Maldives. They underscore the negligible number of Indian Muslims, outside J&K, who supports separatist movements. Additionally, al- Qaeda and IS who follows the ‘Salafi-Wahabi’ ideological movement, vehemently oppose ‘Hanafi school’ of Sunni Islam, followed by Indian Muslims. Moreover, Indian Muslims follows a moderate version even being followers of the Sunni Ahle-Hadeeth (the broader ideology from which Salafi-Wahhabi movement emanates). This doctrinal difference led to the failure of Wahhabi groups online propaganda.  

               Radicalisation Strategies/methods: Indian vs global players

India is already confronting the online jihadist radicalization of global jihadist organisations, including al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), formed in September 2014 and Islamic State (IS). However, several indigenous and regional groups such as Indian Mujahideen (IM), JeM, LeT, the Taliban and other online vernacular publications, including Pakistan’s Urdu newspaper ‘Al-Qalam’, also play their role in online radicalisation.

Indian jihadist groups use a variety of social media apps, best suited for their goals. Separatists and extremists in Kashmir, for coordination and communication, simply create WhatsApp groups and communicate the date, time and place for carrying out mass protests or stone pelting. Pakistan-based terror groups instead of online learning of Islam consider it mandatory that a Muslim radical follows a revered religious cleric. They select people manually to verify their background instead of online correspondence. Only after their induction, they communicate online with him. However, the IS, in the backdrop of recent defeats, unlike Kashmiri separatist groups and Pak-based jihadist mercenaries, runs its global movement entirely online through magazines and pamphlets. The al-Qaeda’s you tube channels ‘Ansar AQIS’ and ‘Al Firdaws’, once having over 25,000 subscriptions, are now banned. Its online magazines are Nawai Afghan and Statements are in Urdu, English, Arabic, Bangla and Tamil. Its blocked Twitter accounts, ‘Ansarul Islam’ and ‘Abna_ul_Islam_media’, had a following of over 1,300 while its Telegram accounts are believed to have over 500 members.

               Adoption of online platforms and technology

Initially, Kashmir based ‘Jaish-E-Mohammad’ (JeM) distributed audio cassettes of Masood Azhar’s speeches across India but it joined Internet platform during the year 2003–04 and started circulating downloadable materials through anonymous links and emails. Subsequently, it started its weekly e-newspaper, Al-Qalam, followed by a chat group on Yahoo. Importantly, following enhanced international pressure on Pak government after 26/11, to act against terrorist groups, JeM gradually shifted from mainstream online platform to social media sites, blogs and forums.   

 Indian Mujahideen’s splinter group ‘Ansar-ul-Tawhid’ the first officially affiliated terror group to the ISIS tried to maintain its presence on ‘Skype’, ‘WeChat’ and ‘JustPaste’. IS and its affiliates emerged as the most tech-savvy jihadist group. They took several measures to generate new accounts after repeated suspension of their accounts by governments.  An account called as ‘Baqiya Shoutout’ was one such measure. It stressed upon efforts to re-establish their network of followers through ‘reverse shout-out’ instead of opening a new account easily.

Pakistan-backed terrorist groups in India are increasingly becoming  technology savvy. For instance, LeT before carrying out terrorist attacks in 2008 in Mumbai, used Google Earth to understand the targeted locations.

IS members have been following strict security measures like keeping off their Global Positioning System (GPS) locations and use virtual private network (VPN),  to maintain anonymity. Earlier they were downloading Hola VPN or a similar programme from a mobile device or Web browser to select an Internet Protocol (IP) address for a country outside the US, and bypass email or phone verification.

Rise of radicalization in southern India

Southern states of India have witnessed a rise in  radicalization activities during the past 1-2 years. A substantial number of Diaspora in the Gulf countries belongs to Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Several Indian Muslims in Gulf countries have fallen prey to radicalization due to the ultra-conservative forms of Islam or their remittances have been misused to spread radical thoughts. One Shafi Armar@ Yusuf-al-Hindi from Karnataka emerged as the main online IS recruiter for India.  It is evident in the number of raids and arrests made in the region particularly after the Easter bomb attacks (April, 21, 2019) in Sri Lanka. The perpetrators were suspected to have been indoctrinated, radicalised and trained in the Tamil Nadu. Further probe revealed that the mastermind of the attacks, Zahran Hashim had travelled to India and maintained virtual links with radicalised youth in South India. Importantly, IS, while claiming responsibility for the attacks, issued statements not only in English and Arabic but also in South Indian languages viz. Malayalam and Tamil. It proved the existence of individuals fluent in South Indian languages in IS linked groups in the region. Similarly, AQIS’ affiliate in South India ‘Base Movement’ issued several threatening letters to media publications for insulting Islam.

IS is trying to recruit people from rural India by circulating the online material in vernacular languages. It is distributing material in numerous languages, including Malayalam and Tamil, which Al Qaeda were previously ignoring in favour of Urdu. IS-linked Keralite followers in their propaganda, cited radical pro-Hindutva, organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak (RSS) and other right-wing Hindu organisations to motivate youth for joining the IS.  Similarly, Anti-Muslim incidents such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 are still being used to fuel their propaganda. IS sympathisers also support the need to oppose Hindu Deities to gather support.

               Radicalization: Similarities/Distinctions in North and South

Despite few similarities, the radicalisation process in J&K is somewhat different from the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Gujarat. Both the regions have witnessed a planned radicalization process through Internet/social media for propagating extremist ideologies and subverting the vulnerable youth. Both the areas faced the hard-line Salafi/Wahhabi ideology, propagated by the extremist Islamic clerics and madrasas indulged in manipulating the religion of Islam. Hence, in this context it can be aptly claimed that terror activities in India have cooperation of elements from both the regions, despite their distinct means and objectives. Elements from both regions to an extent sympathise to the cause of bringing India under the Sharia Law. Hence, the possibility of cooperation in such elements cannot be ruled out particularly in facilitation of logistics, ammunitions and other requisite equipment.

It is pertinent to note that while radicalisation in Jammu and Kashmir is directly linked to the proxy-war, sponsored by the Pakistan state, the growth of radicalisation in West and South India owes its roots to the spread of IS ideology, promotion of Sharia rule and establishment of Caliphate. Precisely for this reason, while radicalised local Kashmiris unite to join Pakistan-backed terror groups to fight for ‘Azadi’ or other fabricated local issues, the locals in south rather remain isolated cases.

               Impact of Radicalisation

The impact of global jihad on radicalization is quite visible in West and South India. Majority of the radicalised people, arrested in West and South India, were in fact proceeding to to join IS in Syria and Iraq. It included the group of 22 people from a Kerala’s family, who travelled (June 2016) to Afghanistan via Iran. There obvious motivation was to migrate from Dar-ul-Harb (house of war) to Dar-ul-Islam (house of peace/Islam/Deen).

While comparing the ground impact of radicalization in terms of number of cases of local militants in J&K as well as IS sympathisers in West and South India, it becomes clear that radicalisation was spread more in J&K, owing to Pak-sponsored logistical and financial support. Significantly, despite hosting the third largest Muslim population, the number of Indian sympathisers to terror outfits, particularly in West and South India is very small as compared to the western countries. Main reasons attributed to this, include – religious and cultural pluralism; traditionally practice of moderate Islamic belief-systems; progressive educational and economic standards; and equal socio-economic and political safeguards for the Indian Muslims in the Indian Constitution.

               Challenges Ahead

Apart from varied challenges, including Pak-sponsored anti-India activities, regional, local and political challenges, media wings of global jihadi outfits continue to pose further challenges to Indian security agencies. While IS through its media wing, ‘Al Isabah’ has been circulating (through social media sites) Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s speeches and videos after translating them into Urdu, Hindi, and Tamil for Indian youth (Rajkumar 2015), AQIS too have been using its media wing for the very purpose through its offshoots in India.  Some of the challenges, inter alia include –

Islam/Cleric Factor Clerics continue to play a crucial role in influencing the minds of Muslim youth by exploiting the religion of Islam. A majority of 127 arrested IS sympathizers from across India recently revealed that they were following speeches of controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik of Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). Zakir has taken refuge in Malaysia because of warrants against him by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches. A Perpetrator of Dhaka bomb blasts in July 2016 that killed several people confessed that he was influenced by Naik’s messages. Earlier, IRF had organised ‘peace conferences’ in Mumbai between 2007 and 2011 in which Zakir attempted to convert people and incite terrorist acts. Thus, clerics and preachers who sbverts the Muslim minds towards extremism, remain a challenge for India.

Propaganda Machinery – The online uploading of young militant photographs, flaunting Kalashnikov rifles became the popular means of declaration of youth intent against government forces. Their narrative of “us versus them” narrative is clearly communicated, creating groundswell of support for terrorism.In its second edition (March 2020) of its propaganda magazine ‘Sawt al-Hind’ (Voice of Hind/India) IS, citing an old propaganda message from a deceased (2018) Kashmiri IS terrorist, Abu Hamza al-Kashmiri @ Abdul Rehman, called upon Taliban apostates and fighters to defect to IS.  In the first edition (Feb. 2020) the magazine, eulogized Huzaifa al-Bakistani (killed in 2019), asking Indian Muslims to rally to IS in the name of Islam in the aftermath of the 2020 Delhi riots. Meanwhile, a Muslim couple arrested by Delhi Police for inciting anti-CAA (Citizenship Amendment) Bill protests, were found very active on social media. They would call Indian Muslims to unite against the Indian government against the CAA legislation. During 2017 Kashmir unrest, National Investigation Agency (NIA) identified 79 WhatsApp groups (with administrators based in Pakistan), having 6,386 phone numbers, to crowd source boys for stone pelting. Of these, around 1,000 numbers were found active in Pakistan and Gulf nations and the remaining 5,386 numbers were found active in Kashmir Valley.

Deep fakes/Fake news – Another challenge for India is spread of misinformation and disinformation through deep fakes by Pakistan. Usage of deepfakes, in manipulating the speeches of local political leaders to spread hate among the youth and society was done to large extent.

India’s Counter Measures

To prevent youth straying towards extremism, India’s Ministry of Home Affairs has established a Counter-Terrorism and Counter-Radicalisation Division (CT-CR) to help states, security agencies and communities.

Various states, including Kerala, Maharashtra and Telangana have set up their own de-radicalisation programmes.  While in Maharashtra family and community plays an important role, in Kerala clerics cleanse the poisoned  minds of youth with a new narrative. A holistic programme for community outreach including healthcare, clergies and financial stability is being employed by the Indian armed forces. An operation in Kerala named Kerala state police’ ‘Operation Pigeon’ succeeded in thwarting radicalization of 350 youths to the propaganda of organizations such as Islamic State, Indian Mujahideen (IM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) via social media monitoring. In Telangana, outreach programs have been developed by local officers like Rema Rajeshwari to fight the menace of fake news in around 400 villages of the state.

In Kashmir the government resorts to internet curfews to control the e-jihad. While state-owned BNSL network, used by the administration and security forces, remains operational 3G and 4G networks and social media apps remain suspended during internet curfews.

Prognosis

India certainly needs a strong national counter- Radicalisation policy which would factor in a range of factors than jobs, poverty or education because radicalization in fact has affected even well educated, rich and prosperous families. Instead of focusing on IS returnees from abroad, the policy must take care of those who never travelled abroad but still remain a potential threat due to their vulnerability to radicalization.

Of course, India would be better served if deep fakes/fake news and online propaganda is effectively countered digitally as well as through social awakening measures and on ground action by the government agencies. It is imperative that the major stakeholders i.e. government, educational institutions, civil society organisations, media and intellectuals play a pro-active role in pushing their narrative amongst youth and society. The focus should apparently be on prevention rather than controlling the radicalisation narrative of the vested interests.

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Is Deterrence in Cyberspace Possible?

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Soon after the Internet was founded, half of the world’s population (16 million) in 1996 had been connected to Internet data traffic. Gradually, the Internet began to grow and with more users, it contributed to the 4 trillion global economies in 2016 (Nye, 2016). Today, high-speed Internet, cutting-edge technologies and gadgets, and increasing cross-border Internet data traffic are considered an element of globalization. Deterrence seems traditional and obsolete strategy, but the developed countries rely on cyberspace domains to remain in the global digitization. No matter how advanced they are, there still exist vulnerabilities. There are modern problems in the modern world. Such reliance on the Internet also threatens to blow up the dynamics of international insecurity. To understand and explore the topic it is a must for one to understand what cyberspace and deterrence are? According to Oxford dictionary;

 “Cyberspace is the internet considered as an imaginary space without a physical location in which communication over computer networks takes place (OXFORD University Press)”

For readers to understand the term ‘deterrence’; Collins dictionary has best explained it as;

“Deterrence is the prevention of something, especially war or crime, by having something such as weapons or punishment to use as a threat e.g. Nuclear Weapons (Deterrence Definition and Meaning | Collins English Dictionary).

The purpose of referring to the definition is to make it easy to discern and distinguish between deterrence in International Relations (IR) and International Cyber Security (ICS). Deterrence in cyberspace is different and difficult than that of during the Cold War. The topic of deterrence was important during Cold Wat for both politicians and academia. The context in both dimensions (IR and ICS) is similar and aims to prevent from happening something. Cyberspace deterrence refers to preventing crime and I completely agree with the fact that deterrence is possible in Cyberspace. Fischer (2019) quotes the study of (Quinlan, 2004) that there is no state that can be undeterrable.

To begin with, cyber threats are looming in different sectors inclusive of espionage, disruption of the democratic process and sabotaging the political arena, and war. Whereas international law is still unclear about these sectors as to which category they fall in. I would validate my affirmation (that deterrence is possible in Cyberspace) with the given network attacks listed by Pentagon (Fung, 2013). Millions of cyber-attacks are reported on a daily basis. The Pentagon reported 10 million cyberspace intrusions, most of which are disruptive, costly, and annoying. The level of severity rises to such a critical level that it is considered a threat to national security, so professional strategic assistance is needed to deal with it[1]. The past events show a perpetual threat that has the ability to interrupt societies, economies, and government functioning.

The cyberspace attacks were administered and portrayal of deterrence had been publicized as follows (Fung, 2013);

  1. The internet service was in a continuous disruption for several weeks after a dispute with Russia in 2007.
  2. Georgian defense communications were interrupted in 2008 after the Russian invasion of Georgia.   
  3. More than 1000 centrifuges in Iran were destroyed via the STUXNET virus in 2010. The attacks were attributed to Israel and the United States of America.
  4. In response to STUXNET virus attacks, Iran also launched a retaliatory attack on U.S financial institutions in 2012 and 2013.
  5. Similarly in 2012, some 30,000 computers had been destroyed with a virus called SHAMOON in Saudi Aramco Corporation. Iran was held responsible for these attacks.
  6. North Korea was accused of penetrating South Korean data and machines in 2014, thus interrupting their networks in 2014.
  7. A hybrid war was reported between Russia and Ukraine in 2015 that left Ukraine without electricity for almost six hours.
  8. Most critical scandal, which is still in the limelight call WikiLeaks released distressing and humiliating emails by Russian Intelligence at the time of the U.S presidential campaigns in 2016.

While such incidents may be considered a failure of deterrence, this does not mean that deterrence is impossible. Every system has some flaws that are exposed at some point. At this point, in some cases a relatively low level of deterrence was used to threaten national security, however, the attacks were quite minor in fulfilling the theme affecting national security. Nye (2016:51) in his study talks about the audience whose attribution could facilitate deterrence. (I). intelligence agencies should make sure highest safeguarding against escalation by third parties, and governments can also be certain and count on intelligence agencies’ sources. (II). the deterring party should not be taken easy, as I stated (above) about the lingering loopholes and flaws in the systems, hence, governments shall not perceive the intelligence forsaken.  (III). lastly, it is a political matter whether international and domestic audiences need to be persuaded or not, and what chunk of information should be disclosed.

The mechanisms which are used and helpful against cyberspace adversary actions are as follows (Fischer, 2019);

  1. Deterrence by denial means, the actions by the adversary are denied that they failed to succeed in their goals and objectives. It is more like retaliating a cyberattack.
  2. Threat of punishment offers severe outcomes in form of penalties and inflicting high costs on the attacker that would outweigh the anticipated benefits if the attack takes place.
  3. Deterrence by Entanglement has the features and works on a principle of shared, interconnected, and dependent vulnerabilities. The purpose of entanglement is to embolden and reassure the behavior as a responsible state with mutual interests.
  4. Normative taboos function with strong values and norms, wherein the reputation of an aggressor is at stake besides having a soft image in the eyes of the international community (this phenomenon includes rational factors because hard power is used against the weaker state). The deterrence of the international system works even without having any credible resilience.

Apparently, the mechanisms of deterrence are also effective in cyber realms. These realms are self-explaining the comprehensive understanding and the possibility of deterrence in cyberspace. The four mechanisms (denial, punishment, entanglement, and normative taboos) are also feasible to apply deterrence in the cyber world. Factually, of many security strategies, cyber deterrence by using four domains could be a versatile possibility. Conclusively, as far as the world is advancing in technological innovations, cyberspace intrusions would not stop alike the topic of deterrence in the digital world.


[1] An updated list of cyberspace intrusions from 2003 till 2021 is available at (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2021).

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