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The Grand Cyber Spy Game: Russia, America, and China Stealing the World One Byte at a Time

Dr. Matthew Crosston



Dr. Matthew Crosston & Anonymous(*)

Every month another story of cybertheft linked to China or Russia emerges. Recent data breaches at Target, United Airlines, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and OPM have been linked back to Russia, while theft of key technology across major Department of Defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin and US government laboratories have been linked to China.

Neither China nor Russia’s government formally admit to leveraging the internet to steal secrets from other countries but hacks have been linked directly to their intelligence services’ respective buildings or individuals known to be under governmental influence. International cyber incidents in Ukraine, Georgia, and Estonia have all been apparently linked back to Russia while the Canadian government recently set up domestic cyber-protection programs after several major corporations were hacked by Chinese intelligence. The US government struggles on how to approach these cyber intrusions. Should they be ignored so that other foreign policy initiatives can move forward? Are these initiatives acts of war or a new method of state gamesmanship? Do these collections of vast amounts of information count as high treason/espionage or simple economic theft? Environmental negotiations just about broke down several years ago when President Obama called out China for hacking several governmental systems during the negotiations. What does all of this signify as Russia and China become more important strategic world partners, while still at least semi-maintaining long-held intelligence and military adversarial attitudes toward the US? Welcome to the REAL cyber era, where multiple players try to steal the world one byte at a time while pretending to do nothing of the sort.

The Chinese, American, and Russian intelligence services have no issue launching clandestine internet attacks to pursue what they all consider to be legitimate national security and foreign policy objectives. Sometimes the information collected is economic, directed against or about important corporations; other times the information is military and political. In all cases the information is highly strategic. While it is true that the information the Russian and Chinese intelligence services are providing to their respective policymakers is much broader in scope than the CIA or US Department of Defense, and is arguably much more domestically invasive than the FBI or DEA, both Russia and China have successfully started campaigns questioning the ‘purity of purpose’ within American intelligence given the details of the Snowden scandal. All of which begs questions: should American intelligence maneuvers match Chinese and Russian cyber precedence? Is the American public aversion to cyber collection programs really just a front for a private philosophy that already rivals China and Russia? Is there something fundamentally important for states to consider in this style vs. substance cyber spy debate?

Crucial differences in intelligence organizational culture and mission make figuring these questions out quite difficult. While the United States has been quick to leverage open-source collection for its own programs, it has supposedly been hesitant to execute the power of its cyber abilities in invasive, offensive, global scenarios (although this consideration is now being heavily debated in the classified sector and some accuse it of already transpiring). This article will attempt to determine if Chinese and Russian intelligence services have gained a tactical advantage over the United States because of a political and bureaucratic blind spot, or if the United States intelligence collection culture is different only at the superficial level and is largely the same as its rivals in terms of true cyber substance.

The first important aspect in understanding the Grand Cyber Game is to understand how the Russian, Chinese, and US intelligence communities are structured. The United States is known for the ‘big brothers’ of its IC, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and National Security Agency (NSA). However, there are actually 17 members of the US Intelligence Community. Some of these include intelligence offices for each branch of the US military, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Energy, Department of State, Department of the Treasury, Drug Enforcement Administration, National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The first five use intelligence collection as part of a law enforcement mission, while the NSA, NRO, and NGA all harvest data and imagery collection. Traditionally, the CIA operates overseas and cultivates human sources while conducting clandestine operations. The FBI traditionally manages counterterrorism operations domestically, provides investigation support overseas when American citizens are involved, and acts under an enforcement jurisdiction to maintain the law. The NSA was established to provide cryptologic services and to protect US information systems and signals intelligence. It supports military customers, national policymakers, and counterterrorism and counter-intelligence communities under the Department of Defense. However, in a post-9/11 world, these explicitly defined roles have become more blurred and opaque as global travel and transnational collections are intensely complicated by the internet.

Conversely, modern Chinese intelligence services have always had domestic and international missions intertwined. China’s Ministry of Public Security (MPS) was formed in 1954 as a domestic law enforcement agency. It managed criminal investigations, security protection, public information network security, traffic control, legal affairs, counter-terrorism, drug control, and other anti-smuggling and anti-corruption duties. In 1983, the Ministry of State Security (MSS) was established as the formal intelligence and security agency of China for non-military areas of interests. It has the same authority to arrest or detain people as the MPS with a nearly identical oversight mission by the courts, but it is also a separate, parallel network to the MPS. The MSS mission is to ensure “the security of the state through effective measures against enemy agents, spies, and counter-revolutionary activities designed to sabotage or overthrow China’s socialist system.” Similar to the CIA, the MSS gathers foreign intelligence from targets in various countries overseas while the MPS gathers information domestically to protect against domestic terrorism and political coups. Both heavily rely on cyber collection.

Russia operates with three principal intelligence services. The SVR focuses on foreign intelligence collection, but mainly with civilian affairs. It is formally responsible for intelligence and espionage activities outside the Russian Federation. The GRU is the main foreign military intelligence directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces. It is Russia’s largest foreign intelligence agency, deploying at least six times as many agents as the formal KGB successor, the SVR. The FSB operates in theory only across the former Soviet Republics and domestically, but having had its operational portfolio increased in 2003 to include the Border Guard Service and the Federal Agency of Government Communication and Information. The three intelligence services often overlap and sometimes compete against one another in the recruitment and collection of intelligence sources. Russia also established an Anti-Terrorist Center that falls under full control of the FSB. The Center’s mandate was to create a database for intelligence sharing among the security services of all members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Although the SVR has promised not to spy within CIS territories, the FSB has not. As such, it has become the de facto leading intelligence service for foreign collection activities for Russia. Interestingly, Russia has often turned a blind eye to Central Asian intelligence service activity within its borders, when Central Asian leaders are making moves against so-called political enemies (these moves are usually abductions back to Central Asia for detainment). These activities have included both the Chinese MSS and MSP. In 2001, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was established by China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, to work together against terrorism, separatism, and extremism. They established their own Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) that became the mechanism of choice for carrying out abductions across national boundaries, outside of standard judicial procedures. RATS operations have been compared to the CIA’s practice of extraordinary rendition and allow members to detain suspects in the six participating states outside of any rule of law. The members’ operators are not subject to criminal liability and they are immune from arrest and detention within the six states.

The reality is, on an international level, the intelligence services of all three nations operate with remarkably similar mission goals and objectives: they wish to protect the national interests of their respective states and garner advantages for said states via the acquisition of important information. While Hollywood has often focused on the political deviance and violence of intelligence missions around the world, the less exciting reality is that intelligence is more often utilized simply for political leverage. On the domestic level, the United States has long-held the moral superiority card against rivals like Russia and China, largely based on the democratic system in America supposedly being more altruistic and legally-minded than the so-called autocratic-type regimes in Beijing and Moscow. Snowden and other details in the past several years have started to make some at least wonder how much that moralism is built upon a foundation of sand and not stone. Finally, the stylistic aspect of intelligence public relations is significantly different between the three: the US decidedly tries to maintain an air of secrecy and deniability over just about everything its Intelligence Community does or needs to do. Russia and China, while revealing no secrets, tend to be a bit more unabashed about the role and necessity intelligence plays for the furthering of state power and do not fear making public statements to that effect anywhere, anytime. For them, therefore, the only difference between the three great players in the Grand Cyber Spy Game is the costuming and marketing of their respective goals, but NOT the ploys, initiatives, and overall desires. When it comes to winning, it seems all three are set and determined to virtually steal, that is, ‘obtain’ as much as possible. The Grand Cyber Spy Game demands no less.

(*) Anonymous is currently a graduate student in International Security and Intelligence Studies at Bellevue University and works within the US governmental system. The opinions expressed are strictly personal and do not reflect a formal endorsement of or by the United States’ government and/or Intelligence Community.

Dr. Matthew Crosston is Vice Chairman of Modern Diplomacy and member of the Editorial Board at the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence.

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Assad’s Army and Intelligence Services: Feudalization or Structurization?



Authors: Anton Mardasov* & Kirill Semenov

2017 marked a turning point in the Syrian conflict. With the full support of Russia and Iran, the Bashar al-Assad regime was able to neutralize the “domestic threat” completely. Throughout 2017, Damascus used the situation to carry out “outlying” operations, manipulating the ceasefire agreements and other accords reached as part of the Astana Peace Process. As soon as a relative calm would settle in a given “de-escalation zone” [in the opinion of the present authors, quotation marks are necessary in this case, as they indicate the real nature of these four zones], the regime would start transferring the available forces to other areas. First to eastern Syria in order to break the blockade of Deir ez-Zor and establish control over adjacent areas, which undoubtedly accelerated the downfall of the “Caliphate,” then to Idlib Governorate. And then, taking advantage of the agreements reached between Russia and Turkey on the division of spheres of influence in this “de-escalation zone,” to East Ghouta. Now Damascus has the initiative in terms of launching an offensive and a significant advantage over opposition groups.

The State of Affairs

As early as the beginning of 2017, the Syrian opposition demonstrated its ability to consolidate efforts and respond to the regime’s offensive manoeuvres. One such example is the way it managed to reduce “tension” in East Ghouta by carrying out distracting operations of its own in Daraa and Hama. However, the Syrian opposition became irreversibly fragmented after the process to form the de-escalation zones began, accompanied by the establishment of an external protectorate over these zones. As a result, most of the opposition factions in Greater Idlib now operate exclusively in the interests of Turkey, and the Amman Agreement between Jordan, Russia and the United States regarding the southwest de-escalation zone has succeeded in taking the Free Syrian Army’s Southern Front out of the game. External actors have played a decisive role in the outcome of the confrontation between Damascus and the internal opposition, cutting off aid to opposition factions and effectively splitting them into isolated fragments.

That being said, until February 2018 (when the Russia–Turkey agreement made it possible to wrap up the active operation in Idlib and focus forces on East Ghouta), all the efforts of the elite units of the 4th Armoured Division, as well as the Syrian Republican Guard and other regular units of the Syrian Arab Army, to repel opposition forces in East Ghouta’s Jobar and Ayn Tarma ended with the withdrawal of government-sponsored troops after significant losses. The operation in Harasta ended with the encirclement of a Republican Guard battalion and the deaths of five colonels and brigadier generals. The same thing happened during an operation in Daraa in the south of the country.

Despite the active support of the Russian Aerospace Forces, the Syrian Special Forces and the Shiite “Expeditionary Corps” led by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and various Iraqi factions, the government forces still suffered significant strikes from the heavily outnumbered Islamic State. One such event took place in Homs and Deir ez-Zor in September–October 2017, when Islamic State units managed to cut off almost all the supply routes to pro-Assad troops operating along the Euphrates. The only thing that prevented the terrorists from building on their successes was the lack of numbers on the part of Islamic State (very few detachments are left) and the haphazard band-aid approach adopted by Russian specialists on the issue.

Thus, Damascus’ victories over its opponents can, for the most part, be put down to favourable circumstances and external support, rather than to the regime’s strengthening of its forces or increasing its combat effectiveness, despite the great efforts Russia has expended to train Syria’s military personnel and provide its regular units with up-to-date military technology.

Counting on the fact that these manipulations have successfully paralyzed the opposition to the point that pro-government forces will now be able to deal with current challenges does not eliminate the need to have a national military structure – without the growing Shiite International.


At present, the armed forces that Bashar al-Assad relies on continue to be an assortment of groupings, all of which depend on Damascus to varying degrees. There is no unity within the army in terms of readiness to unquestioningly carry out the directives of its leadership. There is a complicated system of approvals for the use of “elite” sections of the Syrian Arab Army in specific operations. This even applies to its most elite components: the 4th Armoured Division, the Syrian Republican Guard, Suheil al-Hassan’s “Tiger Forces” and individual units of other sections – for example, the “Deir Al-Qalamoun” unit of the 3rd Armoured Division and the “Saif Al-Mahdi” unit of the 4th Armoured Division, among others. At the same time, the combat effectiveness of the Syrian Arab Army’s combat manoeuvre units leaves much to be desired, and attempts are made to avoid moving them to regions far away from their areas of permanent deployment.

Various paramilitary groupings that do not answer directly to the Syrian Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Internal Affairs or the state security organs continue to play an important role, including the so-called National Defence Forces, the Local Defence Forces, foreign (primarily Shiite) groups, and other units created by them in Syrian territory, made up of Syrian nationals. There are at least twice as many fighters in the irregular army formations as in the Syrian Arab Army itself.

The Syrian crisis has made it possible for political institutions to acquire their own military formations. The Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party still has active squadrons, some of which are part of the 5th Corps. Eagles of the Whirlwind is the military wing of the Syrian Social Nationalist Party. And the Syrian Resistance is a left-wing paramilitary group led by Mihrac Ural, who is considered a terrorist in Turkey.

The formation of various paramilitary structures – military wings of mafia-like clans, private military companies, regional and tribal militias and militarized political organizations – has undermined the stability of the regime. These forces do not simply support Damascus. From the very beginning, they have attempted take root in government institutions and/or take control of various sources of income. It is no secret that various Shabiha detachments currently operating under the aegis of the National Defence Forces control the checkpoints, which in practice means that they have access to corrupt schemes, including the opportunity to send radical opposition fighters into the Turkish zones of influence. A number of figures associated with the pro-Iranian Syrian group Liwa al-Baqir (the Baqir Brigade, part of the Local Defence Forces) have their own fleet of minibuses and continue to operate transport businesses.

Given that Damascus is in dire need of local groupings in order to maintain stability and security, these militias will probably continue to exist after victory is declared. All the more given that all armed militia groups were legalized in 2013 and given permission to carry out their “activities” by the Ministry of Interior.

The incorporation of the National and Local Defence Forces into state structures was predetermined by the fact that both the Syrian special services and the army were unprepared for an uprising, and the vacuum thus created was filled by paramilitary groups. Iran also took advantage of this by helping set up various paramilitary structures and thus establishing a multi-echeloned presence in Syria.


Worthy of separate note is the Fifth Corps of Volunteers, an autonomous military structure that was created with the direct participation of Russian military advisers. According to some reports, the corps itself is also led by Russian generals. The corps can hardly be regarded as a regular military formation. It consists of various subdivisions made up of volunteers and is financed by a number of non-government sources. It also contains certain pro-government Syrian forces that existed before the corps was set up, including those financed by private individuals (the “Sea Commandos”) or set up with the participation of Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah (Liwa Dir’ al-Watan). At the same time, the inclusion of defectors and objectors from among the Sunni population in the Fifth Corps was apparently supposed to break the stereotype about the sectarian foundation of the pro-government forces and the auxiliary nature of the Sunnis’ participation in the war. However, the experiment has yet to bear fruit. The most combat-ready units of the Fifth Corps – the so-called ISIS Hunters – are again “sectarian militias” (as far as Syria’s Sunni majority is concerned). Such groups are made up primarily of Syrian Christians and Alawites (for example, the aforementioned “Sea Commandos”) or Shiites (Liwa Dir’ al-Watan, with the participation of Lebanese fighters). Work of this kind is likely to continue: according to some reports, work on the establishment of a 6th Corps is already under way.

Sooner or later the Syrian armed forces will surely face the challenge of transition to a peaceful life. In this context, it is important to understand what will happen to the large number of paramilitary formations and militias. The Iraqi leadership is attempting to solve this very same problem at home, having initiated a procedure to integrate soldiers of the militia group “Khashd ash-Shaabi” into the country’s armed forces. The experience gained during the creation of the 5th Corps, as well as its predecessor (the 4th Corps) can be used to help integrate certain paramilitary structures into the Syrian Arab Army and the Ministry of Interior.

It is also possible at the initial stage to revive the three corps of the Syrian Arab Army that formally existed before, turning them into territorial commands. All the regular and paramilitary units could be placed under their control on a territorial basis, thus becoming parts of the regular forces, identified by numbers instead of names. This is a necessary step, because many of these structures simply refuse to dissolve themselves, as in the case in Iraq. However, their existence should be legalized and their activities brought into line with military regulations.

Another problem is how to overcome the increasingly “sectarian” nature of military forces in Syria. All or most of the combat-ready units are made up primarily of national and religious minorities. Sunnis play a secondary role, mainly serving in auxiliary, “second echelon” groupings. Attracting Sunnis who have fought or lived in opposition territories, earning their trust and ensuring that they carry out their duties in a diligent manner will also be a key issue.

A Necessary but Unrealistic Scenario

If we distance ourselves from the propaganda and frankly dilettantish stereotypes about the Syrian opposition, then the best option for establishing an ethnic and confessional balance would be to unite the opposition groups and pro-government forces into a single structure. This is the kind of renewal of the armed forces that the UN documents envision. It is hardly possible, for example, to incorporate the insurgent factions that have, with Turkey’s support, united to form the Syrian National Army (SNA, which operates exclusively in Northern Aleppo) into existing Syrian Arab Army units and divisions. The leadership of the opposition factions will not agree to this, bearing in mind what happened in Tajikistan (where the opposition was liquidated after its divisions were incorporated into government units). One possibility is to form about five to seven separate corps and divisional units from opposition forces and establish a single military council involving the Syrian National Army and the Syrian Arab Army.

However, neither Damascus nor Tehran, nor indeed Moscow, is interested in such a scenario. Although it is far easier for the Russian side to play along with the Syrian regime, which seeks to eliminate the Syrian opposition once and for all by military means, that goal would serve only to strengthen the positions of Iran and Syria. Moscow has had a significantly more difficult time than expected positioning itself as a moderator in the conflict and maintaining effective working relations with the opposition groups that participated in the Astana Peace Process and signed agreements with the Russian military in Cairo and Geneva. Integrating the opposition into military and political structures that are aligned with the current regime could serve as a natural counterweight to the influence of Iran and preserve a certain balance of power that is beneficial to Moscow. The big question now is: to what extent will Moscow be able to maintain control over its “client,” given that Tehran is clearly benefitting from the situation?

Reform of the Military Intelligence Services

Against the backdrop of the Islamic State’s transition to clandestine activities in Iraq and Syria (which is common for the group) and various other challenges, the role of the Syrian intelligence services is acquiring greater significance. Their activities today little resemble the standards adopted in the sphere. Opportunities to carry out covert intelligence work have been greatly reduced, and the grassroots tools of state governance have been destroyed. The Syrian intelligence services were not even able to prevent terrorist attacks on the National Security Council building.

At present, the Syrian intelligence services do not seem to have an analogue anywhere in the Middle East. Four independent security structures operate within the Syrian Arab Army. These structures are divided into “military,” which includes military intelligence and aerial reconnaissance (Air Force reconnaissance) and “political” (civilian units formally subordinate to the Interior Ministry), which includes the main security department and the department for managing political security. All of these structures answer directly to the president. However, the system of intelligence services in Syria reflects the complexity of relations and confrontations among various groups of influence in the country’s ruling elite. The system is constructed in such a way that the individual intelligence services effectively work against each other, which makes it impossible for any single “branch” to become significantly stronger than the others.

Air Force reconnaissance was conceived as the intelligence structure “closest” to the heart of former president Hafez al-Assad, who was a fighter pilot himself. As a result, it effectively turned into an independent state security agency, with its own external intelligence and counterintelligence divisions, and even a department for combatting anti-government activities. During the Civil War, the Air Force reconnaissance formed an entire “pleiad” of special forces units to carry out operations using heavy machinery. The other three “branches” took similar steps in order to prevent any one of the intelligence agencies from becoming significantly stronger than the rest.

It would appear that the simplest solution for transforming the Syrian intelligence services with the goal of optimizing their activities would, first of all, be to merge Air Force reconnaissance and military intelligence into a single organ of the General Staff of the Syrian Arab Army, and strip these structures of the ability to carry out political investigations. As for the political security structures, it would be practical for one of them to focus exclusively on external intelligence activities, while the second could be engaged in counterintelligence and anti-terror activities. In other words, Syrian intelligence services would be brought up to global standards.

It is also imperative to create border security forces to control Syria’s eastern frontiers first and foremost, but also the entire border, as a kind of unified system with its own social and infrastructural characteristics. While Hafez al-Assad paid special attention to the country’s tribes, granting their leaders various privileges and taking their views into consideration in political life, his son Bashar all but forgot about them, which combined with drought in the regions and the misallocation of resources created the conditions for social upheaval. The years spent under the control of radical groups transformed the tribal social fabric even more. At present, the regime relies primarily on the Suqur al-Furat militia, which contains members of the Al-Shaitat tribe, to carry out its activities in the eastern part of the country. The tribe attempted a revolt against the Islamic State rule in 2014 but was defeated in a gruesome fashion. Damascus used this as a pretext to organize a military training programme for the tribe’s members and announced an amnesty for them.

If Damascus is unable to hold a constructive dialogue with the Sunni tribes, then there is a risk that the Islamic State will emerge once again in one form or another as a result of the joint efforts of independent Sunni groups and radicals (operatives, preachers, etc.), who will be able to remain in the country. It is all the more important to deal with the cadres who are familiar with the local terrain in the east of the country could help prevent smuggling, with which both Damascus and Baghdad have well-documented issues.

*Anton Mardasov, Military Observer Head of the Department of Middle Eastern Conflicts at the Institute of Innovative Development

First published in our partner RIAC

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Russia Says U.S. Trains Jihadists to Do Chemical Attacks Blamed Against Assad

Eric Zuesse



On March 17th, Russia’s Minister of Defense (equivalent to America’s Secretary of Defense) announced, through Russian General Staff spokesman General Sergey Rudskoy: “We have reliable information at our disposal that US instructors have trained a number of militant groups in the vicinity of the town of At-Tanf, to stage provocations involving chemical warfare agents in southern Syria. Early in March, the saboteur groups were deployed to the southern de-escalation zone to the city of Deraa, where the units of the so-called Free Syrian Army are stationed. They are preparing a series of chemical munitions explosions. This fact will be used to blame the government forces. The components to produce chemical munitions have been already delivered to the southern de-escalation zone under the guise of humanitarian convoys of a number of NGOs.”

He also said:

The provocations will be used as a pretext by the United States and its allies to launch strikes on military and government infrastructure in Syria. We’re registering the signs of the preparations for the possible strikes. Strike groups of the cruise missile carriers have been formed in the east of the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and Red Sea.”

He went on to add that in the most jihadist-friendly province, Idlib, another such “false flag” attack is being prepared by Al Qaeda in Syria, called there, “Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, in coordination with the White Helmets,” which is a group financed by the U.S. and UK Governments to rescue victims of bombings by Syria’s Government and its ally Russia.

This would hardly be the first example of such attacks. For example, on 14 January 2014, MIT’s Theodore Postol and the former U.N. Weapons Inspector Richard Lloyd co-authored a detailed technical study and analysis, regarding “the Damascus Nerve Agent Attack of August 21, 2013” (which was the most-famous sarin-attack, in East Ghouta), saying that “the US Government’s Interpretation of the Technical Intelligence It Gathered Prior to and After the August 21 Attack CANNOT POSSIBLY BE CORRECT,” and documenting that the rocket had actually — and clearly — been fired from an area that even the U.S. Government’s own maps showed to be under the control of the ‘rebels’, whom the U.S. Government supported, and definitely not of the Syrian Government, whom those ‘rebels’ were trying to overthrow. (That was the incident in which U.S. President Barack Obama announced to the world his “red line” and then said that the Government headed by Bashar al-Assad had crossed it and that this justified a U.S. invasion, but Seymour Hersh said that it had become blocked by the UK/s intelligence lab at Porton Down, by their finding that the sarin which had been used in this attack wasn’t of a type that the Syrian Government had in its arsenals.) There have been several such “false-flag” attacks, in order to get the public to support invading Syria. However, the main way that the U.S. and its allies try to overthrow Assad and his Government is to arm and protect Al Qaeda in Syria, which leads the various jihadist groups there (other than ISIS).

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From Radical Ecology to Ecoterrorism

Gagliano Giuseppe



Radical ecology

The schools of thought of contemporary eco-terrorism are many, but those that use an antagonist theoretical-practical approach can be identified in deep ecology, feminist ecology, Marxist ecology, primitivism, degrowth ecology, the Slow Food movement, ecology, animalism (which together with vegetarianism is a logical consequence of radical ecology) and, finally, eco-terrorism. In this sense – beyond the often demagogic rhetoric – eco-terrorism does not differ from the above-mentioned schools of thought because of its ethical-philosophical assumptions but rather by the operative procedures through which its antagonism is carried out. Therefore, an ideological community exists, whether implicit or explicit, in the main schools of thoughts of ecology and eco-terrorism. These schools of thought, however, can be associated with the idea of radical ecology.

Definition of radical ecology

While continuing to take the complexity of current ecology into account, the expression “radical” is used to indicate extremely antagonist ecology, from Pinochot’s utilitarian conservationism, which was deeply anthropocentric and aimed to rationalize the use of nature toward a lasting economic exploitation, to Haeckel’s neo-Darwinian approach, Tanskey’s view, Lotka’s trophic-network ecology, and finally, Odum’s thermodynamic approach. Firstly, radical ecology comprises the holistic preservationism of Thoreau, Emerson, and Leopold, ecofeminism, political ecology, deep ecology, primitivism, social ecology, the degrowth movement, the Slow Food movement, eco-regionalism, animalism, and eco-terrorism. Secondly, although the list of the organizations is not complete, it is important to underline that the several “-isms” do not exclude the possibility of profitable contaminations among the different schools of thought. Thirdly, the epistemological, political and philosophical features shared by the above-mentioned schools of thought can be identified as follows:

  1. they all support a structural modification of the current economic system and are against the supranational institutions that control global capitalism, in particular, the IMF, the WTO, and the World Bank;
  2. they are in favor of the anti-globalization movement, and know its limits and potentials;
  3. they share an eco-centric, bio-centric, anti-anthropocentric, holistic and sometimes organicistic perception of natural reality;
  4. they are against a mechanistic vision of reality such as Bacon’s and Descartes’, and are in favor of legal extensionism;
  5. they support a relevant extension of representative democracy or a radical exceeding of it in favor of an anarchic, neo-tribal society, or a participatory democracy;
  6. they share and develop apocalyptical and radical scenes of current society’s environmental and economic condition;
  7. they advocate a change in the ethic of western civilization through an eco-pacifist reorientation carried out by counter-information;
  8. they are against military institutions and share a typical interpretation of irenic pacifism;
  9. they are against the use of biotechnologies in agriculture and the civil and military use of nuclear energy;
  10. several members of radical ecology share a new interpretation of nature according to neo-romantic or oriental philosophies (such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Zen philosophy);
  11. many scholars and activists belonging to radical ecology embrace animalistic and vegetarian views which they deem deeply coherent with an ecocentric vision of nature.
  12. Finally, several exponents of radical ecology refer to 1968 culture, and to underground American and tribal cultures.

In short, regarding the operative procedures carried out by the several schools of thought or radical ecology, we should point out the difference between non-violent and terroristic ones. There are three levels of antagonist procedure: a) non-violent practice strictly antagonist toward political and legal institutions; b) non-violent practice with an entryist political logic toward national and supranational political institutions; c) publically terroristic practice. We should, nevertheless, underline the differences between positions a) and b) both of which are well-organized and opposing: the first clearly condemns the use of terroristic procedures, the second supports terrorist procedures – but without putting them into practice – and is therefore ambiguous.

The historical predecessors of radical ecology

According to Livorsi, the genesis of radical ecology can be easily traced from a historical point of view to the philosophical and religious interpretation of Bachofen and the Marxist psychoanalysis of Reich as well. The author of the “Canticle of the Sun” (“Cantico del Frate Sole”) not only asserts the sanctification of the world by God – in other words, the sun, the moon, and the animal world – but also refers to Mother Earth, anticipating the modern concept of “Gaia” . Moreover the heterodox pantheism of Saint Francis implies a brotherhood between human beings and creatures according to an ecocentric and egalitarian view. The French philosopher Rousseau, in his “Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men” (“Discours sur l’origine et les fondements de l’inégalité parmi les homes”), emphasized the goodness of the state of nature and the existential authenticity of the human being in this pre-civilized context, while condemning in the meantime private property and therefore civilization determined by technique. Moreover, unlike civilized society, tribal society conducted an ecocentric, egalitarian and communal style of life. Bachofen, in his reinterpretation of the history of civilization, emphasized the existence of a gynocratic, anti-patriarchal view in pre-Achaean society in which there was no private life, there was sexual freedom, nature was accepted as a living organism, and above all, the modus vivendi was built on egalitarian pacifism.

In short, regarding Reich, the rise of patriarchy brought about the triumph of capitalism, the closed family, and sexual repression. The natural and erotic man who struggles for a libertarian socialism has reemerged only rarely in history, such as in the Paris Commune in 1871, for example.

Definition of Terrorism and Eco-Terrorism

According to Pisano, terrorism can be defined as a non-conventional form of conflict because it lies outside both democratic, organized and civil dispute and the traditional battlefield of war regulated by international law. Terrorism is characterized by three elements: a) physical and psychic criminal violence, b) political, religious political or social political movement, and c) the use of illegal structure. Traditional terrorism, as Pisano explains, together with neo-terrorism, coexist both as a threat and as a concrete aggression. Neo-terrorism is performed by dynamic and polymorphous schemes that can intertwine while preserving their methodological and operational autonomy at the same time. Pisano indicates ecologic terrorism, narco-terrorism, the NRBC, and cyber-terrorism as the most important.

Ecologic terrorism (the topic of our research) is based on lay and/or religious ideological ideas and from an organizational point of view is carried out alternatively by cellular organizations with no hierarchies and by binary structures that are cellular and propagandistic at the same time. Ecologic terrorism furthers its antagonism through several operative procedures: 1) obstructive human barriers (lock box), 2) machinery sabotage, 3) arson and explosive detonation, 4) legal instruments focused on reporting abuse by police, 5) assemblage and road blocks, 6) intrusion within military installations or scientific and university institutions, 7) wide use of misinformation through media, internet and magazines, and 8) instigation to tax evasion. The enemies or targets to strike are several in number as well: 1) national and supranational capitalism, 2) the state, which defends its interests and consolidates its power, 3) national and supranational military institutions, and 4) scientific and university laboratories.

In a nutshell, eco-terrorism presents two fundamental trends: animal (such as ALF, ARM or JD) and environmental (e.g. Earth First!). In conclusion, Pisano suggests that the dangers of eco-terrorism are linked to the potential strengthening of its organizational power, creation of operative or ideological ties with traditional terrorism, and the consolidation of its relations with the anti-globalization movement.

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