Transfer of Nuclear Weapons from Nuclear States to Terrorist Groups

A declassified January 1976 Interagency Intelligence Memorandum (IIM) on the possibility of terrorist use of nuclear weapons contains the following very interesting footnote (not a dissent) on page 5:

“We have considered and rejected as almost wholly incredible the proposition that an existing nuclear power might donate or sell a nuclear weapon to a terrorist group.”

Interesting in light of more recent history.  Of course, when this was written North Korea didn’t have the bomb and Iran was not on the verge of acquiring it.  (Moreover, of course, the Shah was in power in Iran.)

Hotel Tango to Secrecy News for finding this document.  (Though they found a different part of it to highlight in their blog posting.)

Published in: on December 31, 2009 at 7:53 AM  Leave a Comment  

Dust Jackets and The Great War

Check out this wonderful site out of Britain showcasing the dust jackets of books about the Great War published up through approximately 1941.  There is some fabulous stuff here for the bibliophile.

Published in: on December 30, 2009 at 2:54 AM  Leave a Comment  

Is This Leaderless Resistance?

A leaderless campaign by “Anonymous” against the Church of Scientology.  Is this “leaderless resistance“?  It sure sounds like it except for the fact that there is no violence, just ridicule and some performance art (to put it exceedingly generously).  

Some people are skeptical that “leaderless resistance” is actually possible.  I think that it is entirely possible.  There is no a priori reason why this campaign couldn’t have involved violence, it simply happened not to.  (In case you are a lawyer for the Church of Scientology, let me be perfectly clear, I do not condone religious violence.  Nor do I condone anti-religious violence, with the possible exception of military operations against Salafi jihadism, but that’s a different story.)  I think that the “flash mob” phenomenon is another case of something which has many of the characteristics of leaderless resistance.  

Leaderless resistance is interesting because as far as I know, it is the only important idea about revolutionary war or insurgency to come out of the political right.  

Louis Beam

Ulius Amoss

Louis Beam, a white supremacist, generally gets the credit for popularizing the term and the idea of leaderless resistance during the 1980s and 1990s.  See his essay here.  However, Beam correctly gives credit to Colonel Ulius Amoss for originating it.  Amoss (about whom more in a future post) was the man behind Grecian Formula.  He was also a right-wing, retired Air Force officer, veteran of the OSS, and chief of a private intelligence firm during the 1950s.  He published two somewhat different essays entitled “Leaderless Resistance” in his company’s newsletter in 1953 and 1962.  His concern at the time was resisting communist oppressors.  (By the way, I have the 1962 version.  If somebody knows where to find the 1953 version, please let me know.  The Library of Congress and the usual places don’t have it.)  

The idea of leaderless resistance has found its way abroad, too.  Though originating from the right, it is now used by the left (notably by SHAC, originally a British endeavor) and other environmental/animal rights groups.  Simson Garfinkle had an excellent article in First Monday in 2003 looking at the general concept and how it has manifested itself in these groups.  Leaderless resistance has also shown up in the work of the famous Abu Musab al-Suri, probably the leading intellectual strategist of the Salafi jihadist world.  He calls his concept “individual jihad.”  It is interesting, however, that I can find no evidence (yet) that al-Suri read Beam or Amoss, despite the fact that he is very widely read in western military theory.  At the moment, I’d have to say that this looks like a case of parallel development, but I reserve the right to change my mind.  

Abu Musabl al-Suri lecturing in Afghanistan

By the way, Brynjar Lia has written a truly remarkable intellectual biography of al-Suri entitled Architect of Jihad is a truly remarkable book, sort of an intellectual biography, of al-Suri.  It includes a translation of the two main chapters from al-Suri’s masterwork, Call to Global Islamic Resistance.  These are the chapters in which he enunciates his idea of individual jihad.  For a précis of the rest of al-Suri’s 1600 page magnum opus, see Jim Lacey’s A Terrorist’s Call to Global Jihad.

Published in: on December 30, 2009 at 1:21 AM  Comments (3)  

The Death of Hex-based Wargames

Hotel Tango to Paul Manning for finding this article about the death of the hex and die-cut-counter wargame.  In this telling, “TSR shot wargaming in the head.”  You may recall TSR as the company that sold Dungeons and Dragons.  This article seems to suggest that it was incompetence on the part of TSR.  Paul, who brought this to my attention, seems suspicious that it was a murder, a purposeful effort by one gaming sub-culture to eliminate a rival sub-culture.  Who knows?

A young Humble Author (right) playing the Germans in AFRIKA KORPS on the living room floor.

All I know is that I owe my career in national security issues to wargaming.  I bought my first wargame, Afrika Korps, at the Frederick and Nelson’s department store in my hometown.  Sigh.  Little did I know that even as I was buying that game, the entire industry was starting its slide into oblivion.

Published in: on December 30, 2009 at 12:41 AM  Comments (3)  

Selling Bogus Threat Intelligence to the CIA

Check out this story from Playboy.  (If you prefer to avoid Playboy’s website, NPR and Fox News, among many others, also picked it up.)

It appears that a gentleman was selling the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology information that he claimed he could pull out of Al Jazeera broadcasts using his special proprietary (and non-existent) software.  A comment on another site (NPR?) noted that he was doing much the same as the scientists did in Carl Sagan’s book Contact to extract the aliens’ message out of a TV broadcast.  Hmmmmm.

And just to make things better, this man has received money for questionable services from other parts of the US Government, as well.  He claimed to have software that would automatically detect weapons pictured in video feeds, and to have other software that could detect submarines from photographs of open ocean.  All of this apparently was bogus.

On the terrorism threat information, the article alleges that CIA’s counterterrorism analysts and operators were kept in the dark about the nature of the source.  Reportedly, the Directorate of Science and Technology was playing this close to the vest, treating it as a very sensitive source. 

This is a fascinating example of the costs of compartmentation.  Compartmentation allows scams like this to happen, among the many other costs that it imposes.  On the other hand, the lack of compartmentation comes with completely different costs paid in different currencies.  Striking the proper balance is the real trick.  There’s no formula for doing that and there is (necessarily) very little oversight, whether by Congress, the media, or the judiciary.  As a result, you should expect that screw-ups like this will happen not infrequently, but you won’t hear about them.  Richard Betts’ has correctly noted that intelligence failures can never be completely eliminated: there are just too many irreconcilable imperatives embedded in the business.  This observation holds true not just for intelligence analysis.  It applies to other parts of the endeavor, as well.

Oh, and to make things EVEN better, read the story at Playboy’s site and you will also receive a polite invitation to “Click Here” to “See all of Playboy’s classic military-themed nude pictorials.”

UPDATE 3 January 2010:  Michael D. Seller’s blog has a similar comment about the tension between security and efficiency.  He writes from the perspective of having been a “field officer” in the CIA.

Published in: on December 30, 2009 at 12:14 AM  Leave a Comment