Sunday, February 3, 2013

Does the Timothy Shepard case need a 'Post 9/11' review?

Police Cadet Timothy Shepard died after what has been reported as nine hours of  very demanding, Police Academy, physical and mental stress training - He lost his kidney and liver function, and eventually died after his liver transplant. Don't you find this just a little unusual?  Why doesn't this happen at amateur sporting events, Iron Man competitions, or when middle aged out-of-shape men run a marathon?

Add to this indications many of the cadets dispute any form of training abuse took place.

Has any one considered giving this a 'post 9/11' review?

Compare this to events a some months later at Ft. Benning GA, and a police report I made to Detective Dennis Farrell of the Reading MA police department in fall of 1987 -

Consider this archived article about the Agawam Training Outbreak. It is also worth reviewing this detailed report of the investigation

It all looks very different in our post 9/11 world doesn't it? - What was the -one- scenario never considered in the investigation?  And also - This may be wrong, it may be mistaken - That is not the same as it's being simply delusional.

At the very least this could an important training and preparedness exercise for the Massachusetts State Police, and Massachusetts Homeland Security. They can go back and ask - "How would this investigation have been handled post 9/11? Who would have participated? What Public Safety steps would have been taken?"

Here is a link to Timothy Shepard's "Officer Down" memorial page

[ A final edit:  Is the determination of  "Exercise Induced Rhabdomyolisis" (EIR) plausible? Yes, indeed it is. It is also important to remember that the pattern of the outbreak was unusual enough to create initial concerns among the Agawam staff and cadets, as well as Massachusetts medical and environmental experts of possible toxins or infectious disease. One has to consider that the circumstances, one of an outbreak rather than isolated individuals, is a rare and unusual event. It may well have been EIR, but with aggravating factors, such as a toxin. The one scenario never considered is that it was a toxin, and it was a deliberate act.

Beyond all of the newspaper headlines, and public outrage, was this training year, this class, really fundamentally different from the classes before it? The same question is relevant to the Ft. Benning outbreak - Was this class of military recruits, this training process, really fundamentally different from the training procedures before it?

So yes, Exercise Induced Rhabdomyolisis is a very likely explanation. However, rhabdomyolisis  is also consistent with symptoms of a crudely manufactured chemical weapon, as might be used by religious or political extremists such as Japanese "Aum Shinrikio", responsible for a Sarin attack in the Tokyo Subway.]

Tim Raisbeck

Friday, December 25, 2009

Yemen - Islam in Conflict

This post is not really about what is happening in Yemen now. It is about what happened in Yemen then. Historical perspective is of deep importance when dealing with a movement built on nostalgia and legend - In this case a return to Islam's golden age - Al Qaeda is such a movement.

Yemen, like most of the Arabian peninsula, was converted to Islam during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, noted by the dark area in the above map. It seems wonderfully simple, one might suppose - Muhammad had a revelation and started a religious movement. They raised an army and overtook Arabia! The truth is nothing like simple however, and may represent one of the most complicated political, religious, and military transitions in recorded history. During the early years of Islam questions of tribal loyalty, economics, and religious faith became intermingled - Add to this a number of local "prophets", themselves claiming to be divine conduits in touch with God. Yemen figures prominently in the early history of Islam as a focus of conflict during the Ridda wars, or the "Wars of Apostasy".

These Wars of Apostasy, occurring in the years immediately following the death of Muhammad, during the time of the first Caliph of Sunni Islam Abu Bakr, are primarily responsible for the structure and schisms seen in Islam today. It
is this legacy that is at the foundation of the split between Sunni Islam, and the Shia Islam of Persia. In Shiaism, it was not Abu Bakr, Muhammad's father-in-law, who was the rightful heir to Islam, but his son-in-law Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, or Ali who was Muhammed's true heir as leader of the Islamic faith.

So here we are,
Yemen in the 21st century! Just as Yemen was at the focus of conflict during the Ridda wars, it is in turmoil today. There is an active Sunni-Shia military conflict in Yemen, a growing Al Qaeda presence, and increasing concern over the stability of the country. An arena in which the fundamental legacy of Islam is still being fought for is fertile ground for a self-anointed prophet like Usama bin Laden, whose grandiosity likely has no bounds. Sheik Bin Laden may be tempted to resolve the Sunni-Shia conflict in Yemen with his own unique fix, by inserting himself as the true "First Caliph" of the modern age, the rightful heir to Muhammad, and one of their own. Don't underestimate the importance of tribal loyalty in Arab culture!

It is difficult to predict how the conflict in Yemen will unfold, or the likelihood that
Usama Bin Laden will surface there. A prior blog post discusses the search for this madman, and raises questions about estimates of his current location (see Where is Usama bin Laden Anyway?) .

There is one safe bet though -

I think it is safe to conclude that if we can afford to finance the search for secret messages in Al Qaeda videos, as part of our counter-terrorism effort, we can afford to fund scholars of Islamic history and the research resources they require!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Al Qaeda and the Deprogramming Dilemma

Most are aware of the CIA interrogation debate involving treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay that is sweeping the United States media. It seems apparent that the conflict is not going to rise above partisan politics, and maybe people should not have expected it would! There is little likelihood of any substantive discussions about what interrogation is for, why people do it, and what interrogation is supposed to produce.

Interrogation is supposed to produce information through cooperative exchange with the party being questioned!

Consider the photograph on the right - Seem like a reasonably nice bunch of hippie kids. Even today you see people like that at 'Phish' concerts wearing their parents hand-me-downs. Let's say for argument, you had reason to believe they had been involved in a violent criminal act, and you needed to interrogate them. How would you go about it? - Sleep deprivation? Waterboarding?

In the event you weren't tipped off by the well-known face in front, Lynnette "Squeaky" Fromme, this is a photograph of the Charles Manson Family, whose members were involved in the Labianca-Tate murders. Maybe they aren't such a nice bunch of kids after all!

The Charles Manson Family, as it was called, was a "Revelation" cult with beliefs built on a violently distorted interpretation of the Book of Revelation of the Bible - Check this linked text for details. Charles Manson, the leader of this cult, is considered one of modern histories more notable psychopathic madmen. He probably has more in common with Usama Bin Laden, the figurehead of Al Qaeda, than most in Western society would tend to believe, in spite of the fact that they came from dramatically different backgrounds.

This leads back to the question -
If we were to interrogate members of the Manson Family, in the course of a criminal investigation, how would we go about it? Would we keep them naked in cells, would we take their Bibles and toss these in the toilet? Not only would this be in violation of Federal laws, and international covenants, it is unlikely this would produce reliable information! Most importantly, abuse would probably have the effect of reinforcing their distorted beliefs, as the mistreatment became interwoven with cult-based conspiracy theories, and used as divine justification for criminal actions. In the case of the Manson Family, we probably would have tried to separate those involved as decision makers from the participants on the fringes, and attempt to find some way of connecting with the latter, or deprogram them. Once removed from the cult mindset and milieu, no longer under Manson's influence, they probably would have been delighted to cooperate with authorities.

Not only is abuse of detainees illegal and immoral, it does not produce cooperation or reliable intelligence!

Torture is most effective when you wish the subject to accept your view of reality, and interpretation of events independently of the truth. This was the primary result of torture used during the Spanish Inquisition. The techniques used at Guantanamo Bay would have been just as effective in producing statements that the 9/11 attacks were a conspiracy of the Government of Iceland, as they were in trying to support the flawed contention that these attacks somehow involved Iraq and Saddam Hussein.

The Saudi government, usually known for it's harsh edicts and punishment of criminals, has recognized this in their Al Qaeda related intelligence efforts, and treatment of arrestees. The Saudi approach is built on the insight that the most effective strategy for countering faith-based terrorism involves removing participants from the cult mindset.

The United States has been very supportive of Saudi counter-terrorism efforts under former President Bush, and it is safe to assume that this support will continue under President Barack Obama. It may turn out in the end that our interrogation of detainees was not simply immoral or unproductive. At a deeper level, without a strong foundation in Muslim theology within our intelligence and law enforcement communities, we may not have had the capacity to conduct effective interrogations in the first place.

For some background you might wish to read these blog posts - "Where is Usama Bin Laden Anyway"?, and "The Extremist Mentality in Islam".

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Who Killed Rafik Hariri?

As followers of international affairs would know, Rafik Hariri, Prime Minister of Lebanon, was assassinated in a massive explosion in 2005. This event shook Lebanese society severely, and at the time, suspicion was aimed at Syria, and Syrian government agents, as being both motivators and participants in this murder.

yria has been meddling in Lebanese affairs for a number of years, and it is natural that suspicion would fall on them!

Many in Lebanon felt then, and believe today that this event was a Syrian conspiracy. They would know, wouldn't they?
They were there when it happened. My personal feeling is that the Syrian government is unlikely to have been behind Hariri's killing. They never had any real motive, or certainly not one that would overcome the liability of a major disruption in Lebanese society, a disruption that eventually resulted in the expulsion of their forces.

It is interesting to look at events in our own nation that could provide insights in to the Lebanese response. I am referring to the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 by a group of Fundamentalist Sunni fanatics. At the time, many in our government were convinced that Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government must somehow have been involved. In retrospect this was almost certainly not true, and even
obviously unlikely to many Americans. Most contradictory, Usama Bin Laden's involvement was well known, and Iraq under Saddam Hussein was not in any way welcoming to Muslim extremists. This aside, our government was so convinced of Iraqi involvement that it motivated military engagement of Iraq.

The tendency to blame a nation's historical enemy for society-shaking attacks such as the Hariri killing, or World Trade Center attack of 2001, is common in history, and often unjustified.

The Reichstag Fire, a key event in the years leading to WWII, was blamed at the time by the emerging Nazis as a conspiracy of German communists. In retrospect, many suspect it was the Nazis themselves who set this fire. The Assassination of Arch Duke Ferdinand by Serbian nationalists in 1914 may, or may not have involved agents of the Serbian government. This made little difference to European leaders, who considered it a pretext for World War. More recently there is the Terrorist Attack at Mumbai, blamed by many in India on their historical foe Pakistan. It is unlikely there was any Pakistani government involvement.

Who was responsible for Hariri's killing then? This remains an open question. It may not have been a major conspiracy at all, and might only have involved a few participants. The size of the explosion
does not dictate the size of the conspiracy! This is an important lesson from the Murrah Federal Building Bombing in Oklahoma City.

To me, some of the circumstances surrounding the Hariri attack seem reflective of our own Oklahoma City bombing. One might do well to take a closer look
within Lebanese society for suspects, rather than blame this event automatically on external foes. There are numerous extremist factions within Lebanon who could have been responsible. As a nation, Lebanon has been in a recurring state of civil unrest for decades.

There is, of course, the question of Hezbollah. Could they have been involved? They have the means, and certainly seem to have benefited from the resulting instability. It is important to remember, however, there are credible scholars of history who take the position the Nazis had
no involvement in the burning of the German Reichstag building - It was nothing but a very fortunate event for them. This certainly could be the case with Hezbollah.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Extremist Mentality in Islam

My posts and internet discussions tend to focus on inter-faith relations and terrorism issues. It is not that I enjoy it, but there really is much to say. The Wikipedia-origin drawing of the eleventh-century Crusader, Godfrey of Bouillon, should provide a clue where I am going with this.

Religious extremism and conquest are nothing new, and the
Jihad of Islamic extremism should not be any sort of mystery to one having an acquaintance with European history. It is really nothing more, or less, than the Islamic crusades, in a modern setting, with a vague goal of a return to Islam's golden age. The phenomenon is amplified by the military legacy of the birth of Islam, which may be part of the reason the Muslim counterpart to the Christian reactionary, who rants in bad-imitation King James English down by the subway station, becomes a major political and military force in Arabic society. Legions of followers are absorbed by their phony tenth-century classical Arabic prose, and motivated to acts of destruction by lies disguised as Quranic-style text, appearing only slightly removed from the words of the prophet.

In Christianity this variety of hype, usually built around the Book of Revelation, is widely known as damaging and destructive, and is far enough removed from mainstream faith that we discard it easily. In Islam it seems to work however.

Back to the point-

Analogy is a very powerful intellectual tool, and I have wondered at times if it has been overlooked in that philosophical effort to uncover what distinguishes men from machines, or been considered as a factor in the Turing test. Religious and historical analogies certainly have applications in security and counter-terrorism! As an example, we should consider why pressuring nations to control terrorist organizations operating within their territory is only of limited usefulness. Consider the relationship between the Knights Templar and the monarchy of France. Is it realistic to assume that Syria, or even Iran, can dictate orders to Hezbollah?

In closing, History and Religious Philosophy are as important to the counter-terrorism arsenal as Forensics, Diplomacy, and Military science. With a little thought and practice, it isn't difficult to stay ahead of the analyst community. Certainly, religion and history based models produce more reliable results than efforts built entirely on geopolitics, or centralized conspiracy arguments built around
Hitler-like personality cults, the latter being almost exclusively damaging.

Of course, no advance in counter-terrorism would have the impact of the wide understanding within Islamic culture that these extremist elements are no different from the loathed Western crusaders. That could change the whole game!