Tuesday, June 17, 2014
UNEASY SENSE OF DÉJÀ VU
INTELLIGENCE AND COUNTER-TERRORISM EXPERTS:
LEAVE NO “DOT” UNCONNECTED
TWO OF THE ONLY KNOWN RECENT PHOTOS OF
ABU BAKR AL-BAGHDADI THE LEADER OF THE
ISIS FORCES FIGHTING IN IRAQ AND SYRIA
TAGS: IRAQ IN TURMOIL, BRUTAL FIGHTING IN ALL REGIONS,
ISLAMIC STATE IN IRAQ AND AL-SHAM (ISIS), SUNNIS FIGHT SHI’ITES,
POTENTIAL OF WIDER CONFLICT IN MIDDLE EAST, NYPD INTEL
AND COUNTER TERRORISM DIVISIONS TAKING ALL THREATS SERIOUSLY,
CONNECTING THE “DOTS”, CIA & FBI 9/11/2001 INTELLIGENCE FAILURES
(With updated links)
(Tuesday June 17, 2014 NY, NY) As the fractured nation of Iraq is engulfed in blood and flames as warring factions and tribes, Sunnis battle Shi’ites and an influx of outside fighters comprised primarily of members of the malignant bastard off spring of al Qaeda know by the acronym ISIS (called the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham) has emerged as a fierce fighting force lead by Baghdadi who had been held captive at the now-closed detention facility Camp Bucca (named in honor of FDNY Fire Marshall and Army Reserve Intelligence Officer Ronnie Bucca) near Umm Qasr in Iraq from some point in 2005 until his release in 2009. Ominously upon his release he told his captures, “I’ll see you guys in New York”. Perhaps it was one last jab in the eyes of those who had held him imprisoned; perhaps simply an idle empty threat. However, given his rapid rise from relative obscurity in terrorist circles to the head of the largest, best organized, financed, armed and capable terrorist group in Iraq and across the border in Syria, some are beginning to realize he might actually gain a global reach in the not too distant future.
Mayor de Blasio was questioned by the press earlier today about the “threat” made by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and replied that New York City - meaning he and his staff along with NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton - are well aware of all threats and that constant vigilance is the rallying cry. Bratton noted that he would not add additional Officers and Detectives to the 1,300 member Intelligence Division but would increase a much higher Police visibility particularly around “symbolic targets” and that the rapid response and surge forces of NYPD’s Atlas, Cobra, and Hercules Units would be increasingly deployed. Bratton noted that “Terrorists conduct their own surveillance of potential targets” and that any show of force could be sufficient to hamper a potential terrorist’s act or at least make them think twice. On some level simply by following the news across the world via the Internet, anyone with bad intentions in mind has to realize that we are a vastly different City then we were on September 11, 2001, that we are a somewhat hardened target in our airports and other points of entry.
As any New Yorker who lived through that dreadful Tuesday in September 2001 and can still vividly recall the sights, sounds and smells of that cataclysmic event knows, we as a City will always be the primary target of terrorists of every cause. The toppling of our Twin Towers with cunning efficiency put al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden on our map. Al Qaeda remains a threat but it is their off-shoot, splinter organizations that have morphed into a legion of potential terrorists willing to come to America and deliver 9/11-type destruction or something even worse.
In the immediate wake of 9/11 when Michael Bloomberg was elected Mayor of New York City he appointed Ray Kelly as the NYPD Commissioner. Kelly rapidly set in motion initiatives and enlisted former and active CIA and FBI agents to form NYPD’s own “mini-CIA”. Kelly was determined to never again have the fate of his City in the inept hands of do-nothing career bureaucrats in the federal and military intelligence complex padding their pensions in Washington, DC. His innovations were so novel and effective for an urban Police Department that his Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Divisions serve as templates for many other major cities in America and abroad. Kelly designed and initiated never before seen Police operations throughout the five boroughs and, with the cooperation of such entities as Interpol, Scotland Yard, and the Israeli Mossad, elevated NYPD’s Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Divisions into forces with a global reach.
POLITICS AND THE CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Term limited by the City Charter Bloomberg left the Mayor’s Office which is now occupied by the Liberal Democrat Bill de Blasio. De Blasio brought one time Rudy Giuliani’s Police Commissioner Bill Bratton back to One Police Plaza. Bratton returned to a vastly different City then the one he left 20 years ago. Besides the dramatic and historic reductions in all major types of crime from petty theft to murder, New York City was once again the Big Polished Apple, the world’s number one tourist destination, and a more livable City in virtually every Police Precinct. On top of that the NYPD now has a proactive, sometimes aggressive, but always within the constraints of the law, concerted intelligence gathering and analysis and counter terrorism apparatus of their own. Kelly had dispatched NYPD to overseas locations including London, Tel Aviv, Qatar, Oman, and many other places that had their own robust anti-terrorism forces. Information was collected and disseminated in “real time” and, if proved “actionable” appropriate measures were taken.
DIFFERENT EYES MISSING THE SAME BALL
When Ray Kelly said his good byes to NYPD his three most trusted Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Deputy Commissioners resigned as is normal when there is a regime change in City Hall. Into the breach Bratton appointed one of his long time flunkies, John Miller, a former journalist of extremely dubious qualifications for any job in law enforcement much less the position Bratton put him in. Miller was installed as Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counter Terrorism. Miller’s first foray into reshaping the NYPD Divisions that were his domain was to suspend the practice of having NYPD Detectives assigned to posts overseas. Next, with the aid of a liberal court, some of the surveillance and intelligence gathering operations were eliminated. Miller saw his mandate as being that of a corporate raider determined to “slim down” the well-oiled machinery Kelly had taken 12 years to carefully and meticulously construct. What has not been widely reported in the media are the other more damaging and, in some cases, demoralizing alterations Bratton and Miller have inflicted on the Intel and CT Divisions. Speaking not for attribution for professional and personal security reasons, a Detective, a self-characterized “charter member” of Kelly’s revamped Intel Division revealed that, “We are losing resources. Some of our operations have been drastically reduced because some number cruncher in 1PP says we are getting too much over time. What they fail to realize is the nature of what we do. We do not run operations on nine- to- five schedules. It has been sad in a way to see all we had built up under Bloomy and Kelly being dismantled now. I pray every night that we are not hit again because of something we didn’t do”.
NEW YORK CITY’S TERRORISM HISTORY
On February 26, 1993 a small band of Muslim extremists who were the vanguard of a little known group that was the nascent cluster of men who would go on and create al Qaeda, drove a rented U-Haul van into the parking garage beneath the North Tower of the World Trade Center and ignited a powerful 1,500 pound homemade bomb consisting of fertilizer and diesel fuel. The Tower shrugged the subterranean concussive force off like a dog shakes a flea off its back. There were sadly six casualties and over 1000 injured. Within days it was business as usual for most of the people who were living or working in the WTC.
After two years on the run while plotting further terrorist attacks the methodical and diabolic man who had led the first attack on the WTC, Ramzi Yousef, was captured in 1995 after a tip off in Pakistan and quickly extradited to New York City to stand on trial in the Federal Court for the Southern District of New York a short walk from the WTC. One of the federal agents accompanying Yousef in the last leg of his long journey removed Yousef’s blindfold as their helicopter flew over the Twin Towers. The agent said, “See, they’re still there”. Ominously Yousef replied, "Next time we'll bring them both down." And that, as history knows, they did.
As the al Qaeda movement grew out of the remnants of various religious, tribal and ethnic fighters drawn to Afghanistan to repel the invasion forces of the mighty Soviet Union, they became a force to be reckoned with. Buoyed by their defeat of the USSR and enjoying the protection of the unofficial governing authority of the Taliban, they set their sights ever higher. The spiritual and financial titular head of al Qaeda, Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden actually “declared war” on the United States and US interests all over the world. In his call to jihad he would not distinguish military troops from civilians. He wanted to provoke a fight with the United States in a gambit he’d hoped would become a raging inferno of Muslims fighting infidels. After striking two American embassies in Africa and a Navy ship in the port of Aden, a 19 man suicide team infiltrated the United States living to all outward appearances as assimilated to life here until the day they boarded 4 airplanes and used them as bombs that felled the Twin Towers, damaged the Pentagon with the fourth plane crashing in a field in rural Pennsylvania after the passengers on board moved to retake control of the doomed airliner.
In immediate retrospect the entire federal and military intelligence apparatus including the FBI, CIA, NSA, and DOD saw too clearly and too late many signs that something big was being planned by terrorists. Perhaps the most infamous of the “dots” that the CIA, FBI and NSA failed to address properly was a National Security Estimate (NSE) dated August 8th, 2001 titled “Bin Laden hopes to use airplanes as missiles”. After his National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice briefed our vacationing president at his Crawford, Texas ranch, our president went out to play cowboy not lifting a finger to the dire warnings just presented to him in his NSE. And once again, we all know what happened a scant six weeks later.
WE STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND
We have spent the years since 9/11 engaged in warfare of one type or another in various places. We quickly drove al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts into the Hindu Kush mountains on the rugged border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and could have completely routed them had the Cheney/Bush administration not turned their focus to the war they really wanted, the first “pre-emptive” war in American history; a war of choice, sold to the public on blatant falsehoods that has cost us over 4500 killed in action with well over 20,000 casualties of varying severity. Our efforts in Iraq have cost over $1.7 trillion dollars; yes “T” as in trillion. Now we are witnessing that beleaguered country descending into bloody anarchy, fierce sectarian fighting, and reports of mass executions not seen since the gory breakup of the former Yugoslavia in 1995.
What best categorizes our experience in Iraq is failure; failure at the highest levels of our government and military. We have the best trained, best equipped and a highly motivated Army and Air Force and Naval Fleet including the Marine Corps as well as the most lethal Special Operation Forces ever. However, from the Cheney/Bush White house and all through their neo-conservative chicken hawks, a fundamental lack of knowledge regarding the Middle East, its history and people, its religious, sectarian factions, and their view of the Western world particularly the former “Colonial Powers” that redrew the map of that region after World War II. Time and again we try to solve with simple arithmetic what is a very complex calculus.
A powerful example of our inability to understand the region can be attributed to our own history. As far as countries go, we are an infant, just 238 years old. Among the factors motivating the various combatants, insurgents, jihadis, and militias are animosities that date back to the 6th century. The schism between Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims that has animated the violence in the region for centuries seems difficult for Americans to imagine. Some of what we are witnessing today in Iraq is its disintegration from the totalitarian state that was held together by the iron fisted rule of Saddam Hussein reverting into a trisected area that is more akin to the ancient maps that once defined observed homelands for the Kurds in the north, the Shi’ite and Sunnis in the central and western expanse. Ultimately this might be the future of a broken fractured Iraq as the world has known it since 1932.
DÉJÀ VU UNHEEDED AT OUR OWN PERIL
Amid all the bloodletting and atrocities on all sides, beneath the gunfire and artillery shells, one can hear the undercurrent of a threat directed at the United States. Some in the intelligence community liken it to the “chatter” they uselessly intercepted in the months before 9/11 yet, even after all that transpired in September 2001; our collective intelligence machinery is churning out information that is once again falling on apparently deaf ears. Confidentially speaking earlier today with a veteran CIA analyst with years of experience in the Middle East, the threat was put into stark terms. “What we are seeing today is basically like “al Qaeda version 6.0”. They have metastasized from their point of origin, have sprouted a number groups of well trained, battle tested fighters and they have a number of affiliated members who could easily gain access to the United States. They have widely recruited ‘non-Muslim looking’ men with passports from European countries. That they are determined and tenacious is well known. They are also very patient because they realize how high the stakes are if they are able to pull off another strike similar to 9/11/2001”, commented the analyst.
Here the Brooding Cynyx have long warned of the dangers of complacency and apathy. Our collective memories are short; our views of the wider world remains myopically distant despite the rapidity of information and the mobilization of all the assorted animosities of those who chose to bear arms against their blood enemies. The United States for a variety of reasons is cast as an enemy across the Muslim/Islamic world and their intentions are well known.
The disjointed battle lines in Iraq today must only be defended by the people of Iraq. Our embassy in Baghdad, probably the best protected acreage in the entire country, is having its Marine Corps security forced enhanced as the ISIS and other insurgents push towards the capital. Here in NYC the specialized division of the NYPD are on a “quiet alert” footing but, as another Intel Detective commented, “We always are. We are always on a quiet alert. We are determined to protect this City and her people. We also add a bit of prayer to the scenario because it can’t hurt. Right”?
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