Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


Homegrown Bombers, ID Cards, Intelligence Activity, and Profiling

The folks over at The Counterterrorism Blog have been doing a great job the last week or so. Lots of very high quality posts, good roundups around the London attacks. I wanted to point and comment on several of their recent posts.

First is Where do Homegrown British Suicide Bombers Come From?, a first person account of the spread of hate in Britian by Evan Kohlmann. The entire article is worth reading, but I want to excerpt a little and then comment.

At a local community center not far from the Bethnal Green Underground station, I found exactly the answers I was looking for. After having attended a series of events hosted by the fanatical British Al-Muhajiroun movement and its leader Shaykh Omar Bakri Mohammed, we had finally received an invitation to a more intimate gathering of local militants. […]

Needless to say, I was a bit shocked and dismayed when we arrived at the community center that afternoon to discover an audience of approximately twenty young British kids of Bengali origin mostly between the ages of 12 and 20. My heart sank as I realized that any hope of maintaining anonymity in this utterly homogeneous crowd was quickly dashed. In the end, I suspect we were only allowed to stay because the organizers recognized us as recent guests of Shaykh Omar Bakri Mohammed and thought us fairly harmless.

Now, if Evan Kohlmann can get to this gathering, and if John Walker-Lindh can meet bin Ladin, why haven’t we penetrated and shut down more groups which are openly calling for murder?

Related, if there are so many of these misguided people who are British, or American citizens, what good will a national ID card do? (Related, points to another DMV official arrested.)

6 comments on "Homegrown Bombers, ID Cards, Intelligence Activity, and Profiling"

  • beri says:

    “why haven’t we penetrated and shut down more groups which are openly calling for murder?”
    Do you REALLY want someone to attend meetings with the purpose of telling people what they can and cannot say? What about free speech?
    And although it may be repugnant to YOU, what right do we have to tell people what their religion should and should not condone?
    Freedom is dangerous but the alternative is much more dangerous, in my opinion.
    And I don’t doubt that there are people who are using this situation to deprive us all of our rights, for their own ends (and I’m not talking about Muslims).

  • I don’t think undercover presence in organizations is the same as active censorship. I believe that federal law enforcement maintains active tabs on white power hate groups in the US, and I while I’ll march for their right to march, I don’t have an objection with monitoring–it makes crime (including blowing stuff up) much harder to plan.
    Of course the FBI engaged in active surveillance of civil rights groups and other leftist movements in the 60s and 70s under the delightful J Edgar. I don’t know enough about it to comment on any merits that came from those actions–some movements moved beyond civil disobedience–but the risk is still there any time you have unchecked surveillance.
    I do know that a lot of intelligence work is spent building network models of actors and connections. Passive monitoring in target-rich environments seems like a good way to build good social models, assuming that sort of thing is desirable.

  • beri says:

    Alan, who will watch the watchers? You gave an excellent example of what happens when the watchers have their own agendas……that’s the ultimate problem: that one cannot assume that the government is neutral or that their agenda and your rights are not in conflict. The civil rights movement is a perfect example, where the FBI conducted illegal wiretapping, surveillance, reading mail etc of Dr. King.

  • Adam says:

    If the alternative to undercover cops is random stop and search, random house searches, etc, then lets find ways to ensure that the undercover cops are inflitrating the right groups.
    My right to tell others what their religion may condone kicks in somewhere after polygamy or psylocybin, and before suicide bombings.

  • A Question for the Civil Liberty Crowd

    After 9/11 and now again after the London bombings a lot of bloggers in the civil liberty camp have asked the question of why we need a national ID in the fight against terrorism. Obviously this group is against identification…

  • beri says:

    Sad to say, there is NO way to “ensure that the undercover cops are infiltrating the RIGHT groups.” In fact, history in the US, at least, proves that the organs always use permission to infiltrate to infiltrate and spy on people like Martin Luther King and the ACLU. In other words, they always use it for their own ends and therefore always MISUSE it.

Comments are closed.