28 May 2017

The technological evolution of the 20th century has brought about advancements that have forever changed society. The creation of the online world and the ability of people to live virtually has become a growing trend, repositioning civilization from reality into the online form. However, no technology is perfect and no civilization is without flaws, therefore some issues have translated from real world to virtual reality and are even more difficult to detect, defend against and defeat.

The most pressing challenge of the online world is cyberterrorism and the security threat. Whether it be an expert hacker into a city’s power grid, or the funding of terror activity through an online monetary system – cyberterrorism is a method with no clear ending, and requires equally advanced technological defenses to claim victory. Some argue that minor cyber threats, such as hacking or planting a virus are miniscule and outside of the range of cyberterror. Instead, they replace those activities with threats that cause physical violence or financial damage. However, regardless of the extremity, cyber threats exist and are taking the mainstage away from real, tangible threats as the online world becomes more relevant and preferable to society as a whole.

While hacking might be considered minor, it really depends on the damage that is possible. On the individual level, hacking someone’s Facebook account might interfere with their social life, while hacking their bank account might put a hole in their wallet. On a societal level, one can potentially hack an entire bank’s system and wipe the vault clean or a plane’s flight plans to crash it into the ground, causing real physical damage and loss of life.

Viruses are a method of cyberterror that has almost become obsolete in the modern world, but are still very alive and ready to cause damage. One might use a virus to gain information about an individual to gain access to their private life, while someone else might use a virus to break through a firewall and hack an entire system.

In both cases, hacking and viruses, among other cyber threats, are potential for physical violence or financial damage. By disturbing the norm through a cyberattack, an individual or group holds the power to attain information, create unwanted change, influence the real world and more. And with this power, comes great fear and damage from everybody else.

So, how do we battle in the online world? Well, shields and swords won’t be any use here. Instead, we must use cyber skills, albeit firewalls and other defense systems, which will fight and deter online terror. The modern day world has been catapulted into an online system that foregoes the physical but succumbs to the power of a cyber threat. But, because of its relevance in today’s society, it is imperative that we adapt our systems and create methods of identifying and defending  against cyberterrorists who wish to cause damage and create harm in any way. May the force be with you.

28 May 2017

The phenomenon of Right-Wing extremism and its accompanied terrorism is one that has not been nearly as studied and analyzed as the rise of Islamic terrorism. With its global, far reaching implications and prominence all around the world, Islamic terrorism dominates the headlines and the field of counter terrorism. However, within the United States, the real threat might be closer to home than people ever imagined. The Department of Homeland Security reported that lone wolf attacks carried out by those with right wing ideologies “are the most dangerous domestic terrorist threat in the United States”. According to the news, politicians, academia, and the average US citizen the answer would almost certainly be different. Why is threat going largely unreported?

The history of right wing domestic terrorism in the US usually starts and ends with a man named Timothy McVeigh. He is responsible for carrying out the most deadly act of domestic terrorism ever and the most deadly attack on American soil before 9/11. On April 19, 1996 a truck parked with 5,000 pounds of Ammonia Nitrate and nitromethane (ANNM) at the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City. The resulting blast killed 168 people including many children at a daycare located in the building. Motivations for this attack included revenge for the Waco Siege and Ruby Ridge incident, where the government, in McVeigh’s eyes, were responsible for killing innocent people. This antigovernment sentiment was combined with aspects of white nationalism, as a copy of the book Hunter, written by the founder of the white supremacist group National Alliance. McVeigh stands as the poster child for the mass destruction that a so-called “lone wolf” can inflict on society. He even reveled in this accomplishment by stating “isn’t it kind of scary that one man could reap this kind of hell.”

From anti-government militias to white supremacist groups, the vast network of right wing extremism provides a difficult task for counter-terrorism officials. However, there are key elements to this puzzle that can offer a better understanding of how to deal with this phenomenon. First, to fix a problem one must admit they have a problem. This phenomenon has largely been ignored despite various departments warning of its danger. As a society, the US has effectively dehumanized the terrorist that lives in the Middle East and abroad. It is much easier for US society to dehumanize and act violently against Islamic terrorists that look different, speak another language, and live thousands of miles away. However, when they belong to the same group it is a much more difficult process to target them. This may explain why right wing terrorism remains an understudied topic, and comparatively, receives little attention. This must change.  Despite the strategy of “lone wolf” attacks, these individuals are usually seeking identity within a group. Many have had failed relationships and unsuccessful stints in the military and the only group that accepts them is the radial one. With the advent of the internet, these groups are easier than ever to find. This is a serious problem, but also offers counter-terrorism officials a starting point for tracking certain behavior. From emails to message boards, these websites provide valuable information on ideology, movement, and even the possibility of actionable intelligence to prevent attacks. Finally, it is important that we do not view these attacks as isolated incidents committed by psychopaths. To dismiss them as “crazy” only fuels the extremist ideology that isolates individuals in the first place. A greater understanding of what drives these groups, much like the work being done in Islamic terrorism, should be applied to right wing domestic terrorism. Rather than dismiss the enemy, study them, learn, and apply those lessons in the field.

27 May 2017

Instability, conflict and organized crime are self-explanatory obstacles and deterrents for the spread of foreign direct investments and other forms of trade. Any rational investor wouldn’t want to expose their capital to unnecessary risks. According to the World Development report of 2011, it is estimated that around 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by political and criminal violence. Instability and uncertainty are factors of disincentive for cooperation and as a result, the European Union which is the world’s largest common market has in its constitutional basis the Lisbon Treaty, which is a renowned policy to “strengthen international security.” (European Commission, 2017)

As the Lisbon Treaty was being drafted in 2007 the European Council Conclusions on Security and Development highlighted that conflict prevention “should be pursued as a priority goal in particular by fostering and strengthening development cooperation.”(European Commission, 2017)

Dr. Andrew Moravcsik of Princeton University and Professor Michael W. Doyle of Columbia University among other scholars have furthered developed theories and concepts relevant to the topic of economic integration. One concept widely debated and studied is the Commercial Peace Theory. In essence, Commercial Peace Theory states that trade causes interdependence, and interdependence causes peace (Doyle, M. 1986). The notion of Commercial Peace emerged already in 1910, when British Member of Parliament Normen Angell wrote “the Great Illusion” where he argued that trade and interdependence brings about peace. The more interlinked countries are with each other on a commercial level, the less likely they are to go into conflict with each other due to their interdependence. It is a rather simple cost and benefit analysis; as soon as two countries trade with one another, they start specializing for comparative advantage and maximum efficiency in certain goods (if they haven’t already done so). Comparative advantage therefore is not only the more efficient choice for profit, but it makes the country dependent on others for goods it has chosen not to produce vis-a-vis how the other countries become dependent on the goods others can produce more efficiently. In other words, if one produces bullets and the other produces guns, they will not be able to fight each other. This was the idea of an integrated Europe after World War II, which as a continent has not seen war since.

Furthermore, the sociological rational states that communities which trade with each other inevitably will interact and get to know each other better causing understanding, respect and even tourism as well as exchanges of knowledge and scientific developments. In this sense, trade helps promoting interaction with other cultures since it causes close connections and familiarity. This in turn will make it harder to demonize other nations and cultures. In this sense, the public opinion is unlikely to urge for conflict but rather enjoy the fruits of cooperation and prosperity.

ISDEF is proud to be a platform for commercial collaboration and interaction for over 50 countries which will further bonds between Israel and other nations. A prosperous, transparent and genuine interdependence is therefore something ISDEF is proud to promote and support.


Doyle, M. 1986. “Liberalism and World Politics” American Political Science Review 80: 4
(December): pp. 1151-69

European Commission

Oneal, Zeev Maoz & Bruce Russett. 1996. “The Liberal Peace: Interdependence, Democracy and International Conflict, 1950-1986”. Journal of Peace
Research, vol. 33, no. 1, Feburary, pp. 11-28

27 May 2017

The global community is filled with countries with unique combinations of cultures, languages, religions and people. But beyond the people, there are also a multitude of government structures, leadership styles and political stances that can either harm or improve diplomatic relations. In  the past, conflicts between countries have ended in bloodshed or peace. But today, these conflicts are miniscule in comparision to the modern day threat of terrorism that continues to rise with advancements in every aspect – physically and virtually.

The threat of modern day terrorism has taken the mainstage in our politics, news coverage and public concern. Breaching security, disrupting the status quo and causing chaos are just some of the many aims of terrorist groups. Regardless of religious, environmental, social or political cause, terrorist groups affect each and every country by affecting the environment we live in and threatening the peace of mind we desire as human beings.

While domestic issues and foreign conflicts continue to exist within our political spheres, some might suggest that they have taken the backburner while the existence of a terrorizing force still affects our societies. At the end of the day, the severity of a terrorist threat might be overblown by some leaders or governments for their own political gain, but the threat is still relevant today. With that being said, it is important that our countries come together to battle the threat to ensure the continuance of the global order. Rather than fighting each other, we should be combining forces to fend off terrorist groups. The only way we can defeat this common enemy is not against one another, but instead hand in hand.

So, how do nations with differing views and differing opinions come together for a common cause? That is a question with no right answer and no definite solution for all. But it is a question we must ask ourselves and our leadership so that progress in worldwide cooperation can continue. Whether it is a middle man bringing two opposing nations together or a common ground that will erect cooperation, a solution must be reached so that forces can be combined and the battle can be won in the end.

26 May 2017

Since World War II, the days of bloody conflict between sovereign nations seems to be in the past. Democracies are able to solve their problems democratically and more unified world order has created a system in which countries do not go to war with each other. However, conflict still exists primarily in the form of violence against and by non-state actors. Smaller groups like terrorist organizations, nationalists, drug cartels, and rebel groups alike have caused significant problems for countries that engage in these conflicts. Military powers like the Soviet Union, United States, France and Israel have all been pushed back, demoralized, or simply defeated by smaller, under equipped groups of insurgents. As more frequently terrorist organizations represent an insurgent threat, security and military officials must adapt to battle this threat and understand why the mighty do not always win.

Despite its recent rise in areas such as the Middle East and North Africa, guerilla conflicts have been around since the Romans conquered the known world. The Jewish insurgency frustrated the Romans to the point where they decided to utterly destroy any remnants of their holiest temple. The United States became an independent nation in large part due the guerilla masters, like Francis Marion, that roamed the southern states ambushing British soldiers and defying the respected rules of war. Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam pushed back two world powers by implementing guerilla warfare with the utmost precision and brutal proficiency. Ahmad Shah Massoud used the mountainous terrain of Afghanistan to constantly push back the Soviets. Undermanned and outgunned, these insurgents have created a history and lore that fuels the spirts of the lowly rebel in countries around the globe.

On the other side, counter-insurgency strategy (COIN) has developed to better fight the smaller enemies. For years, a scorched earth policy was used to decimate and eradicate any threat to the more powerful actor. However, as the international community became more relevant, human rights abuses more difficult to hide, and a more resilient insurgent was born, the time came for a new way to win. Men such as David Galula, learned from his experiences in Algeria to offer new insights on countering insurgencies. Terms like population control and “winning hearts and minds” filled the literature on the subject. In a modern case, General David Petraeus would reshape American COIN by applying hard tactics of leadership decapitation and tight security measures with creating a positive relationship and prioritizing the safety of the local population. However, a foreign power can do all in its power and perform a perfect COIN operation, but if the local government is not able to effectively lead than the insurgents will soon return to prominence. Keeping with the Iraq example, the US had essentially defeated AQI/ISI by killing key leaders and instituting population control before sectarian violence on behalf of the Iraqi government gave ISI new life. Corruption, inability to provide public goods, and being unable to protect its citizens will spell disaster for any state that has overpowered an insurgency.

The growing threat of terrorist organizations that control and govern territory provides a strong case for increased knowledge and understand on guerilla conflicts. Governments must learn to adapt to fight insurgencies physically and psychologically. Their inability to evolve in one or both of those of those facets has led to insurgent victory in every corner of the globe. Governments and militaries need innovations in intelligence, weaponry, vehicles, surveillance and countless other aspects of warfare to combat the growth of insurgent and guerilla conflict. As warfare evolves, so too must the tools of war.

26 May 2017

‘Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ are three among many unalienable rights intended for all human beings regardless of creed. These civil liberties are the rights and freedoms of individuals that governments are required to uphold. Some of the most basic, and yet controversial, are freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of press. Each of these rights has somehow played a role in conflict, albeit on all levels of government. For example, people are awarded the freedom of speech, but certain statements have led to dire consequences, such as arrest or prosecution. On the other hand, freedom of press allows newspapers and reporters to explore topics of interest, until a national security label is slapped on the material and access is denied.

While there domestic challenges persist, contemporary external threats to these freedoms are also developing. For example, terrorism threatens these freedoms in a number of ways, while compromising the safety of whole nations and the people who inhabit it.

In one dimension, homeland security measures against terrorism limit the amount of freedoms citizens are guaranteed. One way is the violation of privacy in order to protect and serve. This can be seen with measures such as surveillance and wiretapping. Some governments find it necessary to invade the privacy of their citizens in order to ensure their security on the highest level, while some citizens and groups resent this violation.

On the other hand, homeland security and civil liberties present challenges to one another when suspect individuals find themselves being investigated, interrogated or even imprisoned. Some governments have active legislation that allows different treatment of terror suspects to other criminals, while many groups claim this as a violation of civil liberties and freedom.

Overall, as terrorism continues to exist, the use of homeland security and counterterrorism measures continue to be utilized. This undying conflict consisting of counterterror measures, the maintaining of civil liberties, and the pursuit of security threats like terror has taken the main stage of the international arena, and continues to test the boundaries and limits of our civilization. It has become a great challenge for governments to uphold civil liberties as they attempt to pursue and confront security threats. The challenge we face today is striking a balance between national security measures and civil liberties for all. How far can governments go? Which holds more value – life or liberty? How can we determine this value collectively? How can governments address terror threats without compromising basic human rights?

These are just some of many questions that are placed on policy makers and addressed in the field of homeland security.

25 May 2017

Since the late stages of the 2000s, targeted killings have long been a central strategy of many in the west, including US and Israeli counterterrorism operations. As a way to take out High-Value Targets (HVT) without endangering the lives of ground troops, it has been a popular tactic among the populations of the west. Targeted killings have led to deaths of countless terrorist leaders around the globe. Specifically, ISIS has been a main target, losing large amounts of upper echelon leadership to coalition strikes. From 2006-2010 strikes successfully killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his two successors, pushing the group to the fringes of functionality.

Fear of strikes has kept many terrorist leaders underground, rendering them unable to affectively lead their organizations. However, this fact does not mean there are not serious considerations. Recent figures in multiple countries show that civilian deaths remain high enough to elicit concern: Pakistan (424-996), Yemen (65-101), Somalia (3-12), Afghanistan (125-182). However, these figures do not include the thousands injured in the various drone strikes throughout the area.

Despite the large amounts of collateral damage, targeted killings remain the most popular tactic for combating terrorism. Many opponents of drones and targeted strikes argue the fact that signature strikes utilize measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT), but often lack any real form of human intelligence (HUMINT). Many of these targets require swift action and the window for striking is limited. Human intelligence is a slow burn and cannot keep up with advanced MASINT technology. But the reliance on tech has directly resulted in civilian casualties.

Although he west has embraced technology, many terrorist organization are utilizing one of the oldest tricks in the guerilla warfare handbook: propaganda. Without the support of the local population, killing off terrorists will not have its desired effect.  Terrorist strategy has evolved to use effective propaganda to turn local populations against targeted killing policies in various regions. In Dabiq, an ISIS publication, this idea was rapidly spread around the internet in the infamous “Why We Hate You” article. It clearly noted a reason for fighting the west was for “crimes against the Muslims” and that “drones and fighter jets bomb, kill, and maim our people around the world.”

The advent of drone technology has revolutionized the way the west fights its wars. From surveillance operations to precision air strikes, technology is paving the way for the removal of the soldier from the battlefield. However, although the soldier’s life may be saved the civilian’s fate is not as certain. This new technology has created a video game like simulation with real lives at stake and the psychological effects are apparent on both sides. Intelligence remains a paramount consideration in these types of hazardous operations. Whether from humans, signals, or open sources, intelligence continues to uncover the location of terrorist leaders. This information offers difficult choices for our leaders. Therefore it is not the risk of taking action, but the consequences of not taking action that has given rise to this new form of warfare. Is the west making the correct moves to win the war on terror or are they creating a new batch of terrorists with every instance of collateral damage?

25 May 2017

Cyber-terrorism is a real threat to the countless countries facing the ever expanding war on terror. However, the general and immediate concern is not attacks in cyber infrastructure or hacking attempts. Those should not be ignored, but the reality is that terrorist organizations are using the internet to spread propaganda, justify attacks, fundraise, recruit, and reach a global audience. Recent attacks show the capability and reach these websites are having on people around the world. Therefore, monitoring and learning about the enemy through their own websites should be a key policy of governments around the world. Moreover, it is necessary to build up abilities to properly disseminate their own propaganda and counter the radical ideology these websites present Just as the battle will be fought on the ground with military power, it must also be fought in the minds of the people involved and most affected.

Terrorists use their websites to disseminate propaganda, raise funds, entice and persuade new recruits, and reach a global audience. They also offer the speeches and interviews of organizational leadership in multiple languages. These are important tools, but they do not necessarily violate any laws or incite violence. A key goal of these organizations is to appear as legitimate political organizations that offer justifications for their actions. Although these may be indirect calls for violence, taking judicial action becomes problematic and may violate clear civil liberties of free speech. Unfortunately, there is much more than rhetoric on the internet. Manuals can be found on these websites, including the Terrorist’s Handbook and Anarchist’s Cookbook, that give detailed instructions for building various explosives, bombs, and poisonous gases. Furthermore, the ability to offer fundraising opportunities and ways of sending contributions remains a concern. This greatly enhances the organization’s range of influence and ability to carry out attacks. Finally, the internet offers the rhetoric necessary to self-radicalize and answer calls to action. This tactic, despite not relying on direct orders or operational ties, fuels the rise of the lone wolf attack and provides a new threat for counter terrorism officials.

With use of the internet becoming a symbol for free speech and gathering assemblies, it is necessary to carefully balance between democratic values and security. Although terrorists primarily rely on guerrilla tactics and insurgency, use of the internet cannot be ignored. The Boston Marathon Bombing is a prime example of this phenomenon. The Tsarnaev brothers were reportedly self-radicalized and gained most of their materials from the internet. Most importantly, the brothers learned how to make the bomb from Inspire magazine, the online publication of the AQ affiliate in Yemen. Even without direct ties to any organization, internet access gave them all the tools they needed to carry out an attack.

As policy makers, security specialists, and military leadership assess the current cyber threat they must recognize that the threat is not solely on hacking and infrastructure attacks. The current situation represents and ideological attack that is successfully radicalizing and influencing individuals around the globe. This new “internet mosque” disseminates dangerous propaganda at a rate much faster than ever before. Tracking individuals and users is a difficult process and many of the methods violate civil liberties and privacy of innocent people. Terrorist organizations may not have advanced cyber kills to hack and cause psychical damage, but the rise of the so-called lone wolf has certainly been fueled by terrorist networks increasing use of the internet.

24 May 2017

The borders of a nation are crucial in the security and survival of that nation. These borders determine the boundaries of jurisdiction, the civilian population under that law, the relationship with its neighbors, among other purposes. However, these borders every so often are compromised by other factors, for example wars and conflicts.

The present threat to border security isn’t necessarily conflict between nations, but more specifically as conflict between groups –the population of a country and the refugees entering. In this modern day dilemma, many oppose the influx of refugees, claiming they pose a security risk potentially importing terrorism alongside regular individuals.

Some attempts to remedy this issue are the use of profiling tactics by the government. These include background checks and screenings, if possible, to prevent the entrance of radicals and terror. However, with many profiling tactics, there runs a risk of jeopardizing liberties and freedoms.

Additionally, profiling is repeatedly criticized for focusing on individuals for their skin rather than actual suspected threat. In fact, some say that refugees should be the least suspected since they are running away from the disaster at home that was caused by terrorism.

However, the mere fact that these individuals come from a country where a terrorist group operates worries not just the public, but the politicians and government of nations, too. As a result, the modern day challenge of border protection is finding methods of screening potential visitors and refugees so as to protect their basic human rights while ensuring a secure nation.

The challenge presented today is does accepting refugees compromise the security of a country’s citizens? Do refugees present a larger risk for importing terrorism than other individuals? Should more intense measures, such as background checks or security screenings, be utilized to grant entrance to refugees? Should nations close their borders from incoming refugees for the sake of security?

There is no one right answer for any of these questions. For some countries, allowing refugees has been a beneficial experience, improving the society they live in today. For others, there have been issues with adaptation, ties to terror, or separation among groups that have caused more damage than good as a result of refugees. Regardless, this is a growing issue in the world of defense and security as these dimensions of our nations are questioned and even threatened further.

24 May 2017

The ability to raise funds and develop financial networks has been a key strategy of many terrorist organizations. Despite the fact that most terrorist acts are relatively cheap and carried out by individuals, organizations are still developing new ways to make money. Moreover, the rise of the “hybrid terrorist” organization has created an even greater need for funds to supply public goods and enforce territorial control. The widespread use of the internet has also fueled a new wave of differing money flows. New income sources require new advancements in counter financing operations, so that they can advise policy makers on how to fight back against this international issue. From local cells to the capital of the so-called Islamic State, money flow is key to the operations of terrorist organizations. As Abdullah Azzam stated, “Men are in need of Jihad and Jihad is in need of money.”

Typical flows of income pre-911 were defined by private donors and charities that proved a front for more malicious activities. Al-Qaeda, before 9/11, is alleged to have had an annual budget of $30 million provided primarily by the aforementioned methods. Developed and maintained by the wealthy Bin Laden, finance has long been a well-organized and paramount priority for the organization. Connections to central banks in Africa and the Gulf also showed the intricate nature of terrorism fundraising and its far reaching capabilities. Even after 9/11, reports how that AQ still brings in millions of dollars a year despite the best efforts of counter financing officials.

Although officials and the international community have begun the process of cracking down on terror financing, the rise of ISIS has created a plethora of new problems. A combination of classic financing techniques and a few pages out of the organized crime playbook have resulted in the wealthiest terror group in history. From extortion, racketeering, protection money, human trafficking to black market oil deals, the revenue stream is flowing from countless fountain heads into ISIS HQ and their surrounding bases. Officials can do little to limit the sources that arise from territorial control (i.e. natural resources, Iraqi banks) and the taxes they enforce. Limiting money laundering operations and black market deals remains the best option without a commitments from dozens of international actors and the ability of those actors to follow through on limiting their ability to move products. Since the money flow itself has proven difficult to stop, another tactic has been to take out finance ministers, accountants, and the money men of ISIS with drone strikes and targeted killing operations. This change in strategy shows that hitting the financial sector is on a similar level as taking out military leadership.

Reports and intelligence gathered from the field have proven that hitting terrorist networks in their wallets has a direct effect on the group’s ability to recruit, maintain territorial control, and direct operations. Decentralization of the operations may make terrorist groups more difficult to kill militarily, but it hurts the organizations ability to direct the flow of money in the way they see fit. Counter financing officials must continue to pressure these groups with freezing bank accounts, monitoring the rise of social media’s funding capabilities, while developing new techniques to combat the criminal element that has transformed groups like ISIS and Boko Haram into regional powers. Developing these techniques will not only hurt global terrorist groups, but can be utilized by local law enforcement around the world to combat organized crime.