Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pentagon's New(ish) Policy About Hack Attacks

First, the bad news: The United States is vulnerable to an attack on our information technology.

Now, the good news: It's possible to defend against a 'cyberattack.' And the American military has been working on ways of dealing with threats to our info tech.

Welcome to the 21st Century

That good news/bad news thing is from my point of view, of course.

I live in this country. I like being able to run a furnace during winter, get air conditioning now and then in the summer, and use the telephone year-round. All of which depend on a power grid and telecommunications system that rely on software and computers.

I think that the Pentagon isn't anywhere near as big a threat to me as, say, Al Qaeda. Which isn't the same as assuming brass hats can do no wrong. (June 18, 2009) The American military isn't perfect. I don't expect that of any human institution. What's remarkable about the people who defend this country is that they routinely and objectively review what's been done - then learn from their mistakes - and successes. (June 30, 2008)

Military Minds, Hackers, and Obligatory Hand-Wringing

News that an attack on America's information technology will be treated as an act of war, like any other attack, will almost certainly hit old-school news media this June.

The Wall Street Journal has already published an article about the report.1 That paper has been around since the late 19th century, so in a sense it's 'old school,' but their editors seem to have noticed that class struggles and Yankee imperialism are a trifle dated as relevant topics go. So is "relevance," for that matter - and that's another topic.

In a perfect world, the Pentagon would have noticed America's reliance on information technology - and how an attack could target that technology - years ago. For that matter, in a perfect world we wouldn't need armed forces: and nobody would have decided to fly airliners into New York City's World Trade Center.

I'd like to be wrong about this, but my guess is that we'll read some of the usual complaints:
  • Paranoid generals
  • Threats to our privacy
  • American
    • Arrogance
    • Insensitivity
    • Whatever
And, of course, how any attack on American information technology is our fault. That's probably when Stuxnet will be displayed as an example of American indifference. Or something else that's pretty much icky.

Maybe that sort of knee-jerk response has gone out of fashion. Things change, including biases among the powers that be. Sometimes change comes when the powers that be themselves get swapped out. And that's yet another topic. (May 26, 2011, March 18, 2011)

Dealing With Uncertainty

A concern that's already been raised is, I think, more reasonable: how to tell where an attack on an American information system came from.

Anything involving the Internet will be easy enough to track, in a way. A few years ago, a series of such attacks came from China. Or, rather, servers in China. March 20, 2010, February 22, 2010, October 10, 2008) The Chinese government's official line is that it wasn't them.

They could be right. I don't necessarily think so - but it is possible that whoever planned the various attacks lived in and operated out of, say, Liechtenstein. Or Kenya. Or Paraguay. Or anywhere else in the world with modestly-adequate Internet connections. Trojan horse viruses are nothing new: and a government-run server could be hijacked by one. (Apathetic Lemming of the North (October 3, 2010))

One thing I'm not particularly worried about is a Dr. Strangelove scenario where one (1) lunatic general - American, of course - decides to make it look like China launched yet one more hack attack on America. It could happen, of course: but I'm pretty sure that this country, at least, has learned to be a little more careful than we were back in the "remember the Maine" days.

Perfect, no. But we do, I think, learn.

Why I Believe What I Believe

As I said earlier, I like living in America.

I was born here, so there's a sort of 'this is my home' feeling involved. I've also known folks who weren't born here, and decided to pull up roots and become Americans. I know that this country isn't perfect: but it's one of the nations folks are trying to break into.

I've discussed some of the reasons I think the way I do in another blog: including posts listed in the last quintet of links under "Related posts."

Related posts:
In the news:

1 Excerpt from today's news:
"The Pentagon's first formal cyber strategy, unclassified portions of which are expected to become public next month, represents an early attempt to grapple with a changing world in which a hacker could pose as significant a threat to U.S. nuclear reactors, subways or pipelines as a hostile country's military.

"In part, the Pentagon intends its plan as a warning to potential adversaries of the consequences of attacking the U.S. in this way. 'If you shut down our power grid, maybe we will put a missile down one of your smokestacks,' said a military official.

"Recent attacks on the Pentagon's own systems - as well as the sabotaging of Iran's nuclear program via the Stuxnet computer worm-have given new urgency to U.S. efforts to develop a more formalized approach to cyber attacks. ... This weekend Lockheed Martin, a major military contractor, acknowledged that it had been the victim of an infiltration, while playing down its impact.

"The report will also spark a debate over a range of sensitive issues the Pentagon left unaddressed, including whether the U.S. can ever be certain about an attack's origin, and how to define when computer sabotage is serious enough to constitute an act of war....

"...One idea gaining momentum at the Pentagon is the notion of 'equivalence.' If a cyber attack produces the death, damage, destruction or high-level disruption that a traditional military attack would cause, then it would be a candidate for a 'use of force' consideration, which could merit retaliation.

"The Pentagon's document runs about 30 pages in its classified version and 12 pages in the unclassified one. It concludes that the Laws of Armed Conflict - derived from various treaties and customs that, over the years, have come to guide the conduct of war and proportionality of response - apply in cyberspace as in traditional warfare.... The document goes on to describe the Defense Department's dependence on information technology and why it must forge partnerships with other nations and private industry to protect infrastructure.

"The strategy will also state the importance of synchronizing U.S. cyber-war doctrine with that of its allies, and will set out principles for new security policies. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization took an initial step last year when it decided that, in the event of a cyber attack on an ally, it would convene a group to 'consult together' on the attacks, but they wouldn't be required to help each other respond....

"...Pentagon officials believe the most-sophisticated computer attacks require the resources of a government. For instance, the weapons used in a major technological assault, such as taking down a power grid, would likely have been developed with state support, Pentagon officials say.

"The move to formalize the Pentagon's thinking was borne of the military's realization the U.S. has been slow to build up defenses against these kinds of attacks, even as civilian and military infrastructure has grown more dependent on the Internet. The military established a new command last year, headed by the director of the National Security Agency, to consolidate military network security and attack efforts.

"The Pentagon itself was rattled by the 2008 attack.... At the time, Pentagon officials said they believed the attack originated in Russia, although didn't say whether they believed the attacks were connected to the government. Russia has denied involvement.

"The Rules of Armed Conflict that guide traditional wars are derived from a series of international treaties, such as the Geneva Conventions, as well as practices that the U.S. and other nations consider customary international law. But cyber warfare isn't covered by existing treaties. So military officials say they want to seek a consensus among allies about how to proceed.

" 'Act of war' is a political phrase, not a legal term, said Charles Dunlap, a retired Air Force Major General and professor at Duke University law school....
(The Wall Street Journal)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Egypt's "Virginity Checks" - I am Not Making This Up

I try to be open-minded about the cultural values of folks living in other countries.

That said, "virginity checks" performed on protesters seems a bit over-the-top.

Even though the general said it was okay - and even gave a reason.
"Egyptian general admits 'virginity checks' conducted on protesters"
Shahira Amin, For CNN (May 30, 2011)

"A senior Egyptian general admits that 'virginity checks' were performed on women arrested at a demonstration this spring, the first such admission after previous denials by military authorities.

"The allegations arose in an Amnesty International report, published weeks after the March 9 protest. It claimed female demonstrators were beaten, given electric shocks, strip-searched, threatened with prostitution charges and forced to submit to virginity checks.

"At that time, Maj. Amr Imam said 17 women had been arrested but denied allegations of torture or 'virginity tests.'

"But now a senior general who asked not to be identified said the virginity tests were conducted and defended the practice.

" 'The girls who were detained were not like your daughter or mine,' the general said. 'These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters in Tahrir Square, and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and (drugs).'

"The general said the virginity checks were done so that the women wouldn't later claim they had been raped by Egyptian authorities.

" 'We didn't want them to say we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren't virgins in the first place,' the general said. 'None of them were (virgins).'..."
What impressed me was not the way the women were treated - that seems, sadly, to be not all that uncommon in parts of the Middle East. Anybody who won't be properly submissive to the local boss-man seems to be fair game in some areas.

What impressed me was that the general at first denied that the "virginity checks" were done.

That, to me, hints that perhaps at least some aspects of what he and his merry men were up to was a trifle unorthodox: even by local standards.

As for the "torture?" I suppose that depends on how a person defines the term:
"...Salwa Hosseini, a 20-year-old hairdresser and one of the women named in the Amnesty report, described to CNN how uniformed soldiers tied her up on the museum's grounds, forced her to the ground and slapped her, then shocked her with a stun gun while calling her a prostitute.

" 'They wanted to teach us a lesson,' Hosseini said soon after the Amnesty report came out. 'They wanted to make us feel that we do not have dignity.'..."
I'll admit that what Salwa Hosseini went through is a sort of 'he said/she said' situation: although I'm inclined to believe her statement, given what's been going on since Tunisians got fed up with their old-school autocrat.

On the other hand, the hairdresser is still alive, and able to talk. Which isn't always the case after someone is tortured.

Does that make it all better? I don't think so.

Still, it could be worse. In Syria, folks who don't appreciate their leader enough are being killed.

And that's another topic.

Finally, and this is important, note that I wrote "cultural values:" not religious beliefs. I've made the point, fairly often, that quite a bit of what Al Qaeda and the rulers of Sudan insist is "Islam" looks more like anachronistic cultural values and customs to me. (September 24, 2009, September 7, 2009, September 7, 2008)

Somewhat-related posts:
In the news:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lockheed Martin, Oak Ridge, Spear Phishing, and Common Sense

I mentioned the latest hack attempt in an American network yesterday. (May 28, 2011) Today, a Reuters article gave a bit more detail and background.1
"Lockheed Martin Corp., the U.S. government's top information technology provider, said on Saturday it had thwarted 'a significant and tenacious attack' on its information systems network a week ago but was still working to restore employee access.

"No customer, program or employee personal data was compromised thanks to 'almost immediate' protective action taken after the attack was detected May 21, Jennifer Whitlow, a company spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement.

"She said the company, the world's biggest aerospace company and the Pentagon's No. 1 supplier by sales, was working around the clock to restore employee access to the targeted network while maintaining the highest security level....
So far, so good - although I wonder just how confident the IT folks at Lockheed are, that "No customer, program or employee personal data was compromised."

Maybe this is cynical: but I remember when a Qantas desk jockey insisted that there had been "no explosion" on one of their flights. That didn't explain the hole in their A380 airliners, or debris in Indonesia. (Apathetic Lemming of the North (November 4, 2010))

Bad News, Denial, and the Real World

Some bureaucrats and managers seem to deny that a problem exists as a sort of knee-jerk reaction to bad news. That may work with hirelings who can be fired if they don't agree: or with equally-clueless organizational deadweight the (delusional?) boss reports to. I don't think it's effective when dealing with the real world, though. And that's another topic.

Whodunit - Good Question

Where the attack came from is still unknown, apparently. My guess is that folks at the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon are trying to find out, though. Lockheed's system had data about weapons that are in use, and under development: not the sort of think I'd want outfits like Al Qaeda to have. Or none-too-friendly national governments, for that matter.

Reuters says Lockheed isn't alone - the May 21 situation was the latest in a string of attacks on American military contractors. Reuters also said that contractors aren't the only targets. The article says there have been hack attacks on "...defense contractors, security companies and U.S. government labs, including the U.S. Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, since the start of this year." That's according to Anup Ghosh, who has been a senior scientist at the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and now runs Invincea, a software security company. Interestingly, Reuters has edited that detail out of the story, as I'm finishing this post. (For now WUOB still has that detail in their copy of the article. (1:47 p.m. Central, May 29, 2011))

So, why doesn't the government 'do something?'

America, Law, and Limited Government

Back to that Reuters article:
"...U.S. officials may investigate a cyber breach at a company's request. DHS, the lead agency for securing federal civilian networks, can deploy a team to analyze infected systems, develop mitigation strategies, advise on efforts to restore service and make recommendations for improving overall network security....
A key phrase there is "...may...at a company's request." America is a nation of law - and some of those laws control what government agencies can and can't do. We're not the only country to work that way: but I think we do a pretty good job of maintaining a balance between a government that's meddlesome, and one that's ineffectual.

Which doesn't mean that I approve of intrusive and occasionally silly federal regulations - and that's a topic that's outside the scope of this blog.

Finally I'm acutely aware that America isn't perfect. And that's yet one more topic. (July 3, 2008)

How These Attacks Work

This really should be obvious: but it's a bad to click that link and give personal information. Even if the email seems to come from your bank/credit card company/whatever. I'll get back to that.
"...These attacks typically were carried out through so-called 'spear-phish' inducements to click on a certain link to web sites or through emailed attachments carrying malicious code.

"Once so compromised, a computer can surreptitiously download other code that can log a victim's key strokes, giving an attacker a path to potentially wide network access....

"...The person with direct knowledge told Reuters on Friday that an intrusion at Lockheed was related to a recent breach of 'SecurID' token authentication technology from EMC Corp's EMC.N RSA security division...."
I put a link to some common-sense advice about spear phishing under "Background," below.

Besides making the point that most financial institutions don't ask you for your Social Security Number in an email - and that you shouldn't use the phone number that the probably-bogus email provides - there's the same advice I've heard for decades: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

And that, again, is another topic.

Related post:
In the news:
1 Excerpt from Reuters article:
"...The Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, said that it and the Defense Department had offered to help curb the risk from the incident....

"...Several top cybersecurity experts with extensive government dealings said they were in the dark about the origin of the attack....

"...Cyber intruders were reported in 2009 to have broken into computers holding data on Lockheed's projected $380 billion-plus F-35 fighter program, the Pentagon's costliest arms purchase.

"A series of once-secret U.S. diplomatic cables released by the WikiLeaks website suggests that China has jumped ahead of the United States when it comes to cyber espionage...."

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend 2011

This year's Naval Academy graduation ceremony didn't have a Blue Angels flyover this year. The aerobatics squadron's commander quit recently.

That, I think, is an example of the high level of professionalism in the United States military.

Commander Dave Koss had been leading the team since November - but after flying below altitude at a recent appearance, he decided to step down from his position.

That failure to stay within limits set for the mission shouldn't have happened, obviously. What impressed me was Commander Koss accepting responsibility, and letting someone else take over.

Memorial Day Weekend, 2011

It's Memorial Day weekend. For many Americans this is the unofficial start of summer: a three-day holiday that gives folks a chance to get out to the lakes, grill burgers, or just sit on the stoop and relax.

I've grilled burgers, and plan to relax on the stoop later this afternoon. It's a beautiful, warm, sunny day here in central Minnesota.

Before I do that, though, I've got two words for everyone who serves and has served in the American armed forces. Particularly those who never came home:

Thank you.

Related posts:In the news:

Lockheed Martin Corp, SecureIDs, EMC, and All That

Update: (May 29, 2011)
The good news is that Lockheed seems to be doing something about the possibility that their networks have been hacked.

The bad news is that dealing with the issue is expensive. Also, that folks may be at risk as a result of stolen data.

From yesterday's news:
"Hackers may have infiltrated the networks of top US weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp., The Wall Street Journal reported Friday, citing a person with knowledge of the attacks.

"The security disruptions prompted the company to step up measures to protect its data. It wasn't immediately clear if any sensitive information was stolen or compromised...."

"...Lockheed sent 90,000 replacement SecureIDs to employees, which is being paid for by RSA, this person said. Employees were also told to reset all of their passwords used throughout the entire company as a precaution.

"EMC in March disclosed that it had been hit by a sophisticated cyber attack on its SecurID products, which are widely used by corporate clients...."
(The Wall Street Journal, via FoxNews.com)
On the 'misery loves company' principle, Lockheed isn't alone. Folks using some Sony products and services recently had an unpleasant experience - which doesn't have much to do with the war on terror, most likely, but shows how today's information technology can be a risk, as well as a boon.

As for the Lockheed Martin security issue: I have no idea who may have been behind it. We could be looking at anything from industrial espionage to international terrorists. Or some kid with an Internet connection and too much time to kill.

Related posts:In the news:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Patriot Act Provisions Renewed: Finally

I think - and hope - that there are quite a few members of Congress who read the news daily; and who have more on their mind than getting reelected chasing that sexy new intern.

I'd prefer to believe that many of this nation's leaders realize that their constituents are in more danger from Al Qaeda, than from the FBI - and that the CIA is not the single greatest threat to freedom in the world. Although I'll grant that the following statement reflects my own opinions. After all, maybe the world really is ruled by space-alien, shape-shifting lizard men. And that's another topic.

America's Freedoms Threatened - or, Not

What set me off this evening was news that the House finally got around to giving the okay to a four-year extension of the Patriot Act. That's a set of rules set up during the previous administration, that lets Federal officials search records and do wiretaps in a way that's appropriate to the Information Age.

The idea was that:
  • Terrorists might want to kill more Americans
  • They should be prevented from doing so
    • If possible
  • The old-fashioned process for approving searches and wiretaps needed an overhaul
I think extending the Patriot Act is a good idea: but that's not a universally-held opinion.

I've harangued on the Patriot Act, FISA, and related ideas before.

Bottom line? I think stopping terrorists before they kill people is a good idea. I also think that checks and balances is a good idea. I even think having two sets of elected officials vote on things like the Patriot Act is a good idea. And that's yet another topic.

Related posts:
In the news:

Yemen, Saleh, and Change

Yemen, in my opinion, is a mess.

I'm not writing about the culture, or the people. I mean:
  • The alleged national government
    • That quite a few Yemeni are fed up with
  • The folks who can't stand living in the 21st century
    • And kill anybody who won't agree with them
  • An economic SNAFU
    • That I think won't be untangled until the first two problems are dealt with
Yemen is the territory that has kept the U.S.S. Cole bombing mastermind more-or-less imprisoned. Except when he escaped and was recaptured. Or was released and recaptured. Or never escaped at all. I don't know which official story President Saleh and company finally decided on.

An Al Qaeda branch operates in Yemen, apparently, either because what's supposed to be a national government doesn't mind, or because the Yemeni president and his outfit can't control what happens in Yemen: or maybe a little of both.

As usual, when human beings are involved, I'm pretty sure it's more complicated than that.

But, bottom line? I think Yemen is a mess.

I also think it's been getting worse:
"Analysis: Yemen civil war likely without swift Saleh exit"
Cynthia Johnston, Edition: U.S., Reuters (May 26, 2011)

"Yemen may have little chance of averting a tribal civil war as heavy fighting spreads in the capital unless President Ali Abdullah Saleh quickly resigns.

"But Saleh, a stubborn political survivor, has likely already decided to fight to keep power in the strategic state where Gulf and Western allies are concerned that anarchy could give the strong Yemen-based branch of al Qaeda more room to operate...."

"Yemen worries G8, France and U.S. condemn Saleh"
Edition: U.S., Reuters (May 26, 2011)

"The United States and France stepped up their calls Thursday for Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down, after overnight gunbattles killed dozens of people.

"U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking in Paris, urged all sides to immediately cease violence, and a French foreign ministry spokesman told reporters at a G8 summit that France blamed the latest bloodshed on Saleh's refusal to sign a transition deal...."

"U.S. Orders Nonessential Diplomats to Leave Yemen"
Associated Press, via FoxNews.com (May 25, 2011)

"The State Department on Wednesday ordered nonessential U.S. diplomats to depart Yemen and urged all Americans there to leave as security conditions deteriorated, with the country's embattled leader refusing to step down...."
I don't think that 'anything would be better than Yemen keeping President Saleh.' At least the current Yemeni president doesn't seem to be openly backing Al Qaeda and like-minded groups.

Interestingly, Saudi Arabia seem to want Saleh out: on practical grounds, it seems. The alleged leader of Yemen has botched the job of running his territory: and if folks in Yemen decide to remove him the hard way, outfits like Al Qaeda are likely to have even more leeway in how they run their operations there. That could be really bad for shipping in the region - which Saudi Arabia depends on.

In the short term, I think folks living in Yemen are going to have very unpleasant experiences.

President Saleh, understandably, wants to keep his job. Depending on just how angry his subjects are, he may even be concerned about keeping his life.

Taking a line through old-school leadership in Bahrain and Libya, Saleh may decide to kill people until the survivors like him: or at least say they do. That doesn't make sense to me, but autocrats seem to think slaughtering subjects to maintain loyalty will bring back their 'good old days.' Or maybe it's how they react when they're in a snit.

Whether or not Saleh manages to hold onto his executive perks, Al Qaeda isn't likely to stop killing Yemenis who aren't 'sufficiently Islamic,' or who simply get in the way.

And tribal leaders, whose nice, stable, culture got ripped out of the days of Ur and Babylon and dropped into a world of Coca Cola and Mickey Mouse? No matter how the mess in Sanaa is sorted out, they'll still have several thousand years of change to digest - fast.

In the long run, I'm cautiously optimistic that many or most folks in Yemen, in common with places like Somalia, Libya, and Syria, will catch up with the rest of the world: economically and otherwise. (May 10, 2011

Related posts:
News and views:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Incinerated Church, Dead Christians: But it Could be Worse

The score, when the fires went out, was three churches burned or damaged, 12 Christians dead, and 232 wounded; to 190 rioters arrested. I haven't seen an official ruling, but offhand I'd say that the rioters won.

The good news, from my point of view, is that neither the Egyptian police or army seem to have shot Christians or burned churches. Someone even arrested about 190 of the 3,000-odd Muslims who expressed themselves with Molotov cocktails and bullets. Those folks may even go to trial, if the army and police can work out how the trial should be run.

With Friends Like These - - -

I've already said this today, but - with friends like these, Islam doesn't need enemies.

Before I forget, an important point: NOT ALL MUSLIMS IN EGYPT BURN CHURCHES.
"...Hundreds of outraged Christians and sympathetic Muslims demonstrated in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Sunday, demanding better protection from the police and military for Coptic Christians...."
(Catholic News Agnecy, via EWTN)

Egypt, Florida, and Getting a Grip

I do not think that all Muslims are crazed arsonists. I also am as certain as I can be that some non-Muslims are, at best, jerks.

Another point: In my opinion, America isn't perfect. We even have folks in this country who act as if burning something like a church or a book is a good idea. Like that outfit in Florida.

One way in which Egypt and America differ, though, is in the matter of scale. Some 3,000 religious crazies in Egypt torched entire churches. And, a non-trivial point, killed a dozen folks they don't like.

In Florida about 50 folks - probably the entire membership of the Dove World Outreach Center - set fire to one (1) Quran. And killed zero (0) people they didn't like.

Briefly, in my opinion, burning a Quran
  • Was a bad idea
  • Should not have been done
  • Was not a good idea
  • Was protested by a great many people:
    • Muslims
    • Christians
      • Including me
  • Was a very bad idea
    • And should not have been done
I've discussed the Florida book-burners before:

Tunisia, Egypt, Even Libya: Cautiously Optimistic

I do not think that folks in Tunisia and Egypt kicking out their bosses was a bad idea. The Middle East, and other parts of the world, have "stable" governments that could - in my opinion - stand being swapped out for something that works for the governed.

On the other hand, I do not think that Tunisia and Egypt, now that they're no longer being mismanaged by old-school autocrats, will suddenly become rainbow-colored lands where everybody smiles and sings "Age of Aquarius." No, I really do not think that will happen.

Which is not the same as feeling that all is lost and "...the center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...." (Yeats)

I think we're looking at change - quite a bit of change - in most of the world. Change happens, change sometimes hurts, but I am convinced that change can be good.

I put an excerpt from what got me started on this topic at the end of this post.1

Somewhat-related posts:
In the news:

1 from the news:
"Members of the Salafist Jihadi Islamist movement attacked three Coptic churches in the Egyptian city of Giza on May 7, killing a dozen people and injuring more than 200.

" 'We have no law or security - we are in a jungle,' said Giza's Coptic Orthodox Bishop Anba Theodosius. 'We are in a state of chaos. One rumor burns the whole area. Every day we have a catastrophe.'...

"...The attack began on the evening of May 7 when a mob of 3,000 Muslims, thought to be followers of the hardline Salafist school of Islam, converged on St. Mina's Church. Leaders of the mob accused members of the Coptic clergy of kidnapping a Christian woman who had married a Muslim man.

"Their kidnapping story sounded like a familiar pretext, a variation on a story used to stir up tensions and justify violence against Middle Eastern Christians in the past. None of the parishioners had ever heard of the woman being "tortured" inside of their church....

"...When the army arrived, nearly five hours later, they made an attempt to seal off the neighborhood. But they did not stop rioters from attacking St. Mina's Church, hurling Molotov cocktails at Coptic homes, and proceeding to two other churches in the area.

" 'The army was not able to control the situation,' Deacon Youssel Edward stated. 'The mob was chanting "Islamic, Islamic." '...

"...Hundreds of outraged Christians and sympathetic Muslims demonstrated in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Sunday, demanding better protection from the police and military for Coptic Christians.

"Nabil Sharaf el Din, an Egyptian journalist, told a Coptic television station that the army 'is either incapable, or is an accomplice to the Salafis.' He said that the Egyptian military, which took power after the Feb 11 resignation of former president Hosni Mubarak, could end up discredited if it fails to take a 'stern position' with the hardline Muslim group...."
(Catholic News Agency, via EWTN (May 10, 2011))

"Allahu Akbar," "Just a Misunderstanding," and Getting a Grip

I've said this before: with friends like this, Islam doesn't need enemies.

American air travelers had three breaks in routine recently. One of them was on American Airlines Flight 1561, headed for San Francisco.

A fidgety fellow got up, headed for the cockpit door, knocked (his cousin's version) or pounded (what his fellow-passengers say) on the door, screamed (or yelled, or said) "Allahu Akbar!" Then a flight attendant, a retired Secret Service agent, a retired San Mateo police officer, and assorted other crew and passengers held the excited fellow while the flight attendant fitted him with plastic handcuffs.

"Allahu Akbar," Unemployment, and Getting a Grip

For all I know, this could be more of an argument for banning alcoholic beverages for passengers, than an example of thwarted terrorism.

The "Allahu Akbar!" fellow - whose cousin was back in New York, not on the flight - wasn't carrying a weapon.

The fellow's name is Rageh Almurisi. He's a citizen of Yemen. He's here in America, legally, trying to find work. So far, he's been unsuccessful at that.

An easy explanation for what Mr. Almurisi did on American Airlines Flight 1561 is that Americans hate all Muslims and are intolerant and burn crosses and are pretty much icky. Except for the nice, tolerant Americans who burn the American flag and vote for the right people. Or, rather, the left people - and that's another topic.

I'm not really convinced that particular easy explanation fits.

I'm definitely not convinced that we're looking at a case of thwarted terrorism, either. Mr. Almarisi was, apparently, unemployed and looking for work. I've been in that position: and it can be stressful.

I didn't start pounding on a cockpit door and yelling "Allahu Akbar!" - but different folks react differently to stress.

Islamophobia, and Something to Talk About

Maybe I'm being too cynical, but I think that the two clerics who just happened to get booted off a flight might have hoped for that result. They were on their way to an "Islamophobia" conference. They presumably missed that one - but now they can sue people, and have something to talk about for the next series of earnest conferences.

Like I said, though: maybe I'm being too cynical. Or, not:I've put excerpts from recent news at the end of this post.1

America is Okay

I don't think America is perfect. At all.

I don't think America is responsible for all that is icky, either.

And, on the whole, I'd rather live here than anywhere else on Earth. I've looked at my options, by the way. Like I said, I don't think America is perfect: and I've gotten profoundly fed up a few times.

Are there narrow-minded, intolerant Americans? In my opinion, yes. Also in my opinion, they're not all wacky conservatives. And that's yet another topic.

Does America have a perfect record, when it comes to tolerance? Of course not.

On the other hand, I think this country does pretty well where folks who aren't in lockstep with the dominant culture are concerned. That's my opinion - from the point of view of someone in a counter-culture. (see A Catholic Citizen in America (January 12, 2010))

As for the fellow from Yemen, who did what he could to convinced the other passengers that they were in mortal danger?

He was restrained, handcuffed, and is now going through the tedious process of an American trial. In which I'm pretty sure that the rights of the accused will be recognized.

Perhaps more to the point - he's alive: which was optional, given the stunt he pulled.

Somewhat-related posts:In the news:
1 Excerpts from the news:
"Air marshal: Suspect tried to open cockpit door"
CBS/AP News (May 10, 2011)

"A man who was arrested after causing a disturbance on a San Francisco-bound American Airlines flight twice tried to open the cockpit door, the second time after a crew member told him that the restroom was to his left, a federal air marshal said in a court affidavit.

"Rageh Al-Murisi, a California resident who was carrying a Yemeni passport, is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday on a charge of interfering with flight crew members and attendants.

"In the court affidavit filed on Monday, Air Marshal Paul Howard said after being told that wasn't the restroom, Al-Murisi made eye contact with the crew member, lowered his shoulder and rammed the door. The crew member told Howard he then got between Al-Murisi and the door, but Al-Murisi kept yelling and pushing forward in an attempt to open it, according to the affidavit...."
"Yemeni man stopped by passengers pounding on American Airlines cockpit a 'nice guy': cousin"
Nancy Dillon, NYDailyNews.com (May 9, 2011)

"The Yemeni man arrested after pounding on the cockpit door on a flight to California is a 'nice guy' who has been living in New York with his cabbie brother, a cousin told the Daily News.

" 'He's not a terrorist, trust me,' said Rageh Almoraissi, 29, a small business owner in Vallejo, Calif., who has the same name as the suspect.

" 'If he was a terrorist, he would have had some kind of weapon," he said. 'You don't knock on a door as a terrorist act. I think it was just a misunderstanding.'..."
"Flurry of Airline Incidents Reported"
Ted Reed, The Street (May 9, 2011)

"A flurry of airline incidents have been reported aboard commercial aircraft this past weekend.

"Three security incidents occurred on Sunday.

"As an American(AMR_) flight from Chicago approached San Francisco, a passenger began pounding on the cockpit door and screaming, according to The Associated Press. The passenger, who had a Yemeni passport, was wrestled to the floor and handcuffed by flight attendants and passengers. He faces federal charges of interfering with a flight crew.

"Additionally, a Continental flight from Houston to Chicago was diverted to St. Louis after a passenger tried to open a door. Also, a Delta flight was diverted to Albuquerque, N.M., after a note was found in a bathroom with the word 'bomb' written on it. Authorities found no suspicious devices on the aircraft.

"A passenger told The Associated Press that the pilot announced that the note had been found. 'The captain came on and said, "You notice we're declining. We're getting ready to divert. It's probably a hoax, but we've got to take this very seriously," ' the passenger said.

"On Friday, two Muslim clerics wearing traditional garb, traveling from Memphis, Tenn., to a conference in Charlotte, N.C., were kicked off an Atlantic Southeast plane operating as a Delta(DAL_) Connection flight.

"Early reports indicated their removal was ordered by the aircraft's pilot. On Friday, Transportation Security Administration spokesman Jon Allen had told the Commercial Appeal of Memphis that the men 'were screened and cleared to fly' by the agency. But later, one of the passengers told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that 'he spoke to the pilot after landing in Charlotte and the pilot told him that TSA requested the plane return to the terminal.'

"An airline spokesman said the incident was under investigation. The two clerics were put on aircraft that departed later. It turned out the clerics were headed to a weekend conference on 'Islamophobia' in Charlotte.

" 'The irony of their going to a convention on Islamophobia when this happened is not lost,' said aviation consultant Robert Mann. ..."
"Suspect in flight disturbance had Calif. ID"
Associated Press, via FoxNews.com (May 9, 2011)

"...Marty, 35, recalled that she and other passengers on the plane were stunned when they saw Almurisi walking down the aisle. She said a woman in a row across from her who speaks Arabic translated that Almurisi said 'God is Great!' in Arabic.

"Andrew Wai, another passenger, told KGO-TV on Monday that the wife of one of the men who took Almurisi down later said Almurisi was yelling 'Allahu Akbar.'

" 'There was no question in everybody's mind that he was going to do something,' Marty said.

"A male flight attendant tackled Almurisi, and other crew members and passengers, including a retired Secret Service agent and a retired San Mateo police officer, helped subdue him as he banged on the door, police said. The flight attendant put plastic handcuffs on him.

" 'Everybody was fixated on him,' Marty said. 'You never think that something like that would happen in your life.'

"Wai also said Almurisi appeared 'fidgety' in his seat when he saw him on the way to the bathroom earlier in the flight.

"The Boeing 737 carrying 162 people landed safely at 9:10 p.m. Almurisi was placed into police custody, as some passengers cried...."

Monday, May 9, 2011

Brooklyn Paper, Doctored Photo, Big SNAFU

Update (May 9, 2011 9:35 p.m. Central)
"Hasidic Newspaper Apologizes for Editing Clinton Out of Situation Room Photo"
FoxNews.com (May 9, 2011)

"A Hasidic newspaper reportedly has apologized after editing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and one other female adviser out of the iconic photo showing President Obama and his security team watching the raid on Usama bin Laden's compound last weekend

"The photo of the White House Situation Room was widely published after it was released by the Obama administration a week ago. Perhaps the most enduring image in that photo was that of Clinton with her hand over her mouth....

"...In a statement obtained by The Washington Post, Der Zeitung apologized for the alteration and said it has 'conveyed our regrets and apologies' to the White House and State Department.

"The newspaper explained that the editor who made the change had not seen the White House conditions for publication, which stipulated that the photo 'may not be manipulated in any way.'..."
I'm inclined to believe the paper's account - and think the apology was prudent, at least.

As for their motivation in reporting a sort of alternate-reality version of the White House photo? Here's the paper's story:
"...The statement went on to say that while Clinton has served 'with great distinction,' the newspaper does not publish images of women 'in accord with our religious beliefs.'

" 'Publishing a newspaper is a big responsibility, and our policies are guided by a Rabbinical Board. Because of laws of modesty, we are not allowed to publish pictures of women, and we regret if this gives an impression of disparaging to women, which is certainly never our intention,' the statement said."
For what it's worth, I'm inclined to believe the editorial explanation for faking that photo.

If the editors want to live in a make-believe world where women are invisible - well, that can be done in fantasy role playing games. If they want to let their readers know what's going on in the world we all share: It would, in my opinion, have been more prudent to deal with the presence of women in text, and omit the photo entirely.

Posted earlier today:
I'm not "outraged" at a Brooklyn newspaper's screwball Photoshopping of a White House press photo. Interested, certainly. Bemused, maybe.

What interests me most about Der Zeitung's (or Der Tzitung's) decision to edit Hillary Clinton and another woman out of a picture - and publish the doctored photo - is why they thought they could get away with it. I'll get back to that.

Here's a better look at the altered photo looks like:

(Der Zeitung, via FoxNews.com, used w/o permission)

And here's what that picture looked like, as released by the White House:

(Hot Topics, SFGATE, San Francisco Chronicle, used w/o permission)

Before getting to my take on the situation, two excerpts from today's news and views.

First, from a source that seems quite certain about why the Brooklyn paper edited the two women out:
"Outrage after Hasidic paper removes Clinton from iconic photo"
Vlae Kershner, Hot Topics, SFGATE, San Francisco Chronicle (May 9, 2011)

"An ultra-Hasidic newspaper in Brooklyn stirred up outrage after digitally removing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (and National Security team member Audrey Tomason) from the iconic photo of President Obama and others watching the raid on Osama Bin Laden's compound.

"The paper, Der Tzitung, has a policy against showing photos of women, considering them 'sexually suggestive.' Sure, that's the first thing readers would have thought when Golda Meir was Israeli prime minister...."
Where did the San Francisco Chronicle's blog learn that the Brooklyn paper considered photos of women 'sexually suggestive?' That's a good question - and one that's not answered in the post.

Another piece, written with a somewhat less certain point of view:
"Hasidic Newspaper Edits Clinton Out of Iconic Situation Room Photo"
FoxNews.com (May 9, 2011)

"A Hasidic newspaper apparently edited Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and one other female adviser out of the iconic photo showing President Obama and his security team watching the raid on Usama bin Laden's compound last weekend....

"...But the version of the photo that appeared in the Brooklyn newspaper Der Zeitung, an Orthodox Jewish publication, did not show Clinton, or Audrey Tomason, director for counterterrorism, who also was in the room.

"The Jerusalem Post, which published an article on the alteration, suggested that the Brooklyn newspaper edited the women out because of concerns about women in positions of power. Others suggested that claims of modesty barred the newspaper from showing images of women.

"The newspaper may also have violated the White House conditions for publication, which stipulates that the photo 'may not be manipulated in any way.'..."

Editing Women Out: My Take

I don't know why the Tzitung/Zeitung editors decided to remove the women from that photo. Their motive may be important - at least to the newspaper's readers - but I'm pretty sure that I'd have a difficult time sorting it out from a welter of claims and assumptions. I'm also pretty sure that the effort wouldn't be a good use of my time.

I am, on the other hand, fairly confident that:
  • Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn are unlikely to join forces with Al Qaeda
    • Although both groups may have similar values regarding women in society
      • Or they may not
  • "Different" doesn't mean "bad"
  • We're no longer living in the 1950s
All of the above are 'in my opinion,' of course.

If the Brooklyn paper's decision to violate terms of use for that photo in the interests of their notion of "modesty," I think I may understand their point of view. Note, please: "Think I may understand" does not mean "I approve of."

I remember the 'good old days' before the '60s, when attitudes toward women were decidedly different than they are now in America. Note, please, again: "Different" does not mean "better." I remember the 'good old days:' and they weren't really all that good, in my opinion.1

That said, it's my opinion that if the Brooklyn paper's editors had a problem with publishing a photo which included a woman - it would have been more prudent to exclude the photo entirely.

Living in a Big World

What really astounds me is what appears to be an assumption that doctoring a photo like that would go unnoticed. Brooklyn isn't all that isolated from the rest of America - and even folks who can't read Hebrew can recognized an obviously-faked photo.

I think that response to this blatantly-altered photo should serve as a wake-up call to folks in any of America's subcultures that we all live in a big, diverse world.

I also think that it's a good idea, whatever values a person or subculture has, to deal with the real world - not try to live a fantasy-land built around personal or traditional preferences. But that's just my opinion.

Somewhat-related posts:
News and views:

1 I'm a practicing Catholic, which makes a difference in how I see the world. I've discussed points relevant to this post, in another blog:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Osama bin Laden, Islam, and Religious Freedom

As I wrote on Wednesday, "Osama bin Laden is still dead." The White House said so - and, I understand, has Al Qaeda. My guess is that most folks acknowledge that the fellow who is to a great extent responsible for the deaths of more than 3,000 people on 9/11 is now dead, himself.

Killing bin Laden won't bring his victims back. My opinion is that in an ideal world, bin Ladn wouldn't have been killed: but in an ideal world he wouldn't have decided to kill folks who offended his sensibilities. I've opined about this before. (May 4, 2011, May 2, 2011)

Osama bin Laden's Islam

After the 9/11 attack Osama bin Laden was, arguably, the best-known Islamic religious leader in America. As such, he may have done as much for Islam in this country, as the Ku Klux Klan did for Christianity.

Although I think - and hope - that the KKK's particular brand of jingoism is nowhere near as popular as it was a half-century ago, cross-burnings still happen.

I've compared the Klan and folks who follow bin Laden's lead before, but I think it bears repeating.
"...Most - many, anyway - Americans probably know that the various iterations of the KKK weren't all that happy with black people being free. Or being around, for that matter.

The KKK's Attitude Toward Catholics, Jews, and Other 'Furriners'

What isn't as obvious to someone immersed in American culture is the Klan's attitude toward Jews, Catholics, and other people who weren't just like them. (Jackson 1992 ed., pp. 241-242. Jackson, Kenneth T. (1967; 1992 edition). 'The Ku Klux Klan in the City, 1915-1930.' Oxford University Press, as cited in a Wikipedia article)

"I would be upset about white supremacists' expressed hatred toward blacks, even if that were the only group they despised.

"But I think it's okay to point out that some cliques of 'real Americans' are none too well-disposed toward other groups, too...."
(A Catholic Citizen in America (January 22, 2010))
Now, about Osama bin Laden, Islam, and all that.

Earlier today, I ran into an interesting post on CNN's Beliefs blog. Here's how it started:
"Bin Laden's theology a radical break with traditional Islam"
Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor (May 4, 2011)

"Osama bin Laden wore the mantle of a religious leader. He looked the part and talked a good game, but his theology was a radical departure from traditional orthodox Islam...."
(Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor)
There's more about bin Laden, and an apparently-informed view of Islam, and of what bin Laden preached.

Wild Claims and 'Those People Over There'

I suppose this has to be said: I don't think killing folks in New York City's World Trade Center was right. I think it was a bad thing to do.

I also think that war is unpleasant. Very unpleasant.

But that doesn't mean I'm a pacifist.

As the name of my other blog says, I'm a practicing Catholic. Who lives in America. That affects how I view the world: a little more about that later. Right now, two points:
Even before the 9/11 attack, it was fairly obvious that some folks in the Middle East and elsewhere had decided that God was telling them to kill folks who weren't like them. Obvious in 20-20 hindsight, anyway: and that's another topic.

I haven't been inclined to believe wild claims about Islam. Partly because I think tolerance is a good idea. Partly because I'd heard the same sort of thing before: with the Catholic Church as the Satanic plot, instead of Islam. (February 8, 2009, A Catholic Citizen in America (September 26, 2008)) Incredible assertions about the "whore of Bablylon" piqued my interest in the Church, led to my conversion, and that's yet another topic.

Back to that CNN blog.

Osama bin Laden: Different Band, Same Tune

I've put excerpts from "Bin Laden's theology a radical break with traditional Islam" post at the end of this post.1 Basically, it looks like Osama bin Laden had no formal religious education. He read Islamic scriptures - and decided that what he thought parts of it meant were absolutely, positively, without question, true.

Also that anybody who disagreed with him was an apostate and should be killed.

Then he talked quite a few other folks into believing what he said.

The CNN blog editor quotes some folks who do know about Islam - and they seem to agree that bin Laden's got it wrong. Very, very wrong.

Osama bin Laden's 'scripture only' brand of Islam reminds me of outfits like the Westboro (Kansas) Baptist Church. (October 26, 2007) Although I'm sure that the 'God hates fags' folks and Al Qaeda members wouldn't see the similarities.

Tolerance: Yes, it's a Good Idea

We live in a big world. It's also a world where not everybody is the same. I like it that way, but some folks obviously don't.

And some think they've got to kill folks who don't dress, eat, or worship the 'right' way.

I'm not allowed to believe that, because I'm a practicing Catholic. For one thing, the rules say that I've got to support religious freedom. For everybody. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2104-2109)

If that's not what you've heard about the Catholic Church: well, I'm not surprised. And that's yet again another topic.

"love" isn't "approval"

Somewhat-related posts:
News and views:
My take on religion and tolerance:
1 Excerpts from "Bin Laden's theology a radical break with traditional Islam," Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor, CNN Belief Blog (May 4, 2011):
"...Bin Laden had no official religious training but developed his own theology of Islam.

" 'We don't know that (bin Laden) was ever exposed to orthodox Islamic teachings,' said Ebrahim Moosa, a professor of religion and Islamic studies at Duke University.

"The writing of ideologues in the Muslim Brotherhood influenced bin Laden heavily, Moosa said.

" 'He takes scriptural imperatives at their face value and believes this is the only instruction and command God has given him - unmediated by history, unmediated by understanding, unmediated by human experience. Now that's a difference between Muslim orthodoxy and what I would call uber- or hyperscripturalists,' Moosa said.

"The vast majority of Islamic scholars and imams say the teaching of the Prophet Mohammed happened in historical context that needs to be understood when reading and interpreting the Quran....

"...In the entire leadership structure of al Qaeda, 'no one has had any sort of formal religious training from any seminary,' said Aftab Malik, a global expert on Muslim affairs at the United Nations Alliance of Civilization. He is researching a Ph.D. on al Qaeda.

" 'What you had was an engineer and a doctor leading a global jihad against the whole world,' Malik said. 'That would never happen in normative Islam. It's just such an aberration.'...

"...'...What bin Laden ends up doing is saying anyone who disagrees with him, any Muslim, is in fact an apostate,' he [professor of religion and international affairs (Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service) John Esposito] said. That includes Muslims who would not join his fight, he said. 'It's a distortion of the traditional teaching, and it just extends the parameters and the consequences in order to legitimate how when you're fighting on the ground you're fighting against your own people.'

"Malik said, 'The key issue is of apostasy,' referring to when a person leaves a faith. 'One of the things Osama bin Laden deviates from is calling those people who do not implement Sharia, or God's law, on the planet as apostates. If they did not implement Sharia, they deserved death. This is a major departure from normative Islam.'..."
(Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Osama bin Laden: Questions, Answers, and Opinions

I've said this before, but it bears repeating: Things are not, in my opinion, simple.

Not usually, not when human beings are involved.

I've said this before, too: this isn't a political blog. I don't claim that some person or party is always right - and that everybody who doesn't agree is stupid, or a traitor, or a stupid traitor.

Moving on.

Osama bin Laden is Still Dead

Quite a bit of the news I've run into today centers around photos taken of the late Al Qaeda leader. After he'd been shot. He wasn't, I gather, looking his best. Quite understandable, given the circumstances.

Someone's going to decide to release that photo, and others, soon - or not. Either way, folks are going to be upset.

For what it's worth, I think that hunting down Osama bin Laden was the best of a set of none-too-attractive alternatives. I've discussed one aspect of the situation, in another blog:
"...I think that, someday, maybe, there will be an 'international authority with the necessary competence and power' to simply arrest someone like the Libyan colonel. (Catechism [of the Catholic Church], 2308)

Until we have something like Tennyson's 'Parliament of man, the Federation of the world,' we'll have to make do with the United Nations. Or whatever's cobbled together after that....
(A Catholic Citizen in America (March 22, 2011))
About Osama bin Laden himself, I discussed part of my reaction in another blog on Monday. (A Catholic Citizen in America (May 2, 2011))

As for Osama bin Laden, the war on terror, and all that:
  • Do I think Osama bin Laden is responsible for many attacks on innocent people, including the famous 9/11 incident?
    • Yes
      • He said he was
      • I have no reason to doubt what he said in that regard
  • Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, can we all go home?
    • No
      • Too many folks apparently think that 'defending Islam' means killing people who
  • Should Pakistani authorities have been involved in dealing with Osama bin Laden?
    • Yes
      • Ideally
  • Were Pakistani authorities shielding Osama bin Laden?
    • Maybe
    • Or maybe they're just
      • Incompetent
      • Disinterested
      • Too busy arresting political rivals
      • All of the above
Here's where this post gets a little political.

Living in Today's World

I think the American president made a prudent, if somewhat risky, decision by authorizing the attack on Osama bin Laden's safe house. I didn't vote for President Obama - but, as I've said before, it's different when you're in charge. I still disagree with many of President Obama's policies - but I don't think he's stupid, and I do think that he wants America to be around in 2012, so he can start a 2nd term.

I also think that Pakistan is not in as bad shape as, say, Somalia or Sudan. I also hope that Pakistan becomes a nation whose government supports the interests of Pakistanis - and controls more than most parts of the capital city. In my opinion, bringing Pakistan up to speed with countries like Germany or Japan will take a very long time. Generations. Maybe centuries.

Right now? I've heard and read opinions that the Pakistani military are the 'adult supervisors,' as one fellow said, for the country's government. I've also encountered assertions that Pakistan's analog to the CIA and FBI 'really' run the country. Also that nobody's running the territory - that Pakistan is a patchwork of rival factions. Sort of like Europe around the start of the Viking era.

Like I said, I fear that it may take centuries for Pakistan to catch up to where, say, Singapore is now.

That's not because I think Pakistanis are 'natives,' in the Victoria-era sense of the term. But because the folks living there seem to have been relatively isolated: ever since Alexander III of Macedon marched through, on his way to where India is now.

Quite a bit has changed since then, and I've discussed that before. (March 19, 2010)

Lots of Questions, Few Answers

I put excerpts from recent news at the end of this post.1

From what we've heard about the massive safe house complex where American forces caught up with Osama bin Laden - it's hard to believe that Pakistani authorities were not deliberately ignoring his presence.

But that's an American's viewpoint.

Abbottabad, Pakistan, is very roughly as far away from the country's capital as Leesburg, Virginia, is from Washington D.C..

I think that if a largish plot of land was purchased in a Leesburg suburb, and a semi-fortified compound built there, someone might have started asking questions. Someone other than the neighbors.

Add antisocial, counter-cultural behavior on the part of the compound's residents?2

Maybe I'm giving Pakistani authorities too much credit. Maybe they really couldn't tell that something was odd about the bin Laden compound.

I don't think so, though. I've known folks who lived in different parts of the world. And, linguistic and cultural differences aside, we're not all that different from each other. No one group really seems to have a monopoly on being smart. And that's almost another topic.

Related posts:
In the news:

1Excerpts from the news:
"The children in the white mansion with closed circuit cameras in Abbottabad never came out to play.

"Only now, after a stunning U.S. assault that killed Osama bin Laden in the small, tranquil Pakistani city and put it under an international spotlight, is it all starting to make sense.

"The al Qaeda leader, widely believed to be hiding in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, was actually one of the mysterious neighbors next door -- acutely aware that one false move could tip off U.S. intelligence agents hunting him....

"...People had been scratching their heads for years in Abbottabad, a typical medium-sized Pakistani city, 50 km (31 miles) northwest of the capital Islamabad.

"Residents had tried to come up with some answers. They must be a religious family so that's why the women were never seen, kept inside.

2 "But that didn't explain why the men of the house never attended weddings or funerals -- unusual behavior in Pakistan's deeply traditional Muslim society...."

"...Questions are mounting about why Pakistan failed to locate or bring bin Laden to justice.

"According to two sources at the briefing Tuesday, CIA Director Leon Panetta told lawmakers that Pakistani officials either 'were involved or incompetent. Neither place is a good place to be.'

"The senior Pakistani intelligence official said there is now 'total mistrust' between the United States and Pakistan, and that if Panetta made such a statement, it is 'totally regrettable. (Panetta) of all people knows how much we have been doing.'

"In an interview with TIME magazine, Panetta said 'it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission. They might alert the targets.'

"Sen. Richard Lugar, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he thinks many Pakistanis might have known where bin Laden was, including people in the government.

" 'This is one reason we did not inform the Pakistanis of our actions,' he said Tuesday, noting 'there were probably many who were very uncomfortable about the presence likewise.'..."

"Pakistan has jumped to defend its intelligence agency, saying it has been sharing information about Usama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad with American officials, and that their findings ultimately led to his death, Sky News reported.

"A senior official at the ISI, Pakistan's government intelligence agency, told Sky News they received information six months ago that bin Laden was living at the compound and shared it with the CIA.

" 'It is as a result of the information we shared that they got Usama bin Laden,' the ISI official told Sky News.

"The U.S. did not share information during Sunday's raid on bin Laden's compound that killed him, fearing it would jeopardize the operation. The ISI official says that embarrassed the agency.

" 'Our relationship will be affected because of the manner this was conducted,' he told the British news agency...."

"Guantanamo Bay prison authorities named Pakistan's main intelligence agency a terrorist organization along with Hamas and other international militant networks, according to leaked documents likely to damage already rocky relations between the spy body and the CIA.

"The 2007 documents from the Guantanamo Bay prison were part of a batch of classified material released by the WikiLeaks website and included interrogation summaries from more than 700 detainees.

"The publicity about the documents in Pakistan coincided with a visit here Monday by Gen. David Petraeus, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

"Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which falls under the control of the country's powerful military, declined to comment, but it has consistently denied any ongoing links with Islamist militants.

"The ISI is included in a list of more than 60 international militant networks, as well as Iran's own intelligence service, that appear in guidelines for interrogators at Guantanamo. It says the groups are 'terrorist' entities or associations and say detainees linked to them 'may have provided support to al-Qaida and the Taliban, or engaged in hostilities against U.S. and coalition forces.'

"The CIA and the ISI have worked closely together since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to hunt down al-Qaida operatives sheltering in Pakistan. But U.S. officials have often voiced suspicions that elements of the ISI were either linked to or supporting militants even as the two countries publicly talked of their alliance in the campaign against extremism.

"Those suspicions appear to be bolstered in part by documents about some individual detainees that were first reported by the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper.

"For instance, the profile of Harun Shirzad al-Afghani says the U.S. believes the detainee attended an August 2006 meeting that included a variety of militants as well as representatives of Pakistan's military and intelligence service. Those gathered decided to increase attacks in certain provinces of Afghanistan, the profile states, citing an unidentified letter.

"The profile also states that al-Afghani claimed that an unnamed ISI officer paid $12,000 (1 million Pakistani rupees) to a militant involved in transporting ammunition to a weapons depot in eastern Afghanistan....

"...In a rare public accusation last week, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, said the ISI had continued links to the powerful network of an Afghan warlord that has bases in a northwestern tribal region of Pakistan. Hours later, Pakistan's army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, rejected what he called 'negative propaganda' by the United States....

"...Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told Parliament late Monday that the country's civilian, military and intelligence leaders had taken steps to end any 'trust deficit' with the Afghan government, which has also accused the ISI of meddling in its affairs in the past. Gilani made no direct reference to the classified documents...."
(Associated Press, via FoxNews.com)

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.