Archive for March, 2017

Boko Haram Vows to Impose Sharia Law

Things have been fairly calm regarding Boko Haram until, Abubakar Shekau released a video stating that militants who have pledged allegiance to ISIS will begin imposing Sharia  law in different countries. Countries include Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Mali to name a few. If these countries do not accept Shekau’s caliphate then he will continue bombing and using suicide bombers until they accept his ways of Islam. The leader then asserted that Boko Haram still holds a strong presence in Northern Nigeria, but the video has become suspicious because Nigerian Military officials claim they killed Shekau. There are conflicting reports about whether Shekau has been killed or militants claim to be him. Boko Haram has been losing ground in Nigeria and Chad recently but this video may cause concerns that they are planning new attacks to reclaim territory.


Global terrorism, crime syndicates funded by poaching

Poaching of wildlife is a lucrative business. The UN estimates that it worth $20-$25 billion annually. Poaching is done by many people simply looking to earn a living; however, exotic wildlife is increasingly the target of terrorists and organized crime syndicates. Animals that are particularly at risk are rhinos and elephants.

Terrorist groups who engage in poaching use funds gained from the sale of ivory on the black market to obtain more equipment and weapons, potentially making them even more dangerous. This is a significant problem for U.S. national security as poaching is a direct mechanism by which terror organizations can buy weapons that may be used to harm either Americans or our interests.

President Trump and his administration should support UN anti-poaching initiatives worldwide, with a particular focus on Africa, as well as regions where known terror groups are operating. Additionally, the administration, if this is deemed a significant enough threat, may consider allowing the deployment of private contractors to train park rangers in the affected areas. This has already been implemented, with a number of private and non-profit organizations sending over anti-poaching guards, such as the Anti-Poaching Unit, to fight against potential terrorist poachers and guard endangered species. There may be some political downsides to this, as military contractors may be given negative publicity, such as Blackwater. The administration may also provide direct funding to African nations to buy equipment and weapons for the scare number of park rangers they have.


ISIS Evolving

Even as territory of the Islamic state is rolled back in Iraq and Syria, the group continues to pose a threat as a terrorist organization. Some ISIS fighters switch their allegiance to other groups in the area. Those remaining in or migrating to countries other than Iraq and Syria pose a threat of carrying out lone-wolf style attacks or recruiting abroad. Some may even try to expand ISIS affiliate groups around the world. Others, who were radicalized online and with no real contact between ISIS leaders, also pose a threat of carrying out lone wolf attacks – such as the ones carried out in Orlando and San Bernardino. Implications for the US are clear, as ISIS evolves so should the strategy to fight it.  The US should focus on delegitimizing ISIS’s ideology, and disrupting their methods of recruitment, in ways that do not further alienate those who ISIS targets.


Mexican Cartels Infiltrating Costa Rica

Mexican drug cartels are recruiting and training criminal groups from Costa Rica. After learning cartel strategies, these groups return home to control territory. Costa Rican Attorney General Jorge Chavarría attributes the surge in the country’s homicide rate to the “Mexicanization of Costa Rica’s criminal groups.” In addition to the increase in violence, demand for drugs within Costa Rica has grown as cartels usually pay criminal groups in drugs, not dollars. Moreover, an increase in internal demand leads to an increase in profits and thus competition between local groups. This evolution between criminal groups in Mexico and Costa Rica is an unfortunate development in the drug wars. The change may be an example of the balloon effect as Mexican cartels seek out other areas of operation due to heightened security pressures at home. Yet, Nicaragua and Panama have not experienced a similar increase in drug activity and violence. A good explanation would account for why cartels are focusing on Costa Rica. Its high level of development (ex: long tradition of democracy, diversified economy, leader in environmental protection) makes it an interesting case for cartel presence. The country abolished its military in 1948 so perhaps there have been changes in its police force, which make it more attractive to Mexican cartels. The deteriorating security situation in Costa Rica warrants further study.


Missile Launch Failure Will Not Stop Kim Jong Un

Image: Missile being fired

According to U.S. officials that have been monitoring North Korea, the latest missile launch test ended with the missiles exploding shortly after they were launched. This proves to be a small setback in the nation’s ever-increasing drive to creating intercontinental missiles. The North Korean government has been working tirelessly over the past couple of years to build up towards a strike on the United States. Although they have not come close to developing the range needed to attack U.S. soil, our allies Japan and South Korea are much closer. Pyongyang still continues to state that they will soon be able to attack our nation, however this latest missile launch test proves that they are still not capable. Analysts do say, however, that this bump in the road will not be enough to dissuade North Korea from continuing their endeavors. Since these failures are usually hidden from North Korea’s general population, Kim Jong Un will likely not be deterred. Therefore, the U.S. should not place a large emphasis on the outcome of one test. In the future, the Trump administration should proceed with caution and be on the look-out for potential attacks in the future. This situation causes problems for the U.S. because it threatens the security of our nation and our allies.



A House Divided Part 2: Revenge of the Schiff

Left, Rep. Adam Schiff (D), right, Rep. Devin Nunes (R)


Following growing hostility between House Intelligence Committee Chairman, Republican Devin Nunes, and the committee’s ranking member, Democrat Adam Schiff, Rep. Nunes raised further questions about his credibility and the efficacy of the Committee last week by briefing Pres. Trump on the claim that in the Committee’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, the United States “incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition”. Nunes then presented this claim with the press, all before sharing this information with the rest of the House Intelligence Committee. This comes after multiple previous incidents in which Rep. Nunes spoke out on issues that arose from the investigation into Russia in ways that have been criticized soundly by Democrats and some Republicans for advocating for the President’s interest while leading what is supposed to be a bipartisan investigation, and for making public claims that were untrue (such as by saying that the CIA had produced a new report about Russian interference that Nunes had not been allowed to see, when in reality he had been briefed on the CIA’s most up-to-date intelligence, according to the CIA).

No one has been more frustrated by and critical of Rep. Nunes than Rep. Schiff, the who is the leading Democrat on the committee. Weeks ago, Rep. Schiff stated that the most important goal of the investigation is to come to a credible, bipartisan conclusion, but that “[if it gets] to the point at any time where I feel we can’t do that, where there are legitimate lines of investigation that are being walled off, then I will say so”. And apparently, Rep. Schiff believes that point has arrived: tonight, Rep. Schiff called for Rep. Nunes to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in the last American presidential election. He argues that “the public can not have the necessary confidence that matters involving the President’s campaign or transition team can be objectively investigated or overseen by the chairman”, and states that over a week later, everyone on the committee still has yet to see evidence of Rep. Nunes’ claims last week. He finishes by stating that “the Chairman’s recusal is more than warranted.” I wouldn’t be so naive to say that Representative Schiff has no political intentions or motivations in his dealings with Rep. Nunes or the Committee, but I believe that he is right. It is so important for the American people to have a thorough investigation to understand the impact of this Russian meddling on our democracy and government. Without such an investigation, we may never understand the ways in which our government has been affected by this aggression, and we will likely be vulnerable to further interference in the future. If Rep. Nunes will not cooperate with the committee, and if he wishes to feed information to the White House (which is a subject of this investigation), he is compromising the credibility of this investigation, and he can not continue to serve on the Committee.


Government Using Westminster Attack to Have More Spying Power?

The news article from the Independent reports that the Ministry of Defense’s former cyber security chief has accused the Government of using the Westminster attack to gain more surveillance power. Major General Johnson Shaw is claiming that the ministers were using the moment to push security services to have more control even though there is a weak case to do so. Home secretary Amber Rudd has been pushing pressure on internet firms stating it unacceptable that authorities cannot look at encrypted social media messages of Khalid Massod. This is controversial because of the debate on privacy, and whether or not spy agencies should be allowed further intrusive powers. After Rudd has demanded access to encrypted messages from social media like WhatsApp , Major General Shaw said that would allow other parties access, such as criminals and foreign spies. This ordeal takes into account whether agencies should be allowed to invade the privacy of people through their social media. The way the article articulates surveillance power, it seems as if the government is using the attack of Westminster as a platform onto expanding surveillance power. The issue becomes when does a person’s privacy rights get invaded and where it is justified. Once encrypted social media messages are hacked they are open to anyone, and from there the privacy of the person is completely violated.


Can Syrian Officials Finally be Held Accountable?

For the past six years, Syrian officials have basically acted with impunity. On Monday, a judge in Spain’s national court agreed to, “hear criminal proceedings against high-ranking members of Syria’s security services over the 2013 death of the driver, identified in court documents only by his first name, Abdul, to protect relatives in Syria,” according to a recent New York Times article. The defendants in the case include Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa; Ali Mamlouk, head of the National Security Bureau; Gen. Jamil Hassan, head of air force intelligence; and senior officers running the prison where Abdul was detained and killed. There are a total of 9 defendants. According to the article, the case will allow the court to investigate the torture and execution of thousands of civilians in the detention centers.

While this is by no means a fix to the problem of holding Syrian officials accountable, it represents a step in the right direction. The Syrian government never ratified Protocol 2 of the Geneva Convention, nor the Rome Statute, which makes it virtually impossible to hold the Syrian government accountable for war crimes against its on citizens or civilians. Also, the International Criminal Court (ICC). has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for crimes against humanity, genocide, and war crimes, like torture, but Russia and China have both stated they will use their veto power at the United Nations Security Council to block Syria’s referral to the ICC, according to the New York Times article. So, while people and European governments are still ultimately hoping for a tribunal that will bring justice to Syria, this court case represents a positive first step in legal action against Syrian officials.




Missing DC Girls: Victims of Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking has been a crisis in our nation’s capital for quite some time. However, now that 20 black and Latinx girls have gone missing from the bustling metropolis, the nation is taking notice.

Human traffickers prey on both men and women, but in particular, victims tend to be young women from troubled homes. Trafficker tactics prey on the impressionable vulnerabilities of young wayward women who yearn for the promise of monetary gain, shelter, and some kind of prosperity. Most victims meet a grisly fate, being sold into sex slavery or child labor operations. Not only is this crisis preying on the health and safety of young women, but there exists the possibility that members of our law enforcement are maliciously aligned with the predators.

Just a few years ago, a former officer from the Metropolitan Police Department in D.C. pleaded guilty to two counts of pandering a minor and one count of child pornography. He was found to be harboring a missing girl in his apartment. The same officer set up a sexual encounter with a minor and asked her about her interest in modeling, traditional tactics for a pimp, just a year earlier.

An unsettling number of similar cases have been discovered in the past few years. Several reputable sources and organizations have refuted claims that these two things are related; while not every officer’s actions can be attributed to the missing D.C. girls, it merits investigation since the safety of our children is at stake, possibly at the hands of our domestic law enforcement.


North Korean Cyber Warfare


    Intelligence officials concluded that North Korean hackers have attacked various banks and private companies, all to make money. Both the US and South Korea have been suspicious of North Korean cyber capabilities as its hacking network consists of thousands of hackers. Based on various intelligence, officials deemed North Korean hackers were responsible for attacks on Polish banks last year, as well as a bank in Bangladesh ($81 million), and the 2014 attack on Sony pictures. Intelligence also included a list of future targets on institutions ranging from the World Bank to Bank of America. This information along with other intelligence mentioned in the article, shows how much North Korean cyber capabilities have escalated and exactly what the country is after- money. While still behind developed countries in hacking capabilities, North Korean cyberattacks are still a huge concern. From hacking banks and major companies, demanding ransom, attacking government sites, and stealing personal data, North Korea poses as a cyber and financial threat to the US, which is something US intelligence should pay close attention to.


Return top