The Null Device

Posts matching tags 'al-qaeda'


Slate has a series of articles examining various theories on why there hasn't (yet) been another 9/11-style attack on the US. The theories are:

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US forces and Iraqi authorities have announced that bloodthirsty hostage-beheading/civilian-massacring "holy man" Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead, having been killed in an air strike yesterday:

The head of US-led forces in Iraq, General George Casey, said Zarqawi was killed at 1815 on Wednesday, in an air strike against an "isolated safe house... approximately 8km (five miles) north of Baquba".
Apparently the US$25m reward for information leading to his whereabouts bore fruit, leading the US Air Force to his location; his remains were subsequently identified by fingerprint and facial recognition, so presumably he won't reappear in a video taunting the Zionist-Crusader-Infidels and promising new waves of blood-curdling atrocities for the glory of God. Of course, that's not saying that others won't now start jockeying to take his place.

I wonder what will happen to his persona after death; will he become iconified into a sort of Middle Eastern Che Guevara (his brutal reputation may not be an obstacle, now that he's safely dead; after all, Che himself was a murderous totalitarian thug in life, and not the mellow hippie rock-star sex-god most people might imagine, and even Stalin has his fans now), reviled, or forgotten. On the BBC News forum, there is a lot of rejoicing, most particularly from self-identified Iraqis.

And oil prices have fallen on the news, as markets anticipate the possibility of less violence in the region.

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The family of the French-born al-Qaeda terrorist and/or raving lunatic Zacarias Moussaoui, who recently failed to escape solitary confinement for life, are claiming that living in London turned him from a nice young man into a murderous zealot.

(via Londonist) al-qaeda london terrorism 0


A videotape believed to be from a known American al-Qaeda operative singles out Melbourne and Los Angeles for the next wave of mass-casualty attacks.

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In 2003, the CIA found what it thought were al-Qaeda terrorist instructions encoded in the al-Jazeera news ticker. The "instructions" detected by the CIA's steganalysis software included dates, flight numbers and the coordinates of targets including the White House and the small town of Tappahannock, Virginia, and resulted in the national terror alert level being raised from "extra-severe" to "brown trouser time" and almost 30 flights being cancelled. That is, until it emerged that the "hidden messages" were just the result of random noise, coincidence and the human pattern-finding instinct:

The problem with hunting messages hidden by steganography is that there are so few of them, any computer program will come up with false positives - messages that aren't really there. "The false positive rate, even if it's vanishingly small, starts to throw signals at you that makes you want to believe you're seeing messages. And somebody could be fooled by that if they didn't understand the nature of steganography," says Honeyman.
This happened some time after it was discovered that al-Qaeda weren't hiding terrorist instructions in images on internet porn sites.

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The Guardian debunks the movie industry's claims that DVD counterfeiting funds al-Qaeda and other terrorists groups:

A couple of years ago, the Bush administration launched a major anti-drugs television campaign. It showed teenagers "confessing" to having killed a judge or a police officer because they had used drugs, and it said that drugs funded terrorism. Even if you were just having a joint in your back yard, the ad said, you could be helping terrorists. This was nonsense. The main profiteers from drugs in the US are American citizens who, if they are smart, vote Republican to ensure that the value of their product remains artificially high.
The chief backer of the September 11 attacks made his millions from his family's construction business. So should we stop all house-building now? By telling us that we are fighting terrorism by boycotting pirated DVDs, the industry is patronising us and misleading us. Our message should be: don't buy counterfeit and alarmist propaganda from these people.

Remember kids: every time you play an MP3, Osama bin Laden gets 50c to kill Americans with. Just say no.

(More indirectly, though, one could possibly make a terrorism case against those who provide copyright-enforcement-circumvention tools and file-sharing software, on the grounds that they are attacking the infrastructure of the US economy on which millions of lives ultimately depend. It's like that Bruce Sterling story in which a belligerent China bankrupts the US by setting up big fileservers hosting copies of Microsoft Office and the latest Hollywood blockbusters, free for the downloading.)

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Remember those reports, just after the conquest of Afghanistan and before the Iraqi débâcle, which said that al-Qaeda was a spent force, its support structures smashed and its key operatives dead or captured? Well, a new report from the International Institute of Strategic Studies says that now, thanks to the spectacular own-goal that was the invasion of Iraq, al-Qaeda is back with a vengeance, its ranks swollen with willing martyrs, and its sites set on high-profile US and Western targets for high-profile attacks, ideally with weapons of mass destruction.

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50 suspicious things about the Nick Berg killing; from Berg's unusual circumstances (what he was doing alone in Iraq with an Israeli stamp in his passport, why he was travelling at night, his stated intention to leave, the 3 FBI visits he received whilst in custody), what exactly happened between his release from custody and capture by the killers (if he was handed over, that would have saved Osama Bin Laden from having to procure an orange jumpsuit for him), the timing of the release of the tape (which mentions the prison torture photos apparently before they were released), the increasingly implausible "al-Qaeda" assassins' builds, accents and hands, and even questions of whether the decapitated man was, in fact, Berg. Something's not what it seems. (via jwz)

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Conspiracy theories about the Nick Berg killing. They come down to (a) where did the killers get the orange jumpsuit (though I'm sure al-Qaeda's budget would extend to those if they needed them), and more seriously (b) Berg's presence on an "enemies list" of treasonous liberals who opposed the war, and (c) the identities of the hooded killers, whose white hands, build and body language are allegedly inconsistent with them being Middle Easterners -- but consistent with them being US military/paramilitary personnel. (via tyrsalvia)

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How much is your life worth? Well, if you're American or British (what, no Australians?), Al-Qaeda have allegedly offered to pay 1kg of gold to whoever kills you. I wonder what restrictions there are on claiming this; i.e., if you're suicidally despondent over your family's financial problems, could you off yourself and claim the gold for your next of kin? (Be sure to thank your political leaders in your suicide note for making it possible.)

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Various leftist troublemakers are claiming that the invasion of Iraq has accelerated the spread of Osama bin Laden's anti-US ideology among once-local Islamic movements, increasing the danger to the US and its allies. Um, hang on, it's not leftists making the claim, it's the CIA and the U.S. State Department.

Islamic militant organisations in places such as North Africa and South-East Asia, previously focused on changing their local country leadership, "have been caught by bin Laden's vision, and poisoned by it... they will now look at the US, Israel and the Saudis as targets", a senior intelligence official said last week. "That is one manifestation of how bin Laden's views are expanding well beyond Iraq," he said.
Since attacks in East Africa, on the USS Cole, and on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11, al-Qaeda has lost its sanctuary in Afghanistan. Its once top-down control of terrorist operations now is in the hands of less-experienced people.

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Massive bomb plot foiled in London; the suspects are believed to be young British-born radical Muslim militants with no direct links to al-Qaida (which suggests that, everywhere, local bampots are spontaneously planning their own atrocities without outside support).

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A few tidbits from civil-libertarian/paranoid-anarchist-nutter site in a classic exhibition of Gallic dirigisme, the French government is planning to install a centralised internet censorship proxy on all internet connections in France, to block racist and anti-Semitic websites. Meanwhile, the Australian government stopped publishing reports on its internet censorship scheme in late 2001 (I wonder whether they'll be claiming that they did this on grounds of national security). And finally, an ABC piece on how al-Qaeda use the internet.

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If you're wondering why I haven't posted anything about the Madrid terrorist atrocity here, it's because everyone else has already written about it, and I had nothing to say that would have been any more profound than "that's awful", or "those scoundrels".

Things are geting interesting now, though; the right-wing Spanish government (a key member of the neoconservative Coalition of Willing) had tried to pin the blame on ETA, the Basque separatist terrorist group (previously known only for small-scale car bombings), going as far as to instruct embassy staff to blame it on the Basques. Taking a hard line against the ETA and supporting the US-led invasion of Iraq were two policies of the rightists; so, when it emerged that it was an al-Qaeda operation, the electorate swept them out of office. Presumably they didn't have Berlusconi/Murdoch-style media control on their side; it must be really frustrating to think that, had they kept the al-Qaeda link under wraps (or obscured it with spin and disinformation) for 48 or so hours longer, they would have probably won by a landslide. Children overboard, anyone?

Meanwhile, the new brooms about to form government are the Socialist Workers' Party (who sound like a bolshy lot). Whether or not they're going to abolish private property and herd everybody into collective farms to work according to their ability for the common good, they certainly have been outspoken opponents of the invasion of Iraq, and are likely to join the Axis of Weasels alongside France, Belgium and Germany. (Aside: have any right-wing pundits asserted that the Belgian paedophile scandal and the country's lack of support for War Against Evil are part of the same moral decadence and lack of values?) The Blair administration are putting on a brave face, but the neoconservative coalition in Europe appears to be down to what: Britain, Poland and Berlusconi's Italy?

Also, terrorism experts are predicting that bombs on freight ships are likely to be the next trend in terrorism. Doesn't al-Qaeda have something like 15 freight ships, most of them at unknown locations? (Load one of those up with radioactive waste and Semtex and detonate it in a harbour, and the surrounding city becomes the new Pripyat; in 14 years' time, some chick with a motorbike and digital camera will come along and post photos of the evacuees' abandoned, radioactive iPods and Razor scooters to her website.)

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An interesting account of how investigators tracked al-Qaeda operatives via their Swiss mobile SIM cards. The terrorists were apparently sufficiently naïve to assume that the SIM cards (which could be purchased anonymously in Switzerland and used worldwide) guaranteed anonymity, and, whilst changing phones frequently for security reasons, to keep the same SIM card.

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From the most recent Onion: If Al-Qaeda Had A Hockey Team, We'd Kick Its Ass:

Can you imagine? It'd be so sweet. We'd have the advantage before the puck even dropped. First of all, they'd be from the Middle East, which is no hockey powerhouse. I'll bet their ice always melts down before the game's even over. Plus, their rink would probably be all bombed out. Or it'd be in a tent or something. And you know al-Qaeda's hockey uniforms would be totally ugly, with stupid colors and all kinds of Allah shit all over them. The jerseys would have those big long Ramalama bin Dingdong names on the back, and those Arabic numbers they use over there.
So, of course, then we'd get the power play. And face it, at that point, the game's pretty much over for them. They have to ask the crowd to stop chanting "USA! USA! USA!" But guess what, man? We ain't gonna stop! So al-Qaeda pulls their goalie, and while they're trying for the extra-man goal in garbage time to save face, they fail to notice one important detail: the Navy SEALs coming down from the ceilings and walls to capture everyone on the al-Qaeda bench. 'Cause there's no way we're letting those half-assed-hockey-playing terrorist bastards just waltz out the door. And that's how the greatest hockey game in history would end.

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Al-Qaeda (whatever that really is) now has a new weapon in its jihad against America: rap music; more precisely, a militant Islamic rap group from Britain calling themselves the Soul Salah Crew, and whose song "Dirty Kuffar", is a hit throughout the Islamosphere:

The song starts with images of US marines in Iraq cheering as one of them shoots a wounded Iraqi lying on the floor. At the end of the video, it features shots of the hijacked planes flying into the Twin Towers with sounds of the rappers laughing. There is then a list of 56 countries they claim have been the 'victims of American aggression' since 1945.
Excerpt from 'Dirty Kuffar':
Peace to Hamas and the Hizbollah
OBL [bin-Laden] pulled me like a shiny star
Like the way we destroyed them two towers ha-ha
The minister Tony Blair, there my dirty Kuffar
The one Mr Bush, there my dirty Kuffar...
Throw them on the fire

Mohammed al-Massari, the Islamic extremist leader and former Saudi dissident whose website is promoting the song, denies that it is an encitement to terrorist attacks against the West, claiming that the lyrics are only metaphorical. Meanwhile, the authorities are investigating the video.

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Is US foreign policy strongly influenced by a fundamentalist belief in Satan? (via FmH)

Ellis argues, you can't understand contemporary American politics without understanding the importance of profound spiritual faith, and specifically belief in Absolute Evil. "An experience-centered believer," he says, "is going to think and vote different ways from someone who -- like me, being a Lutheran -- checks the precedents and reads the Bible and thinks for a while before making a decision."
So when our born-again president refers to Osama bin Laden as "the Evil One," he is not dealing in metaphor or analogy, even assuming he is capable of such things. Rather he is addressing his co-religionists in a not-so-secret code. "That makes perfect sense to a born-again believer," Ellis says. "Evil, like God, is One. So you can say, and believe in, an 'Axis of Evil,' because you know that the person who is giving the orders to bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and the leader of Iran and the leader of North Korea is, of course, Satan."

The thought that such atavistic, aggressively anti-intellectual beliefs may be governing the world's largest nuclear arsenal is not a comfortable one.

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Some believe that al-Qaeda doesn't exist, and that the highly organised global terror network is a myth made up by Western officials:

'Bin Laden never used the term al-Qaeda prior to 9/11', Dolnik tells me. 'Nor am I aware of the name being used by operatives on trial. The closest they came were in statements such as, "Yes, I am a member of what you call al-Qaeda". The only name used by al-Qaeda themselves was the World Islamic Front for the Struggle Against Jews and Crusaders - but I guess that's too long to really stick.'
Having given bin Laden and his henchmen a name, Western officials then proceeded to exaggerate their threat. 'In the quest to define the enemy, the US and its allies have helped to blow it out of proportion', wrote Dolnik and Kimberly McCloud of the Monterey Institute in 2002. They pointed out that after 1998, US officials began distributing posters and matchboxes featuring bin Laden's face and a reward for his capture around the Middle East and Central Asia - a process that 'transformed this little-known jihadist into a household name and, in some places, a symbol of heroic defiance'

See also: locally-printed "Osama Bin Laden World Hero" T-shirts selling like hotcakes in markets all over the Islamosphere.

In fact, I have been wondering whether or not, within a decade, "al-Qaeda" will morph into an umbrella term for any resistance to neo-liberalism/globalisation/capitalism/The Man, with Latin American (non-Islamic) qaedistas waging guerilla war against US-installed authoritarian governments and right-wing death squads, whilst their French comrades torch McDonalds restaurants, and dreadlocked Nu Marxists all over McWorld replace their Che T-shirts with Osama ones.

According to Dolnik: 'In a world where one email sent to a news agency translates into a headline stating that al-Qaeda was behind even the blackouts in Italy and the USA, anyone can claim to be al-Qaeda - not only groups but also individuals'.
Sajid Badat, the 24-year-old student arrested by British police in Gloucester yesterday, on suspicion of planning to carry out a terrorist attack, was immediately referred to in media reports as a 'suicide bomber' and 'al-Qaeda terrorist' - after it was revealed that he had boasted to college mates and neighbours: 'I'm in al-Qaeda.' Whatever the truth of the allegations against him, however, it is clear that anybody can make an impact today by claiming a link to the largely mythical al-Qaeda.

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Charlie Stross has a characteristically right-on piece about the war on terrorism:

However, there are some issues I agree with him about. Item number one on the list is that Al Qaida blowing people up is Wrong, and should be stopped. Item number two on the list is that it is not acceptable to stop Al Qaida blowing things up by giving in to all their demands, which in maximalist form would amount to surrendering the whole of western civilization to a barbarous mediaevalist fundamentalism. And third on the list is that Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party was a vile and repugnant dictatorship (and North Korea doesn't look too good, either). So why did I go on an anti-George W. Bush march on Tuesday, and why do I want to put a foot through the TV screen whenever I see his face?
Declaring a war on terrorism in the wake of 9/11 was good politics for George W. Bush. But it's a misleading metaphor; because war is terrorism by other means, just as terrorism has become an extension of diplomacy by the weak against the strong, to fold, spindle and mutilate Von Clauswitz's famous dictum. If a war against terrorism is to be successful it must be fought in peoples' hearts and minds, with unusual weapons like trust and respect, and a willingness to negotiate with the moderates before our intransigence turns them into desperate extremists.
Insisting that a war on terrorism is a literal war, involving bombers and tanks, is foolish in the extreme. Handing them a victory on a plate -- by surrendering our civil liberties on the altar of security -- is insane. Killing terrorists generates more anger among the communities the terrorists are drawn from, and anger breeds more violence. But negotiation works. It worked in Northern Ireland, where the depths of religious bigotry rival anything to be found in the Middle East. And it can work in the Israel/Palestine mess, if negotiations can be arranged and both sides are willing to back down from their maximalist positions. I doubt negotiation has any chance of working with Osama bin Laden or his closest followers, but as the Ha'aretz interview above suggests, even suicide bombers aren't completely beyond hope.

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Hugo Chavez, leftist president of oil-rich Venezuela, No Logo anti-globalist posterboy and target of an unsuccessful (and some say US-organised) coup last year, gave US$1M to al-Qaeda shortly after September 11. Chavez is also trying to turn his country into another Cuban-style dictatorship, suspending elections and ordering troops to fire on pro-democracy protestors. Or so says a "high-ranked military defector". The truth or a convenient pretext for toppling an irksome left-wing populist regime? (Didn't they say similar things about Allende?)

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Caveat lector: The ever-lucid Charlie Stross deconstructs alleged Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith's ghastly tirade, in which he claims the right to kill 4 million Americans. It appears the Middle East Media Research Institute, which found and translated the piece, is run by people connected with Israeli intelligence, and thus may not be as impartial and nonpartisan as it purports to be; and there's the suggestion that this Abu Ghaith chap may be just some random lunatic chosen for his scariness.

(Imagine a mirror-image Arab news organisation combing the US local newspapers for editorials demanding that we kill them all or forcibly convert them to Christianity. They wouldn't have to look far with the likes of Anne Coulter about, would they?)

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Shortly after the CIA has failed to find any link between Iraq and terrorist groups, the UN's chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, has said that there is no evidence of Iraq having or trying to build weapons of mass destruction. Nonetheless, Bush, Blair and Howard are still going on about how there must be terrorist links, and how with international help, Iraq could easily make a nuclear bomb to give to Al-Qaeda. Call it faith-based geopolitics.

Evidence or no evidence, there will almost certainly be an invasion of Iraq. Bush will not be robbed of his statesmanly stature and turned into just another bumbling idiot politician again, and nothing short of Saddam Hussein giving himself up to U.S. authorities (and not those UN/EU pinkos either) will suffice to stop the machinery now in motion. And as soon as Saddam is safely in his supermax cell in Colorado and the insurrections across the Middle East have been put down, they can go after Castro or Gaddafi; the possibilities are endless.

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The Culture War strikes again. Evidence has emerged that, in early 2001, the Bush administration held up a plan to attack Al-Qaeda, because it was believed tainted with the Godless liberal politics of the Clinton administration. It got lost in the political sanitisation of the US public service, and put on the backburner while attention was diverted to a missile defense plan, crackdowns on pornography and the War On Drugs.

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Looks like captured Taliban/Al-Qaeda POWs (those who weren't massacred on capture, that is) will be kept at the US base in Guantanamo, Cuba, itself a curiosity of geopolitics and history.

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Reasons to switch to Linux: Al Qaeda terrorists infiltrate Microsoft, plant trojan horses in Windows XP. Or so says arrested terrorist suspect Mohammad Afroze Abdul Razzak, who has also detailed plans to destroy the Houses of Parliament in London and Rialto Towers in Melbourne, among other targets. A Microsoft spokesman has poured scorn on the allegations, saying that their source code is strictly monitored to make sure that there is no malicious code that they didn't plan themselves. (Then again, what's to say he isn't fnord an Al Qaeda terrorist agent?)

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A good piece looking at how Bin Laden's terrorists organised and communicated. And no, it doesn't include encrypted messages in pornographic JPEGs and pirated MP3s. (Or, indeed, much in the way of encryption at all.)

The hijackers, many of whom lived in the United States for years, obeyed. They shaved their beards and wore western clothes. They hid their Korans. Some joined gyms and chatted about sports to neighbours. They took flying lessons and even military courses at US academies. Some brought their families to stay, warning them to flee at the last possible moment before the carnage began. They ate western food, and some even drank. No doubt they shopped at Walmart, and watched the Simpsons on TV. The Manchester terror manual even warned them "don't break parking regulations".
Even now, as US forces move in for the kill, bin Laden's satellite phone has not been cut off. But calls to the terrorist leader are going unanswered. His international phone number - 00873 682505331 - was disclosed during a trial, held in New York earlier this year. Caller to his once-active satellite link now hear only a recorded messages saying he is "not logged on".

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