President Obama on Death of Osama bin Laden

On the 8th anniversary of George W. Bush’s infamous Mission Accomplished speech and also the anniversary of the announcement of Hitler’s death comes the news that US forces have killed Osama Bin Laden during a firefight in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

This should be a cathartic moment for many Americans but I don’t think that it will fundamentally change things in the world. This does not mean that our forces can withdraw from Afghanistan as the mission there has moved on significantly and Bin Laden has for a long time been an irrelevance in that arena.

Reflections on the underwear bomber

Following Abdulmutallab’s failed attack there was predictable kneejerk response from the TSA with bizarre new rules concerning air travel

Bruce Schneier gives his opinion on airplane security following the recent Nigerian ‘underwear bomber’ incident.

And what sort of magical thinking is behind the rumored TSA rule about keeping passengers seated during the last hour of flight? Do we really think the terrorist won’t think of blowing up their improvised explosive devices during the first hour of flight?

For years I’ve been saying this:

Only two things have made flying safer [since 9/11]: the reinforcement of cockpit doors, and the fact that passengers know now to resist hijackers.

This week, the second one worked over Detroit. Security succeeded.

EDITED TO ADD (12/26): Only one carry on? No electronics for the first hour of flight? I wish that, just once, some terrorist would try something that you can only foil by upgrading the passengers to first class and giving them free drinks

I think that the ruling regarding keeping passengers seated during the last hour of flight seems idiotic at first glance but that it makes sense if you consider that any flights flying into the US are only in the jurisdiction of the TSA during the final stages before that it is someone else’s problem if a terrorist decides to strike.

Joel Johnson of Gizmodo believes it is time to fire the TSA.

The TSA isn’t saving lives. We, the passengers, are saving our own. Since its inception, the TSA has been structured in such a way as to prevent specific terror scenarios, attempting to disrupt a handful of insanely specific tactics, while continuing to disenfranchise and demoralize the citizens who are actually doing the work that a billion-dollar government agency—an agency that received an additional $128 million just this year for new checkpoint explosive screening technology—has failed to do.

He makes some good points but I think that the TSA and their equivalents in the UK only reflect the general tone set by our governments where the prevailing wind is to cover one’s ass and be seen to be doing something even if it is only theatre.

Because security breaks down in practice to the reality and the perception, modern politicians because are going to address the perception before the reality becuase making people feel mre secure will win votes.

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Nigerian man attempts to blow up Detroit flight

Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who is thought to have been a student in the UK is accused of trying to blow up a flight to Detroit.

Sources say a man burnt his leg trying to ignite explosives on the jet, which had 278 passengers and 11 crew aboard, but nobody else was seriously hurt.

In custody, the Nigerian suspect said he had been acting on behalf of al-Qaeda, a police source said.

Passengers from the flight describe what they saw during the incident

The police conducted a search of a London flat as part of the enquiry into the failed bombing attempt. Abdulmutallab was believed to have been a mechanical engineering student at UCL between September 2005 and June 2008 but a UCL spokesman has been unable to confirm whether it is the same individual as the man detained in the US.

Most intriguingly a Nigerian banker Alhaji Umaru Mutallab has said his 23-year-old son may be the man connected with the failed incident.

Mr Mutallab, the former minister and chairman of First Bank in Nigeria said his son left London where he was a student to travel “I believe he might have been to Yemen, but we are investigating to determine that.”

Plan to split Taliban backed by the UK

The Guardian reports that the UK is backing a plan to split Taliban from within.

The British government has thrown its backing behind an ambitious Afghan strategy to split the Taliban by securing the defection of senior members of the militant group and large numbers of their followers.

The strategy, spearheaded by the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, reflects a significant shift in British policy, and is showing initial signs of success.

This would seem to me to be a classic case of divide and conquer, a sensible course of action I think as the ultimate goal is to bring peace to Afghanistan not to capture or kill every single member of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the country. It can only be a good thing if more moderate members of the Taliban who are not really adherants to the ideology but are members out of tribal loyalty can be persuaded to lay down arms. ,

Thais burning chillis causes terror alert in London

BBC News: Burning chilli sparks terror fear

A pot of burning chilli at the Thai Cottage restaurant on Monday sparked fears of a biological terror attack.

Roads were closed and homes evacuated by police whilst firefighters wearing protective breathing apparatus broke down the door to the restaurant where they discovered the source was merely a 9lb pot of chillies.

Fifteen years of Terror?

The United Kingdom’s newly minted Under-Secretary for Security, Counter-terrorism and Police Sir Alan West has said that we face a battle that could take up to 15 years to deal with radicalisation in the fight against terrorism.

In his first interview since his surprise appointment by Gordon Brown as security minister, Sir Alan called on people to be “a little bit un-British” and even inform on each other in an attempt to trap those plotting to take innocent lives.

“Britishness does not normally involve snitching or talking about someone,” he said. “I’m afraid, in this situation, anyone who’s got any information should say something because the people we are talking about are trying to destroy our entire way of life.”

He said he was determined to build on the Government’s core anti-terrorism strategy of the “four Ps” – prepare, protect, pursue, prevent – but that the “prevent” side, dealing with the radicalisation of young Muslims, was the most important.

I’m not sure his idea about snitching is such a good one though. It would indeed be helpful if people that actually had important information concerning a terrorist threat would come forward, but a society of snitches is going to create an overwhelming number of false positives. The police don’t have the manpower to deal with every nosy neighbour that suspects the darkly skinned man from down the road who because he keeps himself to himself is up to no good.

The admiral, who has been given a far-reaching brief across all government departments, also launched an attack on the phrase “war on terror” – which has been abandoned by ministers since Mr Blair left office.

He said: “I hate that expression. When I first heard it – I think it came over from the States – I though it was totally the wrong thing. It’s not like a war in that sense at all. It demeans the value of a war and it demeans the value of a lot of things.

“I don’t like the fact that we talk about ‘the Muslim community’ and this sort of thing. I have a lot of Muslim friends and they see themselves as British. We’ve got to be very careful. The threat is to our British way of life and all of our British people.”

Of the terrorists, he said: “I think they have severely damaged one of the world’s great religions – the one they purport to support.” The claims that British foreign policy was solely to blame was an erroneous argument, he said.

I do agree with his opinions on the expressions ‘War on Terror’ and ‘the Muslim community’. The use of the former in my opinion actually aids the enemy by giving the impression that the West sees this as a clash of civilisations with the Islamic world and supports the al Qaeda propaganda that the West is trying to destroy Islam.

The latter isn’t really helpful either as their isn’t really any such thing as ‘the Muslim community’. There are many Muslim communities within the UK but they don’t necessarily share a common viewpoint and any Muslim leader does not speak for all British Muslims.

Why Terrorism Doesn’t Work

Why Terrorism Doesn’t Work [via]

Interesting essay that posits the theory that terrorists that predominately attack civilian targets fail to achieve any of their aims because the general public the media and the governments misconstrue their aims as being solely to kill civilians when in fact they seek some political aim that is overlooked.

Means to an end not an end in and of itself.