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Was the Nice attacker really an IS ‘lone wolf’?

2 more arrests in Nice truck attack; IS claim is studied

This post was written by Mia Bloom, Georgia State University.

The Bastille Day terror attack on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice has been claimed by the Islamic State Group – sort of.

Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, a delivery driver known to police for petty crimes, drove a 19-ton white Renault truck into crowds gathered for a fireworks display. At least 84 are dead.

As they did when Orlando shooter Omar Mateen killed 49 people, IS news agency ‘Amaq released a statement calling Bouhlel a ‘soldier of the Caliphate.’ IS reiterated the claim in its Bayan Radio news bulletin, adding a warning that “Crusader states” are not safe from its fighters.

However unlike the attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh or even attacks at Bataclan and Brussels airport as yet no pre-attack photos or ‘last will and testament’ videos have been released to cement the connection beyond a loose and general claim of affiliation, which may or may not be legitimate.

IS fan boys celebrated with glee on IS-linked social media accounts in the immediate aftermath of the attack, but this does not mean that Raqqa, the self declared capital of the caliphate headquarters in Syria, ordered or organized the attack.

Reasons to doubt an IS link

President Hollande has already determined this to be a terrorist act – even before any real evidence has been found on Bouhlel’s cell phone or in his laptop browser history on his laptop beyond a phone number alleged to be connected to Al Nusra Front’s Omar Diaby. This is problematic.

According to reports, Bouhlel suffered from depression after his wife divorced him. Stories are circulating that he acted in ways consistent of someone with suffering from mental illness. His own father admitted he had bouts of depression and breakdowns.

With no clear connection to Jihadi groups (and merely a record as a petty criminal), French officials are trying to ascertain whether Bouhlel was a lone actor terrorist or a mentally ill person with whom IS is opportunistically associating.

The idea that a mass casualty perpetrator is likely to be suffering from mental illness is consistent with the research on lone actors conducted by Paul Gill, John Horgan, Emily Corner and others.

The worst case scenario is that Bouhlel is so-called ‘clean skin.’ That’s what security officials call a terrorist with no real criminal record who is not under surveillance, and who might be part of a larger plot.

The response by counter terror officials would be very different depending on which of these theories proves to be true.

My research on suicide terrorism has demonstrated that affiliation with a group is quite different from the research of Criminal Justice professor Adam Lankford of the University of Alabama who insists that many terrorists are suicidal and not sacrificing themselves for a greater cause or for some underlying altruistic motivation of self sacrifice.

The implications for policy and the potential for backlash from terrorists and counter terrorists vary greatly depending on which scenario ends up being accurate for Bouhlel, whether he was in fact radicalized or possible mentally ill matters.

At this time, any of these explanations are plausible. It is important to explore what is known, admit what we don’t know, and base any analysis on fact and not speculation.

Why France? Again?

A French soldier stands guard next to a muslim prayer room in Nice, Jan. 23, 2015.
REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

France has suffered three attacks in the past 19 months. There is a robust literature exploring why Europe and especially France has borne the brunt of Jihadi terrorism.

Explanations include the fact that Muslims (mostly of north African origin) in France have not assimilated into the mainstream of French society. Muslims constitute a disproportionate percentage of those unemployed, poor living in the banlieus, or suburbs, of urban sprawl. They are incarcerated at percentages that far exceed their percent of the population, and have fewer opportunities for upward mobility than even their non-Muslim African counterparts have enjoyed in the UK and France.

The French government has aggressively banned the veil. The extreme right wing party, the National Front, has soared in the polls and increased its percentage of the seats in the Parliament.

However, one point the news media has largely neglected to mention is that France has been spearheading the bombing campaigns against IS (compared to the Russian bombardment of free Syrian Army positions). It has led attacks against Jihadi groups in Mali and other parts of Africa.

President Francois Hollande’s declaration that, ‘We will continue striking those who attack us on our own soil’ is a not-so-veiled reference to France’s involvement in air strikes in Syria. Hollande’s statement reflects what the French security services already believe to be a persuasive hypothesis: even if this attack was not IS-directed, it might have been IS-inspired.

Beyond Syria, France has expanded its counter terrorism operations throughout North Africa as Jihadi groups have proliferated in the aftermath of the downfall of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. Groups in Morocco, Algeria, and Mali affiliated with Al Qaeda or IS have flourished. The French counter terror operations launched in 2013 to roll back the Islamist militant uprising in the north of Mali, has metamorphosed into a semi-colonial arrangement.

All of this goes a long way to explain why France.

But it is crucial to point out that just acts inspired by IS are most certainly not the same as those planned or at the behest of IS. The connection to IS is not crystal clear even when groups (let alone individuals) claim affiliation by making a pledge, or bayat, to the Islamic State.

According to the Minerva research team at Georgia State University, the 2014 expansion of IS’ so-called Caliphate, was foretold by “Wiki Baghdady” –a Jihadi insider, but more than likely an Al Qaeda agent – who predicted IS would amass multiple group allegiances and then announce them simultaneously in order to project power and influence.

“It would be as if the pledges came from everywhere, answering al-Baghdadi’s call,” WikiBaghdady wrote. Unsurprisingly, within 10 months WikiBaghdady’s predictions proved correct. Formal pledges from jihadists in Sinai, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Libya, and Algeria were released through IS media in November and were formally accepted by the “emir” three days later.

The black flag commonly used by IS militants.
REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani

In essence, the IS expansion strategy follows a pre-set “script.” Obvious patterns have emerged in terms of the types of attacks a group perpetrates – and even IS’s use of a standardized logo, font, colors, and branding.

For individuals, the branding is more complex. Unless video emerges of Bouhlel being trained in Mosul or Raqqa or some incriminating materials are found on his cell phone or personal computers, we must treat the situation as unconfirmed until we have more information.

The Conversation

Mia Bloom, Professor of Communication, Georgia State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

So either George Bush was the dumbest man alive…


Or the Bush administration was in on 9/11. They finally released the 29 censored pages about the Saudi government’s connection to the hijackers, and Bush’s good friend Prince Bandar is all over it:

President Bush did not want the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia investigated. President Bush has deep ties to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and its royal family and only wanted to protect the Kingdom. President Bush wanted to go to war in Iraq — not Saudi Arabia. So, 29 full pages that said “Saudi” and “Bandar” instead of “Hussein” and “Iraq” was a huge problem for President Bush.

It is well documented that the Joint Inquiry received enormous push-back against its investigation into the Saudis. In fact, former FBI Director Mueller acknowledges that much of the information implicating the Saudis that the Inquiry investigators ultimately uncovered was unknown to him. Why does Mueller say this? Mostly because Mueller and other FBI officials had purposely tried to keep any incriminating information specifically surrounding the Saudis out of the Inquiry’s investigative hands. To repeat, there was a concerted effort by the FBI and the Bush Administration to keep incriminating Saudi evidence out of the Inquiry’s investigation. And for the exception of the 29 full pages, they succeeded in their effort.

Notwithstanding the lack of cooperation from the FBI and the pressure from the Bush Administration to thwart any investigation of the Saudis, the Joint Inquiry was still able to write 29 full pages regarding Saudi complicity in the 9/11 attacks. No other nation is given such singular prominence in the Joint Inquiry’s Final Report. Not Iraq. Not Iran. Not Syria. Not Sudan. Not even Afghanistan or Pakistan.

The 29 pages have been kept secret and suppressed from the American public for fifteen years — not for matters of genuine national security — but for matters of convenience, embarrassment, and cover-up. Executive Order 13526 makes that a crime. Neither James Clapper nor Barack Obama want to release a statement about that.

And none of this answers the question as to why the FBI was forbidden to follow these leads.

Terrorist or mentally ill?

Pulse Orlando Nightclub Shooting from People/Time magazines

This is an excellent piece from McClatchy, and lines us with what I already suspected. I don’t believe the Orlando shooter was a terrorist, but our national ADD makes us want easy answers to everything:

Focusing on extremist ideology as the driver of radicalization, rather than as the end result, is often misleading and even dangerous, according to experts who’ve studied the backgrounds of violent jihadists.

“It can make us less safe. It means that we’re missing a really important conversation about all the other drivers, and all the other complexities that we might be able to address,” saidQuintan Wiktorowicz, a former White House senior adviser on countering violent extremism who’s now a managing partner of Affinis Labs, a Virginia-based startup incubator whose projects include apps to combat radical messaging.

A reporter for The New York Times posted more than 150 numbered tweets related to the Islamic State angle; prominent Washington policy figures implored her to stop, given the many unknowns in the case. Cable news channels splashed Arizona Sen. John McCain’s statements that President Barack Obama was “directly responsible” for the Orlando killings because of his policies toward the Islamic State – with little discussion of the weaknesses of such a charge.
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Why gun rights shouldn’t be tied to watch list

FIFTY DEAD IN FLORIDA ....................

Read this:

If the government can revoke your right to access firearms simply because it has decided to place you on a secret, notoriously inaccurate list, it could presumably restrict your other rights in a similar manner. You could be forbidden from advocating for causes you believe in, or associating with like-minded activists; your right against intrusive, unreasonable searches could be suspended. And you would have no recourse: The government could simply declare that, as a name on a covert list, you are owed no due process at all.

What Congress, or the next president, should not do is forbid individuals on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from purchasing firearms.
President Barack Obama does not appear to be discomfited by this possibility. Indeed, he seems to have decided that tethering gun control to the watch list is a wise use of his remaining political capital. Last week, before the Pulse massacre, he made another appeal to ban gun sales to those on the watch list, which has gained viral traction in the wake of Sunday’s attack. “I got people who we know have been on ISIL websites, living here in the United States, U.S. citizens, and we’re allowed to put them on the no-fly list when it comes to airlines, but because of the National Rifle Association, I cannot prohibit those people from buying a gun,” the president said. “This is somebody who is a known ISIL sympathizer. And if he wants to walk in to a gun store or a gun show right now and buy as much—as many weapons and ammo as he can, nothing’s prohibiting him from doing that, even though the FBI knows who that person is.”

This rhetoric may sound persuasive. But the deeper problem is that virtually anyone who wants to commit a mass shooting can easily obtain a gun designed for the battlefield. In the gun safety debate, the terror watch list is largely a distraction.

Oops! One Of Two Copies Of The CIA Torture Report ‘Accidentally Destroyed’

This really is shocking and not just in a sarcastic way. According to Yahoo! News, one of the two remaining copies of the Senate CIA torture report has been “accidentally” destroyed. The CIA inspector general’s office – the spy agency’s internal watchdog – has acknowledged it “mistakenly” destroyed its only copy of a mammoth Senate torture… Continue Reading →

Data privacy vs. national security

Apple to release iOS 9.3 after fixing iMessages encryption vulnerability

The hotly debated issue of national security versus data privacy has been making headlines all over the world due to the iPhone encryption case pitting the US Department of Justice against mammoth technology company Apple Inc.

A US District Court judge in California ordered Apple to help the FBI unlock the encrypted iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooters who killed 14 people and seriously injured 22 in December 2015. Apple refused the court order saying it will not destabilize its products’ security features because that would leave customers vulnerable to hackers and other serious cyber threats.

Specifically, the FBI wanted Apple to write and turn over new code that would allow federal data analysts to break Apple’s encryption key. It is asking Apple to develop software that would weaken its own product – create a “backdoor” that would admit government hackers into the heart of its operating system.

Apple CEO Tim Cook’s open letter to customers denounced the FBI’s actions and court order saying, “The United States government has demanded that Apple take an unprecedented step, which threatens the security of our customers. We oppose this order, which has implications far beyond the legal case at hand.” 

He followed up with a similar email to all Apple employees thanking them for their support, reiterating that Apple has no sympathy for terrorists, and outlining how Apple has cooperated and will continue to cooperate with investigators and comply with information requests. But he urged prosecutors to withdraw their demand to turn over encryption secrets arguing it sets a dangerous precedent from both a technical and a personal privacy perspective.

Most technology experts and privacy advocates agree with Apple. They say that forcing US companies to weaken their encryption methods would invite attention from unscrupulous hackers, expose private data, threaten Internet security, and give a competitive advantage to technology companies in other countries.

Atlanta Defense Attorney Allen Yates commented, “Apple’s pushback against the government’s aggression in this case is understandable given the tech giant’s desire to protect its products, and more importantly, its customers and the ability to access their data. It is always a sensitive issue when the government invokes national security, but allowing the government unfettered access to United States Citizen’s encrypted data will create a very dangerous precedent and have unknown ramifications on the security of our most popular technologies.”

It’s a controversial topic. On the other side of the debate, the FBI and government supporters strongly disapprove of Apple’s refusal to cooperate. They say Apple must comply due to the highly sensitive nature of information that might reside on the phone. The FBI insists the code would only be used for this iPhone – one that had been in the possession of a known, deadly terrorist with allegiance to ISIS.

Like the Apple CEO, FBI Director James Comey also appealed to the public to gain support. He issued a passionate statement on the internet defending his request and saying that it is solely a question of justice for the victims and not intended to set a precedent of any kind. In his words, “We don’t want to break anyone’s encryption or set a master key loose on the land. I hope thoughtful people will take the time to understand that. Maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists. Maybe it doesn’t. But we can’t look the survivors in the eye, or ourselves in the mirror, if we don’t follow this lead.”

While the immediate legal issues surrounding the battle between Apple and the federal government became moot after the FBI hacked the iPhone itself and announced they were dropping the lawsuit, the entire debate between the right to privacy and national security will clearly continue.

The 289 classified pages of the 9/11 Commission.

9/11 Memorial and Museum (DSC04254)
Just going to link to a few stories you should read, like this:

In 1999, there were a handful of Arab flight students in SW Florida. In 2001 there were thousands. At a big AFB base in the Panhandle, a trainer told me, “It used to be Iranians. Now its all Saudis.”

Were they there by themselves? Hell no. Did the CIA know? Hell yes. I asked an old hand, in a highly irate tone of voice, how could the CIA not have known blah-di-blah blah. His answer was mild. Why, I’m sure that they did know. He said, “It would have been impossible for them not to.”

Venice and the surrounding region was teeming with spooks. The Sheriff in nearby Charlotte County—where Atta lived for a time, though you won’t find that in the 9/11 Commission Report—told me that, because of the 40-year history of covert activity that he had seen been run through Charlotte County, which he and everyone else in the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Department had been powerless to stop, he believed the CIA was responsible for 9/11.

Was one of the bigger shocks of my life. A Southern cracker Sheriff telling me he thought the CIA was responsible for 9/11. And hey. Maybe he’s right. But I couldn’t go there. I might believe that. But I never had proof.


Here are some other snippets from

“9/11 Commissioner John Lehman repeatedly meets with Bush administration officials and discusses links between the 9/11 hijackers and Saudi government officials.”

“Lehman is aware that the Commission’s investigators are working the topic and is interested to see what they will find. According to author Philip Shenon, “He thought it was clear early on that there was some sort of Saudi support network in San Diego that had made it possible for the hijackers to hide in plain sight in Southern California.” He is especially intrigued by money possibly passed from Princess Haifa, wife of the Saudi ambassador to the US, to associates of the hijackers, although Lehman thinks she would not have known the money’s real destination and had simply signed checks given her by radicals at the Saudi embassy in Washington. Lehman also doubts that the Saudi officials knew the details of the 9/11 plot, but thinks they knew the hijackers were “bad guys,” and “The bad guys knew who to go to to get help.”

“However, there is an absolute lack of interest on the administration’s part about the Saudi information. According to Shenon, “Lehman was struck by the determination of the Bush White House to try to hide any evidence of the relationship between the Saudis and al-Qaeda.” Lehman will say: “They were refusing to declassify anything having to do with Saudi Arabia. Anything having to do with the Saudis, for some reason, it had this very special sensitivity.”

And this:

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