Tuesday, November 24, 2015

CNN: "Targeting Terror: Inside the Intelligence War": current coverage of France and Belgium, as well as the encryption debate, the potential damage of cyber-terror, and use of spy satellites


CNN has just aired for the first time its new documentary “Targeting Terror: Inside the Intelligence War”, video link here.  I think a very similar documentary has been aired before, but this one is fully updated because of the Paris attacks.

The film begins by summarizing the events of Friday, November 13, 2015, suggesting that some establishments were targeted because they are popular with the affluent and young.  They film briefly covered the brutality of the attacks, and the way the attacks were seemed directed at civilians as individuals.  This is very difficult to process.  Were this to happen to me, I don’t think I would want to survive it.  I personally process this in combination with my previous experience with the US military draft during the Vietnam era.  Because of some advantages, I got out of much of the exposure to “sacrifice” that others faced.   The vocabulary for young men then was “casualty”, not “victim”.  I do think this loops back into the way we need to look at resilience as a personal moral issue, a concept that is very double-faced in libertarian circles.



But then the film shifted gears, and focused on the possibility of cyberterror.  This part of the documentary briefly followed the points of Ted Koppel’s recent book “Lights Out” (Book reviews, Nov. 10, 2015).  It mentioned the August 2003 blackout in the Northeast caused by cascading software problems after a fallen tree in Ohio (not by terror).  The documentary seemed to suggest that Russia, China, and North Korea probably have more capability to do cyber damage than Islamic terrorists. (It did not get into the area of EMP devices, but probably not have.)  But the question remains if critical infrastructure components are unnecessarily connected to the Internet.

The film showed the operations of the National Counterterrorism Center in Tysons Corner, VA (an employee. Sean Green was mysteriously murdered in Prince Georges County MD in 2008 in a cold case, resembling another case of Kanika Powell, link). It then went back to the problem of how terrorists can use end-to-end encryption on devices and go dark.  The previous demonstrations, inspired by Edward Snowden, were showed. Richard Ledgett at the NSA hinted that there might be limited tools to get around them.  Then the documentary focused on satellite surveillance, as monitored by the National Reconnaissance Office near White Sands NM (I was in the area the weekend that I moved from NYC to Texas in January 1979).  Betty Sapp, and an Air Force LT Col spoke.  The documentary showed virtual reality simulations of enemy targets based on satellite surveillance, including the habitat of Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad in 2011.

The documentary covered the quantity of young people becoming radicalized in Europe, and showed how the grooming is done  It works for ISIS because a lot of people don’t process behavior with consequences the way we do in the West, as they are not raised in environments that value individual choices.

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