Thursday, May 27, 2010

DHS memo: record number of terrorist attacks on US

CNN reports:
Just weeks after the failed car bombing of New York's Times Square, the Department of Homeland Security says "the number and pace of attempted attacks against the United States over the past nine months have surpassed the number of attempts during any other previous one-year period."

That grim assessment is contained in an unclassified DHS intelligence memo prepared for various law enforcement groups, which says terror groups are expected to try attacks inside the United States with "increased frequency."

CNN obtained a copy of the document, dated May 21, which goes on to warn, "we have to operate under the premise that other operatives are in the country and could advance plotting with little or no warning."
Most important government memos these days are classified.   But an exception to the rule is that any memo that could seriously scare Americans and remind them of their vulnerability to the terrorists is better left unclassified.  DoF commends Homeland Security for having quickly released this memo so that it could have maximum effect.

Update: Only an hour after the CNN story was published, twitter users had "re-tweeted' links to this story perhaps one hundred times. Fear is wondrously contagious. (Tip: you can follow DoF on twitter).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Marketing expert calls for business to spread fear

Marketing guru Chris Garret (h/t Guy Kawasaki) presents a ten-point plan for getting your message across.  We like number eight:
#8: Appeal to Primitive Instincts

Observe the newspapers. They sell ... fear because that’s what people respond to...    If you’re having trouble being heard, try turning your message into a warning ... emphasize the dangers.
DoF strictly adheres to this principle.  We believe that our approach can be profitably applied by major corporations and throughout local, state, and federal governments.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

MSNBC says Taliban attacked Bangkok

Supposedly on account of civil unrest, many buildings in Bangkok burned to the ground on May 19.   It was a scary situation for everyone in Thailand.   But for Americans, it was very nearly just another day.

Fortunately, MSNBC made the most of the images.  Raw Story,  a blog, reports:
People watching MSNBC Wednesday morning could be forgiven for believing that the Taliban had invaded Bangkok. As NBC's Ian Williams reported on violent protests in the capital city of Thailand, a graphic on the lower third of MSNBC's screen read: "New Taliban Attacks, Bangkok Burns."
DoF has nothing but praise for the way MSNBC handled this story.

MSNBC drew upon the depth of the news organization's ignorance about Thailand and conceived a terrifying hypothesis:  Bangkok is falling to our enemies.  The Taliban are on the move. At home, terrified MSNBC viewers would have been asking themselves: Will Honolulu be next?   Or will the Taliban head straight for LA?   

There is a lesson here.  Whenever there is serious violence overseas, the US media should not hesitate to project whatever scenario evokes Americans' worst fears.  Discussion about what actually happened can be left to the following day's newspapers.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Paul Bremer: "period of heightened risk"

Harvard Business Review recently interviewed Ambassador L. Paul Bremer about the risks terrorists pose to US businesses. Here is a quote from the article entitled, "Doing business in a dangerous world":
I think we really are in a period of heightened risk, for two reasons. First, trends in terrorism indicate an increasing desire and ability to cause mass destruction. That’s been clear now for a decade. In the past 30 years, 80% of terrorist attacks against the United States have been aimed at American businesses. There are reasons to expect that businesses will become increasingly attractive to terrorists, both because they’re less well defended than obvious military or government targets, like embassies, and because of what they symbolize.
It's good to see Paul has been stirring up fear of terrorism in the business community.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The case for fear-based defense spending

DefSec Robert Gates has been planning the Pentagon's future defense budget.  Concerns had been expressed in some circles that the DefSec would propose cutting defense spending drastically,  potentially jeopardizing the security of the American people in these dangerous times.  So far, this has not happened.

Gordon Adams describes the situation at the Simon Center's Budget Insight National Security blog:
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave a major speech last week about the future of US defense capabilities and the military budget.  It was generally greeted as a voice of realism... It was nothing of the sort....  Gates ... said nothing about the billions his budget decisions added to replace the systems he ostensibly cut.... 
From the perspective of DoF, it makes sense that an American Secretary of Defense would not submit a defense budget  based entirely on "realism."  Are the fears of the American people based in "realism"?  They are not.  They are a product of our collective imagination, informed by FoxNews and other US media sources.   In a democracy, the technocrats have to consider the feelings of the people.  And the people are afraid. Adams continues:
The key to understanding what Gates was really saying lies in the Secretary’s statement that the current state of the world justifies “sustaining the current military force structure.”   And in his assertion that the defense budget must grow roughly two-to-three percent above inflation to sustain that force structure...
Think about that for a moment:  Gates believes "the state of the world justifies" today's high defense budget.  What does that tell you?   It tells you that the world is a very dangerous place.  Adams:
The QDR lays out US military missions that are staggeringly ambitious and demanding....  DOD missions are being expanded...  The QDR provides no calculus of the level of risk the nation faces by setting such priorities...  This unconstrained piling-on of missions constitutes the most obvious case for endless defense budget growth.  It has gone unchallenged, at DOD, in the administration, or in the Congress...
"The QDR provides no calculus of the level of risk the nation faces..."  Why would it?   DoF maintains that the appropriate calculus in determining the defense budget should not be "level of risk," but  fear.

Just as there is no limit to the fears of the people, there should be no limit to defense spending.

Friday, May 14, 2010

How to dress a terror suspect

Drone assassinations.  Expansion of the presidential  "hit list" to include American citizens.   Reports out of Afghanistan that US troops are executing Afghan prisoners on the battlefield.  DoF is concerned that the Obama Administration needs to reign-in the recent and pervasive enthusiasm for exterminating terror suspects.

The reason DoF is troubled by some of this news is that a dead terror suspect is not a particularly scary terror suspect.

During the Vice President Cheney years, American government officials shared a basic understanding:  the Geneva Conventions might have to be overlooked, but the desirability of keeping terror suspects alive was widely understood (even if not followed in every case).   Although terror suspects are expensive to detain, the Vice President taught us that they can be put to very good use.   

In terms of making the most of captive terror suspects, it was understood a terror suspect must be appropriately dressed to fit the role.    "The clothes make the man," as they say.  At DoF we like to say that the right clothes make you fear the man.

One crisis facing the Obama Administration is that after eight or nine years of war, most of the military's finest designers have been relieved of duty.  The best ones came out of the closet long ago.  The so-called "Don't ask don't tell" policy has led to a situation in which there are simply no outstanding designers of terror suspect attire remaining in the US military.   

Here's a little-known fact for you:  the lack of a talented clothing designer has been the main hold-up in getting the scheduled trial of the notorious Khalid Sheikh Mohammed underway in Manhattan. Obviously, the government can't go parading the 9/11 mastermind around New York City until someone has figured out how KSM ought to be dressed.  The government does not want its  most famous captive terrorist to look like some kind of common criminal or thug (i.e. photo above).   If he is to scare anyone, he must look the part.  The situation is so desperate -- with respect to the lack of a suitable clothing designer  -- that there is now talk of holding the the trial in rural Virginia.

Of course, the answer is twofold.  The president needs to 1) scrap the "don't ask, don't tell" regulation that is preventing some of America's finest clothing designers from serving their country; 2) see that more terror suspects are captured and detained rather than killed.

DoF has included some archival photos of terror suspects "dressed to scare" from the Cheney years.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Army prepares to be at war indefinitely

National Defense Magazine:
U.S. forces are withdrawing from Iraq this year, and operations in Afghanistan are expected to wind down by 2011. Nevertheless, the Army is preparing for the likelihood that it will be at war indefinitely

A major institutional reorganization of the Army, which began in 2004, aims to realign all forces under a rotational model — similar to the one employed by the Navy and Marine Corps. Now the Army plans to institutionalize a rotation model that would give soldiers at least two, and preferably three, years at home in between deployments, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey [photo].
It goes without saying that if America did not face imminent and overwhelming danger, the army would not be preparing for an indefinite war.   This announcement provides compelling evidence that our deepest fears are well-founded.

When I showed Sec. Stag this news article, he commented: "To keep people scared, war must not be confided to any one place, nor should it have an end. The precondition for keeping Americans scared can be summarized in two words: 'limitless war'."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sen. Dianne Feinstein: terrorism development "ominous"

In February, Sen. Feinstein warned us of the danger of trying KSM in New York City.   This week, the senator from California provided Americans with a new reason to be afraid.  SF Gate reports:
... Feinstein, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the development ominous. 

"It's clear we're facing a new kind of attacker who is already here, who can hide in plain sight," she said. "We need to think about new defenses"

... She drew a link between Shahzad and Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab ...

"I think there's every reason to believe that Abdulmutallab and this man are prototypes of people that we may see more of," she said.
We can't spot them, but they're coming.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Live blog of "Civil Liberties: Learning from China"

The Atlantic Monthly's James Fallows, reflecting on the new Arizona immigration law, wrote:
"...Maybe soon the Chinese State Security apparatus can travel to Arizona and give lectures to local police and sheriffs. They can explain how to avoid going crazy with a new power that so invites abuse. "Civil Liberties: Learning from China" can be the name of the course."
DoF really liked Mr. Fallows' suggestion.   Recognizing that China faces similar threats to the US, including illegal immigration and terrorism, the agency invited Chinese "policing and state security" guru Prof. Xu Wei of Beijing University to Washington D.C. to give a talk.

Following is a live-blog of some highlights from the event at DoF Center on Tuesday evening.

20:00  People are taking their seats.  The front row of the auditorium is occupied by ICE (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) agents,  many of whom brought along their sniffer-dogs.  Sue Ellen, a DoF intern from Dallas, hands out biscuits to the dogs.

20:05 Looks like it may take a while for this thing to get started.  A lot of people are standing in the aisles talking.  You have defense contractors chatting up DHS officials, exchanging business cards.   This is obviously a great networking opportunity for everyone.

20:09 Pastor Thomas, CEO of Prosperity Gospel Ministries, delivers the opening prayer:  "Lord, we are frightened by the prospect of annihilation from terrorists armed with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.   We tremble in the face of the threat from Iran, hijackers, and Pakistani car bombers...    Lord, we are gathered here tonight because millions of illegal immigrants swarm our towns and cities. Among these illegals are drug traffickers responsible for mass killings in Mexico. From Arizona to Alabama we fear for our jobs and the safety of our families...   Lord, may America's law enforcement agencies find ways to apply whatever lessons about civil liberties our friends from China impart here tonight. Amen."

20:12  Opening statement by DoF Sec. Malcolm P. Stag III.   Sec. Stag apologizes for the inconvenience of the document check at the side entrance to the building, but says "exchanging a few freedoms for greater security" serves to remind the public "what we're up against."

20:20  Introductory remarks by his Excellency the Chinese Ambassador to the United States.  Says that just as Mexico is a friend of the US, North Korea is also a friend of China, but "friendship has its limits."  Introduces Prof. Xu Wei.

20:30   Prof. Xu Wei says China has thousands of years of experience policing its borders.  Today, China's government recognizes the need to achieve "balance" between the civil liberties of the Chinese people and security of the state.  Where the two are in conflict, state security takes precedence.

Prof. Xu Wei talks about scope of China's North Korean immigrant crisis.

China's options for dealing with North Korean illegals:  1) shoot them on sight; 2) arrest, detain, shoot them; 3) arrest, detain, repatriate so North Korea can shoot them.*  None of these options completely satisfactory to Beijing, but third option is "least worst," mainly on account of meddling by NGOs, Western governments, etc. 

20:40  Prof. Wei talks about pros and cons of erecting a national security wall.    Says China can manufacture these structures at low cost.  Lists reasons why any future US-Mexico border wall ought to be manufactured in China.  Points to the fact that China has been building and maintaining border security walls for 2,500 years.  Overhead slide projection shows the Great Wall (photo right).

Prof. Wei introduces audience to Tony Xing, President of Dai Xing Engineering Inc.  Tony tells us that Dai Xing Engineering has been involved in the construction of a security wall between China and North Korea.   Tony points out that federal government's cost estimates of a US-Mexico wall are based on the Israeli case study, and he calls these figures "on the high side." He says Chinese engineering firms could build a high border wall for America at an average cost of only $1.3 million per kilometer (using Mexican labor).  Chinese financing available.

20:50  Prof. Wei:  Because documents easily faked in China and many poor Chinese lack proper documentation, police must use their own judgment and exercise "discretion."

21:00 Q and A session begins.  Sec. Malcolm P. Stag III wants to know whether Prof. Wei thinks Chinese have sufficient fear of immigrants, North Korean or otherwise.

Prof. Wei replies that China's five thousand year history has given the people a sense of cultural superiority.   Koreans borrowed their culture from China.  Hence, North Korean immigrants viewed as undesirable by most Chinese.    Another factor is competition for water, food, resources.  Says resource depletion in Northern China is analogous to resource situation in American Southwest.  Chinese fear prospect of competition with North Korean immigrants for limited resources.

21:10  Shouts from back of room. A protester screams something.   Sounds like "Down with Arizona racism!" or something like that.   The man is wearing a blue polo shirt, gray pants, hiking boots.  An ICE agent's dog starts barking.

Two security guards grab the protester, pin him to the floor while a third security guard tasers the anarchist in the back.  The auditorium erupts in applause. 

Reporters and television cameras follow the security guards as they drag the tasered protester away. On their way out of the room, reporters can be heard shouting questions at the semi-conscious anarchist.

21:20  DoF Sec Malcolm P. Stag III takes the mic and says:  "Incidents like this suggest that not only are  illegal immigrants to be feared, so are the anarchists who support them."   Sec. Stag refers to a Fox News report which depicted violence at an immigration rally in Arizona.

21:25   Question for Prof. Wei concerning Muslim separatist militants in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.   Before responding Prof. Wei confers with the Chinese ambassador.  The Chinese confer with Sec. Stag who then announces that we will need to break off.

21:40 Tea and coffee reception in the lobby of DoF Center hosted by Dai Xing Engineering. They are handing out free t-shirts.
An officer of the Chinese embassy emailed DoF Wednesday to explain that Prof. Wei was misquoted on the blog.  "Referring to illegal North Korean immigrants, Prof. Wei did not mean to say that China's policy was to 'shoot them', what the professor said was 'shoo them' as in 'shoo them away'. Moreover, China has received assures from North Korea that repatriated persons are treated in accordance with their human rights. Prof. Wei struggles with American English pronunciation and regrets any misunderstanding."

Lecture tonight on Arizona immigration law

DoF, in collaboration with DHS, ICE, and the Embassy of the People's Republic of China will be hosting a public lecture in Washington D.C. tonight.   Prof. Xu Wei of Beijing University will be speaking on the topic of "Civil Liberties: Learning from China."   The talk begins at 20:00 hrs.  Please be early as your documentation will be checked at the door.

DOF Center
Joseph R. McCarthy Building,
1300 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington D.C.

For the benefit of those unable to attend, Mr. Hanus Fingerhood will be live-blogging the event.

Earth is battlefield for Obama Supreme Court pick

At a news conference today, agency founding director Malcolm P. Stag III said that he was moved speak out in support of President Obama's nomination of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court.

"I fully support the president's nomination of  Elena Kagan," said Sec. Stag.  "Elena Kagan understands the need to wage war on terror.   Moreover, she understands that the battlefield is not confined to any one country, but encompasses the whole earth."

"Danger is everywhere and war is the answer," said Sec. Stag.

Sec. Stag. explained that so long as the Supreme Court recognizes these two fundamental points, there is no reason that the American people cannot be scared indefinitely.

Questioned in 2009 as to whether she had support the detention of al Qaeda suspects without access to US laws -- or even a trial to prove their guilt -- Kagan told Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) that she supported the Obama Administration's policy of "indefinite detention."

Graham asked Kagan whether she'd apply battlefield law instead of criminal law if a suspect were believed to be financing al Qaeda.

"I do," Kagan said.

Monday, May 10, 2010

How to achieve maximum benefits from fear

"Ask not what your Fear Dept. can do for you..."
DoF blog reader Doug Kahn writes,
I'm afraid. Is there any guaranteed method of maximizing my benefit from this?
We thought Mr. Kahn asked a great question, so we passed his note along to Sec. Malcolm P. Stag. III.   The founding director of our agency dictated this response:
It's good that you're afraid, Doug. But don't be alone with your fear. Learn as much as you can about what scares your fellow Americans. If you are truly afraid, you probably already watch Fox News.  We invite you to take the next step:  Subscribe to the DoF blog or follow DoF alerts on Twitter. Soak it up.

Then reflect, Doug.  To paraphrase Jack Kennedy, ask not how you might "benefit" from fear, but how you can contribute to its dissemination.  Fear cries out to be exchanged, circulated.   Ultimately, you need to ask what you have to give. 

If you're entrepreneurial, you might want to start a company selling security equipment. Otherwise, plan your investment strategy carefully.  I suggest you invest in leading US corporations that speak the language of fear.  Defense contractors tend to be fluent in the tongue.

Make yourself part of this flow -- this exchange of ideas. 
DoF welcomes your questions and comments and will do our best to respond to them.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Failed terror bombings portend "dangerous shift"

According to a Reuters story entitled "Times Square bomb plot spotlights larger U.S. fear," former Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend is speaking out about a new threat:
Frances Townsend, homeland security adviser under former President George W. Bush, pointed to what she called a "dangerous shift" from simultaneous, mass-casualty plots to "higher probability but lower consequence events" that are more difficult to detect and disrupt.
While serving Vice President Cheney in 2007, Frances Townsend told CNN that she thought al Qaeda might target the 2008 presidential elections.  When Townsend said that "no specific intelligence"  supported her statement, several bloggers cried foul.

We think it goes without saying that nothing ought to stand between the fears of senior government officials and the American people.  Our leaders need to speak their minds.  We should not wish for them to self-censor their gut feelings.

From the perspective of DoF, Frances Townsend is a "fear pioneer" -- a veritable role model for public officials in these threatening times. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The architecture of fear

An attractive Fox News reporter outside the Supreme Court.   (Photo credit: Jotman)

DOF has long been concerned that the architecture of the nation's capital is too open, giving the public a false sense of security.  Fortunately, this situation is beginning to change. NPR
Starting Tuesday, visitors to the court will no longer be able to walk up the 44 marble steps and enter through the giant bronze doors, beneath the portico engraved with the words "Equal Justice Under Law."
Instead, visitors will enter the building through entrances on the ground level and they can exit through the bronze doors. The court said it was closing the majestic entrance in light of findings and recommendations from two independent security studies.
But in a written statement, Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, called the decision "unfortunate" and unjustified." They said the stately bronze door entrance is a metaphor for access to justice, and they said potential security threats will exist regardless of where the public entrance is located.
Some metaphors are more useful than others.  Entering the justice building through a side entrance will serve to remind Americans that we live in dangerous times.

One journalist suggests that the Lincoln memorial could be made similarly inaccessible.  We like that idea too.