Category Archives: War

Terrorism: The Answer is the Question

William M. Arkin, 15 July 2016

Thoughts on the Occasion of the Incidents in Nice

Terrorism is forever present and the threat that exists today is no less ominous than it was on that random sunny Tuesday a decade and a half ago when 19 men changed history.  And it is not just terrorism.  The scale and cruelty of killing ever increases while the fragility of urbanized society makes civilians ever more vulnerable.  No country is immune, neither from external nor internal violence.  All of this exists despite the backdrop of vastly increased police and security activity and a constant global war, one that has consumed hundreds of billions of dollars and taken countless numbers of lives.  No wonder then that those engaged in the fight against terror see the battle as everlasting.  And because terrorists hide within civil society, no wonder those charged with security also believe that society must sacrifice liberties and freedoms in order to obtain a modicum of safety.

To be as fair as one can be while also having an opinion on the matter, this is as close as I can get to articulating what is the “reasonable” view of the challenges of modern terrorism.  Though our civilized society can hardly comprehend what passions lay behind arbitrary killing and there is a tendency to want to defeat terrorism through some reasonable set of policies involving righting wrongs and removing impediments towards conciliation, there is also the reality that day-to-day a cycle of terror and response perfectly forms its own symbiotic stimuli, stimuli that itself advances the very cancerous malevolence.

This is not to say that the problem of terrorism is unfathomable or insolvable nor that civilized society is condemned to live in a state of constant terror.  Yet we do now live in a society increasingly and completely shaped by the existence of terrorism.  One cannot travel or transact business without some continuous reminder that terrorism has a global reach and influences almost everything we do.  The assumption is as much that someone is plotting as it is that the authorities are ever present in front of and behind the scenes watching and listening to stop them.  We are told that if we see something we should say something.  That basically means something out of place, a package or a person that doesn’t belong, an outlier who isn’t complacent or anesthetized through the customary appetites of mass entertainment or team spirit.

One could get ephemeral here, but let’s be blunt: Living in a terror state means actual changes in the character of government and civil society.  The total population is potentially subject to modes of systematic cataloging and monitoring justified as a proactive necessity to find people who don’t want to be like us.  One could gloss over the hardest cases and speak of revolutionaries or freedom fighters or just dreamers who want political or social change.  And one could promiscuously label every mass murderer or arch criminal as terrorist.  Yet while we parse and debate what the situation is and what to do about, while we argue about who is responsible or even who is behind it, while we lament colonial legacies or intractable conflicts, while we decry government fitness or tinker with military strategy, policemen on the block and the soldiers and spies in the field have a job to do.  Their quest is never ending.  Because whether the number of terrorist attacks this year is on the rise or in decline, whether the lethality of individual incidents is up or down, whether the war is producing desired outcomes or not, whether it’s Spring or Winter somewhere in the world, no one in the world of pondering and punditry can seemingly control what will happen tomorrow, next week or next year.

Terrorism is merely a tactic, the critics of the war against terror say; and violent extremists are in the minority in the Islamic (or Jewish or Christian) worlds. Some adhere to the conventional wisdom that killing terrorists merely produces more.  What the world needs is: If people would just talk reasonably, if the west would be less interventionist and military force were indeed only used as a last resort, if greater care were taken in minimizing collateral harm to civilians, and if wealth and power were just properly distributed.  And if there were more fairness and justice in the world, if everyone just adhered to the universal norms of human rights, if religious zealots were deprived of a pulpit from which to propagate their hate, the allure and the practice of terrorism would decline.

And indeed all of those tracks might be appropriate and needed.  But what about those who don’t want to be like us, who don’t want to be reasonable, who don’t want to talk or even more, who get their inspirations from GOD?  Clearly the majority of Muslims decry violence, but there are also plenty who just don’t want to be a part of a standardized or homogenized one-world that the majority on the north of the planet carelessly build.  And though extremism aptly encompasses the very definition of those who refuse to be a part of the mainstream, what separates the majority of international terrorists from say local lawbreakers and what distinguishes a certain group of Muslims from ultra-orthodox Israelis who also refuse to compromise or capitulate to the State is that only Islamic extremists believe that their enemy is the United States itself, or the state of Israel, or the West, or democracy, or even modernism; and thus they justify striking out against all of those things in the name of GOD or as part of a defense of their lives.

The vast majority in government and the international community doggedly adhere to the convention that the problem isn’t Islam per se.  They voice that the problem is some deviant group or now the latest: that it is “violent extremism” of no religious or ideological rooting.  Such a formulation avoids the condemnation of any religion and seemingly preserves an inalienable right to worship freely.  But it also somewhat deceptive.  Extremism is too vague to accurately describe either the real problem or potential solutions.  And it sweeps up those who merely want to exercise another inalienable right – free speech – into a domain of state control and suppression.  And the reluctance to say that the prime problem today is violent Islamic extremism makes the fight against “terrorism” scatter into ancillary questions of whether there are sufficient investments in gun control.  We could of course digress into a discussion as to whether a lobotomized society and a citizenry powerless against the state isn’t precisely what any government naturally seeks, but that intellectual journey with regard to international terrorism has no tangible destination.

International terrorism today constitutes a definable problem set.  It takes place mostly in (or originates in) the Muslim world and the vast majority of attacks are perpetrated by Islamist champions.  Islam may not be the problem and the world is not officially at war with a religion but something about the religion itself forms the basic substrata.  Even if Islamic terrorists are unsanctioned and out of the mainstream, their violence is unique in its influence and global reach.  Whether terrorists espouse political, Sunni, or Shi’a justifications for violence, questions are obviously raised regarding Islam’s compatibility with western (and globalized) aesthetics, the role of the religion in civil society, and the international implications of the antagonistic and irreconcilable cleavages within the religion that has existed for hundreds of years.

With the attacks of 9/11, all of these problems immediately became matters of international security and stability.  There was almost instant and unanimous agreement that al Qaeda, which had found sanctuary in Taliban-led Afghanistan, needed to be eliminated.  Fighting commenced, governments’ united, international institutions strengthened; and the laws and norms to contain terrorism gained global support.  Though gross mistakes were made in the conduct of that war and correction after correction followed, though new and different war strategies were adapted, and though it took almost a decade for the intelligence and law enforcement organs to learn new ways and sharpen their skills, by 2010 or thereabouts, al Qaeda central, and the threat of an international attack of 9/11 proportions seem to be almost defeated.  The “Arab Spring” then breathed new life into governmental reform; it was as if “moderate” Islamic society itself had reached its limit and was starting to address the so-called root causes.

But stability was not to be and a half dozen decentralized al Qaeda affiliates had subsequently emerged, each exerting broader influence alongside a growing cluster of non-al Qaeda groups.  The so-called Islamic State (commonly referred to as ISIS or ISIL) then started rampaging over the territory of failed states and beyond.  Brutal and shocking acts of violence were perpetrated, many seeming to be precisely for the purpose of shocking the civilized aesthetic.

Spring faded.

There is no denying that more people were killed from terrorist acts in 2014 than ever before, then again in 2015, and now in 2016.  In the same year that the United States and its glorious coalition of reason launched its war against the Islamic State in 2014, more worldwide groups were newly designated as foreign terrorist organizations then in any previous year, including 2001.  Where just a few years earlier the demise of al Qaeda was seen as spawning “lone wolves” floating leaderless outside a disrupted network, now tens of thousands of foreign fighters, almost half from western countries, were also flocking to the war zone to join the Islamic State.  That flow has been disrupted but thousands have returned home, and tens or hundreds of thousands more already are home.  The affiliation of terrorism today is as simple as an individual declaration.

So terrorism hasn’t been defeated by war.  Not even weakened.  There is no nation in the Middle East that is more stable today than it was in 2001.  An entire generation of Muslim youth has now lived most of their life in a state of war.  They have been and continue to be radicalized online, the Internet and social media emerging as the main instruments of terrorist communications, news, ideological dissemination, and recruitment.  Terrorism has moved into a new phase, one not dominated by the brotherhood of battle that bonded the Afghan mujahedeen or the Palestinian militant united in a common cause but into a true global jihad, impersonal, dispersed and amorphous.  The old al Qaeda survives and State-sponsored terrorism doggedly persists, but the new terrorism is a vastly accelerated and grandiose crusade to conquer the lands of pre-modern Islam, an endeavor that is both possible and absurd but one that helps to clarify exactly what the problem is and what possible answers could be.

Every terror extravaganza unfolds in the same way: The act, the shock, the personal testimony of the victims, the news media saturation; government action, over-reaction, assurances and complete obliviousness; security heightened, ever heightened.  The partisan voices blame whoever is in office. The racists blame a people. The militarists decry weakness and demand a greater war effort. Then the reasonable start their seminars and commissions to ask what went wrong – for something always did – and the noose tightens, on society, on free speech, on last year’s/month’s/week’s or yesterday’s threat.  No one steps outside their allocated and adopted lane in this cycle: The reasonable, the unreasonable, the military, the news media, nor the mob. All along, the scourge and threat of terrorism grows.

“They” are winning: admit it.  One after another and then another, individuals having outsize impact through random violence. And the world is terrorized.

It isn’t the randomness of Nice or Dallas or Brussels or Istanbul that should come as a surprise, nor the willingness of this current generation to break the rules and jump the median in society’s orderly lane to bring violence and death to the most common places.  It is the rapidity of all of this that is surprising, that is, if one considers the so-called western army: hundreds of thousands of police, millions in uniform, tens of thousands of “analysts” and experts, the peta-billions of data the intelligence agencies collect.

On days like this, for now every day is that day, I feel angry at the cycle and even angrier at the systemic rigidness of how we maintain the lanes in the road. The same voices go on, magnified by social media, dangling the same bait for their consumers.  Governments act with their mindless officiousness and pretend understanding, the reasonable fight for a middle ground while the pressures of left and right (whatever they are) increase and almost overlap, crushing out anything that even represents humanity.  It happens everywhere and on both sides.  It is truly Orwellian.

On days like this, it is so easy to point at the pundits or the politicians, and then like clockwork, to punch away at the police, the psychiatrists, the perpetrators, the priests, the pornographers, even the people.

I want to decry the brutality.  I work to expose government ignorance and incompetence.  But what is needed is far more difficult: The enemies of civil society have transformed and adapted to ply their trade while the reasonable curate a remote and mechanical response apropos yesterday’s war.  We go round and round through the solutions of better intelligence, better policing, more controls on society, more bombs and even more reasonableness, all the while skirting the reality that extremists might need to be obliterated in a very unreasonable way.  They need to be because that is the only way the forces fighting them can stop being the very stimuli for their growth. Isolationism and walls isn’t the answer, but nor is merely addressing “root causes”.  Islam isn’t the problem, per se, any more than fundamentalists of any religion are claimed to be representatives of the goodness of their faith.

On days like this, I want to pause to think.  Pause.  Think.  Look inside.  Search my own conscience.  Think.  Learn more.  Cry.

It is as old as man, as old as time, this thing we call war.  From the age of 18 when I volunteered to join the U.S. Army to today, I have studied war.  I have learned that the only creed that exists to move us forward is to pay attention to the fundamental rules of war.  War is the last resort but it is also the only one.  But it is only just, can only be justified, if it holds open the possibility, the probability, that through it, both sides can hope for some restoration of peaceful relations.  I believe in just war – not for the righteousness of one cause over another, but for the restoration of peaceful relations between peoples.

It is a terrible thing, this thing called war.  It can indeed be barbaric, but the sweep of history has transformed war undertaken by the state into an efficient forever.  And on the other side?  It has transformed as well: terrorism is deadlier, dispersed and survivable, a type of war that is now being waged on society.  I myself often question the label of war, but war isn’t one immutable thing and what we now wage in contrast to 2001 is too vast to allocate solely to the police.

So we are at war, like it or not.  And I don’t like it.  But if that war demands the obliteration of one side, if that is the only choice to restore peaceful relations, it is indeed terribly unreasonable and tragic. But that is the circumstance we find ourselves in. And that stark objective isn’t some right or left wing possession, nor some pro- or anti-anything.  It is merely the reality of the history of the world, of mankind.

Who will wage this war I describe?  And how will it be fought? Those questions come later.  First, we need to recognize and admit that the war we do wage, and the war they wage, isn’t a just war, that it does not leave open a path to reconciliation.

Second, we have to understand that our own mechanics and that the lanes we have established are crowded and unclear, that the sound bites are utterly insufficient and insignificant, and that our reasoning behind what we are doing is faulty.

So I don’t like it that we are at war, in a state of perpetual war.  But more, I don’t like how it is being fought or the cause that it is supposedly advancing.  Yes on days like this, I’m tired and traumatized but I can still think clearly: So to me.  It’s simple.  We need a just war against terrorism.  And we need leaders who equally believe that what has passed for reasonable for the past decade and a half is no longer so. That doesn’t mean bombs and more bombs but nor does it mean some reasonableness test for admission to peaceful and civil society with everyone else denied admission. Think.  What we are doing isn’t working.

We have to struggle to bring dignity to our enemies’ cause, to recognize their humanity however repugnant they may be.  If we conclude after that they are just pure evil and that they have no place in society then we need to pull ourselves together and embrace an uncompromising war to better humanity.  It won’t be pretty what I’m hinting at.  But it is a better path to peace than an unjust and muddled reasonableness that we currently find ourselves in, one that destroys our own society and threatens our own security and freedoms in its ineffectiveness and carelessness.

Pivot to Asia? Must be the IEDs and need for Nano UAVs

Here’s a list of Army research and development projects from a document I obtained — dated November 2013 — covering the next five years.  I was surprised, well not really, that so many are just continuations of what is already being done in Afghanistan, but not surprised how much is to tame the information monster.  Don’t see much though that reflects any kind of commitment to some future big war.

The list (I didn’t correct for spelling or amplify; some items are inscrutable):

3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared-Engine (3GF-E)
Acoustic Hailing Device
ACRO PET (London Larado) addition for Nitrate, Chlorate, and Urea explosives
Active Protection Systems
Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System
Air Vigilance
Airborne Counter-Explosive Reconnaissance and Targeting System
Airborne Electronic Attack
Airborne Recon Low-Multifunction Medium Altitude Recon & Surv
AirRobot AR150 with Dual IR cameras
American Innovations-Home Made Explosive Bulk Precursor Detection Kit
AMT, Sentinel XD CDS (Advanced Mesh Network)
AN/PSS-14 Cache Detection
Argonaut 200
Assured PNT
ATACMS Unitary Increment 0 Product Improvement
Automated Surveillance Security Platform
Automated Wide Area Surveillance
Autonomous Mine Detection System
Avatar II Tactical Robot
Axton SMART AT-32S 8-watt IR floodlight.
Bam Stick
Beagle – Handheld NQR
BETSS-C – Force Protection (FP) Suite
BFT2 Manpack
Biometric Automated Toolset (BAT) 4.0 SP6
Bistatic Surveillance System
Black Granite Integrated Sensor Suite
Black Kite
Blue Devil
BlueSky Mast Portable Modular Mast
Bobcat T110 with QinetiQ Robotic Kit with TARDEC roller
Bobcat with Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) and Mobile Deployment System (MDS)
Boston Dynamics 30 lb robot with six paddles for rough terrain or swim
BuckEye – Geospatial Data Collection
C5ISR Aerial Layer
Cerberus Lite
Checkpoint Explosive Detection System Gen 2
CI and HUMIT Requirements-Reporting Operations Management Environment
CISCO Identity Service Engine
Colorimetric Reconnaissance Explosives Squad Screening
Combat Service Support Very Small Aperture Terminal
Combat Survivor Evader Locator (SEP)
Command Post of the Future
Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station
Common Remotely Operated Weapons Station (CROWS) UMR – JERRV
Common Sensor Payload
Company Intelligence Support Team
Constant Hawk – Afghanistan
Constant Hawk – Iraq
Container Weapon System (CWS) with CROWS II, Javelin, and SEK remote SA Computer
COP camera system with CROWS I camera parts and new cables, GPS, and tripod
CORAL-SD II passive, non-intrusive, thermal detection system
Counter – Unmmanned Aircraft Sytems
Counter Radio Control Electronic Warfare – Crew Vehicle Reactive Jammer
Counter Radio Control Electronic Warfare – DUKE
Counter Shooter System with Highly Accurate Immediate Responses / Iron Curtain
Counter-Concealment Sensors
Counterintelligence/Human Intelligence Automated Reporting a Collection System
Covert Thermal Camera System
CREW 3.1
CREW Stryker FoV
Crew Vehicle Reactive Jammer (CVRJ) Fixed Site
Crosshairs Enhanced
Cryptographic Equipment and Services
CVRJ Platform Integration Buffalo
DCGS-A Edge Node (DEN)
Deep Sea Set
Department of Defense ABIS
Desert Owl
Dismount Blue Force Tracker
Dismounted Soldier Autonomy Tools
Dismounted Standoff Explosive Hazard Detection-Handheld Small Sized Detector
Dismounted Standoff Explosive Hazard Neutralization – Remote Initiator
Distributed Commom Ground Station-Army (DSGS-A) Cloud
Distributed Common Ground System – Army Increment 1 DSB 1.0
Distributed Common Ground System-Army (DCGS-A) Increment 1 Release 2
Duke V2 EA
Duke V3 Fixed Site
DUKE V3 Platform Integration Husky
Electromagnetic Pulse
Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations
Electronic Protection System on MRAP
Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (EMARSS)
Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Digital
Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Optical
Evaluation of each additional candidate Nano Unmanned Air System (NUAS)
Expendable Unattended Ground Sensor
Eyeball Remote Camera System
Eyedrive throwable UAV
Fido Handheld Sniffer
Forensic Operator Advanced Kit
FORGE (Zero Base) Li-Ion
FOTOD-Screening Obscuration Device-Visual (restricted terrain)
GaRD Mobile System
GDC4S Intelligence Low Overhead Driver
General Fund Enterprise Business System-Sensitive Activities
Georgia Tech (GTRI) Integration of Boston Dynamics Sand Flea Hopping Robot
Global Broadcast Service
Global Visualization Information System
Gray Eagle
Green Laser Interdiction System (GLIS)
Guardrail/Common Sensor
Gunfire Detection System
GunSHOT Detection (GSD)
Gunshot Detection Simulation Training System
GyroCam RG-31
Hand Held Precision Targeting Device
Handheld Laser Marker
Handheld Minefield Detection System
Handheld Optical Augmentation
Harris Fusion Network Communication Server
Harris-Aerial C4ISR Payload Suite
Heterogeneous Airborne Reconnaissance Team
Homemade Explosive Characterization
Hostile Fire Detection System Warfighter in the Loop Design Study and Demo
Hostile Fire Indicator
Hunter Upgrade
Husky Mounted Detection System
Improvements to Remote Monitoring System (RMS) Direction Finder.
individual Counter RCIED Electronic Warfare
Individual Gunshot Detection (IGD)
Integrated Blast Effects Sensor Suite (I-BESS).
Integrated Broadcast Service
Integrated Sensor Improvement
Integrated Sensor Tower Long Range
Integration of CROSSHAIRS 2.0 and CROWS II gun in static mount
Intelligence – Central Security Service – Project G
Intelligence Warfighter Function
Intelligence/Electronic Warfare Tactical Proficiency Trainer
Intelligence-Special Access Programs
IRobot Warrior robot with XADS StunStrike Xap Disrupter
Israeli Namer Feasibility Assessment
Joint and Allied Threat Awareness System
Joint Crew 3.3 Counter Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device
Joint Direct Support Airborne ISR
Joint Effects Targeting System (JETS) Target Location Designation System (TLDS)
Joint Personnel Identification System, Version 2
Joint USFK Portal and Integrated Threat Recognition (JUPITR)
Joint Warning and Reporting Network
Kratos NeuralStar
L-3 CyTerra lightweight mine detector
L3GDS Hawkeye III Lite CoCP
Launched Electrode Stun Device
Lethal Miniature Aerial Munition System (LMAMS) managed by PM CCWS
Light Guard
LightGuard Mercury
Linguist Geometry-Realtime Adversarial Intelligence and Decision Making
Live Aerial ISR Link (LAIL)
Long Range Acoustic Device 360X
Long Range Advanced Scout Surveillance System
Low, Slow Airborne Threat Response
Machine- Foreign Language Translation System
Magneto Inductive-Remote Activation Munition System
Man Portable Detection System
Marathon Robotic Human Type Target (RHTT) System.
Maritime Domain Awareness Joint Integrating Concept
Medium Altitude Reconnaissance Surveillance System
Micro Tactical Ground Robot (MTGR)
Micro Unmanned Aircraft System
Mine & IED Detection – Minehound, Vallon VMR2
Mini-EOD Robot
Mobile Unmanned Tactical Transport
Motion activated camera with video storage and RF to portable Interrogation Set
Motion activated camera with video storage and RF to Route Clearance Vehicle
Multi-Function Electronic Warfare
Multiple Intelligence Sensor V4
Narcissus Counter Surveillance Systems
Networked EW, Remotely Operated (NERO)
One System Remote Video Terminal
One Tactical Engagement Simulation Systems
PackBot 510 Engineer
PackBot 510 Upgrades
PackBot 510 with FASTAC
Parrot AR.Drone Quadricopter and Wi-Fi only Apple iPod Touch for control
Pearls of Wisdom
Persistent Surveillance Systems – Tethered
Phanton IR
Picatinny Optical Detection System
Polaris Diesel Ranger with QinetiQ Tactical Robotic Controller (TRC) and roller
Prioria Maveric lightweight, portable unmanned aircraft system (S-UAS)..
Prophet Enhanced
Prox Dynamics Nano Unmanned Air System (UAS).
Puma AE RQ-20A with MicroLink thin film solar cells on wing
PUMA DDL upgrades to PUMA DDL launcher, battery and 9 DB GCS antenna.
PUMA modules Micro Laser Marker (uLM) and Tactical Compact Comm Relay (TCCR)
RAID Mobile Tower
Rapid Attack Identification, Detection and Reporting System
Rapid Deployment Integrated Surveillance Systems
Rapid Reaction Tunnel Detection (R2TD)
Rapidly Elevated Aerostat Platform (REAP) Model XL R3500B
Rapiscan Eagle T1000
Raptor X
Raven GPU
RC-50/60 Modular Robotic Control System
RCV Buffalo Duke V3
Relevant ISR to the Edge 3G
RG-31 Medium Mine Protective Vehicle (MMPV)
Ringtail Common Tactical Vision
Robot upgrades
Robotic Bobcat with a Laser Vibrometry Imaging and Detection System (LVIDS)
Robotic Deployment System 2 on RG31A2
Robotic Pointman – Mini Flail
Route Clearance Interrogation System (RCIS) Type I
Route Clearance Interrogation System (RCIS) Type II
Route Clearance Mounted Detection & Marking
Route Clearance Mounted Explosive Hazards Survivability and Force Protection
Route Clearance Optic System
Route Clearance Vehicles Panther
Route Clearance Vehicles-Mine Protection Clearance Vehicle
Route Clearance Vehicles-Vehicle Mounted Mine Detection
Rucksack Portable UAS Pop
Rucksack Portable Unmanned Aircraft System
Sand Dog
Sapphire Detection System
Sarnoff fused color and thermal image camera
Saturn Arch
SCI Technologies TOCNET-G3
Semi-Autonomous Tactical Squad Robot
Sense Through The Wall (STTW)
SENTINEL Enhanced Target Range Acq & Class
Sentinel Hawk
Shop Equipment, Contact Maintenance System
Sickle Stick 2.0
Silicis 26-foot ISR balloon for robotic flight or tethered aerostat
SKYLARK I – Long Endurance (LE) UAS
Small Robot Standardization Effort
Small Tactical Multi- Payload Aerostatic System
Small Unit Support-IED Defeat (SUSI)
Small Unit Unmanned Aircraft System
Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle (SUGV) XM1216E1
Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle IBCT Increment 1
SOCOM Ground Mobility Vehicle (GMV) Version 1.1
Sparrow Sentry System for Vehicles – Portable
Speckles Unmanned Aircraft System
Speech to Speech Smart Phone
Standoff Suicide Bomber Detection System
Subterranean Operations
Suite of Integrated Infrared Countermeasures
Supersonic Pulse-jet IED eXcavator
Sweat GUTR
Symphony CREW
Sync-Think Eye-Tracking Rapid-Attention Computation (Eye-TRAC) with 850 IR LED
Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator Payloads (SAR/GMTI)
Tactical – SIGINT Payload
Tactical Assured GPS Reference System
Tactical Reconnaissance And Counter-concealment Enabled Radar
Tactical UAS
Tactical Unmanned Ground System
Tactical Unmanned Ground System (TUGS IBCT Inc 2)
Talon 3B Engineer
TALON IV Engineer
Team Stove
Threat Detection Fire Control System (Crosshairs 2)
Thru The Wall Radar
Towed Artillery Digitization Fire Control System
Trojan NexGEN
Trojan SWARM
TUAS Shadow Simple Key Loader
Unattended Transient Acoustic MASINT System
Unmanned Aircraft System Class I
Unmanned Aircraft System Class I (UAS CL1 IBCT Inc 2)
Unmanned Aircraft System Live Training System
Unmanned Cargo/Logistic Resupply
Urban Unattended Ground Sensors IBCT Increment 1
VADER (Vehicle and Dismount Exploitation Radar)
Vector Sensor
Vehicle 360 deg fused thermal and visual camera to auto track up to 10 objects
Vehicle Observation Sensor System (VOSS) on the Medium Mine Protection Vehicle
Vehicle Optics Sensor System on the MRAP BAE RG-33L
Vigilant Pursuit
Viper Strike
Warlock-DUKE V2
Warlock-Duke V3
Weaponized Reconnaissance Against Insurgents by Targeting HELLFIRE
Wideband Remote Monitoring Sensor: AN/FSQ-234(v)1
Wolverine System
Zebra Imaging Tactical Digital Holograms (TDH)
Zion Bobcat

American Coup excerpt on Salon

You can read an excerpt of American Coup on Salon dealing with secret domestic preparations for a biological and chemical attack.  The book is on sale at your local bookstores and at Amazon.



American Coup and the Syria Debate

Originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle, 8 September 2013


Programmed to act

By William M. Arkin

The drive last week to attack Syria for using weapons of mass destruction is an American straight-jacket of the most confining sort.

Before President Obama decided to ask Congress to authorize the use of military force, the arguments for and against were flying. Is it legal? Is the intelligence accurate? Do we know the right targets? Can missiles or aircraft overcome supposedly robust Syrian air defenses? Will U.S. military and Syrian civilian lives be spared? Are we really helping the Syrian people? How will the rest of the world react? Can we achieve our objectives? The horror of chemicals, the gassing of innocent civilians, terror weapons; the hyperbole reserved for the evil of weapons of mass destruction is only matched by equally grave phrases — American credibility on the line, catastrophe, World War III — used to describe the costs of action or inaction.

That’s the thing with WMD.

They hover above every other concern, foreign and domestic. They are a national security trump card accorded a special place befitting being the most coveted and detested of all objects.

In close to 40 years I’ve been working on issues relating to the military, I’ve watched this never-ending theater of WMD. Over decades and diverse administrations, justifications for the use of force — limited and full scale — have constantly revolved around weapons of mass destruction. Protection against them, real and imaginary, has served itself as justification for government excess and a curtailment of our freedoms. So much so that even today, from august international bodies that sit on high to the recognized wise that populate academia to human rights activists and even peaceniks, the common mantra is that WMD cannot be tolerated. We stop everything because it is WMD and we fret about the consequences of both action and inaction because it is WMD.

We do so because of a little known and little understood entity that truly drives American national security practices: It’s called The Program.

Founded in the darkest days of nuclear threat during the Eisenhower administration, The Program began as a limited system given responsibility for survival of the government. The nuclear arms race ended, but The Program never completely went away. And since 9/11, like everything else about national security, its mission and focus has expanded. The main reason again is WMD.

An accepted assumption passed down from Clinton to Bush to Obama is that an exceptional threat that once just existed in all-out nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union transformed into an everyday threat. And not only that, but in an age of terrorism and global connectedness, WMD manifests not just from foreign regimes or terrorist groups, but also in common components — pressure cookers, a nasty virus, a keyboard — anything that could be the trigger for societal breakdown, even if it comes in the form of natural disasters or just system failures.

As the agent of survival, The Program is also the survivor.

To conceive of what The Program is, think Wall Street. It is a place, but it is also allusively the entirety of certain interests. It is made up of the equivalent of banks and financial institutions — actual offices in departments and agencies of government; people, policies, objectives — but it is not ruled by one man or entity, yet it acts in unison and with united purpose. It has a nominal headquarters that culminates in the White House but it has become more permanent than the elected who occupy it. And though it is budgeted and the Congress even participates in its workings, it is neither legislated nor publicly sanctioned. The Program exists through a system of sealed envelopes — four dozen formal Presidential Emergency Action Documents more secret than anything that has been revealed about the National Security Agency of late, arrangements that instruct a surviving entity of what to do if a nation-destroying calamity befalls Washington or the United States.

Because Doomsday is now thought by the experts in government to be any day, and because the potential battlefield is anyplace and every place, the work of The Program, and its power, has dramatically expanded. A survival apparatus operates behind the scenes as if survival is perpetually and instantly at stake. There’s no overt conspiracy here, unless one considers the supremacy of this impenetrable and unchallenged ideology.

Successive presidencies have granted The Program extraordinary powers and extralegal action beyond anything sanctioned in the Constitution or public laws. This is precisely because whatever would activate the need for overt takeover would surely be necessary to preserve or even restore the nation’s institutions and laws. Extraordinary secrecy safeguards The Program, but in an always hyperbolic society where threats redefined as mass destruction are seemingly everywhere, not too many questions are asked.

With the discussions that began last week, we will be back again in this cycle, whether it’s with Iran’s WMD or North Korea’s or even al Qaeda’s. At the highest reaches of government, the inherited and ingrained assumption will be that when it comes to WMD violating law to uphold law is allowable, even warranted. And not only that, but because of WMD and the vulnerability of modern society, political compromises and legal violations will be endorsed to prevent or forestall mass destruction.

The Program is a subtle American coup that condemns us to perform the same rituals and set down the same red lines oblivious to the stranglehold that this way of thinking and mode of governance has on our nation. If the program were effective at improving our national security, if at the end of any given year the powers that be concluded that they had made progress and could loosen the reins of secret government and return to some state of normalcy, then one might reluctantly agree with the Washington tune that everything is a trade-off between security and freedom.

Not only does this never happen, but policies of torture and warrantless surveillance and government assassination of American citizens persist and flourish, our freedoms and values actively undermined in a state of martial life that is both invisible and all-encompassing.

For The Program, Syria is just business as usual.

It’s not as if the thousands who toil away behind the scenes have an opinion one way or another. Nor are they necessarily pulling any strings. But the business of doing the nation’s dirty work demands a complex web, and the mission to connect the dots to every potential hiding place creates an almost unlimited mandate.

What The Program endeavors for is for the American people to get with the program. Fear of mass destruction and the righteous action associated with WMD forms a perfect cushion and shield, survival and sustenance assured for noble purposes.

William M. Arkin is author of “American Coup: How a Terrified Government is Destroying the Constitution;” and co-author of the best-selling book and newspaper series “Top Secret America.”

NSA Tailored Access Operations

Found a little more about Tailored Access Operations (TAO), the Computer Network Exploitation/Computer Network Attack (CNE/CNA) operation of NSA, long known, but mentioned in the Washington Post article last week revealing the National Intelligence Budget.  The Post describes TAO as “surreptitiously installing spyware and tracking devices on targeted computers and mobile-phone networks.”  I think that description is too broad.

Tailored Access Operations, or sometimes called Defense Tailored Access Operations, is part of the S3 Data Aquisition, or the Signal Intelligence Directorate.  It is made up of six subordinate elements (branches):

  • S321:  Remote Operations Center (ROC)
  • S323: Data Network Technologies (DNT)
  • S324: Telecommunication Network Technologies (TNT)
  • S325: Mission Infrastructure Technologies (MIT)
  • S327: Requirements & Targeting (R&T)
  • S328: Access Technologies Operations (ATO)

The Remote Operations Center is the primary CNE operation of the U.S. government to gain access and intelligence from computer networks in direct support to cyber security & network warfare missions.  It is made up of the following divisions:

  • NOC: Network Ops Center
  • ORD: Operational Readiness Division (Training)
  • IOD: Interactive Ops Division
  • POD: Production Ops Division
  • AOD: Access Operations Division

The Network Warfare Team (NWT) provides liaison between the military and TAO.

Two tool development organizations are also subordinate to TAO:

  • TNT- Telecommunications Network Technologies
  • DNT- Data Network Technologies.

WMD in Iraq: What I Wrote; Ten Years Later

Here is the column I wrote about WMD in Iraq before the 2003 war:

A Hazy Target; Before going to war over weapons of mass destruction, shouldn’t we be sure Iraq has them?

Los Angeles Times, Sunday, March 9, 2003, Part M, Page 1

William M. Arkin

For all their differences, proponents and opponents of war with Iraq agree on one thing: The paramount threat posed by Saddam Hussein is his possession of chemical and biological weapons.

“The one respect that we think most about and worry most about is an enemy with weapons of mass destruction,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz said last month. Opponents of war with Iraq have much the same view.

Administration leaders argue that only war can smoke out Hussein’s hidden biochemical capabilities. Doves argue that we must rely on inspections because attacking Hussein could provoke him to use chemical or biological weapons; if Israel were hit, they warn, the result could be nuclear war. By different routes, the two sides arrive at an almost obsessive focus on Iraq’s chemical and biological weapons.

Each side has practical as well as principled reasons for doing so. For the administration, equating chemical and biological weapons with nuclear weapons — and warning that, sooner or later, Iraq’s weapons will find their way into terrorists’ hands — has become a way of making the case that war with Iraq is essential to protecting American lives at home.

For those who oppose the U.S. position, treating chemical and biological weapons as weapons of mass destruction akin to nuclear weapons justifies diplomacy and brinkmanship because of the seeming horrendous consequences of failure.

The question is whether these weapons in fact form a foundation sufficient to support all the weight being placed on it.

Instructively, the one place where policy is not being driven by the focus on chemical and biological weapons is inside the American armed forces.

For one thing, while not dismissing the seriousness of chemical and biological warfare, most field commanders are reasonably confident they can handle any such attacks Hussein can mount. For another, they understand all too well the mass destruction a full-scale war might inflict.

Moreover, most know that, after nearly four months of renewed weapons inspections by the United Nations and the most intensive effort in the history of the U.S. intelligence community, American analysts and war planners are far from certain that chemical and biological weapons even exist in Iraq’s arsenal today.

Incredible as it may seem, given all the talk by the administration — including Secretary of State Colin L. Powell’s discourse last week about continuing Iraqi deception — there is simply no hard intelligence of any such Iraqi weapons.

There is not a single confirmed biological or chemical target on their lists, Air Force officers working on the war plan say.

No one doubts that Iraq has consistently lied and cheated about its proscribed arms capabilities. This is a country that has used chemical weapons against Iran and against its own population, a country that fired missiles at Israel and its Arab neighbors in 1991.

And the rundown of Iraqi weapons that remain incompletely accounted for since the 1991 Gulf War is daunting: 6,500 bombs filled with chemical agents, 400 bombs filled with biological agents, 31,500 chemical munitions, 550 artillery shells loaded with mustard gas, 8,500 liters of anthrax.

Moreover, CIA and Defense Intelligence Agency analysts believe that Hussein’s forces could launch two types of short-range missiles, rockets or artillery that are capable of carrying chemical agents. The analysts say Iraqi aircraft or unmanned drones could mount sprayers to disperse chemicals or biological agents.

Analysts also think it possible for Iraqi commandos to penetrate coalition lines with small quantities of these weapons.

And U.S. intelligence has received reports that Special Republican Guard units, as well as secret police and security services charged with defending the regime, have been given bio-chem protective gear. President Bush, in his Feb. 8 radio address, said the administration had intelligence “that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons.”

“We cannot rule out of course that Saddam might try in some kind of desperation to use chemical or biological weapons,” National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said, echoing the administration line.

Yet, in fact, there is as much uncertainty as certainty about Iraq’s capabilities, as well as about the military effectiveness of any 11th-hour resort to chemical and biological weapons. So much of what the U.S. believes is based upon Iraq’s history, not knowledge of current conditions.

Vice Adm. Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said as much when he told Congress last month that U.S. beliefs were “based on … past patterns and availability … that he will in fact employ them.”

But the thinking that lies behind such statements when made by military professionals is quite different from that underlying the pronouncements of Rice and Wolfowitz.

When Maj. Gen. John Doesburg, the Army’s top biological and chemical defense commander, says the United States must assume Hussein thinks “it’s OK to use chemical agents, because he’s done it,” the general is simply engaging in the kind of worst-case thinking that professional soldiers are trained to do.

“What does he plan to do? I have no idea,” Brig. Gen. Stephen Reeves, Army program officer for chemical and biological defense, said at a Pentagon news conference last month.

Military leaders like Doesburg and Reeves do not mean to suggest that chemical and biological weapons are the battlefield equivalent of nuclear weapons. And they certainly do not mean to suggest such weapons are so uniquely horrific that they should drive the nation’s policy decisions — either toward or away from war.

Among other things, using chemical and biological weapons effectively is so difficult that this alone has always been considered a major impediment for Iraq. The weapons are unpredictable. Weather conditions are a major factor. Chemical and biological agents also have to avoid exposure to heat, light or severe cold.

When U.N. weapons inspectors were in Iraq during the 1990s, they found it had turned toward unmanned ground vehicles and sprayers as platforms for delivering chemical and biological weapons because Iraqi engineers could not master the technology for delivering such weapons in missiles or artillery shells; loaded into the warheads, the chemical and biological material was usually incinerated when the warhead exploded.

Moreover, “it takes a lot of chemicals to have a significant effect on the battlefield,” Doesburg told Bloomberg News. “We don’t suspect he has the stockpile.”

According to war planners, three aspects of U.S. military strategy are specifically related to preventing the use of such weapons once open hostilities begin.

First, initiating the use of force across all fronts, with simultaneous air and ground operations, will communicate what Wolfowitz calls “the inevitability” of Hussein’s demise. “No one wants to be the last one to die for Saddam Hussein,” he said.

Second, the war plan itself favors smaller and more highly dispersed formations to limit exposure to the kinds of brute-force chemical attacks that occurred in Iraq’s war with Iran.

Third, early air and special operations assaults, particularly in western Iraq, will seek to disrupt any potential attacks on Israel.

Despite so little hard evidence of Iraq’s capabilities, U.S. troops have been vaccinated, trained, equipped and dressed to prepare for chemical and biological war. For military units, all this is no more than prudent planning.

For the rest of us, we must take care that apprehension about weapons of mass destruction — whether generated from hawks or from doves — does not become a substitute for thinking through the justification to go to war, a decision that could have consequences for years to come.

There have been recent reports that U.S. Marines in Kuwait were literally using “sentinel” chickens to aid in the early detection of chemical and biological weapons.

“I just have to tell you from personal experience,” said Reeves, “having had a great-uncle with a chicken farm, chickens are spectacularly nervous animals. They will literally worry themselves to death.”


Eager Lion Now Supplants Bright Star as Largest U.S. Exercise in Middle East

The details emerging about the Eager Lion 12 military exercise in Jordan are almost as scary as the speculation circulating in the press about a Syria (or Iran) mission preparation.  Jordan and the United States continue to insist that the exercise has no connection with any real-world events.

U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) now says that the exercise is “the largest annual exercise in the Central Command area of operations,” supplanting Bright Star, the exercise series previously conducted in Egypt.  I guess the masters of war planning have a lot of faith in the stability and resilience of the Jordanian government, come to think of it, just like they did about Egypt.

Eager Lion, which most press reports refer to as including 17 participants, actually includes 19 participants, according to CENTCOM.   They include Australia, Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, France, Italy, Iraq, Jordan, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Pakistan, Qatar, Spain, Romania, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.  The exercise is touted as “building relationships,” but the 19 nations weren’t named until May 15th: I suppose it’s more like a furtive affair than a relationship.  It’s interesting to note that Turkey, previously reported as participating, evidently is not; and that Iraq is there.

Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit offload from a Navy Landing Craft Utility vessel at the Royal Jordanian Naval Base in Aqaba, May 2, 2012, to begin their participation in Exercise Eager Lion 12. (Official Marine Corps Photo by Sgt. Richard Blumenstein)

And though special operations is the undeniable focus, more than 1,000 U.S. Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit stormed ashore – okay maybe didn’t storm, but landed – in a display of amphibious readiness.  What surprised me in the belated announcement of the Marines May 2nd landing is that the Marine Corps casually referred to the augmented battalion and its Iowa Jima assault ship as the “forward-deployed crisis response force.”

I didn’t even know that there was such a crisis response force, and nothing was reported in the news media when it was deployed in March.

The on-scene U.S. commander for Eager Lion 12 is Maj. Gen. Ken Tovo, who in his day job is Commander Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) and for the exercise is Commander, Combined Joint Task Force Spartan (CJTF Spartan).  Tovo is one of the most talented officers in our Army’s senior ranks and clearly is one of our nation’s Special Operations Forces’ superstars,” CIA Director David Petraeus said in an email to the Tampa Tribune.  There’s an odd hit job on Tovo on, as if anything is actually known about the man.

In Defense of Defense of the F-22

Should we say Bravo! to the Air Force for doing its job, for doing what the military services are supposed to do, which is to train and equip, to advocate for their mission and specialty, and then to move out smartly when overruled by higher ups?  Or should we just shut down the junior service because it’s so pathetic?

The Air Force received the final, 187th F-22 Raptor jet last week in Georgia, destined to join the 3rd Wing’s 525th Fighter Squadron, stationed at the Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska.  Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz was on hand to blather on about “America’s first 5th generation fighter aircraft,” thanking the line workers, and then heading back to his Pentagon credenza, where no doubt he was preparing to weather the onslaught.

First came ABC News, with Senator Take-No-Prisoners McCain repeating the old bombast that the F-22 is useless because it has never been used in combat.  In almost seven years not a single one of the jets, which cost an estimated $420 million-plus each, has ever been used, ABC said.

60 Minutes followed, sucking all of the oxygen out of any decent discourse, scoring the coup of having actual pilots “without permission … blow the whistle on a plane they love to fly.”

The GAO piled on.

Lockheed Martin tweeted and tweeted in response how fabulous the plane is, oblivious to what was going on all around.  The Air Force produced Gen. Mike Hostage – no kidding – to tell us that the F-22 was in fact being deployed and used all over.  This nation needs this airplane – and every one of them,” he said. “I wish I had ten times as many as I have.”  Really only the Air Force Association and the network of retired airpower advocates have joined the battle, attempting to answer the F-22 critics.

They are all missing the point.

There’s so much to be said about the news media and how opportunistic it is, stuck in a mode of having to make every story a bombshell.  There’s so much to be said about the Air Force, which just can’t get beyond its institutional inferiority complex and can’t see the big picture because it is constantly bunkered and under attack.  There’s so much to be said about the idiocy of the public defense debate stuck in some 1980’s mode of waste, fraud, and abuse, weapons-won’t-or-don’t-work.

But the real issue is that we have no defense policy, no national security strategy.  We’re fighting in Afghanistan and no one other than the government and military supports it or cares; we’ve declared terrorism an existential threat that isn’t one; we’re pivoting to Asia to unstick ourselves from the Middle East, making believe that there is some military solution in the future; we’re hanging on to and hostage to gajillions of dollars of nukes – “not used in combat” in 60 years, get it?; we’re watching new constituencies in favor of perpetual war emerge – homeland security, the intelligence community, special operations, the cyber warriors, the counter-IED kingdom, the counter-threat finance sleuths, the counter-narcoterrorism fighters – and seem oblivious to the age of special interests that takes advantage of the absence of a national security strategy.  No wonder every Congressman and woman just tries to get and save bases, contracts, and weapons in their districts and states: The Defense Department and the federal government has completely failed to articulate in any useful way why x is needed and y isn’t, so it all boils down to politics, what’s best for the district or State, and every special interest just establishes alliances to pursue what it can get.

The F-22 symbolizes all of this dysfunction, particularly that part about our debate stuck in some weird 1980’s time warp.   But what’s really happening is that the plane is just too good, too good for even the pilots, too powerful, too fast, too flexible, too magnificent.  And as such, it should be seen as part of a sea change, as a seam between an old era and a new, rather than some industrial object to be audited.

Like the 10 last-inch-seeking hyper-reliable MIRVs that we finally stuffed on top of the triple-somersaulting MX missile in the 1980’s (and then abandoned for being too much), the F-22 is too much for what is really needed for our national security, which is to say, that just because it’s the best doesn’t mean it’s buying us anything.

I’m an agnostic one way or another about the airplane, but do appreciate the details of its capabilities, including how fabulous it is as an intelligence platform, how it can dog fight and bomb at the same time…  The real question we have to ask ourselves is whether 187 of anything carrying two or twenty bombs, no matter how accurate, is going to defeat a China or Russia?  Of course it isn’t; it’s a “deterrent,” it’s a symbol; it’s a lab experiment.   It’s all sorts of things that might actually be good for America except that we can’t really determine whether that’s so unless we look at our national security in a lot broader way, shorn of love for boots on the ground and hate for the fly boys, shorn of pro-Europe and Pacific and anti-Middle East, shorn of COIN versus big war.

Is this my only choice: More killer drones?  More main battle tanks?  More opaque spending on intelligence and special operations?  More cyber this and that?  More PTSD?

In which case then, I’ll take the F-22s.   Everything that the drones and the tanks and the magnificent covert operators represent seem both more mischievous and dangerous for the future of America.

Operation Chimichanga practices North Korean strike?

Three B-1 bombers from the 37th Bomb Squadron, stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota took off in the early hours of April 4 on a ten-hour bombing mission to Fort Yukon, Alaska as part of a complex long-range Strategic Command “anti-access” bombing mission dubbed Operation Chimichanga.

The exercise, starting with a simulated warning order to bomb targets in a classified country, included multiple live fly participants and command and control elements, finishing with battle damage assessment and an after action report.

Participants included F-22 Raptors and E-3 AWAC command and control aircraft assigned to the Alaskan 3rd Wing, along with F-16s from Misawa AB, Japan, and KC-135 aerial refuelers from Eielson AFB, Alaska.

F-22s and F-16s escorted the B-1s “into an anti-access target area,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Kunkel, 90th Fighter Squadron commander.

It was also the first time that increment 3.1, an air-to-ground bombing software upgrade was used on F-22’s, which also acted as follow-on forces, to assess B-1 bomb damage at the target and follow with an immediate restrike.

The B-1 bombers were also carrying new long-range radar evading AGM-158 joint air-surface standoff missile (JASSMs).

North Korea or Iran, take your pick.

Ten air forces meet in Bahrain to do what?

Front page Bahrain-based Gulf Daily News today: The largest air exercise since 1988, involving 10 nations — Bahrain, the United States, plus Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan?

Is there so much surplus military money to throw around that now that the Iraq war is over, these large exercises are coming back with a vengeance?  Or is there some desire to send messages to countries like Iran that everyone’s ready?

And where’s Iraq in this?  Some Arab spring, eh?

[Note: Updated April 9, 2012:  The exercise is called “Initial Link.”]

Gulf Daily News frontpage, Sunday, April 8, 2012.