Prevent and the London Tube Bombing

The verdict in the Iraqi teenager’s trial came as no surprise. Ahmed Hassan, who had arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker, was found guilty of attempted murder by a jury unconvinced by his defense that he had not meant no harm and merely sought attention when he placed a homemade bomb on a train at the Parsons Green Station in London.
The bomb, packed with “metal shrapnel including screws, bolts, nails, knives and screw drivers,” failed to fully explode but still managed to injure 30 people.

According to the police and prosecutors, Hassan’s motives were “unclear” despite the teenager having previously claimed to a lecturer that he had “a duty to hate Britain” because of the country’s role in the invasion of Iraq and the death of his father in an air raid. He had once complained to the same lecturer that the UK “continues to bomb my people daily.” Continue reading “Prevent and the London Tube Bombing”

CVE Watch

I have been working with MuckRock on an investigative project around Countering Violent Extremism programs being developed and implemented around the country. Here is a brief synopsis of the project:

The programs being designed and implemented across the country under the auspices of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) have drawn fire from Muslim community members and civil rights activists. They are criticized for unfairly targeting Muslims, being used for surveillance under the pretext of community outreach, and being based on an unfounded theory of radicalization.

Despite the heavy criticism CVE has been subjected to, there remain lingering questions about precisely which communities are targeted, what research (and which experts) agencies are relying on for their approaches, how (or if) government agencies are planning to safeguard civil liberties, which community leaders are being supported and for what reasons, etc.

By making the relevant government documents public, we hope to help answer some of these questions.

You can read my introduction to CVE (and the project) here and an analysis of documents on the drafting of Boston’s CVE strategy here. The project page will be updated as I publish more stories. You can also subscribe to the blog if you want to stay updated.

National Security & Muslims

Last month, lawmakers in the state of Minnesota introduced legislation to invest $2 million in youth development schemes aimed at the state’s Somali-American population. The House minority leader Paul Thissen noted that such programs have a “positive impact” on the community and lawmakers should “continue that progress by passing this legislation.”

Around the same time, $300,000 of federal and private funding was being allocated to six groups in Minnesota working on mental health and after-school sports. This funding was also aimed at helping the state’s Somali-American population.

Such interest in the economic well-being of the state’s Somali-American population should certainly be welcomed by all. Who, after all, could possibly be against state and federal investment in local communities? Unfortunately, in this particular case, the government’s interest is less in the economic well-being of the state’s Somali-American population and more in the hope that these programs would deter its members from becoming terrorists.

Continue reading “National Security & Muslims”

The Making of a Terrorist

Published on teleSUR as
The Surveillance State and the Making of a Terrorist

New York Times has published a lengthy profile of the Islamic State bomb-maker involved in the recent attacks in Brussels and Paris. In the latest attack in Brussels, Najim Laachraoui demoted (or promoted, depending on one’s feelings about life) himself from bomb-maker to suicide bomber, blowing himself up along with 15 bystanders. Much of the article, focusing on Laachraoui’s “radicalization,” follows the soporific pattern mainstream media outlets have by now mastered in their coverage of “homegrown” terrorists.

Continue reading “The Making of a Terrorist”

Terrorism: Theirs and Ours

One esteemed scholar of terrorism is very worried. William Braniff is concerned about the possibility of the Islamic State exploiting technology for nefarious ends. A mercilessly violent ideology aided by thoroughly modern technological means will spell disaster for the US in this latest phase of the War on Terror. The FBI’s recent battle with Apple illustrates how important it is to underscore exactly what technological platforms law enforcement should be able to monitor if it is to prevent this horrific disaster from unfolding.
Continue reading “Terrorism: Theirs and Ours”

“Radicalization” and Media Narratives

By now there is a familiar, ritualistic quality to media coverage of homegrown terrorist attacks. Journalists, pundits, and terrorism “experts” pontificate on the religiosity of the perpetrators, explore their background, and wonder in total bewilderment as to how all-American boys could have been responsible for such ghastly acts. The more intrepid journalists try to identify the points at which their subjects transformed into callous terrorists willing to turn against their own country. Sometimes, the terrorists are put on a therapist’s couch while pundits reach into their stockpile of outdated Freudisms and explain their mindsets, taking care to mention one or another personal crisis. The pathological ideology of global Islamism is invoked, the government is blamed for not doing enough, and demands are raised for a strong response. The enemy, in these narratives, is shrewd and he is among us. We must be more vigilant.

Continue reading ““Radicalization” and Media Narratives”

Article on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE)

I have an article in Jacobin on the recent Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) summit held at the White House. It briefly traces the history of the Pakistani Taliban to look at some of the underlying causes of terrorism. An excerpt:

The problem is not that the Obama administration lacks the information to formulate an effective counter-extremism strategy that doesn’t scapegoat Muslims. The problem instead is that the most effective way to reduce the threat of terrorism is to retreat from empire.

It is no surprise that imperial wars and longstanding alliances with authoritarian states responsible for funding right-wing Islamist movements do not reduce the threat of terrorism. This holds true not just for “homegrown” terrorism but also for terrorist groups abroad. Unwilling to abandon policies that continually produce recruits for militant Islamism, the US falls back on blaming an ideology and the community which supposedly harbors it. Hence the focus on Muslims and the battle for “hearts and minds.”

Read the full article at Jacobin.