A new study shows people may be censoring themselves without realizing it.
Nafeez Ahmed reports: Thanks largely to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013, most Americans now realize that the intelligence community monitors and archives all sorts of online behaviors of both foreign nationals and US citizens.
But did you know that the very fact that you know this could have subliminally stopped you from speaking out online on issues you care about?
“What this research shows is that in the presence of surveillance, our country’s most vulnerable voices are unwilling to express their beliefs online.”
Now research suggests that widespread awareness of such mass surveillance could undermine democracy by making citizens fearful of voicing dissenting opinions in public.
A paper published last week in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, the flagship peer-reviewed journal of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), found that “the government’s online surveillance programs may threaten the disclosure of minority views and contribute to the reinforcement of majority opinion.”
The NSA’s “ability to surreptitiously monitor the online activities of US citizens may make online opinion climates especially chilly” and “can contribute to the silencing of minority views that provide the bedrock of democratic discourse,” the researcher found.
The paper is based on responses to an online questionnaire from a random sample of 255 people, selected to mimic basic demographic distributions across the US population.
Participants were asked to answer questions relating to media use, political attitudes, and personality traits. Different subsets of the sample were exposed to different messaging on US government surveillance to test their responses to the same fictional Facebook post about the US decision to continue airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
They were then asked about their willingness to express their opinions about this publicly—including how they would respond on Facebook to the post; how strongly they personally supported or opposed continued airstrikes; their perceptions of the views of other Americans; and whether they supported or opposed online surveillance. Read the rest of this entry »
ISIS using children human shields in Iraq and Syria as US and others increase airstrikes.
WASHINGTON — The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is increasingly using human shields — particularly children — to prevent the U.S.-led coalition from carrying out airstrikes in key areas such as Ramadi, according to a senior Obama administration official who briefed reporters at the White House.
“Fighters are even using children as escorts while maneuvering in the street in order to exploit U.S. rules of engagement, which are intended to avoid collateral damage.”
Despite that the U.S. is able to kill a mid-to-high level ISIS leader “every two days or so,” but the ISIS shield tactic complicates a U.S. military operation that the Pentagon likes to call “the most precise air campaign in the history of war.”
CBS News senior national security correspondent David Martin has reported that while there is no hard and fast rule governing permissible civilian casualties in U.S. airstrikes and each strike is evaluated individually, he is not aware of any case when a bombing was authorized with knowledge that more than five innocent people were present.
By barricading themselves with civilians the terror group has inhibited U.S. airpower in the key Iraqi city of Ramadi, tilting the fight more toward being a “street by street” battle. Read the rest of this entry »
Islamic State now controls more than half of Syria after the extremist militia seized the historic city of Palmyra, a monitoring group said on Thursday.
Russia is ready to supply weapons to Iraq, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday, as the country struggles to halt advances by Islamic State militants.
Speaking ahead of talks in Moscow between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, Lavrov told reporters Moscow would make every effort to help the Baghdad government push back the militants.
“The jihadists on Wednesday fully seized Palmyra, home to ancient ruins listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.”
Islamic State insurgents overran the Iraqi city of Ramadi last weekend in the most significant setback for the Baghdad government in a year, exposing the weakness of Iraq’s army and the limitations of U.S. air strikes. On Thursday the group seized full control of Palmyra in neighboring Syria.
Australia plans to strip citizenship from Australian-born children of immigrants who become Islamic State fighters in its crackdown on homegrown jihadis.
“The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Islamic State rules around 95,000 square kilometres, or more than 50 per cent of Syria’s total geographic area.”
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told Sydney Radio 2GB on Thursday that his government wants to change the Citizenship Act to make fighting for the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq a reason for losing citizenship,.He says the government also wants to adopt the British legal model by revoking the citizenship of extremists who are Australian-born children of immigrants or an immigrant, forcing them to take up citizenship in the birth country of their parents, or parent.
Islamic State now controls more than half of Syria after the extremist militia seized the historic city of Palmyra, a monitoring group said on Thursday.
The jihadists on Wednesday fully seized Palmyra, home to ancient ruins listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site. Read the rest of this entry »
John T. Booker, a 20-year old U.S. Citizen from Topeka, was allegedly planning a suicide attack on the Fort Riley army base in Kansas in an attempt to provide material support to ISIS, the local CBS affiliate originally reported. The criminal complaint alleges that Booker, who also goes by the name “Mohammed Abdullah Hassan,” posted to Facebook “I will soon be leaving you forever so goodbye! I’m going to wage jihad and hopes that i die” before planning to detonate a car bomb at Fort Riley. Read the rest of this entry »
Corker on ISIS Semantics
Fresh off a week-long tour of the Middle East that included stops in Iraq, Kuwait, and Turkey, Senator Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) appeared on Meet the Press today to talk about the U.S. response to ISIS. Right off the bat, host Chuck Todd asked Corker about the ongoing debate over whether to de-emphasize ISIS’s Islamic roots in official American pronouncements on the group.
“Do you think it matters whether we call ISIS ‘radical Islam,’ or just ‘radical extremists’,” Todd asked. Corker didn’t mince words in his response.
“They are Islamic, there’s no question. They are extreme in what they’re doing. And they’re a threat to our country,” he said.
As airtight as Corker’s logic is, it seems unlikely to end the tiresome semantic debate over ISIS, which was a topic of a discussion on all 5 Sunday shows this week…(read more)
“Make no mistake. Anything that we could appear to be doing, we are appearing to be doing.”
President Barack Obama said the U.S. is “doing anything we verbally and symbolically can” to rescue an American woman being held hostage by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorist group.
“I know folks want me to get angry. But it’s just not the best interests of this administration to mount a meaningful offense against ISIS. We reserve our real anger for Israel, England, and other U.S. allies.”
Speaking with NBC’s “Today Show” this week, Obama said the U.S. is deploying all rhetorical efforts in order to appear to be interested in rescuing the woman held in captivity. In a series of prepared statements, Obama vowed to continue evading the subject of Islamic extremism, avoiding criticism, and improvising credible excuses for the U.S. military’s half-hearted, ineffective strikes. Instead, the administrations efforts are invested in creating an appearance of aiding Kurdish forces, while risking as little political capital as possible.
“Our moral outrage and sincere hatred must be aimed at serving a higher purpose, our crusade against Republican leadership, and members of the average American taxpaying public…that’s where America’s future is decided.”
“We’re deploying all imaginary assets that we can, placating all the coalition allies with empty gestures so that we can to return to our priority message about important domestic issues,” Obama said. “We’re in very close contact with her family, trying to maintain an image of compassion and sincerity. Obviously, this is something that is heartbreaking for families, so it’s important that we appear to be working hard on their behalf. Our obligation is to make sure that we maintain an outward appearance that we are engaged, and decisive, so that if things go well, I can take credit. And if things don’t go well, I vow to do everything in my power to lay the blame elsewhere.”
“Our obligation is to make sure that we maintain an outward appearance that we are engaged, and decisive, so that if things go well, I can take credit. And if things don’t go well, I vow to do everything in my power to lay the blame elsewhere.”
“Make no mistake. Anything that we could appear to be doing, we are appearing to be doing,” Obama said of the fighting in Syria and Afghanistan. “Folks are frustrated, often times because they want action, courage, integrity, accountability, and leadership to resolve these issues. And as most Americans know, that’s just something I’m not prepared to do.”
ISIS also released video Tuesday purportedly showing Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kaseasbeh being burned alive. The murder followed a botched prisoner exchange with ISIS for a failed female suicide bomber being held on death row in Jordan. She has since been executed in response to al-Kaseasbeh’s death. Read the rest of this entry »
The suspect, who appeared in court today, planned to slip through the porous Turkish border to Syria or on to Iraq
An Illinois teenager was arrested Saturday at a major airport as authorities say he was attempting to travel to the Middle East to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
UPDATE: From CNN: The search at Khan’s Bolingbrook, Illinois, home, where he lives with his parents, turned up documents allegedly written by Khan that stated his intentions.
“We are all witness that the Western societies are getting more immoral day by day. I do not want my kids being exposed to filth like this.”
— Khan in the letter, according to the complaint.
Mohammed Hamzah Khan, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen from Bolingbrook, appeared in court today to face charges for allegedly attempting to provide material support for a terrorist organization. If convicted, Khan could face up to 15 years in prison. Read the rest of this entry »
Wake Up and Smell The Daesh: France is Rejecting the ‘Islamic State’ Name, Replacing it with a Label the Beheadng Bastards HatePosted: September 18, 2014
The Washington Post uses DAIISH, but DAASH, DAIISH and DAISH are also used. However it’s spelled, the group hates it.
“This is a terrorist group and not a state. I do not recommend using the term Islamic State because it blurs the lines between Islam, Muslims and Islamists. The Arabs call it ‘Daesh’ and I will be calling them the ‘Daesh cutthroats.’ ”
— Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius
From the start, exactly what to call the extremist Islamist group that has taken over much of Syria and Iraq has been problematic. At first, many called it the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). However, due to differences over how the name should be translated from the Arabic, some (including the U.S. government) referred to them as ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
“The Associated Press recently reported that the group were threatening to cut cut out the tongues of anyone who used the phrase publicly, and AFP have noted that the term “Daeshi” has been used a derogatory term in some parts of the Middle East.”
To make matters more complicated, the group later announced that it should simply be called the “Islamic State” – a reference to the idea that the group was breaking down state borders to form a new caliphate. A number of media groups, including The Post, the Associated Press and, eventually, the New York Times, adopted this name, while others stuck with ISIS and ISIL.
“‘Daeshi’ has been used a derogatory term in some parts of the Middle East. Some analysts have suggested that the dislike of the term comes from its similarity to another Arabic word, دعس, or Das. That word means to trample down or crush.”
Now the French have added another complication. On Monday, the French government released a statement that included a reference to the group under a different name: “Daesh.”
France had hinted that it would begin using this term – how the group is referred to in much of the Arab world – before, but this week appears to be the first time that the country has used it in official communications. Read the rest of this entry »
Buried in a Dell computer captured in Syria are lessons for making bubonic plague bombs and missives on using weapons of mass destruction
Harald Doornbos and Jenan Moussa reporting, for Foreign Policy, ANTAKYA, Turkey — Abu Ali, a commander of a moderate Syrian rebel group in northern Syria, proudly shows a black laptop partly covered in dust. “We took it this year from an ISIS hideout,” he says.
“The ISIS laptop contains more than the typical propaganda and instruction manuals used by jihadists. The documents also suggest that the laptop’s owner was teaching himself about the use of biological weaponry.”
Abu Ali says the fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which have since rebranded themselves as the Islamic State, all fled before he and his men attacked the building. The attack occurred in January in a village in the Syrian province of Idlib, close to the border with Turkey, as part of a larger anti-ISIS offensive occurring at the time. “We found the laptop and the power cord in a room,” he continued, “I took it with me. But I have no clue if it still works or if it contains anything interesting.”
As we switched on the Dell laptop, it indeed still worked. Nor was it password-protected. But then came a huge disappointment: After we clicked on “My Computer,” all the drives appeared empty.
Appearances, however, can be deceiving. Upon closer inspection, the ISIS laptop wasn’t empty at all: Buried in the “hidden files” section of the computer were 146 gigabytes of material, containing a total of 35,347 files in 2,367 folders. Abu Ali allowed us to copy all these files — which included documents in French, English, and Arabic — onto an external hard drive.
The laptop’s contents turn out to be a treasure trove of documents that provide ideological justifications for jihadi organizations — and practical training on how to carry out the Islamic State’s deadly campaigns. They include videos of Osama bin Laden, manuals on how to make bombs, instructions for stealing cars, and lessons on how to use disguises in order to avoid getting arrested while traveling from one jihadi hot spot to another.
Islamic terrorist groups are operating in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez and planning to attack the United States with car bombs or other vehicle born improvised explosive devices (VBIED). High-level federal law enforcement, intelligence and other sources have confirmed to Judicial Watch that a warning bulletin for an imminent terrorist attack on the border has been issued. Agents across a number of Homeland Security, Justice
and Defense agencies have all been placed on alert and instructed to aggressively work all possible leads and sources concerning this imminent terrorist threat.
Specifically, Judicial Watch sources reveal that the militant group Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is confirmed to now be operating in Juarez, a famously crime-infested narcotics hotbed situated across from El Paso, Texas. Violent crimes are so rampant in Juarez that the U.S. State Department has issued a number of travel warnings for anyone planning to go there. The last one was issued just a few days ago. Read the rest of this entry »
Countering Radical Narratives Requires Understanding the Radicalized
Nimmi Gowrinathan writes: Reports that women have formed their own brigade within the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have confounded experts — and worried them. For many, the idea of women as violent extremists seems paradoxical. After all, why should women want to join a political struggle that so blatantly oppresses them?
“In war zones across the world, women absorb a disproportionate amount of the fallout from conflict, including material deprivation in refugee camps, daily harassment and fear in militarized zones, and a constant vulnerability to rape.”
That question reveals more about the experts than the fighters. Those who ask it assume, first, that women are more peaceful than men by nature; and second, that women who participate in armed rebellion are little more than cannon fodder in a man’s game, fighting foolishly for a movement that will not benefit them. As the women of ISIS prove, both assumptions are false.
“Joining the fight is sometimes the only way to survive.”
To understand the women of ISIS and their motivations, it helps to place them in their historical context, among the legions of women in El Salvador, Eritrea, Nepal, Peru, and Sri Lanka who voluntarily joined violent movements and militias, sometimes even as highly ranked officers. In each of these cases, women joined for the same basic reasons as men. Living in deeply conservative social spaces, they faced constant threats to their ethnic, religious, or political identities — and it was typically those threats, rather than any grievances rooted in gender, that persuaded them to take up arms. Read the rest of this entry »
‘Flawless’ Except That the Hostages Weren’t There
“Was this a failure of intelligence? No…This operation, by the way, was a flawless operation, but…”
foxnews.com reports: The Obama administration said Tuesday that it was working to confirm the authenticity of a newly-released video that purportedly shows the killing of American freelance journalist James Foley by Islamic State militants.
“We know that many of you are looking for confirmation or answers. Please be patient until we all have more information, and keep the Foleys in your thoughts and prayers.”
White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the administration has seen the video. She said that if it’s deemed genuine by the intelligence community, the U.S. would be “appalled by the brutal murder of an innocent American journalist.”
Fox News has learned that the video, which is being taken seriously by U.S. officials, is being analyzed by a special group within the US intelligence community that specializes in media exploitation. The group, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, is believed to have other Americans in their custody.
The release of the video allegedly showing his death comes amid a U.S. airstrike campaign against Islamic State targets in Iraq. ISIS has declared an Islamic state in the territory it controls in Iraq and neighboring Syria, imposing its harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Hubris: Obama Taking Credit for Iraq Troop Withdrawal Over and Over in 2012, Ducking Responsibility for it in 2014Posted: August 12, 2014
President Obama took credit for Iraq troop withdrawal over and over in 2012 before ducking responsibility for it in 2014. The first 3/4ths of this is predictable grandstanding, electioneering, credit-taking, campaigning, boasting, signature Obama. The sweet spot starts at around 46 seconds.
Kirsten Powers on Iraqi Christian Nightmare: ‘Thanks to ISIS Persecution, Mosul is Without Christians for the First Time in 2,000 Years’Posted: July 30, 2014
Iraq’s Christians are begging the world for help. Is anybody listening?
For USA Today, Kirsten Powers writes: Since capturing the country’s second largest city of Mosul in early June, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has ordered Christians to convert to Islam, pay jizyataxes levied on non-Muslims, or die. The extremist Sunni group is also persecuting and murdering Turkmen and Shabaks, both Muslim religious minorities.
“This is a crime against humanity.”
Human rights lawyer Nina Shea described the horror in Mosul to me: “(ISIS) took the Christians’ houses, took the cars they were driving to leave. They took all their money. One old woman had her life savings of $40,000, and she said, ‘Can I please have 100 dollars?’, and they said no. They took wedding rings off fingers, chopping off fingers if they couldn’t get the ring off.”
“There is nothing to go back to even if ISIS left“
“We now have 5,000 destitute, homeless people with no future,” Shea said. “This is a crime against humanity.”
Government security forces fought to regain control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery in a decisive test of Baghdad’s ability to protect an economic pillar from Sunni Muslim insurgents. Matt Bradley reports.
— POLITICO (@politico) June 18, 2014
(AFP) About 275 US military personnel are being deployed to Iraq to help American personnel and protect the embassy in Baghdad, President Barack Obama said Monday in a letter to Congressional leaders.
The force, which began deploying on Sunday, has been sent “for the purpose of protecting US citizens and property, if necessary, and is equipped for combat,” Obama wrote.
“This force will remain in Iraq until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed.”
The move comes as jihadists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) battle Iraqi security forces for control of a strategic northern town and Washington weighs possible drone strikes against the militants. Read the rest of this entry »
For CNN, Chelsea J. Carter, Salma Abdelaziz and Mohammed Tawfeeq report: As security forces ran out, militants overran Iraq’s second-largest city on Tuesday — a stunning collapse that heightened questions about Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki‘s ability to hold onto not only Mosul, but his entire country.
Militants seized Mosul’s airport, TV stations, the governor’s office and other parts, if not all, of the northern Iraqi city.
“I only … saw armed people, but not Iraqi military,” said resident Firas al-Maslawi of his drive through Mosul on Tuesday. “There was no presence of any government forces on the streets, the majority of their posts destroyed and manned by (Islamist militants).”
Other witnesses painted similar scenes, of buildings and boulevards manned not by Iraqi soldiers or police but rather by men they say the extremist group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, an al Qaeda splinter group also known by its acronym ISIS.
Mosul wasn’t the only place in the country beset by violence Tuesday, including some focused closer to the capital of Baghdad. Still, what’s happening in this northern Iraqi city is the most serious, given its size, the bloodshed’s scope and the brewing humanitarian situation tied to it. Read the rest of this entry »
Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant fighters smash 3,000-year-old Assyrian statue in latest act of cultural genocide
For The Times of Israel, Ilan Ben Zion reports: Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a radical militia that controls a large swath of eastern Syria, confiscated and destroyed illegally excavated antiquities from an ancient Mesopotamian site.
In an act of cultural genocide strikingly similar to the Taliban’s demolition of the Buddhas of Bamiyan in 2001, the ISIL fighters appear – in pictures recently uploaded by a group working to protect Syria’s rich historical heritage — to smash a 3,000-year-old Neo-Assyrian statue illegally removed from a nearby archaeological site. Another image shows a man placing his foot — an act of disrespect in Arab culture — on the face of the Assyrian statue before its destruction.
Last month, the Syrian antiquities authority said in a statement that it had received notice that artifacts that “appear to be the result of an unauthorized digging” had been plundered from Tell Ajaja, the ruins of the Assyrian provincial capital Shadikanni on the Khabur River, a tributary of the Euphrates.
At least one of the items photographed and published by the Association for the Preservation of Syrian Archaeology appeared among those recently confiscated by ISIL.
The pictures, taken in Syria’s far eastern Hasakeh Province, were also said to be of artifacts removed from Tell Ajaja. The site lies approximately 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the modern provincial capital of Hasakeh and 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the Iraqi border.
Nina Shea, co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, and director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom has an item in The Corner about religious persecution in Syria that caught my eye, go here for the full story. Here’s a preview:
The religious persecution in Syria deepened this week, as evidenced by a written ultimatum purportedly distributed by the rebel jihadist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to Christians in the northern provincial capital of Raqqa. Rejecting conversion to Islam or death, some 20 Christian leaders of that city held firm in their faith and submitted to the Islamists’ demands to live by as dhimmis.
Under this arrangement, in exchange for their lives and the ability to worship as Christians, they must abide by purported seventh-century rules of the Caliph Umar. According to the Raqqa ultimatum, these include bans on renovating and rebuilding churches and monasteries, many of which need repair because they’ve been shelled and blown up over the past three years, and bans against the public display of crosses and Christian symbols and the ringing of bells. They are forbidden from reading scripture indoors loud enough for Muslims outside to hear, and the practice of their faith must be confined within the walls of their remaining churches, not exercised publicly (at, for example, funeral or wedding processions).
They are prohibited from saying anything offensive about Muslims or Islam. The women must be enshrouded, and alcohol is banned.
Beheading Error: The familiar Islamist rebel campaign slogan “If you like your head, you can keep your head” promise brokenPosted: November 16, 2013
An ‘incorrect promise’, says the New York Times
Steven Emerson reports: Members of the al-Qaida-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham appear in a new online video apologizing for beheading a man they thought was fighting for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.
Aryn Baker writes: Ongoing clashes between rival groups within the armed opposition intensified in Syria’s Aleppo province this past week following protests against the heavy-handed tactics of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Infighting among rebels could spell trouble for an opposition movement seemingly on the wane, but it could also present an opportunity. If the moderate-leaning rebel groups can sever their symbiotic relationship with their al-Qaeda affiliates for good, they stand to get significantly more support from Western backers wary of inadvertently assisting old enemies. But it won’t be easy — even as the rivals battle for turf in Aleppo province, they have united to inflict a resounding defeat on government forces elsewhere in the country. Read the rest of this entry »