Personal and academic blog. Explores the borderlands between rhetoric, politics and intelligence.


Agurkerne gror nedad

I dag har både Ekstra Bladet og Berlingske Tidende en artikel fra Ritzau med den æggende titel: 'Dansk Kvinde Jager pirater på verdenshavene.'

Altid interesseret i søfartens kvaler læste jeg artiklerne igennem. Og det viser sig at mediebilledet er så fattigt at nu gror agurkerne nedad, mens tæerne krummes. Det eneste der egentlig er i den historie, er den interessante overskrift - nyhedskriteriet er totalt væk, rullet over af sensationens brede malerrulle.

Kun Berlingske bringer så meget af artiklen så man forstår hvad overskriften rigtigt peger på, kvinden er kontorchef i Søfartsstyrelsen:

'Birgit Sølling Olsen må vel nok betegnes som Danmarks piratjæger nummer 1. Hun jager godt nok ikke piraterne i bogstaveligste forstand, men som embedsmand er hun med til at gøre livet mere surt for pirater verden over.'

'Som embedsmand er hun med til at gøre livet mere surt for pirater verden over' - jeg kunne ikke lade være med at grine. Det minder om den gamle Monty Python film 'Meaning of Life' hvor et estimeret gammelt forsikringsfirma i en london-kontorbygning pludselig rivers sig løs og 'sejler' ud på kapitalens hav, bemandet af ældre forsikringsfolk, med slips bundet om panden, drablige fyldepenne mellem tænderne, der bemander arkivskabene og border de amerikanske forsikrings-skuder.

Tillykke til Søfartsstyrelsen for at få den historie søsat på agurketidens store stille dam. Pirateri er en alvorlig sag - men det har det jo været i flere årtier. Og ha ha! til alle de aviser der af desperation fylder deres spalter med den slags i stedet for at lave en tyndere avis med mere relevante nyheder.


Al Qaeda's ghosts

The good people at Stratfor defines the role of the middle-level of Al Qaeda in a recent report:

'From these examples and others, it appears that al Qaeda has suffered a rather serious decline in the quality -- though not necessarily the quantity -- of its operational assets, which in turn points toward a decline in its effectiveness as a strategic force wielding influence over world events (though not, on the whole, as an organization capable of violence). On a related note, it also appears that national intelligence and security agencies, in the United States and elsewhere, who have taken "preventing the next 9/11" as their primary mission have been successful, at least so far.

But herein lies the problem. The middle layer of the pyramid -- that consisting of highly skilled operatives -- might be seriously damaged, but it has not yet been eliminated. We strongly suspect the existence of an al Qaeda "ghost" -- a high-value operative, likely someone with dual nationality or multiple passports -- who is still able to move from cell to cell or at least transmit signals to local groups awaiting a "go" order to carry out a strike. Government-run intelligence agencies have suspected the same, and MI5 actually identified a possible ghost, named on a terrorism watch list, who entered and left Britain shortly before the July 7 attacks. Yet the agency also signaled, three weeks prior to the event, that there were "no known threats" to world leaders who would be attending the G-8 summit in Scotland at that time. Clearly, the intelligence puzzle is not yet complete.'


Terror er jo bare lis'som en lægeroman

Jeg har tidligere omtalt Korsgaard og Surruges journalistik som de præsenterede den i Weekendavisen. I dagens Berlingske Tidende får vi en øjenvidneberetning fra en dansk kvinde fanget i terrorangrebene ved Aldgate den 7. juli, »Jeg kan stadig se bomben i dit ansigt«.

Og jeg er stadig tilhænger af at lave fortællende journalistik, men det slår mig at man så alvorligt skal til at overveje et helt nyt aspekt, nemlig stil.

Jeg synes Lea Korsgaards artikel er alt for fyldt med fortolkende adjektiver "Som en skræmt dyreflok finder de sammen forrest i kupéen..." og pathos der ikke lader historien egen gru få lov at virke. Lidt for meget lægeroman - for min smag. Så hellere en Morten Sabroesk absurditet eller Poul Høis nøgternhed. Men mon ikke Korsgaard nok skal finde sympatiske læsere ud over mig?


Counter Insurgency Theory - now in my own backyard

'For terrorists, the core mechanism of terrorism is psychological: the killing of innocents is not a goal in itself, but rather a tool for creating fear. After a 'successful' terror attack, a terrorist may announce that another attack is on its way in order to create new fears - which, in turn, changes the public's way-of-life patterns. This is intensified by the randomness of the action. Counterterrorism must not only attempt to allay this fear but also to ensure the proper messaging is relayed to the target audience in the population.'

And reading my Counter-terror theory I just looked up, out at the London skyline and realised that I had become a 'target audience' in more than one way. Strange, I have always visualised Malaysia or Iraq when thinking CI...

O'Brien, Kevin A, Izhar Lev, "Information operations and counterrerrorism" in Jane?s Intelligence Review, September 01, 2002


"'Are you all right, mate?'" - Compassion: Why terrorism won't succeed

The Guardian reports from one of yesterday's eyewitnesses:

"Business analyst Abisha Moyo told the Daily Mail he heard a bang like a 'pistol going off' and saw a fellow tube passenger lying on the floor of their carriage.

He approached him and asked 'are you all right, mate?' but was then stunned to see the man was lying on top of a rucksack with smoke coming out. The suspect then calmly left the rucksack behind, jumped on the tracks and walked away down the line, said Mr Moyo."


Another round of bombs - and hyper-reality

Another series of explosions have occured in the London Underground. I was reading in my student-cell as usual, far from harms way.

But now I am listening to BBC London's breaking news coverage. And I am already dizzy. The massive media race to report new news, fresh experience from 7/7 and listeners phoning in with miniscule details about seing a fire engine really adds to the feeling of hyper-reality. The first mobile-phone pictures of people walking in a line is already out and journalists are smirking to get eye witnesses to call in.

Reality is out there. I can see the police helicopters from my window. But because of the heavy media presence from my little radio and the internet it trancends reality, the four blasts themselves, and are now spinning into an existence of their own. It is almost as if reality in the first degree has only been experienced by the people around the blast-sites, the rest of us are quickly building our own reality. The French sociologist Baudrillard first described that phenomenon around the 1991 Gulf War.

I recon it is quite human - especially in a big city like this. But it all just gets a bit absurde, with journalists reporting nothing as if it was significant news and repeating each other and citizens calling in with more nothing to get their share of the action. And all the speculation and rumours spinning faster and faster.

I just hope that no-one is seriously injured. The rest is just ambulance-chasing.


Terror er jo bare lis'som trafiksikkerhed

Rådet for større færdselssikkerhed har virkeligt forberedt deres agurketid - med historier på slaget de seneste mange uger har de fyldt godt i mediebilledet.

Men her til aften i TV-Avisen (på nettet i London) tog den allestedsnærværende formand René La Cour Sell (som også er formand for kommunikationsforeningen, så vidt jeg husker) prisen.

Han havde nok tænkt "Det skal være blodigt, det skal være aktuelt, det skal være ungt: Terror!". Så han gjorde rede for antallet af trafikdræbte på følgende måde:

"Det svarer til at vi kører fire fyldte busser ind på Rådhuspladsen og sprænger dem i luften og af de omkringstående er der 10.000 der bliver såret. Skal vi blive ved med at finde os i det?"

Det er usmageligt og området omkring Russel Square er endnu afspærret af plastic så jeg den anden dag da jeg gik forbi - fordi retsmedicinerne stadig hiver folk ud.

Tilbage til analogi-tegnebordet, René.


London Bombings: OPSEC Errors or Intelligence Failure?

The good people at Stratfor has just provided another insightful analysis. This one by Fred Burton asking the question whether Al Qaeda is sloppy with its operational security (OPSEC) or used unwitting bomb-carriers in the attacks.

The reason why you could ask that question is that a number of details have made the detective work easier. All the bombers were seen on one CCTV shot and all the bombers carried ID cards on them when they blew up. This made it easier to identify them.

I generally like the analysis, as I have wondered about just that earlier. But I have my own observations that might suggest a third possibility, namely that the group was only very loosely affiliated to Al Qaeda and that they therefor were 'inventing' most of the operation themselves.

Fred Burton's first thesis is that the bombers didn't know what they were about to do.

"Speaking from the standpoint of a professional who has trained operatives in the past, it makes perfect sense to me for all four bombers to be seen traveling together if they believed their purpose was to conduct a training run. For a handler, it's just easier to keep the group together in tow.

Of course, we must speculate here, but suppose the handler -- who might have been Mohammed Saddique Khan, the elder statesman of the four-man cell, or a shadowy fifth operative who may or may not have visited Britain prior to the attacks -- had called the group together under the guise of testing them."

But there is a glitch here: the bomb on Bus no. 30.

If the leader had already exploded himself, would his follower then follow, if he had gone along on a 'training tour'? Here is what AP reports about Hasib Hussain after he got on the bus:

"This young guy kept diving into this bag or whatever he had in front of his feet, and it was like he was taking a couple of grapes off a bunch of grapes, both hands were in the bag," said Richard Jones, 61, of Bracknell, west of London. "He must have done that at least every minute if not every 30 seconds."

At least that means he must have been aware of what was in the bag at that time, whether he was arming or trying to disarm it. A possibility to uphold the thesis is that Hussain was the actual leader, having seen his plot to an end. Unlikely, but this is what the Guardian says about the famed CCTV photo:

"What do we see? At first glance, the man on the left, Hasib Hussain, seems to be the leader - first to stride into the ticket office, his face the clearest. Just 18 years old, Hussain went on to explode his bomb on the number 30 bus. "

The second scenario is that Al Qaeda is just sloppy around its operational security. More likely in my opinion. This would explain the Bus as either a malfunctioning device or Hussain being ushered out of the tube before he could set his bomb off.

There are prior examples of bad traits of OPSEC, from Stratfor:

"Consider Ahmed Ressam, whose behavior as he crossed the border from Canada was so suspicious that he attracted the attention of authorities and the Millennium Plot was unearthed. Ahmad Ajaj, traveling in the company of Yousef, was stopped at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 1992 carrying a suitcase full of manuals on bomb-making techniques. The Madrid bombers all boarded the trains they blew up from the same station. Mohammed Atta left pocket litter and documents detailing the 9/11 plot behind in a rental car. And Zacarias Moussaoui applied to a training school to learn how to fly -- but not land -- airplanes. The list goes on."

But earlier Burton has underscored that Al Qaeda is very risk adverse as an organisation. And they should be even more so when mounting operations on British soil. This points to a third possibility.

What if the bombers were making things up as they went along? They would probably have needed some help to make the explosives.

"Detectives who searched el-Nashar's flat found signs that quantities of a compound called TATP, or triacetone triperoxide, had been converted into a powerful explosive, the Times of London reported."

But it would explain the faulty OPSEC. Furthermore it would fit with the current impression of Al Qaeda's modus operandi - where Bin Laden and the top echelons don't really have so much control over actual operations.

An entire fourth scenario could be that they just didn't care. This however would compromise whoever they might have been in contact with.

Quote of the day

Should our private moral be kept separate from the states morale? Chris Brown writes:

'Global politics presents us now with a range of questions which can no longer be compartmentalized into a box marked "international relations - not for internal consumption".'

Brown, Chris, Understanding International Relations, Second Edition, (Houndsmills: Palgrave, 2001), p. 240


Jeg har aldrig været tilhænger af at lægge politikere for had for løgnagtighed. For det er da klart at jobbet kræver at man ikke maler sig op i et hjørne - specielt i den danske konsensus-politik.

Men jeg må tage mig selv i et dybt, misantropisk suk hver eneste gang der er en politiker som bliver snuppet, ikke bare i en upræcished, men i en lodret løgn. For I er selv ude om det dårlige ry.

Den slags løgn hvor der, mens den blev stukket, har været en stor tankebobbel over politikerhovedet: "Det finder de idioter sgu aldrig ud af".

Bertel Haarders Vase-sag er i den kategori.


Destroy all lines - a leap of faith

Today I read Chuck Palahniuk's Nonfiction. Being the author behind 'Fightclub' he is a voice for the post-modern anomie, the state of modern boredom and desperation or whatever you would like to call it. He is excellent at giving a voice to the sense of directionlessness and unfulfilled longing that most urban male youths have felt at some time or another.

In one of his essays he mentions the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard and his concept of the leap of faith. He states that breaking the law is an inescapable duty of man as to demonstrate that he is free, even though it destroys him in the process. The example is Adam in paradise that, when given the only rule 'don't off the tree' breaks it to prove that he is free (and thus human one could say) but is cast out of paradise for the selfsame reason.

The London bombers apparently were young men, awokened to a jihadist, extremist ideology that led them to become suicide destructors. And it all gave a little more sense after reading Palahniuk. Because haven't all the unsatisfied youths longed for that ideology that would be an organ to play or be played by and thereby letting off the steam that threatens to tear a heart from the inside with tail-chasing frustration. The London bombers found their ideology. They rebelled against an unbendable law 'you must not kill', were free as individuals and died of it. Luckily most other uneasy young men keep it to fighting, copulating, drinking and whatever takes their mind off things...

Of course fundamentalist religion fits really bad with post-modern urban anarchy. But that these fusions happen is the truly mind-boggling thing about the jihadist movement and all those others who oposes the post-modern anomie. In all their anti-(post)modernity they become truly post-modern themselves.

(Destroy all lines is a song by Ben Wa - you can download it for free here)


Orientering til tiden

Radioprogrammet Orientering bærer nok en stor del af skylden for min interesse for international politik og strategisk grublen. Men jeg har ikke kunnet høre de ofte indsigtsfulde analyser i et årstid, fordi DRs hjemmeside ikke altid er så god til Apple computere.

Men DR er hoppet med på podcasting bølgen og nu henter mit iTunes program automatisk Orientering en gang om dagen og jeg kan høre orientering når det passer mig, pause og gå ned efter en kaffe og høre resten af programmet under min eftermiddagslur. Hurra! Nu kan jeg være en glad radio-lytter nogle år endnu...


The oratory of grief

When I returned yesterday night London looked like itself. The top deck of the double decker was littered with old papers and paper cups. Only the flowers in front of the closed steel bars of Liverpool Street Station revealed that something extraordinary had happened during my three-week absence from the City.

But others must feel it in a much more powerful way.

Today the Guardian brings Marie Fatayi-Williams's speech. The speech was held as she had come from Nigeria to look for her missing son Anthony, feared killed on the no. 30 bus.

It is commented by the British colonel Tim Collins who himself delivered a very moving speech at the onset of the Iraq war. His insight into his own and Marie Fatayi-Williams's speeches isn't that profound or deep - but nevertheless it is important: speeches borne by real emotions, not prepared by aides or assistants, have a much higher chance of rocketing into a true, memorable rhetorical artifact.

Read Marie Fatayi-Williams's speech first of all to hear what she wants to say, but then note how she draws from the repository of our common religious vocabulary and experience.


Explosions in London

Luckily I am in Copenhagen today, but I hope that most the rest of London is OK...
London explosions 'mirror Madrid bombings'


Revolution in Danish Military Affairs

As president Bush is dining with all the Danish bigwigs as a 'thank you' for the Danish commitment to Iraq, I just came to think about the military influences that the US has on a small country as Denmark, when seen as technology, philosophy and politics.

And I didn't stop with the thinking - I have uploaded an essay that I wrote in March called 'How is a small power influenced by the Revolution in Military Affairs? The Danish Example'.

You can download it in Papers.


Danish Foreign Policy

It is a good time to be studying Danish security policy.

Apart from the recent comprehensive History of Danish Foreign Policy mentioned earlier, the Danish Institute of International Studies have been busy recently and published Danish Foreign Policy Yearbook 2005, which is in English, and a huge tome on Denmark in the Cold war with extensive research on East Bloc espionage and intelligence activity in Denmark.