Like Deja Vu All Over Again by Asymmetric Warfare (Internet | OSINT | HaYishuv)

There is overlap in space if not in time between NW 253 bomber Abdulmutallab and various unsavory characters and websites. Perhaps it’s just a case of like-minded people moving through similar places at similar times in their lives, but then again, maybe Abdulmutallab came into contact with some of these people, particularly in what appears to be his critical period of radicalization in London circa 2005-2007. At this point all I have are suspicions and some interesting data points to share.

• Abdulmutallab is reported to have journeyed to Houston to attend a training seminar at the al-Maghrib Institute.

• Houston was, and perhaps still is, the base of operations for Sasjamal, aka Sarfaraz Jamal, proprietor of the Clear Guidance and Islamic Networking forums. The former having been implicated in the Toronto 17 case, and the latter in the case of convicted US terrorist Dan Maldonado. Mr. Jamal was an associate of convicted UK terrorist Aabid Khan. Mr. Jamal also hosted the blog of Samir Khan for quite some time, and Samir is as close as you’ll get to a leader of the indigenous US salafi/jihadi/pro-al-Qaida movement.

• The al-Maghrib Institute has a forum at

• A 2005 DNS query regarding one of Sasjamal’s many websites suggests a connection between al-Maghrib and Sasjamal:

DNS records

name class type data time to live IN MX

preference: 10


86400s (1.00:00:00) IN SOA



serial: 1128947949

refresh: 10800

retry: 3600

expire: 604800

minimum ttl: 86400

86400s (1.00:00:00) IN NS 86400s (1.00:00:00) IN A 86400s (1.00:00:00) IN PTR 86400s (1.00:00:00)

• The fact that sasjamal has UserID number 2 on the forum makes it a certainty that he is associated with the al-Maghrib Institute (and probably helps explain where the funding for his online activities comes from).

• IbnMardiyah, closely associated with Sasjamal, resident of Canada, and at least loosely associated with the Toronto 17 plotters, was active on the almaghrib forum circa 2004-2005. At some point he was removed as a member but his posts remain on the forum.

• Dan Maldonado (aka “daniel aljughaifi”) was also associated with the forum before going to work for Sasjamal as moderator of the Islamic Networking forum.

• Moving forward in time I note there is overlap between the followers of Samir Khan and the al-Maghrib Institute. For example, on 14 February 2008 someone calling himself “Chaowdri” posted the “ABCDEFG Khutbah Recipe” from the al-Maghrib Institute as a comment on Samir’s blog (see comment three of the archived page).

• There is overlap between the followers of Anwar Awlaki and the al-Maghrib Institute as demonstrated by this helpful comment left by a reader of Awlaki’s blog.

View archive of page from Awlaki’s blog

• The Houston-based Crescent Youth organization might also be of interest to those looking for any Awlaki-Abdulmutallab-Houston connections. A Google search for “awlaki” returns 249 hits. I will add, however, that not all the denizens of the Crescent Youth forum are entirely comfortable with Sheikh Anwar (see for example their post-Ft. Hood discussion).


See also: Houston-based group hawked Al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki’s cds even after Ft. Hood massacre, Undie-bomber attended their “Ilmfest” conference at The Jawa Report

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Hacker Breaks GSM Mobile Phone Code by Antone Gonsalves


A German computer scientist working with a team of experts has broken the code used to secure about 80% of the world’s mobile phones. But the group responsible for protecting GSM communications said Tuesday the feat is a “long way from being a practical attack.”

Researcher Karsten Nohl, a former graduate student at the University of Virginia, revealed his decryption methods this week at the Chaos Communication Conference in Berlin, the largest hackers conference in Europe. Nohl and a team of two dozen other experts worked for five months to crack the security algorithm that protects Global System for Mobile communications.

GSM is the world’s most widely used phone technology, accounting for more than 4 billion mobile phones. To prevent eavesdropping, the technology uses an encryption algorithm called A5/1 developed by the GSM Association.

To break the code, Nohl and the other researchers used networks of computers to crunch through the trillions of mathematical possibilities. The result was the development of a code book comprising 2 TB of data that’s compiled into cracking tables. The tables can be used as a kind of reverse phone book to determine the encryption key used to secure a GSM mobile phone conversation or text message.

Before the latest hack, hundreds of thousands of dollars of computer equipment was needed to break the GSM code, mostly limiting hacking to government agencies. Nohl told the conference that someone with the code book could eavesdrop on GSM communications using about $30,000 worth of computer gear, making such illegal activity possible by many more criminal organizations.

On Tuesday, a GSMA statement sent to InformtationWeek by e-mail said Nohl’s work “isn’t something that we take lightly at all.” Nevertheless, the organization said, the hack did not present an immediate danger to GSM security.

“All in all, we consider this research, which appears to be motivated in part by commercial considerations, to be a long way from being a practical attack on GSM,” the organization said.

The GSMA said in a statement that over the last few years, a number of academic papers have explained, in theory, how the A5/1 algorithm, which is more than 20 years old, could be compromised. “However, none to date have led to a practical attack capability being developed against A5/1 that can be used on live, commercial GSM networks,” the group said.

One area not covered by Nohl’s work, according to the GSMA, is how the GSM call would be identified and recorded from the radio interface. To do that, a hacker would need a radio receiver system and the signal processing software necessary to process the raw radio data.

“So far, this aspect of the methodology has not been explained in any detail and we strongly suspect that the teams attempting to develop an intercept capability have underestimated its practical complexity,” the GSMA said.

Nevertheless, the group recognizes that A5/1 needs to be replaced, and is in the process of phasing in a new security algorithm called A5/3.

Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, or the ‘Yeah, Whatever’ School of Counterterrorism by Asymmetric Warfare (Internet | OSINT | HaYishuv)

I’d like to be able to say with confidence that if this had happened in the USA, if Abdul’s dad had walked into his local FBI office and told an agent that his kid was radicalized and was last known to be Yemen and had cut off all contact with the family, that this case would have been handled differently. In reality it probably depends on the particular office, and whether the analyst the matter was referred to understands that Yemen truly is the Waziristan of Arabia. In any event, whatever can be uncovered about Abdul after he tried to bring down NW Flight 253 could likely have been uncovered prior to his boarding the flight. If the current rules don’t allow such an investigation to occur, they need to change. And to the extent current leadership in the various agencies discourage the pursuit of such leads, those people need to leave – preferably on a commercial airline flight.

My preliminary bibliography is here…

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A Chance to Inspire by David Fosberg

I recently concluded a month-long sabbatical which allowed me to completely disconnect from the day-to-day grind of work. This precious time away, which was five years in the making, also provided a rare opportunity to slow down, take stock in what I truly value, and reacquaint myself with the good people in my life that have helped shape who I am today. There is no doubt about it, and I would be the first to admit, that I am truly fortunate in the places that I get to visit and the people, culture, and customs that I am able to observe and learn about. But this sabbatical was not about traipsing off to some distant foreign land, but rather it was about the act of coming home and reaffirming the roots that are so important to me and from which I take great pride and inspiration.

Over the years, I’ve certainly benefited from the many teachers, classmates, coaches, teammates, colleagues, and friends that I have rubbed shoulders with and who have pushed and inspired me. Yet I often wonder about the younger generation back in my home country. Who is inspiring them, who is moving the bar higher, who is opening their eyes to the broader world which we all now share and are directly tied to more than ever before? I seriously worry about the capacity and capability of my country to maintain and grow the prosperity that has been so dutifully cobbled together by the hard work, industriousness, creativity, and tenacity of America’s earlier generations. I am not necessarily picking on today’s young Americans but rather I am directly targeting the specific conditions that erode any nation’s aspirations for greatness, which are Complacency, Entitlement, & Self Absorption.


When did “good enough” ever stir the passions of an organization, an industry, or a nation? The answer is never. Market forces reward the innovator and value creator and in turn punish the bloated and conceited. You can debate the appropriateness of the financial bail-out for two of America’s most storied auto companies, but how many wake-up calls does a person, an organization, or an industry deserve in order to get the message? These companies have been here before in the early 80s when Japan was kicking their Detroit posteriors. What was learned from that experience? Fast forward 20 years later and they continue to crank out cars that neither inspire us to dream nor meet or exceed the new benchmarks established by the competition.


When did it become a Right for your kids to live better than you did? The answer is never. Improvements, progress, and prosperity are earned; not paid for on financial lay-away plans or horrific IOUs. We do nothing positive by placating to our kids’ never-ending Want List. Our children are reflections of what they themselves see around them, and right now they see their parents and their country strapped with debt in an attempt to provide the American Dream for every man, woman, and child. The point is that the American Dream has never been about amassing “things” or providing a certain level of living standard. Instead, it has always been about taking bold chances and maximizing the unique opportunities that exist here to fulfill aspirations that are backed up by hard work, creativity, and innovativeness.

Self Absorption:

When did entertainment move from providing amusement to now becoming the lynch pin in our social fabric? Americans today find themselves in a fast-paced attention deficit creating environment where the night’s Reality TV programing schedule, or celebrity worship, or the views of bickering and polarizing politicians have cannibalized and decayed our psyche into thinking that these are the things that matter.

I’ve painted above some real scary things that I have observed happening to my country while sitting half way around the world. I’ve also born witness to the speed at which other nations are racing to not just catch up with the US but also to surpass it. For a long time, I’ve wanted to sound the alert and voice these concerns to a group of American young people who are, in my belief, the best positioned to accept the challenge and respond positively. On my sabbatical, I finally got that chance.

My childhood friend, Stuart Foster, is a high school teacher. Stuart, or Stu as I have always called him, has teaching in his blood. His mother is a teacher as is his sister. Stu wasn’t always an educator, as he started out professionally as a financial analyst but gave it all up to become a teacher. He takes it seriously and thank goodness he does. It is probably the most important job that any of us could have. Upon hearing that I would be back home in Oregon for the entire month, Stu reached out to me and asked if I would like to come into his Intro to Marketing class at Woodburn High School, to address the kids on core marketing concepts and strategies but more importantly to give them both global insight and perspective as well as to encourage and enlighten them on what can be achieved when you establish strong goals and lock in on ways to accomplish them.

I was really excited for this opportunity and like any good marketing guy, I assembled a presentation to help clearly illustrate my points that I wanted to leave with the class. This was no easy crowd by the way and I had a miserable time slot. I spoke to Stu’s class during first period and on a Monday no less. It was early and the kids strolled into class yawning and were visibly tired. I had my work cut out for me.

My first step was to try and develop a degree of commonality with the class. They didn’t know me and I didn’t know them. The composition of the class was made up of 90% Latinos, 8% Russians, and 2% Anglos, which to me was quintessential America, a land that draws its heritage and success from its ethnic diversity. All these kids were Oregonians in my book and so was I. I went to high school myself less than 20 miles down the road from where we were standing, so I wanted to show them that a kid from Oregon can make it out in the world and so could they.

I took them on a not-so-short journey that had taken me from a high school student in West Linn, Oregon, to a college graduate at Oregon State University, to studying business at the feet of one of our greatest management minds, Peter Drucker, to joining the tech industry at one of the world’s fastest growing PC companies, to working for the world’s largest microprocessor company on three different continents (North America, Europe, and now Asia). The lesson was simple. I had a goal in mind and each individual step brought me closer and closer to meeting my objective. It wasn’t so much about the stamps in my passport, which don’t get me wrong have been some of the most rewarding experiences in my life, but it has more so been about the choices we are presented and more importantly the choices we create for ourselves that make the difference along the pathway that will guide us.

I then transitioned to an activity that required the class to be broken up into groups. Each group was given a different target customer profile and was asked to create a marketing program that would be tailored for that specific audience. Each team prepared their ideas and then reported out to the class. There were some real creative ideas which gave me hope and affirmed that these kids had the potential that I was looking for. I then showed them a short video that demonstrated how this activity played out in real life so that they could see how classroom theory really does have applicability in the real world.

As I moved to the last area of my discussion, I wanted to shock the class into the cold yet honest reality that I see from my vantage point living overseas. Nothing is guaranteed or certain. Dominant economies are based upon knowledge not commodities and this knowledge can now be sourced virtually from anywhere in the world. So the question was… Are You Ready?

I gazed into the eyes of this group of students before me. They were not much different than me when I was 18 years old. I want each and every one of them to succeed in career and in life. What I left them with were things I thought they could start doing right now to help set themselves up for success no matter what obstacles may get tossed in their way. Earning their college degree is going to have to be essential but from there, they have the opportunity to develop a sense of life-long learning which I think is so critical. I also wanted to compel them to become more globally aware. The US often times become insular and inward focused and I believe these kids can do a much better job of learning and reaching out with all the technology that is available today and get engaged with what life is like elsewhere. Lastly, I wanted the kids to develop a true sense of accountability and throw off the victimistic attitudes that so often plagues and demoralizes young minds. If you don’t like your situation, then change it. Don’t blame others for your circumstance but rise up and take positive actions to break out and change things for the better. In this vain, I once again referred back to my graduate business school professor Peter Drucker for his sage advice. Peter famously said,

“The best way to predict the future… is to create it!”

In the days that followed my presentation to the class, I received thoughtful emails of thanks from many of the students. I’m pretty sure Stu had asked them to write the notes, but I could tell from the varied responses that he didn’t tell them what to write.

“I just wanted to thank you for taking time off from your busy and exciting life to enlighten a class of high school seniors about the in depth world of marketing. I appreciated that you didn’t just talk about sticking to the confines of the U.S., you talked about how marketing ( in order to be successful) needs to expand throughout the world.”

“I’m very interested in how you managed to travel the world, and get paid for it.”

“Thank you for coming to our class yesterday and sharing your life story with us. Your experience helped influence me for my future in computer engineering, and opened my eyes to the world around me.”

“Knowing that you were able to achieve your dream of working in Asia makes me think that if i work hard i can achieve my dreams as well.”

“i just wanted to thank you for coming in yesterday and sharing your journey to success with us. it made me enthusiastic about my goals and also taught me to be patient as well. i will take your advise and look into how your game plan played out.”

“i want to thank you for your speech yesterday. it was very informative and interesting. and it was waaaaaaaay better than doing class work. ha-ha!”

Having this opportunity to reach out an work with some young American students was one of the most rewarding experiences during my sabbatical. I feel like the kids really took to heart what I was trying to say. Even though the emails were nice, and at times made me break out with a grin, if just one of these kids takes a big leap and changes their situation for the better, than it will have been worth it.

I’ll finish by leaving off with the closing slide that I gave to the students. I hope these kids will become strong, globally aware and compassionate, innovative, and ambitious leaders in whatever they set out to achieve. I’ve got renewed faith that if they do, America just may have deposited a few more coins into that piggy bank of continued growth and prosperity.

TIME Magazine: Should the U.S. Destroy Jihadist Websites? by Evan Kohlmann

TIME Magazine has published a new article on the simmering debate over whether the U.S. government should be aggressively shutting down and destroying jihadist Internet websites. This debate has received added attention in recent weeks from a series of unrelated incidents, including the Ft. Hood massacre and the arrest of several would-be American Al-Qaida recruits in Pakistan. In each of these cases, Internet websites and “virtual radicalization” have played a significant role in either persuading someone to carry out an act of violence–or even by providing the apparent contacts necessary to join a real terrorist group.

In reflecting on this series of events, some well-intentioned observers have suggested that the appropriate remedy for the Internet being used as a recruitment machine by terrorist networks is to methodically take apart the underground jihadi social networking forums, one after the next. While I understand where those sentiments come from, I personally don’t agree with them — and I don’t believe I’m alone. From TIME:

“But Arquilla’s logic doesn’t add up, counters Evan Kohlmann of the non-profit NEFA Foundation, created following 9/11 to track Islamic terrorism. Shutting down jihadist web sites “would be like firing cruise missiles at our own spy satellites,” he argues, referring to the intelligence the U.S. and its allies glean from such sites. Besides, it can’t be done. “If you shut down one of their websites today, they have a complete copy elsewhere and can put it up on a new server and have it up tomorrow,” Kohlmann says. Such websites are the only window the rest of the world has into al-Qaeda and other such groups. “If you start shutting down the websites,” he adds, “it’s like chopping up a jellyfish — you end up with lots of little pieces that are very difficult to monitor.” Kohlmann believes that the websites are a treasure trove of valuable intelligence, most of which is being overlooked by the U.S.”

And this, of course, does not even take into account the myriad of freedom of speech and civil liberty issues that would inevitably arise if the U.S. government was to start blacking out independent websites on the basis of content. And what about YouTube, which allegedly has served as the point of contact for Taliban recruiters looking for American volunteers — are we planning on shutting them down, too? In this case, perhaps it is a wiser policy to walk softly and carry a big stick — as opposed to swinging it around wildly in hopes of randomly hitting something.

Prospects for Turkey’s Role in International Politics at the Beginning of the 21st Century (WP) by Bahri Yilmaz


(1) Introduction

The purpose of this working paper is to discuss Turkey’s new role in international politics at the beginning of the 21st Century and to analyse the main political and economic challenges for the country to become a regional power of medium size.

The paper has three main parts. The first provides a brief overview of the main characteristics of Turkey’s international relations during the Cold War period. Then it examines Turkey’s present economic and political development in order to identify its basic handicaps and the pre-conditions necessary for becoming a regional power. The final section focuses on the future prospects of Turkey’s place in the international order.

Turkey’s international relations after the Second World War were mainly determined by three interdependent factors: (1) national security; (2) economic cooperation; and (3) the country’s full integration into ‘Western civilisation’ through the so-called ‘Europeanisation process’.[1]

Security Aspects
Turkey’s external relations with the Western world intensified immediately after the Second World War, when the militarist and traditional expansionist policies pursued by Stalin began to threaten Turkey. Despite the Turkish-Soviet treaty of Friendship in the 1920s, the Soviet Union made territorial claims to Turkey’s north-eastern provinces of Kars and Ardahan in 1945. The Soviets also called for joint Turkish-Soviet control over the Straits (the Bosporus and the Dardanelles). As a result, the Ankara government, at the time led by Kismet Innu, decided to adopt the Truman Doctrine in 1948 and Turkey joined NATO in 1952. With these decisions, Turkey gradually became ‘a reliable NATO partner’, playing the role of ‘south-east pillar, bulwark and last bastion’ against any military expansion by the Soviet Union towards the Mediterranean or the Gulf region. Therefore, Turkey came to be directly involved in the East-West conflict and antagonism.

Economic Aspects
At the beginning of the 1950s, Turkey was indisputably a poor country. Its economy showed characteristic socioeconomic features of underdevelopment. It had an annual per capita income level of roughly US$210, with a population of 20 million people who were mainly employed in the agricultural sector. The striking negative factors were the obvious scarcity of savings and foreign exchange and an extremely high level of unemployment. There was a lack of infrastructure in all fields. However, as Turkey was clearly unable to overcome its pressing economic problems with its own resources, it was unable to fulfil its military commitments as a member of NATO without military and economic assistance from the West. Apart from security interests, therefore, economic considerations played an important part in reinforcing Turkey’s pro-Western and unilateral foreign policy. Foreign aid and close economic cooperation with the industrialised NATO member states, which were mainly regulated and financed by the US and partly by West Germany, were obviously of vital significance for Turkey. The country would only be in a position to promote its economic development and thus meet its NATO commitments with the help of Western economic support. In line with the assignment of tasks within NATO, military assistance and financial aid were combined; the US and partly West Germany primarily shouldered the burden. This was one of the main reasons why the EC Commission accepted Turkey’s application for an association partnership.

Westernisation/Europeanisation/Modernisation through Negotiations with the EU
Turkey’s close cooperation with the West was not only designed to serve security and economic policy objectives but was also an indispensable component of the process of Westernisation, which had been initiated over 150 years ago and which was intensified after the republic was founded in 1923. This process served to strengthen Turkey’s bonds with Western civilisation. At the same time, it was hoped it would help to improve the country’s economic and technological performance and correct its deficiencies in democracy and human rights. The policy of Westernisation initially pursued in political life by the Western-oriented elite gradually gained increased popular support over the years, despite fundamentalist opposition. The finalisation of this process remains the guiding principal and irrevocable goal of Turkish domestic and foreign policy. It is one of the main reasons why Turkey is so eager to become a full member of the EU.

To Sum Up
Turkey’s close cooperation with the West during and after the Cold War period was mainly designed to serve security and economic policy objectives and was also a result of the Westernisation process. For the West, security interests played the dominant role in its relations with Turkey against Soviet expansionism.

On the collapse of the Soviet Union and the breakdown of the Communist regimes in Eastern and Southern Europe in the 1990s, Turkey was suddenly and unexpectedly forced to take a major political role and responsibility in the region, which was originally part of the Ottoman Empire and had been lost at the end of the First World War in 1918 in the wake of that empire’s dissolution. Turkey became a centre of political activities in the ‘devilish triangle’ of the regions defined by the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East.

At the beginning of the 1990s, Turkey was regarded as a potential regional power, that could play a dominant role in the region by re-shaping the international order from the Balkans, over the Middle East and the Caucasus, to Central Asia. With a growing self-confidence, policy-makers in Ankara underlined the country’s new role in international politics in each government programme presented to the Turkish Parliament.[2] In 1991 the collapse of the Soviet Union opened up a new dimension for Turkey with the establishment of diplomatic relations with the new ‘Turkic Republics’.

The opinion in the West was that in this new situation Turkey had a major role to play in the region. Under Turkey’s leadership and in cooperation with the US and Western Europe, conditions in the Caucasus and Central Asia should be re-shaped in such a way as to fill the power vacuum. One central idea was the export of the so-called ‘Turkish Model’ to the countries of both regions, based on three main pillars: (1) secularism in an Islamic society; (2) a western-style pluralistic-democratic system; and (3) a free market economy. Turkey was ascribed the role and function of a stabilising element or buffer zone and a political and social model in order to curb fundamentalist Islamic tendencies in both regions.

However, 18 years and several Turkic summits later, the slogan of the Turkic area ‘from the Adriatic to Great Wall of China’ now has a hollow ring to it. The enthusiasm of the initial (re-)encounter with the people from Central Asia was followed by a return to business as usual.

(2) What Went Wrong?

Here are some plausible arguments:[3]

  • One of the main reasons for this is that, like every other country, Turkey was caught unaware by the events of 1989-90. At the time, it was in the middle of a heated election campaign in which parties were busy with domestic issues. The major factor was that Turkish foreign policy actors have so far failed to adjust to the resulting situations of conflict. During the Cold War period, Ankara was not well prepared to diversify its foreign relations and never tried to seek possible foreign policy alternatives. Under the awkward foreign policy circumstances and the resultant involvement in the East-West conflict, it settled on the country’s incorporation into the Western system and it did not want or need to play an active part in international relations.

  • The end of the bipolar system and the Cold War not only caused radical changes around Turkey but also had an immense impact on domestic affairs. Consequently, existing political taboos were broken. Issues and problems such as human rights, ethnic and religious identities and democratisation as a frank discussion, all of which had been forbidden and suppressed for decades, began to be aired openly in public and in the media. The need for radical changes and sweeping transformations are imperative in every field of economic, social and political life. Economic problems, the widespread nepotism in state-owned enterprises, corruption and the abuse of power by many politicians remained at the top of the list.

  • Party leaders and governing elites, who grew up and served under Cold War conditions, have been shocked by the partly unexpected radical political and economic changes taking place around the world. In fact, it was quite difficult for politicians and established institutions to interpret the new circumstances and to adjust adequately and correctly by reviewing and improving party politics and programmes. A political ‘changing of the old guard’ and a generational shift not only in the political landscape and in the state but also in all institutions –private and state-owned alike– was therefore absolutely essential. Turkey has been challenged both domestically and internationally and, thus, the pressure on Turkey has grown irresistibly.

  • However, much of the establishment appeared to be indifferent to –and uninterested in– a series of political and criminal scandals. At this stage, the country’s need for a political leadership with a long-term perspective, vision, determination and willingness became very urgent, as it became necessary to ensure internal political stability and solve current problems with well-prepared programmes within a democratic pluralist system. On the economic side, Turkey began to open up its economy to the world markets in the 1980s, before the transformation process in the Eastern and South-Eastern European countries was underway. Since the mid-1980s Turkey made impressive progress by restructuring its economy from inward to outward looking. The new economic policy forced the country’s industrial sector to compete in the international markets. It is regarded as one of the most promising economies among newly-emerged markets. But, unfortunately, at the beginning of the 1990s, due to populist and inconsistent policies, ‘a two steps forward and one step backward’ sequence was established, with the outward looking development strategy being interrupted on account of significant failures by Turkey’s policy makers. A country that intends to become a full member of the EU would under real circumstances have had to begin switching import-substitution policies for export-oriented policies much earlier than in the 1980s, and preparation for full integration into the EU would have had to be actually completed before the establishment of the Customs Union in 1996.[4]

  • In the 2000s, the three main issues on the Turkish political agenda have been: (1) the rolling back of secularism, the spread of the Islamic movement in the country and the advance of the Islamists within Turkey’s power structures; (2) the so-called ‘South-Eastern question’ (or Kurdish issue); and (3) the incapacity of Turkey’s political system to adjust to the rapid economic and social changes that have taken place since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The country has suffered from the inability and unwillingness of the short-sighted politicians of the Cold War period. Due to these factors, the 1990-2002 period can best be described as a decade of political and economic instability created by various coalition governments. It has also been a ‘lost decade’, characterised by economic and political crises.

(3) Milestones in the Period 1990-2008

There were three radical political and economic events that changed the Turkish scenario after 2002.

  1. The start of an open-ended negotiation process for full EU membership. The EU finally decided to start membership negotiations with Turkey on 3 October 2005. As promised by Europe’s leaders at the 2002 Copenhagen summit meeting, the EU-25 unanimously agreed to open accession negotiations with Turkey on the basis of ‘The Progress Report on Turkey’ of 2004 and the Commission’s recommendations of 6 October 2004.[5]

  1. The Turkish economy recorded tremendous growth and a remarkable recovery after the 2001 economic and financial crises.[6] The coalition government formed after the April 1999 elections made fighting inflation its first priority. In this respect, Ankara signed a ‘stand-by agreement’ –or new stabilisation policy– with the IMF on 22 December 1999. Despite some initial success, the programme collapsed in February 2001 for three basic reasons: (a) a lack of coordination of economic policies; (b) an unwillingness to implement structural reforms and privatise deeply mismanaged state-owned enterprises; and (c) distrust in the banking system, mainly in the state-banks ruined by politicians. Since November 2002 the AKP government, headed by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, held strictly to the stabilisation programme by following tight monetary and fiscal policies. The Turkish economy recovered impressively from the 2001 crisis in only a short time. Over the 2002-07 period, average economic growth exceeded 7% annually. Inflation was brought down from 70% to single digits in 2004 for the first time in three decades. Net public debt decreased from over 90% of GNP in 2001 to 45% in 2006. Turkey’s remarkable economic performance, based on the credible and sustainable stabilisation programme imposed by the IMF, improved confidence among foreign investors and thus created a favourable climate for higher levels of FDI.[7]

  1. The long march of the Islamists to power. Turkish voters went to the polls on 3 November 2002, and this election was widely seen as the most important for many years. The results of the general election confirmed in an impressive way the Islamists’ expectations. Erdoğan’s AKP gained a massive parliamentary majority, with more than a third of all votes cast and 363 out of 550 seats. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) will be in the new parliament as an opposition party. In 2007, the AKP was financially, numerically and organisationally ready to pursue its permanence in power over the following decades. Its second breakthrough came in the general election of 22 July 2007, the results of which were an historic success: it increased its share of the vote from 2002’s 34% to 47% and was especially successful in the East and South-East. Finally, a party with deep Islamic roots had won a landslide victory in Turkey.

The reasons for the heavy defeat of the established political parties after 2002 and for the unstoppable rise of the Islamists can be summarised as follows:

  • It is widely believed that one of the main reasons for the AKP’s successive election results was the splintering in Turkey’s political scenario, with none of the established parties being able to gain more than 20% of the votes regardless of their position in the political spectrum. Turkey’s present parliament consists of two centre-right parties (AKP, MHP), one centre-left party (CHP) and the Kurdish Party (DPT).

  • Another reason is that the established parties, regardless of their political attitudes or programmes failed to solve the huge economic, political and social problems that had accumulated over the decades. In other words, the governments led by the parties of the existing system showed neither the determination to carry through the right policies nor the political will or resolution for carrying out radical reforms. Therefore, their policies became unpredictable and confused, putting the government’s reputation at stake.

  • Policy uncertainty prompted a decline in investment, intensified speculation, a stronger underground economy and, accordingly, contributed to deepening the existing economic crisis. This caused dissatisfaction among those who were heavily affected by the high rate of inflation and the deterioration of the labour market, including small farmers, employees, the unemployed and marginal groups living on the outskirts of the big cities.

  • Given these circumstances, lower income groups and the working class began searching for something more promising, a political party that held out some hope for the future. Until the breakdown of the communist system that role had been played by the socialist and social-democratic parties, but now the Islamists and the AKP took it up. An election analysis indicates that the AKP’s voters not only consist of traditional-minded voters but also of ordinary people affected by economic instability and of so-called protest voters. These groups have apparently been persuaded by the Islamists’ ‘Change’ slogan. Over time it has become obvious that the main goal of the AKP and its predecessors (MSP, RP and FP) is the step-by-step re-Islamisation of society and the domination of Islam over all aspects of life, including the ‘modernisation and liberalisation of Turkish society’.

  • The AKP has promoted a moderate and sometimes centrist image as a ruling party, in stark contrast with the extreme political rhetoric and positions it had assumed as an opposition party. So far the Islamists give the impression that, in power, they first of all intend to consolidate their power and are trying to hold on to it under any circumstances.[8]

(4) What Should be Done?

Turkey’s future and possible leading role in the region depend to a great extent on three main factors:

(a) Macroeconomic stability, sustainable economic growth and diversification of economic relations with non-EU countries
An important aspect of international relations is that political and economic interests are intertwined. To the extent that there is an overlap in mutual economic interests, sustainable political relations can be launched. Consequently, the ability of a country to offer sizeable and stable economic opportunities is a pre-requisite to enter into sustainable international economic relations. Therefore, the capacity to create and maintain a stable domestic economic structure is of the utmost importance. One of the dimensions of that capacity is the existence of political structures, which can be only achieved with long-term stable macroeconomic policies within an open economy. In other words, the envisaged leading role in the region cannot be successfully achieved without a considerable national economic effort in creating sustainable economic growth and macroeconomic stability.

The high unemployment rate, rising current account deficit and unequal income distribution will continue to be at the top of the economic agenda in the coming years. Additionally, Turkey is facing very serious demographic, economic and democratic challenges such as rapid population growth, poverty, deficiencies in infrastructure, natural disasters (eg, earthquakes), poor education and research, health services, energy resources, environmental degradation, rule of law, human rights and reformation of economic and political institutions.[9] Apart from the country’s still unresolved economic problems, the widespread nepotism in state-owned enterprises, ongoing corruption, abuse of power by many politicians and bribery have hit the headlines and top the domestic policy agenda.[10] Both macroeconomic policy reforms intended to correct serious macroeconomic imbalances and structural reforms aimed at reducing the country’s considerable regional differences in income, as well as the infrastructure gap between urban and rural areas, which, in turn, induce political instability. The economic stability and structural policy reform will foster the economic integration process into not only the EU’s markets but also other regional markets.

(b) Europeanisation of political, economic and social life through the negotiation process and adaptation-implementation of the acquis
Turkey’s basic aim is to become a full member of the EU in the next decade, but there are major counter arguments to this. Turkey is different in many ways. It is the biggest, poorest country ever to have been invited to start talks, and the most culturally challenging. Obviously, its economic backwardness in comparison to the EU is one of the main obstacles. Therefore, it seems reasonable for Turkey to follow the logic of, on the one hand, moving towards full membership and, on the other, towards economic integration, including membership of the Monetary Union. It is often forgotten that Turkey’s political integration into the EU demands sustainable and stable economic development in the first place –in the spirit of Jean Monnet’s concept of political integration through economic integration–. So far, Turkey is the only country to have joined the Customs Union without being a full member of the EU. The considerable costs entailed by becoming a member of the Customs Union were shouldered without substantial financial assistance from Brussels. Independently from Turkey’s full membership of the EU, it should be fully integrated into the European Economic Union. This means that the free movement of manufacturing goods must be extended to the free movement of agricultural products and services.

The negotiations for EU membership appear to be the best choice to reform not only institutions but also to improve Turkey’s political system by changing its political culture. In this respect, the Turkish governments in power have to put their own house in order and continue to enforce and promote the so-called ‘Europeanisation Process’ –restructuring and modernising policies in all realms–. Regardless of its quest for full membership, implementation of EU legislation, norms, standards and regulations is essential for Turkey. Furthermore, as long as it does not achieve this, Turkey’s full membership will remain only a distant possibility.

(c) Political stability through modifying but retaining the Republic’s fundamental principles, with a contemporary re-definition of Ataturk’s legacy
Naturally, the government change in Ankara gave rise to speculation: would Turkey stand up against the ‘Iranian way’? After Iran and Algeria, might Turkey be next? Does the era of Atatürk and with it a modern, western-oriented and relatively liberal system of society come to its end? Would the first and last stronghold of a secular-oriented country in the Islamic world fall into the hands of fundamentalists? Can the advance of the fundamentalists be halted within a democratic-parliamentarian system? Would Turkey leave its Western allies?

In the Constitution of the Turkish Republic it is strictly underlined that Turkey is a ‘social, secular, democratic and legislative country’. Secularism is one of the fundamental pillars of the Republic, and is also closely related to women’s rights. Islamic societies have never faced the Reformation and the Enlightenment that changed Western Europe. Turkey’s Parliament has approved two constitutional amendments by significant majorities easing the ban on women wearing Islamic headscarves in Turkish Universities. The issue will create deep divisions within the Turkish population, in pro-secularist and anti-secularist groups,[11] and this might result in very serious political instability. It is argued by secularists that ‘this step will encourage radical [Islamic] circles in Turkey, accelerate the movement towards a state founded on religion and lead to further demands against the spirit of the republic’, whereas the governing AKP and the nationalist MHP say it is an issue of human rights and freedoms.[12]

The Ottoman Empire was a multi-cultural and multi religious state from the Adriatic Sea to the Yemen. Imperial vassals belonged to different religions, including Islam, Christianity and Judaism. However. The State’s legal system was based on the Sharia and represented by a powerful religious class of priests (ulema), who later became civil servants of the State. Since 1774 the Ottoman Sultans had actively exercised the function of head of the Empire and leader of the Muslim Caliphate at the same time.

Turkey adopted the so-called French integrationist model, which is based on the separation of State and religion.[13] Religion is considered part of private life and religious affairs are not admitted in the public sphere, while religious communities must operate under public law. Among a series of secular measures put into force were that the weekend holiday was moved from the Islamic holy day to the Christian Sunday and the Gregorian calendar replaced the Islamic lunar calendar. Discrimination of women in public life and public institutions was officially ended and the Swiss civil code replaced the former Islamic legal system. The Islamic education system was abolished and public religious schools were closed in order to safeguard secular education against both preachers and theologies. In taking these measures, the young Republic had a twofold objective. First, it aimed to overcome the country’s backwardness in the economic, technical and other fields. Secondly, it expected the political influence of religion on politics to be limited and any return of a political Islam to power prevented.[14]. The leadership believed, as Philip Robins put it, that ‘… Islam was repugnant as a manifestation of oriental mysticism which offended the rigour of European rationalism’.[15]

It should be borne in mind that Turkey is the only Islamic country that has consistently imposed laicism, despite the various political fluctuations and tensions over the decades, both domestically and internationally. Now one of the fundamental pillars of the secularist state seems to be breaking up and is being challenged by political Islam. A secularist Turkey is already facing serious difficulties in becoming a full member of the EU and, unfortunately, an overwhelmingly Islamised Turkey would have no chance at all.[16]

In our view, all parties represented in the parliament should accept the basic rules of the democratic game. They have to govern the country on the basic principles of a western-type democracy within the present constitutional framework. In these respects, the AKP has made two fundamental mistakes since 2002. First, it does not have sufficient experience or qualified leaders to deal with the country’s serious economic and political problems. Therefore, the AKP government has been forced to cooperate with the pro-Western oriented and secular institutions in a peaceful and efficient way. Secondly, each elected democratic government should look for peaceful solutions.[17] For these purposes, a broad consensus among the main interest groups and political segments of society and a readiness to share the costs of the new economic and political changes among all social groups are pre-conditions for successful restructuring and reform policies. Until now, the AKP leadership gives the impression that its absolute majority in Parliament entitles it to ‘change what they want according their own will regardless of the expectations of the rest of the population, even the main pillars and untouchable principles of the Republic, such as secularism’.[18]

The South-Eastern/Kurdish Issue
One of the main reasons why the ‘South-Eastern’ or ‘Kurdish’ issue cannot be solved is the experience of Turks with the micro-nationalist movement initiated by great powers such as the UK, France and Russia against the Ottoman Empire throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The Treaty of Sevres of 1920, which foresaw dismembering the Ottoman Empire was never ratified by the nationalistic forces of Mustafa Kemal but had a significant influence on the Turkish leadership and armed forces. The fear of dismemberment by foreign powers is deeply rooted and, therefore, any attempt that could be interpreted as leading to the collapse and dissolution of the Turkish State is intellectually resisted by its elites.

After terrorist activities started in 1984, the dominant belief was that the military solution was the best policy to tackle the issue and to preserve national unity within the existing borders. Thus, all previous governments left the solution in the hands of the military. However, the business community, the press and some of the Turkish intelligentsia have come to think that the military option is only part of the solution and that the problem should be resolved within the economic and political context of a democratic system with the participation of all groups.

In this framework, the economic solution of the issue now plays a dominant role and has the priority on the agenda. According to the SPO report, most investments and economic activities in the South-East are carried out by the state, which is the largest employer in the region. Private sector activities are negligible compared with the western part of the country. As long as the present economic conditions are not improved gradually and if the gap between the western and eastern parts of the country continues to broaden, no settlement will be possible for the time being and prospects would be more difficult for the future.[19]

Some commentators hope that Ankara will make some cultural and linguistic concessions and allow the Kurds to form their own political parties. Certainly, these small steps would contribute to solving the problem but would not resolve the fundamental economic issue: a firm and permanent political solution cannot be achieved unless it is linked to the economic performance of the country as a whole. There are two pre-conditions for the region’s economic development to catch up with the rest of Turkey: (1) the Turkish State must regain the trust of the people and re-establish law and order with their participation; and (2) a new and long-term oriented economic and social development plan must be prepared and enforced immediately in cooperation with the State, private business and local representatives.

The development plan should have a two-fold economic target. On the one hand, State economic activities should be replaced by private enterprise. So far, the Turkish State has invested huge amounts of money for infrastructure and created job opportunities for the limited amount of local civil servants and around 40,000 ‘village guards’ that are dependent on the financial support of the government. At this stage, the ‘war economy’ is the main source of economic activity in the region. Many people would face losing jobs if the armed struggle were to cease. The private incentive should be based on small-size enterprises and small farmers must be financially supported and protected by the State as regards market conditions for a certain period. For these purposes, a creative, profit-oriented business class for the region is requisite, who can take risks in managing economic activities.

The necessary financial funds can be created from three sources: (1) the introduction of new ‘extra-solidarity funds’ in the form of new taxes for the South-Eastern region, such as for the former East Germany after unification; (2) funds from international institutions and special financial help from the EU should be channelled towards the region; and (3) the State should support investments and production plants in the region by helping domestic and foreign investors from outside the region through credit guarantee funds, venture capital funds, tax exemptions and reductions and discounts in the cost of services. If all these measures hold, rapid economic growth could change the region’s face and economic structure, while also positively affecting its social structure and helping to abolish the feudal system. Meanwhile, the transformation process might be accompanied by new infrastructure investments in the field of education, health, roads and trade. A region with increasing self-confidence and a growing economy linked with the western part of the country and neighbouring nations would not only help the people in the region but also contribute to Turkey’s economic development.

An Assessment
The impression is that many politicians and people still believe that the failures of the Parliamentary system and governments can be corrected and their interests be protected by the military, as occurred in 1960, 1971 and 1980. However, in the long term globalisation and international competition will continue to re-enforce the democratisation process and help correct deficiencies. Reforms would undoubtedly be a long and sometimes painful and costly process, and the results less immediate. Thus, an economic liberalisation process should go hand in hand with a political liberalisation programme. Interest groups, who have continued to benefit from Cold War conditions in economic and political terms, are trying to maintain their status quo with all instruments available and on all fronts. For all that, the democratisation of Turkish society is proceeding in cooperation with the EU. It became obvious since 1991 that, first, the country’s necessary radical transformation process cannot be realised with the traditional policy instruments and practices based mainly on Cold War approaches within the old structure, and, secondly, that the degree of transformation will largely depend on the replacement of the politicians and civil servants who served in the Cold War period by a more open-minded generation. Those who desire the replacement of leadership in the political parties have, however, not yet demonstrated their willingness and ability to set in motion and resolutely effect tough, long-overdue processes of change.

Turkey has adopted all the political and economic institutions,[20] the rule of law and the fundamental principles of Western-type democracies, especially from Western Europe. However, it has not been able to enhance the quality of these institutions by having highly-qualified civil servants and experts. In other words, the institutions have not been fully respected and have been unable to gain a strong upper hand.[21] The basic problem seems to be the unwillingness, weakness and operational inability of the political power to restructure the state apparatus from bottom to top over time, under changing national and international circumstances. Knowing what is the right policy is not enough, it is also necessary to have both the political will and the power to implement it.

In our view, it seems to be a serious mistake to argue that political and economic liberalisation can be achieved through the re-Islamisation of Turkish society. The most suitable way would be the re-interpretation and the modification of the fundamental principles on which modern Turkey is based. It means that, as the Congress Party did in India by introducing comprehensive economic reforms in 1991, Ataturk’s party –the CHP– should renew itself by organising a great ‘reform convention’ to discuss and update all political and economic principles established by the founder of the Republic.[22]

It is a fact that economic and political challenges can be tackled by the political power within a free democratic society. Among the basic challenges facing Turkey are the quality, willingness and capability of Turkey’s political power. History shows that besides Atatürk’s revolution, which was achieved by a strong hand from above in the 1920s and 30s, the reform movements in the country were initiated and were mostly put into effect under pressure or sometimes blackmail from external forces or/and external anchors. Neither the late Ottoman rulers nor the governments of the Republic after 1950 were able to reform political and economic institutions of their own will. Interestingly, since the foundation of the Republic in 1923 none of the elected governments was able to introduce a new constitution or amend the current one deeply enough by their own initiative. All three republican constitutions implemented over the past 80 years –1924, 1960 and 1982– were put into effect by the military or by military regimes after a coup d’etat.

(5) What Will the Future Look Like?

Security aspects
US President Bill Clinton underlined the importance of Turkey for the region and for the US itself in a speech addressing the Turkish Grand National Assembly on 15 November 1999. He said that ‘Turkey has become an engine of regional growth. In the months ahead, together we will launch new projects worth billions of dollars mostly in the energy sector, to bring jobs to Turkey and to bring our two nations even closer’.[23] Turkish-American cooperation not only covers co-operation in the newly-independent states of the Caucasus and Central Asia, but also in the Balkans. Turkey has demonstrated its loyalty to NATO and also underlined the importance of its strategic position for any possible and perhaps inevitable regional conflicts. Then the Turkish government stated its intention of sending Turkish troops to conflict regions such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo under UN and NATO Commands. Washington supported Turkey joining multinational peacekeeping forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the framework of the Dayton Accords and in Kosovo. The US as the leading military force within NATO helped to end those wars and to establish peace in the Balkans. Furthermore, Washington supports the close Turkish-Israeli cooperation in the Middle East.

There are still no clear-cut and well-defined common European security and foreign policies regarding the Middle East, Central Asia and the Caucasus. Each member country follows its own interests and takes its own decision, as seen in the Iraq war in 2003. In this respect, it is not surprising that the Europeans were also unable to redefine and to clarify their security and economic interests for the next decades in their relations with Ankara as Washington did.[24] The EU still considers Turkey a bridge between Europe and the East, and as a bulwark against the growing of danger of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. In conclusion, it can be argued that Turkey will remain in NATO both for its own security and for the security of other member countries as long as NATO exists.

Economic Aspects
Turkey already reaps substantial economic benefits thanks to the Association Agreement signed with the EEC in 1963. After a series of negotiations, the agreement to establish the Customs Union was signed on 6 March 1995. With the final approval of the European Parliament in December 1996, the last barrier for accession to the Customs Union was to be removed as of 1 January 1996. According to the decision (No 1/95) of the Turkey-EC Association Council of 22 December 1995 on implementing the final phase of the Customs Union, Turkey would first eliminate all custom duties, quantitative restrictions, all charges having equivalent effect to customs duties and all measures having equivalent effect to quantitative restrictions in trade with the EU as of 1 January 1996.

This meant that Turkey had to open its economy completely to international competition. The Customs Union only covers the free trade of manufacturing commodities and processed agricultural products and not primary products and services. In the experiences of other member countries, the Customs Union would bring more costs than benefits in the short run. However, as far as the long term is concerned, the economic integration process with the Community will help Turkey transform its economy and catch up with the EU. Aside from the question of Turkey’s full membership of the EU, Turkey will be fully integrated into the European Single Market in the next decade.

At this stage of economic development, the new markets in the region have a complementary character and cannot replace the markets in the industrialised countries in the near future. The Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and the Islamic countries cannot provide serious alternatives to economic relations with the OECD and particularly with the Community. Only an economically strong country, which is fully integrated with the world’s most advanced economies, can have influence and play a leading role in the region.

Europeanisation Process
To join the EU, a new Member State must meet three criteria:[25]

  1. Political: stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.

  2. Economic: existence of a functioning market economy and the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union.

  3. Acceptance of the Community acquis: ability to take on the obligations of membership, including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union.

The negotiation process will help Turkey reduce its democratic deficiencies through adopting and implementing European norms and standards. If Turkey is able to complete the whole process successfully, its political and economic role in the region could change markedly.

We will have to wait and see whether institutional changes through the adaptation and implementation of the Copenhagen Criteria over time will have any radical impact on Turkey’s political system, political culture and mentality, and therefore on its economic institutions and lead to long-term sustainable economic growth. There are two scenarios for Turkey’s future role in the region:

  1. If Turkey enters the EU as a full member, then it will coordinate its political and economic activities with the EU. This means that Ankara will be fully integrated in the European security, economic and common foreign policy realms and it will follow policies in coordination with and on behalf of the EU.

  1. If Turkey fails to become a full member of the EU, for whatever reason, it will be integrated into the European Economic Union, remain in NATO and complete its Europeanisation process. In that case there could be four possible sub-scenarios:

  1. Privileged partnership: Turkey is fully integrated in the European Economic Union but not in the Political Union.

  2. Membership of the Mediterranean Union. These two options have been strictly rejected by Turkish governments.

  3. Forever a candidate: in this scenario the negotiation process can continue forever without a happy end, letting Turkey hope against hope in the future.

  4. Turkey can follow an independent foreign and security policy concerning its own national interests in close cooperation overwhelmingly with the US in the region. In an extreme case it could be fully anchored in the Middle East with all the features of an Islamic society.

In order to achieve its proclaimed target as a regional power, it is obvious that the need for political and economic change and its implementation made the initiation of radical reform measures in all fields of political and economic life inevitable. Therefore, the changes in political attitude and the rethinking process seem to be pre-conditions for an adjustment in the new international order after the collapse of the bipolar system, which existed since 1945. Turkey has been challenged both domestically and internationally and the pressure on it has therefore been mounting. At this stage, the country’s need for a political power with a long-term perspective, vision, determination and willingness has become very urgent, as the country wonders who will be able to establish internal political and economic stability and solve current problems with well-prepared programmes within a democratic pluralist system.

As a final note, it is sometimes forgotten that Turkey is a successor State to the Ottoman Empire and that it rests on the latter’s heritage. The good and bad experiences of the Ottoman times should help Turkey overcome its internal and external problems and to build genuine cooperation, progress and prosperity by working side by side with its neighbours and allies for an enduring peace in the region.

Bahri Yilmaz
EU Jean Monnet Professor and Professor of Economics at Sabanci University

[1] Heinz Kramer (1988), Die Europäische Gemeinschaft und die Türkei, Nemos Verlag, Baden-Baden, p. 159.

[2] Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit said in his government program (Programme of the 57th Government, presented to the Turkish Parliament –TBMM– on 4 June 1999): ‘Turkey’s traditional strategic importance and weight has become all the more pronounced as a result of recent developments in the Balkans, Caucasia, Central Asia, the Black Sea, the Mediterranean region and the Middle East. Turkey is now a key player in this axis, which might be called the process of “Euroasianisation” (Avrasya). Our government is resolved to make use of the opportunities and responsibilities of this position of our country to the benefit of our nation’.

[3] Bahri Yilmaz (1994), ‘Turkey’s New Role in International Politics’, Aussenpolitik, nr 45, January, p. 94.

[4] Decision No:1/95 of the EC-Turkey Association Council of 22 December 1995, Official Journal of the European Communities, Turkey, 13/II/1996.

[5] In December 2004, the European Council said that: ‘The European Council welcomes the decisive progress made by Turkey in its far reaching reform process and expressed its confidence that Turkey will sustain that process of reform […]. Turkey sufficiently fulfils the Copenhagen criteria to open accession negotiations […]. The European Council invites the Commission to present to the Council a proposal for a framework for negotiations with Turkey with a view to opening negotiations on 3 October 2005’.

[6] Bahri Yilmaz (forthcoming), ‘The World Economic Crisis and its Impact on the Turkish Economy’, Carnegie Melon Middle East Center, Beirut.

[7] It is commonly accepted that the impressive economic performance between 2002 and 2007 was supported by three basic factors: (1) a favourable international environment based on expanding word trade, relatively low inflation, low interest rates and strong demand for emerging market assets; (2) the important role of two external anchors, namely the IMF and the EU, in the implementation of the structural reform process and in establishing macroeconomic stability through sound fiscal and monetary policies during the past six years; and (3) the reform of economic institutions under pressure from external anchors and the full engagement and participation of the State’s apparatus in the process.

[8] Another AKP tactic was the so-called takkiye, defined as the ‘permitted behaviour of disguise for the sake of promoting the cause of Islam or furthering Islam in Turkey and elsewhere as a modern way of reconciling Islam with democracy’. Between 2002 and 2008, the AKP was trying to provide job opportunities for its supporters and important echelons of power were occupied by bureaucrats who were close to the governing party.

[9] The short- and long-term economic and political deficiencies and the still incomplete part of the Copenhagen criteria were underlined by the European Commission in the Progress Report on Turkey over the period 2002-07.

[10] William Chislett (2009), ‘Turkey’s EU Accession Reaches an Impasse’, Working Paper nr 34/2009, Elcano Royal Institute, p. 1: ‘In Turkey, the pace of reform has stalled. By June 2009 only around one-sixth of a self-developed list of legal reform measures announced in April 2007 had been passed. Global rankings show that the country is seriously underperforming in a wide range of areas. It stands 59th in the World Bank’s latest Doing Business Report, 58th in Transparency International’s 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index, 75th in the Heritage Foundation’s 2009 Economic Freedom Index, 84th in the latest UN Human Development Index, 102nd in the Reporters Without Borders 2008 Press Freedom Index and 123rd in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index. It is listed as only “partially free” in Freedom House’s 2008 Freedom in the World Report, and as a “hybrid” regime, ranking 88th, in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s first-ever survey of democracies (2007)’.

[11] Roger Cohen has named the opposing sides as the ‘secular fascists’ of the Kemalist establishment and the ‘Islam of fascists’ of the ruling AKP. See Roger Cohen (2008), ‘The Fight for Turkey’, New York Times, 23/VI/2008.

[12] BBC News, 30/I/2008 and 7/II/2008.

[13] The second model is the English pluralist model. Under this, each individual belongs to a multiplicity of communities and there is a backbone of common legal rules and principles that must apply to all.

[14] The senior prosecutor of the Republic, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, has made the charges official by asking the constitutional court to shut AK down because it has become ‘a centre for anti-secular activities’. In a 162-page indictment, the prosecutor argued that AK is using democracy as a vehicle for imposing sharia law. He asked the court to slap a five-year ban on more than 70 AK officials, including the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the President, Abdullah Gül. However, the Constitutional Court decided not to ban the AKP because although it voted six to five in favour of the ban, a seven-vote majority was needed. The chief judge said the party would be deprived of its state financing for a year, and said this was a ‘serious warning’ to it.

[15] Phillip Robins (1991), Turkey and the Middle East, Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, p. 8.

[16] Some European and US media seem to underestimate the importance of ‘secularism’ in a Muslim world. They suspect the decisions to be taken by the Turkish Constitutional Court concerning the banning of the AKP: ‘But Turkish secularism can be overly fundamentalist, implying not just a healthy separation of church and state but the total control of religion by the state. As for the constitutional court, it has a spotty, partisan record and a history of banning political parties, not always with good reason. Some 24 parties have been banned in Turkey since 1961 (against only three in Western Europe since 1950)’ (Economist, 12/VI/2008, p. 16b and 64), See also Economist, ‘Flags, Veils and Sharia’, 19/VII/2008, p. 33-36; and Wolfgang G. Lerch, ‘Der türkische Graben’, FAZ, 19/VI/2008, p. 1.

[17] Some academics believe that ‘A resentful, authoritarian, and nationalist Turkey would be the opposite in every aspect. More broadly, the success of Turkey’s experiment in synthesising Islam, secularism, and liberal democracy would be a rebuke to the clash of civilisations argument” (Ömer Taşpınar, 2007, ‘The Old Turks’ Revolt. When Radical Secularism Endangers Democracy, Foreign Affairs, vol. 86, nr 6, p. 130). Ziya Öniş argues that ‘… one of its (AKP) objectives is to extend the boundaries of religious freedom and encourage religious diversity as opposed to challenging the notion of secularism itself…’ (Ziya Öniş, 2006, ‘Turkey’s Encounters with the New Europe: Multiple Transformations, Inherent Dilemmas and the Challenges Ahead’, Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans, vol. 8, nr 3, December, p. 287. Almost the same political arguments, using the same sources, is presented by Asiye Öztürk (2009), ‘Der innenpolitische Kontext des aussenpolitischen Wandels der Türkei’, Discussion Paper/Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik/Bonn.

[18] See decisions given by the European Court of Human Rights regarding ‘headscarf at the universities, headscarf in the public services and the ban of the “Welfare Party”, the mother party of the AKP, the application of pupils from the religious schools (imam-hatip Lisesleri) for the military schools. See, European Court of Human Rights.

[19] See ‘Research for Social and Economic Grading’, DPT/SPO, Ankara, December 1966, p. 98.

[20] We define political power as the set of politicians, political parties and free elected governments. See Daron Acemoğlu, ‘Political Economy of Development and Underdevelopment- What are institutions’, Gaston Eyskens Lectures, Leuven, 10/X/2005, and Daron Acemoğlu, Simon Johnson & James Robinson (2005), ‘Understanding Institutions’, Lionel Robbins Lectures, LSE, 23-25/II/2005.

[21] According to opinion polls by the International Republican Institute, 86.5% of Turkish citizens trust the military forces more than any other institution including the political power. See Yalçın Doğan, Hürriyet, 10/VI/2008.

[22] Anvind Panagariya (2002), ‘India’s Economic Reforms’, Asian Development Bank, ERD Policy Brief Series, nr 2, p. 1-9,

[23] The White House, ‘Remarks by President Bill Clinton in an Address to the Turkish Grand National Assembly’, Office of the Press Secretary of the American Embassy, 15/XI/1999.

24[] The new European security interests are defined in general and imprecise terms: stability, prosperity and peace in Europe and its neighbourhood. see Heinz Kramer, ‘A Changing Turkey’, p. 223.

[25] Any country seeking membership of the EU must conform to the conditions set out in Article 49 and the principles laid down in Article 6(1) of the Treaty on European Union. The relevant criteria were established by the Copenhagen European Council in 1993 and strengthened by the Madrid European Council in 1995. They were finally stated in the Lisbon criteria set by the European Council Meeting in Lisbon in December 2007.

The World Digital Library (WDL) and Universal Access to Knowledge (ARI) by Abdelaziz Abid

Theme: The World Digital Library (WDL) makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world.

Summary: On 21 April 2009 UNESCO and 32 partner institutions launched the World Digital Library (WDL), a website that features unique cultural material from libraries and archives around the world. The site –– includes manuscripts, maps, rare books, films, sound recordings, prints and photographs. It provides unrestricted public access, free of charge, to this material.

Analysis: On 21 April 2009 UNESCO and 32 partner institutions launched the World Digital Library (WDL), a website that features unique cultural material from libraries and archives around the world. The site –– includes manuscripts, maps, rare books, films, sound recordings, prints and photographs. It provides unrestricted public access, free of charge, to this material.

Building Knowledge Societies: UNESCO’s Overarching Objective
One of UNESCO’s main mandates is to promote the free flow of all forms of knowledge in education, science, culture and communication. Libraries have always been part of UNESCO’s work in promoting universal access to knowledge.

The Organisation therefore promotes education, research and exchanges through the improved and increased availability of content on the Internet. To this end, it cooperates with a number of partners on the creation of digital and other repositories. UNESCO is particularly committed to support the World Digital Library to expand and grow worldwide.

Technology is flattening the communications landscape at an unprecedented pace, making it easier to share information and knowledge. Still, today, as in the past, the control of knowledge is subject to serious inequality, exclusion and social conflict.

Today’s knowledge divide refers to the gaps that exist in the four building blocks of Knowledge Societies, namely knowledge creation, knowledge preservation, knowledge sharing and knowledge application.

These four building blocks are at the heart of UNESCO’s efforts to harness the power of knowledge and information to foster development. Libraries, especially digital libraries, are truly at the heart of Knowledge Societies: they enable people to access, share and apply knowledge.

Why Digital Libraries?
Digital libraries extend traditional library services and offer many new options. Like any library, they should feature a high degree of selection of resources that meet criteria relevant to their mission, and they should provide services that facilitate use of the resources by their target community.

What do digital libraries offer users that cannot be found in traditional libraries? First and foremost, they are often able to provide access through distributed networks to a range of information that would prove impossible for even the greatest of the world’s traditional libraries. Also high on the list of attractions for many users is the opportunity to consult digital libraries from multiple locations. Items are never inaccessible because they have been loaned, sent to be rebound, wrongly shelved, stolen or are being used by another user at the same time.

Although research and development relating to digital libraries started in certain developed parts of the world, digital libraries are in reality a global phenomenon. People the world over have a need for timely and relevant information, even if the specific needs differ from community to community. With the development of digital libraries, users can now view and study collections from all over the world.

Overcoming the digital divide is a challenge that is being faced in many countries. Librarians, scholars and educators in many countries feel they have a role to play in bridging the digital divide by creating appropriate digital libraries and by ensuring that their users are information literate. Many institutions involved in developing digital libraries are also very active in creating content for their users in local languages to make the material more easily read and understood by the local user population.

Digital Libraries and Universal Access to Knowledge
The digitisation of local information sources, be they rare manuscripts, archives, photographs, museum artefacts or works of art, is an activity undertaken by many libraries and other cultural institutions worldwide. Some initiatives have a global perspective. Europeana, Google Book Search and the World Digital Library are three hallmarks.

Europeana gives direct access to more than 6 million digitised items from museums, libraries and archives across Europe. The target is to have 10 million digitised works available online by 2010. Over 1,000 cultural organisations from across Europe have provided material to Europeana. The Europeana interface is available in all official EU languages.

The digital objects that users can find on Europeana are not stored on a central computer, but remain with the cultural institutions and are hosted on their servers.

The selection of content is determined by EU countries and their cultural institutions. Whoever holds the material, whether individual libraries, audiovisual collections, archives or museums, decides what to digitise.

Europeana is a cultural project and not a commercial undertaking. It has a broader reach than a service such as Google Book Search because it provides access to different types of content from different types of cultural institutions, making it possible to bring together the works of a painter with relevant archival documents, as well as books written about his life.

Google Book Search
Google Book Search is a service from Google that searches the full text of books that Google scans, converts to text using optical character recognition and stores. Clicking a result from Google Book Search opens an interface in which the user may view pages from the book as well as content-related advertisements and links to the publisher’s website and booksellers. Through a variety of access limitations and security measures, Google limits the number of viewable pages and attempts to prevent page printing and text copying of material under copyright.

Google Book Search allows public-domain works and other out-of-copyright material to be downloaded in PDF format. For users outside the US, though, Google must be sure that the work in question is indeed out of copyright under local laws.

Five years after its launch, Google Books has posted over 10 million books through its partnerships with libraries (29 in the world today) and agreements with publishers. The initiative has been hailed for its potential to offer unprecedented access to what may become the largest online corpus of human knowledge.

The project, however, has certainly not been without criticism. Some European intellectuals have expressed concern that the disproportionate emphasis on works in English could shape access to historical scholarship, and, ultimately, the growth and direction of future scholarship. Also, of recent interest in the headlines, at times Google has not made a distinction between books in the public domain and books under copyright, provoking the ire of right holders and leading to legal action.

Another spot of contention is Google’s treatment of orphan works, those items for which it is difficult or impossible to determine the copyright holder. Google had claimed that these works became the company’s property after digitisation, but some copyright holders and authors emerged seeking compensation for the use of their works. A fund has now been established by Google to provide payment to those whose works were digitised under the assumption that they were orphan works.

Libraries are designed to make books available to readers. Google aims to make money. Between the two, a workable compromise can be found. We must defend the public good against private appropriation and only a solid agreement can protect that interest.

The World Digital Library
The World Digital Library (WDL) makes available on the Internet, free of charge and in multilingual format, significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world.

The principal objectives of the WDL are: (1) to promote international and intercultural understanding; (2) to expand the volume and variety of cultural content on the Internet; (3) to provide resources for educators, scholars and general audiences; and (4) to build capacity in partner institutions to narrow the digital divide within and between countries.

The WDL makes it possible to discover study and enjoy cultural treasures from around the world on one site. These cultural treasures include, but are not limited to, manuscripts, maps, rare books, musical scores, recordings, films, prints, photographs and architectural drawings.

Items on the WDL may easily be browsed by place, time, topic, type of item and contributing institution, or can be located by an open-ended search, in several languages. Special features include interactive geographic clusters, a timeline, advanced image-viewing and interpretive capabilities. Item-level descriptions and interviews with curators about featured items provide additional information.

Navigation tools and content descriptions are provided in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Many more languages are represented in the actual books and other primary materials, which are provided in their original languages. Browse and search features facilitate cross-cultural and cross-temporal exploration on the site. Descriptions of each item and videos, with expert curators speaking about selected items, provide context for users, and are intended to spark curiosity and encourage both students and the general public to learn more about the cultural heritage of all countries.

The World Digital Library was developed by a team at the Library of Congress, with technical assistance provided by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina of Alexandria, Egypt. Institutions contributing to the WDL include national libraries, and cultural and educational institutions from all over the world.

Examples of treasures featured include Arabic scientific manuscripts from the National Library and Archives of Egypt, early photographs of Latin America from the National Library of Brazil, the Hyakumanto darani –a publication from the year 764– from the National Diet Library of Japan, the famous 13th century Devil’s Bible from the National Library of Sweden and works of Arabic, Persian and Turkish calligraphy from the collections of the US Library of Congress.

Background and Key Features
US Librarian of Congress James H. Billington proposed the establishment of the WDL in June 2005. UNESCO welcomed the idea as a contribution toward fulfilling its strategic objectives, which include promoting Knowledge Societies, building capacity in developing countries and promoting cultural diversity on the Web.

A 2006 meeting of experts from all over the world led to the establishment of working groups to develop guidelines for the project, and to a decision by the Library of Congress, UNESCO and five partner institutions –the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the National Library of Brazil, the National Library and Archives of Egypt, the National Library of Russia and the Russian State Library– to develop and contribute content to a WDL prototype to be presented at the UNESCO General Conference in 2007. Input into the design of the prototype was solicited through a consultative process that involved UNESCO, the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and individuals and institutions in more than 40 countries.

The successful unveiling of the prototype was followed by a decision by several libraries to develop a public, freely-accessible version of the WDL for launch at UNESCO in April 2009. More than two dozen institutions contributed content to the launch version of the site. WDL now (November 2009) has 56 partners from 35 countries. Another 10 partners in seven countries are completing the formalities and will join in the next few weeks. Discussions are underway with many more prospective partners. It is expected that the 2009 target of 60 partners will be reached ahead of schedule. The WDL will continue to add content to the site, and will enlist new partners from the widest possible range of UNESCO members in the project.

The WDL features high-quality digital items reflecting the cultural heritage of all UNESCO member countries. The WDL represents a shift in digital library projects from a focus on quantity for its own sake to quality; quantity remains a priority, but not at the expense of the quality standards established during the start-up phase.

The WDL breaks new ground in the following areas, each representing significant investments of time and effort:

(1) Consistent metadata: each item is described by a consistent set of bibliographic information (or metadata) relating to its geographical, temporal and topical coverage, among other requirements. Consistent metadata provides the foundation for a site that is easy and interesting to explore, and that helps to reveal connections between items. The metadata also improves exposure to external search engines.

(2) Description: among the most impressive features of the WDL are descriptions of each item, answering the questions: ‘What is this item and why is it significant?’ This information, written by curators and other experts, provides context for users and is designed to spark the curiosity of students and the general public to learn more about the cultural heritage of all countries.

(3) Multilingualism: the metadata, navigation and supporting content (eg, curator videos) are translated into seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. This feature complicates maintenance, but brings WDL closer to the goal of being truly universal.

(4) Digital library technical development: the WDL team’s work with state-of-the art tools and technologies led to advances in cataloguing and multilingual website development:

  • A new cataloguing application was developed to support the metadata requirements.
  • A centralised tool with a translation memory was used, which prevents translators from having to translate the same word or phrase twice.
  • An interface was developed, which features the WDL content in ways that are appealing to non-traditional users and that encourage exploration of primary sources.
  • New technologies continue to be developed, improving workflow and reducing the time elapsed between content selection and availability on the site.

(5) Collaborative network: the WDL emphasises openness in all aspects of the project: access to content, technology transfer for capacity building, and partner, stakeholder and user participation. Technical and programmatic networks are seen as vital to WDL’s sustainability and growth.

The partners of the WDL are mainly libraries, archives or other institutions that have collections of cultural content that they contribute to the WDL. Partners may also include institutions, foundations and private companies that contribute to the project in other ways, for example by sharing technology, convening or co-sponsoring meetings of working groups, or contributing financially.

While many of the partners or prospective partners that wish to contribute content to the WDL have well-established digitisation programmes with dedicated staff and equipment, others, particularly in the developing world, do not have access to these capabilities. Over the years, the Library of Congress has worked with partners in Brazil, Egypt, Iraq and Russia to establish digital conversion centres to produce high-quality digital images. Much of the content on the WDL was produced at these centres.

The WDL supports UNESCO’s mission of capacity building in developing countries, and intends to work with UNESCO, partners in these countries and external funders to establish additional digital conversion centres throughout the world. These centres will produce content not only for the WDL, but for other national and international projects as well.

Content Selection Criteria
The following points will guide how partners and the WDL will approach the selection of sources that will present the history of humanity to the worldwide audience through the WDL.

  • Partner institutions are encouraged to select items or collections of items for inclusion in the WDL that best represent their respective national cultures.
  • In addition to presenting their national cultures, partner institutions are encouraged to contribute to the WDL collections or items from their holdings that relate to the history and culture of other countries.
  • The WDL Content Selection Committee may designate selected, high-profile subjects for treatment in an international comparative perspective, eg, ‘the history of writing’, and call for contributions from partner institutions that relate to these subjects.
  • Partner institutions are especially invited to contribute to the WDL items or collections from their holdings that are included in the Memory of the World Register.

Private and Public Partners
It is interesting to note that the WDL has received support from private and public partners, some of them for specific tasks, such as: Google, for the initial development of a WDL plan and the WDL prototype; the Qatar Foundation, to support the development of the Central Library of the Qatar Foundation as a key node in the WDL network; the Carnegie Corporation of New York to support the inclusion of cultural institutions from sub-Saharan Africa and Eurasia in the WDL; the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia, to support activities relating to the dissemination, through the WDL, of digital versions of manuscripts and other materials relating to science in the Arab and Islamic worlds; Microsoft; the Lawrence and Mary Anne Tucker Foundation, to support the establishment of a digital conversion centre at the Iraqi National Library and Archives; and the Bridges of Understanding Foundation, for the development of Middle East-related content for inclusion in the WDL.


What Does the Future Hold?
UNESCO is fully committed to supporting the WDL to expand and grow worldwide. It is working with the Library of Congress to enlist new partners in the project, especially in developing countries. WDL now has 56 partners from 35 countries. Many more libraries, archives and other educational and cultural institutions from around the world have expressed their intention of participating in the WDL, meaning that the cultural treasures represented on it will continue to grow.

Abdelaziz Abid
Consultant, UNESCO

The Homegrown Terrorist Threat to the US Homeland (ARI) by Lorenzo Vidino


Theme: Radicalisation into violence affects some small segments of the American Muslim population and recent events show that a threat from homegrown terrorism of jihadist inspiration does exist in the US.

Summary: The wave of arrests and thwarted plots recently seen in the US has severely undermined the long-held assumption that American Muslims, unlike their European counterparts, are virtually immune to radicalisation. In reality, as argued in this ARI, evidence also existed before the autumn of 2009, highlighting how radicalisation affected some small segments of the American Muslim population exactly like it affects some fringe pockets of the Muslim population of each European country. After putting forth this argument, this paper analyses the five concurring reasons traditionally used to explain the divergence between the levels of radicalisation in Europe and the US: better economic conditions, lack of urban ghettoes, lower presence of recruiting networks, different demographics and a more inclusive sense of citizenship. While all these characteristics still hold true, they no longer represent a guarantee, as other factors such as perception of discrimination and frustration at US foreign policies could lead to radicalisation. Finally, the paper looks at the post-9/11 evolution of the homegrown terrorist threat to the US homeland and examines possible future scenarios.[1]

Analysis: The American authorities and public have been shocked by the tragic events of 5 November 2009, when Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly opened fire against fellow soldiers inside the Fort Hood military base, killing 13 people and wounding 30 others. The shooting triggered a heated debate over Major Hasan’s motives. Earlier analyses focused on personal and psychological factors, such as his alleged distress towards his forthcoming deployment to Iraq and the abuses he had reportedly suffered from other soldiers. As the days went by, more and more evidence surfaced pointing to Major Hasan’s radical Islamist sympathies. Colleagues and acquaintances described many instances in which the Virginia-born Army psychiatrist had expressed extremely negative feelings towards the US and praised acts of violence against it. Reports also indicated that the FBI had investigated Major Hasan’s e-mail conversations with Anwar al Awlaqi, a US-born Yemeni-based cleric known for his fiery rhetoric and links to two of the 9/11 hijackers.

Authorities have so far been reluctant to officially label the Fort Hood shooting an act of terrorism and, at the time of writing, various investigations are exploring all angles of this tragic event. While it might be premature, if ever possible, to identify the full spectrum of motives behind Major Hasan’s actions, it is fair to say that radical Islamist ideology had an influence on his worldview. In any case, the Fort Hood shooting comes at the tail end of two months that have challenged many of the assumptions on terrorism and radicalisation in the US that have shaped the debate for more than a decade. Since September 2009, in fact, a staggering series of arrests has taken place on US soil:

  • On 20 September, FBI agents arrested two Afghan immigrants in Colorado and one in New York.[2] According to the authorities, one of the men, Najibullah Zazi, had trained in an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan and, once back in the US, had purchased large quantities of chemical substances in various beauty supply stores. Zazi allegedly intended to mix the substances and detonate them against targets throughout the New York metropolitan area. The authorities described Zazi’s plot as the most serious threat against the US homeland uncovered since 9/11.[3]

  • On 24 September, a 19-year-old Jordanian immigrant was arrested for having parked what he believed to be a car bomb in the car park of a 60-story skyscraper in downtown Dallas, Texas.4 Before driving the car to the site, Hosam Hamer Husein Smadi had made a video which he believed would have been sent to Osama bin Laden.[5]

  • On the same day but in an unrelated plot, Michael C. Finton, a 29-year-old American-born convert to Islam, parked a car that he also believed laden with explosives outside a federal courthouse in Springfield, Illinois.[6] In both the Finton and the Smadi cases, federal agents had approached the two men after unearthing information about their desire to commit acts of violence, led them to believe they were affiliated to al-Qaeda and supplied them with explosives that the men wrongly believed to be active.

  • On 21 October, the authorities indicted two Boston-area natives, Tarek Mehanna and Ahmad Abousamra, with various conspiracy charges.[7] According to the indictment, the men, who had been extremely active in online jihadist forums, had been trying to join various al-Qaeda affiliates since 2001 and had also planned attacks inside the US (reportedly targeting a local shopping mall and various US government officials).

  • On 27 October, the authorities arrested two long-time Chicago residents of Pakistani descent and charged them with conspiracy to provide material support and/or to commit terrorist acts against overseas targets.[8] According to the charges the two men had been in close contact with senior leaders of Pakistani jihadist groups Lashkar e Taiba and Harakat ul Jihad Islami and one of them, Daood Gilani, had travelled to Denmark to conduct surveillance of the facilities of the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten for a possible attack against it. On 7 December the authorities charged Gilani also with conducting surveillance of various targets in Mumbai in the two years preceding the deadly November 2008 attack on the Indian city. According to the indictment, upon accepting the task Gilani changed his name to David Headley and travelled at least five times to Mumbai, confident that his new name and American passport would not attract the attention of the Indian authorities. After each trip he travelled to Pakistan, where he shared the pictures, videotapes and notes he had taken with senior Lashkar e Taiba operatives.[9]

  • On 28 October, the federal authorities in Detroit proceeded to arrest 11 members of Ummah, a group of mostly African-American converts to Islam, on charges that ranged from mail fraud to illegal possession and sale of firearms. Most suspects were arrested without opposing resistance, but Luqman Ameen Abdullah (alias Christopher Thomas), the group’s leader, fired at agents and was subsequently killed. While the case cannot be considered a full-fledged terrorism investigation, it nevertheless involves a US-based radical Islamist network. Ummah, in fact, is a group that, according to authorities, ‘seeks to establish a separate Sharia-law governed state within the United States’ and whose members have been involved in violent acts in the past.[10]

  • Finally, in early December, the Pakistani authorities arrested five American Muslims in the city of Sargodha. The five, all US citizens in their late teens and early 20s who had gone missing from their northern Virginia homes a few days earlier, had reportedly been in touch via the Internet with senior militants of various al-Qaeda-affiliated organisations and allegedly intended to train with local outfits to fight against US forces.[11]

All these plots are very diverse in their origin, degree of sophistication and characteristics of the individuals involved. Yet they all contribute to paint the picture of the complex and rapidly changing reality of terrorism of Islamist inspiration in the US. Moreover, they smash or, at least, severely undermine an assumption that has been widely held by policymakers and analysts over the last 15 years. The common wisdom, in fact, has traditionally been that American Muslims, unlike their European counterparts, were virtually immune to radicalisation. Europeans, argued this narrative, have been unable to integrate their immigrant Muslim population and radicalisation is the inevitable by-product of the discrimination and socio-economic disparity suffered by European Muslims. America, on the other hand, is more open to its immigrants and has been able to integrate its Muslims, making them impervious to radicalisation.

The wave of arrests of the last months of 2009 has contributed to shedding light on a reality that is significantly more nuanced, showing that radicalisation affects some small segments of the American Muslim population exactly like it affects some fringe pockets of the Muslim population of each European country. Evidence supporting this view has been available for a long time, as the cases of American Muslims joining radical Islamist groups date back to the 1970s.[12] According to data collected by the NYU Center on Law and Security, for example, more than 500 individuals have been convicted by the American authorities for terrorism-related charges since 9/11.[13] Most of them are US citizens or long-time US residents who underwent radicalisation inside the US. While making a numerically accurate comparison is not easy, it is fair to say that the number of American Muslims involved in violent activities is either equal or only slightly lower than that of any European country with a comparable Muslim population.

Yet, despite this evidence, for a long time the American authorities and commentators seemed unable to acknowledge the existence of radicalisation among small segments of the American Muslim population. In the FBI’s parlance, for example, until 2005, the term ‘homegrown terrorism’ was still reserved for domestic organisations such as anti-government militias, white supremacists and eco-terrorist groups such as the Earth Liberation Front. Such groups were termed ‘homegrown’ to distinguish them from jihadist terrorist networks, even though some of the latter possessed some of the very same characteristics (membership born and raised in the US and a focus on US targets). Since the cause of the jihadists was perceived to be foreign, the US government did not label them as ‘homegrown’, despite the typically homegrown characteristics of many of them.

The July 2005 attacks in London led the US authorities to look at the homegrown issue with renewed attention. As an increasing number of cells that clearly possessed homegrown characteristics were uncovered throughout the country, the authorities began to re-assess the definition of homegrown. By 2006 top FBI and DHS officials began to openly speak of homegrown terrorism of jihadist inspiration inside the US, even describing it as a threat ‘as dangerous as groups like al-Qaeda, if not more so’.[14] As a consequence of this reassessment, the US authorities began to ask themselves if the emergence of relatively large numbers of radicalised second-generation Muslims that had been observed in Europe could also take place in the US. This fear led to an increased attention on the dynamics and causes of radicalisation among Muslims in both Europe and North America.

Comparing Radicalisation in Europe and America
Five concurring reasons have traditionally been used to explain the divergence between the levels of radicalisation in Europe and the US. The first one is related to the significantly better economic conditions of American Muslims. While European Muslims generally languish at the bottom of most rankings that measure economic integration, American Muslims fare significantly better, and the average American Muslim household’s income is equal to, if not higher, than the average American’s.[15] As the many cases of militants who came from privileged backgrounds have proved, economic integration is not always an antidote to radicalisation, but it is undeniable that radical ideas find a fertile environment among unemployed and disenfranchised youth. A direct consequence of economic integration is the lack of Muslim ghettoes in the US. Areas of large European cities with a high concentration of poor Muslim immigrants have been ideological sanctuaries where radicals could freely spread their message and where radical Islam has become a sort of counterculture. The American Muslim community’s economic conditions have prevented the formation of such enclaves in the US.

Geographic dispersion, immigration patterns and tougher immigration policies have also prevented the formation of extensive recruiting and propaganda networks as those that have sprung up in Europe. While places such as Brooklyn’s al-Farooq mosque or Tucson’s Islamic Center saw extensive jihadist activities in the 1990s, they pale in comparison to recruiting headquarters such as London’s Finsbury Park, Hamburg’s al-Quds mosque or Milan’s Islamic Cultural Institute. Moreover, the fact that large segments of the American Muslim population belong to ethnicities that have traditionally espoused moderate interpretations of Islam has been cited as another reason for America’s lower levels of radicalism. In fact, Muslims from the Iranian and Indian American communities, which account for vast segments of America’s Muslim population, have traditionally embraced moderate forms of Islam and have been, to varying degrees, almost impervious to radicalisation.

Finally, commentators have often pointed out that America is a country built on immigration, traditionally accepting immigrants of all races and religions as citizens. European countries, on the other hand, have been unable to develop a sense of citizenship not linked to century-long identifying factors such as ethnicity and religious affiliation. In a nutshell, it is easy to become American, while it is very difficult for immigrants, particularly if they are not white and Christian, to be accepted as full-fledged Germans, Frenchmen or Spaniards. This sense of exclusion is traditionally cited as one of the factors driving some European Muslims to radicalisation, while the more inclusive nature of American society would prevent American Muslims from undergoing the same process.

While all these characteristics still hold true, they no longer represent a guarantee. Factors such as perception of discrimination and frustration at US foreign policies could lead to radicalisation, irrespective of favourable economic conditions. Experts and community leaders have repeatedly warned about the growing alienation of American Muslims, particularly among those of the second generation. These frustrations could produce what Steven Simon refers to as ‘a rejectionist generation’, which could embrace radical interpretations of Islam.[16] The same conclusion has been reached by a widely publicised report released by the New York Police Department Intelligence Division in 2007. ‘Despite the economic opportunities in the United States’, reads the report, ‘the powerful gravitational pull of individuals’ religious roots and identity sometimes supersedes the assimilating nature of American society which includes pursuit of a professional career, financial stability and material comforts’.[17]

Future Scenarios
The terrorist threat to the US homeland has evolved significantly over the last eight years. Until mid-2003 virtually all of the terrorist conspiracies intended to strike against American soil had been planned, albeit with varying degrees of involvement, by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) and al-Qaeda’s central leadership. The arrest of KSM and many of his top lieutenants, al-Qaeda’s loss of the Afghan sanctuary and the significant improvement in homeland security measures triggered a shift that began to materialise in late 2003. With the exception of the 2006 Transatlantic Plot, a plot hatched by UK-based militants apparently directed by al-Qaeda members in Pakistan to detonate liquid explosives on board several US-bound flights, every single attack against the American homeland thwarted by US authorities since then appears to have been conceived by individuals acting independently from al-Qaeda’s leadership.[19]

The individuals involved in these plots have been an odd mix of low-ranking al-Qaeda affiliates and jihad enthusiasts who had never had any contact with al-Qaeda or other established organisations. And most of them have been characterised by the absolute operational independence of the planners. The result of this shift from leader-led to homegrown has been a remarkable decrease in the sophistication of the operations planned, as most of the plotters were amateurish if not embarrassingly clumsy, lacking the basic tradecraft and capabilities to operate undetected or mount any sort of sophisticated attack.

While this was true until a few months ago, there are indications that things are changing. Recent investigations have shown that a small yet increasing number of American Muslims have been travelling to Pakistan to acquire operational skills and establish contacts with various jihadist outfits. One well known case is that of Bryant Neal Vinas, a 26 year-old Long Island native who was captured in Pakistan and brought back to the US in November 2008.[20] Vinas, who had allegedly participated in a rocket attack against a US military base in Afghanistan, decided to cooperate with American interrogators and has since provided ‘an intelligence gold mine’.[21] Thanks to Vinas’ information the authorities have been able to identify and arrest several American and European militants who had also trained with al-Qaeda and affiliated groups in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region.

While this ‘Pakistan connection’ is not new to the European authorities, it is a disturbing new development for their American counterparts. To be sure, Americans had trained with various Afghanistan/Pakistan-based jihadist outfits before and after 9/11. In 2003, for example, the US authorities dismantled the so-called ‘paintball jihad’ network in northern Virginia.[22] The network was formed by a dozen young men from the Washington suburbs who had travelled to Pakistan immediately after 9/11, where they trained with Lashkar-e-Taiba. But what seemed to be isolated cases are increasingly becoming the norm. Moreover, in the case of Vinas and at least two of the cases from the fall of 2009 (the Najibullah Zazi/New York plot and the Chicago/Denmark plot) authorities have noticed with apprehension that American militants returning from Pakistan were significantly better trained and organised than the homegrown jihadists who had been operating in the US over the last few years. The ‘Pakistan connection’, that operational link to organised outfits in the Afghanistan/Pakistan area that makes amateurish homegrown networks graduate into more professional terrorist clusters, has been crucial in the development of jihadist networks in Europe over the last five years and it now appears to have become a significant factor also in the US.

Given these dynamics, one of the scenarios that the US authorities take into particular consideration is the case of a homegrown cluster that, thanks to the directions and skills obtained from al-Qaeda or various al-Qaeda-affiliated networks in Afghanistan/Pakistan, manages to reach sufficient operational sophistication to carry out a significant attack against the American homeland.[23] And if traditionally authorities estimated that al-Qaeda’s leadership intended to strike inside the US only with a mass-casualty attack that would at least rival the actions of 9/11, lately this assessment has been revised.[24] Recent cases have shown that not only independent clusters but also American networks operating in cooperation with Afghanistan/Pakistan-based groups are focusing on less grandiose plans, considering that even a less ambitious attack –on the scale of the 2004 Madrid or 2005 London bombings– would be a success.

If Afghanistan/Pakistan is a major source of concerns, the authorities have also been monitoring the possible impact of the Somali conflict on American domestic security. Over the last few years, in fact, a few dozen young American Muslims have travelled to Somalia to fight and train alongside al-Shabaab, the local Islamist militia battling the Somali government and African Union troops. Most of them have been ethnic Somalis, sons of the large Somali diaspora community present in Minneapolis, Seattle and other American cities. One of them, 27-year-old Minneapolis college student Shirwa Ahmed, reportedly blew himself up in a suicide bombing in northern Somalia in October 2008.[25] Another four Minneapolis residents have been reported killed in the African country since then. A few non-ethnic Somali Americans have also reportedly joined al-Shabaab. While the New Jersey native of Egyptian descent Amir Mohamed Meshal and Massachusetts-born convert Daniel Maldonado have been arrested after leaving Somalia, Alabama native Omar Hammami is still very much active inside the country, starring in several English language al-Shabaab propaganda videos under the nom de guerre Abu Mansour al Amriki.

While there are no indications that al-Shabaab is planning an attack within the US, its increased focus on global issues and public support for al-Qaeda make the hypothesis not that far-fetched. Moreover, while many of the foreign fighters joining al-Shabaab, whether from the US, Europe or other regions, are Somalis driven by some sort of nationalist sentiment, others are aspiring jihadists whose interest in the African country is mostly tactical and temporary. It is safe to assume that many of them, given the opportunity, would use the skills acquired in Somalia against other targets. Questioned by American interrogators after his arrest, in fact, Daniel Maldonado described his experience in the African country with these words: ‘I would be fighting the Somali militia, and that turned into fighting the Ethiopians, and if Americans came, I would fight them too’.[26] The fact that Maldonado was in close contact with the individuals arrested in Boston in October 2009 provides additional evidence as to why the ‘Somalia connection’ is considered a serious threat.

Conclusion: Since 9/11 the American counterterrorism posture has been extraordinarily aggressive, both domestically and globally. Extensive overseas military and intelligence gathering actions, the introduction of enhanced investigative powers, a significantly improved inter-agency coordination and, in general, a constant high level of vigilance have allowed the authorities to keep the country safe from terrorist attacks. While some civil libertarians might have a point in questioning some of the tools used to do so, the achievement is nevertheless remarkable. At the same time, though, the US seems to be lacking a long-term strategy to confront the threat of radicalisation on the domestic front. The authorities have in fact been unable to conceive a policy that would pre-emptively tackle the issue of radicalisation, preventing young American Muslims from embracing extremist ideas in the first place.

Various intelligence and law enforcement agencies have reached out to the academic community to better understand the social, political and psychological causes of radicalisation. But the limited understanding of the issue, coupled with the overlap of jurisdiction between often competing federal, state and local authorities, has prevented the implementation of a systematic, nationwide programme to combat radicalisation. Solutions are, to be sure, hard to find. Europeans, who experienced the problem of radicalisation of segments of their own Muslim communities well before the US, are still struggling with the same issue and are only now attempting to put in place coherent anti-radicalisation programmes, the success of which must still be verified. Equally challenging have been the efforts, on both sides of the Atlantic, to find reliable and representative organisations within various Muslim communities to be employed as partners in anti-radicalisation activities. Clearly, more attention and analysis should be devoted to the issue. But the awareness that homegrown terrorism of jihadist inspiration does exist in the US is a necessary starting point. The events of the fall of 2009 provided, if needed, additional evidence to suggest so.

Lorenzo Vidino
Fellow at the Initiative on Religion in International Affairs, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and a Peace Scholar at the US Institute of Peace

[1] It goes without saying that various forms of homegrown terrorism have long threatened the US, some of them well before those of jihadist inspiration. Right-wing militias, radical environmentalist groups and, to a lesser degree, some fringe left-wing and anarchist groups are very much active inside the country and have occasionally carried out violent acts over the last few years. Yet it is undeniable that, in terms of magnitude, frequency and sophistication, homegrown terrorism of jihadist inspiration currently represents the most immediate threat against the US and is therefore the subject of this analysis.


[3] Kevin Johnson, ‘Alleged terror threat seen as “most serious” since 9/11 attacks’, USA Today, 25/IX/2009.


[5] Jon Nielsen, ‘FBI says Dallas terror plot suspect made video to send to Osama bin Laden’, Dallas Morning News, 5/X/ 2009.






[11] Waqar Gilani & Jane Perlez, ‘5 US Men Arrested Said to Plan Jihad Training’, New York Times, 11/XII/2009.

[12] For an overview, see Lorenzo Vidino, ‘Homegrown Jihadist Terrorism in the United States: A New and Occasional Phenomenon?’, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, vol. 32, 1/I/2009, p. 1-17.


[14] Remarks of FBI Director Robert Muller, City Club of Cleveland, 23/VI/2006.

[15] Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream, Pew Research Center, 22/V/2007, p. 24-5.

[16] Steven Simon, Statement before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, 12/IX/2006.

[17] Report by Mitchell D. Silber and Arvin Bhatt, New York Police Department Intelligence Division, Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat, August 2007, p. 8.

[18] Bruce Hoffman, ‘The Use of the Internet by Islamic Extremists’, Testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, 4/V/2006.

[19] Vidino, ‘Homegrown Jihadist Terrorism in the United States’.

[20] US v. Bryant Neal Vinas, Superseding Indictment, US District Court, Eastern District of New York, 08-823 (NGG) (S-1), 28/I/2009.

[21] ‘Man Was “Gold Mine” of Terror Intel’, Associated Press, 31/VII/2009.

[22] Terrorism in the United States, 2002-2005, unclassified report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation,

[23] Interview with various FBI officials, September/October 2009, Boston and Washington DC.

[24] David Johnston & Eric Schmitt, ‘Smaller-Scale Terrorism Plots Pose New and Worrisome Threats, Officials Say’, New York Times, 31/X/2009.


[26] Affidavit of FBI Special Agent Jeremiah A. George in US v. Daniel Joseph Maldonado, US District Court, Southern District of Texas, H-07-125M, 13/II/2007.

Court Affirms Injunction Against Microsoft by Brent Kendall (Note: i4i Isn’t A Patent Troll)

A federal appeals court on Tuesday affirmed a $290 million patent infringement judgment against Microsoft Corp. and reinstated an injunction that bars the company from selling current versions of its flagship Word software.

Microsoft had said in court papers that the injunction would prohibit it from selling all available versions of Microsoft Word and Microsoft Office. The injunction also could require the software giant to make significant changes to a new version of Word, due in 2010.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said the injunction will go into effect on Jan. 11.

The ruling by the Federal Circuit affirmed a trial court victory for Toronto technology company i4i Inc., which convinced a Texas jury that recent versions of Microsoft Word infringed on a company software patent that deals with manipulating the architecture of a document.

After the jury verdict, U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Davis issued a permanent injunction in August that barred Microsoft from selling Word 2003 and Word 2007, which use a technology called “Custom XML” that is used to classify documents for retrieval by computers. Judge Davis also ordered Microsoft to pay more than $290 million in penalties.

Organizational Structure of Iran’s “Clandestine Nuclear Sector” Post 1990

The Physics Research Center (PHRC) was under Iran’s Ministry of Defense and operated in parallel to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). The AEOI was mainly responsible for developing fuel cycle facilities. The PHRC, according to this organizational chart, was focused on a range of projects, including fuel cycle activities and some possibly related to developing a nuclear weapon. But the exact relationship between PHRC and the AEOI is unclear and the subject of several of the outstanding questions the IAEA wants Iran to answer. Similarly the subsequent incarnations were in parallel to the AEOI, which built the Natanz facility. Graphics and Sources is Institute for Science and International Security, Times Online, and different pro democracy movments in and outside Iran.

Accept Defeat: The Neuroscience of Screwing Up by Jonah Lehrer

It all started with the sound of static. In May 1964, two astronomers at Bell Labs, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, were using a radio telescope in suburban New Jersey to search the far reaches of space. Their aim was to make a detailed survey of radiation in the Milky Way, which would allow them to map those vast tracts of the universe devoid of bright stars. This meant that Penzias and Wilson needed a receiver that was exquisitely sensitive, able to eavesdrop on all the emptiness. And so they had retrofitted an old radio telescope, installing amplifiers and a calibration system to make the signals coming from space just a little bit louder.

But they made the scope too sensitive. Whenever Penzias and Wilson aimed their dish at the sky, they picked up a persistent background noise, a static that interfered with all of their observations. It was an incredibly annoying technical problem, like listening to a radio station that keeps cutting out.

At first, they assumed the noise was man-made, an emanation from nearby New York City. But when they pointed their telescope straight at Manhattan, the static didn’t increase. Another possibility was that the sound was due to fallout from recent nuclear bomb tests in the upper atmosphere. But that didn’t make sense either, since the level of interference remained constant, even as the fallout dissipated. And then there were the pigeons: A pair of birds were roosting in the narrow part of the receiver, leaving a trail of what they later described as “white dielectric material.” The scientists evicted the pigeons and scrubbed away their mess, but the static remained, as loud as ever.

For the next year, Penzias and Wilson tried to ignore the noise, concentrating on observations that didn’t require cosmic silence or perfect precision. They put aluminum tape over the metal joints, kept the receiver as clean as possible, and hoped that a shift in the weather might clear up the interference. They waited for the seasons to change, and then change again, but the noise always remained, making it impossible to find the faint radio echoes they were looking for. Their telescope was a failure.

Kevin Dunbar is a researcher who studies how scientists study things — how they fail and succeed. In the early 1990s, he began an unprecedented research project: observing four biochemistry labs at Stanford University. Philosophers have long theorized about how science happens, but Dunbar wanted to get beyond theory. He wasn’t satisfied with abstract models of the scientific method — that seven-step process we teach schoolkids before the science fair — or the dogmatic faith scientists place in logic and objectivity. Dunbar knew that scientists often don’t think the way the textbooks say they are supposed to. He suspected that all those philosophers of science — from Aristotle to Karl Popper — had missed something important about what goes on in the lab. (As Richard Feynman famously quipped, “Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.”) So Dunbar decided to launch an “in vivo” investigation, attempting to learn from the messiness of real experiments.

He ended up spending the next year staring at postdocs and test tubes: The researchers were his flock, and he was the ornithologist. Dunbar brought tape recorders into meeting rooms and loitered in the hallway; he read grant proposals and the rough drafts of papers; he peeked at notebooks, attended lab meetings, and videotaped interview after interview. He spent four years analyzing the data. “I’m not sure I appreciated what I was getting myself into,” Dunbar says. “I asked for complete access, and I got it. But there was just so much to keep track of.”

Dunbar came away from his in vivo studies with an unsettling insight: Science is a deeply frustrating pursuit. Although the researchers were mostly using established techniques, more than 50 percent of their data was unexpected. (In some labs, the figure exceeded 75 percent.) “The scientists had these elaborate theories about what was supposed to happen,” Dunbar says. “But the results kept contradicting their theories. It wasn’t uncommon for someone to spend a month on a project and then just discard all their data because the data didn’t make sense.” Perhaps they hoped to see a specific protein but it wasn’t there. Or maybe their DNA sample showed the presence of an aberrant gene. The details always changed, but the story remained the same: The scientists were looking for X, but they found Y.

Dunbar was fascinated by these statistics. The scientific process, after all, is supposed to be an orderly pursuit of the truth, full of elegant hypotheses and control variables. (Twentieth-century science philosopher Thomas Kuhn, for instance, defined normal science as the kind of research in which “everything but the most esoteric detail of the result is known in advance.”) However, when experiments were observed up close — and Dunbar interviewed the scientists about even the most trifling details — this idealized version of the lab fell apart, replaced by an endless supply of disappointing surprises. There were models that didn’t work and data that couldn’t be replicated and simple studies riddled with anomalies. “These weren’t sloppy people,” Dunbar says. “They were working in some of the finest labs in the world. But experiments rarely tell us what we think they’re going to tell us. That’s the dirty secret of science.”

How did the researchers cope with all this unexpected data? How did they deal with so much failure? Dunbar realized that the vast majority of people in the lab followed the same basic strategy. First, they would blame the method. The surprising finding was classified as a mere mistake; perhaps a machine malfunctioned or an enzyme had gone stale. “The scientists were trying to explain away what they didn’t understand,” Dunbar says. “It’s as if they didn’t want to believe it.”

The experiment would then be carefully repeated. Sometimes, the weird blip would disappear, in which case the problem was solved. But the weirdness usually remained, an anomaly that wouldn’t go away.

This is when things get interesting. According to Dunbar, even after scientists had generated their “error” multiple times — it was a consistent inconsistency — they might fail to follow it up. “Given the amount of unexpected data in science, it’s just not feasible to pursue everything,” Dunbar says. “People have to pick and choose what’s interesting and what’s not, but they often choose badly.” And so the result was tossed aside, filed in a quickly forgotten notebook. The scientists had discovered a new fact, but they called it a failure.

The reason we’re so resistant to anomalous information — the real reason researchers automatically assume that every unexpected result is a stupid mistake — is rooted in the way the human brain works. Over the past few decades, psychologists have dismantled the myth of objectivity. The fact is, we carefully edit our reality, searching for evidence that confirms what we already believe. Although we pretend we’re empiricists — our views dictated by nothing but the facts — we’re actually blinkered, especially when it comes to information that contradicts our theories. The problem with science, then, isn’t that most experiments fail — it’s that most failures are ignored.

As he tried to further understand how people deal with dissonant data, Dunbar conducted some experiments of his own. In one 2003 study, he had undergraduates at Dartmouth College watch a couple of short videos of two different-size balls falling. The first clip showed the two balls falling at the same rate. The second clip showed the larger ball falling at a faster rate. The footage was a reconstruction of the famous (and probably apocryphal) experiment performed by Galileo, in which he dropped cannonballs of different sizes from the Tower of Pisa. Galileo’s metal balls all landed at the exact same time — a refutation of Aristotle, who claimed that heavier objects fell faster.

While the students were watching the footage, Dunbar asked them to select the more accurate representation of gravity. Not surprisingly, undergraduates without a physics background disagreed with Galileo. (Intuitively, we’re all Aristotelians.) They found the two balls falling at the same rate to be deeply unrealistic, despite the fact that it’s how objects actually behave. Furthermore, when Dunbar monitored the subjects in an fMRI machine, he found that showing non-physics majors the correct video triggered a particular pattern of brain activation: There was a squirt of blood to the anterior cingulate cortex, a collar of tissue located in the center of the brain. The ACC is typically associated with the perception of errors and contradictions — neuroscientists often refer to it as part of the “Oh shit!” circuit — so it makes sense that it would be turned on when we watch a video of something that seems wrong.

So far, so obvious: Most undergrads are scientifically illiterate. But Dunbar also conducted the experiment with physics majors. As expected, their education enabled them to see the error, and for them it was the inaccurate video that triggered the ACC.

But there’s another region of the brain that can be activated as we go about editing reality. It’s called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, or DLPFC. It’s located just behind the forehead and is one of the last brain areas to develop in young adults. It plays a crucial role in suppressing so-called unwanted representations, getting rid of those thoughts that don’t square with our preconceptions. For scientists, it’s a problem.

When physics students saw the Aristotelian video with the aberrant balls, their DLPFCs kicked into gear and they quickly deleted the image from their consciousness. In most contexts, this act of editing is an essential cognitive skill. (When the DLPFC is damaged, people often struggle to pay attention, since they can’t filter out irrelevant stimuli.) However, when it comes to noticing anomalies, an efficient prefrontal cortex can actually be a serious liability. The DLPFC is constantly censoring the world, erasing facts from our experience. If the ACC is the “Oh shit!” circuit, the DLPFC is the Delete key. When the ACC and DLPFC “turn on together, people aren’t just noticing that something doesn’t look right,” Dunbar says. “They’re also inhibiting that information.”

The lesson is that not all data is created equal in our mind’s eye: When it comes to interpreting our experiments, we see what we want to see and disregard the rest. The physics students, for instance, didn’t watch the video and wonder whether Galileo might be wrong. Instead, they put their trust in theory, tuning out whatever it couldn’t explain. Belief, in other words, is a kind of blindness.

How to Learn From Failure

Too often, we assume that a failed experiment is a wasted effort. But not all anomalies are useless. Here’s how to make the most of them. —J.L.
1 Check Your Assumptions

Ask yourself why this result feels like a failure. What theory does it contradict? Maybe the hypothesis failed, not the experiment.

2 Seek Out the Ignorant

Talk to people who are unfamiliar with your experiment. Explaining your work in simple terms may help you see it in a new light.

3 Encourage Diversity

If everyone working on a problem speaks the same language, then everyone has the same set of assumptions.

4 Beware of Failure-Blindness

It’s normal to filter out information that contradicts our preconceptions. The only way to avoid that bias is to be aware of it.

But this research raises an obvious question: If humans — scientists included — are apt to cling to their beliefs, why is science so successful? How do our theories ever change? How do we learn to reinterpret a failure so we can see the answer?

This was the challenge facing Penzias and Wilson as they tinkered with their radio telescope. Their background noise was still inexplicable, but it was getting harder to ignore, if only because it was always there. After a year of trying to erase the static, after assuming it was just a mechanical malfunction, an irrelevant artifact, or pigeon guano, Penzias and Wilson began exploring the possibility that it was real. Perhaps it was everywhere for a reason.

In 1918, sociologist Thorstein Veblen was commissioned by a popular magazine devoted to American Jewry to write an essay on how Jewish “intellectual productivity” would be changed if Jews were given a homeland. At the time, Zionism was becoming a potent political movement, and the magazine editor assumed that Veblen would make the obvious argument: A Jewish state would lead to an intellectual boom, as Jews would no longer be held back by institutional anti-Semitism. But Veblen, always the provocateur, turned the premise on its head. He argued instead that the scientific achievements of Jews — at the time, Albert Einstein was about to win the Nobel Prize and Sigmund Freud was a best-selling author — were due largely to their marginal status. In other words, persecution wasn’t holding the Jewish community back — it was pushing it forward.

The reason, according to Veblen, was that Jews were perpetual outsiders, which filled them with a “skeptical animus.” Because they had no vested interest in “the alien lines of gentile inquiry,” they were able to question everything, even the most cherished of assumptions. Just look at Einstein, who did much of his most radical work as a lowly patent clerk in Bern, Switzerland. According to Veblen’s logic, if Einstein had gotten tenure at an elite German university, he would have become just another physics professor with a vested interest in the space-time status quo. He would never have noticed the anomalies that led him to develop the theory of relativity.

Predictably, Veblen’s essay was potentially controversial, and not just because he was a Lutheran from Wisconsin. The magazine editor evidently was not pleased; Veblen could be seen as an apologist for anti-Semitism. But his larger point is crucial: There are advantages to thinking on the margin. When we look at a problem from the outside, we’re more likely to notice what doesn’t work. Instead of suppressing the unexpected, shunting it aside with our “Oh shit!” circuit and Delete key, we can take the mistake seriously. A new theory emerges from the ashes of our surprise.

Modern science is populated by expert insiders, schooled in narrow disciplines. Researchers have all studied the same thick textbooks, which make the world of fact seem settled. This led Kuhn, the philosopher of science, to argue that the only scientists capable of acknowledging the anomalies — and thus shifting paradigms and starting revolutions — are “either very young or very new to the field.” In other words, they are classic outsiders, naive and untenured. They aren’t inhibited from noticing the failures that point toward new possibilities.

But Dunbar, who had spent all those years watching Stanford scientists struggle and fail, realized that the romantic narrative of the brilliant and perceptive newcomer left something out. After all, most scientific change isn’t abrupt and dramatic; revolutions are rare. Instead, the epiphanies of modern science tend to be subtle and obscure and often come from researchers safely ensconced on the inside. “These aren’t Einstein figures, working from the outside,” Dunbar says. “These are the guys with big NIH grants.” How do they overcome failure-blindness?

While the scientific process is typically seen as a lonely pursuit — researchers solve problems by themselves — Dunbar found that most new scientific ideas emerged from lab meetings, those weekly sessions in which people publicly present their data. Interestingly, the most important element of the lab meeting wasn’t the presentation — it was the debate that followed. Dunbar observed that the skeptical (and sometimes heated) questions asked during a group session frequently triggered breakthroughs, as the scientists were forced to reconsider data they’d previously ignored. The new theory was a product of spontaneous conversation, not solitude; a single bracing query was enough to turn scientists into temporary outsiders, able to look anew at their own work.

But not every lab meeting was equally effective. Dunbar tells the story of two labs that both ran into the same experimental problem: The proteins they were trying to measure were sticking to a filter, making it impossible to analyze the data. “One of the labs was full of people from different backgrounds,” Dunbar says. “They had biochemists and molecular biologists and geneticists and students in medical school.” The other lab, in contrast, was made up of E. coli experts. “They knew more about E. coli than anyone else, but that was what they knew,” he says. Dunbar watched how each of these labs dealt with their protein problem. The E. coli group took a brute-force approach, spending several weeks methodically testing various fixes. “It was extremely inefficient,” Dunbar says. “They eventually solved it, but they wasted a lot of valuable time.”

The diverse lab, in contrast, mulled the problem at a group meeting. None of the scientists were protein experts, so they began a wide-ranging discussion of possible solutions. At first, the conversation seemed rather useless. But then, as the chemists traded ideas with the biologists and the biologists bounced ideas off the med students, potential answers began to emerge. “After another 10 minutes of talking, the protein problem was solved,” Dunbar says. “They made it look easy.”

When Dunbar reviewed the transcripts of the meeting, he found that the intellectual mix generated a distinct type of interaction in which the scientists were forced to rely on metaphors and analogies to express themselves. (That’s because, unlike the E. coli group, the second lab lacked a specialized language that everyone could understand.) These abstractions proved essential for problem-solving, as they encouraged the scientists to reconsider their assumptions. Having to explain the problem to someone else forced them to think, if only for a moment, like an intellectual on the margins, filled with self-skepticism.

This is why other people are so helpful: They shock us out of our cognitive box. “I saw this happen all the time,” Dunbar says. “A scientist would be trying to describe their approach, and they’d be getting a little defensive, and then they’d get this quizzical look on their face. It was like they’d finally understood what was important.”

What turned out to be so important, of course, was the unexpected result, the experimental error that felt like a failure. The answer had been there all along — it was just obscured by the imperfect theory, rendered invisible by our small-minded brain. It’s not until we talk to a colleague or translate our idea into an analogy that we glimpse the meaning in our mistake. Bob Dylan, in other words, was right: There’s no success quite like failure.

For the radio astronomers, the breakthrough was the result of a casual conversation with an outsider. Penzias had been referred by a colleague to Robert Dicke, a Princeton scientist whose training had been not in astrophysics but nuclear physics. He was best known for his work on radar systems during World War II. Dicke had since become interested in applying his radar technology to astronomy; he was especially drawn to a then-strange theory called the big bang, which postulated that the cosmos had started with a primordial explosion. Such a blast would have been so massive, Dicke argued, that it would have littered the entire universe with cosmic shrapnel, the radioactive residue of genesis. (This proposal was first made in 1948 by physicists George Gamow, Ralph Alpher, and Robert Herman, although it had been largely forgotten by the astronomical community.) The problem for Dicke was that he couldn’t find this residue using standard telescopes, so he was planning to build his own dish less than an hour’s drive south of the Bell Labs one.

Then, in early 1965, Penzias picked up the phone and called Dicke. He wanted to know if the renowned radar and radio telescope expert could help explain the persistent noise bedeviling them. Perhaps he knew where it was coming from? Dicke’s reaction was instantaneous: “Boys, we’ve been scooped!” he said. Someone else had found what he’d been searching for: the radiation left over from the beginning of the universe. It had been an incredibly frustrating process for Penzias and Wilson. They’d been consumed by the technical problem and had spent way too much time cleaning up pigeon shit — but they had finally found an explanation for the static. Their failure was the answer to a different question.

And all that frustration paid off: In 1978, they received the Nobel Prize for physics.

Questions Linger After Lt. Col. Tatar’s Alleged Suicide by Zaman Wires

The recent death of Lt. Col. Ali Tatar, who reportedly shot himself on Sunday, has left behind many unanswered questions, particularly due to his suspected links to Ergenekon, a shady network accused of plotting to overthrow the government.

The lieutenant colonel was found dead in his house in İstanbul’s Beykoz district early Sunday. He had been arrested due to suspected links to a plot to assassinate admirals at the Naval Forces Command, but was released last Wednesday upon an appeal by his lawyer. An İstanbul court issued another arrest warrant for Tatar shortly after his release.

According to Turkish dailies, a police officer arrived at Tatar’s house early Sunday to take the lieutenant colonel to the police station. Tatar asked the officer to give him a few minutes to get ready and rushed to the bathroom. There, Tatar shot himself in the head. A public prosecutor investigated the scene of incident and prepared a report stating that the lieutenant colonel had committed suicide. However, no autopsy was performed on Tatar. He was laid to rest at the Karşıyaka Cemetery in Ankara yesterday. Adm. Eşref Uğur Yiğit, one of the two admirals the assassination plot had targeted, attended the funeral ceremony.

Tatar’s wife, Nilüfer, said she would file a criminal complaint against prosecutor Süleyman Pehlivan, who is conducting the probe into the alleged plot.

The lack of an autopsy on the lieutenant colonel has sparked questions over whether he committed suicide or was killed.

Tatar was suspected to have ties to Ergenekon, and according to some commentators, he could have been killed by the shady network to prevent him from giving up the secrets of the organization if he was arrested for a second time.

The lieutenant colonel had been arrested on charges of plotting to assassinate two admirals, Metin Ataç and Eşref Uğur Yiğit. Nine other members of the naval forces have been arrested in connection with the assassination plot thus far. There are claims that those arrested were in close contact with Maj. Levent Bektaş, who was jailed in April for suspected links to a large cache of munitions unearthed on land owned by the İstek Foundation in İstanbul’s Poyrazköy district. That discovery came as part of the Ergenekon investigation.

Tatar’s lawyer told the Star daily that his client had sought psychological help from a professional. “He asked a psychologist for an appointment on Friday. The psychologist said he was too busy and offered him an appointment for Monday. That proposal frustrated Tatar,” the lawyer stated.

A police raid into the office of retired Gen. Veli Küçük, who is currently in jail on charges of Ergenekon membership, revealed a document classifying Tatar on the basis of his religious and ideological background.

The document reads that Tatar is an Alevi and comes from Yuva village in the Gürün district of eastern Sivas province. “Yuva village is known in its region as a hotbed for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK] and anarchists. His mother E., father H. and close relative H.T. were previously convicted of membership in a separatist organization. … He is known to exert his utmost effort to push the Naval Forces Command to employ his relatives during recruitment periods. I am of the opinion that such a dark formation based on denominational cooperation is of high danger for our armed forces,” the document states.

Suspicious Suicides Raise Eyebrows

Tatar’s death is just one in a series of alleged suicides by members of the military that have raised concern in society.

The suspicious suicides of military personnel were brought back to Turkey’s agenda in November after a retired colonel, Belgütay Varımlı, reportedly killed himself by jumping off the balcony of his apartment in İstanbul’s Kadıköy district on Nov. 20. Varımlı’s suicide sparked suspicion because he was known to be a devout Muslim and did not condone the idea of killing oneself since suicide is one of the biggest sins in Islam.

The ambiguity surrounding the suicides of retired naval Col. Tanju Ünal, naval Capt. Olgun Ural and Lt. Col. Nursal Gedik have not been dispelled, either.

Ünal was believed to have had a significant amount of confidential information on the Hizbullah terrorist organization, the Western Study Group and Ergenekon.

Ural was found dead in his house on March 24. The colonel had sent confidential documents about an anti-democratic formation within the Turkish military to Ergenekon prosecutors, according to claims.

Gedik, who was found dead on Nov. 11, 2007, was serving in a biochemistry laboratory at the Kasımpaşa Military Hospital. He reportedly had knowledge of drug smuggling and the trafficking of women in Turkey.

Behçet Oktay, the former head of the National Police Department’s special operations unit, was found critically wounded in his automobile in February with a single gunshot wound to his head and was pronounced dead at a hospital in Ankara. Suicide was listed as the cause of death by officials, but his family remained suspicious about the circumstances. An autopsy showed that Oktay had seven fractured ribs, and cocaine was found in his blood and urine. The autopsy findings resulted in suspicion that he had been assassinated.

Maj. Abdülkerim Kırca, an alleged member of JİTEM — a clandestine and illegal gendarmerie intelligence unit whose existence has thus far been officially denied — was found dead in his Ankara home in January.

Some suspected Ergenekon members have also attempted to kill themselves in their prison cells. Among them were Erkut Ersoy, founder of an organization called the Special Bureau Intelligence Group; Maj. Muzaffer Tekin; and retired Gen. Hurşit Tolon.

U.S. Reaching Out to Former Foes in Iraq by Eli Lake

The U.S. is reaching out to followers of a key Shi’ite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, whose militia once battled U.S. troops and who remains a powerful leader, particularly among Iraq’s urban poor.

A top Sadrist political leader in Baghdad, Qusay al-Suhail, told The Washington Times that he and his colleagues have been approached five times in the last five months by emissaries seeking to arrange meetings with senior U.S. military and civilian officials at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

“Yes, the Americans tried to talk to me and other Sadrists several times,” Mr. al-Suhail said. “They try to talk to us as individuals, but we made it clear that there is no use to talking to us when you are an occupying power.”

Two U.S. officials familiar with the outreach efforts confirmed that the U.S. Embassy is trying to reach an understanding with the Sadrists, who represent one of the largest factions among Iraq’s Shi’ite majority and have legions of followers in a Baghdad slum known as Sadr City.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the topic, said that in return for a political understanding, they are willing to release, in coordination with the Iraqi government, thousands of Sadrist prisoners.

The outreach represents a major turnaround in U.S. policy toward Mr. al-Sadr, who is the descendant of one of the Shi’ite sect’s most famous clerical families.

In 2004, L. Paul Bremer III, then in charge of the U.S. occupation authority, closed down the Sadrist newspaper and ordered the arrest of Mr. al-Sadr for fomenting opposition to U.S. forces. The action led to widespread clashes between the U.S. and the Sadrists, culminating in a three-week war in the Iraqi theological center of Najaf, where Mr. al-Sadr and his supporters had occupied the holy shrine of the Imam Ali.

In2008, Mr. al-Sadr declared that he had disbanded his Mahdi Army militia and would concentrate on elevating his weak religious credentials through study in the Iranian theological center of Qom. Mr. al-Suhail said Mr. al-Sadr now divides his time between Qom and Najaf.

The U.S. outreach effort is intended to help stabilize Iraq as the U.S. draws down its forces and to prevent the Sadr movement from turning into a replica of Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese group, which has veto power over government actions and maintains a powerful militia separate from the Lebanese national army.

One U.S. military official familiar with the effort said the United States has an interest in making sure the Sadrist faction does not replicate Hezbollah by maintaining both a political party and a militia simultaneously. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

The two U.S. officials said the outreach is being led by Gary Grappo, an ambassadorial-level official who works out of the U.S. Embassy, and Maj. Gen. Joseph Reynes Jr., who heads the Force Strategic Engagement Cell. This unit played a key role in 2007 and 2008 in laying the groundwork for persuading Sunni Muslim extremists to turn against al Qaeda.

The cell also had meetings in 2007 with Sadrist deputies, according to both Fox News and the Los Angeles Times. Those meetings were aimed in part at cleaving off Sadr followers from even more violent factions, known as special groups, reportedly backed by Iran.

Philip Frayne, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, would not comment on the effort apart from saying that there had been no meetings to date between Mr. Grappo and Sadrist political leaders.

“The embassy is always interested in meeting individual members of any group that has renounced violence and expressed a willingness to participate in the political system,” Mr. Frayne said.

Mr. al-Suhail said there are approximately 2,000 followers of Mr. al-Sadr in U.S. custody and another 2,000 followers in Iraqi custody. He said most of those detained were never prosecuted and have been held under a law that allowed Iraqis anonymously to make accusations against individuals – a law that was repealed over the summer.

“We have a committee formed in the movement seeking their release, specifically with the Iraqi government only. We speak only to the Iraqi government,” he said. He added that the release of the prisoners is one of the top priorities for his movement.

Mr. al-Suhail said that Mr. al-Sadr does not provide day-to-day political guidance to his followers and instead lays out general guidelines in public statements. One example is Mr. al-Sadr’s admonition in 2008 to begin to decommission the Mahdi Army. The Sadrist militia, in addition to fighting the Americans in 2004, is accused of having conducted ethnic cleansing in some Baghdad neighborhoods in 2005 and 2006.

Followers of Mr. al-Sadr still maintain a militia known as the Al-Yawom al-Mawood, or the Promised Day Brigade.

“Sayeed Muqtada al-Sadr has transformed the Mahdi Army to a cultural institution,” Mr. al-Suhail said. “Their duty is to deepen their cultural beliefs and widen their religious understandings. He put the military resistance exclusively in the hand of the battalion of the Al-Yawom al-Mawood. It’s open, there is no limit or number for it; anyone who has the discipline to apply the rules can get in. But he has to abide by the orders of Sayeed Muqtada.”

“The Sadrists are clearly still an important constituency in Iraq,” said Marisa Cochrane Sullivan, research director at the Institute for the Study of War. “And they have been a driver of instability in the past, though they have certainly moderated their approach and have emphasized the importance of the political and social aspects of the movement.”

“They still do retain a militia wing known as the Promised Day Brigade, which is a security concern and something I am sure U.S. civilian and military leaders in Baghdad are concerned about as they consider withdrawal,” she added.

Humam Hamoudi, a political leader of another Shi’ite party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, said: “I think there will be a conversation between the Sadrists and the United States once the United States starts to behave like a normal country, like France, and this will be after the U.S. withdraws all its forces.”

Mr. Hamoudi added, “I think the Americans have changed and the Sadrists have also changed because the situation in Iraq has changed.”

Farsi and English Versions of Document on Neutron Initiator: Iranian Work on the Neutron Initiator

Some have characterized this document as a smoking gun on Iran’s weaponization activities. It might in fact be that. The document does describe work to develop and maintain a capability rather than being part of a program authorized to build nuclear weapons. The document does not mention nuclear weapons and we have seen no evidence of an Iranian decision to build them. On the other hand, doing the kind of work described in this document is a far cry from the common belief that Iran stopped work on nuclear weapons in 2003 and has not restarted such work. Even without a decision to build nuclear weapons, this type of work is consistent with a plan to have all the research and development in place in the process of creating a reliable nuclear warhead for a ballistic missile such as the Shahab 3. Graphics and Sources is Institute for Science and International Security and Times Online.

If the data in this document are correct and the descriptions of the work are accurate, then this document appears to be describing a plan to further develop and test a critical component of a nuclear weapon, specifically a neutron initiator made out of uranium deuteride (UD3), which when finished (and subsequently manufactured) would most likely be placed at the center of a fission bomb made from weapon-grade uranium. This type of initiator works by the high explosives compressing the nuclear core and the initiator, producing a spurt of neutrons as a result of fusion in D-D reactions. The neutrons flood the core of weapon-grade uranium and initiate the chain reaction. It does not boost the yield. Graphics and Sources is Institute for Science and International Security and Times Online.

This type of neutron initiator can also be found on the cover of a book by A.Q. Khan published at a time when Khan was denying that Pakistan had a nuclear weapon program. The double message was that Pakistan had mastered this type of complicated neutron initiator. We know now that Pakistan received the design of this initiator from China in the early 1980s and Khan passed it to Libya in the early 2000s. Graphics and Sources is Institute for Science and International Security and Times Online.

Although Iran might claim that this work is for civil purposes, it has no civil application. The neutron group’s document also implies that some of the work on this type of neutron initiator was done in 2003 or before. Graphics and Sources is Institute for Science and International Security and Times Online.

CTED Publishes Valuable Assessment of International Counter-Terrorism Efforts by Victor Comras

Kudos should be given to the UN’s Counter Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) for producing what is perhaps the most comprehensive and frank assessments to date of the international community’s implementation of Security Council Resolution 1373 and the measures adopted to combat international terrorism. Their report was presented to the Security Council by CTED Executive Director Mike Smith on December 16th and provides detailed information on what is actually being done, on the vulnerabilities, and on the technical assistance required. It provides a thematic overview of the laws and actions taken in the areas of enforcement, border control, countering the financing of terrorism, and international cooperation as well as a region by region assessment. Human rights considerations are also addressed. The report should be read closely by counter-terrorism pundits, researchers, and policy makers alike.

Let me be forgiven for not dwelling here on the numerous areas where progress has been substantial and success achieved. These are adequately portrayed in the Global Survey. My task here is to highlight and concentrate attention on the continuing shortcomings that need urgently to be considered and addressed.

While just about every country has adopted a broad array of counter-terrorism legislation, several serious gaps remain. The report finds that many of the most serious gaps are found in Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Central America and the Caribbean where countries continue to lack the capacity to carry out and enforce many of these measures. Several of these countries, the report indicates, lack advanced enforcement and terrorism prevention tools such as databases and forensics, and remain unable to conduct the sophisticated investigations and prosecutions that terrorism cases entail. The report also found that many of these countries lacked internal coordination and that regional cooperation in these areas remained minimal. Relatively few of these countries have sufficient legal resources or structures to accommodate or provide mutual legal assistance or to handle extradition requests.

Counterterrorism shortcomings in the Middle East remain particularly acute. While the region’s countries have all enacted counter-terrorism measures, almost all still fall short when it comes to criminalizing the full range of terrorist related activities referred to in resolution 1373 and/or included in the various counter-terrorism conventions. The CTED report concludes that further attention is needed both in terms of counter-terrorism legislation and implementation to ensure compliance with current international obligations. Special efforts should also be undertaken, the report says, with regard to terrorism financing and to putting in place the measures necessary to effectively regulate the financial sector, remittances, cash couriers and charities in order to ensure they are not misused for terrorist financing. Only five of the 12 Middle East countries covered in this section are parties to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism.

The survey notes also that while North America and Western Europe have adopted comprehensive counter-terrorism programs, many remain cut off from sensitive information sharing arrangements or have sufficient authority to provide judicial assistance to other countries. Laws to prevent indoctrination, recruitment and incitement to terrorism are also lacking in several European countries.

Although most states are now parties to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing to Terrorism many countries still lack sufficient legislation to criminalize terrorist financing or to fully cover the offences set forth in the Convention. Moreover, the degree to which they are able to investigate and prosecute terrorist financing offences varies considerably. In fact, most States continue to lack sufficient personnel, expertise and experience in this area. The Survey also points out several shortcomings in the methodology involved in freezing of funds and assets of persons and entities associated with the commission or attempted commission of terrorist acts. And, the report notes that the financial intelligence units (FIUs) in many countries remain non operational. The effective regulation of cross border movements of cash and of informal money or value transfer systems such as hawala is also beyond the reach or capacity of many states.

Border control measures also vary considerably from region to region. CTED experts observed serious deficiencies in identity document control techniques and in airport and maritime port inspection and security arrangements.

As the CTED report concludes “the effective practical implementation of counter-terrorism policies and procedures requires a well-defined strategy, bolstered by a strong, well-coordinated domestic security and law enforcement apparatus that can detect, prevent and investigate terrorist activities…. Law enforcement agencies and personnel involved in combating terrorism must have access to counterterrorism-specific resources and information, including relevant international databases, as well as information on terrorist activities, movements, and use of technologies and weapons. States need to ensure not only that their domestic legislation provides their law enforcement agencies with the necessary operational manoeuvrability, but also that there is adequate funding, training and judicial oversight in place to enable those agencies to enhance their professional capabilities. Law enforcement agencies should work together with prosecutors and courts, within a framework of accountability and respect for the rule of law, in order to gain public trust and ensure the integrity of counter-terrorism efforts, from the prevention stage through to prosecution and punishment of persons who have committed terrorist acts.” These attributes still remain sorely lacking in too many countries around the world.

The iPhone Goes to War by Roy Furchgott

On Wednesday at the 2009 Intelligence Warfighting Summit in Tucson, Raytheon, the military contractor, announced an iPhone application that tracks friends and foes, shows their positions on live, real time maps and provides secure communications.

Called the One Force Tracker, the Raytheon iPhone software can also be used by first responders like police, firemen and emergency medical technicians.

The app works on a standard iPhone, said J Smart, chief technology officer for Raytheon’s Intelligence and Information Systems. “We are really delighted to be leveraging Apple’s innovation.”

The adaptation of the iPhone to military use is somewhat unusual, as technology more often trickles from the military to the consumer market. But this is a rare case of consumer hardware and software concepts being adapted for military use.

For instance, crowdsourcing, which has volunteers use cellphones to report real-time traffic flow, could be adapted to turn each soldier into a reporting unit, delivering real-time data about position and status.

Communications resemble social sites like Facebook, in which your friends would be represented by a military unit and could be used to track the position of, and communicate with, other units.

Maps with an overlay of points of interest are familiar to every GPS user. The Raytheon app would use the same concept, but points of interest might be known sniper sites or safe fallback positions.

Field information would be transmitted to a central computer that would crunch the data, update it and push it back out to the soldiers. “This is hypothetical, but if there is a building with known terrorist activities, it could automatically be pushed to the phone when the soldiers get near that area,” said Mr. Smart.

Live information could also be used to reduce tactical errors and friendly fire incidents. “If there was another platoon that was supposed to arrive, and they were delayed or ahead of schedule, you could adapt your plan,” said Mr. Smart. “If one of the units you are counting on is redirected, you know that in real time.”

Mr. Smart also said that Raytheon was developing sensors that could be attached to phones so that they would serve other purposes. He declined to give specifics, however mobile phones have been outfitted as portable ultrasound machines, which would be useful for battlefield medicine.

Although the application that Raytheon has developed will work with an off-the-shelf iPhone, the company concedes that there would have to be alterations for the battlefield.

One iPhone limitation to be addressed is that it only carries out one function at a time unlike competing systems from Palm and Google, which can run several concurrently. If a soldier is to have position automatically reported, the GPS will have to run at the same time as other applications. Mr. Smart said it would be an easy adaptation to make. “Underneath the iPhone is a Mac OS X operating system, which is based on Unix, which gives us Unix multitasking,” he said.

But that raises another issue. Apple limits multitasking because it empties the batteries quickly. Because the iPhone doesn’t have a replaceable battery, a fresh one can’t be popped in when power gets low. Mr. Smart said that Raytheon may address that through a ruggedized phone case that would accommodate a larger battery.

Mobile phones are also known to be vulnerable to hacking attacks. Mr. Smart said that some safeguards were built in to the software, but especially sensitive transmissions could be passed through a more sophisticated scrambler that it would dock with.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Raytheon is developing other iPhone apps as well. It has also demonstrated an application that would serve to train air-traffic controllers. It would not completely replace current training, but would build skills in recalling aircraft and terrain, visual scanning, on-the-fly mathematics and rule-based decision-making, skills that also are used frequently by gamers.

Univ of Tokyo Develops ‘Organic Flash Memory’ by Tetsuo Nozawa

The University of Tokyo developed the “organic flash memory,” a non-volatile memory that has the same basic structure as a flash memory and is made with organic materials.

The erasing and reading voltages of the new flash memory are as low as 6V and 1V, respectively. Data can be written in and erased from the memory more than 1,000 times.

With its flexibility, the flash memory can be used for large-area sensors, electronic paper and other large-area electronic devices if its memory retention time can be extended, the university said.

The organic flash memory was developed by a research group led by Takeo Someya and Tsuyoshi Sekitani, professor and research associate at the Department of Electrical Engineering and Information Systems, Graduate School of Engineering, the University of Tokyo. The research results were published on the 11th December 2009 issue of Science magazine.

The research group used a polyethylene naphthalate (PEN) resin sheet as a substrate and arranged 26 x 26 2T memory cells in an array structure on it. The sheet is flexible, and the university confirmed that it can be bent until its curvature radius reaches 6mm without causing mechanical or electrical degradation. The university also confirmed that the sheet can be used as a non-volatile memory.

Furthermore, the research group made an “intelligent pressure sensor,” which can retain a pressure image in the sheet, by integrating the memory array and a pressure sensor.

The new memory is called “organic flash memory” because it is equipped with floating-gate transistors, which are also used for silicon-based flash memories. Specifically, the PEN substrate is mounted with aluminum (Al) control gate electrodes, insulating films, aluminum floating gates, organic semiconductor pentacene, and source and gate electrodes made of gold (Au).

The insulating film was made by using a self-assembled monolayer (SAM), which is made of a kind of phosphoric acid having an alkyl chain (CH2-CH2-CH2-…), in addition to AlOx. The SAM is as thin as 2nm.

There are non-volatile memories developed in the past. One is made by using ferroelectric materials, and the other has a floating-gate structure like the latest non-volatile memory. However, it is difficult to lower the writing and erasing voltages of the former memory than 20V. The latter memory also has a high erasing voltage. And it becomes unstable when exposed to air because its memory properties fluctuate due to the nonconstant thickness of the insulating film.

This time, the university researchers employed an SAM whose insulating film does not require thickness control to reduce the variation in memory properties. Moreover, this SAM is stable in the atmosphere.

As a disadvantage, the new organic flash memory has a memory retention time of only one day. But this can be drastically improved by reducing the size of the element and employing an SAM with a long molecular length, the university said.