Wednesday, August 17, 2005

GS(3) Intel Briefing (8-17-05)

NOTE: GS(3) Intelligence Briefing is posted on a bi-weekly basis. As circumstances dictate, we may post special editions. The Briefing is organized into five sections: Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific, Americas, Cyberspace, and Global. Each issue will provide insight on terrorism, cyber crime, climate change, health emergencies, natural disasters and other threats, as well as recommendations on what actions your organizations should take to mitigate risks. Starting in September 2005, "Words of Power" commentary will also be posted on an alternating, bi-weekly basis. This commentary will explore a broad range of issues in the interdependent realms of security, sustainability and spirit.

GS(3) Intel Briefing (8-17-05)

Europe, Middle East & Africa

Five thousand Israelis on five cruise ships were diverted from Turkish ports to Cyprus in recent days amid intelligence that a terror attack was imminent. Turkish police reportedly detained 10 people for allegedly plotting to attack Israeli cruise ships docking at vacation resorts. Israel urged its citizens not to visit beach resorts on the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, with one official saying that although Turkey was cracking down on terror threats the travel warning would remain in force. Overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey is a top vacation spot for Israelis and more than 300,000 visit each year…The issue of attacks at tourist resorts is extremely sensitive in Turkey, which is hoping to host some 22 million tourists this year, and bring in US$19.5 billion. (Associated Press, 8/10/05)

The botched, bungled “war on terrorism,” with its tragic, misguided detour into Iraq and subsequent horrors (e.g., Abu Ghraib, Fallujah. etc.), has swelled the ranks of recruits to Al Qaeda style organizations. The war on tourism has been spreading throughout the Moslem world.  The beaches of Malaysia and southern Thailand are still paradises, but no longer carefree paradises. Nightclubs of Bali and Casablanca have become scenes of carnage, so have Red Sea resorts and Cairo tourist sites. Where next? Tangiers or Marrakech? The Seychelles? Train yourself to think ahead of the curve.

  • If you have business in tourist magnets within or adjacent to areas of the Moslem world where Al Qaeda style terrorism has been active, you should perform due diligence in regard to the security of your people, your operations and your clientele. Tourist districts, like financial districts, are being targeted. Remember, Al Qaeda style terrorism aims at inflicting economic losses and sowing fear and doubt through the slaughter of civilians. Developing crisis management capabilities and strengthening security controls must be a priority for your business.

  • If you are traveling, on either business or pleasure, to such dazzling but dangerous locations, take appropriate precautions, including but not limited to the following simple but powerful steps: leave your full itinerary with two reliable people (one in your personal life, one in your professional life), learn something about the current security situation in the locale before you go, and check in with your country’s consulate or embassy at your destination when you arrive.

Asia Pacific

Philippines National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said Indonesian suicide bombers might already be in Manila planning attacks on four targets with members of the Abu Sayyaf Group. Gonzales said there were reports 10 suicide bombers had been sent to the Philippines and that the country could become a "major target" in a global expansion of militant violence.

Islamic militants linked to al-Qaida have plotted attacks on U.S. and British embassies, hotels, a mall and other targets across the country, according to a confidential Philippines government report. The report, which was prepared in March, contains sketchy details of bombing, kidnapping and assassination plots…(Associated Press, 8/05)

According to Professor Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism expert based in Singapore, Jemaah Islamiah, has moved its strategic base from Indonesia to the southern Philippines. Gunaratna says Jemaah Islamiah now sees Australia as the United States of the region, and Australian interests are being targeted. Gunaratna also says that Jemaah Islamiah is building its presence in the southern Philippines. He says Australia should deepen its investment in counter-terrorism in the Philippines to match the effort being made in Indonesia, because the JI training camps in the southern Philippines are now the movement's strategic base. “These camps are still functioning. As long as the terrorist training camps are active…As long as those camps are there, JI will remain a credible threat. Today, the strategic base of JI is not in Indonesia, it is in the Philippines. You need to make the same investment that you have made in Indonesia in the Philippines.” (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/05)

On a recent trip to Manila, I experienced the heightened danger and surveyed the situation first-hand. There are bomb-sniffing dogs at the entrance to the Makati Shangri-La. Security at the Manila airport is of concern. The drive into the city is potentially perilous. The increasing threat of terrorist attacks against Western or Australian business or government targets are exacerbating a security situation already made difficult by dire economic straits and serious political instability.

  • Organizations with interests or operations in the Philippines must commit to developing crisis management capabilities for various scenarios, including disruption of business due to car bombings that destroy buildings or street violence during coups or counter-coups.

  • Australia, with its vast coastlines, open society and small vulnerable regional airports, is also at great risk–particularly because of the Howard government’s commitment of military forces to the US-UK invasion and occupation of Iraq. Organizations with operations or interests in Australia should review their own security posture and crisis management capabilities and also coordinate with civil authorities.


“It was early evening in a nice part of Caracas…Young filmmaker Jonathan Jakubowicz and a friend were driving home from a movie when a car suddenly cut them off and forced them to stop. Two assailants jumped in, guns drawn…It was all over in less than an hour. No ransom notes. No calls to relatives for money. Just stops at ATMs to drain bank accounts and at stores to use credit cards. The victims were released on a highway outside of town, no car, cell phones or shoes…Kidnappings have become commonplace in Latin America — one per hour on the continent, according to one estimate…More and more, the middle class has fallen prey to so-called "quicknappings," in which people like Jakubowicz are held for short periods for fast cash. The crime now has a nickname based on the Spanish word for kidnapping — "secuestro express," a sort of in-and-out abduction.” (LA Times, 8/7/05)

“Economic kidnapping is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world.” It is estimated that kidnappers globally take home in the region of $500 million each year in ransom payments: the hostage is a commodity with a price on his head. Reliable statistics are hard to come by, but it is estimated that there are approximately 10,000 kidnappings each year worldwide. The undisputed kidnap capital of the world is Colombia, where the activity has been described as 'a cottage industry'. In 2000, the Colombian National Police recorded 3162 cases...Colombian kidnapping groups often cross over into Venezuela and Ecuador to take hostages, and both countries feature in the top ten. Other hot-spots around the globe include Mexico, where the problem has risen dramatically in the last five years, Brazil, Philippines and the former Soviet Union…Latin America is an important hub for kidnapping. However, it would be wrong to see the crime as a uniquely Latin American problem. Over the past decade or so, kidnapping has risen in parts of Africa, most notably Nigeria and South Africa…” (Rachel Briggs, Guild of Security Controllers)

  • Does your organization have an understanding of Kidnap, Ransom and Extortion (KRE) issues? Does your organization have KRE insurance? Do you have an established relationship with a security services group? Does your organization have a travel security program? Do you monitor business travel to destinations with high kidnapping rates? Have your people been briefed on how to avoid express kidnappings? Have they received any training on how to handle themselves during more traditional kidnaps for ransom? Have crisis management team members been drilled in kidnapping scenarios?


Summer temperatures have risen sharply in most west European capital cities over the past 30 years, adding to evidence of the accelerating impact of climate change, the environmental group WWF International reports. WWF blamed most of the warming on pollution from power stations rather than road traffic and urged the European Union to set tougher targets for emissions of greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide. Between 2000 and 2004, average temperatures in 13 of the 16 cities surveyed were at least one degree Celsius higher than during the first five years of the 1970s. The study covered the 15 capitals of the pre-2004 European Union as well as Warsaw in Poland…Average temperatures across Europe over the whole of the past century rose by 0.8 degrees Celsius, according to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The panel of scientists also predicted four years ago that average temperatures on the continent should rise by 0.1 to 0.4 degrees Celsius every decade, while summer heat waves would be both more intense and more frequent. Environmentalists said the significant difference between the overall data and the WWF's more limited study on urban summers backed up evidence of an acceleration in warming in recent decades caused by pollution.

With half of its territory below sea level—and much of the rest threatened by coastal or river flooding—the Netherlands is taking climate change very seriously. Global warming is expected to cause the seas to rise by somewhere between four inches (ten centimeters) and three feet (one meter) during this century, while increased rainfall may enhance the flood risk for low-lying towns and cities behind the Dutch sea defenses. Unlike the United States and many other countries, there is no debate in the Netherlands over the need to take action to ensure that the country is prepared for the possible effects of rising seas, increased storms, and surging rivers. (Christian Science Monitor, 9/01)

Andrew Cooper of the Coastal Research Group (University of Ulster) said that the sea was swallowing up about 750 acres of Ireland each year, and warned that the process would quicken. He said global warming was likely to subject Ireland's shores, particularly along the northern and western Atlantic coasts, to more frequent and powerful storms... (Associated Press, 3/02)

All organizations, in all regions, should already be factoring the security and crisis management implications of climate change due to global warming into their programs. In the near-term, the impact of severe weather conditions (e.g., major storms, serious flooding, prolonged, intense heat waves, etc.) on already inadequate and out-dated power grids in Europe and North America will be significant. Likewise, security situations in already marginal social structures in Africa will deteriorate even further as climate conditions grow extreme.


The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Four Corners program was offered information on 1000 Australians. Four Corners says it was offered a deal on the information, through an unidentified broker, which it turned down. The information included names, addresses, telephone numbers, birth details, Medicare numbers, driver's licence numbers, ATM card numbers and even passport information. The program verified that the information belonged to real people.
Four Corners said the information appeared to have come from a call centre based in the Indian city of Gurgaon…The call was from a telemarketer offering a mobile phone deal on behalf of an Australian phone company, Switch Mobile. Switch Mobile said it had contracted out its telemarketing to a Melbourne company, One Touch Solutions, which has offices in India.
That company, in turn, contracted out the work to an Indian company, Brick and Click. Sydney Morning Herald (8/15/05)

This story highlights another in a recent series of similar incidents involving identity theft and related criminal enterprise at call centers and the outsourcing of financial services support. Organizations that have either outsource to or establish their own call centers or other support processes in countries geographically remote from their own headquarters should perform security assessments of these facilities, or at a minimum, request that the documentation for assessments conducted by third parties, and closely track related mitigation. Also, a system of appropriate background checks should be in place for people working in such call centers, particularly if they are working with sensitive financial information about clients or customers.