Wednesday, October 26, 2005

GS(3) Intelligence Briefing 10-26-05

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, Global and Cyberspace. Each issue provides 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. “Words of Power" commentary is also be posted on a bi-weekly basis. This commentary explores a range of issues in the interdependent realms of security, sustainability and spirit. For more information, go to

Europe, Middle East & Africa
Although several serious terrorism-related developments in the region demand your attention, the impact of Global Warming, a.k.a. Climate Change, and its security implications have even more wide-ranging significance for Europe and Africa in both the near-term and long-term.
Consider two recent stories that detail the changes already underway on the Eurasian land mass.
In August, Russian researchers reported that an area of tundra larger than France and Germany combined was rapidly turning into bog as the permafrost melted.  In early September, British researchers reported that warmer temperatures were causing the soil to heat up and dramatically increasing rates of decay. The temperate forests and fields of the United Kingdom are becoming, in essence, semitropical.  In mid-September, researchers reported that arctic sea ice had shrunk by 20 percent. "The feeling is we are reaching a tipping point or threshold beyond which sea ice will not recover," one scientist told reporters.  And in late September, European researchers reported on the biological effects of 2003's record heat wave, the one that killed 15,000 people in France alone. In Italy, they said, corn yields dropped by about 36 percent. Oak and pine also grew more slowly, the study found. In fact, overall there was 30 percent less plant growth that year.  What do numbers like these -- all from the best peer-reviewed journals -- show us? That global warming is not some distant problem waiting to appear, some hypothetical trouble we should start preparing for. They show us that the world is already changing with deadly speed. Every time we burn coal and gas and oil, we send carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and now that carbon dioxide is trapping enough heat to create a new planet.  And what's really scary is that each of these developments will in turn trigger more global warming. They're what scientists call feedback loops. For instance, as the Siberian permafrost melts it releases huge quantities of methane -- at some spots last winter the gas was bubbling up so fast that the bogs didn't freeze in even the coldest weather. And methane is an even more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.  Meanwhile, as British soils heat and decay speeds up, that decay releases carbon -- enough to offset all the energy-saving changes that Britain has made since 1990. Meanwhile the reductions in plant growth that the Europeans found during the hot summer of 2003 mean fewer trees and plants to soak up the carbon from the atmosphere. And up north? White sea ice reflects the sun's rays back to space; when it melts to blue water that heat is now absorbed, increasing warming yet again.  So far human beings have increased the planet's temperature about 1 degree Fahrenheit. Unless we do everything possible, as quickly as possible, to shift away from fossil fuels, scientists say we will warm the planet another 5 degrees before the century's end. So imagine all those numbers multiplied by five. (Bill McKibben,, 10-13-05)
African nations account for a tiny percentage of the emissions but are already suffering the consequences, researchers say…Desertification is spreading in the northwestern Sahel region. Droughts, flooding and other extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe. Numerous plant and animal species are in decline.  South Africa's environmental affairs minister, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, urged the United States and other holdouts to sign the Kyoto Protocol, which calls on the top 35 industrialized nations to cut carbon dioxide and other gas emissions.  But even if countries stop polluting today, researchers argue the effects will be felt for decades, posing what the African Development Bank has singled out as possibly the greatest long-term threat to efforts to end poverty on the continent.  Some 770 million Africans — 63 percent — live in rural areas, and about 40 percent survive on less than a dollar a day. Most are farmers. Wood is their major source of fuel, and medicinal plants their main defense against disease. Many are already subject to recurring droughts, floods and soil degradation that can wipe out their livelihoods. Extended changes in temperatures and rainfall could fundamentally alter the landscape and cut production on their small farms. Hotter, drier weather in the semiarid west of South Africa could reduce production of maize by up to 20 percent and generate a proliferation of pests, researchers said. In the moister areas to the east, where rainfall is forecast to increase, thickets are encroaching on grasslands, threatening livestock and wildlife. Rising temperatures at higher altitudes could also quadruple the number of South Africans at high risk of malaria by 2020. With weather becoming more erratic, communities are finding themselves with little time to recover from one disaster before being hit by the next. (Associated Press, 10-20-05)
Meanwhile, as the following five stories illustrate, the terrorist threat throughout the region continues to evolve, intensity and morph in a deeply disturbing ways.
Five people were killed and more than 80 people injured in twin bombings in the oil city of Ahvaz in southwest Iran. "We are very suspicious about the role of British forces in perpetrating such terrorist acts," the ISNA student news agency quoted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as saying…No one has claimed responsibility for the homemade bombs, planted in garbage bins and detonated a few minutes apart. (Reuters, 10-16-05)
Armed police and anti-terrorist officers sealed the Dutch parliament building and two other locations in The Hague amid what appeared to be a terror alert.  Seven people, six of the male, were arrested at locations in The Hague, the seat of government, in Amsterdam and the nearby town of Almere, in police actions, Dutch media reported. A school near the centre of The Hague was sealed, as was a nearby street, where television news reported witnesses saying they heard gunshots. (Financial Times, 10-14-05)
At least 108 people were killed in fighting in Nalchik, a southern Russian city after scores of militants launched a series of attacks…Estimates of the number of militants involved in the attacks ranged from 60 to 300.  The violence erupted after the militants launched a series of coordinated attacks this morning on three police stations, a prison, the local airport, and other official buildings. An Internet claim of responsibility for the attacks was made on the Kavkaz centre website, which is linked to rebels loyal to Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev…There were unconfirmed reports that the violence was prompted by an attempt to free a group of followers of the hard-line Wahhabi strand of Islam who had previously been detained by security forces. (Guardian, 10-13-05, Associated Press, 10-14-05)
A UN report implicated high-level Syrian officials in the bombing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The report found the assassination "could not have ... [occurred] without the approval of top-ranked security officials and could not have been further organized without the collusion of their counterparts in the Lebanese security services." The US also calculates that the Assad regime will probably follow past patterns, offering just enough concessions to avoid a serious challenge to its survival, and then resume its terrorist support in the future. But then, the alternative to Assad is difficult to imagine: The strongest opposition groups are fundamentalist Islamic, while secular opposition figures abroad are weak and splintered. The fall of Assad could bring a mess in the Arab world. (Christian Science Monitor, 10-25-05)
A secret survey undertaken for the Ministry of Defence, and conducted by an Iraqi university research team that, for security reasons, was not told the data it compiled would be used by coalition forces, reveals that 45% of Iraqis believe attacks against British and American troops are justified (rising to 65 per cent in the British-controlled Maysan province), 82% are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops, and 67% of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation…(Telegraph, 10-23-05)

  • All organizations should undertake a comprehensive risk analysis of what global warming and climate change will mean to their people, operations and business interests.

  • All governments and organizations should conduct awareness and education campaigns to inform and empower their people in preparation for the impact of climate change.

  • All organizations with business operations or interests in the major cities throughout the world should review, revise and regularly test business continuity plans, crisis management capabilities and travel security programs in general, and how these plans, capabilities and programs will function if a building, which houses significant elements of their operations, were to be destroyed.

Asia Pacific
Although new cases of bird flu have been discovered in Europe, with Britain and Croatia both confirming birds found with the disease and Romania detecting a suspected new case, major recent developments in the bird flu story have come in Asia Pacific.
Doubts about the efficacy of the main drug being stockpiled in Britain to combat a possible outbreak of deadly bird flu have emerged after a strain of the virus resistant to the treatment was found in a Vietnamese girl.  The British government has purchased 14.6 million courses of Tamiflu as part of its contingency plans to deal with bird flu. But Japanese scientists have found a strain of the H5N1 virus resistant to Tamiflu in a girl in Vietnam who had been put on a course of preventive treatment with the drug for four days in February.  (Scotsman, 10-15-05)
China reported its third outbreak of bird flu, as public health groups urged officials to bypass patent laws and mass-produce generic versions of potentially lifesaving anti-viral drugs. More than 500 chickens and ducks were killed by the latest outbreak in central China, which prompted authorities to destroy 2,487 others in an attempt to keep the disease from spreading, the government's veterinary bureau said in a report…''The repeated outbreaks really is a signal of seriousness and the inability of the surveillance system of the region in general,'' said Noureddin Mona, Beijing representative of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization…Japan on Wednesday began handing medical supplies worth 25 million yen (US$216,000; euro180,301) to Indonesia to help tackle a bird flu outbreak that has killed four people there. The equipment will be used to upgrade laboratories so that officials can identify and track down the origin of the virus…Under World Trade Organization rules, countries facing a public health emergency can issue so-called compulsory licenses to legally manufacture and export generic versions of patented drugs under strict conditions. Health groups, including the medical relief agency Medecins Sans Frontieres, have urged the WTO to simplify the rules to encourage more producers to make generic drugs to ensure they are widely available…Even countries that have already begun stockpiling drugs may be caught short, experts say. A pair of Australian researchers published a report in the Medical Journal of Australia on Wednesday warning that the country's substantial stockpile of influenza drugs won't be enough in the event of a bird flu pandemic. (Associated Press, 10-26-05)
But, of course, the Bird Flu threat is global, not regional.
The global community will need to spend at least “several hundred million dollars” to prepare for a human flu pandemic in the months ahead, a senior World Health Organisation official said. In an interview with the Financial Times, Mike Ryan, the WHO's director of epidemic and pandemic alert and response, said substantial investments would be required. Preparing the world fully for the potential pandemic with large-scale production of vaccines and other measures would cost “billions,” he said. (Financial Times. 10-21-05)
And like the Global Warming threat, the impact on Africa could be devastating.
Countries along the Rift Valley in eastern Africa - Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia, which are thought to be at greatest risk because of the millions of migratory birds that will arrive there in December - already had announced poultry bans or strengthened existing regulations. The neighboring countries of Congo, Sudan and Uganda also have announced bans, as has Ghana, in West Africa.  The close proximity between people and animals and insufficient surveillance and disease-control capacities in eastern African countries create an ideal breeding ground for the virus," Joseph Domenech, the chief veterinarian at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, said. (Knight-Ridder, 10-21-05)
  • All organizations with business operations or interests in the major cities throughout the world should review, revise and regularly test business continuity plans, crisis management capabilities and travel security programs in general, and how these plans, capabilities and programs will function if a city in which their organization has significant operations or interests.

  • All governments and organizations should conduct awareness and education campaigns to inform and empower their people about the bird flu threat.

For the last two months, major hurricanes (Katrina, Rita and Stan) have preoccupied the GS(3) analysis of threats in the Americas. And now, Wilma, another major hurricane weaned in the over-heated waters of the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, has wreaked its havoc--on Mexico and Florida in particular. But in this issue we choose instead to draw to your attention to four seemingly distinct news stories that relate to each other in a very serious albeit subtle way.
A national movement to have intelligent design taught in science classrooms is "very dangerous," Cornell University's interim president, Hunter R. Rawlings III, said after taking up the issue in a speech. But Mr. Rawlings charged that colleges were not engaging enough in the debate…Intelligent design is a theory that says the universe is too complex to be the result of evolution and natural selection, proposing that a higher power is responsible. Proponents say that alternatives to evolution should be taught in classrooms. But Mr. Rawlings denounced intelligent design as a "religious belief masquerading as a secular idea." Mr. Rawlings added, "Right now, this issue is playing out in school districts, cities, counties and states across the country." In citing a recent report by the Pew Research Center in Washington, Mr. Rawlings said 42 percent of Americans believe that creationism should be taught instead of evolution. "This is above all a cultural issue, not a scientific one," Mr. Rawlings said. (New York Times, 10-22-04)
Latin American countries are increasingly doing a better job of protecting freedom of information while the United States' performance is dropping, according to the annual World Press Freedom Index released Thursday. The index, which covers 167 countries and was compiled by the nongovernmental Reporters Without Borders, ranked Trinidad and Tobago most free among Latin American countries and 12th worldwide after several European countries. Among the worst were Colombia, which ranked 128th worldwide because of the risks that journalists there must face as a result of that country's civil war, and Mexico, which ranked 135th because of a number of attacks on journalists who have written about organizd crime and corruption. Rated last in Latin America and 161st worldwide was Cuba, where the communist government monopolizes and censors all the media and often jails independent journalists. El Salvador came in at 28th, followed by Costa Rica in 41st place and Bolivia in 45th. But the United States, sometimes viewed as a model for freedom of expression, dropped 20 spots from its 2004 ranking and landed in 44th place. (Saudy Pena, MIAMI HERALD, 10-21-05)
Scientists from Brazil and the US say new research suggests deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon has been underestimated by at least 60%. The team has completed a study using a more advanced technique of satellite imagery that can pick up more types of logging activity…Deforestation in the Amazon is on such a massive scale that the only way of measuring it is by using satellites. The trouble has been that while traditional aerial images can show areas that have been completely destroyed, they do not reveal selective logging of valuable trees such as mahogany. With input from the Nasa space agency, the joint US and Brazilian team used an ultra-high-resolution technique to examine just how much selective logging was going on…The researchers concluded that the area of rainforest destroyed between 1999 and 2002 was thousands of square kilometres bigger than previously thought. They also found that about 25% more carbon had been released into the atmosphere than estimated - possibly enough to affect climate change. (BBC, 10-21-05)
The drive to privatize water distribution and resources is gaining steam in Latin America. Although transnational water companies have suffered setbacks in places like Puerto Rico, Bolivia, and Uruguay, they continue with plans to appropriate the region's hydrological resources-rivers, aquifers, wells, and aqueduct systems. While "privatization" has become a loaded term in the water business, companies prefer a softer discourse, employing concepts such as "decentralization," "civil society participation," and "sustainable development." In April, over 400 participants from Mexico and countries throughout the hemisphere met in Mexico City at the First People's Workshop in Defense of Water…Maude Barlow, Canadian activist and co-author of "Blue Gold," participated in the Workshop and in an interview with Radio Mundo Real she sent a message to Latin American governments: "I understand that the states of Latin America are going through difficulties in financing the public system of water supply and I know that they have also a huge debt with the First World. But they are making a big mistake by allowing these corporations to enter their communities and administer the water system just for the profits it generates. This would cause even more poverty, more pollution. The corporations do not take on any risk, but obtain all the benefits. It is local people who bear the risk, and it's the World Bank that pays for the corporations to be risk-free. It is very important for governments to say 'no' to these corporations. In short, they are not there to get water to the people, they are not there out of a concern for the people, or to help the governments. They are there to make money. When they stop making it they will leave." (Carmelo Ruiz Marrero , IRC Americas, 10-18-05)
  • What is the unifying theme in the selection these four stories? When you dumb down a population by using religious extremism to weaken science, and by limiting the analysis available to them by narrowing freedom of the press, then you can exploit the very environment that sustains them to the verge of extinction and sell its vital resources back to them. It is the environment that sustains life on this planet. Only democratic societies can protect the environment. Only enlightened mind, embodied in science and freedom of the press, can protect democratic institutions. Remember, the defining principles of GS(3) Intelligence are 1) everything and everyone eveywhere is connected, and 2) security, sustainability and spirit are inter-related, and you cannot understand security risks well or mitigate them effectively unless you take the issues into sustainability and spirit into the process. This struggle for life and for the freedom of the mind is the responsibility of each individual and all governments.

The world’s relief effort is hundred of thousands of tents short of what is needed in the mountains of Pakistan and Kashmir. Winter is coming. Tens of thousands of children are at risk.
NATO dismissed a United Nations request for a second Berlin airlift to help hundreds of thousands of earthquake survivors stranded for two weeks in the mountains of northern Pakistan. Helicopters are the only means of getting supplies in large numbers into the Himalayan foothills of Pakistani Kashmir and North West Frontier province…Jan Egeland, the UN's emergency relief co-ordinator, called on NATO to mount a massive airlift on the scale of the 1948-49 airlift to the beleaguered people of Soviet- blockaded West Berlin. However, a NATO source said: "There is no question of the alliance doing that. That was Berlin after World War II and this is Pakistan now - there is absolutely no comparison." NATO ambassadors agreed instead to send 500 to 1,000 soldiers, including engineers. The decision came amid warnings that the death toll was still rising - Oxfam said children faced freezing to death as temperatures drop with the onset of winter. The charity also attacked the Ministry of Defence, saying it was failing to hand over its winter tents to help survivors. The MoD responded by saying it had only enough tents for its own needs, but Oxfam said it should send whatever winter tents it had and then replenish its own stocks. "In some areas children are already dying of exposure as the temperature drops," a spokesman said. "Of course, we understand that the military like to be ready to rush into battle at a moment's notice, but thousands of people could die unless all of the world's winter tents are made available." The UN estimates that only 30,000 of the required 450,000 tents have been distributed.  (Scotsman, 10-22-05)
  • Global warming resulting in climate change, AIDS in Africa, potential pandemics, nuclear proliferation…World organizations must prepare for a millennium of disaster relief and intervention on a large scale than ever conceived before, and develop capabilities to manage multiple catastrophes simultaneously over several years at a time.

The risks of e-commerce have, to some extent, been publicized in the mainstream news media, and addressed by law enforcement. Unfortunately, the same level of public interest andaw enforcement attention has not been shed on the risks of e-voting, and other aspects of computer-facilitated election fraud. In my view (I have followed the story since I published one of the first articles on it in early 2001 after the debacle), a serious failure of leadership, both among elected officials and news media executives, has resulted in two seriously compromised national elections in the U.S. Exit polls are recognized as our best and most reliable indicator of election fraud. Exit polls, because of their accuracy, are used by international election monitors. In both 2000 and 2004, they contradicted the official election results for the Presidency of the U.S. It is insisted upon, and unchallenged, in the US mainstream news media that an instrument which had never been wrong before erred in two consecutive elections. Certainly, the U.S., which champions itself as a beacon of democratic principles, and has the largest "military-industrial complex" (Eisenhower's words) in the world, should be held to the same international standards as developing or recovering nations.
Here is an important study that should interest those involved in democratic societies everywhere.
The non-partisan U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which reports to the U.S. Congress, has released a comprehensive analysis of the concerns raised by the increasing use of electronic voting machines. Overall, GAO found that "significant concerns about the security and reliability of electronic voting systems" have been raised (p. 22), and that "some of these concerns have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes" (p. 23). According to GAO, "election officials, computer security experts, citizen advocacy groups, and others have raised significant concerns about the security and reliability of electronic voting systems, citing instances of weak security controls, system design flaws, inadequate system version control, inadequate security testing, incorrect system configuration, poor security management, and vague or incomplete standards, among other issues. ... The security and reliability concerns raised in recent reports merit the focused attention of federal, state, and local authorities responsible for election administration" (p. 22-23)…Examples of problems reported by GAO include (1) computer systems that fail to encrypt data files containing cast votes, allowing them to be viewed or modified without detection by internal auditing systems; (2) systems that could allow individuals to alter ballot definition files so that votes cast for one candidate are counted for another; and (3) weak controls that allowed the alteration of memory cards used in optical scan machines, potentially impacting election results. GAO said that "these weaknesses could damage the integrity of ballots, votes, and voting system software by allowing unauthorized modifications (p. 25)…Examples of problems reported by GAO include (1) the failure to password-protect files and functions; (2) the use of easily guessed passwords or identical passwords for numerous systems built by the same manufacturer; and (3) the failure to secure memory cards used to secure voting systems, potentially allowing individuals to vote multiple times, change vote totals, or produce false election reports…According to GAO, "in the event of lax supervision, the…flaws could allow unauthorized personnel to disrupt operations or modify data and programs that are crucial to the accuracy and integrity of the voting process" (p. 26). In addition to identifying flaws in software and access controls, GAO identified basic problems with the physical hardware of electronic voting machines. Example of problems reported by GAO included locks that could be easily picked or were all controlled by the same keys, and unprotected switches used to turn machines on and off that could easily be used to disrupt the voting process (p. 27). Experts contacted by GAO reported a number of concerns about the practices of voting machine vendors, including the failure to conduct background checks on programmers and system developers, the lack of internal security protocols during software development, and the failure to establish clear chain of custody procedures for handling and transporting software (p. 29).
GAO found multiple examples of actual operational failures in real elections. These examples include the following incidents:
  • In California, a county presented voters with an incorrect electronic ballot, meaning they could not vote in certain races (p. 29).

  • In Pennsylvania, a county made a ballot error on an electronic voting system that resulted in the county's undervote percentage reaching 80% in some precincts (p. 29-30).

  • In North Carolina, electronic voting machines continued to accept votes after their memories were full, causing over 4,000 votes to be lost (p. 31).

  • In Florida, a county reported that touch screens took up to an hour to activate and had to be activated sequentially, resulting in long delays (p. 31).
GAO reported that voluntary standards for electronic voting, adopted in 2002 by the Federal Election Commission, have been criticized for containing vague and incomplete security provisions, inadequate provisions for commercial products and networks, and inadequate documentation requirements (pp. 32-33).
GAO further reported that "security experts and some election officials have expressed concern that tests currently performed by independent testing authorities and state and local election officials do not adequately assess electronic voting system security and reliability," and that "these concerns are amplified by what some perceive as a lack of transparency in the testing process" (p. 34) (, 10-22-05)
To view the full report:
GAO made several recommendations, primarily aimed at the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (p. 53), including:
  • Collaborate with appropriate technical experts to define specific tasks, outcomes, milestones, and resource needs required to improve voting system standards;

  • Expeditiously establish documented policies, criteria, and procedures for certifying voting systems;

  • Improve support for state and local officials via improved information dissemination information on voting machine software, the problems and vulnerabilities of voting machines, and the "best practices" used by state and local officials to ensure the security of electronic voting machines.

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Words of Power #4: Toward a Post-Bush Vision of Global Security

NOTE: Words of Power is published on a bi-weekly basis, and alternates with the GS(3) Intelligence Briefing, also posted on a bi-weekly basis. As circumstances dictate, we may post special editions. "Words of Power" commentary will explore a range of issues in the interdependent realms of security, sustainability and spirit. The GS(3) Intel Briefing is organized into five sections: Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific, Americas, Global and Cyberspace. 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. For more information, go to

Words of Power #4: Toward a Post-Bush Vision of Global Security

"I was a scientist before I was a politician. And as a scientist I know you need facts, evidence and proof - and then you check, recheck and check again...The fact was that there were no facts, there was no evidence, and there was no proof. As a politician the most serious decision you can take is to commit your armed services to war from which they may not return." (Baroness Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, speaking out on the Iraq War, Independent/UK, 10-14-05)

"Sixty years ago, Arnold Toynbee concluded, in his monumental 'Study of History,' that the ultimate cause of imperial collapse was 'suicidal statecraft.' Sadly for President George W. Bush's place in history but - much more important - ominously for America's future, it has lately seemed as if that adroit phrase might be applicable to the policies pursued by the United States since the cataclysm of 9/11. (Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to US President Jimmy Carter, speaking out on the Bush Doctrine in general and Iraq in particular, International Herald Tribune, 10-13-05)

You don't have to read animal entrails or tea leaves to get a glimpse into the future, and thereby gain an advantage on its challenges. You simply have to open your mind and look deeply into the present. Of course, to look deeply into the present, you must understand that everyone and everything, everywhere, is interconnected-it is a natural law that flows from divine truth. Looking, you will see that the world situation is careening from bad to worse. There was no way that the creation of a “new world order,” and there is need of one, was going to be easy. But it has certainly been made much more dangerous than it should have been, not because of 9/11, that threat already existed, but because of bad decisions made by a few foolish individuals, with great power. Sooner or later, however, through one Constitutional means (i.e, the two term limit) or another (i.e., impeachment), the Bush administration will come to an end, and the U.S. will choose new political leadership. Someone has to pick up the pieces. It is imperative that security and intelligence professionals from across the ideological spectrum begin to articulate a post-Bush vision of global security. (Yes, global security. Put aside the term "national security." There is no "national security" without global security.)
What should our post-Bush vision of global security encompass?
Here are some insights on three grave but largely unacknowledged threats that must be dealt with and four recommendations on where to start in lessening their impact.

Beacon of US Temporarily Hidden Under a Bushel
One of the greatest threats to global security is the precipitous fall of US prestige, and the reasons behind it. The US is still the world's greatest economic and military power. But unless the US stands for the Good, in a real, meaningful and consistent way, and, just as importantly, is recognized as standing for the Good, it will not be so powerful in a few short years.
America's image is still so tattered abroad after the Iraq war that China is viewed more favorably than the US in many countries, a global poll finds. Its image has not recovered in Western European countries, the US-based Pew Research Center found. In none of the 16 countries surveyed, the US included, does a majority of the public think the war leading to Saddam Hussein's removal made the world safer. (BBC, 6-23-05)
More than half of people surveyed in a BBC World Service poll say the re-election of US President George W Bush has made the world more dangerous...The survey found that 47% of the 21,953 people questioned now see US influence in the world as largely negative, and view Americans negatively as well. (BBC, 1-19-05)
What destroyed the prestige of the US?
Certainly the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the decision to resort to the torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, in particular, are paramount. It is as if Osama Bin Laden had written the script himself.
Consider the remarks of British playwright Harold Pinter, winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature, concerning the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
"A bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of International Law," and "an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public. An act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading - as a last resort (all other justifications having failed to justify themselves) - as liberation...We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery and degradation to the Iraqi people and call it " bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East". But, as we all know, we have not been welcomed with the predicted flowers. What we have unleashed is a ferocious and unremitting resistance, mayhem and chaos." (Independent, 10-14-05)
But the Bush administration's rejection of the Kyoto accords and its refusal (even now) to acknowledge the reality of global warming or come to grips with its dire consequences has also been profoundly damaging to U.S. prestige throughout the world.
The world has now already lost several crucial years it could not afford to lose.
Consider this San Francisco Chronicle story from 2002.
From the tropics to the poles, evidence is growing stronger than ever that Earth's climate is warming dangerously. In the Arctic Ocean, floating masses of sea ice are shrinking and splitting apart, and the massive Greenland ice cap melted more this past summer than ever before...Coral reefs are living creatures. As they die, their calcite skeletons build up the reefs over millions of years. They are a crucial part of the world's marine ecosystems, vital to the productivity of many tropical fisheries..."There is growing agreement that doubling of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere means a 15 percent decline in the coral population," said Robert W. Buddemeier, a senior chemist with the Kansas Geological Survey, who has studied the impact of climate change on coral reefs. "By the end of the century, with the effects of increasing levels of carbon dioxide on temperature and on ocean chemistry, the corals will be in the worst shape we've seen in the past 50 million years. Things are really dicey," he added...Global warming will cause "major political instabilities in the developing world that could disrupt the global economy," said Lester R. Brown, founder of the Earth Policy Institute and a noted environmental analyst who spent 10 years as a policy adviser in the Department of Agriculture. If measures aren't taken soon to curb greenhouse gas emissions, the changes in climate will force rapid changes in the way the world's food crops are grown. That has important implications for feeding the world's growing population, expected to increase to at least 9 billion by 2050. "The vast corn belt of the Northern Hemisphere, for example, will become hotter and dryer, and that change can't be resolved merely by creating new corn belts further north, because the soils further north are not the same at all," Brown said. "Each global increase of 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) around the world will reduce grain yields like rice and wheat, as well as corn, by at least 10 percent," he said. And because aquifers are being tapped at an increasing pace throughout the world and water tables are falling, the outcome will soon mean a devastating blow to agriculture -- particularly in the developing world, he said. "This disruption by a combination of climate change and water shortages has the potential for creating political instabilities on a scale that we can't even foresee," Brown declared.
(San Francisco Chronicle, 12-23-02)
James E. Hansen, a NASA scientist spoke out bravely about the Bush administration’s policy of denial and delay on Global Warming.
"The Bush administration is trying to stifle scientific evidence of the dangers of global warming in an effort to keep the public uninformed, a NASA scientist said. "In my more than three decades in government, I have never seen anything approaching the degree to which information flow from scientists to the public has been screened and controlled as it is now," James E. Hansen told a University of Iowa audience. Hansen is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York and has twice briefed a task force headed by Vice President Dick Cheney on global warming. Hansen said the administration wants to hear only scientific results that "fit predetermined, inflexible positions." Evidence that would raise concerns about the dangers of climate change is often dismissed as not being of sufficient interest to the public. "This, I believe, is a recipe for environmental disaster." Hansen said the scientific community generally agrees that temperatures on Earth are rising because of the greenhouse effect - emissions of carbon dioxide and other materials into the atmosphere that trap heat. These rising temperatures, scientists believe, could cause sea levels to rise and trigger severe environmental consequences, he said. Hansen said such warnings are consistently suppressed, while studies that cast doubt on such interpretations receive favorable treatment from the administration. He also said reports that outline potential dangers of global warming are edited to make the problem appear less serious. "This process is in direct opposition to the most fundamental precepts of science," he said. White House science adviser John H. Marburger III has denied charges that the administration refuses to accept the reality of climate change, noting that President Bush pointed out in a 2001 speech that greenhouse gases have increased substantially in the past 200 years. Last December, the administration said it was planning a five-year program to research global warming and climate change. Hansen said he was speaking as a private citizen, not as a government employee, and paid his own way for the Iowa appearance. (Associated Press, 10-27-04)

Torquemada vs. Osama
The rejection of science, not only to appease corporatist views, but also to appease religious extremism is another one of the great threats that we confront as a species.
As Pinter, the Nobel laureate, observes: "The 'free world' we are told, as embodied in the United States and Great Britain, is different to the rest of the world since our actions are dictated and sanctioned by a moral authority and a moral passion condoned by someone called God. Some people may find this difficult to comprehend but Osama Bin Laden finds it easy."
In the US, religious extremists and the political leaders who pander to them threaten our global scientific heritage, by positing "intelligent design" as co-equal with evolution in school curriculums, and by restricting US federal funding of stem cell research.
In the US and the Arab world, religious extremists threaten our global spiritual heritage, which is enriched and deepened by numerous strong traditions, from the Shamanic to the Buddhist, that do not share their narrow view of the universe.
In March 2001, the Taliban blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas, despite an international outcry, and two visits by UN special envoy Pierre LaFrance in an attempt to save them. Carved into sandstone on the sides of a mountain somewhere between the second and fifth centuries A.D., the two statues, which stood 50 meters (165 feet) and 34.5 meters tall respectively, had been counted among the great archeological treasures of the world. India and Pakistan led global condemnation of the Taliban's destruction of two ancient statues. Taliban Supreme Leader Mulla Mohammad Omar said his decree ordering their destruction was in line with a fatwa from local Islamic clerics designed to prevent the worshipping of "false idols." Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee described the demolition of the Buddhas in central Bamiyan province as "an act of barbarism." Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, who has accused the international community of doing too little, said it was "a tragic disaster." Even a delegation of senior Muslim scholars from the 55-nation Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) had been unable to dent the Taliban's resolve to annihilate the country's pre-Islamic heritage...(Agence France Press, 3-2-01/Reuters, 3-12-01)
Meanwhile, in August 2000, in the American Midwest, called by some the "heartland," religious extremists launched an attack on our global scientific heritage.
"The Kansas Board of Education decided in August to impose upon the rest of us in the state its doubts about evolution, its aversion to scientific explanations for the origins of the universe, and its disbelief in geological evidence for the age of the earth...The board declined to include evolution in its optional teaching standards for public schools in the state, and decided that students need not be tested on the subject...In 1998, the state Board of Education appointed a blue-ribbon committee of 27 scientists, educators, and other citizens to prepare standards to guide the teaching of science in the state's public schools. The committee created a 100-page draft document, using standards prepared by the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Teachers Association, and other reputable scientific groups...Steve Abrams - a veterinarian from Arkansas City and a member and immediate past chairman of the board - read the committee's proposed standards for science education and found them objectionable. He took it upon himself to rewrite the standards, enlisting the assistance of a Missouri group called the Creation Science Association for Mid-America. Abrams not only wanted to rid the standards of evolution; he also wanted to relegate all science to the status of unproven "theory." His version stated: "Since science today is defined as empirical, and therefore inductive, no one can rationally claim that any scientific theory has been certified to be true." Under that assumption, even the laws of gravity failed to qualify as scientific fact...The Abrams standards created great consternation among the board and the public...Abrams and two other members of the board then prepared another draft...That draft eliminated evolution, as normally defined by biologists; any references to the big-bang theory of the origin of the universe; and all references to the earth's being billions of years old. The three board members even removed almost all mentions of famous scientists and scientific achievements of the past...The most disturbing part of the board's debate on all of the versions was the clear suggestion from the majority of the board that one could not believe in both God and evolution - or, for that matter, in both God and science..." (Robert E. Hemenway, Chancellor, University of Kansas, 8-21-00)
And this religious extremism as been endorsed and encouraged by George W. Bush, who, as recently as this summer, said he believes schools should discuss "intelligent design" alongside evolution when teaching students about the creation of life. (Associated Press, 8-2-05)
Religious extremism not only threaten science and spirituality, it also threatens security.
Consider the strange tale of General Boykin.
"After it was revealed that the deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence had been regularly appearing at evangelical revivals preaching that the US was in a holy war as a "Christian nation" battling "Satan", the furore was quickly calmed...Boykin was not removed or transferred. At that moment, he was at the heart of a secret operation to "Gitmo-ize" (Guant‡namo is known in the US as Gitmo) the Abu Ghraib prison. He had flown to Guant‡namo, where he met Major General Geoffrey Miller, in charge of Camp X-Ray. Boykin ordered Miller to fly to Iraq and extend X-Ray methods to the prison system there, on Rumsfeld's orders...Boykin was the action hero side of his boss, Stephen Cambone, a conservative defense intellectual appointed to the new post of undersecretary of intelligence. Cambone is universally despised by the officer corps for his arrogant, abrasive and dictatorial style and regarded as the personal symbol of Rumsfeldism...Cambone set about cutting the CIA and the state department out of the war on terror, but he had no knowledge of special ops. For this the rarefied civilian relied on the gruff soldier - a melding of "ignorance and recklessness," as a military intelligence source told me. Just before Boykin was put in charge of the hunt for Osama bin Laden and then inserted into Iraqi prison reform, he was a circuit rider for the religious right. He allied himself with a small group called the Faith Force Multiplier that advocates applying military principles to evangelism. Its manifesto - Warrior Message - summons "warriors in this spiritual war for souls of this nation and the world ... " Boykin staged a traveling slide show around the country where he displayed pictures of Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. "Satan wants to destroy this nation, he wants to destroy us as a nation, and he wants to destroy us as a Christian army," he preached. They "will only be defeated if we come against them in the name of Jesus". It was the reporting of his remarks at a revival meeting in Oregon that made them a subject of brief controversy...With the Geneva conventions apparently suspended, international law is supplanted by biblical law. Boykin is in God's chain of command. President Bush, he told an Oregon congregation last June, is "a man who prays in the Oval Office." And the president, too, is on a divine mission. "George Bush was not elected by a majority of the voters in the US. He was appointed by God." (Sidney Blumenthal, Guardian, 5-20-05)
It is bad enough to blunder into war based on corporatism and religious extremism, justifying it to yourself as a “war on terrorism,” but it is even worse to let religious extremism blind you to the real enemy. The real enemy is not “Satan,” as General Boykin believes. The real enemy is ignorance.
"Two years ago, the UN-commissioned Arab Human Development Report for 2003 asserted that the U.S.-led war on terror had radicalized more Arabs angry both with the West and their autocratic rulers who are bent on curbing their political rights...The U.N. report that focused on addressing challenges of modernity illustrated how far the 270 million Arabs lagged behind other regions in 'acquisition of knowledge' The report said even a best selling novel sold on average only 5,000 copies compared to hundreds of thousands elsewhere...The number of books published in the Arab world did not exceed 1.1 percent of world production though Arabs constitute 5 percent of the world population...Arab universities were overcrowded with old laboratories and poor libraries...No more than 10,000 books were translated into Arabic over the entire millennium, equivalent to the number translated every year into Spanish...Fewer than one in 20 Arab university students were pursuing scientific disciplines, compared to one in five in South Korea...The number of telephone lines in Arab countries was barely one fifth of that in developed countries...Only 1.6 percent of over 270 million Arabs have internet access, one of the lowest ratios in the world, the report said." (Reuters, 10-2-03)

Peak Experience
Global warming is only one head of a two-headed monster. The other head is the “End of Oil.” That’s correct. We are spending our last years of peak oil production changing the climate in sweeping and destructive ways, and on the other side of it we have the destabilizing impact of a profound and steep decline in oil production to look forward.
What does it all mean? Does it mean war with Iran in the next few months? Does it mean war with China in the next few years? It is already the central geopolitical issue—although no one will admit it in the corridors of power.
Consider this recent Guardian story on Colin Campbell.
"The one thing that international bankers don't want to hear is that the second Great Depression may be round the corner. But last week, a group of ultra-conservative Swiss financiers asked a retired English petroleum geologist living in Ireland to tell them about the beginning of the end of the oil age. They called Colin Campbell, who helped to found the London-based Oil Depletion Analysis Centre because he is an industry man through and through, has no financial agenda and has spent most of a lifetime on the front line of oil exploration on three continents. He was chief geologist for Amoco, a vice-president of Fina, and has worked for BP, Texaco, Shell, ChevronTexaco and Exxon in a dozen different countries. "Don't worry about oil running out; it won't for very many years," the Oxford PhD told the bankers..."The issue is the long downward slope that opens on the other side of peak production. Oil and gas dominate our lives, and their decline will change the world in radical and unpredictable ways," he says. Campbell reckons global peak production of conventional oil - the kind associated with gushing oil wells - is approaching fast, perhaps even next year. His calculations are based on historical and present production data, published reserves and discoveries of companies and governments, estimates of reserves lodged with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, speeches by oil chiefs and a deep knowledge of how the industry works. "About 944bn barrels of oil has so far been extracted, some 764bn remains extractable in known fields, or reserves, and a further 142bn of reserves are classed as 'yet-to-find', meaning what oil is expected to be discovered. If this is so, then the overall oil peak arrives next year," he says. If he is correct, then global oil production can be expected to decline steadily at about 2-3% a year, the cost of everything from travel, heating, agriculture, trade, and anything made of plastic rises. And the scramble to control oil resources intensifies...But the Campbell analysis is way off the much more optimistic official figures. The US Geological Survey (USGS) states that reserves in 2000 (its latest figures) of recoverable oil were about three trillion barrels and that peak production will not come for about 30 years. The International Energy Agency (IEA) believes that oil will peak between "2013 and 2037" and Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Iran, four countries with much of the world's known reserves, report little if any depletion of reserves. Meanwhile, the oil companies - which do not make public estimates of their own "peak oil" - say there is no shortage of oil and gas for the long term...According to Campbell, companies seldom report their true findings for commercial reasons, and governments - which own 90% of the reserves - often lie. Most official figures, he says, are grossly unreliable: "Estimating reserves is a scientific business. There is a range of uncertainty but it is not impossible to get a good idea of what a field contains. Reporting [reserves], however, is a political act." According to Campbell and other oil industry sources, the two most widely used estimates of world oil reserves, drawn up by the Oil and Gas Journal and the BP Statistical Review, both rely on reserve estimates provided to them by governments and industry and do not question their accuracy. Companies, says Campbell, "under-report their new discoveries to comply with strict US stock exchange rules, but then revise them upwards over time", partly to boost their share prices with "good news" results...Most serious of all, he and other oil depletion analysts and petroleum geologists, most of whom have been in the industry for years, accuse the US of using questionable statistical probability models to calculate global reserves and Opec countries of drastically revising upwards their reserves in the 1980s."
(Guardian, 4-21-05)
But there is hope. Here is a story of indefatigable human enterprise and indomitable human spirit—not from Houston or Detroit, but from Brazil.
”Alcohol made from sugar cane is becoming the fuel of choice in Brazil, and other countries - so much so that global sugar prices hit a seven-year high this week. Regular car engines will run fine on a 10 percent blend of alcohol and gasoline. But by using computer sensors that adjust to whatever mix is in the tank, flex car engines run on either ethanol, gasoline, or any combination of the two. And they have been roaring out of dealerships here since Volkswagen sold the first TotalFlex Golf in March 2003.
"Today, flex cars are outselling traditional gasoline models. In August, 62 percent of new cars sold were flex, according to industry numbers. "Demand has been unbelievable," says Barry Engle, the new president of Ford Brasil. "I am hard-pressed to think of any other technology that has been such a success so quickly." As many countries reexamine their dependence on petroleum fields for fuel, Brazil offers a model for how to make the switch to cane, beet, wheat, or corn fields. The successful transition here comes down to many factors, but price is the primary one, experts say.
Unlike hybrids sold in the US, for example, flex cars sold in Brazil don't cost any more than traditional models. In fact, some models are only available with flex engines now. Ethanol engines use 25 percent more ethanol per mile than gasoline. But ethanol (the alcohol produced by fermenting sugar) usually sells at somewhere between a third to half of the price of gas. Even people who were reluctant to take the plunge and buy a flex say they have been won over by the savings.
Christian Science Monitor, 10-7-05)"

Restore the Pillars of the Temple
There is so much to do vis-à-vis national and global security—particularly in the fields of Homeland Security, Cyber Security and especially limiting and controlling weapons of mass destruction. But here are four central issues that must be acted on as soon as regime change comes to the US. Yes, our four recommendations are sadly remedial. Most of it is work that had already been started, and has to be re-done or jump-started.
* Millennium Goals: The US must commit to achieving the Millennium Goals domestically and participating in a global effort to achieve them on a planetary level. That would be a real war on the root causes of "terrorism," and won that can be won.
* International law and treaties: The US must restore and re-affirm its commitment to binding and vital treaties and bodies of international law that it has already vowed to uphold, e.g., the Geneva Accords and the UN Charter, and also move forward to sign on to newer accords and agreements, e.g. the International World Court and the Convention for Children’s Rights.
* Global Warming: The US must ratify the Kyoto Accords, and go beyond it, to lead the world, by example, as it reorients its economic and industrial base toward sustainability.
* Multilateralism: Restore and reaffirm the Western Alliance, politically and militarily, i.e., NATO, etc., and reach out to new formations such as Mercosur in Latin America, and others, to establish common ground.

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

GS(3) Intelligence Briefing 10-12-05

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, Global and Cyberspace. Each issue provides 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. “Words of Power" commentary is also be posted on a bi-weekly basis. This commentary explores a range of issues in the interdependent realms of security, sustainability and spirit. For more information, go to

Europe, Middle East & Africa

The European Union's health and foreign ministers should meet soon to coordinate their reaction to the spreading bird flu virus, France's Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said. "We can see that the H5N1 virus, this bird flu virus, is spreading and is arriving at our doors," Douste-Blazy told France 2 television… Turkey and Romania reported new cases of the virus on Saturday and began culling thousands of birds to prevent the globally feared disease from spreading [NOTE: It is of course not possible to stop wild, migratory birds from flying; and the Danube Delta on the Black Sea is a major migratory area for wild birds in Europe]…EU veterinary officers from the 25-nation bloc will meet in Brussels on Wednesday when the results of bird flu tests in Romania and Turkey should be known. They can decide further trade restrictions and tougher EU action. Bulgarian authorities said on Tuesday they were testing three birds found dead in the northern part of the country for avian flu but said so far there were no indications the deadly virus had reached the country. (Reuters, 10-11-05).
Practically all Balkan countries have now banned imports of bird and poultry meat from Romania and Turkey after the first cases of the deadly bird flu were discovered in these countries last week. Bulgaria, Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Serbia-Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo have rushed one after another to ban imports and to step up precautionary measures…All Balkan countries have intensified customs controls and teams of experts are watching the movement of migrating birds, which are believed to be the main carrier of the deadly virus. (AKI, 10-10-05)
Governments across Europe are stockpiling massive quantities of the drug, while South Africa is still trying to register it. Though there is another bird flu antiviral, Relenza, in South Africa, availability is limited. 

"If there is a pandemic, there is going to be a worldwide shortage and even countries that are stockpiling it won't have enough for every individual," said Jane Yeats, senior specialist in virology at Groote Schuur. Spokesperson for the department of health's national office, Sowly Mabotha, said: "We're in the process of speeding up registration with a view to begin buying the drug [Tamiflu]. (IOL, 10-11-05)
Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert who has been studying the risk of pandemic flu for decades and is a U.S. government adviser, said governments should be preparing to cope with the pandemic instead of relying entirely on the hope of using vaccines and drugs to control it. If the H5N1 avian flu begins to easily infect humans, it will move too quickly for drugs and vaccines to be of much use, Osterholm said. "It doesn't matter if we have a vaccine now or not. We can't make it," Osterholm said in a telephone interview…"We have had a pandemic flu plan as a planning process since 1976," said Osterholm. "Nobody has completed it. It has been one of the most long-standing incompleted processes in Washington. Nobody wants to believe that modern medical science can't handle something." But it cannot, said Osterholm, who has seen the current U.S. flu plan. The plan has not been published yet but leaked versions suggest the country has done little to prepare for an H5N1 pandemic. Osterholm and other experts have long been complaining that there are not sufficient hospital beds, equipment or trained workers to cope with a major epidemic. "The one thing I worry desperately about it is the impact of overreliance on neuraminidase inhibitors," he said. There are two drugs in the class -- Roche and Gilead's Tamiflu, known generically as oseltamivir, and GlaxoSmithKline's Relenza. They work to reduce the severity of annual influenza and may prevent infection if used at the right time. Tests suggest they also work against H5N1, but no one knows how well. "I think that potentially neuraminidase inhibitors may work if you are already on them as prophylaxis (prevention)," Osterholm said. That would mean taking them daily for days or weeks. "That means that very, very limited supply is going to become a lot more limited." The U.S. has enough courses of Tamiflu to treat about 2.3 million people. The Health and Human Services Department says another 2 million treatment courses are on order and will arrive by the end of the year. But some 90 million people would need the drug in the event of a flu pandemic, University of Virginia flu expert Dr. Frederick Hayden told a meeting. At current capacity, it would take about 10 years to produce enough oseltamivir to treat 20 percent of the world's population, Hayden said. "Now people are saying whoever has the most Tamiflu wins," Osterholm said. "I worry so much that Tamiflu is a surrogate for protection." And vaccines are not an answer yet and will not be for years. There is an experimental vaccine against H5N1 but there are only a few thousand doses of it….(Reuters, 10-10-05)
A global influenza pandemic could come at any time and claim anywhere between 5 million and 150 million lives, depending on steps the world takes now to control the bird flu in Asia, the United Nations said. Additionally, the bird flu virus is likely to mutate into a strain that can be passed person to person, Dr. David Nabarro of the World Health Organization told reporters…"We expect the next influenza pandemic to come at any time now, and it's likely to be caused by a mutant of the virus that is currently causing bird flu in Asia…Nabarro said he hopes to persuade governments that "the U.N. system is actually going to help keep their people alive," and to generate political support for a three-pronged strategy focusing on prevention, preparedness, and response to a potential pandemic…He said "the real nightmare scenario is that the pandemic takes root in some of the least well-served and perhaps very crowded parts of the world where services are bad," like the camps for thousands of people who have fled their homes in Sudan's conflict-wracked Darfur region, AP reported. (CNN, 9-29-05)
(See “Preparedness Recommendations” below.)

Asia Pacific

On 10-8-05, a devastating earthquake (7.6 on the Richter scale) struck Pakistan, Kashmir, India and Afghanistan. It was South Asia’s strongest quake in 100 years. There were at least 22 aftershocks (including on a 6.2) within 24 hours. The epicenter was 60 miles northeast of Islamabad in the forested mountains of Pakistani Kashmir, near Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-ruled Kashmir. The city is in ruins. All five hospitals in the city were flattened…Heavy rain has compounded the misery of the survivors, and forced some helicopters loaded with food and medicine to cancel their flights to stricken areas…"It is a whole generation that has been lost in the worst affected areas," Pakistani army spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan told the French news agency AFP…The only serious damage reported in Islamabad was the collapse of a 10-story apartment building, where at least 24 people were killed and dozens were injured. Doctors said the dead included an Egyptian diplomat, and the Japanese Foreign Ministry in Tokyo said two Japanese were killed…
As of 10-11-05, Pakistan authorities estimate the official figure at 23,000 at the moment, in Pakistan, with more than 51,000 injured. But off the record, officials have been estimating the final death toll could be as high as 40,000. Indian-administered Kashmir authorities estimate there are at least 1,460 dead and 4,500 injured. Aid agencies said more than 120,000 people urgently needed shelter and the UN said more than 2.5m have been left homeless. The United Nations launched an inter-agency appeal for $272m to cover relief needs in the devastated Kashmir region. This amount is expected to provide for winterised tents, food, blankets, medicine, water purification equipment and the reconstruction of some schools. Julie Ryan, International Red Cross: “Everywhere we go there are people that have lost every member of their family. It is a desperate situation.” Sigurd Hanson, World Vision: “There’s a significantly high children mortality rate. The reason for this is that it hit on Saturday and the children were at school. The teams that are reporting back say 70 to 80 percent of infrastructure was destroyed, including schools.” Wasim Bhat, Save the Children: “One of the very challenging parts of the whole relief exercise is that a significant stretch of the area is not accessible... In some remote areas, link roads have been cut off too, and there are reportedly high casualties.” (Financial Times, 10-11-05)
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) group's chief in Islamabad, Isabelle Simpson, said water supplies could become contaminated because of quake damage, "which is why we worry that it could lead then to outbreaks of other water-borne diseases." (AFP, 10-11-05)
(See “Preparedness Recommendations” below.)


Hurricane Stan, which slammed ashore on Mexico's oil-rich Gulf coast was downgraded, drenched much of the country's south after killing at least 58 people…The storm dumped torrential rains over much of southern Mexico, and earlier forced the evacuation of 270 workers from offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. The port of Veracruz, Mexico's main eastern port, was closed during the day due to gigantic waves up to five meters tall and powerful wind. About 12 000 people had been evacuated…(AFP, 10-05-05)
But Stan brought disaster in Guatemala after it was downgraded to a tropical storm.
“A frantic search for about 1,400 people believed to be buried alive by a mudslide in Guatemala was continuing as the death toll from massive floods throughout Central America and Mexico rose to a staggering 618…The towns of Panajab and Tzanchaj, 180 kilometers (110 miles) west of Guatemala City, were hit by the mudslide triggered by rain from Tropical Storm Stan before dawn Wednesday, when soil loosened by days of driving rain began rushing down the slopes of the San Lucas volcano. "I don't believe there are survivors. Already 36 hours have passed. According to estimates we have, 1,400 people were trapped there," Mario Cruz, a firefighters' spokesman, told AFP…Guatemalan President Oscar Berger made an impassioned plea to the diplomatic corps in his country's capital for international assistance, estimating agricultural losses at 135 million dollars. (AFP, 10-09-05)
Meanwhile, while the US mainstream news media is in deep denial about the impact of the terrible one two punch of Katrina and Rita on the environment, economy and energy needs of the Gulf Coast region and the country as a whole.
“The environmental damage from hurricanes Katrina and Rita is unparalleled in its scope and variety, scientists say, with massive oil spills blanketing marshes, sediment smothering vast fishing grounds, and millions of gallons of raw sewage scattered in New Orleans and along the 400-mile Louisiana coast…The most immediate concern is more than 8 million gallons of spilled oil in Louisiana -- a total that could grow significantly in coming days as Coast Guard officials continue to survey the spills. The Exxon Valdez -- until now considered the nation's worst environmental disaster -- poured 11 million gallons of oil into Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989. Despite the bigger volume, the Valdez spill was easier to deal with, cleanup and environmental officials say, because it came from a single source and largely stayed in one place. In Louisiana, oil has been found seeping from pipes, tanks, and other containers at more than 48 locations. Floodwaters allowed some of it to mix with the contents of underground gas storage tanks and the hazardous contents of thousands of homes and schools, including asbestos, paint thinner, and bleach, complicating the cleanup…One hundred forty oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico were damaged by Katrina -- 43 severely, including some that floated away or sank…Many Louisiana fisheries, which produce 15 percent of US seafood and 50 percent of the nation's oysters, are believed to be devastated. Katrina dumped a thick layer of sediment east of the Mississippi Delta that probably smothered oyster beds, and Rita did the same in the western part of the state. Brown and white shrimp that spawn offshore and move inland to live in marshes have had much of their habitat destroyed. Officials say they believe the worst is yet to come: Decaying organic matter that is being stirred up or washed into lakes and the Gulf will probably cause oxygen levels in the water to drop, killing off fish. (Beth Daly, Boston Globe. 9-30-05)
But despite the devastation with which Katrina, Rita and Stan have hit the Gulf of Mexico, two other little known storms (one from 2005 and one from 2004) that did not cause significant damage or capture many headlines, provide an even more disturbing glimpse into the future.
“The twentieth tropical storm of an uncommonly active Atlantic hurricane season strengthened quickly into a hurricane after forming in an unusual location, near Portugal's Madeira islands…Its forecast track would take the storm toward Portugal but Vince was expected to gradually weaken as it moved over cooler waters. The hurricane was mainly a hazard to shipping, the hurricane center said…The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season has been one of the costliest and deadliest for the US, and Vince's formation made 2005 the second-busiest season since records began 150 years ago. There were twenty named storms in 1933 and nineteen in 1995. An average season spawns around ten tropical storms, of which six become hurricanes. (Reuters, 10-10-05)
“The genesis of two category-five hurricanes (Katrina and Rita) in a row over the Gulf of Mexico is an unprecedented and troubling occurrence. But for most tropical meteorologists the truly astonishing "storm of the decade" took place in March 2004. Hurricane Catarina -- so named because it made landfall in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina -- was the first recorded south Atlantic hurricane in history. Textbook orthodoxy had long excluded the possibility of such an event; sea temperatures, experts claimed, were too low and wind shear too powerful to allow tropical depressions to evolve into cyclones south of the Atlantic Equator. Indeed, forecasters rubbed their eyes in disbelief as weather satellites down-linked the first images of a classical whirling disc with a well-formed eye in these forbidden latitudes. In a series of recent meetings and publications, researchers have debated the origin and significance of Catarina. A crucial question is this: Was Catarina simply a rare event at the outlying edge of the normal bell curve of South Atlantic weather…or was Catarina a "threshold" event, signaling some fundamental and abrupt change of state in the planet's climate system? Scientific discussions of environmental change and global warming have long been haunted by the specter of nonlinearity. Climate models, like econometric models, are easiest to build and understand when they are simple linear extrapolations of well-quantified past behavior; when causes maintain a consistent proportionality to their effects. But all the major components of global climate -- air, water, ice, and vegetation -- are actually nonlinear: At certain thresholds they can switch from one state of organization to another, with catastrophic consequences for species too finely-tuned to the old norms. Until the early 1990s, however, it was generally believed that these major climate transitions took centuries, if not millennia, to accomplish. Now, thanks to the decoding of subtle signatures in ice cores and sea-bottom sediments, we know that global temperatures and ocean circulation can, under the right circumstances, change abruptly -- in a decade or even less. (Mike Davis, Has the Age of Chaos Begun?,, 10-8-05)
(See “Preparedness Recommendations” below.)


From another savage attack in Bali to a foiled plot in Paris to a hoax in New York City, the threat of imminent attack anywhere anytime continues, exacerbated by the Bush administration’s failed “war on terrorism,” in general, and its invasion and occupation of Iraq, in particular.
Bali's police chief, I Made Pastika, displayed pictures of the heads of the three suspected suicide bombers at a news conference. He said the men were responsible for the near-simultaneous blasts at three tourist restaurants that killed 22 people including several foreigners. Estimates of the death toll have varied, with some accounts reporting that 26 or more people were killed. Pastika also showed an amateur video obtained by police that recorded one bomber, wearing a black shirt, walking into the Raja restaurant in Kuta Square, a popular shopping and dining spot. Seconds later, at 7:45 p.m., the man was obscured by a flash of light and an explosion. (Washington Post, 10-3-05)
Investigators hunted for the two suspected masterminds of suicide bombings on this resort island as Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and other nations went on high alert to protect their beaches from a repeat of the weekend attacks…The men suspected of masterminding the attacks — Azahari bin Husin and Noordin Mohamed Top — allegedly are key figures in Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional Islamic militant group with links to al-Qaida that is blamed for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreigners. Azahari is known as "Demolition Man" for his knowledge of explosives, while Noordin has been dubbed "Moneyman" for his ability to raise money and recruit bombers. Police also sought three accomplices believed to be still on the island. The bombings came as Southeast Asia geared up for its major tourist season, when millions of Europeans and other foreigners flock to sunny beaches to escape the winter months. It was the second attack targeting Bali in three years… (AP, 10-3-05)
Security is to be tightened in France after allegations that a group of nine suspected Islamic militants arrested had been plotting a terrorist attack on a high-profile target in Paris. The seven men and two women, who had been under observation by anti-terrorist investigators for two years, are suspected of planning an attack on the Metro, a Paris airport or the headquarters of the DST, the French domestic intelligence agency. It is not clear if police were acting on intelligence of an imminent threat to national security when they carried out the arrests, but the interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, warned yesterday that the risk of a terrorist attack was currently "at a very high level" Mr Sarkozy used the news of the arrests to unveil a new anti-terror plan in which he pledged to increase the number of CCTV cameras on the streets, in airports, at train stations and near shops and banks. Mobile phone operators and internet café owners will have to keep records of all users and calls under the proposed new law…The internet and phone-record measures will have a three-year time limit and will need parliamentary approval to stay in force after 2008…The minister also revealed that about ten French citizens "are in Iraq, ready to become kamikazes" and that others were at religious schools in Pakistan. (Scotsman, 9-28-05)
The information from an Iraqi tipster that prompted New York City to go on high alert for a possible terrorist bombing of its subway system was not true — and was probably a hoax, federal officials said. Several law enforcement sources said the informant came to U.S. officials with a detailed story about a terrorist plot involving men who would travel from Iraq to Syria and to New York, where they would detonate bombs in the subway, using strollers and other devices to hide them. His information, which triggered a near lockdown of the subways last week, also prompted a U.S. military operation in Iraq that led to the arrests of three suspected co-conspirators in Musayyib, south of Baghdad. But after interrogating the three men and the tipster, federal authorities concluded that they were not involved in any plot to launch terrorist attacks in the U.S. "It all appears to be falling apart," said one federal law enforcement official, in reference to the informant, whom U.S. authorities have not identified publicly. "The guy … made something up that he thought we wanted to hear." (L.A. Times, 10-12-05)
In a dramatic rebuff to U.S. President George Bush, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the man who dared to tell the Americans that the main plank of the US argument for waging war on Iraq was based on a lie. The Nobel committee bestowed the prestigious award for 2005 on Mohamed ElBaradei, the UN official who rose to prominence by exposing the lengths that America would go to in its efforts to build a case for war. Mr ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which shares the prize, delivered a body blow to the Bush administration on the eve of the Iraq war. During a televised meeting of the UN Security Council in March 2003, he told assembled foreign ministers that documents purporting to prove Iraq had attempted to import uranium from Niger to make a nuclear weapon were fake.,,The underlying message of the Nobel committee, which said the threat of nuclear weapons "must be met through the broadest possible international co-operation", is that weapons inspections are a better way of dealing with any crisis than war. (Independent/UK, 10-8-05)
As 100,000 demonstrators protested against the Iraq War in Washington, the American organization for the defense of human rights, Human Rights Watch, (HRW), published a damning report about torture and abuse by the American Army of prisoners in the “War on Terror.” This report is significant for two reasons: it cuts to pieces the myth that the tortures perpetrated at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, revealed in April 2004, could have been the acts of an isolated unit, which would have brought an end to the matter with the revelation of the scandal; and it allows us to hear testimony, not of ex-prisoners, always to be listened to with caution, but of American soldiers…While authorizing its army to perpetrate what international law describes as "serious violations of the laws of the war," such as "torture" or "inhumane treatment" of prisoners ­ and "war crimes" in the case of executions - the U.S. placed itself in a position of illegality in the service of the cause that they allege to defend: freedom, justice and democracy faced with the "the madness of Allah." But every time an Afghan or Iraqi is killed wrongly or tortured, and precisely because the U.S. is a democratic country, it is a defeat for America and all who defend the values and morals for which it claims to embody. More pragmatically, the use of torture is one less chance for Washington to win its wars, because for each martyred prisoner, for each image of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, ten fighters rise against the United States. (Le Monde, 9-26-05)
(See “Preparedness Recommendations” below.)


Dutch police have arrested three people for building a worldwide zombie network of more than 100,000 PCs used to launch internet attacks on companies and to hack into bank and Paypal accounts. The main suspect, a 19 year-old man, and his alleged accomplices, a 22 year-old and a 27 year-old, were collared in raids on their homes. Police seized "several computers, documents, a bank account, bare cash and a sports car.” The compromised PCs were hacked using a trojan horse, called W 32.Toxbot, according to the police, who say that "some thousands" of the victims were based in the Netherlands. Investigators have identified at least one distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, targeting an unnamed American company, emanating from the zombie botnet. DDoS attacks are often used by extortionists to unleash a barrage of computer-generated request to victim websites to cripple their operations. Online gambling firms and web retailers are typical victims. The suspects are also thought to have hacked into a "large number of PayPal and eBay accounts, enabling them to order several goods over the internet, without actually paying for them". The gang controlling the zombie botnet played cat and mouse with the anti-virus vendors, Dutch police say: "The Toxbot registers all keyboard actions of the infected computers and sends this information to the cyber-criminals. Anti-virus software has been available for some time. The hackers, however, frequently revised the virus, in a catch up game with the anti virus producers.” The botnet has now been dismantled, courtesy of GOVCERT.NL, the Computer Emergency Response Team of the Dutch government, in tandem with XS4All Internet and other unidentified providers. (The Register, 10-7-05)
Online bookmakers who become victims of online extortion attacks more often than not pay up, according to an IBM security researcher. Martin Overton of IBM Global Services said those at the receiving end of denial of service attacks also often fail to report assaults to police despite improved policy procedures to guard the anonymity of victims in the UK and elsewhere.
"Criminals are pricing extortion rates at under the cost of preventing attacks. It's cheaper to pay up even if this encourages them [crooks] even more," he said. According to a recent study by analysts Forrester, one in three businesses has been at the receiving end of a successful DDoS attack, with more than 40 per cent suffering losses of more than £54,000 as a result. Victims who pay extortionists are playing into the hands of cybercrooks and likely to receive repeat protection money requests. By paying protection money they are increasing the threat to other businesses.
(The Register, 10-6-05)
(See “Preparedness Recommendations” below.)

Preparedness Recommendations

Bird Flu
Business continuity planning focusing on what to do if the virus should reach pandemic levels should be undertaken by all organizations, in particular those in areas of Asia Pacific where ‘Bird Flu’ has been detected. Planning ahead will reduce the potential impacts to existing or future engagements caused by travel bans, and temporary office closures or relocations.
The efforts of Member Business Continuity Team should focus on the following:
Determine key business processes that will need to be reconstituted in the event of a temporary office closure or relocation.
Identify technologies that could facilitate remote service to clients. This may include the use of video conference technology to replace face-to-face meetings in countries with travel bans or high incidents of human infection.
Ensure that infrastructure is available to allow for remote access capabilities for employees required to work from home or alternate locations due to temporary office closures. This may require investing in additional infrastructure, or identifying opportunities to consolidate such resources on a regional basis.
Identify alternate means to facilitate communications with firm employees or clients during health related emergency events. Such resources may include use of firm intranet web pages to provide frequent updates on the status of virus outbreaks, or the use of dedicated toll-free or other telephone numbers to provide recorded updates on crisis response status.
Determine, in advance, to what extent a cadre of local employees in the impacted country could be used to support business processes in place of employees traveling in from outside of the country in the event of potential travel bans. The option of holding client meetings in non-impacted, third-party countries should also be explored.
Such BC planning, like the requisite crisis management planning, can be leveraged for application in other crisis situations, such as the aftermath of earthquakes, tsunamis and in other health emergencies whether or not it is ever acted upon in regard to “Bird Flu.”

Natural Disasters and Terrorism
Disaster (e.g., terrorist attack, earthquake or severe weather) can strike anywhere anytime. Of course, every organization should have a comprehensive BC/DR plan for every facility, and re-evaluate and revise it as needed, and test and train against it on a regular basis, but here are three practical recommendations from a colleague, Regina Phelps (, for every organization to follow up on, particularly if they have facilities or interests in earthquake areas
• Conduct a through hazard risk assessment to ensure you have captured and planned for your most likely events.
• Once you know your most likely risks, mitigate what you can. An excellent example of mitigation in a seismic environment is ensuring that all sensitive equipment (such as servers, telephone switches) have been properly secured to prevent them from toppling in an earthquake. ( is a good web site to get ideas).
• Ensure that you have a team of employees who are trained to respond to your most likely events assuming that the response from the government may be limited. For example, if your are in earthquake prone areas, have a team of employees trained in advanced first aid and the medical supplies you will likely need in a major event. Part of this training should ensure that employees know how to use the disaster equipment and medical supplies that you have acquired.
• Educate employee NOW about the likely risks in your area and encourage them to get ready at home…employees who are prepared at home are far more likely to be able to assist the company in its recovery!
Here are three practical recommendations for you and your loves ones.
The most important is to develop a family communication plan. Here is how to go about that…
• Because local phone lines may be out of service or overloaded after a disaster, it's often easier (and you are more likely to get through) to call out of the state.
• Choose an out-of-state contact that each family or household member can call or email should a disaster occur. Your selected contact should live far enough away that they would be unlikely to be directly affected by the same event (best out of state). They should be aware that they are the chosen contact and what their job is.
• All of your loved ones should have the phone number for the contact as well as each other's phone numbers and email addresses. Loved ones should agree to call the out-of-town contact to report their whereabouts and welfare. Consider having a laminated wallet-sized card made to carry with you at all times.
• Many people overwhelm telephone lines when emergencies happen. If telephone lines are not working, be patient and try again later or try text messaging or email. Sometimes text messaging or email will go through when calls cannot.

Cyber Crime
Here are some examples of vital controls, excerpted from a comprehensive body of cyber security “best practices,” mapped to ISO 7799, that some colleagues and I have developed over the years:
• An adequately staffed and properly trained Emergency Response Team, empowered to deal with incidents such as electronic network intrusions or denial of service attacks, has either been established internally or contracted for from outside. (ISO 17799 (6.3))
• The organization has documenteed and implemented an emergency response process to respond to end-users quickly and effectively when computer-related or information security incidents occur. (ISO 17799 (6.3))
• There is a clearly documented and implemented incident handling policy and emergency procedures for dealing with system and network attacks. (ISO 17799 (6.3)
• Incident handling procedures are tested regularly in a realistic manner (e.g., conducting disaster recovery drills). (ISO 17799 (6.3))
• Internal network traffic is monitored to verify that controls are working correctly and that no unexpected activity is taking place. (ISO 17799 (9.7))
There are many other such controls that should be but are usually not in place—even in organizations with much to lose in reputation and trade secrets.

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Words of Power #3: Gangstas = Child Soldiers Without A Country

NOTE: Words of Power is published on a bi-weekly basis, and alternates with the GS(3) Intelligence Briefing, also posted on a bi-weekly basis. As circumstances dictate, we may post special editions. "Words of Power" commentary will explore a range of issues in the interdependent realms of security, sustainability and spirit. The GS(3) Intel Briefing is organized into five sections: Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific, Americas, Global and Cyberspace. 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. For more information, go to

Words of Power #3: Gangstas = Child Soldiers Without A Country

UNICEF concludes that more than half the children in the developing world are severely deprived of one or more of the necessities essential to childhood:
  • 640 million children do not have adequate shelter

  • 500 million children have no access to sanitation

  • 400 million children do not have access to safe water

  • 300 million children lack access to information

  • 270 million children have no access to health care services

  • 140 million children have never been to school

  • 90 million children are severely food-deprived
The State of the World's Children 2005: Childhood Under Threat, UNICEF

From the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to the townships of Cape Town; the housing projects of Chicago to the rural provinces of the Philippines, more and more children and youth are dying in increasing numbers due to gun violence. While some die in gang disputes, some in organised crime, and others in direct conflict with state security forces, increasing firearms-related mortality reflects the growing involvement of young people in organised armed groups that function outside of traditionally defined war zones
 Neither War nor Peace, COAV, June 2005

“The majority here have killed people. It's basically a requirement to be in the gangs." Julio Cesar, now in his thirties, relaxes back in his chair, revealing a slight paunch bulging underneath his t-shirt.  He was once a lithe and dangerous youngster who helped to found one of the most notorious gangs in Central America - the "Mara Salvatruchas". It began in Los Angeles in 1980. Hundreds of thousands of Salvadoreans had fled to America to escape the brutal civil war back home.  Their displaced children banded together.  Sitting nearby is his old friend, Ernesto Miranda, who opens his shirt to reveal the initials of the gang, "MS" emblazoned across his chest... "We had to start the group to defend ourselves," Ernesto says.  "In the beginning there were 30 of us. We were around 11 years old."
BBC, 3-20-04

Of all the serious, self-inflicted wounds of the human species, the most appalling is the plight of children, on a planetary scale. And, of all the aspects of their dire plight, the most woeful is their subjection to systematic violence and exploitation, whether through war or criminal enterprise.
In 1996, at the request of the UN Secretary General, Graça Machel, widow of the former President of Mozambique, and wife of Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, delivered “Impact of Armed Conflict on Children,” a damning report on the global scope of the problem:
“Millions of children are caught up in conflicts in which they are not merely bystanders, but targets. Some fall victim to a general onslaught against civilians; others die as part of a calculated genocide. Still other children suffer the effects of sexual violence or the multiple deprivations of armed conflict that expose them to hunger or disease. Just as shocking, thousands of young people are cynically exploited as combatants.
“In 1995, 30 major armed conflicts raged in different locations around the world. All of them took place within States, between factions split along ethnic, religious or cultural lines. The conflicts destroyed crops, places of worship and schools. Nothing was spared, held sacred or protected -not children, families or communities. In the past decade, an estimated two million children have been killed in armed conflict. Three times as many have been seriously injured or permanently disabled, many of them maimed by landmines. Countless others have been forced to witness or even to take part in horrifying acts of violence.”
The Machel study quantified the psychological suffering that such children experience:
“In Sarajevo, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 55 per cent of children had been shot at, 66 per cent had been in a situation where they expected to die, and 29 per cent felt "unbearable sorrow." In Angola, 66 per cent of children had seen people being murdered, and 67 per cent had seen people being tortured, beaten or hurt. In Rwanda, 56 per cent had seen children kill people, nearly 80 per cent had lost immediate family members and 16 per cent had been forced to hide under dead bodies. More than 60 per cent of the Rwandan children interviewed said they did not care whether they ever grew up.”
Machel not only documented the tragedy, she articulated its moral and spiritual implications:
“These statistics are shocking enough, but more chilling is the conclusion to be drawn from them: more and more of the world is being sucked into a desolate moral vacuum. This is a space devoid of the most basic human values; a space in which children are slaughtered, raped, and maimed; a space in which children are exploited as soldiers; a space in which children are starved and exposed to extreme brutality. Such unregulated terror and violence speak of deliberate victimization. There are few further depths to which humanity can sink.”
And yet, a decade later, as the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers’ Global Report for 2004 affirms, the insanity continues:
  • Between 2001 and 2004, armed hostilities involving children less than 18 years old – “under-18s” – occurred in Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, India, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Indonesia, Liberia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

  • Governments using child soldiers in armed conflict included Burundi, DRC, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Myanmar, Rwanda, Sudan, Uganda and the United States of America. Government-backed paramilitaries and militias, were using under-18s across the world, including in Colombia, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Government forces and authorities also made informal use of children as informants, spies or collaborators in conflicts, including in Israel, Indonesia and Nepal.
But so does the global struggle to overcome it, as the following news stories attest:
“Hundreds of thousands of children around the world are being used as soldiers, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a report, describing the situation as ‘grave and unacceptable.’
Despite international initiatives to protect children in conflict zones, Annan said ‘atrocities against children and impunity for violators continue largely unabated on the ground.’
In his annual report to the U.N. Security Council on child soldiers, Annan recommended sanctions against groups who use them. These could include travel bans on leaders, arms embargoes and a ‘restriction on the flow of financial resources to the parties concerned,’ he said.
The U.N. special representative for children in armed conflict, Olara Otunnu, told reporters that Annan's report marked a turning point for ‘transforming words into deeds.’ He said the international community needed to move its focus from developing standards on protecting children to ensuring they are enforced on the ground.
‘The report represents the launch of a comprehensive compliance regime to ensure the protection of millions of children who have been brutalized in situations of conflict,’ he added.
Otunnu said 54 groups, including state and rebel forces, use children as soldiers.” (Associated Press, 2-9-05)
The Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers welcomes the recent European Union (EU) agreement that Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) delegations will no longer be received in EU member states. It calls on the LTTE to halt all recruitment of under-18s and to demobilize all children in its ranks. The EU decision was made in the wake of EU condemnation of the killing of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kadirgamar, along with many other killings in recent weeks. The EU statement emphasizes its concern at the continuing recruitment and retention of children by the LTTE, a practice it describes as “abhorrent.” LTTE political head S.P. Tamilselvan reiterated the organization’s position that it does not recruit under-18s, following the EU statement. “LTTE denials are belied by consistent evidence of abductions of children for military training. Child recruitment has increased since June 2005 and is ongoing” said Casey Kelso, the Coalition’s international director. (Asian Tribune, 10-4-05)
Chief of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal Ian Martin has urged the Maoists to immediately stop the forceful recruitment of child soldiers in the eastern region and to respect child rights...On the occasion, security authorities claimed that 20 percent of the Maoist combatants in the eastern region were child soldiers. (Kantipur Online, 9-30-05)
Gulu District local government has embarked on a massive campaign to sensitize the local councilors against recruiting young children to joining the army ranks. The sensitization campaign has attracted several legal practitioners advocating for the rights of children.  The district labor officer Mr. John Bosco told Uganda-CAN that a lot of children have joined the forces because of lack of work and education. The forces give them jobs. Uganda-CAN talked to one man from Atiak sub-country about the campaign. He remarked that they initially never understood the rights of children and normally recruited children because of the massive unemployment. (Uganda-CAN, 10-1-05)
According to “conventional wisdom,” the guesstimate for the worldwide number of child soldiers is approximately 300,000. But that number is, of course, unrealistically low--particularly when you factor in the “gangsta,” i.e. the child soldiers without a country. In the U.S. alone, in 2000, the National Youth Gang Center estimates 772,500 youth in 24,500 gangs, which amounts to an eight-fold increase over two decades.
Consider “Neither War Nor Peace: International Comparisons of Children and Youth in Organized Armed Violence,” a recent study conducted by Children in Organized Armed Violence (COAV).
The COAV report draws parallels between the way armed groups, i.e. “gangs,” use children and the recruitment of child soldiers. The groups have strict command structures, pay salaries and often enforce discipline with death. Their young members perform military-style functions, such as manning checkpoints, serving as bodyguards, and assassinating opponents. Despite the similarities, the report also draws a clear distinction between armed urban youth and child soldiers. With encouragement from the UN, governments are increasingly prepared to accept that child soldiers who commit war crimes deserve rehabilitation due to their age and the coercive nature of their recruitment. There is no such subtlety in their response to armed groups.
COAV concludes that governments are encouraging the growth of organized armed groups, i.e. “gangs,” by imprisoning and even executing their members, instead of helping young people to rise above the poverty and social disintegration that is pushing them to join gangs in the first place. Governments are using lethal force, imprisonment and even summary execution. Rehabilitation programs are under-funded, and juvenile justice systems are hopelessly inadequate. Terms like “juvenile delinquent” and “gang member” brand group members as criminal and irredeemable. Indeed, many governments collude with armed groups even as they try to suppress them. In the Philippines, politicians hire vigilantes as private armies. In the townships of Jamaica, corrupt local leaders arm adolescents and use them to gain votes. Officials sell guns to children, take bribes from them, extort money, and sell them confiscated drugs – while declaring a crackdown on their “criminal” behavior. The report warns that this ill-conceived response is producing a serious backlash. Most of the groups, like the Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs) in the Philippines, started as legitimate community protection groups. Like the majority of the other groups interviewed, they have become increasingly violent as a result of their “growing involvement in the illicit drug trade, increased access to small arms and persistent and often violent state repression. Instead of using “zero tolerance”, says the report, governments should address the social decay that is pushing young people to join the gangs. Some of the best solutions are local. For example, communities can work together to identify the risks, develop projects, strengthen families, invest in local schools, build leisure facilities and provide psychological support for children affected by violence.

Mara’s Army: Blow Back Squared?
“Mara” is abbreviated form of "marabunta,” i.e., large South American "killer ants," that destroy everything in their path and are sometimes featured in horror movies. But, of course, Mara is also the name of the demon who assailed Lord Buddha as he sat, on the verge of enlightenment, under the Bodhi Tree. Mara’s army consisted of lust, aversion, hunger, thirst, craving, sloth and torpor, cowardice, doubt, hypocrisy and stupidity, false glory, and conceit.
Consider some recent news stories about this post-modern Mara’s Army.
MS-13 is suspected in the massacre of twenty-eight bus passengers in the northern Honduran city of Chamalecon, 200km (125 miles) north of the capital, Tegucigalpa. Six children and sixteen women died. The bus surrounded by gunmen while passing through a busy neighborhood. The bus was forced to the side of the road by cars that pulled up at its front and back. The attackers got out of the cars and sprayed the bus with bullets from AK-47 rifles. (BBC, 12-24-05)
There was one distinguishing feature common to many of the 103 charred bodies of the victims of a fire that swept through a wing of an overcrowded prison in San Pedro Sula, in northern Honduras, on May 17th. Most of the bodies were heavily tattooed. The dead were all members of youth gangs, most imprisoned for the mere act of belonging…The prison at San Pedro Sula, Honduras's second city, was designed to hold 800 inmates but was crammed with 2,200…In Honduras, the police were ordered to haul youngsters off the street and straight to prison just for having the distinctive gang tattoos. Since August, more than 1,000 have been jailed. Many Hondurans applaud this tough stance. But the fire shows the fatal weakness of the policy. Though its cause may have been an electrical fault, survivors claimed that prison warders added to the death toll by refusing to open cells for up to two hours after it started. A year ago, 68 prisoners, most of them gang members, were killed during a riot at another Honduran prison; many were shot by guards.  (The Economist, 5-20-05)
Nineteen suspected members of the violent Mara Salvatrucha or MS-13 street gang were charged in an operation aimed at halting violence that has terrorized an area near the national capital the past three years…The indictment attributes six murders, five attempted murders and a kidnapping to the gang, whose operations have penetrated the Maryland communities of Silver Spring, Langley Park and Hyattsville…Earlier this summer, the government announced the arrest of more than 500 gang members, many of whom were targeted because of their affiliation with MS-13…MS-13 surged to prominence in Washington, D.C., last year, when a gang member was implicated in a machete attack on a 16-year-old boy in Alexandria, Va. Other members were later tied to the slaying of a pregnant, 17-year-old government informant. Although the gang's violence is indisputable, Wes McBride, president of the California Gang Investigators Association, recently told USA TODAY that MS-13 has captured a disproportionate share of attention. McBride suspects that the gang's membership is half the federal estimate and is dwarfed by a Los Angeles-based gang known as 18th Street, which is one of the largest and oldest Hispanic gangs in the nation. McBride estimated that 18th Street's members number 8,000 in Los Angeles alone. (Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY, 8-25-05)
In a recent clash between Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13), at least twelve youths were killed (including two who had their heads blown off), and at least ten others were wounded, when MS-13 gang members armed with grenades and assault rifles launched a “commando style” raid on a youth detention facility in Guatemala City to attack Mara 18 gang members held inside…In August, thirty-five people were killed in clashes between the two gangs at a number of prisons…Guatemalan authorities acknowledged that the prison system was close to collapse. (BBC, 9-20-05) Next day, Guatemalan police arrested seventeen Mara 18 members suspected of planning an attack to revenge the prison massacre by MS-13…Police made the arrests after a raid on a house in the Carolingia shantytown at the edge of Guatemala City turned up assault rifles, a shotgun and several pistols, along with a plan of attack. (Reuters, 9-21-05).  Less than two weeks earlier, approximately six hundred sixty suspected gang members (mostly Mara 18 and Mara Salvatrucha) were arrested in five countries (162 in Honduras, 98 in Guatemala, 90 in Mexico and 73 in the U.S.) in an international operation that involved U.S. FBI agents and approximately 6,400 police in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and the U.S. A month earlier, U.S. law enforcement announced the arrest of 582 gang members in a two-week nation-wide series of raids. U.S. officials say more than 25,000 gangs are active with 750,000 members. In the U.S., MS-13 has been identified in 33 states, and Washington, D.C. The estimated membership of MS-13 is over 10,000 in the United States with the largest concentration in Los Angeles, Northern Virginia, Maryland, and New York. Central America counts at least MS-13 50,000 gang members often in contact across borders and with others in Mexico and the U.S…Many gang members start as disaffected teenagers who see no other way out of a life of poverty than to join a gang, often marking themselves with tattooed gang symbols. "We need work," said Mara 18 member Blazer as he was loaded into a police van in the capital San Salvador. (Reuters, FBI National Press Office, 9-8-05)
The problem of Mara’s Army is painfully poignant, and harshly illuminative.
Kelly Richter of University of Chicago elucidates:
“Salvadoran gangs, of which the notorious MS-13 is the largest, have established a significant presence in the US over the past two decades. The gangs originated in Los Angeles during the early 1980’s amongst Salvadoran youth fleeing civil war. They have since developed a pan-Latino membership and expanded into East Coast cities and American suburbia over the past decade, with a national membership that numbers tens of thousands in over 30 states.
“Over the past decade, the phenomenon has taken on transnational dimensions. Salvadoran American gang affiliates deported from the US are arriving on the violent streets of urban El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, and most recently in rural Central America, the Mexican borderlands, Canada and other Latin American countries...
“The current Salvadoran-American gang phenomenon is, in part, traceable to the long and tainted history of US intervention in Central America...El Salvador, roughly the size of Massachusetts with a population of 6.5 million, was the largest hemispheric recipient of US military aide during the Cold War – including over four billion dollars during the 1980’s..The early 1980’s saw a massive influx of Salvadoran refugees and illegal immigrants entering the US to escape death squads, the military, the FMLN, economic desolation, and other trappings of guerilla war. However, the United States refused to acknowledge the extent and often, existence, of a humanitarian crisis. Salvadorans were categorically denied amnesty in favor of refugees from communist countries…Salvadoran gangs have gained notoriety for their immigrant composition and unusual violence which has included for example, the use of machetes in killings.
The civil war placed intense stress on Salvadoran youth, many of whom witnessed the torture and murder of their families, or who were recruited by the army as child soldiers. In the name of protection, many parents sent their children alone or with distant relatives to the US…The earliest and most extensive case of Salvadoran youth gang culture in the US took shape in East Los Angeles, the largest Salvadoran immigrant settlement center in the country…Mara Salvatrucha was the one of the first major gangs to emerge around 1984. MS-13 soon grew into the largest and most notorious Salvadoran gang in the city; as early as 1990 it had 500 members. Alongside MS-13 came a proliferation of smaller Salvadoran crews. Some groups organized around socializing and graffiti tagging, others around violent contestation for control of local turf or localized trade in drugs, arms, and other illicit goods. As Salvadorans began to associate more closely with other Latinos further, many youth began to join the Mexican American Calle 18 gang, which became the avowed foe of MS-13, fostering a surge in violent gang conflict. (Campus Progress, 3-15-05)
Is the bitter irony of all of this misery lost on you? What more evidence of the interconnectedness of everything would you require? Children who fled violence in Central America only to meet more violence on the streets of East Los Angeles now threaten both societies with greater violence.
But there are two more agonizing turns to this screw.
“Human rights groups report the existence of death squads that have been killing suspected members of youth gangs in Honduras and Guatemala.  They also criticise the increasingly strong-arm crackdown by the authorities, which they say is not the answer to a problem with deep socioeconomic roots…An average of six people a day are murdered in Honduras (a country of six million), eight a day in El Salvador (population 6.2 million) and 14 a day in Guatemala (population 12 million). Authorities blame most of the murders on the maras, but human rights groups say many of the killings are the work of off-duty police officers operating in death squads carrying out a sort of "social purge"…In Honduras, organisations like London-based Amnesty International and Casa Alianza have also reported that death squads are killing youngsters suspected of belonging to gangs, often merely because they sport tattoos…Honduran society has viewed the deaths of these children and youths with indifference and apathy, some newspapers even suggesting it as a possible solution to the problem of public insecurity." At night, the "death squads" patrol the neighbourhoods frequented by gang members, seize suspects and take them to the outskirts of the cities to kill them...Guatemalan human rights prosecutor Sergio Morales has also repeatedly complained of a social purge, reflected by the frequent killings of suspected gang members in that country as well…The causes of the spiraling violence are social and economic, say activists and legal experts, who argue that a short-term, exclusively penal approach will not eradicate the problem. They point out that at least half of Central America's total population of 38 million lives below the poverty line, a proportion that rises as high as 70 percent in countries like Nicaragua, according to unofficial figures. El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala rank at the bottom of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) human development index in Latin America.  In the communities where the maras recruit their members, social safety nets and state support are extremely weak…(Manuel Bermudez, Inter Press Service, 9-6-05)
In “Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency,” Max Manwaring, writing for the U.S. Army War College, postulates that the Mara phenomenon is indicative of a disturbing evolution in criminal enterprise.
“Youth gangs from California began moving into all five Central American republics in the early 1990s. The main impetus came as a result of convicted felons being sent from prisons in the United States back to the countries of their parents’ origins...In the early stages of their development and through the present, virtually all the Central American gangs have flourished under the protection and mercenary income provided by larger criminal networks. The basis of
this alliance is the illegal drug trade that is credited with the transshipment of up to 75 percent of the cocaine that enters the United States…In addition to drug smuggling, second and third generation gangs in Central America are known to be involved in smuggling people, arms, and cars; associated murder, kidnapping, and robbery violence; home and community invasions; credit card fraud; and other more petty criminal first generation activities…
“First generation gangs, or traditional street gangs, are primarily turf-oriented. They have loose and unsophisticated leadership and focus their attention on turf protection to gain petty cash and on gang loyalty within their immediate environs (designated city blocks or neighborhoods). When first generation street gangs engage in criminal enterprise, it is largely opportunistic and individual in scope and tends to be localized and operates at the lower end of extreme societal violence...
“Second generation gangs are organized for business and commercial gain. These gangs have a more centralized leadership, and members tend to focus on drug trafficking and market protection. At the same time, they operate in a broader spatial or geographic area that may include neighboring cities and other nation-states. Like other more sophisticated criminal enterprises, they use the level of violence necessary to protect their markets and control their competition. They also use violence as political interference to negate enforcement efforts directed against them by police and other security organizations. And as they seek to control or incapacitate state security organizations, they often begin to dominate vulnerable community life within large areas of the nation-state. In this environment, second generation gangs almost have to link with and provide services to transnational criminal organizations.
“Third generation gangs continue first and second generation actions as they expand their geographical parameters, as well as their commercial and political objectives. As they evolve, they develop into more seasoned organizations with broader drug- related markets, as well as very sophisticated transnational criminal organizations with ambitious political and economic agendas. In this connection, they inevitably begin to control ungoverned territory within a nation-state and/or begin to acquire political power in poorly governed space…The gang leader, then, acts much the same as a warlord or a drug baron. That is, once a gang leader has achieved control of a specific geographical area within a given nation-state and takes measures to protect the gang’s turf from the state, that leader effectively becomes a warlord or drug baron…”
(Dr. Max Manwaring, Street Gangs: The New Urban Insurgency, March 2005)
Ah, but now for the last turn of the screw, the irony of ironies…
“Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, a key al Qaeda cell leader for whom the U.S. government has offered a $5 million reward, was spotted in July in Honduras meeting with leaders of El Salvador's notorious Mara Salvatrucha gang, which immigration officials said has smuggled hundreds of Central and South Americans — mostly gang members — into the United States…The Salvadoran gang…is thought to have established a major smuggling center in Matamoros, Mexico, just south of Brownsville, Texas, from where it has arranged to bring illegal aliens from countries other than Mexico into the United States…El Shukrijumah, born in Saudi Arabia but thought to be a Yemen national, was spotted in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, in July, having crossed the border illegally from Nicaragua after a stay in Panama. U.S. authorities said al Qaeda operatives have been in Tegucigalpa planning attacks against British, Spanish and U.S. embassies. Known to carry passports from Saudi Arabia, Trinidad, Guyana and Canada, El Shukrijumah had sought meetings with the Mara Salvatrucha gang leaders who control alien-smuggling routes through Mexico and into the United States. El Shukrijumah, 29, who authorities said was in Canada last year looking for nuclear material for a so-called "dirty bomb" and reportedly has family members in Guyana…”(Jerry Seper, Washington Times, 9-28-05)
Yes, Al Qaeda and the Maras—blow-back squared!
Third generation gangs, in general, and the Maras, in particular, are serious law enforcement issues. They are even to some extent military issues. But they are also much more. They are an urgent, irrefutable reason for all governments, and all organizations in position to pressure their governments, to not only embrace the UN Convention on the Rights of Children (only the U.S. and Somalia have not yet signed it, although many of have signed it are not complying with it), as well as its Optional Protocols (which strengthen the edicts against the exploitation of children), but also achieve the UN Millennium Goals, in particular, Millenium Goal #2, i.e., to “ensure that all boys and girls complete a full course of primary schooling.”
“Education affords children a sense of security and continuity even when they are surrounded by chaos engendered by armed conflict,” as Graça Machel’s report stressed almost a decade ago.  “Schools should be kept open as long as feasible and that informal classes should be established as soon as possible in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons. Schooling should be flexible, with lessons held in the safest place at the safest time. Lessons can be held in caves or under trees, for example. Humanitarian assistance should include such flexible approaches to education. Keeping children in class is particularly important for adolescents who are at risk of being recruited into armed forces, prostitution or drug abuse. The report indicates that one of the best ways to protect older children is to involve them actively in community activities, including their own personal development programmes.”
You cannot have security without understanding its interconnectedness with sustainability and spirit. Do we have a sustainable species? And what is at its spiritual core? Unless we answer these two questions, there will be no real security, nor any reason to strive for it.

Richard Power is the founder of GS(3) Intelligence and His work focuses on the inter-related issues of security, sustainability and spirit, and how to overcome the challenges of terrorism, cyber crime, global warming, health emergencies, natural disasters, etc. You can reach him via e-mail: For more information, go to