Thursday, August 04, 2005

GS(3) Intel Briefing (8-4-05)

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

GS(3) Intel Briefing (8-4-05)

Europe, Middle East & Africa

Recent events underscore the terrorist threat in the region.On 8/4/05, Al Jazeera broadcast a video-tape of Al-Qaida's No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri threatening more destruction in London, and saying that British PM Tony Blair would be to blame. After the 7/7/05 London attacks, an Al Qaeda related group, claiming responsibility, directly threatened attacks against Denmark and Italy, two more “Coalition” countries.On 7/22/05, a car bomb exploded in a popular nightclub area of eastern Beirut. The city has experienced a series of attacks in recent months. The “conventional wisdom” is that Syria is behind them, but as is often the case, “conventional wisdom” is sometimes simply convenient and not wisdom at all. On the night of 7/22-23/05, in Egypt, at least 64 people were killed and 200 others injured when three truck bomb attacks were launched against two hotels and a market in Sharm al-Sheikh. Egypt, the lynchpin of the Camp David accords, has been the target of several savages attacks aimed at its tourist sites since similar attacks against other Sinai resorts in 10/04. It is important to remember that despite the rhetoric of some leaders, Al Qaeda, and those allied with it, do not seek to “destroy our way of life.” Their primary goals, long-held and clearly and repeatedly articulated, are to expel Western forces from the region and bring down the current regimes, in particular, those in Cairo and Riyadh.On 7/21/05, four more bombings targeting the London transportation system went awry and resulted in only partial detonations. Several related tableaux, e.g., the siege of a flat in Nottinghill, the killing of an innocent Brazilian man mistaken for a terrorist by London police and the beginning of random searches of bags and parcels by NYPD in the New York City subway offer a chilling glimpse into our future if the situation continues to spiral out of control.

  • Organizations with offices or other business interests in Denmark, Italy and other “Coalition countries” (in particular Netherlands) -- or other countries such as France and Germany involved in Afghanistan, or Middle Eastern or African countries which have been targeted by or host to terrorists -- should immediately review crisis management capabilities and travel security programs. If your organization does not already have crisis management capabilities or a travel security program, their development should be a high and urgent priority. Al Qaeda and its allies strike commercial districts, financial districts, public transportation and tourist sites. They target US and Western interests as well as regional entities perceived to represent or collude with those interests. The tactical goal in their targeting is to cause economic damage and civilian causalities.

Asia Pacific

GS(3)Intelligence monitor the threat of “bird flu,” i.e., the danger to those living in or traveling to the region, as well as the potential outbreak of a pandemic. According to health experts, two of the three factors that trigger a pandemic are already in play. Recent developments do not bode well.The deadly strain has been found in migratory geese at a nature reserve in western China. Tens of thousands of birds that could be carrying H5N1 avian influenza virus are due to leave in September, heading for warmer climes across the Himalayas and south towards Australia and New Zealand. The migrating birds will reach India in mid-October. (Indian Express, 8/2/05)Russia's Emergencies Ministry is warning that the H5N1 strain, the strain dangerous to humans and responsible for the deaths of more than 50 people in Asia, could spread into mainland Europe from farms in Siberia. The Ministry issued a statement saying that the autumnal migration of birds from Siberia to the Caspian and Black Sea regions could increase the risk of new outbreaks, Reuters reports. "Human infection, especially among workers at poultry farms, cannot be ruled out," the statement warned. (The Register, 8/3/05)In Southeast Asia, where bird flu first emerged, Indonesia has acknowledged its first three bird flu deaths (a man and his two daughters) and became the first known country to destroy pigs in an effort to contain the rapid spread of bird flu. Also, two more people died in Vietnam, and one more person died in Thailand, in unrelated cases for a total of at least 61 fatalities in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, China denied that an outbreak in Sichuan that has killed at least 17 people is SARS or bird flu, saying it was likely a bacteria spread among pigs, state media reported.

  • Organizations with offices or other business interests in Southeast Asia should incorporate bird flu crisis response into existing crisis management capabilities, e.g., monitor developments so that you that you are ahead of the curve should a pandemic break out, prepare alternate or virtual work sites so that your business can continue if quarantines or other travel restrictions are imposed, people based in or traveling to impacted areas should be provided with awareness and education materials related to bird flu, etc.


The delicate post Cold war geopolitical balance has been disturbed. New alignments are forming. Dormant regional tensions are being stirred. Russia and China, for example, are conducting joint military exercises. Racial and historical animosities between China and Japan have been recently inflamed. Globalization, climate change, the end of oil, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, the unfortunate unilateralist tangent in U.S. foreign policy and other pressures are bringing radical realignment. Nowhere has this realignment been more evident than in Latin America, and it is exemplified in the dangerous tension between the US and Venezuela.The launching of Telesur, a regional TV network funded and supported by the several Latin American governments, including Venezuela, Uruguay, Brazil and Cuba, on the 222nd birthday of Simon Bolivar (the “Great Liberator”), is an event of historic importance. Projected as a rival to CNN and Univision, Telesur will have a significant impact on the shaping of political and geopolitical opinion in the South equivalent to that of Al-Jazeera throughout the Moslem world. It is already being dubbed “El Jazeera.” Aram Aharonian, a Uruguayan journalist and Telesur’s general director, says it will be, "the first counter-hegemonic telecommunications project known in South America." Al Giordano of NARCO News elaborates: “Chávez’s international opponents view the nascent TV network with horror, as something akin to Venezuela developing the atomic bomb: Oh no! He’s coming into our living rooms! What’s at stake is much bigger than one man (Chávez) or one TV station (Telesur). An authentic rebellion against the real center of power in this world (that is to say, against the Commercial Media) has finally gained traction.”

  • Organizations with offices or business interests in Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay and other Latin American countries should keep informed of geopolitical, military and economic developments in the region and should temper their approaches and plans accordingly. They should also perform a risk analysis of the potential impact of social or economic unrest, military action or anti-US protests or government actions on their offices, business travelers and interests. And just as in regard to threats related to terrorism and health emergencies, crisis management capabilities and travel security programs are vital.


According to the U.K. National Criminal Intelligence Service, 83% of the 203 major U.K. firms surveyed have fallen victim to cyber crime for a total of £195m in financial losses. Cyber gangs based in the former Soviet Union, North America, Brazil and the Far East, it reports, "are involved in all aspects of hi-tech crime, including malicious software, fraud, extortion and counterfeiting," and using Trojan horse programs “to obtain bank account details, passwords and PIN numbers,” which is then used “to steal cash or extort money from the victim.” Another scam is disrupting a company's Internet service, and offering to end the attack in return for payment. Russian gangs have targeted online gambling sites, promising to stop in return for a payment often as low as £3,000. "As some companies were losing £100,000 an hour while under attack, many chose to pay up," the service reported. (Independent, 8/3/05)The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that the seven unnamed financial market bodies it was tasked to assess (including exchanges, clearing houses and payment system processors) have completed action on only 35% of those issues deemed necessary for creating a “sound information security program.” The subjects of the study were considering, planning, or in the process of taking action on the bulk of the remaining suggestions. The GAO says it will continue to monitor their progress. (CNET, 8/3/05)

  • The UK study underscores the clear and present threat from cyber crime gangs. The GAO study reveals that even within the financial services industry, cyber security is not properly prioritized, adequately staffed or sufficiently funded. There are multi-billion dollar organizations operating globally, with sensitive client data on their internal networks, which have delayed $500,000 deployment of a global IDS framework, while spending $1,500,000 on their annual executive leadership soiree. Where are your organization’s priorities? Are you just paying lip service to cyber security?


GS(3)Intelligence researches the security and crisis management implications (short-term, mid-term and long-term) of global warming and climate change, which will be significant and need to be factored into the planning and capabilities of organizations, families, etc.Recent developments underscore the concern.The unprecedented collapse of an ice-shelf in Antarctica could indirectly lead to a significant rise in global sea levels. The Larsen B ice shelf covered more than 3,000 square kilometers and was 200 meters thick until its northern part disintegrated in the 1990s. Three years ago, the central part also broke up. An international team used data collected from six sediment cores near the former ice shelf to show the shelf had been relatively intact for at least 10,000 years or since the last ice age. (CBC, 8/3/05)Hurricanes have grown significantly more powerful and destructive over the last three decades due in part to global warming, says an MIT professor who warns that this trend could continue. "My results suggest that future warming may lead to an upward trend in [hurricanes'] destructive potential, and--taking into account an increasing coastal population--a substantial increase in hurricane-related losses in the 21st century," reports Kerry Emanuel, a professor of meteorology in MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Theories and computer simulations of climate indicate that warming should generate an increase in storm intensity, i.e., hit harder, produce higher winds and last longer. (MIT, 7/31/05)A fierce and unprecedented heat wave struck across the continental U.S. in recent weeks. (Remember, over 14,000 people died in the heat wave that struck France in 2003.) The following excerpts from Associated Press (7/18/05-7/25/05) offer a glimpse into the future.Chicago, Illinois: “Sweat-drenched city workers checked on senior citizens Sunday and shuttled people to cooling centers as temperatures surpassed the 100-degree mark here for the first time in six years. Chicago was among scores of cities suffering amid a scorching heat wave that blazed across the upper Midwest.”Las Vegas, Nevada: “Even in a place accustomed to triple-digit heat, this has been one hot summer already. Tuesday's 117 degrees tied the record set in 1942…Twenty-one people, mostly homeless, have died from similar heat in neighboring Arizona, and authorities in Las Vegas are investigating whether 10 deaths were heat-related… This kind of heat cracks dashboards, makes steering wheels too hot to grip and fries feet unfortunate enough to touch pavement. Even swimming pools offer little relief because of bathtub-like temperatures.”Phoenix, Arizona: “The deaths of three homeless men over the weekend were being investigated by police as heat-related, and record-breaking temperatures were refusing to let up. All three men were found dead Saturday in south Phoenix, when temperatures there reached 113 degrees.” · All organizations should educate themselves about global warming and climate change in general and its security and crisis management implications in particular.

  • Organizations should implement security and crisis management plans for all facilities and information systems. If your organization already has such plans, they should be revised to address short-term, near-term and long-term security implications of global warming and climate change.