Friday, October 28, 2005

Believably Unbelievable: Actionable Intelligence: 17/08 and Thereafter

Believably Unbelievable - Actionable Intelligence: 17/08 and Thereafter
Two months after the near simultaneous bomb attacks across Bangladesh- the answer to a question eluding us; has anything happened since tomake us feel safer?On records we have 'hundreds of militants' arrested, remanded etc wealso get feel-good 'real life accounts' of how 'they almost got usthis time' close calls, the bravado of our police commandos, securityand intelligence agencies, of 'bomb materials' (usually nut, bolts andbatteries) being seized from Madrasas, or at least from the 'types'who study there, crossfire death of yet another 'terrorist' or hisaccomplice. We have horrifying confessions to Magistrates but neverwant to know how statements from prisoners obtained by duress, whilenot acceptable for disposal of cases in a Court of law, seems to bethe sole or hypothesis of so-called Governments evidence of 'actionsagainst militants' and much more.
Unsurprising is the new found gusto of newspapers, because in a longtime – the Government of the day on a denial mode for years,officially consented to what must be the 'wolf has finally arrived'music for the media ears; 'them jihadist exist and that's the truthand nothing but the truth' so help us God. Never before has the newsstarved 'mainstream' cashed in this heavily for chock-a-block'anything goes' reports, that in other 'civilised nation' would beconsigned, confined, quarantined and trashed into the first conspiracytheory bin available.Our penchant for news stories appears to savor offerings byinstitutionalised fear merchants with unverifiable stories from'reliable sources', 'intelligence officials', or very officious 'StaffReporters' who stamp seals of validity to stories that are believable– only because they are so unbelievable!
The sore truth, we are getting nowhere, and as days progress we will be finding ourselves insituations worse than what our mental preparation as a nation, whichis an entirely different ball-game from that of the State orGovernment – was, as on 17/08 - unprepared?The bomb attacks have continued mercilessly, as have murder mayhemsand it sends chills down our spines when we have to reflect on whatmay happen next. The hush-hush world of espionage gets progressivelyoverpowering and the veal of secrecy heavier by the days. Sadly we donot have any mechanism of forward analysis available in the publicdomain to placate our fears, nor any actionable intelligenceforthcoming in newspapers reports that may help us in anyway arrive atour own conclusions, simply because nothing we read are based on'verifiable facts'.
A nation stripped off a right to analysis through deliberatespin-doctoring of events by the state or its media is susceptible towillingly accept abuse, the worst being a denial of the right toinformation that is enshrined in our Constitution. In the unfoldingtragedy - the system and status quo, whatever or whoever they may beis provoking us to capitulate and become criminal accomplices to adisaster we will have none else to blame. The ultimate casualtieswhile advancing the Bushonian 'War on Terror' (WOT) – is Human Rightsand personal liberty, and from the US on to the UK to more recently'down under' – Australia, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailandit's a repetitive yet predictable pattern, and it is not long beforewe welcome similar aggressions to our shores.The 17/08 bomb attacks, back in perspective - it is all the easy foranybody to appropriate blame on the invisible JMB and theBNP/Jamaat-e-Islami 'fundamentalist axis', which in turn completes andcompliment the long held hysterical loop of Pakistan's ISI 'involvement' -- as much as it is the Awami League/India/ RAW'triangle of the secular'; there are yet others who have invokedinvolvement by the Israeli Mossad as the ultimate 'brainchild'!
Axis,Angles and triangles we have plenty, but how many – if any - have been able to bring to satisfactory conclusion investigations on majorterrorist incidents ex- 1996; or how many of these so-calledterrorists do we have where they really belong – in prisons?Clearly all 'counter-pointing' analyst and retired military strategistem bedded safely in newspaper columns and TV channels have willfully exonerated elements from within Bangladesh off even the slightestpossibility of 'masterminding' these attacks. That this was launchedby a home grown terrorist outfit, independent of affiliations andworking outside the Al-Qaeda satellite… wiped clean from the slate.
The mentality being, who the hell are we to deal with 'foreignterrorists' and their games in Bangladesh? It 'pays' to give 'foreignaffiliations' to our faceless enemies and best to link our destinywith anything foreign if we have to appear credible. Appropriately thefirst excitable whoops that go off as if on chorus whenever a bombexplodes is 'antorjatik todonto' …'international investigation' !The idea that this was a simultaneous attack to prove domesticexistence of larger networks with 'foreign affiliation' is a mediadriven absurdity that falls hollow, because transnational Jihadistgroups are known NOT to waste opportunities when they have one.
The simultaneous bomb attacks that we saw and the number of simultaneous targets chosen (over 500) did not under any circumstances carry thehallmark of Al-Qaeda strikes for the following:
1.In the manner it was planned and executed it implies a cheapun sophisticated dry-run by an enemy state for a possible 'alternative military strike' with a jihadist terrorist angle meant to confuse,complicate, divide and create a volatile situation inside Bangladeshat minimum cost and liability.
2.Vitally, the operation tested Bangladesh's response to a majorterrorist strike, and whoever planned and executed it must have beenheartened to note that the state machinery did not wake up from itsslumber until about 12 hours had past. 'Precision' if at all -- was merely on the clock-work timing, which could only be ensured by the military, not a terrorist group – not in an operation this size. Itdid however succeed in the element of surprise resoundingly.
3.Whoever carried out the attack did not have a follow-up plan, norwas it a part of a larger action plan, indeed well orchestrated newsevents post the blasts were meant to confirm that Bangladesh isincapable of handling its own affairs and/or needs a change in itsleadership, probably the only message to be conveyed and rightly so.
4.The answer to questions on the numbers of 'terrorists coordinatingthe attack' is making too large a mountain out of too tiny a molehill.One only had to follow the modus operandi of dope and phensydylsmugglers who hire any number of civilian's who gladly drop a packageat a location for a fee without asking what is inside to get a clearpicture. On this one however, all the better if they wore beards andskull caps!
5.The undue haste at which the JMB was 'credited' implies thatsomebody wanted to take the quickest route possible to claim creditfor 'creating' a terrorist group and get away with it, much in themanner Harkat-ul-Jihad was 'created' following a fake attack on a Poetin 1996? Al-Qaeda backed groups usually claim credits in sophisticatedfashion, through Internet websites – not cheap leaflets placed insideor near bombs.
6.If this was at all an attack by elements trying to foment a Jihad and bring the Government of Bangladesh to its knees, and had the bombsonly caused casualties of twenty or more in every location, theresultant turmoil in the country would have prompted either fordeclaration of a Martial Law, or intervention of sinister 'foreignforces'. The intervention propaganda howitzers from across the borderwere fired forcefully following 17/08.
7.It was in all appropriation the biggest known terrorists attack inrecent history and let us not just fault Bangladesh or its securityand intelligence services being caught napping. On a larger frame ourneighboring countries as much as the forever prying US who are mostinterested on global jihad trends in South Asia were actually caughtwith their pants down…. but one cant be too sure!
8.Nothing as huge as this could have been planned or executed soinnocently naïvely, not without the intelligence service of so manynations not knowing - unless there were good reasons that we know not.
9. Any terrorist group with so-called 'precision intelligence andplanning' displayed by the 17/08 attackers that we have been asked toTRUST would have been more than able to predict, pre-empt and launchfurther attacks and the possibilities were endless. A series ofassassination perhaps on foreigners or any other soft targets wouldhave been enough to capitalize on the administrative helplessness andmake it capitulate easily to its agenda.
10.The attacks were meant solely to terrorise the citizens ofBangladesh, not the Government as neither key-point installations norany of its officials were targeted.Whenever the perpetual 'whodunits but you-dunnits' by the Governmentand Opposition that mar the first precious hours of investigationfollowing terrorist incidents simmer down, intelligence analyst backtracking news are left with damming accounts of the shift and slides in the systematic cover-up that follows. If there is anything called actionable intelligence we can safely cull them from mind-boggling array of the open source variety that the Bangladesh media provides,provided one has perfected skills at reading between the lines, andhave a retinue of who, what, where, when and why questions flashing like neon signs when doing the reading.No rocket science this, but drawing fine lines between believablyunbelievable might just get us there.
More on this later
New Age 28th October 2005

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