12 October, 2007

ISN on failed opportunities

With a new study decrying the failure of efforts to counter al-Qaida, and the White House acknowledging that the movement is building strength, a fundamental rethink is required.

Statue of Liberty and Twin Towers (Wikipedia)
Image: Wikipedia

Commentary by Dominic Moran in Tel Aviv for ISN Security Watch (11/10/07)

The White House acknowledged this week that al-Qaida was building strength, giving weight to a think tank study's finding that the so-called "war on terror" has proved disastrous.

An Oxford Research Group report released this week argues that the decision to attack the Taliban was a mistake that directly benefited al-Qaida while creating a security vacuum in Afghanistan.

The report goes on to argue that the detention of tens of thousands without charge in Iraq, widespread abuse of prisoners and the CIA's extraordinary renditions program have all contributed significantly to the rising popularity of extremist groups.

The limitations of counterterrorism measures in combating al-Qaida have been underlined by the effective disappearance of the movement's leadership in the wake of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan - acknowledged in the White House report - and failure of greatly bolstered intelligence agency efforts to achieve consistent successes.

The release of the White House assessment appeared timed to coincide with congressional debate on a law sponsored by the George W Bush administration cementing domestic security agencies' right to expel illegal migrants and conduct telephone and e-mail surveillance without warrants where citizens are believed to be consorting with foreign militants.

According to reports, the US lost a significant window on al-Qaida activities last month with the precipitous leak to the media of a 20-minute Osama Bin Laden video passed on to the US government by the private intelligence firm SITE, which has been monitoring jihadi media traffic.

Firm founder Rita Katz told the Washington Post this week that the "[t]echniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless." The video had yet to be loaded onto al-Qaida-linked sites when it appeared on Fox News, alerting the group that its internet network had been compromised.

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