December 2011 – A Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel (our top spy drone) does a soft landing – in Iran. The Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (Iran’s Spy Agency) claim they hacked into the communications link and simply ordered the drone to land. The RQ-170’s billion dollar electronic secrets are laid bare to the Iranians. The US has still not offered an explanation.
March 2014 – Malaysia Air FLT 370 disappears from the sky after mysteriously ceasing communications and turning away from its flight path. The possibility of the 777’s fly by wire control systems being commandeered remotely are still discussed in hush tones among the security community, although denied publicly.
May 2014 – Chinese computer hackers, with full government backing, are caught red-handed stealing thousands of military and commercial secrets from the US. Even upon exposure of hard evidence, they deny the accusations, and continue their nefarious efforts to this day.
June 2014 – Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri, the top bomb designer of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, creates new types of explosive devices that are designed to hide inside electronic devices. The electronics are designed to sneak pass airline security checkpoints. Passengers are now required to turn every electronic device to prove the device does not play only one channel, the al-Qaeda kaboom channel.
July 2014 – An as yet unnamed group of foreign hackers was caught trying to penetrate into the NASDAQ stock market computer system. After a brief announcement to the press, the details, and the story is quickly scuttled.
July 2014 – A cadre of drunken Russian wannabe soldiers is handed the keys to a sophisticated SA-11 missile system by a drunk-with-power glamor boy who wants to be a Czar. The first attempt by this Hogan’s Hero’s group to take the missile launcher out for a spin shoots down Malaysia air Flt MH 17.
Each of these acts taken individually, demonstrates that terrorist acts around the world are constantly accelerating. However when we take the collective view of these, and the many other instances of terror now at our doorstep, it clearly demonstrates that the very face of terrorism has dramatically changed. The good old days where a terrorist could be identified as a simple minded Jihadi zealot firing his gun in the air in some far off land is over.
It’s time to ask – Who are the world’s new terrorists?
The new breed of terrorist are biochemists, engineers, and computer experts? The new terrorists are not geographically or socioeconomically bound. This new Jihadist mentality transcends country boarders, economics, and personal intelligence limitations. World class scholars harbor the same zealous idealism as the young man with the RPG on his shoulder. Geographic boarders, once used to label our enemies, have disappeared right before our eyes. ISIS identifies with a caliphate, a land with boarders only they choose.
The old breed of terrorist was limited by a lack of money, the availability of advanced weapons, and access to the intelligence (both personal and collective) that could match that of the West. The new terrorists has this and more. Today’s desperate governmental leaders have broken the time honored prohibition on sharing the world’s deadliest weapons with despots. Poster boy and teen heart throb Putin, desperate to create his legacy as the latest Russian Czar, is willing to give advanced weapons to a rag tag team of drunken knuckleheads. Bashar al-assad has used chemical weapons on his own people several times. Would he sell those weapons to Hezbollah in a last ditch effort to save his skin? Would ISIS use biological weapons on Shiite populations if a Saudi biochemist offered them? If the Chinese economy started to dramatically loose value, would they offer a terror cell the keys to a computer virus that could dramatically harm America’s fortune 500 companies?
If the old face of terrorism represented a threat to America, this new face of intelligent Jihadi represents an Elevated Threat. Are we prepared for this new type of terrorism? Ask yourself – the last time the terrorism threat dramatically changed in Sept. 2001 from local insurgencies to a new type of global conspiracy – were we ready? What’s coming our way soon will make that tragic day seem inconsequential.
The old type of terrorist attacked airliners by sneaking bombs on board, the new breed of terrorists are plotting to shut down the entire air traffic control system. The old terrorist sought to infect the local train station with anthrax, the new regime is genetically altering e. coli strains to increase the infectious rate and lethality with the goal of effecting entire cities. The old terrorist sent out statements taking claim for attacks after the fact on their web sites, the new intelligent terrorists will use social media to inflate their reach and spread fear to the masses before an attack. The old terrorists strapped a bomb vest to his chest and blew up a London bus, the newly skilled terrorist sits behind a keyboard in Pakistan and shuts down the world’s financial systems.
Are we prepared for this Elevated Threat to our very way of life?
Our security apparatus and military continue to fight past wars, not prepare for the new ones coming. We still refuse to use our imagination to gird ourselves with protective measures – until after the attack takes place. And we certainly don’t have the stomach to preemptively strike these new terrorists to eliminate the threat before the attack. Doing so may offend the leaders of Pakistan or Iran or North Korea. And we clearly do not have the internal political will to face this new Elevated Threat head-on. No, our bold leaders will wait for the attack, fight each other to get in front of the cameras, and then blame the other side for the lax preparations. Next our elected talking heads will ask the UN to issue a resolution to condemn the attack and to ask the perpetrators to stop.
Putin may be a Czar after all.