The Army Says Social Networking Is A Sign Of Radicalism
Political Conspiracies 10/5/12
By: David Martinez
These are some more warning signs that that you have turned into a terrorist who will soon kill your co-workers, according to the U.S. military. Youâ€™ve recently changed your â€œchoices in entertainment.â€ You have â€œpeculiar discussions.â€ You â€œcomplain about bias,â€ youâ€™re â€œsocially withdrawnâ€ and youâ€™re frustrated with â€œmainstream ideologies.â€ Your â€œRisk Factors for Radicalizationâ€ include â€œSocial Networksâ€ and â€œYouth.â€
These are some other signs that one of your co-workers has become a terrorist, according to the U.S. military. He â€œshows a sudden shift from radical to â€˜normalâ€™ behavior to conceal radical behavior.â€ He â€œinquires about weapons of mass effects.â€ He â€œstores or collects mass weapons or hazardous materials.â€
That was the assessment of a terrorism advisory organization inside the U.S. Army called the Asymmetric Warfare Group in 2011, acquired by Danger Room. Its concern about the warning signs of internal radicalization reflects how urgent the Army considers that threat after Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan shot and killed 13 people at Ford Hood in 2009. But its â€œindicatorsâ€ of radicalization are vague enough to include both benign behaviors that lots of people safely exhibit and, on the other end of the spectrum, signs that someone is so obviously a terrorist they shouldnâ€™t need to be pointed out. Itâ€™s hard to tell if the group is being politically correct or euphemistic.
Around the same time, the Asymmetric Warfare Group tried to understand a related problem that now threatens to undermine the U.S. war in Afghanistan: â€œinsider threatsâ€ from Afghan troops who kill their U.S. mentors. In another chart, also acquired by Danger Room, an Afghan soldier or policeman ready to snap could be someone who â€œappears frustrated with partnered nationsâ€; reads â€œquestionable reading materialsâ€; or who has â€œstrange habits.â€ Admittedly, the U.S. military command isnâ€™t sure whatâ€™s causing the insider attacks, but itâ€™ll be difficult for an American soldier who doesnâ€™t speak Pashto or Dari to identify â€œstrange habitsâ€ among people from an unfamiliar culture.
The Asymmetric Warfare Group didnâ€™t purport to identify every factor leading to insider threats, from either Americans or Afghans, and cautions against using its assessments as â€œchecklists.â€ But it takes a broad view of both the causes of radicalization and what might make someone at risk for it.
Among Afghans, â€œCultural Misunderstandings,â€ â€œCivilian Casualties,â€ â€œGlobal Eventsâ€ or â€œPolitical Speeches or Upheavalâ€ are listed as potential causes of â€œGrievance-Based Action.â€ All of which seems intuitive, but it doesnâ€™t help a commander, who may be preoccupied with the daily rigors of war fighting, from identifying which Afghans represent looming threats. The â€œobservableâ€ indicators of those threats run the gamut from an â€œabrupt behavioral shiftâ€ to â€œintense ideological rhetoricâ€ to blinking red lights that shouldnâ€™t have to be pointed out to people, like â€œmaking threatening gestures or verbal threats.â€
American behavior is easier for Americans to understand, but the Asymmetric Warfare Groupâ€™s list of red flags from American troops is also problematic outside context. Someone who â€œtakes suspicious or unreported travel (inside or outside the United States)â€ could be linking up with a terrorist group. Or he could be hooking up with a lover, or a going on a road trip with friends, or anything else. Yet thatâ€™s an example of â€œActions conducted by the subject that would indicate violent or terroristic planning activities that warrant investigation.â€ The unreported aspect of the travel might be its most blatantly problematic feature.
Similarly, some of the â€œRisk Factors for Radicalizationâ€ identified here apply equally to Normal Soldier and Ticking Time Bomb. Among them: â€œYouth,â€ which might be a difficult thing to mitigate against, unless the military wants to take former Pentagon official Rosa Brooksâ€™ unorthodox recruitment advice. â€œSocial Networksâ€ is another, and itâ€™s probably alarmingly coterminous with Youth. Still others: â€œEmotional Vulnerability,â€ â€œPersonal Connection to a Grievanceâ€ and â€œConflict at Work or at Home.â€
To be fair to the Group, the bonds within a military unit can make it difficult to be alert to sketchy behavior, let alone the chain of command to it. And that disinclination to report something isnâ€™t limited to the military: The FBI didnâ€™t act on Hasan, even when he e-mailed the radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki seeking advice on the legitimacy of murdering Americans. The Group repeatedly underscores the need to â€œnotify the chain of commandâ€ about suspicious behavior, even about behavior as potentially benign as â€œchanging type of off-duty clothing.â€ A â€œsingle reportable indicator is enough to report,â€ it cautions, listing internal Army websites and phone hotlines to report a suspected Hasan 2.0.
If underreporting suspicious behavior is a problem within the U.S. military, soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan probably wonâ€™t have a problem reporting their suspicious about Afghans now that over 50 U.S. and allied troops have been killed by their Afghan counterparts this year. Marine Gen. John Allen, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, told 60 Minutes on Sunday that heâ€™s â€œmad as hellâ€ at the attacks, and while his troops are willing to sacrifice for the war, â€œweâ€™re not willing to be murdered for it.â€