September 3, 2013 in Department of State
The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013, resulting in a large number of casualties, including the deaths of 1,429 people, among them 426 children. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack.
October 2, 2012 in Department of State
An overview presentation on the U.S. Department of State Operations Center from September 24, 2012.
September 20, 2012 in Department of State, Libya
The group or individuals responsible for the attack on the Benghazi consulate remains unknown. It is also unclear if the attack was premeditated or simply a demonstration that spun out of control. Following the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi and the ensuing civil war, Libya has been awash with small arms and light weapons. The use of such arms at the demonstration does not necessarily indicate a pre-meditated, coordinated attack. Online jihadi groups have claimed the attack was due to a statement released by al-Qa’ida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri regarding the earlier death of another al-Qa’ida leader, Abu Yahya al-Libi. Others have suggested that the attack was pre-meditated to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary in the United States. Neither of those claims has been substantiated. Until more evidence comes out, OSAC is unable to conclude whether this was a pre-meditated, planned, and coordinated assault on the Consulate.
July 22, 2012 in Department of State
U.S. Department of State Humanitarian Information Unit map from July 19, 2012 depicting locations and numbers of internally and externally displaced persons as a result of the current conflict in Syria.
August 12, 2011 in Department of State
The Criminal Justice Sector Assessment Rating Tool (CJSART) is designed to assist policy makers and program managers to prioritize and administer host-nation criminal justice sectors needing assistance. Once the assistance programs are underway, the CJSART is a systematic tool designed to measure progress and accomplishments against standardized benchmarks. Used in its entirety, the CJSART holistically examines a country’s laws, judicial institutions, law enforcement organizations, border security, and corrections systems as well as a country’s adherence to international rule of law standards such as bilateral and multilateral treaties.
May 29, 2011 in Department of State
Every year, U.S. officials from agencies with anti-money laundering responsibilities meet to assess the money laundering situations in 200 jurisdictions. The review includes an assessment of the significance of financial transactions in the country‘s financial institutions involving proceeds of serious crime, steps taken or not taken to address financial crime and money laundering, each jurisdiction‘s vulnerability to money laundering, the conformance of its laws and policies to international standards, the effectiveness with which the government has acted, and the government‘s political will to take needed actions.
May 20, 2011 in Department of State
Consular Affairs has developed a highly penetrative security ink to be used exclusively for cancelling nonimmigrant visas. This unique formulation, designated security ink #297, is specially designed to penetrate TESLIN, the synthetic material used as the basis of visa foils issued since late 1993 until the recent introduction of the Lincoln Visa. The ink finally selected was chosen after extensive laboratory testing undertaken by both the U.S. Secret Service and INS/FDL. Up to now, there existed no genuinely effective means for cancelling a visa permanently short of destructive methods that risked damaging the underlying passport page. To remedy this, CA commissioned the manufacture of two types of visa cancellation stamps in conjunction with the new security ink, and they are being distributed to visa issuing posts worldwide.
February 19, 2011 in Department of State
The recent social unrest and subsequent government overthrows in Egypt and Tunisia have had deep reverberations not only around the Middle East, but throughout the world. While speculation proliferates about which country will be the next to experience such tumult, a critical analysis of important variables present in both countries should be applied to any other country when making this assessment. In this report, those variables will be analyzed with respect to the People’s Republic of China, and the probability it will be the next country to experience social unrest.
February 10, 2011 in Department of State
Two U.S. State Department OSAC Reports on the Caucasus Emirate from August and September 2010.
February 10, 2011 in Department of State
OSAC constituents operating in India face a multitude of threats, many of which are difficult to evaluate from a security standpoint. Often times, the international media will mimic the hyperbolic Indian news industry and sensationalize a security concern, resulting in significant private sector hand-wringing. One such example of this is the Communist Party of India-Maoist insurgency in India, popularly known as the Naxalite movement. For instance, Naxalites ambushed and killed 75 members of India’s Central Reserve Police Force on patrol in Chhattisgarh state on April 6, 2010. The disaster triggered alarmist headlines around the world. A headline in the British Independent on April 8 screamed “Who are the Naxalites and will they topple the Indian Government?” The attack also brought renewed attention to the Naxalites from publications such as The Economist and The New York Times, which typically publish maps showing the current “extent” of the Naxal problem alongside their analyses. Even the Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh is on record as saying that the Naxalites are the greatest threat India faces.
February 8, 2011 in Department of State
On December 15, 2009, the City of London Police released film footage of hostile reconnaissance conducted in July 2008 by an Algerian national (Subject 1). Subject 1 was stopped by two alert police officers who saw him using his cell phone camera to record video inside Liverpool Street Station in London. When the police officers examined the footage they found 90 minutes of video recording of various sites in and around London and several UK cities to include Tube and mainline rail stations, shopping areas, bars, and restaurants. His detention and the follow-up investigation led to the arrest of Subject 1’s brother (Subject 2) and a third Algerian male (Subject 3). British authorities also looked at 30 other individuals and recovered extremist material supporting al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb in one residence. Police believe the two brothers may have been fundraising and conducting surveillance for a future terrorist operation.
February 8, 2011 in Department of State, Jordan
With the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, OSAC constituents are concerned about opposition groups in other Middle Eastern countries attempting to stage similar uprisings. Many countries in the region, including Jordan, suffer from similar economic and demographic problems, which put them at increased risk of civil unrest. The recent series of Friday protests and subsequent conciliatory measures by King Abdullah has only increased these concerns. Nevertheless, Jordan is a unique country with significant differences, and its potential for civil unrest needs to be judged based on its own internal dynamics, even if that includes accounting for recent regional changes.
February 5, 2011 in Department of State, Egypt
Five U.S. State Department Overseas Advisory Council Egyptian Revolution Warnings from January 26 – February 2, 2011.
February 2, 2011 in Department of State, Portugal
Social media usage in Portugal is growing and it is recognized by organizations as a useful communications tool, particularly amongst consumer brands. Although, the government has invested heavily in schools IT infrastructure, it is yet to embrace social media as part of its overall communications strategy and there remains great potential for the government or political parties to fully utilize social media. Similarly, there are cases of media outlets engaged in social media activity, although these are the exception, rather than the rule. The 16-24 year old age group is leading the digital movement in Portugal; it is this group which has benefited most from the unprecedented level of government investment However, it is important to recognize their predecessors, the 25-34 year old age group are also heavy users of the Internet.
February 2, 2011 in Department of State, Finland
Finland has a high level of Internet penetration and usage in comparison to other European nations. However, whilst the technology and capability exists to facilitate for a vibrant social media landscape, the conservative Finnish national character in conjunction with online security fears can be seen to be restricting this potential growth. In line with most European nations it is the younger age groups, namely 15-24 year olds who are most active online in Finland, whilst people who live by themselves are also active online participants. Most people access the Internet at home, however educational establishments are also common locations and many schools, colleges and universities are well equipped with IT facilities and Internet access. Men typically use the Internet as an information resource, whilst women and younger people use it as a communication tool.
January 28, 2011 in Department of State, Norway
Norway boasts an active online community with high Internet penetration rates in comparison to the rest of Europe. In addition, access rates are high and spread fairly evenly across demographic groups, age ranges and locations. A range of social media activities are popular, including blogging and content sharing, however social networking is the most prominent activity, with Norwegian Facebook users now exceeding 2 million. A large number of Norwegian companies have an active social media presence with Facebook and Twitter the platforms of choice. Whilst, usage is high, few companies at present measure or evaluate social media and there is a reluctance to divert resources for this purpose. Social media is emerging as a defining behavior of Internet usage in Norway, and the government has been keen to harness social media as a potential engagement and consultation tool. The government is also in the process of designing an innovative electronic voting system to increase voter turnout, which is hoped to be trialled in 2011. The government clearly appreciates the value of a digitally inclusive society and has set an ambitious target of supplying broadband connectivity to the entire country. In order to aid digital inclusivity the Government also ensures the text on public websites is suitable for older and weak sighted people. In keeping with most of Norwegian society, politicians, journalists and NGOs are all increasingly using social media as a communications tool.
January 28, 2011 in Department of State, Romania
Internet penetration and usage in Romania is still relatively underdeveloped in comparison to the rest of Europe, with availability and usage limited mainly to Bucharest, the capital city. As a result, social media usage is also generally focused around Bucharest. As well as geographical limits for Internet activity, social demographics play a large part in determining Internet usage; with professionally-employed, university educated citizens representing by far the largest community active online. Amongst Internet users, social media use is growing in popularity; particularly social networking sites, blogging, photo and video sharing, and microblogging. Businesses are beginning to identify opportunities to use social media as part of their communications strategies. The government and state services have been slower to adopt social media, although individual politicians are experimenting with the media for campaigning purposes. While Romanian is widely used, English is the common language for conversation via social media in Romania. Politics is a very popular topic of conversation amongst Romanian Internet users, particularly given recent levels of political uncertainty. Concern currently exists that the lack of regulation over the Internet, combined with the real-time nature of the medium is devaluing the quality of content being consumed by the public. Although Internet use is low compared to the rest of Europe, social media are establishing a relevancy to Romanian society as a means to connect; share and debate and we can expect their use to grow.
January 28, 2011 in Department of State, Italy
Strategic use of social media by the Italian government is minimal, but there is evidence of limited use by political parties, particularly politicians who are leveraging their Facebook profiles to engage with voters. Commercial employment of social media and digital communications is limited in Italy although global brands are beginning to demonstrate some level of engagement with consumers through different social media platforms, primarily Facebook which is often used to generate conversation around specific products. Smaller businesses are expected to emulate this kind of social media engagement over the coming months.
January 27, 2011 in Belgium, Department of State
The social media landscape in Belgium has grown considerably over the last few years and Belgians appear to be increasingly proactive in their social media endeavors as Internet access is obtainable from many electronic sources. All generations, young and old have familiarized themselves with the cell phone, iphone, Blackberry and Netbook usage in order to access social media sites while on the move. The rise in Internet access via mobile devices has created an abundance of new social media users.
January 26, 2011 in Belarus, Department of State
The Internet and social media are in early stages of development in Belarus. The lack of infrastructure and the cost of access mean that the online community is characterized by affluent, educated middle classes from the metropolitan areas of the country (especially Minsk). Internet in Belarus has not yet achieved the penetration necessary to be socially representative. Despite the accessibility challenges, social media are still proving popular, particularly amongst younger demographics. Online information sources and especially social media, promise an impartiality that is often lacking in Belarusian mass media channels, which many consider to be overly influenced by the national government. From a political point of view, this has meant that opposition parties have been swifter to experiment with online engagement to gain public support, although their use of social media as strategic tool for campaigning is still relatively experimental.
January 26, 2011 in Department of State, Spain
The social media landscape in Spain is relatively mature since reading blogs and engaging on social networks is now a regular part of daily life for many people, particularly teenagers and young professional people. As in most other European countries, social media participation is higher in large cities, especially Madrid which is seen as the center of the technology and Web 2.0 industry in Spain (64.3% of households have Internet access). Social networking is the most popular social activity in Spain. Until recently the local platform Tuenti had the highest membership although the global platform Facebook has now usurped that with 100,000 more members (5.7 million total) and levels of traffic to rival Google.
January 24, 2011 in Department of State, France
The Internet and social media are in a relatively advanced stage of development in France. Penetration rates are higher than the European average, although France is still trailing behind the European leaders in terms of social media sophistication. Social media is very popular amongst French Internet users, with six social media sites in the top 20 most visited websites in France. Social networking and video-sharing are the most popular social media activities in France. Blogging, on the other hand, is comparatively less engaged with indicating the behavior of the French online is more fast-paced with less emphasis on long form communication. French Internet users tend to use the French language in online communication and social media. As a result, micro-blogging platform Twitter has grown in popularity since a French version was introduced.
January 24, 2011 in Department of State, Hungary
Improvements in infrastructure and access in Hungary over the last decade have encouraged considerable increases in Internet access and with that, an exploration of social media. Currently, Internet access is just below the EU average but is heavily focused around Budapest and other large cities, while the rural population remains largely digitally excluded. That said, government-backed initiatives to improve access in rural areas are ongoing. Internet access is also greater amongst those with a higher education and / or employed in the service industries. In turn, a gender divide is also apparent in Hungary’s Internet access as a result of lower levels of employment amongst women. The 15-24 age group and students are leading the digital movement in Hungary, aided by government initiatives which have focused on providing IT education and equipment to schools. It is this demographic that is largely responsible for the popularity of social networking, primarily conducted on local platforms in the Hungarian language, although membership of the global platform Facebook is growing and highlights a desire to be part of the global social media conversation.
January 1, 2010 in Department of State
(SBU) On January 20, a suicide bomber disguised as a beggar approached Afghan warlord General Abdul Rashid Dostum outside a mosque in northern Afghanistan. Though the “beggar” detonated his device one meter from Dostum, no one was killed in the explosion other than the bombers himself. In this issue of Terrorist Tactics, we will see how posing as a beggar can serve as a clever ruse to carry out pre-operational surveillance.