Monday, August 5, 2013

Embassy Closures - Delaying the Inevitable? (Monday LINKS)

Over the weekend, one of my friends on Facebook posted the question: "So we close the embassies down on Sunday. What's keeping al Qaeda from just waiting until we open them again?"

It's a reasonable question, but one that may be based on presumptions of how our enemy works against us.

For a response, we need to look at how terrorist cells work.  This article from Slate was published in 2001, but still remains relevant.  Similar to the way the United States handles protected information, terrorist groups break the knowledge of any given operation into smaller groups.  No one group knows the entire picture.  They have discrete tasks to perform, sometimes as mundane as fundraising or packing supplies, which then feeds another element of the operation.

The cell responsible for executing the operation will normally go quiet or disconnect from the larger body in the weeks leading up to the execution date.  Just as in a spy movie there will be just the right items placed in just the right places, that is the expectation of this final group of terrorists.  There is no huddle before the play is run.  They just go blindly in accordance with the plan that was laid out weeks before.

Disrupting that plan by even a day can be devastating to plans premised on expectation.  What if the plan required a Sunday train that does not run the same time on Monday?  What if the executing cell had arrived at the target location at the exact date of the event and now needs to stay overnight?  What if there was confusion amongst the various cells as to whether the event was still going forward?

All of these questions prompt "chatter" on lines of communication monitored by our intelligence services.  The NSA/DoD monitors may not know the precise group that is executing the plot, but they know when the entire network increases in volume.  In fact, while there are no news reports suggesting as much, oftentimes these alerts are premised on the network going quiet, indicative of an attack in progress.

There are innumerable other factors at play, but this is the simplest explanation for how Sunday embassy closures could disrupt a larger attack.


Baltimore Colts tackle Art Donovan has died at age 89.  (Made me think of this.)  

A somewhat under the radar story - the Baltimore City State's Attorney has negotiated the release of 20 prisoners after the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that a certain jury instruction pertaining to the presumption of innocence compromised jury verdicts.  Due to the passage of time, destruction of evidence, and deterioration of witness memories, prosecutors had to make difficult choices about whether a second conviction was possible.  Ian Duncan with the Baltimore Sun reports that some of the families of the released prisoners have posted complaints about not being notified that those previously convicted of murdering their loved ones are being set free.

Allison Bourg with the Capital Gazette reports that Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman's budget for FY13 will likely be a point of criticism from her Republican rivals for the County Executive primary in 2014.  

The Washington Post has published a series of articles in their Metro Section about Jenny Hatch, a developmentally disabled woman who sought independence in making her own choices about where she would live and under what circumstances.  A Virginia judge recently denied a guardianship request from Ms. Hatch's parents, who wanted to place her in a group home and argued that leaving her amongst the populace would make her vulnerable to manipulation.

You may recall that last week I had mentioned systems being developed to turn carbon emissions into algae.  I had no idea that there was a company here in Howard County working on just such a technology, as Jamie Smith Hopkins writes in The Baltimore Sun. 

Timothy B. Lee with The Washington Post writes that Vermont is using its consumer protection code to protect its businesses from bad faith patent lawsuits.  I would love to see something like this explored in Maryland.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Duane at HoCo Connect promotes some of my favorite nonprofits who work to protect and support vulnerable youth. 

Speaking of which, my favorite event of the year is just around the corner: Vintage, September 20, 2013.  You can join the Facebook event page here (and expect to hear from me about buying tickets).

That's all for today.  Have a great Monday doing what you love!