Could 9/11 Have Been Prevented?

A 2015 docudrama entitled “A Good American,” written, produced and directed by Friedrich Moser in Austria, exposes the world of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and claims that 9/11 could have been prevented.  This film based on true events, with interviews with real people, tells the story of Bill Binney and several of his colleagues, who worked at the NSA and were eventually fired.  Here is a brief summary of this explosive story.

Bill Binney was a mathematician and a brilliant data analyst, who early on saw that what mattered in decrypting masses of information was not what people were saying to each other, that is the content of a communication, but rather the analysis of the traffic, i.e. who was talking to whom, how often and from where to where. By analyzing this kind of information, he and others warned of the Tet offensive by the Communist Viet Cong in 1968, but due to “the arrogance of power” it was ignored by the US military in Vietnam.  He was then able to establish a structure of the Russian military command from traffic analysis, before the advent of real computers, and he was able to predict the Russian invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 months before it occurred.  Typically his warning was also ignored.

However, his work got him a job in the NSA, where he was given the task of expanding on his method of analysis.  He established a small group and continued his approach of traffic analysis using raw date that was pouring into the NSA from many sources.  At that time the work of NSA involved mainly total data capture and analysis for selected “red flags.”  For example, the use of the word “revolution” might be searched for, and then in each case the conversation would have to be analyzed for its security threat, to distinguish between someone using the word “revolution” to mean let’s start a revolution against the US government, from someone who was talking about turntable speed, i.e revolutions per minute.  This type of analysis involved a great deal of man hours, so much so that the NSA analysts were literally drowning in data.

The NSA had fallen woefully behind in computer technology, and so a new Director was appointed to update the agency, he was Gen. Michael Hayden.  He decided on a new program called “Trailblazer” that would gradually update the hardware at NSA but basically continue the established analysis approach.  The new computer hardware cost billions of dollars, and brought in even more data, thus preventing the NSA from actually doing its job effectively.

Meanwhile Bill Binney’s group had developed a program called ThinThread based on algorithms developed by them, that he showed using NSA raw data could identify groups (networks) constituting real security threats in real-time.  Not only was this traffic analysis approach far faster than the”content analysis approach, and was independent of language, but it was also much cheaper.  However, the leadership of the NSA rejected this approach,.  How could 6 people with a small computer do anything better than 500 analysts with lots of huge computers? Ultimately Bill and his group were prevented from further developing their approach and eventually were fired.  Trailblazer was used to analyze communications between US citizens and lacked the personal protections that had been included in ThinThread.  It was this kind of unlawful intrusion into the lives of innocent US citizens that led to the actions of whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

The failure of the NSA to predict the 9/11 attack, after the previous 1993 attack on the Twin Towers and the known threats emanating from al Qaeda, was one of the worst mistakes in US history, and led to the deaths of nearly 3,000 American and other citizens. Later Bill and his colleagues used ThinThread to analyze data that was actually already in the NSA system, and were able to show that they could have predicted the 9/11 attack before it happened from traffic analysis stretching from Afghanistan thru Hamburg and several US cities.

Bill and his colleagues set up a private company that tried to use ThinThread for other US Government agencies.  But by this time the NSA was so defensive in trying to cover up their terrible blunder that they intervened in every case and got the contracts and contacts cancelled.  Then one day FBI agents burst into the homes of several of the group, including Bill, co-worker Ed Loomis, and Diane Roark, who had worked for the Congress and had been convinced of ThinThread’s superiority to Trailblazer. They were arrested at gunpoint.  But, when it came to trial the case was thrown out by the judge for fabrication of evidence by the NSA.

So let’s remember Bill Binney and his colleagues.  They were trailblazing analysts who saw the superiority of traffic analysis, and who were whistle-blowers long before anyone else.  They showed that the NSA was corrupt, incompetent and more interested in bringing in funds than doing its job of  protecting the American people. And above all Bill Binney was a very good American.  And by the way, Gen. Hayden was promoted and became head of the CIA.

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Entebbe Again

I watched a 2018 remake of the Entebbe Operation of July 4, 1976, entitled “Seven Days in Entebbe.”   This was was mainly seen from the point of view of the two German terrorists.  It was ridiculous, don’t bother to watch it.   There was a dance sequence shown over and over again that I suppose was meant to be symbolic and artistic, but it was intrusive and totally destroyed the tension.

In the movie, Defense MInister Shimon Peres is the hawk and PM Yitzhak Rabin is the dove, totally opposite to  reality.  And the actors who portrayed them were cardboard at best.

They showed none of the careful planning for the attack, they didn’t even show that they had blueprints of the terminals there and that they interviewed the French hostages who were released who gave valuable information.  The IDF operation that saved over 100 Jewish hostages at Entebbe was an amazing, well-planned and historic action that reversed the threat of Palestinian and German leftist terrorism.  But, none of that comes across in the movie.

As I said, most objectionable, was that they focused on the two German bastard terrorists and showed them as not really evil, but somehow misguided humanitarians.  They showed how human they were.  At no point did they focus on any one of the Israeli hostages and show their humanity.  They even omitted the fact that Dora Bloch, an old German Holocaust survivor who was taken to hospital, was beaten to death after the rescue mission succeeded.  It was a ridiculous and poisonous travesty.

The two previous movies made on the Entebbe Operation were both B-type movies.  No-one has made a really meaningful, accurate and gripping account of this important watershed event that showed that no-where is safe for the enemies of Israel and that terrorism doesn’t work.

Élan

The French military before WWI cultivated the practise of élan, an attack must not be just effective, it must be dashing.  Perhaps that’s why they wore such colorful military uniforms with impressive cuivres and lost so many wars.  The Japanese military cultivated the element of surprise, as they showed so brilliantly at Pearl Harbor in 1941.  But, they lacked follow-up.  The Al Qaeda terrorists cultivated the element of wanton uncivilized destruction to intimidate and undermine, as practised so brilliantly at The World Trade Center on 9/11/01.  But, they lacked substance, once counter-attacked, like the so-called Islamic State, they faded away.

Élan, brilliance or surprise will carry you only so far in the rigors of warfare.  A sustained campaign is needed.  Careful planning, supply lines, intelligence and dogged persistence may count for more in practise.  An example was the campaign of the British Expeditionary Force led by Gen. Allenby from Egypt to capture Palestine from the Turks in WWI.  The spearhead of that campaign was the Australian Light Horse regiment, that in a show of dashing bravery charged the Turkish lines at Beer Sheva in the last horse charge in history. They attacked from the south, partly out of surprise, but also following the line of the oases and water sources.  If they had not captured the wells of Beer Sheva the horses would not have had enough water to survive.

Recently in The Jerusalem Post there was a report that the Shin Bet Israel security service had thwarted 250 terrorist attacks this year (14/6/18).  Much of this was accomplished by data analysis, listening in to conversations and picking up clues.   There was also a report (18/6/18) that the Shin Bet and Israeli Police arrested a large Hamas cell in Nablus consisting of some 20 members.  They had planned to carry out a suicide bombing in Jerusalem and bombings in other Israeli cities to foment a wave of terror.  Much of the counter-terrorism work goes on under cover of secrecy, but it involves a great deal of élan on behalf of the Israeli services that are legend in their effectiveness.

Terrorism in France

Muslim terrorism is very active in France, because it has a very large Muslim community of mainly N. African origin, Moroccans, Algerians, Tunisians, etc.    The two recent cases that have ignited national and international attention are the murders of a police officer and an old Jewish Holocaust survivor.  Col. Arnaud Beltrame was murdered by a Moroccan of French nationality after he exchanged himself for a female hostage in a supermarket in Trebes, and Mireille Knoll (87) was stabbed to death in Paris by a Muslim neighbor who then set her body on fire.  These cowards do not realize how contemptuous they are perceived when they attack and murder unarmed heroes and old ladies.

French President Macron eulogized Beltrame in a speech at Les Invalides in Paris, and he also mentioned in the same context the murder of Knoll by Muslim terrorists.  The latter was definitely an anti-Semitic attack as evidenced by previous threats that the perpetrator had uttered against Knoll.  It is doubly touching that Knoll had survived deportation to the death camps in WWII, where members of her family were murdered by the Nazis and she narrowly survived, only to be killed by a Muslim terrorist.

The upsurge of anti-Semitism in France can be largely attributed to Muslim hatred of Jews, because Jews were insulted and murdered by Mohammed in the Koran.  This religious anti-Semitism was also reinforced by the pro-German sentiments of most Arabs before and during WWII, when they were mainly anti-French and anti-British.  There have been a series of contemptible anti-Semitic murders of Jews in France, Ilan Halimi (28) who was abducted, tortured for days and murdered by a gang of Moroccan terrorists in 2006, and Sarah Halimi (65; no relation) was murdered in 2017 by a Muslim terrorist in her apartment in Paris. There was also the shooting by Mohammed Merah in 2012 in Toulouse in which a Rabbi and three Jewish schoolchildren were murdered.  He also shot three French policemen.

Added to this the very serious series of attacks in Paris in 2015 against Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket and then the Paris restaurants and the Bataclan theater in which a total of ca. 150 were killed, and the ramming attack on the promenade in Nice killing 86.  It is clear that France is not a safe place to visit and no wonder French is now a major spoken language in Netanya and other places in Israel.

Blow to Palestinian Unity

Palestinian unity, that was much-heralded and thought to be a factor in helping to achieve peace, has received a major and perhaps irreparable blow.  The convoy of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah was bombed last week as it was entering Gaza for the first time.  This was clearly an assassination attempt, although it failed and Hamdallah was unharmed.  The ruling Hamas authority in Gaza denied any knowledge of the attack and claimed that they are searching for the culprits.  However, this seems unlikely since nothing happens in Gaza without the foreknowledge and/or tacit approval of Hamas.  It is after all a militant terrorist organization.

Now no leader of Fatah or the PLO from the PA will enter Gaza for fear of their life, and the prospect of Palestinian unity is a sham.  This is a shame since only this week Presidential adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East representative Jason Greenblatt convened the first acknowledged meeting between representatives of Israel and the Arab countries, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Jordan, as well as Canada and several European countries.  There were no Palestinian representatives present because they are boycotting all contacts with the US.  The first item on the agenda was in fact Gaza and the need to implement political and economic reforms there to avoid a humanitarian disaster, not in any way due to Israel, but rather to the way in which Hamas treats its own people.  Now that situation has grown even more insoluble.

Meanwhile there are reports that the Trump Administration is close to finalizing its plan for peace between Israel and the Arabs.  Whether or not this can include the Palestinian Arabs remains to be seen.  While the PA is a totally failed entity and Gaza is a disaster, the rift between them does not make a two state solution seem achievable.

Murder in Salisbury

Salisbury, England, is a sleepy market town.  Nothing much happens there…until last Sunday when two people were found unconscious on a park bench.  Then all hell broke loose and it became a major international incident affecting the major powers in the world.  That is because the two people were Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.  He was a former spy for the UK in Russia, and the means of their attempted assassination was a toxic nerve agent.

By now everyone knows that the attempted assassination was “most likely” by the Russians, as stated by British PM Theresa May in her speech to the House of Commons.  She said it could have been by a rogue group within Russia who got hold of the particular nerve agent that is a military product of the Russian State, or the Russian State itself, in other words by Pres. Vladimir Putin. In this case it was evidently an assassination ordered by Putin and probably carried out either by Russian agents or indirectly by some paid assassins.  The fact that the nerve agent is known to be a Russian military grade product makes it most likely that the Russian State was directly involved in this incident.

Remember that this is not the first such assassination carried out in Britain by the Soviets/Russians.  In 1978 Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian dissident, was murdered by the injection of a tiny ball coated with the deadly nerve agent ricin that was in the tip of an umbrella with which he was stabbed as he got off a bus; in 2013 Boris Berezovsky, an oligarch who fell out with Putin, was found hanged in this bathroom in London; in 2006 Alexander Litvinenko was assassinated using highly radioactive polonium, and there are other mysterious deaths and “suicides.”  After the Litvinenko murder the UK took severe political actions against Russia, including sanctions and expelling several diplomats (actually KGB agents).  They also indicted the man responsible for the murder, although he is still at large in Russia.

PM May gave Putin a few days to come up with an explanation of the incident and when he didn’t she expelled 23 members of the Russian Embassy from the UK and imposed sanctions.  You just can’t allow agents from another country to come into your country and kill someone, and particularly not with such a dangerous substance that has endangered the lives of ordinary British citizens.  In fact one constable is in grave danger from contact with the agent and a restaurant and a pub where traces were found have been closed and the number of people visiting Salisbury have dropped significantly.

And now Pres. Trump is said to be reassessing his response to Pres. Putin.  The US imposed its own sanctions and the US, France and Germany issued a joint statement with the UK deploring Russian actions in this case.  So far Trump has shown a rare degree of sympathy for Putin, as a strong fellow-leader.  But, now he is beginning to understand how dangerous Putin is, as a former KGB Colonel, as a ruthless murderer of his opponents and an enemy of democracy.  As is well-known, they have a certain way of doing things in Russia (as it was under the Czars and under Stalin), if you can’t beat your enemy, you kill your enemy!

Whatever we do

Israeli reactions are criticized whatever we do.  Two cases in point.  The Palestinian Arab girl, Ahed Tamimi, who slapped and kicked two IDF soldiers and was arrested and is awaiting trial.  In most countries she would have been either shot, taken away and never seen again or at least arrested on the spot.  But, not here in Israel, she was treated with civility, the soldiers showed amazing restraint, following orders they did not react since their lives were not in danger.  Then later the police went to her house and arrested her for breaking the law, attacking soldiers on duty.  Now the judge in view if the overwhelming and publicly known evidence against her, has ordered that she be held pending trial.  This is a normal procedure that happens with all sorts of criminals.  Yet of course, this is now a subject of criticism of Israel for the supposed ill-treatment of this “poor girl.”

In the case of the terrorist shooting of Rabbi Raziel Shevach last week, the IDF in pursuit of his killers, traced them to a house in Jenin in Samaria.  They surrounded the house and there was a shoot-out and the killer was himself killed.  They also captured his accomplice as well as injuring several other people during the usual attempt to impede the soldier’s actions.  A curfew was placed on the area.  Now, of course, Israel is criticized for the “killing and injuring of Palestinians.”  I doubt if there would be many survivors if this was an attack by the military in Egypt, Syria or any other Arab country, let alone the civilized West.

Let’s be real.  These are legitimate actions by Israeli authorities and forces in pursuit of specific individuals, according to the laws that pertain.  Those who break the law by attacking soldiers may be arrested, terrorists may be killed if they resist arrest.   These two represent the two forms of action against Israel, violent civil action to provoke IDF reaction with photographers standing by ready to record and outright terrorism.  We fight them both according to our laws.