June 26, 2013
By James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Masjid Nawaz was a great recruiter. He knew where to look for talent and how to "sell" a prospective employee on working for him.
Unfortunately, his business was terrorism.
Where did Nawaz do his recruiting? "We pitched propaganda stalls outside the Motorola offices in Pakistan," he told Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, the authors of The New Digital Age, "then we recruited some Motorola staff..." In turn, these inside agents helped disguise the identity of terrorist operatives when they registered with the company for phone service.
Terrorists often attack the infrastructure of everyday life. It may be a bomb at a rail station or a denial-of-service strike on the Internet. But terrorists also love to exploit the infrastructure, taking the facilities and systems we use every day and putting them in their service.
For long-term exploitation of infrastructure, infiltration is the way to go. Terrorist cells try to place members or sympathizers in positions that serve, maintain, and support the systems that serve us. This gives them an "insider" threat.
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On TV, every outfit -- good and bad -- boasts some super-hacker who can break through encryption blocks and firewalls in a matter of moments to access a data control system.
In reality, that's very difficult to pull off -- if you're an outsider. But for people intent on undertaking malicious activity, handing them jobs that give access to critical systems and information is like handing them a loaded gun.
Of course, getting a Manchurian candidate placed in the right job at the right time is no easy task. A simpler way to get inside is to recruit a sympathizer or fellow traveler who already has a job where damage can be done. This was the genius of the Nawaz way of doing business.
Both Bradley Manning, the soldier who offered a data-dump to Wiki-leaks, and Edward Snowden, the government contractor who went postal over PRISM, are perfect examples of a new kind "lone wolf" whose actions could inflict fare more damage than the Boston bombers.
Some have sympathy with -- even admiration for -- wild cards like Manning and Snowden.
Those sentiments are misplaced. Where whistle blowers suspect wrong doing, there are legitimate avenues for bringing those concerns to the attention of responsible persons...without potentially compromising national security.
When Manning and Snowden went rogue they breached the public trust just as much as the Pakistani phone company employees who decided to provide material support to terrorists. There is nothing heroic about that.
-James Jay Carafano is Vice President for Defense and Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
First appeared in the Washington Examiner
James Jay Carafano, Ph.D.
Vice President for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, and the E. W. Richardson Fellow
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