Archive for the ‘Counterterrorism’ Category

If you’ve been keeping up on the latest news reports, no doubt you have heard that alleged terrorist and FBI’s Most Wanted Female, Aafia Siddiqui, was reportedly nabbed last month in Afghanistan. Of course, if you’ve been listening to other reports, you have also heard that Siddiqui is a dame-blamed, has been a ghost prisoner at an obviously undisclosed black site (courtesy of the CIA’s Extraordinary Rendition program), and this “arrest” in Afghanistan is just a big ruse.

So which story is true?

Beats the hell out of this agent.

Here’s what we know: Siddiqui (1972-) is a Pakistani born, American-educated neuroscientist and mother of three. Siddiqui came to the US sometime in early 1990’s to attend MIT. Upon graduation, she went on to doctoral work at Brandeis University receiving her doctorate in 2001. At some point during all of this, Siddiqui married, had three children, and along with her husband, founded the Institute of Islamic Research and Teaching.

Her troubles seem to begin around 2001 when Siddiqui is known to have made payments to various Islamic charities that are or are suspected of supporting terrorism. Also during this time, Siddiqui’s husband was purchasing quite a bit of high-tech military equipment that was supposed to have been sent back to Pakistan, but the whereabouts of the equipment are uncertain. All these activities are believed to have gone on well into 2002.

So here’s what you need to keep in mind here: banks monitor money flows for illegal purposes. Getting money out one country and into another is not as easy as packing it in a bag and getting on an airplane. This is even more difficult since the passing of the Patriot Act here in the US. Banks are trying thwart fraud, cease money laundering and stop the financing of other illegal activities. Rest assured that reputable financial institutions will report your shenanigans to the FBI faster than you can say “Guantanamo Bay” should they suspect you of something truly evil, like say, terrorism.

Also, there is a Vegas born (yes, Las Vegas, Nevada) software coming into play that allows for the agencies like the CIA to link people of nefarious activities together by means not immediately recognizable to most. NORA: Nonobvious Relationship Analysis is a program that has the potential of linking people together by things they may have in common. In Siddiqui’s case, it was she and another terrorist sharing the same building address during the same time frame and then later, another piece of evidence emerged to further link the two.

Needless to say there was a lot of smoke surrounding Siddiqui and her husband. On top of all that financial intrigue, Siddiqui’s name allegedly began popping out (or was forced out, depending on who you listen to) of captured terror suspects. She was also linked materially to yet another terror suspect when her name appeared in his belongings.

Now this is where things get fuzzy. Somehow, in the middle of all this hooplah, Siddqui manages to leave the country and head for the hills in Pakistan with her three children where an uncle says she was detained by the FBI. Around this same time the international press named Siddiqui as a “fixer”, a coordinator if you will, of terrorist activities for al’Qaeda. Whether this is true or not, no one knows. What is for certain is that after spring 2003, Siddiqui vanished.

In Spring 2004, Siddiqui was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted List. They dis not label her as a terrorist, but as person they wished to locate and question.

Flash forward 2008: In July, there surfaced reports of a mystery woman in a US Afghani Military detainment facility. Some speculate if this isn’t Siddiqui. Shortly thereafter, the US reports of Siddiqui’s arrest in Afghanistan for allegedly attempting to murder to US officers. Reports of the actual events in Siddiqui’s arrest vary. Some say it was outside the governor’s residence in Ghazni, some say it was inside, some include gun fire, others include an “orgy of evidence” that was reportedly on Siddiqui at the time.

Siddiqui has since appeared in court in the US (not in the best of health as it has been reported she was shot during her arrest). This has sparked a fury in Pakistan where it is believed she is wrongly accused. There’s also another interesting plot twist about Pakistani President Musharraf ‘s son having collected a bounty on Siddiqui and a possible link between judges in Pakistan who fired by Musharraf and this case.

In the meantime, the US Intelligence Community is holding firm that they have been unaware of Siddiqui’s whereabouts for the last 5 years. What is claimed however, is that Siddiqui had information regarding US target sites and information regarding potential assassination plots of former US presidents.

ABC News has been airing many reports on the story, and has gone so far as to label Siddiqui (incorrectly of course) as a “Mata Hari”. Someone at ABC News needs to brush up on their history.

Siddiqui’s estranged husband is currently residing in Pakistan where he is a doctor. The location and fate of Siddiqui’s three children are unknown.

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Stella Rimington (1935-), British spy-dame, was the first female Director General of Britain’s MI5.

So how does a skirt with a with a degree in English and Archival Administration become Britain’s top spy? Simple, Stella and her husband were working/living in India in 1967, where Stella found herself working for a representative of MI5 as an assistant. Stella learned the trade and upon returning to London in 1969, she applied for a permanent position with the agency, thus beginning a long and illustrious career.

Stella worked the ropes in counterterrorism, counter-subversion, and counterespionage. Obviously she was regarded as a darned smart bird, as she was promoted to a Deputy Director position in 1990 and was part of a historic trip to make nice with Russians in 1991 after the fall of the Iron Curtain. It was shortly thereafter that Stella was promoted to Director General.

A feeding frenzy ensued with the local media in trying to identify Stella and unauthorized pictures of her eventually reached the newspapers. This either coincided or inspired (you choose) MI5’s decision to increase their transparency with the public at large and, for the first time, publicize their acitvities.

Being a Poster Girl for all things-spy can’t be an easy task and Intel Chiefs in general don’t have a long shelf life, but Stella stuck it out for four years before retiring in 1996. For her service to her country, Stella was awarded Dame Commander of Order of the Bath.

Stella is now a private consultant, novelist, archivist, and so clearly the inspiration for the Dame Judi Dench’s appointment as the character “M” in the Bond franchise. I find myself dissecting all the Bond movies now just waiting for Stella to make a cameo.

The name is Stella. Dame Stella.

Yowser, did Annette Benning rock in “The Siege” or what? I always liked her as an actress, she’s terribly ballsy in everything she does, but this move kicked some serious butt.

Benning plays Elise Kraft/Sharon Bridger, a government agent of unknown origin. She’s either CIA or NSA, we’re never quite sure because she’s excellent at playing everyone against the middle. What we do know is that she is a counterterrorism expert, grew up in Middle East, has assets all over the damn place, obviously is pretty good at interrogation, and is damn fine at pushing the FBI’s buttons. Her character highlights a terrifically important problem in the US Intelligence Community and that is the inability of certain agencies to share information.

Side note on the film: the original title was “Blowback” which I wish they would have kept because the plot aptly describes a possible consequence of a covert operation gone horribly wrong and coming back to haunt us on our own shores. Another interesting note on this film: after 9/11 it was the most rented film in America. Interesting that back in 1998, a screenwriter had the strategic imagination of a worst case scenario (see Red Team) and the film does a decent job, I think, of showing how foreign policy can come back and bite you on the ass.

Special bonus: while Annette Benning certainly has played her share of sex-pots (see “Bugsy” and the “The Grifters”), in this film she does a Plain Jane interpretation of the character that is all smarts and certainly keeps you guessing all the way to the tragic end. The key to this film is Elise/Sharon’s juggling act and keeping all the balls in the air. It’s done admirably. And I love that Elise/Sharon seem to get all the best lines:

“We’re the CIA, something always goes wrong.”

“I tend to be suspicious of all true believers. Present company included.”

and my favorite…

“It’s easy to tell the difference between right wrong. What’s hard is choosing the wrong that is more right.”