29 December 2012

ANNE SPECKHARD: Talking to Terrorists


Book Description

September 11, 2012
This is an account of traveling through the West Bank and Gaza, into the prisons of Iraq, down the alleyways of the Casablanca slums, to Chechnya, into the radicalized neighborhoods of Belgium, the UK, France and the Netherlands, of sitting with the hostages of Beslan and Nord Ost, and of talking to terrorists. Dr. Speckhard gives us the inside story of what puts vulnerable individuals on the terrorist trajectory and what might take them back off of it. With more than four hundred interviews with terrorists and their friends, family members and hostages, Dr. Speckhard is one of the few experts to have such a breadth of experience. She visited, and even stayed overnight, in the intimate spaces of terrorists' homes, interviewed them in their stark prison cells, or met them in the streets of their cities and villages. Dr. Speckhard gives us a rare glimpse of terrorists within their own contexts. From the mouths of terrorists, their family members, comrades-and even their hostages, we learn of the manipulation of human weakness that can lead to violent acts. Through careful research of culture and religion and a genuine desire to understand the factors that motivate individuals to embrace terrorism, Dr. Speckhard deftly defines the lethal cocktail that leads to the creation of a terrorist. An internationally recognized expert on the psychological aspects of terrorism and an expert in the area of posttraumatic stress disorder, Dr. Speckhard's research also produces a knowledge of how to disengage, deradicalize, rehabilitate, and reverse the trajectory of a terrorist. Dr. Speckhard's studies spanning over a decade provide us with a deeper understanding of one of the most dangerous and violent phenomena of our times.

Editorial Reviews


"Few academics can equal the breadth and depth of Anne Speckhard's field research and the penetration of her specialist interviewing skills."--Robert Lambert, St. Andrews, UK
"A remarkable well-written, wholly unique and seminal study combining a deep understanding of the academic literature on terrorism with an extraordinary number of sensitive and revealing interviews with terrorists.  Everyone interested in terrorism will find this study fascinating and rewarding." --David Rapoport, Journal of Terrorism and Political Violence

"Talking to Terrorists is the inside story of how to approach the mind through the heart. As advisors to Detainee Task Force 134, I watched Anne in action at Camp Cropper, the world's largest detention center. Her empathy, smile, Belgian chocolates, and paper tissues for the occasional tears, worked to enlist the cooperation of even the most hard-hearted and unrepentant killers." --Rohan Gunaratna, Author, "Inside al Qaeda: Global Network of Terror", Columbia University Press, New York

"She wisely understands the clear distinction between personal faith and belief tradition, and the possible perverted and brutal acts of a terrorist." --Mokhtar Benabdallaoui Hassan II Univ. Morocco
"A daring woman with an open heart." --Farhana Qazi, Counter Terrorism Expert

"A new approach for understanding the motivation of terrorists"--Boaz Ganor, ICT

"Reads like a gripping documentary movie."  --Joshua Sinai, Virginia Tech

"The embarrassing truth about Terrorism Studies is that most writers on the subject have never met a terrorist. Dr. Anne Speckhard is an exception; in the last ten years she conducted more than 400 interviews with terrorists ... making her work highly original and, indeed, unique. With her empathetic approach, she makes clear that most terrorists are both shockingly normal and human--but also tormented souls. Nobody has gotten closer to the 'heart of darkness' than she has. An amazing achievement." --Alex P. Schmid, Director, Terrorism Research Initiative

"Provides critical new insights into the terrorist mindset." --Bruce Hoffman, Georgetown 

"Invaluable to those in the field of terrorism studies." --Yoram Schweitzer, Israel

"A fascinating study of pathways to violent radicalization" --Brynjar Lia, FFI

"A truly valuable read." --Arie Kruglanski, START

"Evocative interviews that have illuminated the mind of the extremist." --Jerrold Post, George Washington Univ

"An arresting, highly readable book"  --Stephen Sloan, MIPT

From the Back Cover

"The embarrassing truth about Terrorism Studies is that most writers on the subject have never met a terrorist. Dr. Anne Speckhard is an exception . . . Nobody has gotten closer to the 'heart of darkness' than she has. An amazing achievement." --Alex P. Schmid, Director, Terrorism Research Initiative

 "A remarkable well-written, wholly unique and seminal study" --David C. Rapoport, Founding and CoEditor, Journal of Terrorism and Political Violence

 "Anne is one of a handful who goes alone and without security into the lion's den to interview her subjects who most often have blood on their hands. This is a first-hand account and it's sensational!"--Peter S. Probst, Former CIA Officer

"Invaluable to those in the field of terrorism studies, as well as to the general public."  --Yoram Schweitzer, Israel's Institute for National Security Studies

"Few academics can equal the breadth and depth of Anne Speckhard's field research and the penetration of her interviewing skills"--Dr. Robert Lambert, Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, U of St. Andrews, UK

 ". . . her access to these incarcerated perpetrators and supporting communities is unsurpassed . . ."--Dr. Joshua Sinai, Adj. Associate Professor, Virginia Tech

 "Talking to Terrorists is the inside story of how to approach the mind through the heart. I watched Anne in action at the world's largest detention center [as she] worked to enlist the cooperation of even the most hard-hearted and unrepentant killers." --Rohan Gunaratna, Author, "Inside al Qaeda"

"Talking to Terrorists is an arresting, highly readable book that has made a major and classic contribution to our study and understanding of terrorism."  --Stephen Sloan, The Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism

". . . a fascinating study of pathways to violent radicalization, based on her very impressive fieldwork." -- Dr Brynjar Lia,  Norwegian Defense Research Est.

". . . provides critical new insights into the contemporary terrorist mindset." --Professor Bruce Hoffma


28 December 2012

Retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf Dies At Age 78



WASHINGTON -- A U.S. official says retired Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded the U.S.-led international coalition that drove Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait in 1991, has died. He was 78.


25 December 2012


ANX/2; US/1; ATTN: HST/2

NYT, November 26, 2012

WASHINGTON — Nearly 60 years after the death of a government scientist who had been given LSD by the Central Intelligence Agency without his knowledge, his family says it plans to sue the government, alleging that he was murdered and did not commit suicide as the C.I.A. has long maintained. 

Eric and Nils Olson, whose father, Frank Olson, was the scientist, said they plan to file a lawsuit in United States District Court here on Wednesday accusing the C.I.A. of covering up the truth about Mr. Olson’s death in 1953, one of the most infamous cases in the agency’s history. 

During the intelligence reforms in the 1970s, the government gave the Olson family a financial settlement after the C.I.A. was forced to acknowledge that Mr. Olson had been given the hallucinogenic drug nine days before his death. President Gerald R. Ford met with the Olson family at the White House and apologized. 

At the time, the government said Mr. Olson had killed himself by jumping out of a hotel window in Manhattan. But the Olsons came to believe that he had been murdered to keep him from talking about disturbing C.I.A. operations that he had uncovered. 

Mr. Olson’s sons said that their past efforts to persuade the agency to open its files and provide them with more information had failed, and that a court challenge is the only way to find out the truth. 

“The evidence points to a murder, and not a drug-induced suicide,” said Eric Olson, Frank Olson’s older son, who has devoted much of his life to investigating his father’s death. When the government told his family that his father had committed suicide, “one set of lies was replaced with another set of lies,” he said.

Jennifer Youngblood, a C.I.A. spokeswoman, said the agency does not comment on pending court cases, but she noted that the C.I.A.’s most controversial episodes from the early cold war years, like Mr. Olson’s death, “have been thoroughly investigated over the years, and the agency cooperated with each of those investigations.” 

The Olson case was one of the most explosive revelations about the C.I.A. during the post-Watergate investigations of the United States intelligence community in the mid-1970s, and was part of a series of disclosures about a C.I.A. program known as MK-Ultra, which included brainwashing, mind control and other human behavioral control experiments during the early days of the cold war. 

Over the decades, the Olson case has gained a kind of pop culture status as one of the signature examples of government secrecy and abuse, and references to the death have been made in television, film, books and music. 

“The C.I.A.’s wrongful conduct in this case continues under the present administration,” said Scott Gilbert, a Washington lawyer representing the Olson brothers. “I have met personally with senior agency officials who still refuse to acknowledge the truth and to provide us with all documents relevant to this matter.” 

Frank Olson was a bioweapons expert working at the special operations division of the Army’s Biological Laboratory at Fort Detrick in Maryland. The C.I.A. worked jointly with the special operations division, researching biological agents and toxic substances. 

In 1953, Mr. Olson traveled to Europe and visited biological and chemical weapons research facilities. The Olson family lawsuit alleges that during that trip, Mr. Olson witnessed extreme interrogations, some resulting in deaths, in which the C.I.A. experimented with biological agents that he had helped develop. Intelligence officials became suspicious of him when he seemed to have misgivings about what he had seen, the lawsuit contends. Eric Olson said Frank Olson also appeared to have deep misgivings about the use of biological weapons that was alleged in the Korean War. 

A few months later, he attended a meeting with officials from both the special operations division and the C.I.A. at Deep Creek Lake, Md. Sometime during the meeting on Nov. 19, 1953, he was given a drink of Cointreau that had been secretly spiked with LSD by C.I.A. officials. 

Mr. Olson returned home, and over the following weekend told his wife that he wanted to leave his job. Eric Olson said his mother later recalled that Frank Olson did not seem suicidal or psychotic that weekend, but was reflective about his work. 

On Nov. 24, Mr. Olson told a colleague that he wanted to resign, according to the lawsuit. Instead, he and several C.I.A. officials traveled to New York, supposedly for a psychiatric evaluation. On Nov. 28, Mr. Olson fell to his death from his room in the Statler Hotel. His sons now express skepticism about the government’s official story that he had committed suicide because he was given LSD more than a week earlier. 

In the 1990s, the family had Mr. Olson’s body exhumed and an autopsy performed, and the New York district attorney’s office later conducted an inconclusive investigation into the death. 
 Eric Olson says that his father’s death and its aftermath had devastating consequences for his family. He said his mother, who is now dead, suffered from alcoholism. “We want justice,” Mr. Olson said. “This has cost me an immense amount of time and years of my life.” 

24 December 2012

BKNT-FLASH - Rev .Dr. TERRY JONES: Spain Hand-Delivers Asylum Revocation Docs to "INNOCENT PROPHET" Film-maker Imran FirasaI -Youtube

December 24th, 2012
MEDIA CONTACT:  352-371-2487 or 352-871-2680 (Stephanie Sapp) or info@standupamericanow.org

Imran Firasat has been served the official documents by the Spanish government confirming that his residency status has been revoked.

The authorities quickly hand-delivered the official revocation documents to Imran on Friday evening, December 22nd, giving him no chance to consult his lawyer or plea his case.  Through these actions, Spain has proven to the world that it holds Islamic law in high regard, even above its own laws.

Firasat is an ex-Muslim from Pakistan who has taken a radical stand against Islam since his conversion to Christianity.  He has received many death threats from Muslim individuals and groups in various Islamic countries for seven years because of his criticism of Islam. 

Spain, a free western nation, had given Imran welcome asylum to protect him from these violent and radical Islamic groups. 

Imran has been involved in the co-production of the Youtube, The Innocent Prophet, with Terry Jones and Stand Up America Now.  The Innocent Prophet was released to the public on Youtube on December 15, 2012.

Imran officially backed out of the project when the Spanish government threatened to revoke his protected residency status and have him deported to Pakistan where the death penalty is waiting for him because of his criticism of Islam. 

Firasat did his best to cooperate with Spanish authorities by presenting documented proof to them that he had backed out of the project.   Despite this, Spain quickly revoked Imran’s protected asylum status during a period of approximately ten days.  This would normally take the government about six months to process.

Imran has not committed any crime according to Spanish law.   He has only exercised his right of free expression concerning his views on Islam.

Nevertheless, his residency status has been revoked and he faces imminent deportation to a Muslim nation where the penalty for blasphemy against Islam or Muhammad is death.  The weak leadership of the Obama administration, its support of radical Islam and friendship with the Muslim Brotherhood leads the way for other western nations to enact blasphemy laws and abolish freedom.

Thank you,
Dr. Terry Jones
                      Gainesville, FL, January 19th, 2013, 2pm
Stand Up America Now

The Innocent Prophet - English Version

BlackNET Intel FLASH: Lebanese Scandal Babe, GC Allen, DCI Petraeus and KORAN BURNING...
Spain's Threats (with documents)
Interview with Imran
Images and Text from The Innocent Prophet

[Information contained in BKNT E-mail is considered Attorney-Client and Attorney Work Product privileged, copyrighted and confidential. Views that may be expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of any government, agency, or news organization.]

22 December 2012

wp: CIA complains about depictions in Osama bin Laden movie ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

-OPEN SOURCE VS/[redacted]; US/1; ATTN: HST/2 SFTT/2; NSNS/2

By December 22, 2012

The CIA on Friday said that a Hollywood movie portraying the hunt for Osama bin Laden “departs from reality” in significant ways, and emphasized that despite assistance it provided to the filmmakers, the agency had no control over the final product

In an unusual letter to CIA employees, acting Director Michael Morell said that the highly anticipated film, “Zero Dark Thirty,” leads viewers to believe that a “few individuals” were behind the hunt for the al-Qaeda leader, instead of the “hundreds of officers” who were involved over the course of a decade. He also rejected the film’s depiction of the CIA’s interrogation program — and the implication that it helped extract valuable information from detainees.

 “The film takes considerable liberties in its depiction of CIA personnel and their actions, including some who died while serving our country,” Morell said. “We cannot allow a Hollywood film to cloud our memory of them.”

Producers have described the film as the result of investigative reporting, but acknowledged that it takes dramatic license in chronicling the 10-year hunt.

Morell’s letter follows similar criticism from a group of lawmakers who objected to the movie’s depiction of agency interrogation techniques as “grossly inaccurate and misleading.”

The senators, Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.), noted that the movie opens with the words “based on first-hand accounts of actual events,” and called on the film’s producers to make clear that those depictions are “not based on the facts, but rather part of the film’s fictional narrative.”

A Senate committee last week approved a report that concluded that water-boarding and other brutal CIA interrogation methods did not produce meaningful results. The contents of the report, based on a three-year review of internal CIA records, remain classified.

In his letter, Morell — who would need to be confirmed by the Senate as CIA director if nominated — urged agency employees to remember that the film “is not a documentary.”

“What you should also remember,” he said, “is that the Bin Ladin operation was a landmark achievement by our country, by our military, by our Intelligence Community, and by our Agency.”

[Information contained in BKNT E-mail is considered Attorney-Client and Attorney Work Product privileged, copyrighted and confidential. Views that may be expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of any government, agency, or news organization.]

20 December 2012

Wired DANGER ROOM: The 15 Most Dangerous People in the World


 By The Staff of Danger Room - 12.19.12 - 6:30 AM

There used to be an established order to the world. A structure to things. You couldn't print a gun like a term paper. It was impossible to wreck a nuclear production plant with a few lines of code. Flying robots didn't descend on you in the dead of night and kill you in your home. 

But that order has been upended. Cheap videos in California help spark riots in Cairo. Lynchpins of the Middle East now rant about 'Planet of the Apes' in public, and Iranian generals trash-talk David Petraeus over SMS. The world has gone a little haywire — sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Here are our choices for the 15 people most responsible for making it that way. 

Who did we miss? What did we get wrong? Sound off in the comments, or find us on Facebook or Twitter (we'll retweet the best suggestions). .

— Noah Shachtman

15: Paula Broadwell

One day you're pitching a biography of a top general. The next you've brought down a CIA director, stalled the career of another top general and ensnared numerous federal agencies — and yourself — in a sprawling investigation-cum-media circus. Paula Broadwell didn't mean to wreck any careers, but she accomplished something that no U.S. adversary could: remove David Petraeus from the U.S. government.

Broadwell, a former Army intelligence officer, developed an unhealthy attraction to Petraeus. What started out as spinning for Petraeus' Afghanistan strategy and a florid book became a full-blown affair once Petraeus became director of the CIA. All that would have stayed between the two lovers — had Broadwell not used an anonymous e-mail account to berate Jill Kelley, a Tampa socialite whom Broadwell considered unduly flirtatious with the military brass. Kelley turned to an FBI agent she knew, Frederick W. Humphries II, to open a cyber-stalking investigation.

The feds don't usually pursue cyber-stalking cases. And this one ended without any charges filed against Broadwell — but not before uncovering poor data hygiene from Broadwell's famous paramour. Petraeus and Broadwell shared a password on an e-mail account and would pass messages to each other by saving e-mails as drafts. What's more, Broadwell got into the habit of talking openly about sensitive CIA operations, like its response to the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. It's unclear whether there will be any charges filed against either Broadwell or Petraeus over classified material discovered on Broadwell's computer.

Petraeus, the most celebrated general of his generation, resigned in humiliation. The FBI inquiry also turned up what the Pentagon called "flirtatious" e-mails between Gen. John Allen, the outgoing Afghanistan war commander, and Kelley, which has now blocked Allen's promotion to NATO commander. What's more, the coming reshuffle in President Obama's national security team has reopened a debate into whether the CIA should back away from Petraeus' torrid pace of drone strikes
Petraeus, and not Broadwell, is ultimately responsible for his own poor decision-making. But the next time a cabinet official sleeps around, he'd better make sure his mistress keeps the affair offline.

— Spencer Ackerman

14: Cody Wilson

Cody Wilson, a 24-year-old law student at the University of Texas, didn't invent the concept of printable, downloadable guns. He's only created the first platform devoted to sharing the blueprints online for free to anyone who wants one, anywhere in the world, at any time. Wilson and his group of amateur gunsmiths, known as Defense Distributed, are also currently working on producing what may become the world's first fully 3-D printed gun, which they call the "Wiki Weapon." If it's successful, and on a long enough timeline, it could change the way we look at guns — and make them.

But realizing this hasn't been easy. After leasing a 3-D printer from additive manufacturing firm Stratasys in late September, the company got wind of Wilson's plans and revoked its lease, then quickly dispatched a team to Wilson's apartment to seize the machine. "They came for it straight up," Wilson told Danger Room after it happened. "I didn't even have it out of the box." He's been questioned by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms over concerns he may violate federal law. Wilson has since sought a firearms manufacturers license from the ATF, which has yet to be approved, and has secured access to printers from a sympathetic company in the Austin area, plus a range in San Antonio where the group tested its first prototype. That prototype only lasted six shots, but the possibilities being introduced are huge. What happens to gun control when anyone can download and print a gun with their computer?

Wilson and the Wiki Weapon project have also become something of a test case for how far a group can push those legal limits. "It is just a matter of time before these three-dimensional printers will be able to replicate an entire gun," Rep. Steve Israel (D-New York) said in December while urging for a renewal of the Undetectable Firearms Act, which outlaws guns that can defeat airport metal detectors. Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, wrote: "The Wiki Weapon project is not the work of a dispassionate techie seeking to push the outer limits of modern technology. Instead it is a blatant, undisguised attempt to radically alter our system of government." That may actually be true. "How do governments behave if they must one day operate on the assumption that any and every citizen has near instant access to a firearm through the Internet?" Defense Distributed asks on its website. The answer may only be a matter of time.

— Robert Beckhusen

13 and 12: Matthew Dooley and Mark Basseley Yousef

Two successive White Houses have been at pains to emphasize that the U.S. is not at war with Islam. In 2012, two little-known individuals did their best to undermine that goal.

Mark Basseley Yousef is a man of many names (Kritbag Difrat, P.J. Tobacco, Nikoula Basseley Nakoula) and one dubious accomplishment: producing a film, "The Innocence of Muslims," that went viral and prompted riots around the Middle East for its disrespectful portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad. (For a while, the Obama administration blamed the video for the attack on the Benghazi consulate, but later abandoned that narrative.) As much as Yousef sought to cast Islam in a negative light — something repudiated by his movie's cast and crew — Yousef's own criminal antics quickly overshadowed his creation. He's been jailed for charges related to manufacturing PCP and using false names for fraudulent checks. After he used the name "Sam Bacile" to help produce "The Innocence of Muslims," a judge ruled Yousef violated the terms of his probation and sent him back to jail in September.

Army Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley didn't do nearly as much damage to U.S. foreign policy. But the chairman of the Joint Chiefs didn't take any chances after learning in March that Dooley taught a course for senior military officers that mused about a "total war" on Islam — including "Hiroshima" tactics against Islam's holiest cities. Gen. Martin Dempsey suspended the elective course at the Joint Forces Staff College, calling it "totally objectionable," and ordered a comprehensive review of military education to weed out similar material. Dooley, a formerly well-regarded officer, got an administrative reprimand and was shipped out to a bureaucratic backwater of the Army. His defenders have threatened to sue Dempsey and portray Dooley as a free-speech martyr, but so far their threats have been about as substantial as Yousef's multiple identities. Still, Dooley and Yousef showed that random Islam haters can leave a huge impact.

— Spencer Ackerman

9: Ahmed Abu Khattala

Ahmed Abu Khattala may not have played any role in the September attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. But he represents its enduring message: He mocked the impotence it projected about the United States.

The U.S. still doesn't know exactly who's responsible for the hours-long Benghazi assault. That's partially the problem: Despite numerous precursor attacks during the summer of 2012, the U.S. intelligence presence in Benghazi wasn't focused on jihadism. The Obama administration has sworn to bring the perpetrators to justice, but the hunt appears … less than substantial. That's where Ahmed Abu Khattala comes in. Although ostensibly wanted for questioning in the attacks, the Libyan militant laughed at the feebleness of the U.S. manhunt during a leisurely chat with a New York Times reporter at a Benghazi hotel. Over a strawberry frappe.

Not to make too much of one interview, but, like the Benghazi attack itself, Abu Khattala went a long way toward undercutting the perception of competence that Obama projected in world affairs after killing Osama bin Laden. It's spooked Obama's administration: His advisers stopped talking about being thisclose to ending al-Qaida; and it stopped him from appointing Susan Rice as secretary of state after her account of Benghazi sparked a political scandal. Now the Libyan government has stalled in its aid to the Benghazi investigation. Abu Khattala can probably order another frappe.

— Spencer Ackerman

8: Eugene Kaspersky

Not long ago, the U.S. had a widespread online campaign to spy on and destroy the work of Iran's atomic scientists. Then along came a group of cybersecurity researchers who systematically identified each of Washington's malware projects — and in so doing, rendered the Stuxnet, Flame, and Duqu espionage programs useless.

A great many of those researchers now work for Eugene Kaspersky, the Russian cybersecurity mogul who runs one of the planet's largest and most sophisticated malware-fighting firms. And if all he did in the last year was intercede in America's efforts to short-circuit Iran's nuclear ambitions — definitively unmasking a cyber weapon for the first time — Kaspersky would've earned himself a spot on our list of the most dangerous people in the world.

But there's more to Kaspersky. A longtime ally of Russia's secret security services, Kaspersky supplies technical expertise to the FSB, the successor to the KGB. His researchers train their agents in computer forensics. And when Kaspersky's son was kidnapped, FSB agents came to his rescue. Not long after that, 
Kaspersky complained publicly that there was "too much freedom" online and pushed for additional government controls over social networks, which he blamed in part for his son's abduction. A few months later, Moscow passed a new bill banning wide categories of websites and introducing new surveillance techniques to Russian telecom firms.

All of which now has Western intelligence services scratching their heads. Did Kaspersky's researchers operate on their own when they outed all that anti-Iran malware? Or did they pull it off with some Kremlin help?

— Noah Shachtman

6: Sheikh Ahmed Madobe

America mostly relies on allied nations, mercenaries, militias and other proxies to wage its secretive African shadow wars. Things can get confusing when the proxies have proxies of their own. None of these front men is more powerful, and potentially dangerous, than Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, commander of the Somali Ras Kamboni Brigade militia. In late September, U.S.-backed Kenyan forces assaulted the southern Somali port city of Kismayo, the last stronghold of the al-Qaida-affiliated terror group Al Shabab. The air- and sea-based Kenyan attack was a triumph for the new American way of war, which provides cash and technical support but relies on proxy forces to do the main fighting and dying.

But there's a catch. For the hardest fighting on Kismayo's outskirts, the Kenyans had hired their own proxies: the local Ras Kamboni militia and its avuncular, red-bearded commander Madobe, described by the Kenyan press as "the smiling warlord." A former Al Shabab gunman, Madobe had split from the militants as the tide of war turned against them.

The 39-year-old Madobe seemed to relish his new role as the Kenyans' dog of war. "We will deal with them robustly, I assure you," he said of his former Islamist colleagues. 

But in the war's aftermath, Madobe has threatened to do what soldiers-for-hire often do. He's gone rogue. Having helped wrest Kismayo from the Islamists, Madobe is now refusing to leave town. His rebellion illustrates the dark side of proxy warfare, and could thwart U.S. and regional efforts to finally stabilize war-torn, terror-ridden Somalia.

— David Axe

5: Mohamed Morsi

In the span of a few weeks, Egypt's new president stopped a war on his borders, gave himself nearly dictatorial powers, and then relinquished them. Egypt is supposed to be the bedrock of stability in the Mideast, a predictable and sober force against chaos and bellicosity stretching from Gaza to Israel to Syria to Iran. But if you can predict Mohamed Morsi's behavior, please clue us in.

Washington has held its breath to see if Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, would move Egypt away from the pro-U.S. tilt of deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak. He hasn't, and Morsi's role brokering a ceasefire in November's war between Israel and Hamas caused many in D.C. to exhale. But that doesn't mean Morsi's behavior is predictable. In the wake of the war, he declared that his decisions were beyond the scope of Egypt's judges and then reversed himself after weeks of sometimes violent street protests. Morsi didn't do himself any favors with a bizarre Time interview in which he viewed Planet of the Apes as a prism for global affairs; said his self-declared new powers showed "the Egyptians are free"; and seemingly compared himself to Abraham Lincoln. Egypt may still be a linchpin in the Middle East, but many wonder if Morsi's come unhinged.

— Spencer Ackerman

4: John Brennan

This is the deadliest man in the U.S. government.

John Brennan doesn't command any armies. But as President Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser, he's arguably more powerful than the generals who do. Brennan runs the shadow wars against al-Qaida, a global campaign of lethal drone strikes and command raids.

Brennan's war shifted in 2012. There have been only 43 drones strikes in Pakistan, way down from its 2010 high of 2012. But it moved into high gear in Yemen, which by June saw more drone strikes than Pakistan did, not to mention new U.S.-funded spy planes for its Yemeni allies. (Brennan doubles as shadow ambassador to Yemen, too.) And with U.S. forces set up at a Djibouti base to confront al-Qaida's operations in Africa, one of the next undeclared battlefields may be Mali, where U.S.-supported African forces are preparing to take the country's north back from an al-Qaida offshoot. There are rumors that Brennan is in contention to succeed David Petraeus as CIA chief, which would put Brennan formally at the head of one of the main agencies implementing his war — and would finally make him accountable to Congressional oversight. Maybe then he can explain how his shadow wars actually end.

— Spencer Ackerman

3: Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman

Mexico's Ciudad Juarez — the formerly so-called "Murder Capital of the World" — saw its murder rate plummet in 2012. Local authorities say that's because they've clamped down on crime. But another theory is that there are now fewer people left for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to kill. But it wasn't just brutality that made El Chapo, the Sinaloa Cartel kingpin and CEO, emerge as the most powerful drug trafficker in the world. He's a keen businessman who has turned a criminal organization into a global, vertically integrated corporation. El Chapo's empire is the Costco of cocaine.

The Mexican government considers him to be the most wanted man in Mexico. The Sinaloa Cartel's yearly earnings in drug money, at an estimated $3 billion, isn't that much lower than the annual revenue of social media colossus Facebook. But a combination of bribes and violence ensures public officials stay out of his way, and El Chapo's enemies can find themselves besieged by his own private army. And if a company like Amazon.com has sought to diversify its products and control its distribution — like a customer buying an e-book and downloading it to their Kindle — the Sinaloa Cartel has sought to cut out their own middlemen as well. Instead of negotiating with Colombian drug cartels from access to South America's coca fields, El Chapo has sought to bypass them and gain access directly while diversifying his product lines into methamphetamine.

Those are several reasons why Guzman is believed to be directly responsible for anywhere between 40 and 60 percent of the number of illegal drugs smuggled into the U.S. each year. He's also reportedly an obsessive micromanager  — a trait shared by some of the most successful corporate executives — and is believed to base his operations out of the mountains of western Mexico. He may have even surpassed the infamous deceased Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in wealth, if not brutality. El Chapo's main rival, the notorious Zetas, also fell into disarray this year after leader Heriberto Lazcano was killed in a shootout with Mexican marines. That may ensure El Chapo will be able to maintain dominance over his share of Mexico's drug trade. The next question is how far El Chapo will go to push back against the Zetas and take even more turf for himself.

— Robert Beckhusen

  2: Bashar Assad

There was a brief period of national optimism in the summer of 2000 when Bashar Assad, then 34, took over Syria following the death of his father, longtime president Hafez Assad in June. The junior Assad, a member of Syria's minority Alawite clan, signaled a willingness to embrace democratic reforms. Civil society groups sprang up, dissidents spoke out and the country's intelligentsia penned a document demanding multiple political parties and limits on the police and military.

But the so-called "Damascus Spring" was short-lived. Assad soon conformed to his father's repressive ways, cracking down on opposition groups and concentrating wealth and power among his own family and fellow Alawites. The winter that followed the Damascus Spring was a long one. But the revolutionary fervor of the Arab Spring finally reached Syria early this year. Since last summer Assad's regime has been under relentless assault by the rebel Free Syrian Army, testing just how far the president is willing to go to stay in power.

As the rebellion has grown so has Assad's desperation. He sent tanks into rebel strongholds, fired artillery into densely populated towns and, this summer, unleashed the full might of his air force. When the rebels learned to shoot down Assad's jets and helicopters, the president upped the ante. He fired Scud rockets and, reportedly, began prepping lethal sarin gas. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the use of those weapons represented “a red line,” the crossing of which would prompt a U.S. response. Turkey, which borders Syria, and other NATO nations are equally alarmed and have rushed troops and missiles to the Syrian border. More than a year after the rebellion began, Assad still clings to power, in no small part owing to support from Iran and Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. The Syrian rebels in turn have been aided by Shi'ite militias in Iraq.

Assad is running out of options. If he resorts to chemical weapons, the U.S. and its allies could be forced to intervene, and the conflict's ties to foreign extremists could cause the fighting to expand beyond Syria's borders. In that way the Syrian civil war could become a regional war — and the first conflict to involve Weapons of Mass Destruction since Iraq's suppression of the Kurds in the 1980s.
Twelve years ago in the euphoria of the Damascus Spring it would have been hard to imagine Syria's new leader falling so far.

— David Axe

CyBER-BlackSEC Debate

BlackNIGHT Target Practice

SEAL Team SIX - Iron Will from CBS News

The Devil's Advocate?

In 1991, [the late former Secretary of State Lawrence 'Just call me George'] Eagleburger explained to The Post why all of his sons were named Lawrence.

“First of all, it was ego,” he said. “And secondly, I wanted to screw up the Social Security system.”