Saturday, November 14, 2015

Paris Attacks Prove Jihadis Adept at Exploiting Refugee Crisis

No sooner had I written the article below this morning than breaking news revealed that the first terrorist to be identified from yesterday's Paris attacks was a Syrian "refugee" who only came to France via Greece last month in a wave of people fleeing the war-torn Middle East. Coincidence? You decide. First, however, consider the argument behind item Number 1 below and the assertion that it would have represented jihadi malpractice for terrorists NOT to exploit the refugee crisis this way.

Immigrant Terror Threats: Imported Time Bombs in an Age of Poses

The threats Paris just encountered trace to vulnerabilities that extend along at least three dimensions we also experience a continent away, namely,

1. IMMEDIATE: Inability to vet hence screen assassins mixed among incoming refugees. A universal precept in safeguarding the people and assets of any organization is to begin by denying access to known or likely enemies. Thus the bank shies away from hiring convicted embezzlers, the liquor store from alcoholics, and the daycare center from child molesters. Before an organization can vet such people to make some intelligent decision about who gets in, it must begin with the most rudimentary of first steps: establish the person's identity. This, sadly, is not possible when incoming droves hail from war-torn, hostile countries that are not about to do anything but impede attempts to trace a given individual's pedigree and criminal record. Thus we have no way of vetting people like this, and our adversaries know it. The temptation to infiltrate adversaries agents into such migrant waves must be irresistible. It is such a windfall for those who would destroy us, that to not exploit such an opportunity would be jihadi malpractice.

2. EVENTUAL: The tendency of a succeeding generation to succumb to radicalization. A Western country can do everything right in extending humanitarian relief across its borders to welcome oppressed refugees, supplying them opportunities and civil liberties never before available, only to find the gratitude of the first wave of immigrant families turn into a tsunami of resentment for succeeding generations. Perhaps nowhere is this phenomenon better portrayed than in The Islamist, Ed Husain's 2009 story of how he grew up in a diaspora community in Britain only to be radicalized in a process that began with a longing for a mother country he first saw through the rosy, airbrushed accounts of disgruntled relatives other than his parents. His parents, after all, having emigrated to find a better life, wanted to assimilate, to regard themselves British citizens. But as a youngster, Husain felt estranged, neither fish nor fowl, as he didn't look or feel British on the one hand and didn't have a strong Muslim identity on the other. Into this vacuum came recruiters capitalizing on alienation and holding out the allure of a welcoming cultural identity, a sense of purpose, a call to battle for a radical vision of an imagined greatness ideally experienced in snapshots and trickle charges of brief visits to an exotic mother land and to secret meetings of radicals at home. The pattern is revealing: it isn't the first or true refugees who turn on their host; they are grateful. It's the succeeding generations, the ones born in relative safety and comfort, the ones who have the luxury of growing up resentful, wanting more and, hence, malleable in the hands of radicals who dangle before them dreams of greatness attained via the express route of jihad rather than the long road of hard work and gradual ascendancy.

3. SYSTEMIC: The unchecked erosion of cohesive elements of the host society under the banner of tolerance to the point of enabling the rise of saboteurs from within. It begins with the demonization of the melting pot. There was a time, remembered more vividly perhaps by first generation children of immigrants whose parents fled countries in tatters in the wake of occupation and civil war, when assimilation wasn't a dirty word. It was an objective to be pursued with pride and a sense of achievement. The émigrés landing successfully in the New World had to earn their keep and were only too happy to do so. They learned the language and conformed to the laws and customs of the new land providing them opportunities denied them back home. Only now, they were in a new and better home, and they knew it. Thus they thought themselves Americans or Canadians, and they insisted that their children take on the traditions and culture of their new home, sometimes even if this meant diluting the ties to the Old World. When law or custom of the new country conflicted with those of the old country, then the default choice was to go with the new land. After all, this was the source of opportunity, the current home, the place which gave the immigrants the chance they most desired and thus, by extension, the place that deserved their allegiance in return. Sure, it was fine to respect old ways, language, and tradition, but the old folks weren't kidding themselves. "I enjoy the music and the food and the occasional festivals," my mother's kid brother once told me, "but I see myself as an American more than a Greek. This is my country and I put it first." This was from a man who, like my parents, was in Greece during the Second World War, when the population starved in record numbers as the Nazis and their Italian allies plundered it. He didn't remember that part; he was in a Nazi concentration camp at the time, having been rounded up as a low-level courier as a kid working for the resistance.

Today, the melting pot of yesteryear is regarded an insult, an offense to sustaining cultural identity. Instead, to the extent any kind of nod to assimilation is even considered, the preferred metaphor is the salad bowl. This allows theoretical mixing without loss of identity. Instead of blending in a melting pot, people are supposed to remain distinct "chunks" that tumble in the bowl, coated by some light but not too sticky vinaigrette, such as the shared watching of situation comedies and reality TV shows, instead of shared traditions or, heaven forbid, open profession of allegiance to country or national traditions. Mix together minimally but remain distinct. That's the mantra. It preserves whatever one wants held inviolate in one's particular "chunk." And this distinctness also proves handy in clutching resentments.

We make it worse. By bending over backwards today to open borders unconditionally to people without demanding of them both assimilation and self sufficiency, we load a pistol of cultural castration, cock it, aim it at our own national body parts, and then, perhaps, in a fleeting moment of hesitant misgiving cry out, "Don't move!"

No Easy Answers

Diagnosing a malady does not necessarily mean offering a cure in the same breath. Doesn't proper diagnosis at least uncover enough about root causes to suggest that there are things the patient should stop doing in order to prevent the situation from getting worse? If so, then some remedies based on the foregoing analysis would begin with a tenet traceable to both the Hippocratic Oath and emergency management circles: Don't make it worse.

Places to Start

To counter the immediate problem of vetting incoming hordes, prudence would suggest taking a more cautious view to opening floodgates to people whose only qualification is a hard luck story. People value what they earn, and this applies to immigrants as much as to students or workers of any kind. If citizenship and its rights are to be valued, the country conferring them must treat them as valuable, not as candy to be tossed to win smiles and demonstrate humanitarian impulses in front of cameras. It would make sense to demand of immigrants that they meet some conditions as a ticket for admission. These include fluency in a national language, conversance with the laws and history of their new home country, and a pledge to both abide by the host country's laws and traditions even when those are in conflict with those of the emigre's country of origin. Otherwise, why import any avowed malcontent?

To counter the eventual and systemic problems, there needs to be serious recalibrating of institutions to promote and transmit some unifying vision of what it means to be a good citizen without demonizing patriotism. It is fine to maintain a fondness for and recognition of ancestral traditions and culture, but if one is leaving a place for greener pastures, there must be a recognition that the laws of the host country take precedence and deserve respect. For Muslims, this means no, you can't run your community by Sharia law in defiance of the laws of the land. For others, you can't insist on having government forms in your native language or fly any flag other than that of your host. Nor can you have your own schools or distinct enclaves designed to self-segregate. If you want to be here, blend. If you don't, then rethink coming over in the first place.

Too often an otherwise advanced society, losing sight of its cohesive elements, can embark on self-defeating measures, such as a misguided, unchecked immigration policy under the banner of humanitarian relief. It takes level thinking and a weighing of consequences to realize that a nation's first duty is to protecting its citizens and that impetuous opening of floodgates to near term or nascent saboteurs is no way to perform this duty.

-- Nick Catrantzos

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why Yenta's Background Checks Better than Governments'

The discussion that follows just came in from the annual No Dark Corners Roundtable Forum and Christmas Luncheon held at a Claim Jumper restaurant this year.

It isn't just a question of gathering up more data. Bureaucratic functionaries would have us believe that if they only knew just a little more about betrayers like NSA leaker Edward Snowden or phonies like Mandela memorial sign language imposter Thamsanqa Jantjie, they could have prevented such ne'er-do-wells from turning into national humiliations. This is balderdash. A thriving matchmaker, or yenta, can do better with even more limited data and budget. How so? The matchmaker blends available vetting data with direct observation and progressive testing before taking risks with important clients. This is hardly a matter left to chance. Nothing ends a matchmaking business faster than serial failures and mismatches.

What do matchmakers know and do that governments fail to apply in their background checks?

1. They check out prospects and clients with available data, but don't stop there. The way to do this is for the matchmaker not only to gather basic information via a standard questionnaire, but also to use that questionnaire as a starting point rather than an end point. The questionnaire informs a personal interview where the matchmaker gauges motives, manipulations, and determines what inevitable deceptions are acceptable white lies vs. dangerous fabrications. A savvy matchmaker also checks independently into reputations to determine whether it is worth doing business with a given candidate or client. After all, the matchmaker's own reputation is at stake if the match turns catastrophic.

2. They chaperone. The best matchmaker does not risk important clients by setting up liaisons with question marks. Instead, a low-risk experiment comes first. Thus, one sends a new, unknown prospect on a low-key lunch date to see how well it goes before presuming to pitch a weekend getaway in Monte Carlo with a shy billionaire client. A cautious matchmaker also knows how to be a chaperone without being a killjoy. The finesse is that of serving as a seasoned co-pilot who stays far enough in the background to let the aspiring pilot handle the take-off but remains close enough to take the controls if there a malfunction or problem with a safe landing. (For details on how this co-pilot model applies to insider threat defense, see Managing the Insider Threat: No Dark Corners, Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2012.)

3. They have enough of a stake in the deal to cut it off at the first sign of trouble, before a problem becomes a catastrophe. Unlike government background checkers with a hit-and-run mentality, matchmakers have a vested interest in follow-up and follow-through. Matchmakers have to own their results, taking credit for the sunshine as well as the rain. Government background checkers don't function with the same accountability. When was the last time a government employee lost a payday or a job from clearing a Snowden for classified access or a Jantjie for standing a dagger-thrust away from heads of state? We don't hear about it because this seldom happens. By contrast, a matchmaker whose deficient vetting produced such fiascoes would face no alternative but to embark on a change of careers.

Without necessarily realizing it, competent matchmakers exemplify some of the signature No Dark Corners (op cit) approaches to defending against insider threats. Their vetting process is akin to an enlightened new hire probation system, where penetrating scrutiny prevails over perfunctory checking. Their chaperoning and phased exposure to risk parallels the co-pilot model of limiting chances of undetected mischief. Finally, their ownership of their results keeps matchmakers vitally engaged in becoming and remaining a part of a team which is accountable for failure as much as for success. Until something like this happens in government-related background checks, look for more debacles to come.

-- Nick Catrantzos