Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Expanding Light Echo of Red Supergiant Star V838 Monocerotis

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Exploiting former jihadists; can we learn from Moonie deprogramming efforts way back in the '70s?

From the Counterterrorism Blog

Interesting Report here about how we might exploit dropouts from the Jihadi groups.

They are interested in using such folks for two purposes:

1. Extraction or detachment of those already in the groups, and

2. Immunization against influence/recruitment of those that are from susceptible populations.

These two groups are further subdivided, between U.S. citizens, and foreign nationals. Then these two groups are further subdivided into groups depending on country/region of origin (for example, UK citizen, but country of origin Egypt.)

Seems that the strategy employed cannot be a one-size fits all, and will necessarily differ in important respects, depending upon which category your target falls into. Personnel we recruit to detach or immunize each subset would have to vary. For instance, to attempt to deradicalize some religious authority in AQ, we would need a high powered Sheik, preferably, one that had jumped ship, and who could argue the finer points of religious justification for leaving. We wouldn't need that level of firepower for a Richard Reid, maybe a David Gartenstein Ross would do for someone like that. That being said, however we would also have to take into account intelligence level and may need to bring bigger guns for the smarter guys on the low end of the jihadist totem pole.

Now, thinking more strategically, a couple of approaches might be universally applicable thanks to commonalities of human nature; active use of family members, and what you might call counter-isolation techniques.

The report makes an interesting argument that we can learn from cases where operatives lived away from the ideologically pure believers for a time. Some of them experience a weakening of belief when they spend time away from the camps and with family. Some experienced this weakening as they were spending time in their target countries. This is an exploitable weakness at the core of the very operational necessities of terrorist attacks on the West by foreign nationals.

We need to ask what it was about being in the environment that weakened their beliefs. On the other hand, we know others experienced a strengthening of their belief in similar environments (the Said Qutb/ Muhammed Atta reaction-formation if you will). Why is it that those agents had that reaction? How are they importantly different than the former set of individuals? How to prevent the latter result, encourage the former?

Reading all this set off some associations in my mind. I thought of Moonies. Does anyone remember these folks? Pale, pasty true believers, ubiquitous in the 70s and early 80s, source of much angst for air travelers, parents and family members, they were members of the unification church, an organization noted for its skill in recruitment and indoctrination. Well, what the hell happened to them? Where did they go? They seem to have disappeared. Well, they didn't. They are still around, but not nearly as numerous or influential as they once were. Why? I suspect the disinfectant power of sunlight. How are the moonies relevant to anti-jihad efforts? The sort of operations this paper discusses are not all that dissimilar to the kinds of operations that weakened the Moonies. I would suggest learning from the folks that pulled off the largely sucessful marginalization of the moonies as an influence on susceptible youth.

I don't know exactly how we'd implement it, but something like Moonie deprogramming could become a cooperative enterprise of international law enforcement, or the various countries that have an interest in eliminating the jihadi threat.

Recall that parents of Moonies would often snatch their kids (many of adult age) and wisk them away, for weeks of isolation and one on one argument with skilled interlocutors, who were either ex Moonies, or very versed in the Moonie belief system. More often than not, this was successful.

This sort of deprogramming effort on the domestic front would obviously have the ACLU types up in arms, and an international effort to that effect would involve legal complexities I won't pretend to know. But, in general the practice was highly successful back in the day. When is the last time you heard about the Moonies? What is more, we have had experience with the legal backlash, so have some precedent to lean upon when the inevitable court challenges come a' callin.

Tuesday Blues

Mississipi Fred McDowell - You gotta move