Tag Archives: animal rights

The mutant animal arms race in Afghanistan

A long time ago I brought you the story about how the U.S. was reported to have employed mutant killer cats in Afghanistan to kill Taliban and frighten the civilian population.

Then, we seemed to have the animal war well in hand as bears (obviously CIA employees) killed two militants in Pakistan.

Then, the Taliban responded by indicating their intent to clone dinosaurs and use them in their jihad.

Now, (h/t foreign policy) it has been announced that the Taliban are employing monkeys to attack coalition soldiers.  And these are the poo throwing types you’re used to.  These monkeys are serious

Taliban forces have taught monkeys how to use the Kalashnikov, Bren light machine gun and trench mortars. They also teach them how to identify and attack soldiers wearing U.S. military uniforms.

These monkey babies who lost their mothers are sent to a secret Taliban training base one-by-one to become killer monkeys.

A secret monkey terrorist training camp.  That’s it.  Game over, man.  Game over.

Oh…but that’s not it.  It gets better.  The Taliban have  a method to their madness.  They’ve decided to publicize their New Model Army in the hopes of getting the all powerful animal rights movement to force the coalition to withdrawal. 

“If a person who loves animals knows the monkeys may be injured in the war, they might pressure the government to force the withdrawal of western forces in Afghanistan,” said one Taliban insider.

On the bright side…being population centric should be pretty easy with monkey insurgents.  He who controls the bananas, controls the future.

And it must be real!  There are pictures!

Obviously the Taliban haven’t seen how this movie ends:

And for the record:  I’d like to thank the Chinese meda and the Taliban for allowing me to write a post that I could tag with ‘Afghanistan, animal rights, science fiction and humor’.

The role of anti-terrorism legislation in radicalizing animal rights activists

Since I’ve finally finished my counter terrorism class I can now put up my paper on the above subject.  Given the complete lack of open source data I don’t think it does more than raise some (I hope, interesting) questions. I can’t help but think that ‘get tough’ policies and hysterical rhetoric about animal rights/environmental groups is ultimately going to have two negative consequences.  It’s going to scare legitimate activists into silence (which might be seen as an ultimate positive by elements who like to whittle democracy down to a once every four year event – every two years if your a senior citizen) and it’s going to attract and further radicalize a smaller subset of people that 1) are already convinced the government is an evil Leviathan swallowing up individual freedoms and 2) thrive on playing the martyr.

To paraphrase our old friend Niccolo:  Suppression legislation like this relies too much on the power of the lion and not enough on the slyness of the fox.  They have mistaken snares and traps for signs of wolves and besides, it’s a lot more fun to be the lion who can roar and threaten with impunity.  But, “Those who choose only to be a lion do not really understand.”

I’d be interested in anyone’s comments, ideas or feedback.

Anyway, here’s the paper.  Enjoy.

Terrorism legislation and its effect on terrorism

I’m at the end of my last class for my M.A..  Long time readers may remember that a few months ago I made a similar claim which, obviously wasn’t true.  The problem was that I had foolishly decided to pursue a graduate certificate simultaneously with my degree and while I finished my coursework for my Masters in International Conflict Resolution I hadn’t completed my certificate work in terrorism.  While I assumed I could complete them independently, the school had other ideas and declared that the two were locked in a death embrace and I couldn’t get credit for one until I completed them both.


My last class is called counter-terrorism and my final research project revolved around the hypothesis that anti-terrorism legislation directed at certain groups (specifically animal rights/ecological activists) will actually lead to an increase in radical, illegal activity.

Why would this be?  Well, my theory is that it will be the result of two factors: the further radicalization of existing AR extremists through the perception that there are fewer alternatives to direct action and the attractiveness of an increasingly demonized movement to individuals psychologically predisposed to violent and destructive behavior regardless of its ideology.

I should say my research was maddening in part because of the lack of any sort of reliable information.  Given that as recently as recently as 2004, the FBI declared animal/eco rights activists to be the highest domestic terrorism investigative priority” for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and in the years since have claimed that they’ve attributed more than 1,200 incidents to those activists with a monetary cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars you’d think they’d be able to share some of that data.

Well, no such luck.  In fact, the National Counter Terrorism Center has less than 2 dozen events listed in their database.  That meant that I had to rely on the (even more) dubious statistics from the actual combatants in this fight.  One set is available from the Animal Liberation Front (I zeroed in on the animal liberation movement) and the other from the Foundation for Biomedical Research.

Both of those data sets have really REALLY big problems but given that let me show you this:

Allow me to specifically point out the purple line (which represents all incidents attributed to animal rights activists both legal and illegal)  and the blue line (which represents events which resulted in damages in excess of $10,000).  Now, in 1998 the first people were prosecuted under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act accompanied by a dramatic drop in all sorts of animal rights activist.  So, that must mean legislation works, eh?

Not so fast, partner.

What you’ll notice in the years after that is a pretty significant spike (especially in terms of those high dollar incidents) in the years after that prosecution up until 2001.  I’m guessing that after 9/11 a lot of the wind was taken out of people’s sails for direct action but by 2003 we saw numbers climbing again.  By 2005/2006 the animal rights community had the double whammy of prosecution of the SHAC-7 and the passage of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. Those events were accompanied by a dramatic drop in all sorts of animal rights activism.  So, that must mean legislation works, eh?

Hold your horses.

According to my little theory you’d expect to see a pretty dramatic spike in the years after 2006 as activists decided to fight back and, perhaps, as others less concerned about ideology but interested in taking up the banner because they’re drawn to extreme behavior decided to see what all the hoola is about.

And here my data kinda craps out.  I was able to check my data to with some minimal degree of confidence up until 2006 but after then I really don’t have much that I can even hang a virtual hat on.  The scant evidence I could find, however, does seem to hint that there might, in fact, be an increase in the number of direct action events.  About seriousness of those actions (dollar damage amounts or violent activity) I can’t say.

I’m not entirely sure that the suppression model of labeling an increasingly wide range of activity terrorism (anti-social and rude – definitely, illegal – sometimes, terrorism – not so much) produces the long term solution it promises.  But, it does have the effect of making the targeted industries happy (now if some kid keys a bunch of cars or releases some minks it’s not vandalism it’s terrorism and the fate of the free world is at stake) and making law enforcement happy (more funding…more promotional opportunities). The whole idea is based on some assumptions about how these people radicalize and what motivates them that doesn’t appear to have been examined in any serious way.

And of course, there’s also the ‘chilling effect’ such legislation can have on legal and legitimate protest.  In a phone interview I conducted with Will Potter he described the confusion some activists had in knowing what activity was within legal bounds and unable to get a straight answer from their local law enforcement and being told, in essence “You’ll know if it’s illegal when we arrest you.”

I clearly wasn’t able to prove anything one way or the other but it’d be nice to see someone (*cough* FBI *cough*) actually track and release data about these sorts of events.  And again, enough with treating everything like it’s the nuclear launch code.  If it’s in the local paper and the ALF website, I think we can trust the American people with the information.  And, as long as I’m getting totally crazy how about some evaluations of some of this legislation and if you keep coming back to congress asking to get increasingly tough on some unwanted behavior, maybe look at some alternative strategies.

Intelligence Analysis 101 (part 2)

(Here’s part 1 if you’re joining us late)

Ok…pens down.  So, you’ll remember this picture:And the questions associated with it were:  Do you agree with the interpretation of the ad?  Why or why not?  Do you agree with the analysis?  Why or why not?  If not, please provide an alternate explanation.  What recommendation(s) do you make to your boss?

The interpretation of the ad was totally off base.  In fact, the ‘analysis’ provided was so bad I’d argue it belongs in a hall of fame somewhere.  At least George W. Bush had ‘Curveball’.  He might have had no credibility but at least it was something.  The interpretations that came in the alert had nothing.  Now, let’s talk about how one arrives at that conclusion (that’s the good stuff).  As an aside, if you’re teaching entry level analysts (or anyone for that matter) this can be a pretty good way to introduce the workings of Analysis of Competing Hypothesis.

  1. The ad itself.  The cost of a full page ad in both the NY Times and the Washington Post will run into tens of thousands of dollars (perhaps with a total price tag into six figures).  I don’t know if you’ve seen animal rights activists but they aren’t exactly awash in money.  Assuming they pooled their money or had a rich benefactor though, there are still problems with the ad itself.
    1. Show me the money! You probably aren’t going to be able to pay for this ad space anonymously and with cash so the people taking it out are going to leave a paper trail.  Groups like ALF derive their strength from their anonymity and if they were going to give it up it would probably have to be for a pretty big payoff.
    2. The picture.  The iconography is all wrong.  Google animal liberation front images and you will indeed see pictures of guys in balaclavas but almost without fail they’re shown with animals.  The menacing garb is not the focus of the imagery.  The focus is on the act of ‘liberating’ those animals.  So, they balance the scary image of the dude in camo and face mask by having him coddle a cute bunny, usually holding it and looking at it in a way to trigger images of parents holding an infant.  Whoever made this ad would be the same people who argue that the Mona Lisa is a great Italian landscape picture…oh, and I think there’s some chick in it.  They’re clearly trying to raise the fear factor by putting a guy who looks like a terrorist in the image but I don’t think that’s not how the ALF would picture themselves.
    3. The jacket.  I’m torn on the jacket.  Either it was a sloppy mistake (you aren’t going to find many animal liberation advocates wearing leather – and that’s an understatement) or it was a subtle ‘fuck you’ to the activists.  I guess it could be pleather though…
  2. The message
    1. Who’s the target demographic?  If the point of the ad is to intimidate the business community (well talk about messaging problems below), why not place the ad in the Wall Street Journal or Business Week?  Who are these people targeting?
    2. What are they trying to get their demographic to do?  Are we to believe they’re going to spend a huge wad of cash to get people to go to a website?  That’s it?
    3. There’s NO WAY anyone sympathetic to the cause of ‘animal liberation’ would ever, EVER describe the activities of LSRI as ‘vital pharmaceutical research’. Really, you’re more likely to hear that the local B’nai B’rith is planning a lecture series on the valuable research into humanitarianism done at concentration camps.
    4. People tend not to refer to themselves in the third person.  Hence, if the ad was done by animal rights activists, this sentence wouldn’t read this way:  NYSE employees were reportedly threatened by animal rights activists whose campaigns had already targeted businesses connected to LSRI. But instead would read something like:  ‘In addition to targeting businesses connected to LSRI, we’ve also been targeting NYSE employees.’
    5. While not complementary to the NYSE, this isn’t exactly a revolutionary calling to free the animals or protest animal testing.  The message calls the NYSE cowards for bowing to pressure from animal liberation activists.  It doesn’t even work as gloating.  It only makes sense if you are unhappy with the fact that the NYSE caved into pressure, which one can assume, would not include SHAC or other animal liberation advocates.

I won’t get into a detailed tear down of the analysis since that part was fabricated by me to provide a composite example of the types of alerts and warnings commonly used.  I will say that there’s nothing in there that would have been out of place or unusual at that time in that ‘analysis’.  But allow to highlight some serious concerns with this sort of ‘analysis’ in general terms.

  1. You have no idea how the analyst came to their conclusion.  Blanket statements without supporting facts loaded with unexamined assumptions.
  2. Mealy-mouthed qualifications.  Ye old ‘we have no specific information…’ has become the nervous tic of the intelligence community.  It’s the refuge of people who want to cover their ass in the event something goes wrong and absolves them from having to do real intelligence work and follow through.  It’s especially maddening when seen (as it usually is) at the bottom of a warning threatening the end of civilization and life on earth.  “Warning:  If three dozen nuclear weapons were detonated in the largest U.S. cities simultaneously, there could be catastrophic social, economic and humanitarian consequences!!!  Terrorists have indicated their intent to acquire such weapons and all agencies should remain on high alert!!!  Oh..by the way, we have no indication that anyone is actually close to acquiring such a weapon.  We just don’t want to get blamed for not warning you in case some evil overlord has been planning something like this in his hidden cave complex with the mole people.”

This was not a difficult nut to crack.  Really, I would consider this something an entry level analyst should be able to work through on their own.  If you’ve got an intermediate level analyst (more than a couple years on the job) who has difficulty with this, they need to see a career counselor immediately.

I’ve been accused of being a bit cynical regarding the progress (or lack thereof) of the capabilities of intelligence analysis within the law enforcement community and this has probably more than a little to do with that.  As I stated in Part 1, I used this as a training exercise and was taken aback at how poorly people did at this.  Preconceived notions about who the ‘bad guys’ are and a slavish (really quite inexplicable) deference to everything produced by other law enforcement agencies meant that it was difficult to even get people to consider that there might be alternate explanations.  When pushed, there seemed to be a tendency to try to retain as much as possible of the original analysis, and only grudgingly working at the edges.

Finally, it also highlighted another serious flaw in these sorts of ‘alerts’.  There is little in the way of procedure and almost nothing in terms of incentives to get agencies to issue corrections.  Corrections are a permanent and official record of a screw up which can be used to undermine your reputation and authority.  My observation is that the preferred way to deal with errors like this is to just ignore them.  Usually they’ll fade away without a whisper and you still get to use the alert as ‘proof’ that you’re providing cutting edge intelligence (We issued 500 intelligence alerts to our partner agencies the past fiscal year!).  Of course, the problem is that once you release that bogus information it keeps bouncing around, getting recycled, absorbed into cognitive frameworks throughout the community.  Until you see as much effort into putting out credible, reliable analysis and correcting mistakes as you do in fussing over the quantity of information being put out, intelligence analysis will struggle for relevance and credibility.

Intelligence analysis 101

I was going through my documents and came across this practical exercise I gave a couple of years ago to some analysts and, given some work I’m doing for a class I’m taking, figured I’d post it here.  It’s based on a real event but the names and details have been changed to protect the guilty.

You shouldn’t require too much in the way of experience or background in the law enforcement, homeland security, or intelligence fields.  When I ran this scenario I didn’t allow any internet searching or additional information since it was primarily a critical thinking exercise and I recommend you not search specifically for this ad as it might alter your answer and you wouldn’t have had access to that information at the time (although, it’s not like I can stop you…).  I’ve included a few links in the scenario that would probably be most helpful.

If you’d like, post your answers in the comments section and I’ll follow up with the ‘answer’ and my thoughts in a day or two.

Situation: You work as an analyst for a law enforcement/homeland security agency.  Your boss sends you the following picture with an attached alert from an agency similar to yours (but with a lot more money and a good reputation for being ‘on the ball’).

The alert says:

This full page ad appeared in today’s NY Times and the Washington Post.  The text says:  ‘On September 7th, 2005, the New York Stock Exchange was scheduled to add Life Sciences Research Inc. (LSRI) to the big board.  Fifteen minutes before trading opened, NYSE officials changed their mind.  LSRI is involved with vital pharmaceutical research that requires the use of animals.  NYSE employees were reportedly threatened by animal rights activists whose campaigns had already targeted businesses connected to LSRI.  In March, six of the campaign’s leaders were convicted of federal terrorism charges but the NYSE is still running scared.  Find out more at NYSEHostage.com

Analysis: We interpret this ad to be a message by animal rights extremist groups (such as the Animal Liberation Front or SHAC) indicating their determination to step up attacks against the pharmaceutical and financial industries in our area.  All agencies should be on alert for indicators of targeting such businesses.  While we have no specific information regarding threats at this time, law enforcement should exhibit caution as such groups have a history of engaging in illegal activity, including  physical violence.

Your boss turns to you and asks what your opinion is of the article and analysis.  Do you agree with the interpretation of the ad?  Why or why not?  Do you agree with the analysis?  Why or why not?  If not, please provide an alternate explanation.  What recommendation(s) do you make to your boss?

As a note, don’t bother trying to go to NYSEHostage.com, the link is now dead.


The complex environment of animal protection

Check out NY Mag’s article titled ‘The Rise of Dog Identity Politics‘.  If you’re a dog person you really shouldn’t need much convincing but it’s also interesting in giving a nuanced view of the spectrum of the animal protection movement:

As often happens, the success in moving toward some of the movement’s most basic goals has only increased the doctrinal conflict among various groups…The rescue people don’t agree with the animal-welfare people, and both can’t stand the animal-rights people…It’s a struggle for the Future of Dog, a little like Russia in 1917, with weakened conservatives and radicals of many stripes, all trying desperately to invent a future.
Famously, the touchstone of the animal-rights movement is Peter Singer’s 1975 book Animal Liberation.  Ingrid Newkirk, PETA’s leader, seems to dream of a world in which pets have been abolished, and she is a particularly reviled figure among many dog people. Although PETA’s mission statement includes language suggesting that each animal life is intrinsically valuable, the organization’s actions describe a more nuanced picture. PETA kills a surprising number of the animals it takes in. In the decade beginning with 1998, PETA euthanized 17,000 animals, 85 percent of those it rescued.
Dog-rescue people oppose PETA and its ilk bitterly. They see numbers like this and think mass murder.  Regarding human nature, Newkirk is a pessimist. In her view, we’ve botched this whole dominion thing, creating an Island of Dr. Moreau of animal horrors. So the best thing to do is to end our agency over animals, to disengage, build a wall around nature and stay on our side. The dog, in particular, is polluted by human influence. The animal-rights movement can seem as much about keeping humans free of guilt as keeping animals free of suffering, which is another kind of solipsism.

Agencies concerned with animal rights issues would do well to learn these distinctions.  Even though those who violate the law in the name of animal rights usually jump back and forth between legal and illegal activity there is a disturbing tendency to view the entire movement with a suspicious eye.  I’d say things have gotten better over the past couple of years (although I could be wrong about that) but to be honest this issue has really been off my radar for awhile.

I’ve never liked Newkirk but never thought of my dislike being a function of me being a ‘dog person’.  I always thought my contempt for her was due to the fact that she demanded that reality conform to her psychotic interpretation of it.  She has a glorified, romanticized vision of nature  and suffers from the same mindset that brought us racist paternalism only instead of saving the savages from themselves and bringing them all the benefits of civilization she wants to override evolution itself to conform to her political views.

Still, given PETAs opposition to animals as pets perhaps my opinion of the organization runs a bit deeper than ideological differences.

For the record, I’m also not a fan of the AKC which really promotes the disfigurement of dogs through breeding and surgery.

Quick thinking (Kvick Tänkare)

As promised, here is your smorgasbord of things to think about…

Medieval ‘Vampire’ Skull found!   Don’t get excited, it’s not nearly as cool as the headline would lead you to believe but it’s still worth a read.

Monster Mummies of Japan:  This IS as exciting as it sounds.  I’d recommend just looking at the pictures if you don’t want to be disabused of the idea that demons really do roam the land of the rising sun.

Zoo chimp ‘planned’ stone attacks:  In Sweden (of course) a chimp is accused of stockpiling rocks in order to attack the gawking public.  Now, I was planning on writing about how this is an indication of how the notoriously violent Swedish society has even filtered down to the zoo animals or how this must be another fiendish plot by King Gustav but the real story here is that this is evidence that animals have the ability to plan future actions.  It becomes much more morally problamatic to treat animals like Cartesian automatons if we can prove they actually think.

Wall Street on the Tundra:  A little bit of everything, hubris, economics, cod and elves.

Welcome to the New Gold Mines:  Interesting article on gold farming where people pay others (usually in the third world) to do the mundane tasks in their computer games in order to advance and gather wealth.  It seems to me that if you have players who’d prefer to pay people to play for them rather than play themselves it’s probably:

  1. not a very good game,
  2. people don’t understand the concept of ‘play’, and
  3. the end is near

Recommendation roundup

Somehow I’ve been burning though books and audio content at an alarming rate and it seemed a good time to review them so I can relegate them to the nether realms for all eternity.

McMafia by Misha Glenny.  Glenny describes how several organized crime networks took advantage of the spread of privatization, deregulation and collapse of the Soviet Union to become transnational organizations.  Glenny certainly writes in an engaging style and there’s bound to something here about organized crime that you didn’t know before you cracked open the book but I was left a bit unsatisfied after reading it.  The book seemed to be lacking any sort of central narrative to tie it all together and so felt a bit like a collection of stories.  I also felt that his desire to describe examples from every part of the world left some of the chapters a bit short.  It does have a nice section of recommendations for further reading which is particularly valuable if you want more detail on any of the subjects.  Glenny clearly has a good grasp of his subject material and his ability to utilize sources in other languages enriched his work but I can’t help feeling that he’s got much more to say.  Overall, I’d recommend it for a good general introduction to the subject but not perfect.

Drawing the Line by Steven Wise.  Resisting the ‘cookoo for cocoa puffs‘ element of the animal rights movement (yes, I mean you Ingrid Newkirk and Jerry Vlassik) Wise, a lawyer, attempts to develop a logical argument in favor of animal rights.  He argues for a ‘scale of practical autonomy’ which would grant rights to animals based upon their intelligence and ability to act with intentionality.  So, contrary to the assertions of those who would like to discredit the movement, mollusks and houseflies wouldn’t be granted rights because they exhibit no evidence that they have any sense of self or acts intentionally.  Clearly however, many animals (like chimpanzees or even Shiloh) have feelings, intentionality and some sort of sense of self and in these cases Wise argues for some sorts of limited rights (much like a child is granted some rights but not the ability to vote, bring a case to court, etc.).  Wise identifies those rights as ‘liberty rights’ and they would guarantee the protected against exploitation and harm (again, similar to a child).

He then highlights several animals (honeybees, a parrot, dog, dolphins, elephant, orangutans, gorillas and his child) and suggests where each would fall on his practical autonomy scale.  I do wish he would have taken the case of bacteria or a mosquito to demonstrate animals falling along the entire range of his scale.  Ultimately, Wise’s scale is arbitrary but at least it’s a starting point for some discussion.  The book was published back in 2002 and, unfortunately, I’m not seeing much in the way of debate on these ideas.  Instead, everyone wants to focus on the nut cases which dilutes the whole argument.

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik.  I’m totally sold on this series.  After all, what more could you want.  Napoleonic warfare with dragons.  Everything is better with dragons.  The worst thing I can say about these books is that I devour them in a couple days and have to wait an interminable amount of time for the next book.  It won’t go down as a classic in western literature but it is a fun read and one can imagine the possiblities if these books ever make it to the big screen.

She does an admirable job of fitting dragons into an otherwise normal world and describing, through the first four books, how the cultures of Europe, China, Africa and the Ottomans would adjust to the existence of such creatures.

This History of Rome Podcast.  Mike Duncan does an admirable job of bringing the history of Rome to you in nice sized bits.  He’s loosened up a bit lately as he’s (I assuming) getting more comfortable with the podcasting format and the series gets continually better.

If you like ancient history, go check out 12 Byzantine Rulers as well.

Underwood & Flinch Mike Bennett is podcasting his new novel.  How this guy is unpublished is beyond me.  His current novel (which he promises to be massive) is a vampire story.  He has the best podcast voice I’ve heard and does a brilliant job of acting the roles.  This guy loves what he does and does it well.  I’d also recommend his other work.  You won’t be sorry.

Daily Buddhism.  Brian Schell does yeoman work in making Buddhism easy to understand and approachable to an American audience.  I’m still catching up on achieved episodes but if you’re a bit put off by all of the mumbo jumbo of other approaches to Buddhism or intimidated by the alienness of some of the other practitioners, you should check this one out.