« "War on terror mired in graft as Pentagon billions are probed" The Australian | Main | "Army edits its history of the deadly battle of Wanat" Greg Jaffe »

29 December 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Good call on Kohlmann. I've often wondered what made this guy a "terror expert". He could not even pronounce Muslim names properly. Most people with REAL expertise on Islamist groups tend to get the pronunciations right, because they either know Arabic, Farsi or Urdu.

With the FSB/KGB, I don't believe it is noteworthy for US counterterror agencies to liase with the Russians. Obviously any Russian material is likely to be influenced by Russia's slant against Chechens and related groups, but with proper filters Russian info could be useful.


That entire self style expert industry sickens me. Kohlmann would not know a real terrorist if one bit him in the ass. Guys like this are nothing more than whores. Its a wonder that defense attorneys do not take guys like this apart. Then again most lawyers are worthless anyway.

Adam L. Silverman

Jake: there's a great example of that actually happening in the article linked below. Unfortunately, I don't think it mattered. The individual who was dissected on his actual expertise still does this work, he's still funded through one of these counter-terrorism institutes, and he's still providing analysis that he doesn't know much about. The entire article is good reading, but the material I'm referring to is on page 3:
And here's an interview with the actual reporter:

Adam L. Silverman

And then there's this:

It's interesting, but his major findings about scale of attacks, speed of ramping up for religiously inspired groups, things like that aren't actually new discoveries. They've been in the literature on terrorism from early days. I wrote a seminar paper, drawing on the existing literature, comparing and contrasting left wing, right wing, and religious terrorist movements (their formation, their targeting and tactics, the scale of the attacks) back when I was doing my first master's degree in 1994 for my terrorism and counter-terrorism class. As someone whose had a lot of methods and research design training (both qualitative and quantitative) and who has taught this at the undergrad and grad levels, as well as running statistical analyses of terrorism as part of a behavioral model, I think its great to get statistical confirmation, but to argue that this is a breakthrough just shows how little folks actually read the literature in the area in which they're deciding to work. Had these folks done the requisite literature review they'd have found this stuff. Any decent analysis of just the differences between the Republican and Unionist movements in Northern Ireland or between the old secular, and largely leftist PLO factions and Hamas would have turned up the same thing about differences between religious and non-religious groups. The same thing goes for evolution of weaponry and tactics. And my favorite is "the 20% include unconventional weapons..." Really? I'm pretty sure we'd have seen that on the news. Even counting every buteric acid attack on an abortion clinic, every real and fake anthrax letter, and the actual Sarin attacks by Aum Shinrikyo, the actual attempt to expose Oregonians to salmonella at salad bars by the Rajneeshas so they could electorally take over their city council when everyone had to stay home on election day with food poisoning, and several attempts by extreme right wing American extremists to make ricin or other bio or chem agents in the US, there aren't enough incidents to get to 20% regardless of the MIPT data chronology. I haven't looked at that thing in forever, and I know some of the folks involved in putting it together, but this sounds like the kind of inflated numbers that used to be up on the website of the Monterey Institute, which is likely where this part of the chronology came from. They had this strangely large data chronology of CBR terrorism events, but when you started reading through the entries they had nothing to do with terrorism. I recall one entry that was about some high schooler in Canada who'd run around pricking other students with a pen and telling them they'd been introduced to the wonderful world of AIDS. This was listed as biological terrorism. It wasn't then and it isn't now - assault and battery, definitely, attempted murder if the pin actually had HIV/AIDS virus on it, could be, but its not terrorism. This is what happens when these chronologies get put together: there's no consistency as the compilers change over time and the result is chronologies that have listings that are partially reliable and partially just a mess.


Dr. Silverman,

Thank you for the posting and links. I found them very disturbing. Our Justice System while still one of the best in the world, is so badly in need of fixing its not even funny any longer.

No matter the lawyer, the judge, the expert witness. It boils down to one thing and one thing only.

Ethics.... Or lack thereof....

As far as counter-terrorism is concerned. The LEO grant writers know the buzz words. Today running a red light is almost considered an act of terrorism.

And that boils down to the other ethical sin...money.

We are losing the Republic and most can't see it.


Adam, Colonel, Phil

Isn't it all about milking that government cow for every $$$ these self-professed x-zerts can snooker them out of? And Members of Congress/DOD/DOJ/FBI/CIA/NSA being as gullible as they are, stumble all over their shoe-laces to provide that government $$$ unabated so that their lame un-educated x-zert analysis can continue unabated.

Isn't their three-ring circus at play just wonderful to watch, Not.

'Ethics'? What's that as far as these self-professed x-zerts are concerned? To them it's nothing but a large hog-style feeding trough that you and I are paying for, and not just in $$$s alone.


Colonel Lang,

This is slightly off topic but I think related.
I have been doing some research to find an example of a country wherein the "government" having assumed police state like powers [terrorism laws,special courts,secret arrests, secret prisons,sanctioned kidnappings/murders, etc]ever relinquished them without a war/uprising/coup or some other dramatic event.I have not been able to find an example.
Perhaps you or your correspondents know of one?

USMC 65-72
FBI 72-96

The Twisted Genius

Perhaps there is an element of nostalgia among us old timers that sees the way things were "back in the day" through rose colored glasses. We see the recent proliferation of grifters like Kohlmann and Emerson as a sign of the end times. We want them to get the hell off our collective lawn. However, this is more than just the rantings of cranky old men (myself included). The breakdown in integrity, self-discipline and honor is real. The following comment by John Robb on his blog, Global Guerrillas, seems like a reasonable explanation for this phenomena.

"Here's some food for thought:  Globalization has brought about an age when the only tests used to judge anyone's behavior are:

Does it make you money or its equivalent?  The corollary is that the greater the amount of money acquired, the better the behavior is.  

Did you get away with it?  This test is merely based on legal enforceability (were you caught in a place that matters) and the degree of punishment (will the punishment negate or exceed the benefit of the behavior).  Morality, virtue, ethics, shame, actual legality, etc. aren't considered factors.

Why is this so?  It's the only set of behavioral tests that are globally portable.  As in, we can't agree on anything at a global level except the minimal rules needed to interconnect (which is similar to how the Internet and the Web spread).

John Robb's coment and the ensuing discussion is at:


Adam L. Silverman

Nightsticker: I can't speak for COL Lang, but an interesting case to consider might be Great Britain. The UK, as a result of the Troubles, changed their laws to create terrorism laws, did establish special criminal procedures, adjusted/adapted/developed new criminal justice processes and institutions, etc. My knowledge of the Troubles is much more focused on the social behavioral dynamics of the groups involved, the drivers of their behaviors, and how the dynamics differed between the Catholics/Republicans and the Protestants/Unionists and the effects of those differences, rather than the British responses, but I'm pretty sure you can find some examples of excesses like you're speaking about. I do think the British did a much better job overall in dealing with this in a democratic fashion than we've done these last nine years or so: there were proper debates in parliament, things were largely done above the board, etc. And this has continued - when they decided to extend the amount of time someone can be held as a suspect in a terrorism investigation before being charged or released, this actual was brought up in Parliament, debated, voted on - actual working democracy.

I think a couple of other interesting places you could look at would be how Spain dealt with the Basque issues, as well as Peru's fight against Sendero Luminoso; especially during Fujimori's presidency and what they did to have accountability afterwards. Another interesting look might be at the Palmer Raids in the US in the 1920s; driven by AG Palmer's drive to become president and the ambition (and xenophobia) of a young DOJ Bureau of Investigation special agent named Hoover. Its not a perfect example of what you're asking about, but I think its somewhat illustrative of self correcting mechanisms in a functioning political system, which is what I think you're really asking about.

As I'm sure you're aware from your Bureau history Hoover, in a two year period, collected over 200,000 files on what he and his team identified as suspects in the early 1920s with no faxes, computers, all the things we take for granted. The investigation solely focused on foreigners from Eastern European - Communist - countries or Americans and American organizations believed to be communists or fellow travelers. There was at least one attempt to get Congress to authorize an en masse deportation of Hoover's suspects without any real due process, which was stopped by a deputy cabinet secretary. And the real interesting things, as I think you know from your Bureau history, is that the case is still unsolved, that the person that actually stopped the mass casualty from happening was a young, immigrant from a Communist country postal clerk in NY who held back over a dozen parcel bombs for insufficient postage, and for giving us one of the first suicide bombings, when, by accident, the person trying to place/deliver one of the May Day bombs accidentally detonated it and took himself out.


Nightsticker, south Africa.


Colonel Lang,

As always some thoughtful responses from your correspondents.
I have to admit though that I considered the regime change in SA as falling in the category of a dramatic event.

USMC 65-72
FBI 72-96


I do think the British did a much better job overall in dealing with this in a democratic fashion than we've done these last nine years or so: there were proper debates in parliament, things were largely done above the board, etc. And this has continued - when they decided to extend the amount of time someone can be held as a suspect in a terrorism investigation before being charged or released, this actual was brought up in Parliament, debated, voted on - actual working democracy.

I'd have to disagree sir, Dr. Adam.

The US FOIA allows people to piece the excesses of the Gov. to a large extent. For the UK, they either hide things(even trivial details) under the OSA and the 50/100 year gag rule. Moreover, given the infiltration of the IRA by informers(of MI*) and the deployment of the Paras in Ireland, it's unlikely that they were no 'targetted' assassinations of any sort and any other excess that would have been condoned(belmarsh prison treatment of IRA).

It takes a lot of lobbying by aggrieved people or the memoirs by ex-ministers of the Home Ministry that shed light on arbitrary decisions that would not pass muster in democratic legal circles.

All I'm saying is, that it's difficult to say that the USA tops things in democratic violations when the other supposedly democratic nations don't use the same yardstick.

That's still no consolation for the kind of excesses happening now.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad